Monday, June 30, 2014

Looking for relief

I attended an AA meeting on Wednesday that I hadn't been to for a while. A woman new to town but not to AA chaired and I found much of what she said really hit home with me. Many people in the program talk about how alcohol saved their lives at first: their social life, their emotional life became a lot easier with the anesthetic of drinking. I don't remember too much of that happening for me. I didn't become the life of the party or handle my relationships with any more ease, but drunk, I just didn't care.

What I was mainly looking for was relief, relief from anxiety, though I didn't know that then. Alcohol was for me a way to relax, a way to let go, a way to be okay. At 25 years sober, I still haven't found a good way to do that. Slowing down, trying to relax, even meditation make me twitchy and more anxious so I push it all away with busyness and productivity. Food, especially, sugar, seemed to hold great promise for a long time, but then I realized I was getting fat, not relief.

I think this is at the top of my bucket list. It isn't Macchu Pichu, it isn't a cruise of the Greek Isles, it isn't a New York Times bestseller. It's learning how to truly relax my body and release the anxiety and vigilance that is so engrained.

Friday, June 27, 2014

There but for the grace of AA and my higher power and my own will to live

Los Angeles: The death toll from binge drinking and other forms of excessive alcohol use in the United States is just shy of 88,000 a year, according to a new nationwide analysis.
Those casualties erased more than 2.5 million years of life that would have been lived each year had victims not been killed in drink-driving accidents, by liver cirrhosis or as a result of dozens of other alcohol-related causes, the report found.
Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of these alcohol-related deaths, the study said. The authors defined binge drinking as five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more drinks at a time for women.
Overall, excessive alcohol use cost the United States $US223.5 billion ($238 billion) in 2006 alone, according to a report published last year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. That worked out to a societal cost of $US1.90 per drink.
The new study, published on Thursday inPreventing Chronic Disease, a journal from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, tallied the human – not the financial – cost of drinking in the US.
To do this, researchers from the CDC and state health departments in Washington and New Mexico used the government database called Alcohol-Related Disease Impact. It tracks deaths from 54 causes that are related to alcohol in whole (such as alcohol poisoning) or in part (such as breast and prostate cancers). The "alcohol-attributable fraction" for each of these causes of death was multiplied by the number of such deaths in the years 2006 through 2010. Then the results for all 54 causes of death were added up.
The nationwide total of so-called alcohol-attributable deaths came to 87,798. That worked out to 27.9 deaths per 100,000 Americans (after adjusting for age). Among these casualties, 71 per cent were men. In addition, 69 per cent involved adults between the ages of 20 and 64 and another 5 per cent were those under 21. Nearly one in 10 of the deaths that befell working-age adults was traceable to alcohol.
The alcohol-related death rate varied widely by state. The lowest rate was in New Jersey (with 19.1 deaths per 100,000 residents) and the highest in New Mexico (with 51.2 deaths per 100,000 residents).
To calculate the years of life lost to alcohol, researchers compared the age at which victims died to their expected life span (based on age and gender). When everything was added up, the total number of unlived years added up to an average of 2,560,290 per year.
Men forfeited 72 per cent of these lost years, the researchers reported. In addition, 82 per cent of these lost years was given up by people ages 20 to 64, and 10 per cent was lost by people under the age of 21.
Once again, the variation among states was considerable. In Maryland, alcohol-related deaths accounted for 9.1 per cent of years of life lost, while in New Mexico it was 18.5 per cent.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/binge-drinking-claims-88000-lives-a-year-in-us-study-finds-20140627-zsniu.html

An unintentional stamina experiment

Move it or lose it. We all know this is true although sometimes we don't want to think about it. Three weeks ago, I came down with a cold. I've had worse and been a lot sicker but this one has been particularly persistent with nagging cough and sinus stuff. I've had pretty low energy. Add to that a 24-hour trip to Sacramento with 8 hours of it teaching and then two days later having a wisdom tooth pulled and all the attendant drugs and I've been resting, taking good care of myself, and sluggish. In three weeks, I'd been to the gym twice and walked a slow mile in the neighborhood about half the other days.

I'm here to tell you that it's not enough. Today I went to the gym and I'd lost a lot. It took me more than 10 minutes to warm up on the treadmill at a slower pace than usual. I hung in there for 25 minutes but it was tough. I spent another 15 minutes lifting weights but none of the time did I feel strong or fit. I just wanted to go home and take a nap. Add to that the 10 pounds I put on over the last three weeks eating whatever my heart desired and I'm not so happy with myself. Time to make a shift.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to generate more ideas

James Altucher wrote a great post on learning to generate ideas every day. It's long but worth the read. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poem from life

On Spitting

No straws, no spitting
These were among my instructions

Spitting isn't in my repertoire
of social communications
Like most women
I keep my fluids to myself
or use a tissue or a hanky
or even my T-shirt if I'm on the treadmill
So no spitting for a few days isn't a hardship
While the hole left
by the departing wisdom tooth
heals over

But a large percentage
of the population
must spit--
Beyond the linguistic command
to the hesitant (spit it out)--
to warrant this written exhortation
to refrain from oral violence.

Maybe men spit to impress each other
Like lining up at urinals
to compare size and stream
A different kind of pissing contest

Would women be more liberated
if we too spit whenever
we didn't like what was going on
inside us
instead of swallowing it and tamping it down

Expectorate, the fancy word for spit,
comes from pectoral, the muscles that support
our breasts
Literally, to drive from the breast
Maybe we would be better off
spitting more and stuffing less

Monday, June 23, 2014

An interesting idea for overwhelm from Marelisa Fabrega

Modern life can be overwhelming. There’s so much to do, so many demands on our time and energy, so much information to take in, and so on. A lot of people today feel as if they’ve lost control of their lives.
However, there’s a simple way to take back control of your life. How? By giving yourself a challenge. Below you’ll discover how giving yourself a challenge will allow you to take back control of your life.

Your Circle of Influence and Your Circle of Concern

We’re all familiar with Stephen’s Covey’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. Look at the image below:
Circle of Concern
Your Circle of Concern encompasses everything that you’re concerned about, including your health, the economy, your job, the environment, your children’s welfare, and so on. There are lots of things within your Circle of Concern that are outside of your control: that is, there’s nothing you can do to affect those things.
Within your Circle of Concern there’s a much smaller circle which is your Circle of Influence. Your Circle of Influence encompasses all those things which you can do something about. They’re concerns that you have at least some control over.
There are many implications which can be derived from Covey’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence, including the following:
  • Focusing on those things that are within your Circle of Concern but outside of your Circle of Influence is a waste of time. By thinking of these things you’re simply worrying about things over which you have no control.
  • By focusing on the things that are within your Circle of Influence, and taking action within that circle, you can make that circle grow. When your Circle of Influence grows, more things within your Circle of Concern will be within your Circle of Influence. That is, more things will be within your control.

Give Yourself a Challenge

As stated above, one way to gain greater control over your life is by making your Circle of Influence grow. In addition, you can make your Circle of Influence grow by giving yourself a challenge. Choosing an area within your Circle of Influence, and giving yourself a challenge within that area, will do the following:
  • It focuses your energy and attention on your Circle of Influence.
  • It gives you a specific goal to work toward in order to increase your Circle of Influence.
  • It forces you to come up with a plan, including specific actions that you’ll take, in order to meet the challenge and, therefore, make your Circle of Influence grow.
You can set a challenge in any life area. Here are three examples:
  • Fitness: Give yourself the challenge of losing twelve pounds.
  • Finances: Give yourself the challenge of setting up a six month emergency fund.
  • Personal Development: Give yourself the challenge of dropping one negative habit.
One of the best areas in which you can set a challenge is the area of fitness. For example, give yourself the challenge of losing twelve pounds in the next three months. There are literally hundreds of things in the area of fitness that are within your control. Here are some examples:
  • Get up ten minutes earlier each morning and walk a couple of times around the block.
  • Start eating whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
  • Put one spoonful of sugar in your coffee instead of two.
  • Take the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
  • Ride your bike to work.
  • Get a pedometer and make sure that you take 10,000 steps throughout the day.
In addition, achieving the challenge of losing twelve pounds in three months will have a positive “spillover” affect in every other area of your life. Here are four examples:
  • Psychologists have concluded that willpower is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. By getting up every morning ten minutes earlier and walking around the block you’re strengthening your willpower. You will then have more willpower which you can apply to your next challenge.
  • Losing weight will give you more energy; you can then apply this increase in energy to your next challenge.
  • Positive psychologists have concluded that feeling in control makes us happy. By setting a challenge for yourself and achieving it you’ll begin to feel a greater sense of control over your life. And you’ll be increasing your happiness.
  • Taking and achieving the challenge of losing twelve pounds in three months will make you feel more powerful and capable. Feeling that you’re capable of taking on life’s challenges is one of the key components of confidence. You’ll then be ready to face your next challenge with increased confidence.

Conclusion

There you have it: in order to take back control of your life, start giving yourself challenges within your Circle of Influence. You’ll soon discover that with each challenge that you achieve, your Circle of Influence will grow. And as your Circle of Influence grows, you’ll have more and more control over your life.
Live your best life by giving yourself challenges within your Circle of Influence, and then taking the steps necessary to achieve each of those challenges.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Poem from my life

The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth

Half of my remaining wisdom
Departed yesterday
Thanks to drugs and technology
I didn’t feel it go
Just gave my consent
Popped two pills
Breathed deeply of the gas
And did I as I was asked
“Open wide…open wide again…bite down.”
I came home befuddled
Not surprising
When wisdom goes
Took hours to sleep off my decision
Quiet days to follow
As the gap narrows, the hole fills
It’s been pretty painless
Letting go of what no longer serves me

Wish it were always that easy. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Where I am with food

I haven't written about my relationship with food for a while. There's a not a lot new to say. I've meandered off the plan, occasionally eating wheat and dairy. They aren't staples the way they used to be. I'm still juicing every day, still eating many more salads than I used to and still having vegetable heavy meals most of the time. I still eat meat or other animal protein once a day rather than two or three times a day.

But I'm still on sugar and I've put most of the weight back on. I'm okay with the former but not with the latter. I don't want to be this heavy. I liked being lighter and thinner. But I missed the soothing nature of food.

I think about all this from time to time. I don't think about it every meal or every snack. I don't beat myself up about it. I remain open to a willingness to change. I'm willing to be willing. But right now I'm not wiling to go to any lengths to get it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A 30 in 30 declutter

In May I was away several times in that luxurious spaciousness that travel always bring, so I came home with clearing space on my mind. I've taken on a 30 items gone in  30 days in the month of June. Some people like to do that kind of thing one day at a time but once I decided to do it, I filled a bag with 20 items in about 20 minutes.

Two kinds of clutter are bugging me. Visual clutter. I've got too many things on surfaces around me. I'm fond of most of them but there are too many of them. The second is the invisble clutter. I no longer know what's in my file cabinet or the office cupboard, or the top of my clothes closet. Curious now where to remove the next 10...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dreams about being old

I've had a spell of the current cold virus going around and for the first week of it (yes, it's one that hangs on and on), I slept very strangely and poorly. I'd go right to sleep and dream and be awake in about an half hour. Then I'd go right back to sleep and dream and be awake in about a half hour.

I'm someone who dreams a lot and I often remember parts of my dreams. In a number of these dreams over the week, I was telling people how old I am. (I'm 67 and often people kindly say I look a lot younger.) But it seemed important in these dreams to make that clear or be heard about it. I'm wondering now if I was trying to get my own attention.

I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about aging. I don't worry about getting older and then old. But in the dream, it was so important that I think there's some listening to be done.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Midway clarity in the money program 2

After a couple of weeks of not knowing how to move forward, I had a series of great conversations with trusted advisers and I got really clear that what I'm wanting for my life is this: to thrive creatively and thrive financially and have a balanced life of work and play.

It's a bit hard to explain why this feels different to me. Perhaps it is in the phrasing and the use of the word thrive. Perhaps it is in the power of setting an intention vs. entering into an inquiry. For the past months, I've been focused less on what I want and more on figuring how I'm going to make it happen. But one of my biggest challenges in life is to be okay with not knowing how, to rest in not knowing, and to trust that things will work out.

If I look at this as a one-day-at-a-time intention, then each day I can look for ways to thrive financially and to thrive creatively. Those can be the measure of a good day. Some activities can work towards both and some won't. But it feels good to be standing in this clear space.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Appreciating my father

My father died 12 years ago at age 85. He and I had alternating periods of closeness and distance. In some ways, I am quite like him: romantic, sentimental, tender-hearted. In others, I am more my mother: intellectual, ordered, reserved. But as I was thinking about him this Father's Day, I was realizing that my appreciation of him grows deeper as I age.

Of course, our parents are always old to us. No matter their age, we are young and they are old. They see more of life's complexity; they have more experience with fear, with loss, with scarcity, and when we are young, it is hard to see them as wise rather than foolish and stubborn. When my father was my age, I was 37. I was an active alcoholic with five miserable years to go. I was in an abusive relationship with six miserable years to go. I hid all that from my parents in shame, so they knew none of the particulars, only that I was very unhappy and pretending not to be.

At the AA meeting yesterday, the topic was the self-centeredness of addiction. For those of us who are caretakers, it's hard to see that, except of course that we never let anyone in. We don't want them to know us. In his last years, especially after the death of my mother, my father and I grew quite close. We let each other in. He was in his 80s and synthesizing much of what he had experienced. He would never have described it that way. He wasn't a reflective man. But I'm now starting that synthesizing process and I so appreciate him leading the way.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Midway clarity in the money program 1

Tomorrow is the midway point in the 9-month money program I'm involved in. And perhaps not surprisingly, after doing a whole bunch of really valuable exercises, I'm back around to my original intention: balancing my work life and my creative life. But with all this examination and reflection, I have a much clearer feeling about making it happen.

Originally, my intention was to find a way to stop editing so much and spend more creative time by having my books and art be a steady and substantial income stream. While this is still possible, art and book marketing are not a particularly reliable source of income. While some people make great money from those sources, most do not. In addition, anything that is sourced in discretionary income (people's extra money) can be difficult to count on. I also realized there would be a steep learning curve for me in the art/book marketing department and I wasn't sure I wanted to put a lot of time and energy into that.

Next I began looking at other potential income sources: coaching, leading workshops, teaching, doing presentations, all things that I'm doing already. It was less of a stretch to think of expanding one or several of those possibilities but I also knew it would take a fair amount of time and energy to establish myself as a leader in one of those fields and that would take time away from writing and painting.

For a few weeks, I've been stuck.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sick of gun violence in schools

A 15-year-old kills a 14-year-old he doesn't know with a rifle, shoots a teacher, and then kills himself in the bathroom of his high school. As I was driving to meet a friend today, I wondered what would happen if the gun owner was arrested and imprisoned as an accessory. Making the kids responsible is useless. The shooters kill themselves and the gun owner and the gun seller and the gun maker go on owning and selling and making more guns so that more kids who are disaffected or pissed off or mentally ill or thwarted or unhappy can wreak havoc on others. I realize the gun owners are grieving parents. What did they think? That they would somehow be immune from this unhappiness, this tragedy?

And why is it that we give the NRA such power in our Congress? It isn't about the Constitution. That's a ploy. It's about money and the huge money that individuals, gangs, manufacturers, shop owners, make off of guns. Our kids are paying the price of adult mostly male fear and swagger and it sickens me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Transformation

From a friend and a conversation about what transformation is. Werner Erhard was the orginator of EST and the ideas behind Landmark and other transformational programs.

Jill, Werner Erhard had written this some years ago.  It gives us insight into what transformation looks like… And, I think we can apply this to almost any condition we are dealing with. Barry

"I’m talking about accepting the condition of suffering. I’m talking about confronting the condition of suffering and allowing it and accepting it. In allowing it and accepting it and embracing it, one transcends it, but you can’t do that in order to transcend it. You have to deal with it honestly and as it is—you accept that this is the way life is. It’s interesting because the source of suffering is the notion that this is not the way life is. Suffering is a function of the notion that “this is not it.” And when you accept that life cannot work out of the notion that this is not it, you begin to create the space for yourself that this is it, and when you realize that this is it, there is no suffering. Not that there is no suffering, it’s that suffering has been transformed. It’s no longer operating you. The suffering is a function of the notion that this isn’t it. Suffering is transformed, or transmuted, out of the realization that this is it."     …Werner Erhard


Monday, June 9, 2014

Lighten up!

Most people have a hard time delegating, or even wanting to delegate, because you have been justifying your existence through your hard work, and you equate success with struggle; you equate results with struggle. And so, you sort of wear your struggle like a badge of honor. And all of that is opposite of allowing the Well-being. The only thing that ever matters in success or achievement is your achieving the things that you want to achieve. 

So if you are setting standards and you're feeling uncomfortable about the standards that you've set, tweak the standards back a little bit. Ratchet it back a notch. Give yourself a break. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Lighten up. Be easier. Go slower. Take it easy. Have more fun. Love yourself more. Laugh more. Appreciate more. All is well. You can't get it wrong. You never get it done.

---Abraham

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rethinking some things about my place in the world

Tim DeChristophers' interview in Yes! magazine has really stayed with me. In one of those non-coincidental coincidences, I'm reading a novel about young protesters in Chicago in the late 60s (not a great book but timely for me). And between the ideas in the two writings, I'm seeing some things from a new perspective.

First, how baffling our protests must have seemed to our parents. After the Depression and WW II, we were rejecting the comfort of the life they'd dreamed of and which they offered us on a silver platter. My dad understood why Black people might be protesting but a white middle-class college grad like me? It made no sense to him. I wasn't radical by any means but I was anti-establishment and that caused a big rift for us for a long while. And why would I be concerned about women's rights? He just wanted me to find a man to take care of me.

And we Boomers have failed the generations behind us. We have let happen what none of us wanted to have happen, even the greediest bastards among us. We have gone on being just as comfort-focused as our parents were. How human of us!

I don't know that any of us could have stopped all that's happening but we did give up trying, most of us. We got discouraged, we got distracted, and while many of us went on making a difference everywhere we could, not enough of us made big differences. It helps me a little to remember that the protesters in the Boomer generation were a very small but loud minority. But I also feel great sadness at my part or lack thereof in what is now too late to remedy fully.




Saturday, June 7, 2014

Much food for thought here

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-power-of-story/boomers-failed-us-america-s-most-creative-climate-criminal-anger-love

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A lovely Leo blog

Posted: 30 May 2014 10:44 AM PDT
‘When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’ ~Marcus Aurelius
By Leo Babauta
When I wake in the morning, my mind slowly gathers, and I begin to move, the early morning light just starting to seep in.
I have a glass of water, start the coffee, then meditate. Then I enjoy the coffee, a good book, and the quiet before the dust and din and steam of the day begins.
Then I write.
This is my Lovely Morning, and I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from it.
It wasn’t always this way: I used to wake later, rush through a grumpy routine before diving into email and work and errands and meetings. It was frenetic and dreadful, but that was my life, and I didn’t think it would change.
I was wrong. I’ve changed my mornings for the better, with a few simple ideas.
I’ll share them with you here, and if you begin to enjoy the peace of your mornings more, send a smile my in my general direction.
  1. Wake a little earlier. If your mornings are rushed, the simple solution is to get up a bit earlier. This means going to bed a bit earlier too. Do it gradually, just 10 minutes earlier a week, and you’ll barely notice the change.
  2. Keep things simple. One of my early mistakes was trying to fit too much into the mornings — I wanted to meditate and work out and read and write and journal, and it turns out I couldn’t do all those things. It felt too rigid, too packed. What’s helped me is having a couple things I do early on but not having a lot on my morning agenda, so that I can have space and flexibility. That makes the time much more peaceful and enjoyable. So the meditation and reading and writing are the only things that I do almost every morning, but I let myself be flexible with those too.
  3. Have something to look forward to. Don’t pack your mornings full of things you need to do … but do have something you can’t wait to get up and do. For me, that’s reading and writing. For others, morning yoga or painting or reading the paper with coffee might be better. Don’t just have things you think you should do but don’t really want to do.
  4. Practice mindfulness. I like to start with meditation (though I do miss some days), because it sets the tone for my morning — one of mindfulness. I then drink my coffee and write and do everything else with a more mindful attitude, noticing when I start to rush and feel stressed, noticing small things that I might miss if I were distracted.
  5. Don’t dive into email or little things. Consider this early morning time your sacred space — don’t fill it with junk. Junk includes TV, news, email, social media, apps, etc. Instead, put meaningful things in this sacred space, things that you won’t have time for later. You can always dive into email after an hour (or more) of lovely morning peace.
  6. Enjoy the spaces, and pace yourself. This time isn’t just something you fill with things to do … it’s open space. That means the space itself is something to be treasured, not just what you put in it. For example, if you do yoga and read, the morning isn’t just valuable because of the yoga and reading … the space around those two things is also wonderful. The time you’re putting your yoga mat away, getting a cup of coffee, walking to where your book is, sitting and staring at the morning light … these little spaces are just as amazing as anything else. Pace yourself so that you’re not rushing from one thing to the next, but enjoying the spaces.
A Lovely Morning isn’t something that just falls into your lap — it’s created consciously. You don’t have to implement all these ideas at once, but try one or two out and see if your mornings improve. I think you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
‘Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment.’ ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lilacs of the Palouse

One of the things that delighted me the most about the Palouse in Eastern Washington was the lilacs. Their spring is later than ours and the lilacs were in full bloom. I'm not talking about the kind of small lilac trees we have here. These were immense old trees. They seemed to be in every yard with hundreds and hundreds of small blooms, most white or pale purple, a few of the deep purple. They weren't just in tended yards, but in vacant lots, in farm fields, along the roadside. Some were two and three stories high. The fragrance was glorious and the abundance amazing. 

My father and I shared a love of lilacs. Here's a poem I wrote years ago about that. 

April 2007

Light dappled my hands.
The shears held firmly, I stretched and stretched,
grasping the branch by a thin patch of leaves,
pulling it towards my heart.

A diagonal cut. Then another. And another.

The perfume rose in a single wave to greet me,
Whispering of spring,
of awkward romance, of my first cologne.

Moving towards the kitchen,
I buried my nose in the deep amethyst blooms. 

The vase, striped green on the diagonal, held waiting water.
No fancy arrangement, just branch ends immersed.

I turned then to feed the orange cat,
its whiskers tickling my ankle in anticipation.
One scoop. Then another. And another.

When I turned back, my father, five years dead, stood before me.
I smiled.

The lilac scent he loved so much filled the room
and my heart stretched and stretched,
in greeting, in memory.



Monday, June 2, 2014

So moved by this and so angered


Walking While Fat and Female – Or, Why I Don’t Care Not All Men are Like That


I started walking between 5 and 12 miles a day about year after I moved to Seattle. The main motivator was a crippling anxiety about being late coupled with an inconsistent public transportation system (that will now become less consistent, yippee). Additionally, working in an industry with late nights (I house manage for various theaters) means that if you’re reliant on public transit, you will be waiting for an hour at a scary bus stop with Mr. and Mrs. Meth Addict at 1:30 in the morning. Walking became a way for me to take control of my commute. It was my time. Four mile walk to work. Four mile walk back. In the rain. In the dark. In the cold. Every season. Sometimes with tunes. Sometimes with “Stuff You Missed in History Class.” Sometimes talking to myself. And sometimes with silence.
When I moved to Seattle I weighed 260 pounds. Because I walk so much (and lead a pretty active life here) I now hover between 175 and 190 depending on the the time of year. And I’m fucking strong. I run several times a week and I’m training for my first triathlon. But I’m still fat. And I’m good with that.
I never started walking places to lose weight. I started walking because I like to walk and because it was a chance for me to have my time before and after a stressful day. It was a chance for me to explore the city and see it in a way that people driving past wouldn’t ever be able to. Walking became a lot more than just my time though. It’s how I started writing again. Being in my head with time just for me to talk out an idea, or listen to character voices jump-started my imagination after a few years of feeling lost.
So, why not walk?
According to a number of men who seem to come crawling out of their hidey hole around this time of year here’s why:
  1. I’m a woman.
  2. I’m fat.
  3. I’m sexy.
  4. I’m a cunt.
  5. I need a man.
  6. I’m walking.
  7. I’m walking with another woman.
  8. I have tits.
Last night, I was walking across a crosswalk while fat and female. Two guys in a white SUV rolled down their window to say. “Hey, cunt. Cunt. Hey. You’re fat. Fat, fat cunt. Fat. Fat. Cunt. ” I didn’t even realize they were talking to me at first. By the time I’d made it past their car, the guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window to continue yelling at me. Changing it slightly to make it very clear, yes they were talking to me, and yes, they wanted a reaction. I didn’t have one. I was in my time. My time to walk, to think, to decompress after a long day. I just kept walking.
That’s my automatic response of self-preservation. Just keep walking. Don’t react. Don’t turn to look at them. Don’t stop. I’m a hot head in certain situations. I work customer service so I’ve got it pretty well under control, but in the heat of the moment if I don’t count to 10, I will say or do something that will escalate a situation. And when you’re a woman who walks home alone at night, you learn not to escalate. Because whoever is yelling at you from their weapon (a car is a weapon) could decide to hit you with it. Or could chase you. Or could jump out and run after you at the next stop light. So I keep walking.
Being a woman (cis, trans, or otherwise) means that you grow accustomed to men and sometimes women, commenting about your body on a regular basis without provocation. When I run, there’s the occasional man that feels it’s his duty to tell me, “You go, honey. You’re gonna lose that weight!” as if that’s why I’m running, to fit in with what the expectation of what a woman should look like and be. I’m a good fatty. I run. I’m trying to be thin.
A man once came up to me on the street just to tell me that I was too fat for the dress that I was wearing. Thanks, arbiter of my fashion fat. I couldn’t do it without you.
A huddle of male teens asked me to suck them off as I walked past them after 9 pm. They made it clear that they didn’t want to fuck me. I was too fat for that. But oral sex would be all right. They were doing me a favor, you see.
Again. I don’t escalate. I don’t acknowledge. I’m not saying this is the right way to deal with these situations. I’m saying it’s how I deal with them. I’ve tried others. But there’s no reasoning with stupid. And there’s also a greater risk of escalating a situation when you engage it. Being a woman means that I already feel unsafe 50% of the time. And when I’m alone, I don’t need to feel even more unsafe just to make a point. No matter how much I want to say, “Fuck off” or “You know someone has said the same thing to your mama, right?” I just keep walking or running past because saying the greatest, most eloquent, feminist statement is not worth dying for, right?
So, I do what I believe most of the women I know do – try to talk about it. Share it with people after it happened. Let them know that it happened. That it keeps happening. But then, I’m met the resounding, “Not all men are like that, you know.” (Seriously, do you want a cookie for not being a douche?) Or, “Walking by yourself is dangerous.”
I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not feeling like I can say anything to the jerks* that yell at me. Like I can’t react. And that I can’t even share that this experience happens daily with supposed allies. Not all men shout at me from cars. But the ones that do shout at me are the ones that make it unsafe to walk in my city. And you telling me that not all men do that doesn’t make my walk, or drive, or existence safer. It makes it more challenging to say, “This happened and it was wrong.” It makes it harder to call out this behavior for what it is – misogynistic, sexist, rape culture bullshit behavior. I don’t care that not all men are like this. I care that it happens. That it continues to happen. That it’s common. That it’s so common that when I hear a woman start talking about it with other women, those women can point to at least one similar incident that’s happened to them in the past two weeks.
I want to share these stories. I want to know when it happens to other women, my friends, and colleagues. And I want the men and women in my life to know that it happens, too. It’s not isolated. And even if not all men are like that, it sure happens a helluva a lot, so maybe start being on the lookout for it. Be an actual ally in this instead of just saying that you aren’t like that, but what I do is dangerous. That being out past 9 is dangerous. That helps no one, least of all the women who have to be out past 9, or the women who should go out past 9 because it’s a fucking right to be out whenever the fuck we want to be.
Me walking home at night or in the day time (harassment isn’t just a nighttime activity) is as safe as you driving your car home, by which I mean, it’s inherently dangerous. Everything has risks. But walking while fat and female – that’s apparently the riskiest of all, dude.

Courtney Meaker

Sunday, June 1, 2014

20 years in one place

Today I have been in my Portland life 20 years. I've also lived in my lovely apartment for 20 years as well. When I was a kid, my family moved a lot. I never spent more than three years in a house and some years we moved multiple times, I suspect now, due to financial circumstances. I lived in an apartment in Eugene for 7 years and one in Virginia for 6 but 20 years is a record.

My apartment looked a lot different when I moved in. Shag carpet in the bedrooms and bath, turquoise walls, foil papers, old gold wool carpet in the living room, a green kitchen, a pink bathroom. Original linoleum from 1958 and a leaky terrace roof. Old metal windows that let cold in the winter and heat in the summer. But "it has great potential," my sister Kerry said when she phoned me in Pittsburgh and urged me to rent it sight unseen. It was near her in SE Portland and backyard neighbors to our friend Melanie.

I moved in June 1994 and didn't change much at first. I pulled up the shag off the bathroom floor and the landlord painted the walls white in the main rooms. After a short while, I got the bathroom painted and the the kitchen and took up the rest of the shag. I found it was just easier to do these things myself and not mention them to Gerry, the landlord. The new landlord replaced the windows, and recently replaced the terrace roof and put skylights in it.

In 2000, I took on a Zen Home project to make the place even more supportive of my life and I think in some ways that was far more than an apartment redo. It was me actively recreating my life. I got rid of all the carpet so the hardwoods could shine. I've slowly refinished and reupholstered. Put my own art on the walls. Created a peaceful place.

I love this apartment and hope to have another 20 years here.