Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Someone else's insecurity

This is directed at a particular person but if any part of it touches anyone else, and you see yourself in there, I hope it helps the process.
I've been feeling bad about a few things lately and I think I am done with them taking up space in my brain. First of all, I'm not going to feel bad about my excellent education and the brilliant family I was born into.
If you did not have said excellent education, this does not make you lesser than me and I don't look down on you. I should only have to say that once, and my actions have clearly showed that my whole life. I was never the kind of girl to make you feel bad because you didn't go to college and I am done justifying that.
If you feel bad about your own situation, then go to school, don't try to make me feel bad because I worked my ass off to get my education. This is something I am proud of because I earned it. It wasn't handed to me. I paid for it and I valued it and I worked for it.
And even if I hadn't, the fact that you feel bad about yourself is only something I can have sympathy for, not something I should be shamed or marked with. That is now and forever- your problem.
Second- I am not an intimidating person. I'm intelligent, well read and well educated but I am warm and down to earth and I don't make you feel stupid. You do that all by yourself. I did not invalidate your opinion, you did that all on your own. If I don't agree with you, that doesn't necessarily mean that I don't have respect for what you think, I just don't agree. I have the same hopes, fears and anxieties as any other human being.
I spent my life honing the skill of talking to people on their level with their language so that they feel comfortable and if you are feeling uncomfortable because of my background or my education or someone in my family who had money, that is not my problem.
Do you think that I have never been intimidated by someone?
I'm done apologizing for your insecurities. I have my own to deal with and I have done all I can to make you feel comfortable. Have you done as much for me? Why is it that I am the one who should step out of my comfort zone for you?
I do it every single time. I don't mind. I like people. I find value in every person I have met, rich or poor, educated or not. I don't have standards like that for my friends. This is a skill I have and I am happy with it and proud of it. I didn't miss out on that person because I wouldn't talk to him or her for some petty reason.
I sincerely hope that you figure out all of this very soon because my patience with you is at an end. I felt sad, then I felt rejected, then I felt desperate and now I am done feeling all of those things. If you miss out on my friendship, that is your problem, too. At this point what I am feeling, finally is angry that you could treat our friendship like this.
I am thinking now that I have the power to be done with you right now and that if at the end of your hissy fit, if I am not there, you will have brought this on yourself.

Shopping trip

Yesterday, the question was asked, how did the shopping go?

This task reminded me of when I was out of my own for the very first time and all I had in my pocket was $30 to spend and we did not know when we would have more money. I was moving out on my own for the first time and after all the moving expenses and whatnot, we were left with $30. I had no parental or family support and no job. I was young and optimistic, and I didn't realize how long it was going to take to get a job, what, they don't fall off trees?

It was the first time I had been inside a grocery store not begging my mother for some treat or another (that is how young I was) and suddenly the cost of everything hit me full force. I had no idea how long this food had to last. I don't remember the whole shopping trip. I remember that $30 was a lot more then than it is now. Generic bread cost .25 and cans of tuna were cheap. I remember not being able to buy a full gallon of milk, which is what I had to face doing this week.

The harsh realities of facing this was a lesson I never forgot. I was thinking about this in light of the fact that I had olive oil night before last. There is no way I could afford to have olive oil. I wouldn't have made that choice back then. I would have taken one look at the price tag and gotten the vegetable oil. I skipped lunch so I could do that and stay under budget but really I am not sure that is in the nature of this challenge. If I was really faced with that restriction, I wouldn't have let myself have olive oil. If I was going to splurge on something and deny myself lunch, I would have that treat my child wanted and made do. I'm actually ashamed of myself for eating healthy in light of what it costs and what it cost my family.

Is it any wonder we are in an obesity epidemic? Why do we have to choose terrible foods to fill ourselves with when we could eat healthy? The fact of the matter is, we might be able to make better choices once we are educated for sure but it will still be beyond our reach financially if something doesn't change.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 3 of the Snap challenge

I should note that I started this early because I am going out of town this weekend and wouldn't have time to complete the week eating at home, which is the idea. For everyone else, the challenge begins today and I wish them all luck.

Today, I went to the grocery store. I shop at Sam's a good deal but that is not allowed on the challenge, so I just went to Schnucks and did my regular shopping. Sometimes I go to Aldi's but I find there aren't enough healthy options there. Too many prepackaged and unhealthy options and not enough good choices. For the right price and healthy options, Trader Joe's is always a good bet, unfortunately, there are too many things they don't carry, I love them but they are way too small. I made sure and took note of the prices on everything I had at home so I could properly budget my week. I found apple juice on sale for only .97- the no sugar added kind, the good kind.

Since I didn't eat yesterday, I wanted to try to eat really well today but I decided to skip lunch so I could have a healthy dinner. I know I didn't eat yesterday but I still wanted to stay within the rules of the challenge.

This morning I had two scrambled eggs and used spray canola oil. This breakfast cost me around 22 cents- hey, great start! The canola oil cost around $1.50 a can and I probably get around a hundred sprays out of it, that's pretty cost effective, about 2 cents a spray. I wanted to have chicken breast for dinner and I like olive oil. It is kind of expensive to cook with, even though it is one of the most healthy oils, so I tried to see if I could afford it. I'll spare you the math, the portion I used was going to cost me .66. The cheapest option out there is generic vegetable oil, but that is also the most unhealthy. The next best would be canola oil, a passable substitute. By skipping lunch, I could afford the olive oil and I decided to go with it, a kind of sacrifice but one nonetheless.

Bone in chicken is definitely cheaper than boneless and healthwise, it's no better or worse. I used a tablespoon of flour and a quarter teaspoon seasoning for the chicken, fresh green beans, one baked potato and an ounce of fresh spinach.

After all of this, including a pat of butter and a half a tablespoon of sour cream, I have spent:

$4.22 for the whole day.

Really, I could not have afforded to have lunch at all, I have only .28!I'm going to have a cup of tea in a little bit so that will really be gone then.

I made healthy choices but at what cost. I think now one can begin to see how some of these healthy choices aren't really options if you are budgeting so little. These are the best choices you can make at the time, I see all the choices I probably should have made to stay within budget and still have three meals.

What I really refuse to give up is organic milk, the health cost is simply too high and I will have to make compromises in other areas of my food budget. I made a conscious decision that I no longer drink milk with Rbgh hormone in it and neither do my children and I have not done so in five years. I simply did not have any milk today and I guess I'll have to take some vitamin D. This is a challenge that reveals something new every day.

Post Fast

I think that experience actually changed me. I know it's only been one day and I kind of feel a bit crappy but there are things I understand today that I did not understand yesterday.
I was, I think waiting for some kind of epiphany yesterday but also just trying to survive the hunger. At the end I was just counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds til I could eat again. But more importantly, I went about the business of not eating for an entire day and I fed my children, and I was not at all resentful or jealous of what they were eating- at one point, my daughter made herself pop tarts and the smell was delightful and usually I want nothing to do with pop tarts. I have kind of outgrown them but the smell yesterday was enticing.
Yesterday was an experiment in not only abstaining, am I strong enough to forgo my basic instinct for food when there is plenty in the house and what can I fill myself with instead?
The most important thing I understood was that I have strength of spirit, and that I am able to accomplish what I set my mind to. I honestly have never thought before that I could finish a fast. I always thought that I would be too weak, too dizzy, too short of fortitude and none of those things are true. Yesterday I was focused on the more immediate. I knew that I was going to be able to think about little else. Your body goes into survival mode when one of your needs is not met but I found yesterday, I could write coherently, think coherently and everything took on this basic clarity.
Preparing food for my children became this surreal and genuine experience. Because the act was entirely giving and I was not partaking, it took on this loving and giving that I don't always feel. I was not the least bit interested in what I wanted but wholly concerned with the act of nurturing this other human being. I know I have done this before. Many times I have made food for others that I did not intend to partake of but somehow this act yesterday, in light of my own conscious decision to not eat became more spiritual, more wonderful and more loving an act. I don't know if I can adequately describe the emotion that it stirred in me. I wasn't thinking at all about my portion and none of it was about me at all but I felt I had been given this gift to be able to give to them with a pure heart. It didn't feel like an obligation. Many times making meals for the kids feels like something I have to do that is a burden. Yesterday it was a gift.
I wondered what I would get out of this experience. And once again it was a surprise. So, in spite of my weaker condition today and I definitely feel the after effects of putting my body through that ordeal but I also feel more powerful, more in control of myself. Look what I did that I didn't even know I could do, it's a miraculous discovery every time it happens. I know it is simple but I did not know I was capable of doing this on purpose and that is a gift to know about oneself, that I am still discovering what I can do.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hunger Blog from Facebook notes

Living on $4.50 a day is easy today, but one of the reasons this is an exercise in empathy is to feel the restriction, to feel the hunger. So today, I am fasting, and feeling the hunger. I have decided not to abstain from water and tea. This will make my total cost less than a dollar.

Halfway through this day, I admit, I am very hungry, especially considering I have to make and prepare food for my children, but it is like anything else I have to abstain from, right now it is food that I am abstaining from. And this is what people feel every day who cannot afford to eat. When I think of this, I concentrate on this feeling, I realize how long it has been since I have really felt hungry. I used to feel hungry all the time, spiritually and physically.

When I was a very young mother, I used to get up, feed the kids breakfast but never eat it myself. My breakfast was a Dr. Pepper and a cigarette. Hmmm, healthy. I rarely ate before 3 PM, I would have some kind of late lunch rushed and then most time after I put the kids to bed dinner. Oddly enough, I was obsessed with feeding those kids in the most healthy way possible. They always had a green vegetable on their plate but I never took care of myself. Is it any wonder I was so depressed in those early years? I am not sure where I was on that list of things I had to do. I finally started eating properly and giving myself a healthy diet much later, and in that way, even though I was never and still usually am not hungry for breakfast, I always make myself eat it. I used to live with this gnawing hunger in my gut, all the time. It is quite symbolic, looking back at that.

So today, I feel this familiar feeling. I know people feel it all the time. For them, it is not self imposed. For millions of people, the gnawing feeling is something they ignore, like I am doing. For so many mothers are cutting up the last apple in the house and giving it to their hungry kids, and abstaining from it themselves because she cannot bear to see her child's hungry eyes. Today, I stand in solidarity with all the mothers who are giving up their own needs to feed their babies and I wish for them to be filled. I stay hungry today and consider these mothers. I understood them better than I knew. I just had to remember what it felt like.


Today is Yom Kippur. I am not Jewish but I like traditions, and I like days that are meaningful and I like shared experiences. I have had several crises of faith over the last several months. The more I go to church, the more hypocrisy and simpering bigotry I have found, which is why I didn't used to go to church. I want to be inspired, not shamed.
But I digress. I have never celebrated Yom Kippur before. I was raised by a Methodist and an Atheist and you know, Christians kind of ignore Jewish holidays. Kind of a shame if you ask me, especially to ignore a cool one like this one. I have decided to fast today. I'm not really doing it correctly because I'm not giving up water or beverages but I am abstaining from solid food for 25 hours. I started a little late because I didn't know I was going to be doing it, but I figure, God, if he exists, won't care. It isn't really about that anyway.
I'm not doing it for any religious reason. I think atonement is good for the soul in general. I am spending the day thinking of how to be a better person, accepting and acknowledging my past wrongs over the last year and thinking deeply about how I want to live my life is a good thing.
I looked up how to observe Yom Kippur and there are all kinds of rules, but Leviticus annoys me so I am taking the lesson in a pure sense and ignoring his misogynist ass. This guy thought it was a sin to mix fabrics and sit near menstruating women, he was clearly nuts. But this day of atonement is kind of a neat idea. A whole day to devote to thinking about oneself in a manner that allows for spiritual growth, for personal growth and for whatever else comes of the experience.
I decided to fast for the experience of it, but given the fact that I tend to have a bit of hypoglycemia, I decided that it was most unnecessary to give up water and tea, so that is all I have had since midnight.
I have taken up my time with many things, some of which involves making the other people in the house food. I thought this would be harder than it is, but much like anything you are abstaining from, it just becomes something I am not doing. Also, I have taken on the challenge of trying to eat on $4.50 a day for a week as part of a personal empathy challenge so I am spending about .75 on tea for the whole day.
The other thing is that I wanted to feel hunger. I haven't felt real hunger in a long time. I used to feel it all the time, it was a part of my life, this gnawing, pestering force in my life. I want to feel it spiritually and physically and overcome it like I used to. Also, this is something children have to feel every day, children living in poverty who aren't making a choice but are forced to live that way because that is what they were born into.
I'm fortunate not to be hungry all the time. Even when I was, it was mostly self imposed. And I kind of had a way out. So, this is the middle of the journey. I will see where the hollow feeling leaves me. Maybe I will have the opportunity to fill with other things.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bitter and Circumspect

Do I have time for a regret or two? Do you ever wonder about the road not traveled? I wrote a story once about a woman who had an embryo frozen in time until she could emotionally handle carrying it. It's not so science fiction now, is it? The biggest decision later was going to be what would she do when she knows now what she didn't know then.
I still like that story but now I would write it softer, with less hard hitting drama and more layers in between. Writing that, thinking that, ripped me open from the deepest place. Those are the moments that define your life and you don't get choices like that over again.
Today is the birthday of a man I kind of wish I had never met. There were moments in knowing him that I became so strong, so sure of myself and so determined but he really came in and messed up my life.
I have no one to blame but myself. I could have walked away, should have walked away, did walk away eventually. After many things were too late. The side effects of this man weren't so bad. Some of the people he brought to my life are incredible, some of the things he put me through made me realize I have such incredible strength and yet I wonder how many crossroads would have been different if he had not been there. If he had just left me alone.
I think the object most of the time is to say to yourself, well, I'm grateful about where I am today and if I changed things, I wouldn't be there. But sometimes I just want to say FUCK THAT.

When Death Kindly Stopped for her

Night before last, I made arrangements via facebook to have lunch with my friend Anne. We have been friends since the sixth grade and she moved to Italy when she was in college and remained there after. We kind of drifted a little apart in high school but never to the point we didn't talk to one another or have mutual respect for one another.
She has always been dear to me and I regret spending less time with her in high school than I should have. I didn't keep in touch with her for many years not knowing where she was. Facebook, in fact brought us back together and we had a lovely reunion meeting last year where we attempted to catch up some decades. Impossible task but most enjoyable meeting.
I found the same loving and wonderful person I had always known and the years just melted away. I was beyond grateful she had been in my life. I told her how her friendship had lifted me up at a time when I needed a friend and the constant comfort, trust and genuine goodness in her was such a gift.
She's a real person, always has been, there was never an ounce of pretense to our friendship. It was this honest and wonderful friendship. She was never jealous and was always generous with me, even when I drifted away from her. It means a lot to get to tell someone how you really feel. And to thank someone for being a real friend.
We have had a few opportunities for get togethers since she has been in town every six months.
The sad part was her mother had Alzheimer's and was in a nursing home so the reason she comes to town for a week is to spend time with her, every six months.
Within the hour of making lunch plans, her mother passed away, so naturally we postponed. It's a miracle that this happened while she was in town, given how the odds were so against it, but I am glad she was here. So this is the second friend of mine who has become an orphan this month.
Still not something I want to think about. But I am glad that I can be there to offer her my support and compassion and friendship. I called her tonight to see how the day was. It makes my heart heavy to think of her going through this- to think that I will likely have to go through this myself. And that none of us get out alive.
But it does give me fortitude to live my life now. I'm blessed to have such a sweet and caring friend and I'm glad to be there for her at this time in our lives. It is my theory that sometimes death is kind enough to stop for us and especially for an Alzheimer's patient. And death was kind enough to let her loving daughter be there when he stopped by to pick her up. My friend's father who passed away recently, and was also suffering from dementia, as I gave my condolences to his brother, who I did not really know, I took his hand and said "I am so sorry for your loss."
He said "Yeah, so am I, but I'm not at the same time. I'm glad he got to go when he was ready and it was time." Sometimes there is a great kindness in death.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In retrospect, now I see

Friday, I went to the memorial service for my friend's father, Larry. He was a writer, an editor for the Post, long retired, he had been suffering from dementia for quite some time. That is always an intellectuals great fear, our bodies going is one thing but the mind is our treasure.
I really wish I had spent more time talking to him in life, he was a fascinating man, his wife, even more so. They were very much involved in the civil rights movement, he and his wife were from Alabama. He was one of those rare men who supported his wife, Sidney absolutely, even if he didn't necessarily agree. And his wife was a spitfire(sadly, she died of leukemia in 1993). Larry would sit at the lunch counters and when a black man would walk in and ask to be served, Larry would tell the counter man, "Go ahead and serve him, don't bother me."
He was the example for better behavior and I wonder if he knows how much he changed the world. As a writer, he brought this experience to the world. Sidney was one of those brave people protesting the war and marching for civil rights and speaking out with the confidence to be admired. I knew her only as the woman who drove us to school once a week. How I missed out.
I rode in carpool with their only daughter, Suzy. She was the shiny and positive person in the car and, like me, had three brothers. I always appreciated her happy face in the mornings, though I said very little, she was my favorite person in the car that consisted of girls who would not socialize but lived near one another.
Later, when I was in high school, I met her older brother, Todd and briefly considered dating him. I liked him quite a bit, he was always fun to hang around with but he never quite got around to asking me out. One summer night, he walked me home and we stopped on the corner and kissed for about twenty minutes but there was never any follow up. He was too shy to bring it up again and I was too flighty to be caught that summer. Still, it evolved into a nice, comfortable friendship and he ended up being best man at my wedding because he is very good friends with my husband.
At the memorial service, people were invited to tell their favorite stories of Larry and I found out so much more that I didn't know. Growing up, my husband spent quite a bit of time at their house and I can't help but think, since his own parents were divorced when he was young, he must have absorbed some of this example of a strong marriage. After all, I am in the rare position of having a husband who will back me no matter what. It seems like he got a piece of that somewhere and I heard that over and over at the memorial. It was beautiful to hear about a man who not only loved his wife, but valued the woman he was married to. The last time I was with Larry, he told me the story of how his daughter changed schools and why they supported that with her. His devotion to how she felt and where her life decisions were going to take her touched me deeply.
Not having a very understanding father myself, I really valued this conversation. I wish I had known these people better but I think somehow, they touched my life in more ways than I can know.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Ups and Downs

I returned from a lovely eleven days in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening. I slept on the couch of a dear friend that whole time and drove a little white Kia Soul. Interesting sometimes what happens to my soul while in LA.
My friend observed that I spent very little time messing around and set up meeting after meeting to get things done. Time is precious out there and I need to fill it with progress or I can't sit still. I had time to go to the beach and to socialize and to really relax. One whole day after a morning meeting, I spent the afternoon at the beach and the pool. It was gorgeous. I don't think a day went by when I had nothing to do. My time booked up very quickly and I took the networking very seriously.
But as it always happens, the anxiety and stress are tremendous. I go from calm to terrified in a matter of seconds. Everything I do feels crucially important. Every moment could potentially turn into a break or a disaster. I ride high on hopes and dreams and crash hard on 'lovely to meet you, maybe next time'. The ride is almost always twisting and turning in directions that I never saw it going.
I should have been prepared for Marissa. I wasn't prepared to market my daughter and I don't think I really truly saw what would happen if I put her in my movie.
You hope, you dream, you try to make plans but the fact remains, the business I have chosen has no clear cut path.
This isn't like "I've decided to become a doctor."
Great, here is your path. First you get into college, and honestly you can get into any number of colleges and you study hard, pass and get your degree, now you go to graduate school, first you intern, then you are a resident, perhaps you would like to pursue private practice. Then you apply for jobs because now you are qualified. You interview and you get hired. Now you are in your chosen profession.
I have had people mock my degree. And they can go ahead and do that. I don't care. I'm proud of it anyway, I didn't get it for anyone else. It doesn't make me smarter or taller. It makes me happy and gives me a feeling of accomplishment because I started and finished something that was difficult.
So, that is kind of the path I am on right now. Trying to accomplish something that is difficult. And I'm working on the path. In a sense I have to forge my own path like the people did before me.
I'm smart and I'm talented and I am a really good writer. I will pursue this as long as it takes. I have heard no and maybe and let me get back to you more times than I care to mention.
My daughter has an interview with an LA agent in two weeks. I am making progress with my own works. It's a process. I had disappointments along the way and I am sure I will have more, but I am undeterred.
While I was on the second leg of my return, from Houston to St. Louis, I wrote myself a note. It said
"Not everyone will like all of what you do all of the time. This does not make it bad, all this means is that that person has an opinion. There are people in this world who don't like Shakespeare and Monty Python.
Not everyone will appreciate me all the time, but I must stay strong in my belief in myself and my own ability and unwavering in my task. I will always allow myself the time to cry when I am hurt and disappointed but I will never stop picking myself up and moving on. Hang on to the knowledge that the brick walls are not there to keep me out, they are there to show me how high I can climb."
It is with a steely ambition that I continue my pursuit. I have never been a quitter and I'm not about to quit now. This is not an easy path, people keep telling me that. It's not the easy I desire. It's the clear cut. I'm getting used to that not happening! So, I had my share of disappointments when I was out there, and I felt the sting of it.
But I also had my share of exciting developments. I'm going to hold on to those.

Monday, September 6, 2010

As if

As I sit here with the weight of a misunderstanding sitting heavy on my heart, an unresolved issue, a deep hurt, I learned of the passing of a friend's father and it all seems to ball together in this mess of sad.
I've been pestering my husband to go and spend time with his friend whose father has been lying on his death bed for the last few days. Go and see him, call him. He does send him a message on facebook, an act I find excruciatingly underwhelming. Hours ago, I find out that he passed on Saturday.
We will go to the funeral if it is at all possible. So far I can find no details on the arrangements. This is not a casual friend. He was best man at our wedding. I have urged my husband for the last four days to find his phone number and he won't. My anger is thinly veiled at this point. He looks at me when I make suggestions and agrees they are good ideas, then does nothing. Since they were closer, I have been deferring to him, but I'm frustrated with his lack of action.
I know he cares- I'm just tired of pushing and micromanaging.
Last night while having a casual conversation, my friend managed to misinterpret me so completely that I feel almost as if it was on purpose- that she very deliberately picked a fight. Over something I never said.
That seems like the worst part-
I agreed with a friend of hers. I said- on balance I tend to agree with him because he's a well read and intelligent man. She says "So I'm stupid and uneducated?"
How do you get there? Yeah, that's what I said. Not. I mean, I couldn't have said anything further from that. She stuck around long enough to insult me and tell me of course that is the conclusion she reached because that is what I meant. Wow. Now I can't even own what I meant.
To make matters worse, I am now unfriended and blocked and she did not answer my phone call or my email in an attempt to talk it out.
And honestly, what that means is she is not ready to admit she was wrong and overreacted. Does that sound really full of myself? I cannot even see that I actually did anything wrong here. I just really believe she chose to take it that way. To believe that about me is to fundamentally be that obtuse to who I am.
So, I am done trying to talk to her.
Clearly, she does not want to talk to me and talk about it in any rational way. Clearly she did not want to hear me say that of course I value her and her opinion and know her to be intelligent and well read. She wants to hold on to the anger and resentment and make this into a huge thing.
While telling others to work it out. Irony. It's not just for breakfast.
So, I sit here with a knot in my stomach. I hate it when my friends are mad at me and I can't even talk to her. It literally tears me to shreds and throbs and sits like a huge heavy weight. But what can I do but wait? The waiting makes me angry.
The infusion of learning of my friend's father's death puts a perspective on it.
Is this petty bullshit really important? How long do I stay mired in it?
Most of all, I am resentful that I even have to be in this stupid and resentful place.
There are more important things here.