Stupid Girls

Thursday, February 26, 2009

don't get me wrong

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My whole life has been littered with serious trauma: devistating events, physical and psychological. Psychologists point to any one of these as being events which cause people to become addicted, self-abusing or suicidal. And, believe me, I've struggled with all of that, too.

After my baby died (I can't remember if you knew about that; ask me, if you don't), I decided my suicidal ideations about the event would NOT be a fitting memorial for her. So, I sought counselling thru the Uni. (which would no longer be available to me, under similar circumstances, because of budget cuts). I cited several "symptoms" ('tho I prefer "challenges," but the medical model is pretty dysfunctional) which she said were strong indicators of frontal lobe brain damage. Medicaid, of course, will not cover diagnostic procedures (CAT scan, MRI) which would verify a diagnosis. Therefore, I don't qualify for services available to people with brain injuries. In my docu on brain injury, I learned that apx. 80% of brain injuries go undiagnosed. And only 20% of diagnosed brain injuries actually receive treatment. I met some WONDERFUL activists & advocates, all BI survivors, during my production. They've been a great help.

In addition, I now have an official diagnosis of PTSD, so I'm much better able to handle my life-long symptoms. I went undiagnosed for both 'til I was 40 years old.

In the course of my counselling, I began journaling pretty seriously. One night, while journaling on a completely seperate issue, I lay back in the chair to rest and let things come to me. I had a vivid memory. My mother's fingers with red nail polish. I was laying on my diaper changing table. To my left, on the wall, hung painted, wooden plaques of the dish & the spoon, etc. Apparantly, I had deficated and the feces was in my labia. My mother was trying to tear off my labia minora and clitoris with her nails. I got up from the memory and went to the family photo album. There was a photo of that room that was only arranged the way I'd remembered it at one time in my life: I was 18 months old.

I have never been able to sit comfortably for any period of time. School chairs, which are hard, hurt me so badly that I was always in trouble for fidgetting, getting up to walk around, and never sitting still. Hence, a diagnosis of hyperactivity and an onslaught of psychotropics that sent my IQ score from 168 to 69 on the Stanford Binet (however it's spelled) scale: genius to "retarded," overnight.

I hate wearing jeans, because of the seams.

Now, I never knew I had any damage. I thought everybody felt pain when they sat. And female genitalia is so varied, how could I know there was something odd about mine? My left labia minora has a huge scar, running up to the clitoral hood, with a 1/4 inch nick in it. The labia portrudes so much, it folds and loses blood flow. It hurts a lot: falls asleep, burns, aches. Has done my whole life. I won't consider vaginoplasty, as the wound is so close to my clitoris, and I don't want to lose function or sensitivity. I'm also afraid those ham handed surgeons will cause MORE pain, fiddling around near my clitoris and damaging nerves.

So, I wear very baggy pants, only when it's really too cold for skirts and dresses. I wear men's boxer briefs, because of the large pouch in the front that cups my vulva without any pressure. I seldom wear underwear, however. It just hurts. I padded my bike seat. I hated riding bicycles.

The cycle of trauma in my life seems permanent. This society just doesn't cope well with people with "invisible" disabilities. People know I'm smart and say, "you have so much potential, but you're wasting it." I am not; I'm surviving serious restrictions on my ability to function "normally" in a very sick society. And I've done it with dignity, class, resourcefulness and creativity. I've even managed to contribute positively to society more than I've been a burden to it.

I have nothing of which I feel shame and guilt, even the sick stuff. Yes, I have committed myself to live a life of honor and ethics. That causes me quite a bit of static from the culture at times. So what? I'm in excellent company there.

I still have an addiction to cigarettes, even though it killed my father and I have a diagnosis of early stage emphysema. I can reverse most of the damage, if I can stop smoking. Until I've recovered from the latest events enough to believe I can interact with the people of this reactionary town, I'm not going to attempt to quit, but only to monitor my consumption enough to maintain my dopamene levels.

My brain chemistry is such that I automatically go into suicidal ideatins under traumatic triggers. I flash back to previous traumas. My first reaction is violence. It takes a great deal of self control to recognize my reacions and act my way out of them. Suicidal ideations and violent impulses are VERY seductive. I have to be vigilent. I have to behave in healthy ways, especially when I feel absolutely NO motivation to do so. I have to create protections around me during healthy times, so I'm better able to cope during crises.

I am aware that I will probably die as I've lived: alone, misunderstood (perhaps even mocked, ridiculed and under assault). I've been preparing for that, as the moment of death is sacred to me, and I want to go there as well as I can, by my own standards. By preparing for death, I've learned valuable skills in preparing for life. I apply what I've learned about my deepest fears to everyday moments, and it works very well. It occurs to me not many people practice thse exercises, and stumble through their lives in total denial of their own deaths. I made choices and decisions in my past, based on these illusions and denial of my mortality. I wasted some time as a result. Now, because I know I'm going to die, my life is more focused on making useful contributions to those who will survive me. I have no family, no children, no close associations (as in: daily, familial, intimate friendships, etc.), so culture and society replace these. If I can't mother, I can volunteer. If I can't be intimate with a partner, I can create art, radio, recipes, conversations, physical spaces that are passionate, loving, nurturing and giving. These are what's important to me now.

I have several lessons from Rachel. I'm more capable of patience and acceptance than I ever would have believed. I'm capable of truly loving beyond gender; I am pansexual.Genitals mean nothing to me. While I agree with the feminist arguments re: male privilege, I've been very fortunate in my selections of partners. I've been with very excellent people. All had baggage, and most of that, combined with my own, were reasons for ending the partnerships.I learned that I do not choose to partner again. My own needs are a much higher priority than trying to accomodate an other. I learned from Rachel that I can never be closeted about any aspect of my life, especially if it's just to make another person feel more comfortable with their fears. That's codependent, too. Fears are challenges, meant to be faced directly, healed and used as personal strenghts. They are not to be avoided. I learned from Rachel that prissy people really trigger me and I shouldn't expose myself to them for extended periods; they impact my self esteem and really piss me off. I also learned that, while I choose not to involve myself intimately again, I am capable of great love, eroticism, passion, support, generosity, playfulness, intimacy and advocacy. I apply these to myself now and I share them with others whenever appropriate or possible (but without actual sexuality, in the latter case).

You've been in partnership for many decades. The two of you have raised excellent kids and now grandkids. You've formed long lasting friendships. You've been real assets to your communities. Because I didn't know myself very well when we first knew each other, I made the mistake of setting you up as a role model. I thought the way for me to be was like you & Bettina. I truly support your collective academic work, your relationship, your child rearing tactics, your commuity work. But it isn't my life. I'm very glad, however, that you're doing what you do. 

I finally learned that there are as many ways to contribute as there are beings on the planet (not just human), and that each of these beings must express that contribution in its own way, with its own skills, resources, capacities, experiencial variables, etc.Part of my being tested as a genius was that I felt obliged to be good at everything. I was never CONSCIOUS of this unrealisic presumption, of course, but I tried like hell to live up to it, anyway.

I play this silly game, where monkeys shoot ballons. The object is to shoot all the balloons before they escape, and you only get a finite number of balloons. Each round gets harder. It requires making strategic choices about what skills to "buy" to accomplish this. It requires willingness to let some balloons escape, so one can get things one needs for the subsequent rounds. It requires stifling urge to panic and impulsively acquire something that, in the long run, is not in the best interest of the task.It requires acknowledging that it's impossible to be perfect; some balloons must be lost (increasing the potential not to complete the task) in order to continue playl It requires the willingness to stop, when I see I've made a nonproductive decision, analyze what I did that wasn't constructive, and start over again at the same level, often repeatedly, until I get it "right." I truly love this game. It's a metaphor. Plus, I like the sound effects of explosions and shooting, without "killing" anything.It's monkeys, shooting balloons. It's ridiculous. I like that metaphor, too.

I used to feel bad about having such a lousy memory. Acutely, I'd feel guilty for not remembering people's names, when to pay bills, etc. And, of course, I felt bad that I couldn't remember more of my life. I created a memory device for myself by collecting momentos of important memories. These help. They're anything from ticket stubs to rocks & shells,stuffed animals, even articles of clothing. People frequently comment -- or complain, if they're helping me move -- that I have a lot of stuff. I used to feel guilty about that, too: materialistic, acquisitive, etc. Well, it's not like I'm collecting antiques or krugerands or something. I tell them they're looking at my brain, my memory which, out of necessity, I must house outside my skull. I now know everybody's worried about forgetting. That's why they take photos. That's why they promise to "love you forever." They're frantic that memories will be lost. I had to let that go. I have huge, dark places in my personal history that won't be recovered.

But there are advantages to bad memory. I can't hold grudges, because I just can't remember why I was angry. Doesn't mean I won't aproach that person with caution, but then, I have to approach everybody with cautious optimism; I can't trust my judgment. Hope for the best and plan for the worst, I always say.

The other advantage is that I get to go back to things I've done before. I remember that I did them, but I don't remember what it was like. Movies, books are good examples. As I start to reexperience them, I start to remember and, I think, I get new stuff from them, because my own life and experiences have changed, so I get more out of them than I probably did the first time. For instance: I recently realixed the Hummel family in Alcott's _Little Women_ (the "German," single mother with the baby who died of scarlet fever and infected Beth) was probably Jewish, wasn't speaking "German," but Yiddish. The social activists of the day -- and Alcott, a Unitarian, was deeply involved in this -- were helping Jews relocate from slums in New York and Mass., onto abandoned farms, in hopes they'd have healthier lives. Most of these Jews were middle class in Europe, and knew relatively little about farming, so the experiment met with mixed success.

So, not remembering means that, beyond some hazy residual memories, everything is always new again. This helps with the monkey game. It doesn't have an infinate number of levels, 'though the number of potential alternatives of choices is mind boggling. Every time I play, it's like the first time, but with slightly better strategy skills and more willingness to make mistakes. Again, it's a good metaphor.

I get hurt a lot because I take risks a lot. I'm not talking about reckless, self destructive stuff, 'though I've done that, too.Peope laugh and ridicule when I fall on my face. That's ok. If I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have goats, audio editing skills, the experience of loving someone with singular genitalia and psychological landscape....... 

As you know, I've been having trouble, acquiring groceries. I LOVE Sunflower Markets in Albq. Paul bought me ONE shipment of groceries, found it too confusing, and pooped out on me. Well, I researched stores in Clovis (60 mi. east), but it's too far for me to go and I hate asking people to take me when they go. I'm buying some groceries online, which is great! But I REALLY want fresh produce, grains, seeds, nuts, dried fruits and the EXCELLENT sausages and cheeses at Sunflower. So, after several attempts to get people in Albq. to shop for me, I finally emailed the store. Guess what? They're going to shop and deliver my foods to me! The BEST food in the state at the MOST reasonable prices, ANYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm looking forward to 1 of each variety of pork sausages on sale this week, white cheddar cheese, fresh asparagus at TWO DOLLARS A POUND, cilantro, radishes, green onions and tomatoes so fresh, they taste like you just walked outside and picked them off the vine for eighty eight cents a pound, all produced without pesticides and other harmful chemicals. And shipping for 20# is less than fifteen dollars. "Normal" people in Albq. could easily spend that on gasoline to drive to the store!

If I hadn't asked, it wouldn't have happened! And the store is actually thanking ME for wanting to shop there! HAH! And the guy taking my order has legally changed his name to "anomen:" "no name," which is now becoming a family tradition, as his siblings and cousins begin naming their babies. Interesting!

I don't feel sorry for myself. Yes, I get very frightened, lonely, discouraged. I'm punished by those around me for being different, so I must be vigilent not to punish myself. Mostly, though, I have a very nice life that brings me a great deal of satisfaction and amusement. The Mennonites brought the last of my fencing & shed building materials last night, so I can construct shelter for the goats. I hope to have them back with me, after 5 months' seperation, some time this week or next, if the weather and my strength hold up. I'm so looking forward to living with them again. I mean it, you haven't had a loving, intelligent, companionable, comical, loyal and protective animal in your life if you haven't lived with goats.

I'm sorry my emails are so long and frequent. That'll taper off. There was a lot of ground to cover about my situation. I know, it's a lot of work.

Please let me know what you're up to, as well. I'm very interested. I don't even know where y'all are living these days or what's going on. Bettina did retire, did she not? That must feel like a relief, even while I know she loves her work. What about you? Still lighting candles and brewing tea? Thanks for all you taught me and all the permission you've given me to be alive. It's been, as you say, "extremely useful." I carry you around as one of my momentos. I may not remember much, but I have the general gist of it. I've kept all the photocopy handouts and my class writings from your classes. Hopefully, I'll get to settle here long enough to reread stuff. I've wanted to for decades. It'd be nice to do some "storytelling" on the radio. I do remember I loved storytelling nights and the salon at your house. I sure met interesting people!

About your backgrounds: I can't see my typeface if your background is black, so must generate new email, which is OK. I can't change my typeface color. I like the backgrounds, but I'll need to not reply and start a new email each time. This is probably best, anyway, as I'd have a new subject head with each email.

I'll try to locate the movies you've suggested. I have a subscription to NetFlix, and can frequently view movies online. See if you can watch "Arranged." Blurb: When Rochel (Zoe Lister Jones) and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) -- an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim, respectively -- meet as new teachers at a Brooklyn school, co-workers and students expect friction. But the women discover they have a shared expectation of entering into arranged marriages. As they experience tension between their traditional cultures and life in contemporary America, Rochel and Nasira form a special bond.

It's a bit "after school special," but I suppose that's necessary for an audience that knows nothing about these women's lives. To me, although awfully idealistic on the subject of arranged marraiges (and I think both women got off lucky), it's a pretty strong, feminist argument (within cultural context) in favor of arranged marraiges. I forgive them for the idealism: it's the first time I've seen any argument, from a woman-centered perspective, in favor of it; theyr'e going to be a bit cheerleaderish, no matte what. It all ends happily ever after and all. But, under all that self defense, there's a really strong argument in favor of each woman's choice to live within her culture and form family. And they really do decide whom to marry, which is a TOTALLY U.S. version of arranged marriage, I'll guess. If you see it, let me know what you think. It's a VERY funny movie and the women are awesome!

Rogi Riverstone