Nothing Stays the Same

I wanted to wait to post my next entry until I actually had something to say. I know that not updating my blog reduces traffic, thus dampening my quest for world domination. On the other hand, I don’t want to be one of those people who doesn’t take time to think before writing…. anything will do, because it’s not about craft, it’s about attracting views, visits, likes, and followers. I feel like I have enough already. Not believing I have enough just leads to verbal vomit for its own sake… and to me, that just doesn’t cut it.

I mean, I’ve always been the type to just lay out everything on this web site and let people make their own decisions about what they read, and when I post often, it’s because having something to say comes along that frequently. It’s organic, never forced. Lately, I’ve realized that most of my ruminations are just continuations of things I’ve already said, probably more than three or four times. I promise that I am not regurgitating content. It’s the way my brain works.

I think about a problem right up until I don’t. The interesting part (or, at least, it’s interesting to me) is that I tend to start a couple of steps back and rehash, but when I’m thinking about something a second (third, fourth, fifth, 17th……) time, the overall arc is the same and different small details jump out, often changing the course of the dialogue… conversations that happen between me and me. Though Shakespeare was not talking about discourse with oneself, he might as well have been. The play’s the thing… especially in moments where I’ve caught myself red-handed…. infinitely more scary than feeling caught by anyone else. I’m better at kicking my ass than you are. Write it down.

I’ve scared myself for the past couple of weeks because I make it a point to look at my Facebook memories, and along with all of my funny memes is this mountain range of emotions. Note to self: more peaks, less valleys.

WordPress propagates to my author page, which means that I am equally stupid and brave enough to post things to my own profile. If I skipped doing so, old entries wouldn’t appear at all. It isn’t about torturing myself- many, many more readers click through from my profile because I’ve been on Facebook for 10 years. The “Stories” page has only existed since 2015, and as of right this moment, only has about 100 followers. After a decade, I have 745 friends and 38 followers. The platform is exponentially larger. My Facebook profile propagates to @ldlanagan on Twitter, and my author page to @lesliecology. Again, I have more followers on my own Twitter feed than the feed for my web site… the difference is that @lesliecology is nothing but a WordPress feed, and @ldlanagan is everything I post on Facebook, period. My profile is public, and my Facebook statuses are generally longer than Tweets, so anyone can click through to the original post.

So there’s the setup as to why I wanted to separate out my blog entries from my Facebook profile/Twitter feed, and why it hasn’t worked out.

Scaring myself the last couple of weeks has been about entries from four years ago, starting with PTSD as a teenager and it unraveling my thirties into divorce, losing a good friend, and so much compounded mental instability that I needed more help than my friends and family could give. Poet Mary Karr gave me the phrase “checking into the Mental Mariott,” and I’ve used it relentlessly since.

Joking about it covers up deep wounds, and that’s why I write about them instead of speaking. When I am writing, I have a bit of clinical separation. I can look at the land mines without detonation. I cannot say the same is always true for reading. Occasionally, I feel the distance of having grown as a person, so that the entry feels like it was written by someone else. More often, I am remembering every tiny detail about the setting and the arc of the story. Then body memory kicks in, and if my heart and brain were racing in the moment, I feel it again; it doesn’t matter how much time has passed.

It isn’t all bad, though, because I write in equal measure about how good I’m feeling, and those excited butterflies also return…. sometimes, but not often, in the same entry. The other plus is getting to decide if what was true at that time is still true today, and as a rule with some exceptions, it’s not. There are truth bombs that hit me just as hard now as the day I wrote them, but for the most part, this blog has been dynamic, and has changed just as often as I have (which is, like, the point).

Whether I’m reading an up day or a down, it is exhilarating to see that few things stay the same.

I will always have the regular, boring adult problems… and at the same time, my life is bigger than that. Managing Bipolar II, remnants of PTSD (anxiety, mostly) and ADHD so that I am not a ball of negative crazy keeps it interesting. I emphasize “negative crazy” because I don’t know anyone who isn’t crazy in a positive way. I am not attracted on any level to the mundane. Regular people with big dreams are often lumped in with “crazy,” because most people don’t dream big.

Even my dreams have been adjusted. I am still dreaming big, but the focus is not on starting my own church anymore. Perhaps in the distant future, I’ll think about it again. But right now, when I enter into any church building, consecrated or not, “my mother is dead” becomes an ostinato.

From Google Dictionary:

Ostinato

os·ti·na·to
/ästəˈnädō/

noun: ostinato; plural noun: ostinati; plural noun: ostinatos

a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm.

“The cellos have the tune, above an ostinato bass figure.”

Even the sentence used to illustrate the word is appropriate, because you don’t just hear bass. You feel it.

I have written before that she’s everywhere I look, because over our lives together, I cannot think of an element within church life where she was absent. I cannot think of a single thing that was all mine until I moved to Portland and began preaching at Bridgeport UCC.

I have always been the Mary. She was the Martha.

There was no judgment on her part. I just mean that I have always been the thinker and she has always been the actor…. Actually, I take that back. My mother was one of the few people I’ve met in this life that had extraordinarily creative ideas and the ability to execute them, which is rare.

Few people manage to live on the ground and in the air at the same time (it’s a miracle I can tie my own shoes).

In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus is speaking to Martha, who has complained to him that (I’m paraphrasing) “Mary’s just sitting on her ass while I’m doing all the work. Can’t you go rattle her cage?” And Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her.” He actually says this to the woman that invited him and his entire crew into her house and wants to feed everyone. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve ever cooked and served for 16 (fairly certain Lazarus was there- unclear), but I can see Martha’s point and I get a little bit irritated with Jesus. It’s not that one part is better than the other. Thinking is not better than doing. Doing is not better than thinking. They’re just different mindsets, and the evening wouldn’t have been possible without both.

I am certain that Mary and Martha need each other. Martha is grounded, and keeps Mary from floating away. Mary reminds Martha to look at the stars once in a while.

So when I think about the work I did to investigate starting a homeless ministry in Silver Spring, what comes up for me is that my Martha is no longer with us. It rends the mental tapestry I created, and I descend into darkness.

I am still excited by theology of all types- Abrahamic, Eastern, you name it. But right at this very minute, I’d rather spend my time thinking and writing, sometimes posting sermons on this web site rather than waxing philosophic in front of a physical crowd.

What I do not know is whether I will always feel the same, or whether my time is not yet here.

What I do know is that the fight has left me. I am too mired in grief to get passionate enough to affect change. In fact, I wouldn’t say that I’m extraordinarily passionate about anything at all. When my mother died, so did several pieces of me. I know for certain that it would have been easier had I gotten to see my mother live a long life and there was no aspect of “dear God, they took her too soon.” I knew I would be sad when she died, but I was completely caught off guard by the rage at getting robbed.

Embolisms make great thieves who never need getaway cars.

I am still grieving the future that I thought I would get, and piecing together a new normal. It’s a good thing that on this day next year, I’ll read this again, and perhaps that new normal will have some structure. The concrete has been mixed, but I think I added a little too much water, because it just. Won’t. Set.

When You Have to Take a Step Back

I am so tired of 2018.

I’m tired of people saying they’re SO liberal on LGBTQIA issues and then saying things like (paraphrasing), I don’t think this woman should have mentioned her wife in class because it’s a conversation I would like to have privately with my children at home…. but I belong to a liberal open and affirming church so I can’t2018-04-08 13_27_52-tired - Google Search possibly be construed as a bigot. In 2018, why is homosexuality something that has to be explained privately as if children don’t have enough agency to understand basic family constructs on their own? They’ve probably had classmates with same-sex parents since they were in kindergarten. By the time the asshat father I paraphrased got to his kids, they were probably eye-rolling because OMG. Gay people. I have to be prepared to see them out in the world. It’s not as if when queer people move into your neighborhood that spaceships land and little burritos walk out. For the love of Christ, literally.

I’m tired of Assad and his chemical attacks and his bombing of the people he’s supposed to serve. I’m sure he doesn’t see it that way, but the best rulers lead from the back. I’m tired of wondering if our military, our diplomats, and our intel operatives and their friendlies are safe or fighting for their lives as equally hard as Syrian citizens. I’m tired of American attitudes that our people’s lives are worth more than theirs.

I’m tired of Donald Trump and his Twitter foreign and domestic policy, but I’ll bet I’m way less tired than the people trying to reign him in.

I’m tired of journalists, bloggers, and media influencers being put on a list, not knowing what the information is for, but know that nothing good can come of this. I’m tired that every single story President Trump reads is deemed fake, as if “The Fourth Estate” isn’t supposed to do their damn jobs. I’m exhausted thinking that both Helen Thomas and Molly Ivins are dead and there’s no one being as loud as they would be if they knew what was happening. I am happiest picturing Helen Thomas flipping the bird.

I am tired of black people dying for absolutely no reason, and the chutzpah cops have in shooting someone eight times in the back, because they know there’s no penalty. Not all cops are bad, but the ones that are aren’t being punished nearly enough.

I am tired of children having to ask for help with gun control and it being this huge debate, as if adults aren’t the ones in charge of keeping them safe. I am sure that for gun freedom advocates, it will take their own child being shot in math class to change those hearts and minds. It is not, however, something I would wish on them. No parent should ever have to bury a child. It is only an observation that it takes a truly earth-shattering realization to change someone vehemently entrenched in the position that all people should be able to own firearms in which the Founding Brothers never could have conceived.

I’m tired of angry rants on Facebook that come up in my feed whether I’m looking for negativity or not…. that even discourse that starts off as civil ends up being monstrous. I will engage in politics, but at the first sign of an ad hominem attack, I’m out. This is both because I don’t need that temperature in my life, and second because when I play “Let’s Be an Asshole,” I am in it to win it. I am just not interested in seeing that version of myself, because it’s egocentric and therefore, absolutely toxic. There is no exhaustion worse than being tired of listening to yourself.

I am tired of having to be this version of me, the one that has to stand up for all the little people, because the majority doesn’t understand that they don’t get to dictate to the minority what hurts and what doesn’t.

I am tired of thinking that it will be this way my entire life, because society won’t progress far enough to accept everyone by the time I die…. but, I hope so.

2045: Martians are so eloquent…… I want to touch their skin just to see what it feels like….

I wish we could all step back and take a breath, but it seems as if when we do, it’s not a matter of learning to listen to each other, but thinking about what we’re going to say next. I am certainly not immune to this…. but in a lot of ways, I can’t breathe under the best of circumstances. One of my tribe was just fired for simply showing a photograph of her family. It’s just not possible for me to contain rage over it, although I try to put a smile on my face even when I want to scream, as I often do when I wake up to news that transgendered people have been shot, most of them to death.

And some of the time, it’s by people who claim they live and let live.

I’m tired of the marijuana debate, and not because I’m all excited about smoking it. I don’t. I’m tired of violence at the border and inequality in sentencing when minorities get caught smoking and/or selling. White boys will be boys, but scary black men are going to prison for life.

I’m tired of the immigration debate, the back and forth between enjoying cheap tomatoes and the gate should have closed after I came in. You don’t want to give minimum wage and health care benefits to full-time farm workers, but you don’t want to welcome people that will do the job for peanuts, either…. surprised that after immigrants have been deported that fruits and vegetables are withering on the vine.

I’m tired of people still harping on Hillary Clinton as if she’s been elected to anything or even has a public life anymore. I mean, she’ll always be well-known, but she’s not influencing public policy. She doesn’t even have an advice column. Have a Coke™ and a smile and shut it.

I’m tired of people going bankrupt over medical bills, especially when they’re shot or otherwise injured through no fault of their own. I am sure there are people who were gunned down at the Pulse night club (and lots of schools) who now have to pay for the “privilege.” We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet most of us tied to jobs with golden handcuffs as not to lose insurance. Other countries have so much more freedom than we do because their people are allowed to move freely and take any job they want because insurance is not dictated privately or state-by-state.

Most of all, I’m tired that we claim all people are created equally, but some are just a little more equal than others.

Facebook Thinks I’m Black

In terms of ad preferences, Facebook lists your likes and dislikes and compiles information they infer about you by what links you engage with (like, share, click through) the most. The most maddening of these inferences is race, because they can’t come out and ask what race you are, they call it “Cultural Affinity.” There are already minority groups chomping at the bit to get Facebook to remove it, because it has led to more than one case of housing discrimination. Facebook insists that it’s just a cultural identity, not a way to actually determine race, but I believe this is untrue. In 2016, they mined for “ethnic affinity,” and had to quickly come up with neutral language to spin it. Oh, it’s not racial profiling. It’s an “affinity.” That it’s OK because Facebook does not have an official channel to report race. They’re not talking about the color of your skin, just saying that if you’re a member of the NAACP on Facebook, you’ll probably like ads targeted towards African Americans.

This is why I find it troubling, and my Facebook status yesterday:

I did that thing where you look up what Facebook thinks about you (in terms of ad preferences). Apparently, Facebook thinks I’m black. I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud of myself for posting so many things about inequality that Facebook has noticed. I am weirded out that Facebook thinks just because you post things about inequality that you must be a minority. It’s not that I care about being labeled African American. I care that so many white people don’t care that companies infer that I’m a minority because I do.

Here’s the thing. I looked it up, and there is no “Caucasian Cultural Affinity.” If Facebook believes you are white, there’s no Cultural Affinity at all. This is problematic because yet again, white is the default and non-white is a classification. It is especially troubling because 85% of Facebook’s daily active users are outside the United States and Canada, and non-white is the default in the rest of the world…. that I can identify. Some scientists do not consider race to be a valid identifier, and some do. But by and large the statistics I could find by world population say that Asian is the majority for the globe. I found a web site claiming racial population, but did not deem it a viable source of information.

It is a valid argument that race is invalid, considering that there are billions of people who have genetics from every continent. For marketing purposes, though, the current thinking seems utterly backward for all sorts of reasons…. the biggest being what are we missing by giving different audiences different ads? Why do you, as advertisers, only want to cater to people you think will already like you? Isn’t the whole point of advertising to reach out to new people rather than the ones already on board?

It causes more problems than it solves, because the information gathered can be used in nefarious ways. It is not as inert as you think.

For instance, you can find ways to advertise jobs to an overwhelmingly white audience, or perhaps real estate listings. Facebook was sued in November of 2016 for this very thing, and after looking through the docket, I can see no evidence that the case has been resolved. The closest is that Facebook made a motion to dismiss, then vacated the motion to continue mediation. But that was in October of 2017, and no official decision has come down (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or law student- if an official decision has come down and it hasn’t been published publicly, I wouldn’t be able to get into Lexis-Nexis to find it).

Here is the last order that is public facing:

By December 14, 2017, the parties shall file a joint status report addressing the status of the mediation efforts and, if appropriate, propose new dates for the hearing on Facebook’s Motion to Dismiss and Initial Case Management Conference.

I can find articles on Facebook claiming that they’re taking down the “Cultural Affinity” classification altogether, but mine is intact and sources referenced, again, aren’t viable.

I am going to be chewing on this for a while, because I think Facebook believes what it’s saying- “cultural affinity” is not race. However, intent and reality are not the same thing. There is a wide margin between Facebook’s claims and how the information is being used.

I am dismayed because instead of erasing divisions, we seem to be striving towards sustaining them, or finding new ones altogether.