I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Posts Tagged ‘Personal History

While Robin Williams has us all talking about suicide…

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So, uh. Yeah. I haven’t really been by here much lately, but I’m looking for a place to put some feelings and this seems like a decent outlet. I’ve meant to note for a while that I’m not blogging at Grounded Parents, a Skepchick sister site for skeptical, non-believer parenting discussion. So that’s where you can mostly find me.

GP is actually relevant to this discussion, to some degree, since that’s where I “came out” as being a suicidal child.

What I don’t mention in that post is that I still have bouts of what I guess is situational, usually manageable depression, which sometimes manifests itself as suicidal ideation. I haven’t had more than fleeting thoughts in decades, but it’s still there, fluttering around the edges on rare occasions. And so I’m having some complicated feelings about Robin Williams’ suicide today. Not so much about him specifically – I am saddened by his death and the loss of a great talent, to be sure, but I’m a little weird, I guess in that I don’t tend to react strongly to the death of people I don’t know personally, and sometimes not even then – but because of the developing narrative about what it means to be depressed and to experience suicidality and to literally choose for oneself whether to live or die.

There have been moments in my life where I have stood on that precipice and made a different choice. Part of what has kept me alive was the knowledge of what chosing to opt out of living and leave my family would do to them, particularly my children. So I’m actually sort of torn on the idea that suicide is not selfish is the wrong message, because internalizing a form of that has actually helped me. But that’s me.  No one gets to tell another person how to process their pain, which is part of why it was so hard for me to wrap up my GP post above. What motivates one person doesn’t motivate another and I don’t know what the answers are, except that pithy cheer up buttercup isn’t one of them, nor is piling onto people who are already suffering by telling them that they are selfish or weak or pathetic – all things that I’ve seen thrown at folks who are depressed.

My heart aches for Mr. Williams’ family and friends and for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. And my heart aches just as much for the individuals who are suffering enough to need to end it.

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Written by emandink

August 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

The work that makes our democracy work.

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So, this morning was a little different from 2008. It actually wasn’t the first time I returned to the polling place, thanks to Virginia’s strange gubernatorial schedule, but it felt more similar, thanks to the national coverage about what’s at stake. Today, I pulled out of the driveway with the baby at 7:24, drove to the polling place, parked, got her settled in her stroller, checked in, voted, got her back in the car and was driving off into the sunrise by 7:37.

But it still felt like a community. The people handing out sample ballots were chatting with each other regardless of the color of the paper they were handing out. People held the door for me with the stroller and poll workers waved at my daughter and gave me a “Future Voter” sticker to put on her bunting (one major difference, other than the complete absence of a wait in line was the temperature, which was around freezing this morning).

Lines were longer at the baby’s daycare center, which also serves as a polling place, and people seemed more confused and stressed. Parking was more difficult thanks to the convergence of pre-work voters and parents trying to drop off their kids. The person handing out sample ballots (there was only the one on the parking lot side) was less cheerful and seemed frustrated by the mix of people and was taken aback by my cheerful “Already voted!”

Sometimes voting seems like work – it’s a hassle to get up early and make time to stop by the polls. A lot of the time it really feels like it doesn’t matter or make a difference. Taking the kids can be a pain, especially if there are long lines or there are a lot of things on the ballot. But it’s the work that makes our democracy work. It is the bare minimum of our job description as citizens. Less painful that taxes but also more of a conscious effort, voting is voluntary, but essential. Sure, you can do more – you can make an educated choice, you can campaign, you can rally. But our system of government, while heightened by these things, does not require them. But if you don’t take that 15 minutes, or 30 or 50 to make your voice heard, then it all falls apart. And if you don’t want to vote, that’s fine, but at least do it consciously. (Don’t) do it for a reason not because you just can’t be bothered. No matter who you vote for, we’re all in this together.

Written by emandink

November 2, 2010 at 8:06 am

Things that are bigger than Amazon, fail or no.

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…with love and hate and passions just like mine…(The Smiths)

It is slightly odd to me that this blog suddenly has visibility of a sort because of a dashed off post on an issue that I’ve not really thought much about – the living embodiment of “the personal is the political” I suppose. Part of me feels slightly uncomfortable that 150 plus people have read my posts over the past week due to a post that in some ways trades on the identity and experience of an ex-boyfriend who I’ve had only the most minimal contact with in over 10 years. But it was also my experience. Part of how we dismantle privilege is by relating problems to our own experience and working past that filter and acknowledging how things are different for us as privileged persons. I can relate to the invisible nature of sexuality for the disabled because I lived it for a time as the privileged partner of a person with a disability. I’ve experienced first hand the nature of most discussions of prejudice and privilege – that my past experience as the able bodied partner of a person with a disability counts for more in these discussions than the experience of people with disabilities themselves.

One of the bigger picture results of my reinvesting myself with feminism over the past few years is a greater awareness of other intersecting issues. One of these that comes up with less frequency than you might think is ableism and disability rights. And that right there is part of the problem I see with the rhetoric around #amazonfail and the aftermath. Honestly, at this point, my issues are less with Amazon, and more with how the blogosphere, the twitterverse, the LJ-whatever and the mainstream media cast the entire issue.

Some of the most progressive venues I know – places that usually get almost everything right – completely ignored the disability angle of Amazon’s coding error, or mentioned it only in a laundry list of categories, never touching on the fact that there was a real impact of these derankings. And on the one hand, I sort of understand. Out of hundreds of books that were deranked on Amazon, a very small handful dealt with disability. The vast majority – and most of the most egregious examples of non-sexual materials – involved the queer community. That outrage is completely understandable, particularly because so much of the material was coded as sexually explicit because of its gayness – as if sex were the sole defining factor in any non-heterosexual/non-cisgendered context. What I’m no so sure about is why that is somehow an excuse for ignoring the complete erasure of the fact that people with disabilities can have sexualitywas not also worthy of commentary. It should not be a contest between oppressions – we can be outraged about and discuss both. To not even see the issue is a huge exercise in privilege.

Written by emandink

April 18, 2009 at 3:56 pm

It’s food. Not a hand grenade.*

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I’ve been blogging elsewhere about my desire to lose weight.  At least that’s what it started out as.  Along the way, this blogging, in the best possible way, has forced me to examine in more detail my attitudes about food and size and acceptance.

While I certainly applaud the concept of fat acceptance, I’ve always been more of the “it is okay for other people, but I still need to loose 20 lbs” school of thought.  But one of the things that trying to blog consistently about diet and exercise has helped me realize is that I do feel measurably better – both physically and mentally – if I engage in regular moderate exercise.  I may have exercise specific aches and pains, but I have fewer headaches and less back and knee pain and just feel better than I do when I’m sluggish.  Likewise, I do feel better when I try to make “better choices” in the “have a grapefruit instead of a piece of cheese” vein.   But you know what turns me into a cranky screaming harpy?  Tracking my damn food intake and feeling guilty about eating things that I enjoy.

So, I say no.  I refuse to feel guilty about food.  I refuse to think constantly about what I “can” or “should” eat.  I would rather have to buy whole new wardrobes in sizes 16 and 18 and beyond than to keep beating myself up about the fact that I want to eat dessert or am sick of Lean Cuisines and turkey.  Do I want to eat food that is good for me?  Absolutely.  Should we be having less McDonald’s and pizza at my house?  Absolutely.  But I refuse to feel guilty for liking a cheeseburger better than a grilled chicken sandwich or worse.  I refuse to talk about having a cookie as “being bad.”  I refuse to feign sheepish guilt at getting the damn onion rings.  I refuse to turn away the dessert menu just because I had a fruity cocktail before dinner.

Forget the new year’s resolution to lose weight.  I will eat what I want and I will keep exercising.  If the scale moves or the waist shrinks, great.  If it doesn’t, great too.  

*Title inspired in part by this post by fillyjonk at Shapely Prose.

Written by emandink

January 27, 2009 at 2:21 pm

It was a dark and stormy morning.

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I woke up at 5:15 this morning.  It was dark.  It was chilly.  It was election day! 

I stumbled to the bathroom, threw on some clothes, stopped to make coffee, let the dog out and clean up some spilled apple juice, then I was out the door into the early morning dark and chill.  Happily, it was not yet raining.

I should have walked to the polling place – it’s only about 5 blocks away, but it was 5:30 and I was tired and not thinking clearly.  As it was, I got one of the last spots in the community center lot and joined a line that was already half a block long – at 5:35!  I’d guess that there were at least 100 people in line ahead of me. 

By the time the polls opened at 6, the line was starting to snake around the corner.

In one of those strange DC area coincidences, I started chatting with a couple of folks near me in line and it turns out that a man who had been voting at our polling place for 45 years used to live in NW Iowa near Sioux City and he would drive down to Springfield, Missouri every weekend fifty years ago to play at a country music bar there.   Two people behind him was a woman who grew up on a farm outside of St. Louis and who went to college at what was then called SMSU, where my mother worked for when I was born and later moved to Chicago.  So, we ended up chatting a lot about the Ozarks and Branson and Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the duration of our wait.  Maybe we live in a small town after all.

Once the doors opened at 6:00, the line moved fast.  Poll workers were on the ball, walking up and down the lines with portable electronic check in machines confirming that anyone voting at our precinct for the first time was actually on the voter rolls properly.  Check in was the most comprehensive I’d ever seen – they didn’t just check to see that our id matched a voter registration, but we had to give our full name and address – at least I did.  Again, this was electronic.

Then it was get in the last and final line for the vote itself.  We had a choice between touch screen machines and paper scan ballots.  I ended up going electronic – it was a fight in my gut – part of me had been hoping for the paper option and evidently a lot of local media watchers are saying that is better.  Then again, a friend of mine is now worried that her vote won’t be readable because the election officers at her Fairfax County polling place didn’t have pencils or black pens, which the ballot claims to require.   She has thusfar been unable to get a satisfactory answer to that issue. 

The last time I felt such a thrill marking and finalizing my ballot was in 1992, when for the first time ever, I had a ballot in my hand.  I voted absentee from college, which was sort of a letdown, although, given the tales of long lines at the campus precincts, it definitely saved me some time.  I remember filling out the ballot with the little punch card thing, frantically worrying about whether I was doing it right before sealing the envelope, kissing it for luck and sending it off to McLean County with its votes for Bill Clinton and Carol Mosley Braun.  That year I helped elect the first Black woman to the U.S. Senate.  Here’s hoping this year I help elect the first Black man president.

As we wait for the election returns tonight, I will leave you with this.  That’s pretty much what it’s all about right there.

Written by emandink

November 4, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Election 2008, Politics

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Hand in glove…

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So, I just found out about Write to Marry Day while reading Shakesville, which is a blog I clearly should have been reading for ages, but there you go.

Anyway.  Gay marriage.  Some might wonder why a woman in a monogamous heterosexual marriage even cares that much about the right of women to marry other women and men to marry other men.  After all, I can do what I want to do, clearly.

But, of course, nothing ever is, nor should it be that simple.  First off, marriage – I never thought I would get married.  Well, yes, when I was little I’m sure I did, but I don’t really remember having the stereotypical little-girl-fluffy-white-dress sort of fantasies that supposedly all little wannabe princesses have as wee bairns.  From a pretty early age I figured I would be the happy old maiden aunt who could be really awesomely cool with my step-siblings kids and then could go off to my fantastic artsy loft apartment with my fantastic artsy friends.  I was about 15 I think when women started appearing in the relationship part of those fantasies with almost the same regularity as men.  So, wonderful marriage to a man aside, I also know that but for the chance of meeting him before I met a wonderful woman, I could be directly affected.

But I still partake of and engage in and have oodles of heterosexual privilege, regardless of which onscreen personalities make me short of breath and there is something that smacks of simple platitudes for someone so publicly heterosexual to try to empathize with the situation of couples who have wanted what I have for decades.

Which brings me to another thought, which is about the term “marriage” itself.  Now there is a train of thought – which I’ve flirted with from time to time myself – which is the idea of “why not just civil unions?”   And in theory, I could support the idea of marriage as a solely religious term and civil union as the term for what we now think of as a civil marriage ceremony but for the fact is that words have power and meaning beyond what the dictionary definition might be.

“Marriage” as a concept in U.S. culture is loaded with social meaning that transcends the religious meaning for many people. I understand that the religious aspect of being “joined before god” is very important to many religions and that the concept of mated partnership is a vital part of many world religions. And while the concept of marriage may have begun as a religious ceremony (something which I doubt, personally, but I don’t have enough background in ancient cultures to really know for sure), as soon as it became something recognized and enforced by the state, it ceased to be something purely religious.

The importance of my marriage – of being joined to my husband as family, with all of the legal and social recognitions – is not remotely lessened to me because the ceremony was performed by a justice of the peace in a secular castle. My commitment to my husband of 11 years is not less because we do not believe that we were joined by “god”.

I’m completely fine with marriage meaning different things to different people – and goodness knows, I completely understand why some people do not want to be married/otherwise-legally-unioned because of what the term means to them. But I don’t want to cede the term “marriage” to bigots.

I remember a rousing debate engagement twelve years ago when we announced our engagement in an on line community that my husband and I frequented at the time in which someone I had considered something of a good friend had an extraordinarily difficult time understanding why I would want to enter into a legally binding socially endorsed relationship like a marriage, particularly at my then relatively tender age.

It’s because marriage has meaning.  A marriage becomes something larger than just the individuals involved.  And there is absolutely no justification I can think of for why any adult who wants to should not be able to marry any other adult who wishes to enter into that relationship.

I can think of a multitude of legal reasons why not acknowledging same sex marriages is a violation of the U.S. Constitution – starting with the Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit clauses.  But really, what it comes down to is basic human rights – the right of people to love whomever they love and to freely enter into whatever relationships meet their needs.

Written by emandink

October 29, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Mythical Feminists

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Thanks to a discussion elsewhere on-line, I’ve been thinking on The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolfe, which has gotten me thinking on my relationship to and evolution within feminism.

I first read this book in 1992 – what must have been the first paperback edition – for an introductory Women’s Studies class at the University of Illinois.  I confess that at the time, I was not too keen on the book.  It – like much of what was taught in that particular class – felt too didactic.  Too much like victimization.  I had been raised in a home where feminism was almost taken for granted.  I liked sex (or the idea of it, anyway).  I liked black eyeliner and coloring my hair and wearing lipstick the color of a bruise.  I liked using a fake id to get into bars and clubs wearing clothing that would barely cause an eye raise in today’s youth culture, but which felt daring at the time.  I liked playing with standards of beauty and subverting them to my will.  Arguably, I’m still at it, but not in quite the same way.

I left what I thought of as “mainstream feminism” for a long while because I felt judged by the young women in that particular class and I felt silenced by a teaching assistant who I didn’t think appreciated my “difference”.  Looking back on my mindset at the time, it was I who was being closeminded and chafing at being required to look at the world through a more critical lens.  I felt personally attacked where really, there was the need to acknowledge that the world was larger than my experience.

Likewise, as time went on, I felt stifled, even betrayed, by a campus “feminism” that I wanted to be more flexible and critical in its dicta.  I cringed as WS majors declared that the subject of a diary of life in feudal Japanshould have left her husband – completely ignoring the social strictures of the culture and the time.  By the time I was in law school, I felt stuck between the second and third waves, both of which held appeal,  but neither of which I felt I could relate to.  I held on to “feminist” as a label – I never cottoned to the idea of “womanist” or * “I believe in equality but don’t call myself a feminist”.  But I definitely fell off the awareness wagon for a time.

But back to The Beauty Myth.  To paraphrase the overall message of the book as I recall it and as discussed in the community that prompted this, the activities that comprise beauty ritual are not the problem.  It is the compulsion to participate in those rituals whether women want to or not, whether we do so even to our detriment because we feel our place in society depends on them, whether the ideals of a beautiful exterior take the place of loving who we are, instead of highlighting the best of what we love about ourselves.   I expect I will be returning to this

I still have the copy I read for class and I want to re-read it.  Susan Faludi’s Backlash, too.  There’s a lot out there that I need to refresh my memory on. 

* Edited belatedly to correct my misconception that “womanist” was a general term used to replace feminism. I was woefully ignorant of the origins and actual use of “Womanist” as a term to describe the experiences of women of color which are often at odds with the privileged position of mainstream feminism. Which I neatly illustrated there.

Written by emandink

June 30, 2008 at 8:56 pm