Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Apocalypse Orange

When there are forest fires in the area, it's not uncommon for the smoke to migrate into the surrounding cities, even those that aren't but so close by. Right now, there are fires in Big Sur. That's definitely close enough to have made our skies apocalypse orange for the past couple of days. That photo there is what the view outside our window is like right now. It's not edited or doctored in any way. Everything really does look like it's in sepia tone right now. The colors are all wrong. You can't smell anything but smoke.

I think it's giving me anxiety or something. The orange sky thing was in full effect when I woke up yesterday and wouldn't stop reminding me of Mad Max. (I wound up with an unexpected day off yesterday, as I was waiting for a client to get back to me with details on an assignment. We actually watched Mad Max: Fury Road on HBO.)

I didn't sleep well last night either. Lots of really weird dreams about the end of the world, messed up weather, and so forth -- definitely phobias of mine. I feel really off today as a result, as I do every so often for no real reason. I never know if feelings like that are actually coming from me or if I'm picking them up somehow from other people I know, either offline or online. I wish I had a better understanding of where my emotions actually come from, but I've gotten really used to drawing a blank by now.

........

As far as other things going on, I was recently approached by an author I know on Facebook about being interviewed for her next book. I don't want to get too into the details here on my public blog, but suffice it to say that the book deals with people that are recovering from long-term emotional abuse. I actually met this lady after reading one of her other books last summer and writing to her to thank her, as her writing was incredibly helpful to me when it comes to unpacking some of my baggage from the past. 

I can't even express how honored it makes me feel that I was one of the people chosen for this project, as I really love this author's work. I also feel incredibly validated. The specific type of abuse this deals with has been a huge part of why I've found certain aspects of adult life so difficult. It's also one of the few kinds where it's still socially acceptable to victim-blame the person that's experienced it. I allowed other people to convince me a long time ago that this was my fault as a result, so I've been carrying the damage it caused around with me for many years. 

I honestly don't think I realized how badly I needed someone else (other than Seth and one or two close friends, that is) to simply validate what I was feeling and tell me it wasn't my fault until I read that book and met this author. It was like some huge, poisonous bubble in my chest just burst all of a sudden. It was a lot to process at the time, but I really started to feel like I was turning some kind of corner at the same time. Another instance where I really do feel like God was looking out for me and trying to make sure I was in the right place at the right time.

To have the person that wrote that book think that my personal story is important enough and noteworthy enough to include in another book that I'm sure will be just as helpful to me and others like me feels amazing. I will be anonymous, of course, and I want it that way, as this is a sensitive topic. But still. It's incredibly exciting. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. It's things like this that make me feel like God is better to me than I probably deserve. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Diversity in the Media


Here's the thing. I actually don't like it when television shows and movies are "diverse", but it feels forced. I don't like it when black/gay/female/etc characters are just thrown into the mix as tokens just for the sake of being able to say "fuck yeah diversity". I very definitely feel like there's a wrong way to approach diversity and I see things being done the wrong way a lot.

But I do not understand people that actually go out of their way to complain about diversity as a concept when it comes to the media they consume. I also can't help but notice that the complainers are always people that have no earthly idea what it's like to grow up almost never seeing people that looked or acted like them when they went to the movies or turned on their television.

I know what that's like and it's really not fun. It really does give you the impression that you're an undesirable of one type or another. Or that there's something wrong with you. Or that society would really like it if you just disappeared or tried your best to hide/deny/erase anything about yourself that makes you different. The characters people rooted for in movies and on television were very, very rarely anything like me. When they were there at all, people like me were almost always the sidekicks, or the comic relief, or -- God forbid -- the villain.

Imagine the type of message that sends to that young person about where their "place" is as far as the world they live in. Imagine the type of message that sends to the young person that does see themselves depicted, but not their neighbor or the kid that sits next to them in homeroom.

If you truly don't see how and why that's problematic, then I don't know what to do with you. I am personally glad that kids today are less likely to grow up feeling that way. I don't think we've perfected the way we handle diversity in media yet by any means, but I like that we're at least fucking trying. That should be a good thing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Writing Lab: On Meeting New People

Prompt: "Do you like meeting new people, or do you prefer to hang out with people you already know?"

I'm more introverted even than most other introverts I know, so I'm generally not a fan of meeting new people. I have to have a very good reason to go out of my way, like actual loneliness because my existing relationships have ended or deteriorated for whatever reason. Otherwise, I'd far prefer continuing to develop deeper relationships with the people I already know.

I like not having to wear my "social face" around others. I like feeling like I don't have to watch my language or tiptoe around certain topics because they might offend whomever I'm talking to. I don't actually enjoy interacting with others for its own sake unless I can also be free, unedited, and unfiltered around them.

That said, the only time I even kind of like meeting new folks is when I'm doing it online. It seems to be more acceptable not to beat around the bush when it comes to telling other people whatever it is you want them to know about you. I haven't met a lot of people online that expected me to engage in small talk or tone down my real feelings about anything the way they might if we met in Meat World. They're usually in my vicinity because they saw me expressing something real about myself somewhere else anyway, so they already know what they're getting themselves into.

I like things that way, because I hate the alternative. Someone meeting me in a public setting where different rules apply, so I have to observe a million different social niceties instead of just saying and doing what comes naturally to me. They form a mental picture of who I am that inevitably turns out to be false. They become disappointed when they realize I'm not who or what they thought I would be. They try to change me because they don't like the real me. I resent it because I actually don't mind the real me. The person and I grow apart. Eventually I call it quits because I don't see the point of beating a dead horse when there are so many other people out there I could be giving my time to instead. Rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Mixed Racial Identity and Blogging

Like many female bloggers, I write a lot about what it means to be a woman. But unlike most of the minority bloggers I know, I don't really talk much about race. I'm not completely sure why that is, but I'm sure there are a couple of reasons.

On the one hand, I just don't think about my ethnic background that often and if I'm not thinking about something, I'm not writing about it either. I'm clearly not white, but I'm also a biracial woman that doesn't fit the average non-black person's mental picture of what a black woman looks like or acts like. Because of this, I tend to go through my life without having to think much about my race, just like white people do.

I don't look so different from Seth that people stop and stare at us when we walk down the street or wonder how on earth we even wound up together. I more or less measure up to the going American standard of what female beauty is "supposed" to be -- long hair that flows, light skin, and refined, stereotypically feminine facial features. There are apparently even people out there that miss the fact that I'm black altogether, as they express complete surprise when I tell them or if they find out some other way, as when my ex-husband met my parents for the first time.

In a manner of speaking, I'm probably lucky because I get to sidestep a lot of the problems and discrimination that my darker friends have to deal with. On the other hand, not having to create my life around my ethnicity has meant that I haven't developed the same strong racial identity most of my black friends have. I think about being a woman every day. I think about being a writer every day. I think about being an introvert every day. I rarely to never think about being black. Only when something or someone calls my attention to it, which really isn't all that often.

This didn't use to bother me, as I once truly thought race shouldn't matter or be important to people. Part of this is upbringing, as neither of my parents wanted my brother or me thinking of ourselves as different from anyone else. Like many young people, fitting in was the most important thing to me for a long time, so pretending I was no different from anyone else suited me just fine. But recent years have found me much more interested in connecting with where I come from and learning who my ancestors were. I know lots about the Irish and Scottish parts of my heritage, as I've been encouraged to connect with those. As an adult, I've also been strongly encouraged by my dad to connect and identify with my Native American blood.

This has not, however, been the case when it comes to my blackness. That was simply ignored and treated like it doesn't exist and I'm realizing that I've been conditioned to think there's something wrong with being proud to be black as a result. I've been taught to ignore my own blackness simply because I can. Beginning to consciously embrace, connect with, and identify with my own blackness -- especially with Seth's encouragement -- has been wonderful. I've been unlearning a lot of the negative conditioning I grew up with as a result and there's a wholeness that's coming about because of that.

That said, it occurs to me that it should be more obvious I'm a mixed race blogger and a black blogger. Not because I look black or fit society's stereotypes of what a black woman is like, but because I talk about it, reflect on it, and make it a point to acknowledge it in ways that make sense to me. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of that going forward into the future.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Writing Lab: That Very First Blog

Prompt: "What was the first blog you read online?"

Weirdly enough, I still remember stumbling across someone else's blog for the first time. I didn't know it then, but that discovery would change my life, how I communicate, and how I relate to other people forever.

It happened sometime in the early 2000's -- maybe 2002 or 2003. My ex-husband and I had just gotten a computer and Internet access, the very first experience with such things for either of us. He mostly used it to email his mother and download pirated music, but I had other ideas. I was far more interested in using the Internet to learn new things and possibly to connect to new people that actually thought like me or shared my interests.

As is the case with many people that don't feel like they relate to anyone else, one of my strongest interests at the time was music. Tori Amos was my absolute favorite artist back then, but I knew almost no one in my offline life that had even heard of her. Naturally, it made sense to me to use the Internet to seek out other Tori fans that were as obsessed with her music as I was. That's how I found this wonderful fan site called A Dent in the Tori Amos Net Universe (or "The Dent" for short). At first, I just came to The Dent to keep up on Tori-related news. Eventually though, I felt compelled to start contributing to it as well. I started submitting reviews of some of the concerts I'd gone to -- my first ever experience with sharing any of my writing online.

I also eventually became familiar with the couple that ran The Dent, Mike and Amanda. One day, I followed a link they had posted to their LiveJournal blogs and I was just fascinated by what I found, as I had legitimately never heard of blogging before. I'm not sure who I thought Mike and Amanda were prior to that, but I don't think I realized they were just a couple of ordinary people living ordinary lives just like mine. Yet here they both were, running a really popular site that had been acknowledged even by Tori herself and writing about their daily lives in virtual journals that never ran out of pages.

I found Amanda's blog especially interesting, as I related a lot to the way she thought. I also found the mere idea of LiveJournal incredibly appealing -- so much so that I eventually started a LiveJournal blog of my own and began to comment on some of Amanda's posts. When she invited me to "friend" her, she officially became my very first online friend. I'm happy to say that Amanda and I are still friends across multiple social networking platforms today.

........

My discovery of Amanda's blog, as well as the eventual decision to start blogging myself, literally changed my life and the way I viewed myself in relation to the rest of the world. Before that day, it had never occurred to me that anyone might care about the ordinary everyday thoughts of some small town girl that liked cheeseburgers, owned parakeets, and sold men's suits for a living. But here I was finding Amanda's life completely riveting despite the fact that she wasn't much different from me -- a UPS employee that loved roller coasters, looked forward to decorating her house for Christmas, and was crazy about Tori Amos music.

For the first time in my life, I could actually picture a world where my life, my thoughts, and my feelings actually mattered to other people despite the fact that I was really no one special. I realized that I didn't need to be as famous as Tori Amos for my thoughts to be worth sharing or for people to be interested in what I had to say. I could become part of the bigger picture in any way I wanted to any time I wanted to by telling my own story -- whatever that happened to be -- to whomever decided they cared to hear it.

Since then, I've made many friends online. I've shared countless writings and other creations with what potentially amounts to the entire world. I've explored more than one career path thanks to the Internet. I even met someone that was a much better fit for me than my milktoast ex-husband ever was. I grew into someone with a well-nurtured sense of self worth as a result of all of those things and although I don't think she realizes this, I owe all of that to Amanda.