Let's Just Hope . . . .

. . . . . that the Cat League doesn't find out about this. He'll be drummed out for sure.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:03 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

Portly of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

I meant to blog this earlier, but it got away from me.

In order to get the full-body experience of this post, I suggest that you click here


A couple of months ago, we were sitting in the kitchen nook with a dear friend, chatting.

A bit of back-story: There is this cat, you see.




He's not "our" cat.

Our cat is a different cat.

She looks like this:

Although I could understand how you might be confused, when you see something like this:

. . . . . . . And yes, that is a gigantic heap of catnip he's lying in -- why do you ask?

ANYway -- Mr. Black Kitty is not, as I said, "our" cat, but apparently, he has decided that we are "his" people. He ostensibly belongs to our neighbors, but he doesn't seem to spend any time there. They are rarely home, and there are two rather yappy dachshunds living there that he does not seem to enjoy, so he spends the bulk of his days at our house.

Now, it's been a while since we had a younger cat around. Our remaining kitteh is 15, with bad hips, and her version of "playing" is lazily swatting at a peacock feather -- IF she feels like it.

So I had forgotten about younger cats, I think.

Back to the kitchen nook table.

So, I'm looking over my friend's shoulder out the kitchen window when I see the hardy fuschia bush suddenly thrash about as if a hurricane-force wind has kicked up (it was a still day). The bush careens around for a about twenty seconds, and then we hear a thump on the ground below, as if something has fallen.

"What the hell was that?!" popped out of my mouth, and we went out to see what had happened.

Where we saw this, at the bottom of the bush:


My Beloved said, "I'll be he was trying to get a hummingbird in the fuschia."

We all went inside.

And looked out the kitchen window, where we saw, at the very, very tippy top of the bush -- this:

Which, of course, surprised us, so I went outside with and took a picture of this:

To give you a little scale:

Mr. Black Kitty is a voracious hunter, and he had been bagging more than his share of native songbirds recently (despite bell and collar), so my Beloved had a talk with him and told him that she was fine with him hunting rodents, but to please leave the birds alone (which he has, for the most part).

His predator fetish is so pervasive that I considered calling him either Tab Hunter or the Black Death, but my Beloved gently reminded me that I might not actually want to energize that by reinforcing his big cat fantasies every time I called his name. Smart, she.

At any rate, there was this little rodent person (we had already found parts of his/her compatriots scattered about the lawn in recent days), perched high atop the fuschia, panting frantically. I tried to lure Black Kitty into the house so that said rodent person might make its Great Escape, but BK was having none of it. He hung around under or near the bush for over an hour, and finally, rodent person, no doubt exhausted by its ordeal, actually fell asleep at the tippy top of the bush.

Giving me the opportunity to do my Marlin Perkins thing:





I seriously considered a rescue attempt, but honestly, I thought it would just freak the poor rodent person out further, so I went inside and let nature take its course.

Which it did. Later, rodent person moved further down the bush, while Black Kitty waited patiently, and a few hours later I found rodent person's remains (or one of rodent person's compatriot's remains) nearby in the yard.

I will say that Black Kitty does actually eat his kills, which is more than I can say for a few of my cats, and I'm assuming by the number of rodent carcasses (usually partial) that I've found in the yard that they probably needed some population control. I'm still not exactly sure what kind of a rodent it is. At first, I suspected that it was a baby Norwegian rat, but now I'm not so certain.

Thought I'd share the adventure.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:46 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

Wotthehell

OK -- so, I'm going to do something I've never even considered doing on my blog, but I figure -- you never know.

I've had a Ernst Roth violin (it's really nice) on craigslist for a couple of months with no luck in selling it. The truth is, we need the money right now, and the fiddle has been languishing, pretty much unplayed, at our house for a while. We've been concentrating on moving stuff along here at Chez Portly -- simplifying, getting rid of stuff that we don't use, preparing ourselves for whatever is next in our lives.

So, if you, or anyone you know, is interested in a truly killer deal on a very nice instrument, you can check it out at this link:

http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/msg/933749368.html

It's a good instrument -- German made, 1965.

Feels kind of weird to do this here, but as I said: wotthehell -- it couldn't hurt, and the rent is due on Monday (and yeah, it's that kind of "we need the money right now").

Contact me via the email in the profile, or from the craigslist ad. Thanks for passing it along if you know someone who might be interested.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 5:46 PM 1 comments Links to this post  

Happy Turkey -- with Mormon Sauce

So, last night, after I had been dialoguing with some internet being about whether the LDS had overstepped itself as a non-profit during the Prop 8 campaign, I was unwinding by surfing the tubes, and I heard this little "tap-tap-tap".

I pulled my earphones off one ear for a moment and cocked my head to listen. Nothing.

I called up to my Beloved: "Was that you?"

"What?"

"That tapping -- was that you?"

Then I hear a muffled voice as I get up to listen again -- a faraway voice that is not unusual to hear in my house when a friend has arrived at the back door without calling first: "Helloooo?"

I stopped in the hall, trying to figure out whether it's at the front door or the back.

Then I hear it again -- tap, tap, tap.

Front door. Why don't they use my (rather lovely, if I may say so myself) doorbell?

I advance toward the door a bit cautiously. None of our friends come to the front door.

It is the gateway for the landlord, Jehovah's witnesses, and people who are arriving as clients, students, or attendees to our events.

I wasn't sure why I felt cautious -- I live in the town of 911 calls involving annoying relatives and wandering goats -- but cautious, I felt.

"Who's there?" I call out as I move toward the door hesitantly.

"Helloooo?"

I switched on the porch light and opened the door a crack.

They were two. They were tall. There were matching trench-coats, white shirts, black ties, and name-tags.

It was the FUCKING MORMONS!!!!!!!! (repetitive screeching noise from the shower scene in Psycho)

I don't know if I rolled my eyes. I do know that I lacked the will to even fuck with them. After all, it's not their fault that they were born into a family that thinks it's a really swell idea to farm their young men out to do door-to-door harassment on the night before Thanksgiving.

Me: "Hello."

Taller of Them: "Hi -- "

Me: "I really don't have time to talk with you right now." Lie. (Goddammit! My own Mormon-allergy has led me to violate one of my own core principles -- Authenticity! -- Curse you, Josepth Smith!)

Taller of Them: "When would be a good time for us to come back?"

Me: "Well, actually, I'm a minister myself, so I'm -- all set with my spiritual condition."

Taller of Them: (brightening...... kind of..... amidst the befuddlement) "Oh really! Where do you preach?"

Me: "Right here."

Taller of Them: "Really! People just come here?"

Me: "That's right."

Taller of Them: "Oh. Well . . . . could we help you in any way?"

Me: "Uhm -- No. Thanks anyway."

I close the door.

Beloved has now come down and is in the kitchen, prepping some stuff for tomorrow's meal.

"Who was that?"

"The fucking Mormons."

"Really? The night before Thanksgiving? That's weird. Well, I guess they figure there'll be a lot of people home. Did you talk to them?"

"Kind of. I told them I didn't have time to talk to them."

"Which isn't technically true."

"Yeah, I know. Well, no, really -- I don't have time to talk to them -- because I don't want to talk to them, and I don't want to make time to talk to them, and . . . . . yeah, I lied."

I recounted the interaction in brief, pretty much as above.

Then I started thinking about how I had missed this great opportunity to enlighten these fresh-faced boys (and yes, they were boys) on the impact that their precious church was having on queers like me. But then I thought that I probably wouldn't have been very coherent, and that I probably would have come off pretty venomous, after my afternoon conversation with the bone-headed internet being, and then I thought that it was really stupid to expect these hypnotized boys to take any kind of responsibility for the world-wide svengali that has sent them out on these "missions" so that they weren't home competing for wives, and then I thought that what if one of them were a closeted or questioning gay and I might be the only out queer he might ever meet and that might save his sanity and/or his life, and then I thought that it was truly mean to send these poor boys out to make religious cold-calls on woo-woo lesbians, and then I just thought -- "Oh fuck it, I'm going back to my computer".

I've never understood Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses (who strangely, also never use the doorbell) -- the thought of tracking down a complete stranger to see whether they might want to hear about my spiritual beliefs sends the creeping willies up my spine in the first place, and in the second place, the concept of living in a world where every single person who doesn't believe as I believe is doomed to the worst fate imaginable is something I simply can't wrap my brain around. What a sad, sad world-view.

Anyway, despite my visitation from the Moroni twins, and my almost certain damnation in their dimensional reality, I managed to have a fine Thanksgiving. For the first time in many years, it was just me, my Beloved, the cats, and a rather sumptuous turkey breast. We watched two disappointing DVDs, but the cuddling on the couch compensated for the video-blahness.

I am truly thankful, today, for many things. I'm healthy, happy, well-loved, and in love. My mom's medical report was all clear. I have fine friends, and I live in paradise.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:03 PM 6 comments Links to this post  

It's Time

Recently, I received an email from someone to whom I had offered help. She told me when I offered this help, that she had a hard time accepting help from others. I told her that I understood, and that it was fine -- she could know that the offer was open and take me up on it if and when she was ready.

A few days later, I got an email from her -- the subject line simply said: "It's time", and the body of the email explained that she wanted to take me up on my offer.

The simplicity of the subject line struck me.

I've always been fascinated by that internal process whereby we might put something off and put something off, knowing that at some point, we must move forward, and then, one day, for some reason that we can't explain -- It's time.

And then we do it. We move forward after hours, days, weeks, months, or even years of resistance.

I had this today.

I've been thinking lately that I wanted to return to a discipline/practice of daily blogging again. It's been percolating in the cauldron of my mind, and tingling around the edge of my consciousness, but every day, I just seemed to push it into some dusty corner in my brain.

But now, it's time.

You can read more about the spiritual aspects of this at my other blog, if you're interested, or you can just receive my pledge here -- I'm going to get back to daily blogging. It may suck some days -- I'm cool with that -- but I'm pledging to blog here every day for the next year (I'll give myself a break, of course, in the case of power outages or true emergencies).

It's time.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:40 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

Because I'm Busy Working on a Real Post



I try to never say: "Some people have too much time on their hands", because usually, they tend to do some incredible things with it.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:29 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

Be A Patriot - Dump Money in a Hole!

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:45 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

You Smell So Good It's Killing Me

I live with someone who has MCS -- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (also referred to as "Chemically Injured" or "Environmental Injury").

Strap in once more, because this may be a long post. I'm going to attempt to communicate some facts that may be of interest to you -- but first, I'm going to tell you why I'm writing this, and what it means to live with MCS. I'm going to tell you my story, but I'm also going to tell you what my story may mean for you.

My Beloved has always been sensitive to certain chemicals -- but in the past three years, that sensitivity increased.

Three years ago, exposure to certain chemicals would mean she experienced an accelerated heartbeat, skin flush, mental confusion, and an adrenal response that was like "fight or flight/I've-got-to-get-out-of-here!"

Then, as her sensitivity increased, it would mean having that suite of symptoms, followed by symptoms that were like a hangover (fatigue, body aches, general malaise, etc.) for a few hours or a day.

Then it became a few days.

Then, the effects of exposure would mean several days of headache, extreme fatigue, digestive complaints, and all-round OMG I FEEL CRAPPY.

Her exposure to things like paint fumes, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, and other known toxins was fairly easy to handle -- we were already pretty "green" in terms of our household products, because that fit with our general values of sustainability and environmental awareness -- but there is a particularly difficult scenario that has been much more challenging to control -- exposure to synthetic fragrances.

As we changed our lifestyle to rid our home of the stuff that makes her sick (which meant looking carefully at shampoo, soaps, lotions, laundry and cleaning products, toilet paper, and yes, even the books we purchased used on Amazon -- some sellers will package a book that's been in a smoker's home with a scented dryer sheet to mask the smell of smoke), I learned a lot -- about chemicals, and about myself.

I'm not as sensitive to chemicals as is my Beloved. I tend to have that sort of physical unit that processes toxins fairly quickly, and even if I don't like a particular fragrance or smell, it doesn't usually give me any physical symptoms. Or so I thought.

As our home got de-toxed, and our air got clearer, I found that I actually did get physical reactions to certain chemicals. They weren't as severe as hers, but they were there -- I just hadn't noticed them because they were subtle and so omnipresent.

Now, if I sit in a room with someone who is drenched in perfume for an hour or more, I'll actually notice the results afterwards -- a slight headache, reddened eyes, sinus congestion, and marginal fatigue.

The same exposure for my Beloved would result in much more extreme levels of the same, and for her, they can last from one to three days.

Recently, she's found some things that have helped reduce her symptoms and reactions, but still, when she ventures out into the world, she always carries a small mask in her pocket, just in case.

When the doorbell rings, I'm the one who answers, because even our UPS guys and gals seem to be obsessed with making sure I know that they are Teh Sexy with their mad scentz. I usually step out quickly and close the door behind me, so that a chemical that could make my love sick doesn't waft in through the door. And waft it does.

Getting on a airplane for a two-or-three hour flight would be a complete gamble at this point. We haven't traveled by plane for over two years.

We've asked our friends not to visit the house wearing fragranced products. They have tried to comply, but still, if they used fragranced laundry products like dryer sheets or fabric softener in the past (which are not only designed to have a "lasting scent", but often contain waxes that get inside your washer dryer so that the fragrance continues on for months after you stop using them), their clothes can have lingering fragrance that can make her sick.

Depending on how full her "toxin bucket" is on any given day, she may or may not be able to sit across the room from them for a chat, and she rarely gives hugs to them anymore, if there's a whiff of chemical fragrance. She seems to do fine with all-natural essential oils -- no synthetics (but please note: this is not true of all people with MCS).

Her primary response seems to be from synthetic fragrances -- and synthetic fragrances are in stuff you would never imagine. Many people who have MCS have much worse reactions than my Beloved does.

We've posted signs and sent emails to people who attend our circles and classes, asking them not to wear fragrance to our events. Sometimes they forget. We generally allow them to stay, and my Beloved dons her breathing mask. We remind them. Sometimes they forget again. We remind them again.

Sometimes their perfume is so strong that the chairs or cushions that they sit on retain the smell for days. We've taken to covering furniture with washable throws, but sometimes we just have to drag the furniture outside and let the sun and air do its work.

Keep in mind that for someone with severe MCS, contamination of this type might mean that they have to get rid of that piece of furniture entirely.

Friday, we had someone attend our regular group meeting whose perfume was so strong that it gave me a headache, and we had the room airing out (and closed off) for an entire day -- but there's still a lingering scent.

This person has been here before, and has been asked not to come wearing fragrance. When my Beloved approached her to talk about it (these conversations are often a bit awkward), she said that she had remembered about the fragrance-free request, and had given herself a quick wash, but hadn't taken a shower. (In some cases, even showering doesn't do much good, because the person's clothing is permeated with the scent, especially if it's something they wear every day.) We didn't want to send her away, so we chose to have her stay.

However, after the group met, my Beloved and I confabbed on this and we have come to the conclusion that we just can't do that anymore. We're going to maintain better boundaries about this, and do more education, and take care of ourselves.

Here are some non-scientific observations, and then I'll get into some facts:

1) It seems like my Beloved has a "toxin-bucket" -- when she hasn't been exposed to something that triggers her symptoms for a while, she can go to the library and pass someone who is wearing perfume and her reaction will be slight.

Then something will happen like: A person wearing fragrance comes to a class -- she'll do OK -- the next day, the neighbor's dryer vent is blasting Downy all over our yard -- she'll do slightly OK -- the next day, the wind shifts and the paper-mill steam blows over our way -- she'll do less OK -- that afternoon, the sewer pipe backs up and three City guys (all Ax Body Sprayed to the -enth degree) and one plumber (Calvin-Klein-ified) have to be in our house to fix the sewer.

Then, her toxin-bucket gets full, and she has to lay down for a good long while.

At this point, answering the doorbell if I'm not home is a crap-shoot. Going into the yard to get some fresh air (which usually is helpful for her when her symptoms are active) is sometimes impossible, because it could mean a snoot-full of neurotoxins in the form of a breezy, fresh new scent. Being called for jury duty could mean sitting with a breathing mask on for days at a time.

2. The nose is a peculiar beast. Think of how it is when you come home from a long time away, and smell the smell of your own home. Usually, you can't smell this, unless you've been away. You can smell other people's houses the minute you walk in, but once you've been there a while, you don't notice that smell.

We become desensitized to smells over a fairly quick period, so if we wear perfume or scented products over a period of time, we usually can't smell them. I think that this accounts for the times when I pass someone on the street and their perfume just about knocks me over from three feet away. They can't smell their own perfume anymore. So they put on more perfume.

An old friend who was a grade-school science teacher was fond of telling her students: "If you can smell it, it's in your nose."

She would usually tie this saying to something like the smell of dog-poo, just to evoke the "Ewww! Gross!" response from her students, but her point was that the mechanism of smelling was a chemical process whereby chemicals from the object we smelled actually entered the incredibly permeable surfaces of our noses -- that it had to go into us in order to be registered as an odor.

That entry into our body doesn't stop at our noses, though -- it continues into our mouths, and our lungs -- all organs that are fabulously designed to absorb and assimilate chemicals from the outside world.

So, when you're wearing perfume or smelling your Bounced clothing, you're actually ingesting it, too -- and so is everyone else in the room. Fragrance is designed to invade other people's space -- manufacturers actually put chemicals in it to help it disseminate further and faster, and to last longer.

3. We are permeable beings. It's not just what we breath in through our mouths and noses that gets into our bodies -- our skin and eyes are permeable for a reason.

Years ago, when I was sealing a very small, high-ceilinged closet with a shellac-based (alcohol) product, I wore my very expensive respirator the entire time I was working. I had to close the closet door to access all the surfaces, and the high ceiling concentrated the fumes intensely.

I had done what I needed to protect myself -- or so I thought -- but at the end of the day, I could detect the distinct flavor/smell of ketones on my breath -- you're probably familiar with it, even if you don't know the word --it's that particular smell on the breath of someone who has had way to much to drink.

I asked my MD about it, and he pointed out that we very efficiently absorb chemicals through our skin, but most especially through our eyes. Our entire body is "breathing".

So, chemicals that we douse our clothing in (and then wear next to our skins) will get into us, even if we can't smell them.

Now, some facts:

A) Fragrance: You don't know what's in there.

Anytime you see the word "fragrance" on a product, it contains an unknown amount and combination of chemicals that are not required to be individually listed as ingredients.

These combinations of chemicals are considered a "trade secret" for fragrance manufacturers. The FDA has only banned about 10 chemicals from use in perfumes and cosmetics. Legally, any other chemical can be used in a fragrance, and those chemicals do not have to be revealed to the consumer in the ingredient list -- the word "Fragrance" is enough, even though that may be dozens, or hundreds, of chemicals.

The fragrance industry is essentially, self-regulating. (And looking at the current state of the world economy, we all know how well that self-regulation thing works.)

B) Fragrance: What's in there might not be very good for you.

"The fragrance industry does come under the regulation of the FDA, but the regulation is extremely limited. Many of the ingredients used in fragrances have little to no safety testing done on them. Most of the safety testing that has been done has revolved around the dermatological effects of fragrance chemicals. The effects on the respiratory system, the brain, and other organs of the body have not been determined on individual chemicals - much less in the combinations in which they are used." ~ http://www.ourlittleplace.com/fda.html
"95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxics and sensitizers - capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions." ~ 'Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace', Report by the Committee on Science & Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986. (Report 99-827)
Oh, in that 1986 Report from Congress, Fragrances were listed among the six categories of chemicals that should be given high priority to be tested for neurotoxicity -- along with insecticides, heavy metals, solvents, food additives and certain air pollutants. (Neurotoxins are chemicals that damage or destroy nerve tissues.)

So, you don't really get to know what's in your nose, and they don't have to tell you.

The only way you would be able to find out is to take it to a chemist and have it analyzed -- and honestly -- if what was in there was actually good for you, don't you think the manufacturers would be touting that as a selling point? -- "Between Love and a Stronger Immune System Lies . . . . . Obsession."

C) Fragrance: It's Not Just Your Cologne

Perfume and cologne, scented lotions, and soaps and shampoos that you apply to your body is only one of the problems with synthetic fragrance.

Dryer sheets, fabric softener, and detergents can contain fragrance -- even if they're marked "unscented" or even "fragrance-free" -- because if a fragrance is used as a "masker" (something to mask the smell of another chemical, but not intended to impart a "scent") -- it doesn't even have to be listed using that one word: Fragrance.

You can be, literally, "cleaning" your clothes in a chemical bath that isn't "clean" at all.

"Trouble is, you have no way of knowing it. Manufacturers of detergents, laundry sheets and air fresheners aren't required to list all of their ingredients on their labels -- or anywhere else. Laws protecting people from indoor air pollution from consumer products are limited.

When UW engineering professor Anne Steinemann analyzed of some of these popular items, she found 100 different volatile organic compounds measuring 300 parts per billion or more -- some of which can be cancerous or cause harm to respiratory, reproductive, neurological and other organ systems.

Some of the chemicals are categorized as hazardous or toxic by federal regulatory agencies. But the labels tell a different story, naming only innocuous-sounding "perfume" or "biodegradable" contents. ~http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/371779_toxicfragrance23.html

D) Fragrance: Your Favorite Fragrance Has Gone Global

It isn't just going onto, and into, you.

It's going down the drain to the water table, and into the sea, so fish are swimming in it and breathing it, and you get to drink it later, and eat it at Chez Fins.

It's blowing out of your dryer vent, so insects and birds are flying through and breathing it.

It's being dumped into landfills. (The EPA cites discarded or waste consumer cosmetics as one of the leading contributors to PCPPs in the environment.)

So fragrance is a gift that will keep on giving (toxins) for generations to come, and to other species who really don't care whether you smell like a Spring Day (but who might care that they get to live to see another Spring day).

Of course, fragrance isn't the only culprit in MCS (many people are triggered by things like new plastic products that are off-gassing -- carpeting, etc.), and the toxicity of our buildings has increased as more and more synthetics are used.

But even if we're just talking about fragrances, and we really do have a "toxin bucket" that can "get full", and once we get full, we get sick, then what does it mean that we are bathing in, slathering our skins with, inhaling, and washing our clothes in stuff that we have a hunch might not be so good for us?
". . . . . .health effects from exposures are often difficult to detect. While some effects are immediate and noticeable, others are gradual, subtle, and sub-clinical. Of particular concern are chronic and often low-level exposures to mixtures of chemicals, which are the type of exposures that typify daily life.

Human exposure studies, over the past two decades, have revealed widespread U.S. population exposure to VOCs (Wallace et al., 1991b;Wallace, 2001). Paradoxically, the largest contributors of VOCs to human exposure (nearly 90%) are not the sources traditionally recognized and regulated, but rather sources that are small, close to us, largely unregulated, yet often within our control (Wallace, 2001; Wallace et al., 1987), such as consumer products and other indoor sources. In particular, fragrance compounds, used in a wide variety of consumer products, can be primary sources of human exposure to VOCs (EPA, 1989; Sack et al., 1992; Wallace et al., 1991a; Cooper et al., 1992, 1995)."

Source: Steinemann AC, Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients, Environ Impact Asses Rev (2008), doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002
Two recent situations I've been in that I find ironic:

I live in a state where you cannot smoke, even outside, within 25 feet of any doorway, air vent, window, or opening to a public space (even privately owned businesses), yet my Beloved cannot risk going to the City Building to pay the water bill without wearing a filter-mask, because the clerk might be wearing perfume, or have a Downy addiction.

My Beloved went to the public library to pick up the book she had put on hold (How everyday products make people sick : toxins at home and in the workplace / Paul D. Blanc), but she couldn't bring it home and read it because it reeked of perfume.

So, there is my story, and some facts.

Now, here's what you can do:

What You Can Do For Yourself and Your Family:
  • Get that stuff out of your home, off your skin, and out of your clothes (and off of your loved ones' skin and clothes.)
  • There is a great round-up here about becoming fragrance-free.
  • Check the labels on your body and hair-care products -- but first, get educated about tricky words like "unscented", "natural", and "perfume free". If it says "fragrance", it has chemicals in it that you have no idea about. Even some "fragrance free" products can be dicey, because of the masking chemicals, which do not have to be listed as fragrance. Most products sold at Natural Food stores that are listed as Fragrance Free are reliable -- but I prefer items that have an entire list of ingredients, and say so. You may be able to find out more about your existing products at Skin Deep, which has a database of safe and unsafe cosmetics. (You can also research individual ingredients there, because even fragrance-free products can contain other chemicals you don't want on you or in you.)
  • Start using products that are environmentally safe and safe for you. Here's a great start: http://www.peggymunson.com/mcs/products.html
  • Get educated -- all of the links in this post lead to real information, much of it peer-reviewed scientific study and official reports, the rest from people who deal with MCS.
Here's what's currently in use at my house:
  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry and Household cleaning products
  • Bon-Ami
  • Citra-Solv
  • White Vinegar (cleans windows, surfaces, and absorbs fragrances in rooms)
  • Baking Soda (mix it with vinegar to clear drains, absorbs smells -- you can even wash your hair with it -- and yes, it does work -- my Beloved has been using it, and her hair looks, and feels, great.)
  • Shampoos and Hair Care Products vary, but I like Aubrey Organics (also, there are very inexpensive and effective ways to go fragrance-free that don't involve buying expensive fragrance-free products -- check the links above).
  • We usually purchase locally-handmade soaps, but we always have Dr. Bronner's on hand (sometimes, literally on hand).
What You Can Do For Your Chemically Sensitive Friends:
  • Get educated. There's a wealth of information out there. You might want to start with Peggy Munson, and MCS.org.
  • Ask them what their sensitivities are. Take them seriously. This is real. It's not in their heads, and if you choose to use fragrance and then hang around them, they can end up feeling lousy for hours, days, weeks, or months.
  • Don't be offended if they're hesitant to hug you, or invite you to their house, or when they say that they can't accompany you to a certain restaurant or concert or bar. It isn't you -- it's your chemicals.
  • Remember that when you choose to wear fragrance around your friend, even if you know it will trigger reactions in them, it's kind of like blowing cigarette smoke in the face of someone with emphysema -- your choice is trumping their health.
  • Remember that some people are triggered by off-gassing from new plastic items, so consider this when choosing gifts and packaging.
  • Speak up for them when other people scoff at their needs. Help people get educated.
Giving up fragranced products has been difficult for some people I know.

There seems to be a tendency to think that the person with the MCS is the one with the problem, rather than a willingness to look at the fact that maybe the level of toxicity we live in and around is the problem.

Last week, a student came to class wearing perfume. She is a nutritionist, and when my Beloved had a conversation with her about fragrance, the student cheerfully informed Beloved that she had been helping people with MCS improve through dietary changes -- maybe she could help Beloved, too! My Beloved thanked her, told her that she is working with *therapies that were helping her, and then said:

"You know, even if I'm not having reactions to the chemicals, I still don't want to live around that stuff." The young woman looked honestly baffled at this.

But you see -- I don't actually think of MCS as a "disease" (the "canary in the coal mine" comes to mind) -- instead, I think that, as we increasingly surround ourselves with more and more and more low-level toxins, all of us may be"getting our buckets filled" -- and that those whose MCS reactions are more extreme may be our early-warning signal, giving us a glimpse of what's to come if we don't clean up our act.

============
*I've asked my Beloved to write a post at her own blog about the things that she's doing that are helping her deal with her reactions to chemicals. It's not ready yet, but when it is, I'll update this post with a link.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:20 PM 22 comments Links to this post  

I Adore Sarah Haskins


(h/t to Namechanged, who keeps up on Teh Sarah)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:15 AM 1 comments Links to this post  

Me and My Blotter

OK --so, I live in this little town -- a really sweet, quirky, weird little town.

The town bumper sticker on the vehicles of "committed" residents is:


When I moved here eight years ago, I was a bit nervous at first. With a population of 7,000 (at that time), a paper mill for the "big employer", a large number of military bases within a 50 mile radius, and acres and acres of surrounding woodlands, I was a bit daunted about moving from Portland (where I had resided for 22 years) to a little tiny town. Then I saw those bumper stickers everywhere, took a deep breath, and assured myself that everything was going to be A-OK.

I settled in pretty quickly, attending the weekly waffle breakfast at the home of a man who opens his home on Sunday mornings to all comers -- and makes batch after batch of his prized waffle recipe. Visitors bring the raspberries, real maple syrup, whipped cream, etc., -- and musical instruments -- there's usually an impromptu concert after -- a mellow, carbohydrate-soaked concert. This tradition is simply known as "Waffles" -- as in: "Will I see you at Waffles?", "You gonna be at Waffles this week?", and "OMG! You'll never believe what happened at Waffles!"

I attended the Kinetic Sculpture Race -- in which contestants build a human-powered vehicle that must race on water, land, mud, and sand, the "winner" gets the Mediocrity Award (Offishul Rules here) -- for coming in -- not first -- not last -- but smack dab in the middle, and the finale at the Mud Bog is accompanied by the Teddy-Bear Toss (in which stuffed animals are catapulted -- from a huge catapult -- across a football field into the arms of waiting children).

I've been in the "Port Townsend Family Portrait" most years since I moved here -- a full poster-sized photo of thousands of residents, usually photographed from a crane or the top of a building (wish I could take a photo that would do it justice, but even wall-sized, the faces are so tiny that it's a game of Where's Waldo to pick out your friends, or yourself, in the crowd).

But probably my very favorite part of my quirky little town is our Police Blotter and Sheriff's Log -- one of the real reasons I shell out 75 cents for the local weekly paper.

There are Blotter entries that I have clipped and saved, and after laughing uproariously with a friend yesterday as I read my favorite snippets to her, I thought I'd blog a few. It's not like we have zero crime in our town (in fact, there's a meth-lab problem in some areas of the county) -- let's just say that what constitutes the typical entries in the weekly paper are pretty low-key -- and some of them are downright hilarious.

"A dog has been seen running with a pack of coyotes. The dog's former owner said Jan. 1 that the dog is part coyote."

"On May 25th, Officers were called to the scene of a party where a 24-year old man had become stuck in a hide-abed sofa."

"Goats were said to be loose Dec. 30 on Cedar Avenue"

"There was a report of a fire March 19 at East Price Street. Deputies responded and found the fire to be piece of furniture in a fire ring. The people were warned about burning particle board shelving."

"A PT man said he was assaulted after he was struck in the head Dec. 31 by a lobster tail"
Now, to be perfectly fair, the follow-up article in the next week's paper (Yes. There was a follow-up article) did reveal that it was a frozen lobster-tail. So, there is that.

*TRIGGER WARNING* Now, the next one isn't really funny -- but honest to Maude -- I had to wonder if the author of the blotter wasn't just fucking with someone's head with the last line:
"On March 25, a woman brought a doll that she found in the 200 block of Adams Street to the police department. The doll had been altered with satanic symbols. The doll's owner can retrieve it at the police station." [emp mine]
(/TriggerWarning)

But my all time favorite was this one:
"A woman called 911 on Dec 26 to complain that her relatives were annoying her."
I was like: "Holy Shit! You can call 911 for that?!?!"

If only I'd known sooner.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:10 AM 9 comments Links to this post  

Love's Labours

(Strap yourselves in -- it's another long one.)

I'll start with a story:

When my Beloved and I and others started working toward living in community (some six years ago, now), there was this thing that "happened" (well, actually, there was this thing that we did).

My Beloved happens to be a person of great attention, focus, and integrity. She is the one who will most often say: "I don't think that fits with what you say you want to do".

She would often pipe up with something like this when we were in the first formative years of our community -- assisting us to come to clarity on something that had been left muddy, asking us all to question how and why we were moving forward as we were -- whether it was a matter of avoiding an important process that might be uncomfortable, or of copping out on our basic values for the sake of appearance or expedience.

It was because of this that some of us (including me) began to refer to her (affectionately) as our "Cosmic Cop". (This wasn't an "official" title, nor did we ever cede the power of this role to her consciously, but I think that our choice of words indicated clearly that we were authorizing her, in some way, to serve in this capacity.)

Which was fine, in some ways -- and not so fine in other ways.

For one thing, I think that I began to "lean on" her for this service. I stopped paying close attention in some ways, relying on her unfailing discernment to point up dissonant actions and words, and counting on her somewhat legendary patience as we worked through issues.

To my mind, it's bad enough that I got intellectually and emotionally lazy in this way, but there was this other thing that started happening we did (probably about a year and a half into the process): Some of us (myself included) started to ever-so-slightly resent her for the very role that we had assigned to her.

There were conversations where she would quietly point out something which was absolutely true -- but inconvenient to our particular personal agenda or focus in the situation -- and then there would be resistance and argument (yes, I did it, too) -- the kind of fruitless, defensive, resistant argument you get when the arguer secretly knows that the person who has confronted them is completely, totally, and irrefutably RIGHT. (Isn't that infuriating?!?!?!?!)

The kind of argument which usually ends with you having to make a shame-faced apology for being such a stubborn ass and such a defensive twit. *blushing shame-facedly*

Fortunately, due to the good boundaries and sense of my Beloved, she perceived this pattern developing, and one day, in a community meeting, quite frankly told us all that she was resigning from the position of Cosmic Cop -- an official job for which she was receiving no remuneration of any kind, no modicum of respect or appreciation, and which she had come to loathe (due to that resistant, defensive, argumentative crap).

Her choice was very helpful to the group, and very helpful to me.

The moral of the story being: Don't invest someone else with authority (usually by handing them the responsibility), and then waste their time and energy, and yours, resisting and arguing and whining and moaning and complaining when they exercise the authority that you gave them -- this is a way of attempting to hand them the responsibility but keep the power (See: Shit Not To Do Because It Doesn't Work, Part IV).

I'm sort of a natural organizer -- of events, projects, opportunities, and people (when they want that from me). I seem to have a talent for initiatory energy -- while other people may tend to talk about things, I tend to move into action.

I think this is something I've always tended toward, but it may be a result of the gigantic number of deferred dreams that I've had in my life, and a deep understanding of my own rhythms and cycles that leads me to a certainty that, if I don't act on something fairly soon after talking about it, it will likely drift away into the ether.

So, when the weekly support group starts talking about wanting to have an online forum so that we can keep in contact with a member who has moved across the country, or organize car-pooling, I tend to be the person who goes home and sets up the prototype.

I'm quick to pipe up with "I can do that!", when some task needs doing before we can move forward. Sometimes, this is entirely unrealistic of me, given my schedule and existing task-list. I've learned to bite my tongue a bit more, but still, in most group-efforts that I've participated in, I have usually been one of the more active, contributing members. I don't resent this. I recognize that I'm the one who says "Yes".

I would say that, 70-80% of the time in my life, these type of tasks I have taken on have been unpaid -- things that I did because I had a passionate belief in a cause, or a deep love for the members of the group, or simply an interest in seeing how something worked (setting up an internet forum, designing a web-form, preparing a database for a tricky tracking system).

In my younger days, when I had some part of me that was motivated to volunteer in these ways so that people would "like" me, I sometimes felt resentment if I wasn't appreciated for these acts, but as I learned better boundaries, and more about my own cycles, and how far I could extend myself without burning out, I found that I didn't actually need the appreciation of others as much.

It was nice if I got it, but if I didn't get it, I made sure that there was enough satisfaction in the work itself for me to keep enjoying it, and enough clarity in myself to quit when I wasn't enjoying it anymore.

However, I found that there was something that did bug me.

Now, when I'm doing a job and being remunerated for it fairly, I figure that the payment IS my appreciation, in some way. If I get extra appreciation on top of that, I consider it a bonus (and true enough, that does tend to fuel my eagerness and motivation, as anyone who has been an employer knows) -- but I don't consider that appreciation is part of the required exchange that I make with my boss/client/purchaser.

In the case of doing something on a volunteer basis, I have found that appreciation is sometimes in scant supply -- especially if you make the thing you're doing look pretty effortless (and doing things in an easeful way for myself is one of my biggest goals, especially in terms of volunteer work).

In the days when I really "needed" appreciation for the hard work I was putting in, I often put myself in a Catch-22, because I really liked wearing the identity of the wunderkind who could pull stuff out surprisingly quickly and seemingly easily -- and that necessarily made it very difficult for other people to appreciate just how much fucking work I'd put into it.

Realizing that I had this potentially conflicting desire for wunderkindishness and yearning for appreciation, I started to make realistic adjustments in how much I took on, and why, and when, and made a conscious decision to take the same attitude that I did in most of my paid work -- that my satisfaction level while volunteering had to be high enough that appreciation was simply a bonus.

I managed this in a lot of different ways: Doing things I wanted to do anyway, volunteering in situations where I was able to observe that I was somehow making a direct difference for an individual or a group, and turning down tasks that I suspected wouldn't actually go anywhere.

That has worked pretty well for me, but there is still this one thing that can actually bug me. Here it is:

Doing work for nothing, and not only not getting any appreciation, but getting several things that I consider the antithesis of appreciation:

  1. Non-constructive criticism (aka complaint -- defined as: "bringing up your problem about something with absolutely no intention of moving toward, or contributing to, a solution").
  2. Continually escalating demands for more, with absolutely no demonstration of awareness of what fulfilling those demands would mean in terms of my time and energy, and no willingness to contribute anything to mitigate that increased energy-output from me -- and --
  3. Attitudes (sometimes directly expressed, sometimes subtly indicated) that I somehow "owe" this additional contribution of time and energy that benefits the person who is asking for more -- even though it is a contribution that they themselves would not consider making (usually, if I pointed this out, they were offended, or defensive, or both).
That bugs me.

Again, I think that this boils down to the inseparable power/responsibility issue.

When they complain about (rather than constructively criticize) what I am doing, they are asking me to shoulder additional responsibility, they take no responsibility (beyond lodging their complaint), and yet they want to retain the power of having input into how I carry out that additional responsibility.

It's sad to say, but it's true -- although this is a situation which I would never tolerate in an employer/employee relationship (or at least, not for long), I have put up with it in volunteer situations more times than I care to describe -- in fact, it's come up far more often for me in volunteer situations than it ever has in employment.

I think that one of the reasons for this may rest in how we value transactions that are considered culturally "valid" (iow, transactions in which money or material goods change hands) as opposed to how we value transactions where "only" time and energy is exchanged. (The intricacies of that subject are fodder for . . . . . yeah, yeah, you've heard it before . . . a whole 'nother post.)

If I thought that going into minute detail on the roots and causes of how volunteer work is devalued would stop people from devaluing it, I'd go in with my fine-toothed comb and tease it out right now -- but I don't, so I won't.

Instead, I'm going to go to something that's much more visceral -- something that will, perhaps, help you stop devaluing your own volunteer work, or the volunteer work of others.

When someone gives something away or provides something without a demand for remuneration (although they may request a donation) --for example: an amazing piece of software, the rights to their words or art, or an entire blog community -- we often call it a "Labor of Love" -- we generally assume that the person provides it because it serves them to do so -- however esoterically -- and we usually forget that this labor of love is still just that: Labor.

Personally, I don't think that I "owe" them recognition or appreciation for their labor -- their offer is, I assume, given freely, and any request for a contribution of my energy is just that -- a request.

But --- and -- because I do happen to believe that "what goes around, comes around" and that treating others as I wish to be treated is just good Karmic economic policy -- and because I've experienced that sticking to these precepts has generally resulted in a more satisfying existence for me -- I tend to contribute when I can to those who request monetary contributions for their offerings.

If I don't have something to contribute monetarily at a given moment, I try to show my appreciation in other ways -- by expressing appreciation to the offerer directly, by referring people to them, by providing them some of my energy as a volunteer, and, most importantly, by valuing what they offer.

When I see a true Labor of Love, and I partake of its benefits, I tend to cherish it as if it were my own.

What I don't tend to do is to shit on it. Because I think that shit on a Labor of Love is thrice-shitty.

Once shitty for the devaluation of the real time and energy of real beings that went into it.

Twice shitty for the willingness to benefit from something, and then shit on it as if you never benefitted from it.

Thrice shitty for the ability to dissociate from the deep pain that is caused to beings when the children of their hearts are disparaged and demeaned.

I make a distinction between bringing constructive criticism to a Labor of Love and shitting on it.

Constructive criticism is motivated by, and accompanied with, an intention to find a solution -- to make the child stronger, or wiser, or more capable.

The Open Source movement is a perfect example of this -- people find a bug in a program and bring their critique with the intention of making the program better. Often, they will also bring their abilities and experience directly to work on the solution. That's not shitting, in my opinion. That's joining the Labor of Love.

Shitting on someone's Labor of Love is expecting them to do something you aren't willing to do, or to even help with, and when/if they refuse or fail to do what you expect, complaining that they have somehow failed you.

Shitting on someone's Labor of Love is letting them take all the responsibility and still demanding power.

Shitting on someone's Labor of Love is constantly asking them for more, and more, and more, when you already admit that you've received a pearl beyond price -- because in that moment, you are admitting that you're quite willing to have that person be your servant, rather than acknowledging them as your benefactor.

Personally, I believe that all of this applies pretty globally (if you want to just take that global lesson away and not get specific, just skip down to the last two lines) -- but from here on out I'm going to get specific:

This week, I've been attempting to breathe deeply and be of support to a friend and much-admired blogger -- the blogger, in fact, who was the direct impetus for me starting this blog: Melissa McEwan.

Melissa has been a direct and daily inspiration to me, and she has taken daring steps to create what I believe is a revolutionary space on the internet -- a virtual space that is truly a community -- a community that thousands visit every day.

She long ago took the difficult step of releasing control of her own personal blog to a diverse group of contributors. She lost her job because she had the temerity to speak her truth, and now, can't find work in her chosen field because a potential employer googling her name from a resume would find her in the center of a scandal that she didn't create. She has endured both physical and internet attacks on her property because of her writings, and has weathered criticism from the blogosphere for clinging to her own ethics and principles. She has refused to run ads containing sexist and demeaning materials that other blogs run, because she cares more for the integrity of her blogspace than the dime in her pocket, and she has daily, constantly, consistently brought her perspective, wisdom, and vulnerability to create a safe space for thousands of people.

I believe that she's done this as a Labor of Love.

She's also said, recently, that she doesn't think she can continue. She's tired of being asked to do "more" by people who don't step up to contribute to that "more". She's tired of funding, out of her family's single income -- out of their small collective pocket (with little-to-no financial support from the community that she has created and nurtured) -- a venture that benefits thousands of others but which is draining her dry financially, emotionally, and physically.

She's tired.

That's not surprising to me, after four years of daily writing for, moderating, and managing an enormous blog community.

What is surprising to me is that readers of that blog, after saying things like: "This blog is so important to me! It's the first thing I check every day!"-- can follow this up with things that read to me, essentially, like this: "Rest up!" . . with the lingering, unspoken " . . . so you can get back to serving us!"

I find myself wondering -- have any of them ever volunteered for four straight years, working 70-100 hour weeks? Do they have any idea what kind of "rest" would be required to replenish that effort? Especially when the teaspoon-wielding that the blogger in question performed (and inspired) was in the midst of the greatest tidal-wave of Constitution-bashing, human-rights-inhibiting, devolution of democracy that our nation has seen in at least 30 years?

OK -- so there's my rantish portion of this entry -- now, for some actual action suggestions about how to stop devaluing volunteer work (wielding the teaspoon, this time, in the direction of one of our own):

1) If you are concerned that you haven't seen a post from Melissa McEwan at Shakesville for the last five days, and you're wondering if she's leaving the blog, and you don't want that to happen -- email her or leave a comment at the blog -- and ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP.

2) Make a contribution to Shakesville. There's a Donate Button at the website -- just scroll down and look on the right side-bar. Make a commitment to making a contribution to Shakesville every month -- go on -- you can do it -- $3-$5/month? Yes, there are a few people who truly cannot afford that -- but most can. For many, even if it meant a sacrifice, it would mean giving up a couple of beers or a latte, or purchasing a copy of a magazine every month. (Those for whom this would mean not eating, or paying your rent -- just ease up on yourselves -- I'm not talking to you.) But seriously, if you love Shakesville, buy Melissa a latte and a bagel once a month -- if you met her in real life, wouldn't you take her to lunch? I would.

3) Listen when she tells you that she's overloaded. Do something to help. (Hint: "Go get some rest," is helpful when rest is all you need.)

And you know the old saying don't you?

4) Never shit where you eat.

=========
(Post-note In Which Portly Anticipates Some Human Being's Responses: You might read this and say: "Well, you're just coming to the aid of your friend." Yes. That's exactly right. I'm coming to the aid of someone that I admire and cherish. Want to make something of it? And my response to you would be: "Why aren't you?")

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:55 AM 17 comments Links to this post  

On Birthdays of Beloveds and Quantities of Water

This year, I spent my 52nd birthday in a pretty quiet mode.

My Beloved turned 52 today, and she/we had intended a similarly quiet day.

However . . . . . . .

At around 10 am, it started raining.

Now, we are used to rain in the Great Northwest. Water is our element. Patterings and sloshings and drippings and gurglings are our soundtrack.

Today, though, it rained in the way that I remember from the Midwest -- as if someone is throwing great five-gallon buckets of water at you over and over -- the kind of rain no umbrella will shield you from, and even your Helly-Hansons will not keep from pruning some portion of your delicate hide.

Which was novel -- and I was actually fine with it -- I had already dedicated my day to hanging with my Beloved, letting the tides of her birthday wishes take me along in the directions she wanted to travel (and from the heavy hanging sky of early morning, I figured there would be much lounging and napping involved).

My beloved says that only cats really know what to do with a day like today.

It was around 11:00 or so that she went to the basement to get something.

"Honey . . . . . . I think you need to come down here."

I hate hearing things like that. You know -- that particular tone?

The basement drain was rhythmically regurgitating water -- and a wide pool had already spread around the chimney wall and toward the washing machine. Fortunately, the only things that were actually sitting in the drink were non-permeable (for the most part), and the pool was shallow.

We moved stuff around and put the press-board bookshelves up on blocks, just in case (the water hadn't reached them yet), and began mopping and bailing while I called the City to see if a storm drain was blocked.

The City crew showed up in about 10 minutes (one of the pleasures of a small town), and the three of them stood around my drain (where I had been watching the water gurgle up, then sucked it by the several gallons into my wet/dry vac, dumped it, and watched it gurgle up again). They were admirably responsive to my concern, and the older, bigger guy sent the two younger, littler guys out to the street (in that rain -- and not really hiding his delight in being able to order them out there while he stayed inside, dry), to dig up the outlets and make sure that they were running. Which they were. Which meant that the problem was in my sewer line, not with the city's storm drain. Which meant that I needed to call the landlord to authorize a plumber. Which I did.

Meanwhile, the rain slowed and the water in the drain, while not receding completely, at least stopped puking into my basement to the tune of several gallons a minute.

Long story short -- the drain stops spitting up, the plumber comes by in the next couple of hours (another lovely thing about my tiny town, where competition amongst plumbers is fierce and untamed, like an episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom).

He's a short, scrappy 20-something, and he doesn't seem to like me at first, but as the time goes by and he realizes that I really am willing to stand by the toilet and flush! every time he commands me to, while he snakes the sewer (saving him many, many trips up and down the basement stairs), he begins to warm to me, I think, calling me by my first name as we part.

Report: There are roots in the drain. It is marginally clear now, having been rootered, but we should keep an eye on it when we shower or run a bunch of water through it. The roots have been there for a while, but the big rain has the ground so saturated that the blocked (and broken) line can't drain as it usually has been doing (out the sides, not down to the street). He'll call the landlord to get authorization for this. He does. He calls me back. He'll be back with his crew on Friday to dig up our front lawn and lay a new line to the street.

Phew. There are times that I'm glad I rent, rather than own. I was a homeowner once. With a good landlord, I think that the trade-offs of power and responsibility are pretty much a wash. Yeah, I can't do exactly what I want with the property without the landlord's permission, but also -- when the sewer line needs replacing, it's not my problem.

On with the day.

My Beloved and I take deep sighs, and I realize that the whole thing has been a bit stressful.

We talk about the metaphor of the events of the day -- water (emotion) that we're done with, and want to move along (waste water) actually backing up into our house, and threatening to damage our possessions because roots (grounding, stability) have blocked the way to let it flow down to its ultimate desired destination. We talk about how this fits with our sense that it's time to move, but we don't know what's next, so we are tending to cling to the grounded, stable situation we've known.

Then we each have a little shot of the cute tiny bottle of Pravda Vodka that our friend has left as a birthday gift for my Beloved.

Since neither of us usually drink hard liquor, we toast to the future that we do not know, cough a bit, and bless the rain.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:41 PM 2 comments Links to this post  

The Awkward, Gangly Form of Hope

Hope is a teenager
who never learned to be cool,
or how to slouch with feigned indifference
against the lockers of my heart.

Instead, it drops its books
and stumbles into strangers --
pushes its glasses into place,
and proceeds to class despite all odds.

The popular kids may pass with derisive stares,
with skin-deep beauty that cannot hide their fear.
Hope just keeps gaffing its way along,
unfashionable, clumsy, embarrassingly authentic.

© Carol Steinel 2007

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:36 PM 2 comments Links to this post  

Three Years Ago

Well, I've been living with the aftermath of coming out for a couple of days now, and I'm noticing some benefits:

1) I notice that I feel bigger -- as if my energy is flowing all the way to my edges.

2) I've had occasion to look at my "other" blog, and for a treat, I thought I'd look up this date (Nov. 8th) and see what I was up to a few years back.

This is what I found -- an entry dated 11/8/05 (Three years ago -- fancy that!) -- called:

Feeding the Beast
====================

Last week, while I was pretending to be sick, I did a good bit of “serendipity surfing” on the internet. This is very different than using the internet for research and examination. It involves some elements that can lead to surf haze, but in this case, I was just wandering aimlessly, so I experienced no real disappointment or shock when I arrived at some weird destination (shock at, or a sudden realization of, arrival at an unexpected web location is a primary warning symptom of surf haze).

Here’s a thing I noticed, in many of the threads I was following: There seem to me to be a lot of people out there actively nurturing their anger.

I don’t think that this is always a bad thing. For example, I know some people that tend to live their lives in a fairly inert state, and anger sometimes seems to be the only thing that gets them motivated to take action. If anger does lead them to action, this might actually be a net-gain for them.

Many times, though, I think there can be a state where feeding anger actually becomes a recreational activity — and that this state can become habitual, even enjoyable, to the participant. In this case, taking any action to move the anger would actually become an undesirable thing, for if the anger stops, the “game” is over.

I say this because I became aware of my own attachment to “righteous wrath” in the past. In earlier periods of my life, I would patiently harbor my “little angers” in secret, waiting until someone fucked up so unambiguously that I could jump out, my hair standing on end like John Brown in the Kansas State Capitol Rotunda, and scream “Philistene! Reprobate! Sinner!”

In that moment, the experience of anger felt satisfying and potent.

Problem was, this practice rarely changed anything. The person “at” whom I was angry kept doing things that “made” me angry.

And, after a time, my hairdo started to suffer, after so much standing on end.

And — I wasted a lot of my life energy “scouting around” for stuff to get angry about.

And — people around me tended to see me as slightly dangerous (which I think was a justified conclusion, by the way).

A BRIEF PRIMER ON WHAT I NOW BELIEVE/THINK ABOUT ANGER:

  1. I don’t believe that “anger” is an emotion.
  2. I believe that “mad” is an emotion.
  3. I believe that mad comes first, in the moment, and is closely related to the physical experience of “irritation/inflammation” — it indicates that something is breaching the natural boundary of my Self in a way that is out of alignment with Cosmic Law. (I’m not going to go into my understanding of full-fledged Cosmic Law right now. Suffice it to say that it involves us all being connected, sovereignty/free-will being a reality, authenticity required, and equal exchange being necessary to all sustainable systems — oh damn, I just went into my understanding of Cosmic Law.)
  4. I believe that “mad” can be my response when someone else violates Cosmic Law, or when I violate Cosmic Law, and that I was trained to project this emotion outward onto someone else, even if I’m really mad at myself.
  5. I believe that if I don’t deal with “mad” in the moment, it becomes a secondary phenomenon called “anger” — an energy-generating device that says “Do something! Do something! Do something!”, and that this (anger) doesn’t go away until I address the root cause of the “mad”.
  6. I believe that if I don’t deal with “mad”, “anger” will result. If I don’t deal with “anger”, “frustration” will result. If I don’t deal with “frustration”, “rage” will result.

The best example I can give is this (from Carruch, as usual): “Mad is ‘You’re whistling right now and it’s bugging me’. Anger is ‘You whistled yesterday, and you whistled the day before, AND NOW YOU’RE WHISTLING AGAIN!!!’”

I don’t think that anger is necessarily bad, or wrong, or anything like that. I’m just wondering if it’s useful. I’m especially wondering if it’s useful to nurture it.

I’ve been trying to remember if any of the “political” people that I know, or read of (or the extremely political person I used to be), have ever really demonstrated some form of pure “glad” in their various speaking/writing for any length of time.

Oh, sure, among liberals, there was that five minutes when Clinton won his first term. And when G.W. Bush “took back” the White House, there was a bit of celebratory feeling among conservatives. But how long was it actively sustained?

I think people can actually become addicted to remaining angry.

Think about it. It’s high energy. Anything that can make your hair do that (just take another look at Mr. Brown up there) must be chock full ‘o ergs.

However, I have my doubts about anger as a long-term recreational drug.

Yes, it is energetic, but that energy has to come from somewhere. And in my experience, it generally comes from the person who is invested in remaining angry. Anger is a hungry beast. It requires a lot of time and attention to keep it smoldering at just the right level to provide the desired level of heat without singing the person that is pumping the bellows.

In my line of work, and in the way I live my life, I have the opportunity to hear a lot of people’s stories. In the past few years, I had the opportunity to interact with two people who were betrayed by their spouses.

Both were in long-term relationships. Both of their spouses betrayed them in blatant, overt, and similar manners. There were parallels in their stories that were spookily synchronistic as I listened to each of them, right down to the specific questions that they each asked which finally elucidated the real nature and extent of the betrayal.

It was fascinating for me to watch these two stories unfold — as if the Universe had placed me in a laboratory with two experiments to observe — both with the same root cause: dishonesty in relationship.

And each with very different outcomes.

My perspective is: One person chose to act on their anger. The other chose to nurture it.

Some years later, I see the effects of these choices. I hear the person who chose action (in my opinion, the request that anger is making) now speaks of their life with renewed direction, hope, and vigor, and rarely speaks of their ex-spouse. I hear the person who chose nurturance speak of being uncertain of which way to go, and mentioning their ex-spouse in nearly every interaction I have with them.

My “scientific” conclusions are, after observing these situations:

  1. If I choose to take responsibility for my anger (an abrogation and dereliction of attending to my initial “mad”), and take the action that anger requests, I will likely move through and beyond it.
  2. If I choose to remain angry and nurture anger, I will likely become inextricably connected to the “object” of my anger.

There is an old saw in our culture: “Don’t get mad, get even.”

I don’t care for the implications of this saying, because I do not believe that “revenge” settles anything — I believe that it simply sets me on another cycle of karma with the person I supposedly “avenging” myself on.

However, if I look at the actual words “Get Even”, I think there might be something in this statement that I want to examine. Something about anger, action and energy exchange.

I believe that dishonesty/manipulation/deceit, etc., sets up an energetic imbalance between individuals. I do not believe that relationships can thrive and remain sustainable if energetic imbalances are not brought into balance (and the sooner, the better).

In observing the person who chose action in response to their anger, I noticed that they moved fairly quickly to directly addressing the energetic imbalance that had existed throughout their relationship with their ex-spouse. I heard from them full admission of their choice to participate in a relationship that had not been satisfying for them for many years.

Yes, this person experienced moments of great anger, which they vented to me quite clearly. However, in a very short time, they seemed to come to the conclusion that remaining angry without taking any real action was exhausting. Their energy, as they moved through their process, seemed extremely variable. They seemed to move in and out of various emotional states quickly — now feeling glad that it was over, now feeling mad about the betrayal, now feeling sad at the loss, now feeling scared about what might be next, now feeling bad about their own participation and self-betrayal. These states of feeling were often entertained simultaneously, or in quick succession.

In observing the person who chose nurturance of their anger, I noticed that, while they would occasionally acknowledge that they had been unsatisfied with the relationship for many years, they seemed to talk much more frequently about the betrayal. In listening to this person, the ongoing dynamic of the relationship seemed to me to be compressed and oversimplified into this “event”, and other persons involved in the event.

This person also experienced moments of great anger, which they vented to me quite clearly. I noticed, however, that there were very few other emotional experiences expressed. I heard much more rarely about any sadness at the loss of the ex-spouse, or feeling glad that it was over, or feeling bad about any self-betrayal. In fact, simultaneous (or conflicting) states of emotion were rarely expressed.

Which cycles me back to the words “get even”. I think that there is great healing potential in the idea of re-balancing long-term energy imbalance. I think this is the essential core of the concept of “revenge” — to somehow reclaim some form of energy imbalance that was created in the process of relating.

But (and as PeeWee always says — a very big BUT) I believe that I might be skating on very thin ice if I attempt to “become even” in a long-term relationship (that hasn’t been cleaned up and attended to along the way) based on a single event within that relationship.

Yes, you may have betrayed me. You may have committed the unspeakable and socially unacceptable act, upon which I can pounce and pronounce myself the John-Brown-holy-man, and you, the sinful reprobate — and then I can be socially sanctioned to remain angry at you forever!

But . . . .

But . . . .

It doesn’t feel any better, really, to be “right”, in the end. It doesn’t remove the longing ache of my sad at the loss of you in my life, the crushing pressure of my bad at my own self-betrayals, the terrifying loneliness of my scared, or my glad relief that finally, something has happened, if only an ending. “Being right” and “staying angry” only covers these emotions with a thing that (temporarily) feels more energetic and enlivening — my mad turned to anger –

The Beast I Feed.

The beast I fed.

I’m pretty dedicated to my pets. Even those who have been given to me, unbidden, I take seriously. I feed and care for them. I consider that I invited them at some level of my being, so I will not abandon them.

But you, Oh Beast of Anger?

I’m taking you to the pound.

===========================

(reprinted from This Is The Thing, 11/8/05)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:59 PM 5 comments Links to this post  

SNTDBIDW -- "Lay" the Blame

(OK -- now that we've got that other thing out of the way, let's get back to business, shall we?)

I'm a firm believer in keeping Power and Responsibility in the same place. I think they are so closely intertwined that it is, in reality, impossible to truly separate them. You can try, of course (and many people do).

"Blame", on the other hand? Well . . . . .

In the bare few days since the election, there's been a whole lot of . . . . . what's the word I'm looking for . . . . . .Coverage? No -- wait, I've nearly got it . . . . . . Media Exposure? No, that's not quite right, either . . . . Oh, here it is -- Shit! -- Yes, there's been a whole lot of Shit going around about how Teh Blacks are to blame for Proposition 8's passage.

I'm going to take this as the example in this installment of Shit Not To Do Because It Doesn't Work.

Let's start with a few basic principles:

Principle #1: "Laying", or "Placing" Blame may look quick and easy when you first go to it, but in fact, it usually takes quite a bit of mental gymnastics and twisting of logic in the end.

Principle #2: Finding where the Responsibility rests (as opposed to Laying/Placing Blame) requires very little mental energy -- because it already has a location -- you just have to look and see where the Power is.
  • Again -- using our example: First -- in this case, the major power behind the passage of Prop 8 was a huge influx of cash to fund a misinformation campaign -- so just Follow the Money -- go ahead -- check out that list, and do a google image search on the names of the top contributors. Of the top 4 contributors (those who funded Prop 8 with donations of more than $1 Million) -- 3 were not from California at all, but rather, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Go ahead -- check those individuals and organizations out -- see many faces of color there -- or any? Also, the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) was a major force in raising smaller donations, and mounted a huge signage and outreach campaign. The LDS -- you know -- that well-known seat of radical black-power?
Anyway -- my point is that, in this society, $$ = Power -- and as I said before, Power and Responsibility are inseparable.

Now, obviously, individual responsibility for each person's vote rests with the individual -- because that person had the power to pull the lever, press the button, or pencil-in the oval. So if you want to get mad at your neighbor, your mother, your friend, etc., who voted Yes on 8, go right ahead -- but get mad at them for their vote.

If you want to start placing responsibility at a more meta-level, better look for the ultimate source of collective power. (Clue words: Conservative, Wealthy, Patriarchal, Religious, and Predominantly White). Individuals who voted Yes on 8 may be like the cells in a body, but they would never have gotten to the polls without The Brain that was saturated in issues of control, repression, fear-mongering and intolerance.

Proponents of Prop 8 will be using this phrase a lot in the coming days, I imagine: "The People Have Spoken!!!!!!"

Well, not exactly. Since CA has a population of 36.5 million, registered voters of 17.3 mill, and a 62.5% turnout, actually only 29.6% of the people have spoken -- and 14.1% of them said "No".

Think of that. If California were a room full of 17 people (we'll just take the registered voters here), and they took a vote to do something important that would affect all of them in the future, and 6 of those people didn't vote at all (maybe they had a headache, were too busy at the canape tray, or were one of those "I hate meetings" people), and the remaining 11 voted 6-5 -- well, that's hardly a sweeping mandate, is it?

When the headache is over and canapes are gone, you've now got a group of people who are all now collectively responsible for a project that only 35% of them have clearly said they want to do, 30% of them clearly don't want to do it, and 35% of them don't seem to care. (BTW -- this is why I don't like our current democratic system.)

But back to the topic at hand: It seems to me that there's a tricksy-falseness going on with the whole thing in the aftermath of Prop 8 -- an odd, simultaneous --"THEY did it!" living side by side with "The people have spoken!"-- which I believe is all about an attempt to lay blame (shift responsibility) while retaining power.

Which doesn't, ultimately, work -- for the following reason: The neat thing about responsibility is that if you actually have it, it means that you also have power.

Which means if you don't like the consequences of your actions, when you take responsibility for them, you can change them. Cool, huh?

Of course, the bummer is that if you do shit that you can't really stand behind (I am so sick of hearing the phrase "I don't hate gay people, but . . . . . "), you are still responsible for your action, because you had the power to take it.

(And this post is not even touching on the intricacies of how The Brain probably courted and played quite intentionally on existing homophobia within populations that they normally don't give a shit about.)

Let's take this to a more mundane and familiar example: Teenagers.

Raising adolescents is widely reported to be a total bitch (I would confirm this). I think it's a power and responsibility thing.

Teenagers are all about coming into their power as adults. However, in our society, they are considered kids (for whom the parents have responsibility) until they are 18.

Ask a parent of a teen -- they will probably admit to you that they realize that they can't actually control their kid. The dance of teens and parents in this culture usually relies on a tacit agreement that we're not going to say out loud what we all know:

That we can't control them, and they know we can't control them, and we know they know we can't control them, and they know we know this.

Legally, the kid can't be completely responsible until they're 18 (unless they emancipate early) -- and so ensues the awful struggle for them to somehow wrest little bits of power away where they can. Shutting us out of their rooms. Sneaking out at night. Standing in the middle of an argument and speaking in the broad light of day the dirty little secret that is so carefully avoided when cooler heads prevail: "You can't make me!"

On the parental side, we are frustrated by our kid's insistence on increasing power while attempting to avoid responsibility. We chafe at the unfairness of being held responsible for the actions of someone else over whom we really do not have power.

I am intentionally using both a collective and an individual example of what happens when responsibility and power do not dwell firmly together, because I believe that this is an issue which runs from top to bottom in our culture.

I also find the second example a bit amusing, in light of the LDS' statement yesterday:
"The Church calls on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information."
-- which, in this case -- since the Yes on 8 relied so heavily on erroneous information, is like a parent saying "Do as I say, not as I do".

Which will drive your teenager crazy.

But I digress.

This statement from the LDS came in response to protests which have been brought right to their doorstep -- and I believe that is an extremely effective tactic -- it indicates that protesters have located the site of responsibility -- right where the power is.

The LDS is squirming under this. LDS Spokesman Scott Trotter said Friday:
"Millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States - that of free expression and voting,"
Well, yeah, but no other faith group that represents only 2% of the CA population provided 47% of the funding for Prop 8. No other faith group (that we know of) issued letters from the highest elders of their church designed to directly influence the vote, or broadcasted messages encouraging their members to "go viral". Whether this activity violates the 501(c)3 requirements of the LDS is yet to be seen -- but the wielding of power is undeniable.

It's kind of funny (in an "ouch" way) isn't it -- the LDS wants to be a bad parent (Do as I say . . . . ) and a bad teenager (You're so mean! All the others kids were doing it!) -- all at the same time.

You want the Power? Guess what comes with it.

[/end homo rant portion]

To apply this lesson more generally: If you're ever wonder whether you're "laying" Blame rather than letting Responsibility "rest" where it belongs, notice how much effort is involved -- and where the Power is.
================
Part IV in an ongoing series. SNTDBIDW -- Part One, Two & Three Here

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:42 PM 2 comments Links to this post