My Stuff

As a long time reader of Vanity Fair, the first thing I turn to is a section called “My Stuff,” where famous people tell you what they use daily….. everything from sheets to watches to toothpaste. It’s amazing to me how many people make millions in different industries, and yet still love Crest.

(Well, now it’s the first thing I turn to……….. Dominic Dunne and Christopher Hitchens are dead…………….)

I’ve never done such a writing exercise, so I thought it would be fun to do my own. I’ll divide everything up into categories for easy reading. If you have something better that I absolutely must try, leave it in the comments.

Health & Beauty

  • I have a huge morning allergy regimen, because inside or outside, I’ll find something that makes me sneeze.
    • Pills- Zyrtec (getting Allegra next week) and Sudafed (NOT PE)
    • Sprays- Fluticasone and Sinex
    • Eye drops- Bausch + Lomb Alaway
  • Soaps
    • Bioré Charcoal (face wash)
    • Suave Professionals Shampoo and Conditioner in Almond + Shea Butter
    • Axe Body Wash- Fresco in the summer (sage and mandarin), Dark Temptations in the winter (chocolate and vanilla)
    • Nivea for Men shaving cream
    • Neutrogena Make-up Removing Wipes (a must-have with a tubing mascara)
  • Fragrances
    • Winter
      • Axe Dark Temptations body spray
      • Axe Dark Temptations deodorant
    • Summer
      • JASON Tea Tree Deodorant Stick
      • Liz Claiborne for Men
  • Hair Products
    • Garnier Leave-in Conditioner
    • Viking Revolution pomade or Gorilla Snot (moco de gorila) Gel
    • Aussie Sprunch Spray
  • Makeup
    • Mascara and eyeliner in “Brynn” (a deep black) by Thrive Causemetics
    • Lipstick by Burt’s Bees in Plum
      • A quick note about makeup- this is all I own. Jeremy Renner was a makeup artist before he started acting and he says you only need to frame your face. I’m going to go with Hawkeye on this one….. foundation on a hot DC summer day is for dummies)
  • Dental Care
    • Colgate Essentials with Charcoal- toothpaste
    • Crest ProHealth Advanced Enamel Care- mouthwash
  • Sleep
    • 10mg melatonin
    • Weighted blanket (basically a human ThunderShirt)

Devices

  • AMD Desktop running Windows 10 with 32-in HDTV as monitor. Bluetooth remote control for Kodi Media Center.
  • Original Kindle 7-in (useful for reading long periods at a clip)
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Apple Watch
  • Logitech K480 Bluetooth Keyboard
    • I cannot recommend this product highly enough. It’s relatively full-size and comfortable, yet will fit in a messenger bag/medium to large purse. Plus, it has a switch on it so you can connect three different devices- I have my iPad, my iPhone, and my desktop hooked to it now.
  • Android tablet connected to a Bluetooth alarm clock- makes an AWESOME stereo
  • AMD laptop running Ubuntu 20.04 “Focal Fossa” and Cinnamon as the window manager
  • MPOW H7 Bluetooth headphones (80’s “can” style)
  • Sandisk Fuse+ MP3 Player running Rockbox
    • I listen to so much music/so many podcasts that having one of these saves hours of phone battery.

Applications

  • Mobile
    • Carrot Weather
    • Clue (period/ovulation tracker)
    • Just Press Record
    • Amazon Prime Music Unlimited
    • Spotify
    • Pocket Casts
    • LastPass
    • ProtonMail
    • Reddit
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • WordPress
    • Google Chrome
    • Washington Post & Post Select (Select has an Apple Watch app)
    • NY Times
    • Goodreads
    • Uber
    • Blood Donor (Red Cross)
    • Ambience
    • NordVPN
    • Mega
  • Desktop
    • Operating System Agnostic
      • NordVPN
      • Kodi
      • LibreOffice
      • Mozilla Firefox
      • Mozilla Thunderbird
      • GNU Image Manipulation Program/Glimpse
      • Google Chrome
      • Vivaldi Browser
      • VLC Media Player
    • Windows
      • Amazon Music Unlimited
      • Spotify
      • Netflix
      • Microsoft OneNote
      • Picasa 3
      • MusicBee
      • White Noise
      • iTunes
    • Linux
      • Nuvola (streams music and videos from all sources on Linux)
      • Variety (wallpaper changer)
      • Conky Manager (adds widgets to the desktop for looking at processes and internet speed)
      • ANoise (short for Ambient Noise- has everything from forests to beaches to oscillating fans)
      • LollyPop (music manager)

Podcasts

  • The Moth
  • Modern Love
  • Risk!
  • Unlocking Us
  • The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • On Being with Krista Tippett (I generally download the unedited version)
  • The Robcast
  • Pod Save America
  • The Rachel Maddow Show
  • The Daily Show: Ears Edition
  • Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
  • SpyCast
  • Death, Sex, & Money
  • Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage
  • Wild Goose
  • and, like, a hundred more but these are the ones I anticipate

Books I Read Often

  • Dynamics of Faith, Paul Tillich
  • The Solace of Leaving Early and A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel
  • All of William Barclay’s books on the Gospels
  • Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry
  • One L, Scott Turow (pretty sure this was in my bathroom for three years in college)

Clothing Brands

  • Nautica
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Ralph Lauren
  • American Giant
  • Dockers
  • Levis
  • Dickies

My Bags

  • XINCADA Men’s Messenger Bag, L
    • Not a messenger bag in the classic sense. Looks way more like a travel purse, especially since the canvas is advertised as “Blue/Black,” but is actually purple. The only reason I went with the large is that I needed it to fit my 10-in tablet and keyboard. If you have a seven or eight inch tablet and a foldable keyboard, the small is perfect. I was amazed at the quality of the bag for the price. It will last me years on end.
  • Swiss Army Backpack
    • Perfect for my 15-in laptop and all its accessories while traveling. Not my daily driver because it’s too heavy….. I call it “Leviathan” (Veep joke)

So that’s my stuff. I’m not going to include movies and TV because those things change frequently. If there’s something I haven’t covered that you want to know, just ask. I’m not energetic enough to be cagey.

White Noise

I have no idea what this entry will entail. I think I’ll just jump around with life updates until I find something worthy. I’ve found that you can start out with one thing and delve deeper as you go. Writing is a muscle, and blogging, for me, is “working out.” It’s completely stream-of-conscience and changes topics on purpose. I remember one woman thinking that my blog was tied to my mental disorder (Bipolar II) because of it. She didn’t understand, and some people don’t. Tangents upon tangents are just the way I roll (most of the time, anyway). It’s not a sickness- it’s how blogging has been for many people since they premiered on the Internet.

Speaking of mental illness, though, I will say that the pandemic has reinforced my agoraphobia. Mask or not, I’m afraid…………. but that’s not a bad thing in this type of societal climate. Too many people are eager for “normal” when in the United States, we are clearly not ready for it. No state has gotten to zero and in many, cases are on the rise. This is because we do not have a safety net. There is no socialized medicine, unemployment insurance that gives you enough money to take care of one’s basic needs (especially in big cities, where rent and mortgages are high), and no leadership from the federal government. Other countries are doing so much better.

So, my response is to stay in my own home 99% of the time. I put off getting groceries and medicine, or I order them over the Internet. For instance, I need coffee creamer (my main basic food group), and I can’t even bring myself to go and get it.

I should be doing more writing than I have been, because I have more time to do it and I’m not taking advantage. I’m hoping that will change. 2020-07-17 14_37_43-WindowOne of the things that’s helping me today is a new app I found in the Windows store. It’s called “White Noise,” and it actually comes with lots of free sounds. Today I’m listening to brown noise, but the one they’re giving away for free is a thunderstorm on a loop. The app is a gift because there’s a great Linux app called “ANoise,” and before today I hadn’t found a Windows equivalent. I still have ANoise on my laptop, but for some reason, my desktop has problems with Linux, no matter what distribution I try. I can’t get the OS to boot from a USB key because it can’t find my hard drives and gets stuck. I’ve sped up my computer as far as it will go because I put in 16 GB of RAM (eight on each channel), and an SSD for Windows. I have a two TB mechanical hard drive for all my “stuff,” excluding my most frequently used applications. I have no idea why Windows will install and Linux won’t, and I have too little energy to figure it out. The thing about being good at technology and getting a job doing it is that you have very little patience for dealing with your own. The only thing I’ve done with my laptop is add an SSD to it, because even with a relatively slow processor, it screams with an SSD. If you don’t have one, they’re cheap and it’s worth it. I got a 256 GB because on my laptop, I hardly ever store things. I use Internet apps and streaming media.

I’m sorry if this is boring for non-IT people, but I’m basically putting on a commercial for SSDs. It’s the fastest and easiest way to speed up everything and took me less than a half hour to install. The longest part was unscrewing everything and putting it back together. If you’ve never done it before, there are YouTube videos for nearly every computer on the market, and so much cheaper than hiring someone else. If you do need to store a large amount of data, there are kits to take out your optical drive and put a mechanical hard drive in its place, because most people don’t need them anymore. Think about the last time you watched a physical DVD or ripped your music. It’s so 2001. If you have a lot of CDs and DVDs, there’s a lot of free software to copy them before you put them in the trash. I am all about the minimalist lifestyle. 😉

In terms of saving your data, just make sure you back it up so that you have a failsafe if and when your hard drive fails. Two copies of everything will save your ass someday. You’ll thank me when you don’t lose all your family pictures, the only thing that’s truly irreplaceable. If you want/need cloud storage for pictures, there are plenty of free services. Mega is the most generous– you get 70 GB free, and additional is cheap- about $6.00/mo.

Sometimes I think about how much I miss my family’s old pictures because our house burned down in 1990. If cloud storage had existed back then, they wouldn’t have burned. Even the ones that survived had streaks on them and smelled like a camp fire. My grandparents helped us piece them back together, but they only had so many…… and that’s why technology is so important to me. It’s not the technology itself, but the things that can be preserved. Memories are precious, and because of computers, phones, tablets, etc. none of it is clutter. If you’re anything like me, you have or have had giant stacks of pictures thrown in a box that you say you’re going to put in an album, and the day you say you’re going to scan them turns into into 25 years. I know me. We’ve met.

For instance, I am grateful for every picture I have of my mother and my grandparents, only one of which is still alive, and he turned 90 on July 13th. He loves movies, and I always ask him for recommendations when I call. The last one was “Mrs. Miniver,” and I immediately bought a copy. I enjoyed it so much, and so did other people. It was the Oscars’ Best Picture in 1942…… the entire reason I ask my grandfather for so many recommendations in the first place. I haven’t seen many of the great old movies out there, and he knows them all.

The only old movie that I haven’t finished is “Three Days of the Condor.” A bunch of innocent CIA case officers and analysts get shot in the first half. I had a visceral, nauseous reaction, and there’s a reason for it. I’ve met case officers, albeit retired, and in my mind those people were replaced by people I know and have pored over their books. It was horrifying.

In terms of horror, I am much more interested in fiction. I started “American Horror Story” two nights ago and it’s fabulous. I’m late to the party because I didn’t think I’d like it, but between the pilot and now I’ve loved several scary movies and TV shows……. most notably “It” and “Stranger Things.” Eleven completes me.

The other show I love right now is “American Soul” on BET. It’s the story of how Don Cornelius started “Soul Train,” and as you can imagine, the music is divine and lots of famous people are portrayed. My favorite has been Wayne Brady as Little Richard. The only horror in it is how blacks are treated, because we still haven’t solved the problem (I say “blacks” instead of African American because not all black people in the United States are from Africa).

I also watch a lot of YouTube, because I enjoy the hell out of seeing James Baldwin. He was so integral in my becoming a teenager. “Go Tell it on the Mountain” was assigned to me for summer reading before my sophomore year. I devoured it and went on to read all of Baldwin’s other works. Because he was black and queer, there were lots of similarities between the discrimination he faced and what was happening in my own life.

I was lucky in my freshman and sophomore years to have black English teachers, because I have found that most of my white teachers didn’t bother to include black authors (surprise). The one book by a black author I was assigned by a white English teacher was “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I loved it as well, but it seems to be the only book written about black people that white teachers across the country assign (i.e. the only book white English teachers will let cross over into their generally white classrooms). With my black teachers, we read Alan Paton (white author, but wrote about race relations in South Africa), Richard Wright, and Toni Morrison as well.

The black authors I read were usually better at creating a lasting impression. I still remember lines from “Beloved,” “Native Son,” and “Black Boy.” I need to get digital copies of them as well, because they’re not books I ever want to lose. There are three reasons that, at least for me, digital trumps paper books. The first is they’re in the cloud, so they keep. The second is that I don’t have any books that I’ll lend to people and I still haven’t gotten them back years later. The third is that I’m always in the middle of at least three, and I don’t like it when my backpack weights 30 lbs.

I give digital books as gifts a lot, and they’re a big hit. For instance, I gave one friend a copy of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” and she said “that’s one of my favorite books, no idea where the hardback is.” I thought that might be the case, because her life is books and dogs, so it seemed like the kind of book she would have swallowed whole the moment it came out…….. but I sent it to her anyway because I couldn’t imagine a world in which she hadn’t read it and I had to make sure. 😉

She’s also Latina, so I sent her my favorite Latinx novel, which is “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya. It’s about a Catholic boy and the curandera who mentors him. The laugh lines I love the most in it is the scene when the young boy is going to his first communion, and worries that Jesus will get stuck to the roof of his mouth.

The last thing I’ll say about books is that I go through periods of reading, then writing, but not both simultaneously. It’s because I tend to pick up the style of the last author I read, and I’m not interested in filling their shoes.

I want to wear my own.

 

Adventures in Two Dimensions

I am fairly certain that I have mentioned before that I have monocular vision, but I don’t know if I’ve defined what it is. There’s probably a doctor that can technically explain it better than me, but I have the life experience.

People aren’t (generally) born with monocular vision. It is created (in my case, lack of oxygen in the delivery room), and there are two types. The first is injury resulting in loss of vision from one eye. I have the second kind. I can see out of both eyes, but they don’t track together. One eye fixates and the other drifts or turns inward. I have no control over what my non-dominant eye is doing, and cannot direct my brain regarding which eye to use.

My field of vision changes without my awareness when I’m wearing my glasses, so I put off getting them for the longest time. This is because when my left eye became much weaker than my right, I was right-eye dominant all the time. Here’s why it’s important: I only have a modicum of peripheral vision in the eye my brain has chosen, and absolutely none in the other. It leads to disaster when driving, and I lose things that were right in front of my face one second prior.

I used to drive all the time. I lived in the suburbs of Houston and I had no choice. It wasn’t until I moved to DC and was given the option of not driving that I considered stopping altogether. I was wondering if I could find data on how dangerous it was. According to a study I read comparing binocular and monocular vision in race car drivers (they all had binocular vision; monocular was simulated), monocular vision created accidents six percent of the time. That seems low until you realize just how much you drive, and you’re likely to have an accident six out of 100 times, all of them being your fault.

Monocular vision is noticeable, and I’ve had my fair share of teasing about it, even as an adult. I am very self-deprecating, and I make myself laugh all the time. It’s punching down when other people do it.

However, there is one aspect that I didn’t even think about until today. I like this game called “Feeding Frenzy 2.” It’s simple and ridiculous,feedingfrenzy2 but I have a hard time. The light bulb moment was when I realized I was playing on a widescreen monitor. I don’t see the fish on the edges of the screen unless I turn my head.

I am constantly turning my head…… all day, every day. The most common question I get is “which eye are you looking at me with?” I ignore that they ended the sentence with a preposition in order not to be Petty Level 3000, but apparently it is disarming to some people that one eye is either turned inward or outward. The absolute truth is that I don’t know, and maybe that’s why those words are one of my hot buttons.

In fact, about 15 years ago, I walked out on a job before it started because I was so mad at the recruiting company managing me (it was a temp). The recruiter met me a few minutes before the interview, so I was already nervous. He said, “I think it would make everyone more comfortable if you would announce the problem about your eye as you walk in.” I wish I’d called him out with an “absolutelyfuckingnot;” I felt about six inches tall, even though my future coworkers hired me on the spot. I was not interested in working with someone who punched down the second time I met him. I didn’t want there to be a third. I have enough problems beating myself up. I didn’t need anyone to “help.”

Between the way I see and the way I move, at work I am awkward enough. This is because you generally don’t get close enough to your coworkers that they feel comfortable asking questions. It’s easier for them to just write me off as weird and keep me at arm’s length.

The other huge problem is that people forget even after I’ve told them about my condition, and when I lose something or they want me to see what they do, they get perturbed. When I lose something, I’m considered flaky. Annoyance appears in people’s voices when I can’t see something….. “it’s right there. RIGHT THERE!” I have no idea what you’re pointing at- don’t even bother. I’ve gotten used to pretending I see a whole host of things, particularly birds and planes.

This is because in addition to my peripheral vision being absent, so is my depth perception.

I’m not very good at sports, although I can sort of fake it with soccer. It is easier to judge depth perception when the ball is on the ground. If I am catching a baseball or shooting a basketball, the difficulty is astronomical. Sometimes I make miraculous catches/baskets by accident.

I also politely decline and seethe inside when invited to a 3D movie, but only if it’s a friend I’ve told a hundred times that I can’t see them…. to me, the things that are supposed to jump out at you separate into two different colors and stay flat on the screen, turning to one side. It makes my head hurt and it costs more. I don’t like paying for migraines when I generally get them for free…. sometimes even a 2-for-1 special.

Speaking of seething inside, my movement and vision issues cause enormous self-esteem issues which present as rage, stuffed down because I use the buttons on my clothes to hold in my feelings. My self-esteem often keeps me from standing up for myself when I feel hurt by other people’s words….. I can’t even stand up to me.

Straight Fragility

The Black Lives Matter movement has changed me in ways I didn’t know I needed. I am beginning to stand up for myself, not afraid to make waves. I hope that I am a white ally in the best sense of the phrase, but I am not naïve enough to think I won’t stumble along the way. The thing I think I’m doing right is that I absolutely know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am not having the same experience they are, and unless they are a person of color who is also LGBTQ+, they aren’t having the same experience as me, either.

This knowledge has made me less afraid to claim what is mine- to look at what the Black Lives Matter movement is doing, and drawing similarities as to what I can apply to my own life as a minority of a different stripe.

For instance, today it was a Facebook group that asked for a queer roll-call. I got a ton of notifications that said “I’m straight, but I’m an ally.” In what universe is being an ally and being queer equivalent? They may have fought for marriage equality, but they could get married while they were doing it. They’ve never felt the pain of rejection and the internalized homophobia it causes. They’ve never had someone claim that part of their identity is a mental illness. They’ve never had anyone stare in disgust if they gave their spouse a peck on the lips goodbye. They’ve never had to seek out safe space, because being gay in a non-safe space can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

The main difference between the struggle regarding race and sexual orientation is that people can automatically see that I’m white. I haven’t dated anyone for five years and change, so I don’t wear any outward signs that I’m also a minority. Now, because I fit the stereotype of short hair and nails, boys’ clothes, etc. they might have their suspicions, but they can’t say so definitively unless I tell them. Until I was 36, I thought they could, and then I met a straight woman who dressed like me, with roughly the same haircut, and it was a light bulb moment. I wasn’t actually advertising anything. I now know this is true due to the sheer number of men who’ve asked me out on Facebook Dating (man, that algorithm is off).

I also think that straight people wearing the pride flag or associated accessories is problematic. I’m trying to get used to it because it’s popular, but I am, shall we say, old school. Enlightened straight people are over others mistaking them for queer, but for me it is also a matter of cultural appropriation………………. and because I know that my friends mean me no harm, and in fact are cheering me on, I try to let it roll. I know who’s an ally or not among my friend group, but if I meet someone who lights up my world and it turns out they’re straight, my throat tightens. It’s hard putting toothpaste back in the tube, capiche?

The double standard that’s my work to release is that I don’t care if men do it. I’m not interested in them. Whether a man is straight or gay is of no consequence. With women, depending on how much I like them, the effect varies in severity. If I can’t see myself dating them anyway, it’s a simple “nobody’s perfect.” If I can, there may or may not be waterworks I have to pass off as allergies….. because not only am I disappointed, pining for a straight woman is the oldest cliché in the book…. I mean, if Eve had a lesbian friend, I guarantee she was miserable. It makes me feel embarrassed and stupid, and that will last years longer than the actual attraction, because I tend to get stuck in my flaws and failures. If I was weird to you once in 1992, I’m still thinking about it.

The other thing that gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up is the community moving toward acceptance of straight people using the word “queer.” I realize that it’s shorthand for all the letters. I get it. The longer the acronym gets, the more comfortable I am with using it, too. At the same time, it feels like being called the f or the n word. I am much more easygoing about queer people reclaiming that word for themselves as opposed to giving straight people license to use it. Not everyone feels the same way I do, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow, because people are increasingly of the “get over it” mindset and I’m just not there- and maybe not ever. Younger people do not have the same word association that I do.

It’s a conundrum, because I feel that the strides younger generations are making are positive. I also feel that if they knew what it was like before they were born, they’d have a different outlook. That’s the other difference that really shines, because unless you are actually the child of a queer person, you don’t inherit our institutionalized pain…. and even though Lindsay (my almost six-years-younger biological sister) didn’t inherit it, she lived through it with me, so we have roughly the same outlook. She uses those lessons every single day in her job (it honors me to no end that I’m part of the reason she took it). She works in government relations for a queer health care outfit in Texas, which in my mind is God’s work. I wouldn’t want to meet with Texas Republicans on issues like trans health care. I would vomit before work out of nerves every single day. She’s just far enough removed from those specific fears to be effective.

It is again why straight allies are so important. I am not interested in denying their contribution. I only get wigged when I feel they are trying to say “we’re in this together.” No the hell we are not. You can run your mouth all day long about gay rights, and other straight people will hear it better from you. But you’re not going to think before going into an unfamiliar situation that it’s possible everyone will hate you when they know. Moreover, that fear is tripled going into an unfamiliar church. The Religious Right is the source of most of the things that cause me pain, because their bile is still infecting millions. You are not in danger if a trans person uses the same bathroom as you. You are not in danger if I’m in the locker room with you.

I mean, I’m not even going to hit on you unless you’re wearing a pride flag.

Bottled

I’ve been shaken like a Diet Coke lately, for reasons that are shaking everyone else on top of everything else in my own life. Yesterday was my mother and Dana’s birthday. My mother is, well, my mother. My ex is someone I loved for about 15 years (Dana would remember down to the date and time…. I am not that good). Though we have no future, you can’t be friends with someone for that long and not have them cross your mind occasionally. So, yesterday brought up almost every feeling of grief I’ve ever had in my life.

I have one happy memory that kept me going, and that was the year the three of us went to the Governor Hotel for dinner to celebrate. I had called in advance to make a reservation, and when we got there, our menus read “Happy Birthday Dana & Carolyn.” It was wonderful, and no one sang to us in a paper hat……………………

The most painful and cathartic part was when I found a show on Apple Plus called “Dear …” Every episode is a different actor/famous person. I watched “Dear Oprah” and cried a little. Then, I watched “Dear Big Bird.” I should have known that would be a landmine. I remember so clearly when Mr. Hooper died, and public television deciding to deal with it age-appropriately on the air. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe as a mom explained to “Big Bird” that she used that clip to explain her father’s death to her little girl. Believe me when I say I would have cried regardless- when I’m alone, I’ll cry over anything, even commercials. But this was different. This was near panic-attack territory. Most of the time, it’s just a few tears rolling down my cheeks, like remembering my mother and I watching Oprah every day at four from the time I was nine years old. Even when we were (rarely) at the gym, we didn’t miss it. We walked on treadmills and watched the show, anyway.

My friends and family kept in touch all day, because I’d sent them a heads up on the 10th. I just asked them to look out for me and check in if they hadn’t in a while. So basically, I got alerts on social media almost as often as if it were my own birthday…. some from people who had also lost parents, which helps enormously. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again that losing a parent rewires you down to the neurons. New people I meet will never know the person I was before October of 2016. There’s also a slight difference between people whose parents lived to be the age they generally die naturally, and people whose parents die suddenly. In addition to grieving the past, they also grieve the years of which they’ve been robbed. In my own case, it delayed my grief for about a week and a half, because I was so physically and emotionally shocked. Nothing felt real until I got back to DC and settled into my new normal, which was not talking on the phone with my mother for several hours at a clip at least a few times a week. My mother was fairly conservative- and by that, I don’t mean politically. I mean behavior, clothing, etc. I grew up that way, but after I moved out on my own I was, shall we say, more adventurous. Therefore, I really didn’t have much to say in terms of my own life, so I know A LOT about what it takes to be an elementary school music teacher/choir director. In fact, one of the pieces of grief I continue to work through is that I “ran the game” on my mom all the time…. the one where you keep people talking about themselves so that they don’t want to/get a chance to know anything about you.

When I was literally suicidal and in the hospital, I was forced to open up. Though I couldn’t tell my mom exactly what I was going through, I could tell her enough, and she was more resilient than I ever thought. Not as breakable. I spent years covering up things I didn’t have to, mostly because I was convinced she wasn’t a safe space.

If there is any reason that if I win the lottery, I’m buying Argo and her husband (and her family, and their pets, and their grandkids’ college etc. etc. etc.) whatever they want, it’s because the conversations she and I shared effectively gave my mother back to me. If they don’t want anything because they have no idea what to think, I’ll just donate to a charity I am spot-on sure would be a big hit. Man, I’ve thought a lot about this for something that is unlikely to happen considering I don’t buy tickets……………………………..

I spent so many years frightened out of my mind that I would say something that would offend my mother, I was never truly real with her. Not once. I never lied about anything, but it took me three years to show her I had a tattoo, if that gives you any indication…… and I didn’t have a tattoo. I had five.

I wish I could have been more authentic. I’m much funnier when I am.

My mother was the type person that if she said something that everyone was thinking and didn’t say it, we would all fall out laughing much more than usual because she was the last person we’d think would spill it. I have no doubt that in some ways, she was just as bottled up as me, because underneath her exterior, it always seemed like there was way more than advertised.

It’s not surprising, though. As a preacher’s family, there is such pressure to be perfect people, and none of us ever are……………. but we all curate our personalities to some extent. It’s the level that changes (one of the many reasons I think preacher’s kids make good spies- all of us have the ability to take in shocking news while smiling and acting as if nothing has happened).

In fact, taking in the shocking news of my mother’s death, smiling and acting as if nothing had happened was how I got through my first few days. It was impossible to receive people without public armor. I knew four people at the visitation, had heard of maybe another 20, and there were more than 150-200 between it and the funeral. It was truly overwhelming to such a degree that those memories are burned in so hard that they’ve replaced my first thoughts when thinking of her. That’s what I mean by “rewired.” There is nothing in the world that compares to or prepares for losing your mother, even losing someone else, because she’s the only one who literally carried you. It’s a different feeling, like you’ve lost your first apartment, as it were. I felt all the time, and still feel a little bit unmoored. Because you’ve lost the only one who carried you into the world, it’s an awful feeling no matter what your relationship was while they were alive- and unlike other feelings of grief, it’s one of the only universal ones. Everything else is as individual as a fingerprint.

I remember having such unhinged anger in the beginning, because I was the first of my closest friends to lose a parent, and some of them are much older than me. I also had quite a bit of anxiety and closed myself off to everyone except Dan, because we didn’t know each other well, but had that one thing in common, and at the time it was consuming my entire life. The anxiety came from not wanting to lash out at my other friends, because their parents being alive didn’t mean anything was wrong with them. I didn’t want to get my crazy spatter on their clothes….. fights and gutter snipes based on something I couldn’t express in a way that would make sense to them, because there is no frame of reference. I could even say out loud that I was just railing against their parents still being alive, and that still wouldn’t make any sense because people think they know what it will be like, and they don’t. No matter what you think it’s like, that’s not it.

The reality is that everyone reacts differently, so not only do you not know what it’s going to be like objectively, you don’t know it subjectively, either. Your reaction will be based on what you know, not what I do.

That’s why there’s such a drive to keep a lid on it. I don’t want my grief to inconvenience our relationship, because one has nothing to do with the other in terms of how much I adore you. I’m just on a completely different road, traveling in a completely different direction, in a completely different outfit.

And in time, more and more of my friends will be traveling with me, and our relationship will change in an irreversible way….. just like the relationship with your mother. The permanence of the change is that when your mother dies, so does a piece of you. The individuality is that none of us have any idea what will go in its place. It’s not that you can replace your mother with something else; it’s that all of a sudden, a lot of your time and energy empties out of a relationship that can never be resurrected. The time gets filled up with other things, and you don’t know ahead of time what you’ll do with it.

It shakes you like a Diet Coke.

 

Easter People

[Editor’s Note: People of color are encouraged to participate in discussion in this post, positively or negatively. I just wanted to say up front that I am a white person writing for a white audience whom I hope will listen.]

A phrase that endures in both liberal and conservative Christianity comes from an award-winning Christian author named Barbara Johnson. That attribution is difficult because great minds think alike, so theologians like Anne Lamott have also said it…. as has my father, which is where I heard it first in one of his sermons as a kid. It has stayed with me for almost thirty years:

We are Easter people living in a Good Friday world.

Good Friday is all around us.

There is a global pandemic.

American cities large and small are burning in protest over decades of post-traumatic stress disorder while “Nero fiddles.”

The president, regardless of party, would usually have something to say to calm the nation after 100,000 deaths from COVID-19…………. perhaps an additional acknowledgement that these protests did not come à propos of nothing.

Whites have (of course) been affected, but the virus has disproportionately hit areas with high concentrations of people of color, magnifying inequities in the health care system that have existed since the United States won its freedom from the British Empire……. and still hasn’t moved for significant change.

It is akin to schools in minority neighborhoods not having the resources that white schools do. Though the country is becoming more integrated in some areas, there are others where black families move into those white neighborhoods to give their kids better education, and whites sell their houses. The inequality begins anew.

People of color have been crying for help; their sorrow has fallen on deaf ears… and then, a nine minute video of a policeman choking the life out of a black man surfaced on social media.

For people of color, it does not matter whether they personally knew the person killed by racially motivated violence. In fact, it was not even the murder by law enforcement of one Minneapolis man named George Floyd that threw the first match.

Racism is an institutionalized top-down system of oppression, carried out in education, health care, housing, workplaces, and many, many, many people of color killed by the police for no apparent reason other than they “looked suspicious.” Perception is in the eye of the beholder, and looking suspicious is relative given that white people wearing the exact same clothes as people of color are seemingly off their radar.

For instance, Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people in a Charleston church was taken quietly (meaning still alive) and given Burger King on the way to the police station. Eric Garner was harassed on suspicion of selling single cigarettes out of boxes without tax stamps. When he said that he was not selling cigarettes and tired of being harassed, the police choked him to death.

Good Friday is not only egregious inequality, it is the refusal to acknowledge it exists. Phrases by white people like “I don’t see color” and “we should all belong to one race… the human race” cease to acknowledge complete ignorance.

White people have never been segregated like people of color. White people have never lived through being stolen from their homeland and enslaved, being counted as 3/5ths of a person, Jim Crow laws, and now racism that is every bit as entrenched, just couched in more politeness (which never matters because people of color see it for what it is).

To be an Easter person during this particular Good Friday, you must challenge your own assumptions about race. You must ask yourself what you can do to promote equality in every aspect of your life, because it touches every aspect of theirs. An axiom in our society that needs addressing immediately is that it isn’t that white people’s lives aren’t hard- they’re just not hard because they’re white. The link I’ve included in terms of promoting equality is an article written by a white woman, because I think that our responsibilities are separate from minority communities.

We do not need to put people of color in the position of comforting us, making us feel better, telling us ways we can help when we are completely capable of doing our own research.

To add to her list, white people, get out of the protests. Stop. Just stop. Stand on the sidelines with cold water, masks, and/or bail money. Do not even think about moving from your station. When white people are involved in these protests, we are again off the radar. The police aren’t likely to grab us, but the nearest person of color instead. They will pay for what we have done.

On Good Friday, Jesus said, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” This makes our own Good Friday even more covered in ash, because we do not have that excuse.

Most, if not all white people see racism every day, but do not call it out.

Hiring managers do not even bother to wonder why they automatically put resumés with names like “Tyrone” or “LaToya” in the “I’ll pass” pile, even when Tyrone and LaToya have over and above the required qualifications and experience.

White “boys will be boys,” but boys of color are liable to be arrested by school security. The prison pipeline starts early, because once there is one arrest, it all too often snowballs.

These are concrete examples, but it’s more than that. White people fail to call out racism in simple conversations, particularly when all participants are white. In fact, the white people who heard the racist comment and didn’t call it out are likely to think that they aren’t racist, the person who said it was…. they were just standing there. It is not enough, and never has been, that white people remain quiet and let the moment pass.

Being an Easter person in a Good Friday world is not one decision. It is a lifestyle choice. It is a commitment to do everything you can to help the world progress.

My analogy for this is that I didn’t decide I loved women at 13, told one person, and that’s all I ever had to do. I come out to everyone who is new to me. It’s a choice to come out every single day, not that one time once. Advancing the nature of humanity is the same way. It begins with new behavior every day, not that one time once.

If you only have one story in which you stopped racism, I am giving you an invitation to create more- hopefully one for every day of your life from here on out.

We, as white people, do not have an ability to apologize for the past- at least, not in words. “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean anything without changed behavior. We have shown to people of color over and over that words of contrition are just that.

A Good Friday white person is one that says “my ancestors didn’t own any slaves. Inequality doesn’t have anything to do with me.” An Easter white person recognizes that the way racism has been woven into the fabric of our flag, inextricably interrelated with our culture, means that they have benefited from a system built on the backs of the people living here when we arrived, and the people we stole to build our own infrastructure. An Easter person recognizes that we’ve made people of color participate in our own delusions of superiority…. our own ridiculous narrative that has lasted far too long.

The more we try to dismantle it, the closer we are to bringing Easter to the masses, rather than keeping it for ourselves. The enduring phrase becomes more meaningful, because we will have a concrete idea of what it means to be Easter people in a Good Friday world.

We don’t have to take it lying down, as if the world will always be Good Friday with a few people willing to make it Easter on their own.

Moreover, the world will always have Good Friday problems. There is no way to eradicate them. The difference made is the number of people willing to stand up and claim Easter as their own….. a groundswell of hope outweighing despair.

Changes by Easter people, from small to sweeping, will help in more ways than we should be able to count.

Amen.

ProChristianation

I have so much to do today that is banal, therefore I am sitting at my desk hoping to come up with something brilliant instead. Maybe if I have a creative flash, it will make taking care of the small stuff easier. I try to go from least desirable to most, because if I start with the thing I want to do most, the rest of my to-do list goes into “I can do it tomorrow” status, which generally runs ad infinitum amen.

I need to do some stuff around the house, and I also need to go to the pharmacy and grocery store. I should have thought ahead on this one and used the pharmacy at the grocery store from the beginning, but luckily, CVS and Giant are practically next door to each other. It takes about two minutes to walk between them if I’m feeling lazy, 45 seconds if I’m booking it…. usually dependent on how much I have to carry from one store to the other. I feel like taking this break to write is justified, because I don’t like to go anywhere without my phone, watch, and headphones completely charged. It helps me to be in crowds if everyone feels further away, so I’m usually listening to music or a podcast.

I never leave my watch at home because I have cerebral palsy and monocular vision. If my monocular vision is guilty, I have missed a step down (sometimes a step up) or a crack in the sidewalk. If it’s the CP, I have taken a spill a propos of nothing. My watch has fall detection, and if I don’t move in a certain amount of time, alerts 911. I’ve never needed it, but I am genuinely afraid of hitting my head, because in 90% of cases, the falls happen so fast I don’t have time to react. I’ve only had three falls in the last five years that have resulted in bruising or bleeding, but that’s enough, especially since I ripped my favorite pants at the knee…. khakis that would have looked horrible with patching even if I could have gotten all the blood out. No, wait. I have ripped two pairs of pants at $50 a pop. In one case, I thought I broke my hip. Luckily, I did not. The bone ached for days as I recovered, though.

While I was in more pain than worrying about my pants, I am reminded of an old Ryan Darlington story. He wrecked his bike and walked it back home because he was scraped up, road rash, bleeding, all the things. His dad took one look at him and, completely deadpan, said “geez…. is the bike okay? There’s nothing like the love of a parent for a child.

It helps to have a friend to help me watch out for that stuff, but mostly I just tumble ass over teakettle because I won’t say anything up front. I need to get to a place where it just is, and doesn’t make me feel embarrassed. It’s difficult, though, especially with new people in my life. If I fall once in front of them, it’s just an accident. Three or four times? Not so much.

What helped me the most was meeting Tracy Walder (link is to my question at her Q&A after her book talk- The Unexpected Spywe had a conversation when she signed my book), and learning that even with all she’s accomplished professionally, she still has her own body issues and doesn’t talk about it, either. Her hypotonia didn’t develop into CP, so our cases are different, but our internal monologues are the same.

I didn’t mean to put her on the spot, but I’d read a few pages of the book while I was waiting for her, and she mentions it, so I thought it was fair game.

I kicked myself later that I didn’t take her aside privately, because I think talking about it to an audience might have made her uncomfortable. I hope I was able to diffuse it by saying I had it, too, so she wouldn’t feel alone…. or maybe it was that I didn’t want to feel alone. Either way, it worked out.

I’d never met anyone with hypotonia before, so one of the best moments of my life was learning that there’s another person in the world that has the same feelings I do. I am sure there are plenty more, but neither of us know them. In fact, she says that she doesn’t think she’s ever met anyone outside her family that has it.

She gave me such a gift by opening up, because it raised my self-esteem when I realized that it was okay to feel how I feel, and just to let them come and go. Perhaps in the future I will feel more comfortable getting out of the house because of it. I tend to hole up (quarantine or not), because the layout of the house is familiar and safe. I purposely put off going to the grocery store and pharmacy until social interaction is needed to maintain isolation, because I don’t have to guess whether I’ll trip. I don’t have to guess that I’ll run into something. I don’t have to guess whether or not my shoulder will bang on a door frame unless it’s doubly wide. I just know.

It makes meeting people doubly hard, but during the quarantine, I did have one woman reach out to me that I managed to piss off in one day flat. That’s a record. However, I wasn’t upset about it because it was a conversation I knew was going to be way more trouble than it was worth. She grew up non-denominational/Pentecostal and still trying to live out her faith in that vein, which made me cringe because that framework is designed to keep people inside the fear of going to hell when they die………. and she can try until Jesus comes to fit in as a queer fundamentalist, but people will still talk behind her back if not directly to her face.

She spoke fluent “Christianese,” which is a language that I hear so much that I can understand it, but I won’t engage. People who take the Bible literally and those of us who take the Bible seriously are so different that there’s really no mesh. You will never catch me using the phrases “looking for a Godly marriage” or “raising kids in His word.” What pissed her off was me saying “I hear those words a lot, but I have no idea what they actually mean.”

Having spent a lot of time in the Bible Belt, I know to keep my views to myself (she was originally from Beaumont, TX). For that crowd, the resurrection is more important than anything Jesus ever did while he was alive…. and I do not enjoy the “sticky, sticky blood” interpretation.

Also, nothing in the Bible to literalists is a story from an ancient civilization trying to understand the world around them, but absolute truth- as if God sat down and wrote it all in pen. Don’t even mention to them that stories of Jesus were oral traditions not written down until 90 years after his death. No one had an eyewitness account, but literalists skip over that, as well, and will fight you in a way that you’ll always lose, because they go pretty quickly into righteousness- they follow Jesus and they have no idea what the hell you’re doing. They’re Christians, and you’re faking it…. as if no time has passed and thousands of years of exegesis and criticism are fake as well. My alarm bell went off when she said she went to Bible College. Here’s what I mean by alarm bell, taken from Wikipedia:

Many were established as a reaction against established theological colleges and seminaries, which conservatives believed were becoming increasingly liberal and undermining traditional Christian teachings, such as Biblical inerrancy [emphasis mine].

There’s a big difference between Bible College and say, getting into the divinity schools at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Emory, etc…. this is because the error is that seminaries were getting too liberal. It’s that the more they pieced history together, they could no longer support the idea that every single sentence in the Bible is a hundred percent factually accurate and needs no translation from then to now.

I am sure that my treatise on “inerrancy” could have been an entry all on its own, but everything ties together in terms of getting over myself and meeting new people, and knowing within a conversation or two whether it’s a relationship I’d like to continue. I know I’ll keep tripping and falling, but I’d like to know whether I’m going to land in the right hands.

For me, that person could be a different (non-literalist) denomination, a different religion altogether, or agnostic/atheist as long as they respect that I’m not going to change.

My beliefs about the Bible can be summed up in one sentence. I believe that all 66 books are stories that are all true, and some of them actually happened.

Mother’s Day 2020

My mother died in October of 2016, which on some days feels so far away, and on others, it just happened 15 minutes ago. The last true image I have of her is after she was embalmed. Not everyone thought she looked like herself, but I did. She had that look on her face that she got when she was so asleep she didn’t care who saw her, or when she was concentrating so hard on a piano passage that she scrunched up her face in a certain way. If there is anything for which I am truly grateful, it’s that the embalmer did not try to create a faker-than-fake smile. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I’ve spent more time in funeral homes than the average person…. and I have seen my fair share of terrible jobs. Not every embalmer graduates at the top of their class………………..

I remember that the first few times I went with my dad to visit families in grief, I would stare wide-eyed at the corpse, because I was just sure they were about to roll over. I wasn’t scared (okay, maybe a little). It’s just that most people sleep on their sides, and I’m not sure I had a good idea of how permanent death really is. As I got older (maybe eight or nine), it was more clear to me that they were truly gone, because in every case, their expressions weren’t quite right. They didn’t look like themselves. The only thing that ever looked normal was their clothes, because the family had picked them out…. but their bodies weren’t the same. It wasn’t just their faces- their necks and hands were different as well (the part of the body that’s visible).

Over time, I went with my dad more and more, because while I wasn’t all that crazy about visitations, I loved funerals- although some more than others. I didn’t like it when they were all sad- no funny stories about the decedent. Death is 50% anesthesia for families… some are able to combat it and talk about the person in real terms. Others completely dissociate and act as if their loved one was an absolute saint who had “gone on to be in a better place.” Truly somber affairs that the dead would have probably hated because there was no sense of who they really were.

In my own eulogy, I had two laugh lines, and the congregation roared because they were just so true. I manuscripted for two days before the funeral, and there was nothing I wrote down that I actually used…. except for the first line. If you are just joining us, my mother was a church musician her entire life, so the opening was “this is the only funeral Carolyn Baker’s ever been to where she wasn’t working.” The other laugh line is that I wore a Tommy Hilfiger suit to the funeral, and I did an impression of me showing it to my mom:

Leslie: Look, mom. When you turn the collar up, it’s all plaid.
Carolyn: Well! I didn’t even notice that!

And, of course, it was pitch perfect in her Texas drawl.

Speaking of my suit, I wore white sneakers with it that were a size and a half too big, and I know they looked kind of stupid… but here’s the thing. It was important to me to stand in her shoes. I keep them around because they come in handy during the winter when I wear three pairs of socks.

If I’d had Converse All-Stars, I could have pulled off a David Tennant/David Letterman look… I mean, REALLY pulled it off. In fact, I know I could do it now, but I don’t have a desire to wear that suit again. I should get over it. It was Tommy, therefore it was expensive.

I’ll need to take it to the dry cleaner- it’s crumpled up angrily in the back of my closet, hidden so that I don’t see it on a daily basis. At the funeral, I wore a button-down shirt and jewelry that would definitely have been mom-approved, but it would look even better with a white t-shirt. For a suit, it’s both dress up and dress down. The kind you could wear to church or on a date with the sleeves pulled up.

These are all the things that appeared in my dreams last Sunday. I’d stayed up all night on Saturday building a database, and I lasted until 2:30 PM (even though I was bagged, I still wanted to go to church). My body now hates staying up all night, so I laid down for a nap and forgot to set an alarm. I woke up at 6:00 AM, then went back to bed and slept until almost 11:00.

Did I need that much sleep? No. I was processing grief. I was releasing a thunderstorm. I was meticulously going through every event that led to my mother’s death, the phone call I got when it happened, the rush to the airport, the visitation in which an Oprah level of extroversion was covering up a Leslie level of introversion. I was scared as hell- I hardly knew anyone there and they all wanted to hug me. I felt so awkward, being touched and loved on by people I’d never met in my life.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, but that was not going to happen. My friend Wendy’s words echoed in my head, though they were regarding another difficult situation…. you don’t have to love it, Leslie. You just have to live it. However, I had a clear vision of what I wanted. Keep it together, no matter what, until you’re at home in your own bed.

The funeral was different in that two of my best friends from high school came, and my actual high school best friend, James, came as my support person, which meant that he sat with me in the family section of both the funeral and the graveside service. It was yet another thing that kept me on an even keel as I navigated a foreign world- strange for two reasons.

The first is that I’d never imagined a world in which I was alive and my mother was dead. I am certain that I would have started as I aged, but she was 65. I’d only imagined her death of old age. Anything other than that was beyond my comprehension.

The second is that I’d been to so many visitations, funerals, and graveside services, but this was my first time experiencing it all from the other side. The business of death is exhausting, but it was nice picking out what we thought she would have wanted. Her casket is navy blue and silver with a white lining, complete with navy blue birds printed on the inside. It’s not like she’ll ever see them, but we did.

There was also another aspect of death that I did not comprehend, which I suppose can be chalked up to fear. People I expected would show up didn’t, and people I thought wouldn’t absolutely did. It is my own theory that who shows up for you when someone close to you has died is dependent on their own views of death… whether they can stand being reminded that it will happen to them one day. It shouldn’t be scary, because it is the most universal thing that can happen to a person. Some children lose their parents early, some on time, but it is the natural order. It is how life works, and there is no alternative.

The only thing that really disturbs my grief now is Mother’s Day, and most of it is due to the newspaper and social media. At least a month before, the ads start. I don’t see them as cute or funny. The newspaper gets a pass, because it isn’t personalized.mothers_day Facebook is the only platform I really use, and they absolutely know my mother is dead, so I feel like they should know how to give me a break…. especially because some of the ads insinuate that you are a bad child if you don’t send them this or that. I have never gotten a response, but I wrote to Sheryl Sandberg about it, thinking she’d be the most empathetic.

I’m sure that she gets at least a million Facebook messages a week, possibly even in a day, so I wasn’t sitting by the computer waiting. Perhaps I’ll reach out through the Option B web site instead. I wish I could put my finger on why Mother’s Day feels worse than any other holiday. You would think it would be something about which I had more memories. I’ve lived away from Texas for so many years that I can’t remember the last time I was in town when it rolled around…. and by that, I mean I can point to specific years I was there, but not what happened. I don’t have any memorable Mother’s Day brunches or whatever. I do remember that the last gift I sent her was a pair of earrings with real flowers encased in clear resin. Had I known it was our last Mother’s Day, I obviously would have done things much differently. But that’s the thing about death- you never know what’s the last anything.

I thought we’d have so many more years to get closer- 10 is the most conservative estimate. We never spent any time estranged, but our relationship was different before and after I came out, so even though we’d spent the last several years getting closer, we still had more work to do, the construction site abandoned…. at least on her end. I talk to her all the time, because it has never mattered to me whether or not she could answer…. or if answers come to me in dreams, they’re always the ones I want because I’m creating both sides of the conversation.

For instance, she’s really proud that I go to church now. She told me when I laid down for a nap after.

COVID Blues, Part 2 -or- 18 Dollars

It takes nine dollars with Uber for me to get from my house to my doctor’s office, so yesterday (without even thinking about it……………..), I requested a car. I get there, and take the elevator to the 4th floor. There’s a sign on the door that says the doctor’s office is closed to everyone but patients, and all extra people have to wait in the car. It then says to call first, and there’s no phone number.

So, I call the number for the doctor that I have stored in my phone, and the mailbox is full. I should have known it would happen had I had any kind of foresight, but my doctor’s office hadn’t been closed before, and there was no notification anywhere (like an e-mail, text message, etc.) that it would be happening in the future.

Besides, I had to be physically present for two reasons. The first is that I take Klonopin,™ and since it is a controlled substance, the re-authorization has to be an original copy and not just a fax to the pharmacy. The second was that at my last appointment, my doctor told me that he didn’t take my insurance anymore. The front office clerk gave me a number to call to get insurance they would take, so I went home and got it. I needed to give them my new card.

I am truly flummoxed. I have no idea what to do, because even if I call the doctor’s office, it doesn’t seem like they’re open, and I don’t have another doctor… even though when I was considering staying on my old health insurance, I tried to book an appointment with a different primary care physician for the week of the 22nd (which by my count, is today), and no one has gotten back to me.

I’m supposed to take the Klonopin twice a day, but I often skip the second dose, so I have at least a week’s worth right now. So I have one week to figure out how to get my doctor to actually call me back without being able to let him know I need him. We are getting into “go back to a liquid diet” territory, which I do when I feel totally out of control. For some reason, my anxiety manifests as what goes into my body is the one thing I can decide on my own. Unlike other times in my life, it wouldn’t be awful. I wouldn’t go down to an unhealthy weight because constantly being indoors means that I am not burning any calories. I will continue being on the “fuck it” diet as long as I can, but at least I know that if I develop a block on eating, it’s not going to hurt anything, because the “fuck it” diet is based on walking everywhere I go. I haven’t left my house (other than yesterday) in at least four weeks, so I wouldn’t have to worry about looking like a drug addict again.

The one bright spot is that I’ve been in a huge fight with the state of Maryland for a while now, and it’s over. Maryland gave it their best shot- they’ve been stealing money from me for a long time now, but in the end, I won. Here’s what the fight was about. I moved to Maryland in April of 2015, so on my tax return, I filed with a Maryland address, even though I hadn’t started working here yet. I figured they’d need to know where to send my return, right? Well, the federal government notified the state government that I’d filed with a Maryland address, and they presented me a bill for about $3500 for tax year 2014. I hadn’t paid it all off yet, because I’ve been fighting it every step of the way, so hopefully at some point I will get my money back, as well as the right to get a Maryland driver’s license. I don’t drive, but I’d like an in-state ID (I have a Texas license and a passport).

It is possible (but not probable) that I would have enough money to buy a car. Here’s the thing. I’m over it. Because of my monocular vision, I have wrecked five cars and totaled three. In every single case, it was because I didn’t see something coming, or a light was out of my field of vision…. say the street was five lanes wide and I was in the far right, but the light was on the left, or vice versa. I just had to say “enough is enough.” My saving grace is that because the cause has been not seeing things, I’ve never had a wreck because of speeding, and therefore never been in a position to really hurt myself or others. I’m just embarrassed that it took me so long to realize there was an actual problem. I am certain that I would be able to drive a Tesla or similar because of all the safety features (like if you get too close to something, etc.), but I am not in a position to drop that kind of money, and even if I was, I have different priorities now.

Because of the excellent public transportation here, and Uber, I’m not dependent on my friends to cart me around, and that’s really been my only concern. I do live in the suburbs, but everything here is condensed. In Houston, the suburbs mean 25 miles out. My house is 11 miles NW of the White House. (I’m sure I’ll go there once I actually admire someone there. Besides, I went when I was eight. It hasn’t changed that much.) So much of the reason I moved here was to have that luxury.

Except the part where I was furious at having wasted $18 trying to get to the doctor.

 

COVID Blues

This is just one of those days where I feel like I don’t have much to say, but feel like I should be writing anyway. Life is different (for now) in a way that I never expected in my lifetime. My state (Maryland) is on lockdown. You can get arrested for going to a non-essential business. If you have a job, you are only allowed to go into the office if you have a piece of paper from the government that says you are an essential worker. Work is still getting done, of course, but through voice and video chats, most of DC and its suburbs working from home. I don’t know how long this is supposed to last, but some at the CDC say that we will experience breakouts until 2022, expanding and retracting the economy as we open up and experience a new wave. I am just like the protestors. I want a haircut. I’m just smarter than to actually protest. I’d rather be safe in my home. In that way, I feel like everyone else.

No one except the protesters think we all like being cooped up, but 99% of us recognize that it’s not safe to be out and about. If we get sick, there are not enough resources to be tested, much less treated. The president told the governors to get their own testing supplies. Governor Hogan did, and now the president is mad about it.

I’m sorry, what? It is a confusion which passeth all understanding, as are most reactions from the White House. It is as if we are rolling back into the Articles of Confederation, every state for itself, and we are taking those responsibilities seriously… And at the same time, even though the president is saying this is what the governors should do, his ego gets butt hurt that he can’t take credit for all that’s going right. With him, it is always a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I think that’s the hardest part, actually. Tweeting that we need to “liberate” states way too early isn’t helping matters… because of course, if said states are opened back up and restrictions are loosened, there will be another string of tweets saying “I told you it was too early.”

At this point, I am so shaggy that I am beginning to think I will have a ponytail before this is all over. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that my hair is growing at all different rates and I have really thick hair, so I’m embracing the Harry Potter look. I did find water-based wax from Viking that’s making my life a little easier, but that’s not saying much.

I also find myself putting on makeup more and more often, because otherwise I think I look terrible on camera and will spend an entire video call picking apart my appearance. Most of the time, it’s just mascara and eyeliner so my eyes don’t get lost into my glasses. Maybe I’ll dye my hair red again to keep me from looking mousy on camera- but that depends on whether there’s any hair dye to be had. The last time I dyed my hair red was shortly after I moved to DC, where Samantha shoeshined my head and hosed me down in the front yard as not to make my bathroom look like a murder scene. I still have that towel, and everyone thinks that I’ve had blood on it for almost five years. Nope, it’s Feria, and it won’t come out.

But if whether or not to dye my hair is the biggest worry I have in all this, I’m not doing it right.

Well, actually, I am.

My anxiety at leaving the house is overwhelming, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing cool about getting arrested (although I would for the right cause…. this isn’t it). And I don’t know where people are getting arrested in the first place. I don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I take Uber directly to the doctor’s office, then directly to the pharmacy and grocery store, and then I can’t get home fast enough. Public transportation is probably okay in terms of not getting handcuffed, but there’s so much higher a risk that I’d get sick. Even in the Uber, the drivers wear masks, and now I have my own. You would think that would make me more comfortable about getting out. So far, no dice.

I’m taking care of myself as well as I can. I still get dressed every day. Sometimes I even take a shower. That may sound gross, but if I shower too often, my hair and skin dry out too much, and no one’s going to see me in person, anyway.

Speaking of which, now that I’ve had two cups of coffee, I’m going to go run some water through my hair and see if I can come up with something relatively aesthetically pleasing. Maybe I should try a fork.