Sunday, February 24, 2008

"There's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do..."

"...and the human tragedy consists in the necessity of living with the consequences..."

(Title and opening line credit to "Courage" by The Tragically Hip)

Things I miss since owning the Gas Whore: Sunday afternoon drives.

Today was brilliant and blue. Barely above freezing, the sun was imperious enough to effect change. The blanket of snow was losing depth and the sounds of birds singing mixed with water running off made me think that the river must be breathtaking today. I gave up on my Sunday afternoon cleaning and headed down to the river to gaze and read and gaze some more.

I definitely did more gazing. Broken ice floated along downstream and I started to think of the freighters. Winter is hardly over but, before long, it will be shipping season again and the weather conditions that serve as a barrier to the freighters will bow out.

Gas prices be damned, I took my thoughts on a Sunday afternoon drive.

Mostly, I'm sure that aside from senior citizens, I'm the only non-tourist in my area that sees the freighters as grand. Their presence in the summer is strangely reassuring and, for some reason, it almost pains me to realize that something so simple with such an inexplicable power over me actually isn't all-powerful. Lakes bring on a whole new element to winter, an element powerful enough to end shipping season annually. It's sad. It's a test.

No matter how strong a man is, no matter what he creates, there's always something stronger that he can't control.

The test is in how he handles it and whether he's strong enough to let it pass and be content with the fact that, sometimes, there have to be rules (such as those that govern shipping season) set to provide guidance to his limits.

And I know that I am limited. That, sometimes, no matter how badly I want something or what I think I can accomplish, there are limits.

The trouble is in acknowledging them and responding by saying, "shipping season has come to an end this year, folks."

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I thought I had an online class start two days ago so I logged in today (as week 1 work is always due on Saturday night in online classes at my school) and discovered that my class actually started two days ago, plus one week. Now that everyone has done one week more work than I, it seemed logical that I should make all of my remarks as awesome as possible to "get in good." Here's my bio:

Sorry I'm late, people. I am easily confused due to a condition I like to call, "complete and utter lack of organizational skill." As such, I thought this class began on Thursday the 21st. I thought wrong.

I am an English major in the Secondary Education program where I am completing my last year of classes before I start my student teaching in the fall. I couldn't be more excited about my career choice to poison young minds and have found through various networking activities that many other teachers are afflicted with the condition I referred to above and are self-proclaimed experts at "winging it." I'm going to fit in wonderfully!

When I'm not completely disorganized and, quite frankly, even when I am, you can find me at my part-time job folding and refolding denim at the Gap and at my full time job perpetually doing the laundry of a beautiful 9-year-old girl and a bodacious 5-year-old boy (occasionally I do my own laundry as well). Sometimes I have time to read a book. Sometimes I don't.

Since this is a biography, it would be prudent to mention that in my former incarnations I was a professional wrestler, a stunt woman, and a line cook. So, yeah, you don't really want to mess with me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The One Where the Guy Goes to Colorado and Dies a Slow Undignified Death!

I was going through my computer today and housekeeping. I was amused to no end by some of the horrible, horrible things I have written. When I purchased my laptop a few years ago, I also went through the high-school/early-college papers I had written pre-internet. I typed a few of them up and saved them on my hard drive. In saving them, I knew just as well three years ago as I do now how horrible they are but I saved them anyway. Of course, I password-protected them to save myself any future embarrassment.

One of the stories was about a man who is only 25 when his 7-year-old son is hit by a car and dies. The ex-girlfriend who was only 16 when the baby was born had committed suicide only weeks after his birth after plummeting into a severe depression. Protagonist, having been thrown into adult life (at which he had never been successful) at an early age, decides to up and leave town for the winter. He tells a buddy (who is completely inattentive, having heard Protagonist's unrealized schemes before) that he's going to head to Colorado and live in some random cabin (having heard that cabins in the mountains are only inhabited in the summer) for the winter and play house all alone until he can think of what his next move in life will be.

He does so, hitchhiking along as a backpacker (a really dumb move on Protagonist's part, in retrospect- what better way to get caught at B&E?) until he reaches the mountains. After hiking his way up (and believe you me, I now know this would make his survival highly unlikely), he finds some cabins and picks one. He picks the wrong one.

After all, a crazy bitch lives there. She pretends that she's not home when she hears him knocking and prowling around under the pretense that he's actually in need of help. Determining that the cabin is, indeed, abandoned for the season, he breaks in. Crazy Bitch has been waiting for Protagonist, or someone just like him. Crazy Bitch has some crazy ideas about how to get her revenge (she slowly reveals to Protagonist why she seeks revenge/who she is, etc.). She figures that criminals will wind up in the mountains stealing from people's cabins, etc. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I am aware of how horrible this plot is.) Crazy Bitch hates criminals so she buys a cabin in an effort to rid the world of them. It's taken her 6 years but she's finally found her criminal.

Crazy Bitch proceeds to scare the living shit out of Protagonist for days (12, to be exact), finally eliminating him.

Again, this story is horrible. Horribly generic, horribly horrible.

Protagonist is, of course, me.

He's a good man, really. But he has always had a bad habit of shirking responsibility which results in serious anxiety issues. He can't just relax and enjoy himself because always, in the back of his mind, he's worried about what's going to happen when all of his mistakes catch up with him. Rather than facing said mistakes head-on, he pretends they never happened and creates impulsive, elaborate schemes to start over.

When his son dies, he's running away. But he tells himself it's the beginning of a new start.

Basically, I was acknowledging at such a young age (I was in high-school when I wrote it) that I could see these patterns in myself and that it wouldn't end well. It's kind of good to look back at now.

It's still my instinct to pretend that bad things (particularly those that I incite all by myself) aren't happening to me. But I've largely overcome it.

Otherwise, I wouldn't be in school right now- I'd have gone back to work full-time (again) at the first sign of failure (so it would look like I'd planned it all along) as opposed to owning my failures and correcting them.

Otherwise, Josh and I wouldn't be together. When I first started feeling anxious over the positions I've been put into, I would have quit altogether. I would ignore the voice that told me that it could be something very special and I would have quit. Ten years ago I would have stopped taking his calls, reading his email, etc. I would have just dropped off the face of the earth and ignored the subsequent tension that would fall upon me.

Otherwise, when I was low on extra money, I would have robbed my utility bill fund to make sure I had money to go see a movie.

It's been hard and it's still in process but I don't run away anymore.

Which is quite a relief as I certainly don't want to end up dead in some cabin in Colorado when Crazy Bitch thinks I'm a criminal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jesus Christ.

I love when I'm reading a book (particularly by an author that I admire) and I hit a passage that I simply know is coming straight from the author's head. I acknowledge, of course, the entire book is coming straight from the author's head. It's when I can see that the author is their character and not that the character has been conjured for the purpose of the story that I get excited.

I re-read Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger a couple of months ago and was delighted upon this re-read to discover a bit of Mr. Salinger in Zooey.

In the book, Zooey's little sister, Franny, is going through a bit of a nervous breakdown at the age of 19 when she realizes that she's surrounded by paper dolls at college and that many of her professors are there only to cut out more.

She discovers a book that enlightens her and makes her believe that, in order to find clarity, it would be prudent for her to begin praying all of the time (consciously at first until the praying on a loop becomes unconscious) in order to, in a sense, be one with Christ.

Unfortunately, she's not getting what she expects out of picking up the habit and, despite the incessant praying, is making herself sick.

Her brother Zooey, having read the book and knowing what she's up to sets out to fix her. He points out her inconsistencies in such a logical manner that it really made me sit up straight and say to myself, "This is true."

So, here it is (so purely logical):

Zooey is referencing a time when Franny was a child and decided that she didn't like Jesus.

page 162-165
"...I don't think you understood Jesus when you were a child and I don't think you understand him now. I think you've got him confused in your mind with about five or ten other religious personages, and I don't see how you can go ahead with the Jesus Prayer till you know who's who and what's what. Do you remember at all what started off that little apostasy? ...Franny? Do you remember or don't you?"

He didn't get an answer. Only the sound of a nose being rather violently blown.

"Well, I do, it happens. Matthew, Chapter Six. I remember it very clearly, buddy. I even remember where I was. I was back in my room putting some friction tape on my goddam hockey stick, and you banged in- all in an uproar, with the Bible wide open. You didn't like Jesus any more, and you wanted to know if you could call Seymour at his Army camp and tell him all about it. And you know why you didn't like Jesus any more? I'll tell you. Because, one, you didn't approve of his going into the synagogue and throwing all the tables and idols all over the place. That was very rude, very Unnecessary. You were sure that Solomon or somebody wouldn't have done anything like that. And the other thing you disapproved of - the thing you had the Bible open to - was the lines 'Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.' That was all right. That was lovely. That you approved of. But, when Jesus says in the same breath, 'Are ye not much better than they?' - ah, that's where little Franny gets off. That's where little Franny quits the Bible cold and goes straight to Buddha, who doesn't discriminate against all those nice fowls of the air. All those sweet, lovely chickens and geese that we used to keep up at the Lake. And don't ell me again that you were ten years old. Your age has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. There are no big changes between ten and twenty - or ten and eighty, for that matter. You still can't love a Jesus as much as you'd like to who did and said a couple of things he was at least reported to have said or done - and you know it. You're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who throws tables around. And you're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who says a human being, any human being - even a Professor Tupper - is more valuable to God than any soft, helpless Easter chick.

Franny was now facing directly into the sound of Zooey's voice, sitting bolt upright, a wad of Kleenex clenched in one hand. Bloomberg was no longer in her lap. "I suppose you can," she said, shrilling.

"It's beside the point whether I can or not. But, yes, as a matter of fact, I can. I don't feel like going into it, but at least I've never tried, consciously or otherwise, to turn Jesus into St Francis of Assisi to make him more 'lovable' - which is exactly what ninety-eight per cent of the Christian world has always insisted on doing. Not that it's to my credit. I don't happen to be attracted to the St. Francis of Assisi type. But you are. And, in my opinion, that's one of the reasons why you're having this little nervous breakdown..."

Salinger, J.D. Franny and Zooey. Little, Brown, and Company: New York. 1989.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fragile Little Girls

I was at work doing really fun things like folding clothes that evil customers were throwing all over the place for their amusement when something rather disturbed me. There was a girl about my daughter's age (9) who stomped past me, threw down a pair of jeans and, in a huff, told her slightly older sister, "God! I'm getting so fat!" to which her slightly older sister said with a sinister little laugh, "yeah, you are."

Their mother completely ignored the exchange and walked with them out the door.

I looked at the girl and she was perfectly normal, not overweight by any means (not that that's my point).

The jeans she unsuccessfully tried on were a 10 Slim.

I was enraged that this young girl should have these thoughts even enter her mind at such a young age or that they would be cultivated within her family. If her regular size didn't fit her, chances are that it's because she's not done growing yet.

Girls are so fragile and I can guarantee that the insecurities this girl was feeling about her body are only going to become worse. There is no defense at all for any woman to verbalize her body image issues in the presence of a young girl. Hey, I know! Let's make sure they look at themselves with the same critical eye that we do! Let's make sure that they hate their bodies for life!

It's so frustrating to try to raise a girl in the culture our society has created. A society where I can't take her into a drugstore without worrying about if she can see the blatantly visible covers of magazines like Cosmo offering to teach us "50 Sex Tricks Your Man Will Die For."

With everything that we know about self-esteem it sickens me that we still barely notice that we cultivate some idea in girls that they have to be skinny and good in bed to feel like they're special.