Thursday, October 08, 2015

Can I live tweet a hockey game on my blog instead of Twitter?

Kings season opening against Sharks, Oct 7, 2015
I'm watching the first day of the NHL regular season on TV. They are still showing the game before my game, so I am impatiently waiting to see my Los Angeles Kings play at home against the San Jose Sharks. It's been a fast and fancy/finesse-y game, which has been fun to watch even though I don't like either team.

Last minute and a half! Penalties...and a fight! Pierre McGuire just called it nasty! Penalties called, timeout accompanied by Metallica. They're playing the exciting music because the home team has a power play and is down by one. And they score, but it was waved off. Calling Toronto. Playing "Highway to Hell." Repeated replays while we wait.

Game before the Kings. Another loss by the home team. Oct 7, 2015

And the ruling- call stands, the play was complete. It was already whistled dead. More dramatic music. One minute to go. It's cleared. Two more shots on net. This is the Henrik Lundqvist show. It's cleared again, and it's over. We're on to L.A. Wait, it looked like the camera person on the ice fell down.

We lost a couple players over the off-season. Oct 7, 2015

14:58 left in the 1st period. I missed a Kings goal and a fight! Nooooooooo! Is that the Zombie Kyle Clifford? So glad he got to be in the first fight of the regular season. Ah, it's my friend Pickles (Marc-Edouard Vlasic). I'm glad I learned to type because I can write and watch at the same time. It's my friend Tommy Wingels! He wears my number, 57. There aren't a lot of 57's in the league, so I treasure each one. I swear all my "friends" are not on the Sharks. So weird to see Martin Jones playing for the Sharks. He used to be on the Kings. Oooooo, noooo, Joe Thornton scored. That was one of those goals you saw happening as soon as he touched it.

Too much Joe, Oct 7, 2015
Dustin Brown just showed off the moves! Nice shot. Just saw Christian Ehrhoff in #10. Ugh. Not because he is Christian Ehrhoff, because that's Mike Richards number and I miss him. I like Christian Ehrhoff and we need him. Eeee, we just had a great scoring chance. And a penalty is called. Commercial break. We have a power play. Martin Jones looks like he's having fun. Issue with the clock. Marian Gaborik! Red Hot Chilly Peppers! And Gaborik got a penalty. 4-on-4. Damn, Brent Burns! Trim your beard! You don't get to pretend its the post-season just because both teams missed the playoffs last season. We pressure their goalie, now they are pressuring ours. We're tired and can't get off the ice. Wow, its getting rough in the corner. Replay of mid-ice check on Logan Couture by Dustin Brown. He looks outraged.

Ehrhoff goes to the sin bin, Oct 7, 2015
We have a penalty kill, and, we got scored on. It's 2-1. Almost four minutes to go in the first period. They are gushing about how great Dustin Brown looked coming into training camp. He's 30! He had to change up his conditioning because he's an old man now! The 70's line is still together (#77 Jeff Carter, #70 Tanner Pearson, #73 Tyler Toffoli). This game has a lot more checking and elbows than the last game! Jonathan Quick covers. And we got another penalty. Christian Ehrhoff. Period is over. I don't think I can keep writing so much. This is going to get really long if I do. I usually talk to the TV a lot, but now I'm chattering via the written word. Maybe I should go back to talking to the TV. I don't yell, I just moan a lot and calmly make suggestions. Also, I say "ooo, ooo, ooo" when it looks like something exciting is happening, which is how I got the nickname Monkey. Maybe it's good I'm not watching this in public.

The Canucks game is going better. Oct 7, 2015
So the new NBC hockey music is interesting. Is it new? I think it's new. I have a feeling that music is going to get old pretty quick. They like to pick some intense, hard-hitting music that is only not irritating the first couple of times you hear it. This is terrible that the Vancouver Canucks v. Calgary Flames game is at the same time as this game. It looks fun! They totally hate each other. I'm making tea during the intermission. That doesn't sound very hockey-appropriate. At least it's a hot beverage.

Oh, they just showed the Staples Center and I miss it there so much.

So, the second period did not go well for us. At least I had relaxing tea. Sharks are doing a good job of protecting Jones. He hasn't even faced that many shots, but when he does, he's making the saves.

Bad 2nd period! Bad! Oct 7, 2015

Did he just refer to the Sharks as Anaheim or did I imagine that? Normally, the friends that I am staying with would not be getting this game, but they are doing a freebie of NHL Center Ice until almost the end of October. To get you hooked. Also, I am doing the Richard Hugo House's 30/30 Writing Challenge this month. I'm writing at least 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Also, it's a fundraiser for Hugo House, and I have my own fundraising page! (If you click on the link it will open on a new window.) Ouch, San Jose just scored again, to make it 5-1. Maybe I'm slightly glad I'm not in Staples Center right now. The crowd is very, very quiet. Carter is getting frustrated.

Jeff Schultz, Oct 7, 2015
Ugh, large fight. The Sharks' Barclay Goodrow got hit into the ice by Matt Greene, and then Andy Andreoff beat the crap out of him. That was painful to watch (although his name is awesomely funny, and he's 6 foot 2 inches. I guess when another over 6 foot guy is whaling on you, you don't look tall.) We looked like bullies. Not a big fan of fighting to "get your team back in the game." It never seems to work for one thing. Not that the Sharks didn't have anything to do with the fight. I guess everybody loves to see the Kings and the Sharks beating on each other. It is an entertainingly physical game, but if they're going to have to work this hard in every game, they're going to get awfully worn out awfully fast.

Sedin power! Oct 7, 2015
Awww, the guys in the box look sad. There are three in our box, and two in theirs. Carter has another good chance after the penalties are over, but it looks grim regardless. I do have a soft spot for the Sharks because they are my favorite color, teal, and I like Vlasic and Wingels. But they have too many Joes, especially in this game. The Joes are killing us. I'm not feeling very fond of them right now. At least the Canucks dominated the Flames. Maybe I should have switched to that game.

Another goal. Oct 7, 2015

Ow, Couture just knocked Quick over, landed in the goal, and got punched in the face by Quick. Now San Jose has two guys in the penalty box. 5 on 3! Can we score? We haven't scored since the beginning of the game, which I missed. I need to see a goal!

Rough night for Jonathan Quick, Oct 7, 2015
Well, instead of a goal we got a melee in front of the Sharks bench. Couture is going to need some ice after this game. Damn, they just said Joel Ward (of the Sharks) is coming off two consecutive seasons of playing all 82 games. Damn! He's even over the hill (34). They called him durable. I guess! That's amazing. And the game is over.

Well, hope springs eternal. Bring on the next game! We're playing the Arizona Coyotes this Friday at home. The Canucks are playing the Flames again this Saturday, and then the Anaheim Ducks on Monday and the Kings on Tuesday! Looking forward to the next week in hockey!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Of course my beaver is angry

The Angry Beaver in Seattle, WA on September 29, 2015
Last night I went to Seattle's only hockey bar, The Angry Beaver. It happened to be the night of the "Save The Angry Beaver" gathering (the off-season was not kind to them), and a Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks preseason game at the Staples Center in L.A. Also, the L.A. Dodgers won the National League West, so it was an eventful night. I'm not going to lie- this was the first time I've watched a Kings game since I moved, and especially because the game was at the Staples Center where I've been to at least a hundred Kings games, it made me miss L.A. a lot. If for nothing else, it is so damn cold in Seattle. The second I got here, it was, hello, I know you've been in a place with no seasons for eight years, but it's autumn not summer anymore! It really doesn't get freezing cold that often in Seattle, but the damp chilliness here is a typical weather feature. I'm wearing a hoodie plus gloves or a hat almost every waking hour, except for the brief but much appreciated mid-afternoon sun most days because it is still September. I did miss my hoodies and wearing actual clothes, and the heat in L.A. was driving me bonkers. This is certainly closer to hockey weather than L.A. I'm not constantly worrying about my tattoos getting too much sun, and then grudgingly smearing "healthy" (not full of dangerous chemicals with a shockingly bad Environmental Working Group rating) sunscreen all over, leaving a sunscreen film everywhere I go and grease stains on my skimpy L.A. clothes.

The bar was pretty great. It was dive-y, but not too much so (like you're afraid someone will be beaten up by a biker or some coked-up weirdo will attempt to express his interest in you using physical assault) and there was Canadian-appropriate food, that was both good and plentiful (if a tad slow to come out.) Of course I got poutine, with curry gravy which was completely awesome. I did get a stomachache, but that was probably the four glasses of Coca-Cola I drank while watching the entire game with laser focus. A friend met me there, and lasted a little bit into the second period before she had to go home. Even though she is not a hockey fan, she listened politely as I tried to explain the rules, how to watch without trying to follow the puck which is tempting but nearly impossible and you miss a lot of the good stuff, and various factoids about the Kings players. I am very nerdy in my own ways, primarily about accounting and hockey. It's always nice when people don't get bored and visibly annoyed when you talk about your passions. Yes, people have come up to me at parties and asked, "What do you do?" and when I tell them I'm an accountant, just turn around and walk away. For real.

When I lived in Seattle before, I never found my hockey people. Most people I knew didn't even like sports, so I was the lone hockey obsessive. One of the coolest things that happened last night is that the owner of the bar came over to talk to me within five minutes of me sitting down. He was so enthusiastic that I was a hockey fan, and there. Just being in a bar full of hockey fans warmed my heart. Everyone was friendly and lots of people smiled at me. I didn't get a single scowl, except when one of the only people I know in Seattle who plays hockey showed up. He's an acquaintance who is from L.A., who I unfriended a couple months ago when he posted an article about an NHL player who has been accused of rape (not going to say his name, but you probably know who I'm talking about), did the, "I'm reserving judgement until the facts come out" thing, followed by what people usually mean when they say something like that- "I'm trying to sound reasonable and fair just before I shit on every rape victim who reads this by speculating, speculating without any factual evidence, that the woman deserved it, deserved to be raped, for drinking and going somewhere with a man." Because that's a completely reasonable expectation, that a woman can never be alone with a man that she doesn't know really, really well, like a family member. No, not even a family member and certainly not an internationally known father-figure. I can only conclude that men who say these things want every woman to regard him as a potential rapist and refuse to spend time alone with him or have a drink around him, because according to his moral compass, if he drugs your drink, you get drunk, or you go home with him with some naive idea that you'd talk, get to know each other, maybe kiss or make-out instead of him holding you down and forcing himself in you, he regards it as your responsibility. Message received. So yeah, he saw me, said hello and then scowled at me.

I kind of took that as a positive, as I knew I would run into him at some point because it is a small hockey community and why not the first time I ventured in? I was just happy to be there, watching the Kings game, talking hockey with various people I just met, basking in the good hockey feelings I'd been missing. The Kings ended up losing in overtime, and a handful of people cheered at the bar. The owner had warned me ahead of time that Kings fans hang out there but there is good-natured ribbing directed at them in particular. Can't say I'm surprised. Lots of people hate L.A., but I totally don't care. I still love the Kings. I even feel some love for the Dodgers, even though I'm not much of a baseball fan. I did go to a Dodgers game right before I left L.A. It was Kings night. I got a t-shirt, and talked to various people we just met because we changed seats about eight times and made new friends every time. The world feels like a much friendlier place when you find your people.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Guide to Seattle, Hipsters, and You

Red Mill Burgers, opened 1994 (original 1937)
I've been staying with some friends who have a house in Shoreline, which is just north of Seattle. The house is big enough that they can avoid me, which is good, because they are a couple and I worry about imposing on their couple time. But they have been nothing but completely gracious about hosting this unemployed, homeless migrant (not refugee, Los Angeles isn't that bad.) They insist on sharing Suzie's home-cooked dinners with me, she cleaned out their garage so I could get all my possessions out of my car parked on the street, they let me use their washer and dryer, which make the cutest little dings when they are done, and Suzie has driven me around town so I can see the wreckage that all the Californians moving up here has wrought.

Actually, Seattleites have been blaming Californians for driving up housing prices and bringing traffic congestion with them way before I moved to L.A. It's kind of like the "punk is dead" refrain that started in the late seventies and continued to declare that punk today is nothing like real punk which is gone forever thanks to these posers with no concept of where it all came from! That said, it's hard not to think Seattle is going the way of San Francisco where you seemingly need a high paying job at a tech firm or a trust fund to afford a decent place within Seattle, and the traffic, while far from what it is in L.A., is going in that direction. It's cracked the top 10 in the US, above Chicago and just below Boston. The condos that were popping up around the city before I left, like thistles that you don't notice until they get so tall and sturdy you're not sure how to remove them, or took over a whole area seemingly overnight (ahm, Belltown), have taken hold in or around practically every neighborhood that had it's own unique personality and people.

I think the condo buildings might be somewhat tolerable if they weren't so horribly ugly. They look like giant square building blocks, interchangeably mindless and towering over the buildings that actually have character. They look like they went up overnight, without a thought for how they would look in the area or fit in with the existing architecture. What happened to Ballard, my tour guide has told me, is what every other neighborhood that has a chance to head off uncontrolled growth is trying to avoid. Ballard was once the part of town known for having a lot of old people that drove painfully slow and vaguely nautically themed bars for the people (i.e. men, mostly) from the fishing boats that come into the port from Alaska. It was the Scandinavian part of town. Tourists would sometimes go there to see the locks, and I took my Scandinavian relatives to the stores that sold Scandinavian flags and potholders, and to commune with other people who knew what lutefisk was, and ate it! I'll wait while you look up what lutefisk is, and check out the videos of the lutefisk eating contest that was held at the Ballard SeafoodFest every year. Every year, that is, until 2013. That is the last year they had the "crowd-pleaser" lutefisk eating contest, as far as I can tell.

They still have the SeafoodFest, but I sure didn't see any signs that this was still the Scandinavian part of town. It is now the absolutely overrun with condos and precious hipster restaurants and bars part of town, wait, that's everywhere. Didn't see many hipsters though. Ballard, long ignored by the cool kids and left to the old sailors, had been discovered by hipsters that were over it with Capitol Hill and driven away from Fremont by the brewpub fratty meat market crowd, but it was the secret, only appreciated by those willing to make the trek for a handful of dive bars and diners. Where do the hipsters go now? When the hipster themed businesses move in, you know they are only going there to work. It is awful, absolutely awful, that so much of Seattle is so generic and expensive and flavorless, when it used to have such distinct neighborhoods, places that were unique unto themselves, and so uniquely Seattle. But, this is not new for Seattle, and not new for any growing city. The whole reason Ballard was the secret cool place for a moment was that unappreciated, quirky places are only that until other people figure it out. It's kind of a Seattle thing to always be looking for what is odd and unappreciated, and appreciating it until everyone else figures out how cool it is and ruins it.

That said, Seattle is bursting at the seams with people moving here and not enough housing and asphalt and places to hang out to contain them all, which, like San Francisco, is driving out the locals and people with personality but not tons of disposable income that can't afford to compete with not just Californians, but with people who are recruited here by certain Seattle-based businesses, businesses who are too good to hire University of Washington MBA's. They throw bonuses, high salaries, and perks at people who put in their two years of burn-out and then are looking for another job locally, or are ranked and involuntarily yanked, with the same result. Rank and yank is the employee motivational method proudly followed by another powerful and admired company, until it went bankrupt due to such massive fraud that it spawned my specialty, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. It all comes around.

Seattle is still here though, the real Seattle, the weird fishing town. To quote Art Chantry (look him up) in the movie Hype! (look it up), which came out in 1996, "So all these people come here, and then there's all this publicity, and... "Northern Exposure" and "Twin Peaks" and all this stuff, and everyone wants to come here and live the good yuppie lifestyle, but all this time there's all these people that are underneath that were here first and they're just starving and they're all crazy."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seattle's Batman is a lawyer that works on 3rd Avenue.

Look at this little brown bat! Are they cute or what?!?!
I'm started to feel better about my move to Seattle. I took the bus downtown and met with some job recruiters, in person, so they saw my lip piercings, and one of them mentioned my tongue piercing. I've had my tongue pierced for twenty-four years, and it's one of my body modifications I forget about, or at least forget that people do notice it when I talk. The two that I talked to are totally clear that I will not take them out, and that I'm looking for a place that will not have issues with me not looking or being a cookie-cutter finance and accounting clone. They both seemed completely comfortable with me and this limitation. That probably had more to do with my comfort with myself and my own boundaries than anything else. Also talking to them about my resume made me realize that I have a very good resume with a lot of valuable experience.

I do still have significant doubts about whether any corporate environment would be tolerable to me, but the beauty of the piercings is that I'm putting it out there, on my face, that I am not going to be a good fit with a company that I probably wouldn't want to work at anyway. We're also dealing with this issue up front as they are making sure to discuss this with the company before any interviews take place. I was rejected for two jobs within 12 hours though. I passed on one before they even approached them because it was at a biotech with drama. I worked at a biotech with drama already, and a medical company with drama, and have no desire to get anywhere near medical/biotech drama ever again. Instability and power struggles seem fairly common in this particular industry, and when I google a company name and the first thing that comes up is a recent article about the board forcing out its second CEO in less than a year, it does not bode well. The ones that rejected me were, company is fun and casual but the CFO is too conservative for that, and a temporary project that someone at the recruiting firm pitched to me over the phone but hadn't met me in person, and I said, did you know about the piercings? So she put me on hold for quite a while, and then said she'd call me back, and then asked if I'd take them out, and I said no, and then she kept saying, "well, it's your choice" and I thought, but didn't say, uh, yeah, it sure is my choice.

Anyway, somehow I just feel better having it out there, and giving myself the chance to potentially find a place that I would fit in with and greatly reducing the chance I would fall into a job where I hate the culture. One of the other avenues I'm pursuing is a government/university job. I had an interview at my alma mater today. I interviewed with three people, and while they probably wouldn't have said anything about my piercings if they did have a problem with it, they didn't stare or look startled or freaked out, so that was a good sign. I was the first person to interview for the job, which they told me several times, which I don't really know how to interpret? Hopefully I blew them away and all the rest of the interviewees pale in comparison. I really felt comfortable with all three of the people, and them seemed very smart and down to earth, and the job sounds really cool and interesting, and OH MY GOD I WOULD LOVE TO WORK AT MY ALMA MATER! I love that university. I went there for undergrad and grad school, and would be totally trying to get into their MFA program except that they don't offer creative nonfiction.

But one of the issues with government/university is that the interview process can move really slowly, I'm told, so pursuing these jobs requires patience. Not my strong suit. I also kind of fall in love with some jobs I interview for, or the idea of the job, prematurely, so I'm trying to just move on and not think about this one until I hear something. Also, while they did seem to like me and my experience, I had some moments of unfocused blabbing (like what I do on my blog pretty much all the time lately) which does not necessarily help my case. I hate those, give an example of some blah blah difficult situation, how did you handle it, what would you have done differently, questions. So dangerous for an arguably overly open, chatty person such as myself.

In conclusion, be patient, work on the unfocused blabbing, there are a ton of job postings for this university in finance and accounting and I have an interview for another job there next week. Things are looking up. Also, the area of downtown I was in and the university district don't look nearly as different as Capitol Hill, so that made me feel less like I had come back to a completely changed Seattle. It is kind of a bummer that I am probably priced out of living in Capitol Hill when it was where I live for the three years before I moved, and, is it even possible to park on Capitol Hill at all? But Capitol Hill was one of the busiest and most expensive parts of town even back then, so I'm not totally surprised. It is unfortunate that the condos have taken over, but I do like the rainbow crosswalks.

In other news, as I have shared on Facebook, I attempted to participate in a bat rescue in downtown yesterday. Why this poor bat was in a tree downtown and fell out of it onto the street during rush hour morning traffic we may never know. I was walking to my interview with one of the recruiters, and I saw this guy trying to get this tiny bat out of the street and on to the sidewalk. He seemed pretty frazzled, so initially I was just trying to offer some moral support to this kind man who was obviously on his way to work and was unable to just walk past an injured animal like so many others were. We got the poor critter on the sidewalk, when promptly a group of people who seemed to come out of a sitcom about horrible, selfish people started taking pictures with their cell phones and telling us with glee in their voices that this bat is going to die! I couldn't even look at them I was so pissed, so I focused on the bat and brainstorming with the guy as to who we would call for bat rescue services.

Meanwhile, it did look brutal. The bat was on his back, shaking in the cold, and every time a bus drove by, it created a wind that blew right into her. (The bat would have definitely been hit by a bus if not for this man because we were next to a bus stop and buses were swooping in close to the curb every minute or two.) I was trying to shield the bat from the wind and cold by cupping my hands around him, which was super ineffective. A doorman from the building we were in front of came over and tried to help, and they moved a orange cone on the sidewalk next to the bat, and then the doorman brought over a plastic trashcan that he put over the bat to protect him. The guy got a hold of someone from the city who was sending someone over, no eta, and he obviously wanted to get to work but didn't want to abandon the situation, so I told him I'd stay and wait with the little bat.

The doorman picked up the trashcan, and little bat (who was tiny, would fit in the palm of my hand) had flipped over. She made a beeline for the cone and crawled underneath. The two of them went into the building, and I sat on the sidewalk next to the cone, hoping he didn't crawl under the cone to die. She had pulled her wings into his body and was sticking her tongue out before he was under the trashcan, and scurried under the cone so quickly that I had a lot more hope for her than I did when we first got him on the sidewalk.

The guy from the city actually showed up in less than an hour, which is amazing! Downtown, morning traffic, I don't know how he got there so fast. Soon after he showed up, this woman stopped by and said she sat across from the heroic man, who is a lawyer that works in the building we were in front of and told her the amazing bat story, The city guy gave us business cards, and took my name and number, and scooped the bat into a coffee can. This was the first time the bat showed any aggression at all. She hissed at the city guy, or the coffee can, I couldn't tell which. The city guy thought I was very brave to have my hands near the bat because bats can have rabies. Thing is, the bat didn't act aggressively towards us at all. I imagine he was preoccupied with survival. When I think back on the whole thing, I am just awed by how bravely this tiny bat fought for her life, and hope he is still alive. Also, it reminds me that some people are incredibly compassionate, and some people are incredibly callous, and it's hard to tell about everyone else who walked by. Human nature is often to not get involved, and to keep walking.

I actually had an experience of this back when I was the age that I got my first piercings. I was waiting for the bus on Broadway, the main street through Capitol Hill. There was a guy, possibly someone I had seen at parties or even knew, passed out just down the street. I assumed he was drunk, even though it was the middle of the day. I had a bad feeling and kept looking over there, thinking that I should go check on him but feeling frozen and anxious. I don't even know what I was afraid of, what was holding me back. Maybe that I didn't know what I would do if there was something wrong, that I felt too powerless to help him? Finally a woman did stop to check on him, which initially I was relieved that someone besides me had done, but then she started calling out to people to call an ambulance (days before cell phones). A crowd gathered, and the consensus seemed to be that he had overdosed on heroin.

I never heard anyone in my little punk scene mention someone who had overdosed after that, so I don't know what happened to him, if he lived or died. I felt the most intense shame that I did nothing. This was even someone like me, about the same age, a punk boy, someone I probably did have friends in common with. Maybe if I had gone over the ambulance would have come sooner and he would have had a better chance. What if he died? I'll never know what happened to him. It haunted me. After that, I tried to never keep walking. I know I can't live with myself if I don't stop. Sometimes I just check to make sure someone is breathing. It was overwhelming when I lived in San Francisco. I walked by so many people, literally in the gutter, and I saw so many people step over people lying on the sidewalk without even looking at them. But I can still understand that it's hard to stop. It sometimes feels like a primal thing, that you are fighting against all your instincts to get involved. So I really can't blame people. But it is a wonderful thing that there are people who stop and try to help.

I give Lawyer Batman all the credit on that one. I don't think I could have handled that on my own. But it does seem that if that first person stops, usually a couple others will too. It's a nice caveat to human nature, a bit of a counterbalance to all the people who keep walking.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stereoscopic is the show

Been almost a week now. I can't say that I am any less uncomfortable, but I am focused on getting a job. That seems like step one of regaining some stability in my life. I've been applying to university and government jobs, and I broke down and contacted a recruiter. I've had more negative experiences with finance and accounting recruiters than positive. They always tell you they are working for you, but they are working for the companies. Problem is, if you approach a lot of these companies yourself, they direct you to submit your resume online, and then totally ignore online applications. I also broke down and changed my hair color back to a normal color, and took out one of my lip piercings and put a retainer in my septum (nose). But I left the other two lip piercings in.

I'm in kind of a bind because I like working in accounting and audit, but even in "creative" companies the accounting department tends to be the most conservative. I suspect that a contributing factor is that they teach you in big-four audit firms to overdress as compared to the client, and companies love to hire people with big-four experience who bring that culture with them. Part of it is the intimidation factor- when the auditors in suits come in, people snap to attention. But there is also this odd lust for conformity, and an insistence on something that accountants should really know better about, form over substance. Looking like you know what you are talking about is more important than actually knowing what you are talking about. Conformity is very dangerous too. It's so common in fraud cases for people to overlook the ethics of what they are doing because everyone else is okay with it. People have actually used that as an argument when I've questioned things, i.e. you're the only one who has a problem with this, so it must be a problem with you! In an environment where people are afraid to stand out and disagree, and appearances matter more than reality, the best work is not done. The best people aren't hired and promoted. Mistakes aren't acknowledged and fixed. I find it wildly ironic that audit especially, who's whole reason for existence is to be a voice of dissent, is so constrained by social conformity and not challenging people's assumptions.

Lately, I feel like I made a giant mistake- I thought if I "paid my dues" in accounting that I would get past the having to continuously prove myself and be appreciated for my experience and knowledge. And passion for the work. And ethical standards. After 15 years, I'm not sure that will ever be the case. I'm worried I won't be able to afford to live in Seattle, even for the short term, without the type of job I'm so loathe to return to. I don't know what else to do. I realize that I am engaging in black and white thinking right now though. Getting a job takes time, and I haven't actually been rejected for anything based on my appearance, and maybe I will find a job in my field that will be at a place with a more diverse culture. That is exactly why I'm trying to stay away from the more intensely corporate environments, and why I have a lot of skepticism about the kinds of jobs that recruiters steer me towards. So we'll see. I'm wondering what my plan B should be though.

It feels strange to be driving around Seattle, and it seems like the same place I've lived in for most of my adult life, but then a completely different place at the same time. I don't know how to get around, and where to go, and oh my god the parking. I remember feeling this way when I first moved to Los Angeles. I didn't know the city and it was hard. I have this weird thing about parking. If I don't know where to park I get really anxious, and I don't want to go places where I don't have the parking figured out. That was L.A. when I first moved there, and it's Seattle now. I've been hanging out in coffee shops applying for jobs online, but I'm kind of constrained as to where I feel comfortable going because I panic if there's not parking. I just drive around some of the time, which is not a bad thing necessarily. I'm getting used to the way Seattle looks now. It might be withdrawal from all the L.A. driving. I've also put out feelers for hockey, which would really help me feel better. The women's league here has a evaluation skate this Monday, but in my communication with them they keep emphasizing how there's only four spots left, and if you don't sign up ahead of time there might not be a spot, and the teams fill up, and if there's no spots you can't play. Signing up involves becomes a member ($550 to $625) plus a $75 fee for the evaluation skate. Uh, no. So yeah. Wondering about plan B.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Who are you, exactly?

I've been back in Seattle since Sunday, and I'm already going a little bonkers. I have a hard time with not having my own space. I did fine with the hotel rooms. I've been staying with friends, and it's difficult to do my evening routine and wind down. Plus, I'm a cat magnet. I'm not a cat person, so of course cats love me. They are cute, but I get kneaded on a lot with claws, and I'm kind of allergic. I'm especially human catnip when I try to work on my computer. I'm staying with two tiny kittens for the next four days, and they are loving all over me. And climbing up my legs. And chewing on my cords. My evening routine involves a lot of cords. I am very much eager to get a job and an apartment.

I forget how difficult it is for me to control my PTSD symptoms without being able to control my environment, at least my home environment. I would think I would understand what I need to manage my condition by now, but I seem to forget. To be fair, I was finding Los Angeles to be very stressful and triggering, which is a big reason why I wanted to leave. So ultimately it was to manage my PTSD. Also, my dog had become my major coping mechanism. I swear, he had doggie PTSD. He came from the streets too, and we comforted each other. I don't want to try to replace him, but I don't know that I can find that kind of comfort any other way. It's frustrating to be struggling so much, after all this time, and feeling that I'm back to square one. Even worse than square one, because I'm more aware than ever of how I feel. The only goal that makes sense to me right now is to orient my life around reducing my symptoms.

One thing that I've noticed is that almost everyone I know is struggling in some way. I'm certainly not the only person I know who's dealing with depression. It seems a little odd to me that so many people are depressed. Is this the world we live in? Is this just part of our modern, first-world life? So many people seem to hate their jobs. They demand complete loyalty and devotion, but will lay you off in a second, and you're supposed thank them for the opportunity. Corporate life. I don't think I can possibly do that again, even for the freedom the money brings. It's trading one freedom for another. I actually don't see how I can make it work regardless of what I do, so I'm just having faith I will somehow figure it out.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Screaming Horse In My Belly

California Coast, Sept 11, 2015
I'm in Eugene, Oregon. I didn't intend on stopping in Oregon, especially Eugene. My brother lived here for a year before he moved back to Pullman and killed himself, and since I'm angry at everything that could have possibly contributed to Jeff's death, Eugene is on my list. It is better than Salem, though, and Portland is too expensive. Oregon is the Texas of the West Coast. Driving through the state on I-5 is an awesome experience if you can't get enough Jesus billboards and adult stores, all named "Adult Store" or "Adult Shop". (I wonder if seeing Jesus on a cross and being reminded that he died for our sins after going to an Adult Store is kind of like going to confession. Wipe away your sins with this billboard!) Don't forget all the guys in dirty t-shirts without sleeves (I'm not going to use that name, but you know what I'm saying) roaming the sides of the freeway, and RV's. And RV parks! And RV dealers! I actually saw a car driving in Eugene that had a huge "no fat chicks" sticker covering the back. If that doesn't make you want to visit Western Oregon, would you be interested in visiting a town called Drain? How about the next town over, Curtin? It's too bad there's not a Shower nearby. That was really a missed opportunity.

When I left Pismo Beach, I really tried to roam free without using GPS, which lasted about 20 minutes in which I ended up in a marina parking lot. So I pointed Gina (my Garmin GPS) towards Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay was my favorite place to go to the beach when I lived in San Francisco. I drove along the coast, through Big Sur and Monterey, ending up in Santa Cruz. I'd never taken that drive before and it was gorgeous. The next day I made it to Half Moon Bay, but by way of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. That's means I drove in a big circle. Don't ask.

Of course I'm going to tell you. I woke up in Santa Cruz thinking I'd had enough of the scenic route, and headed on the most direct route to Seattle. I was on some freeway, and reached a point where the freeway split in two. If you went right, you were going to Sacramento (which was the way the GPS was taking me), and if you went left, you were on the road to San Francisco. Suddenly I realized that I was skipping San Francisco entirely, in favor of Sacramento, and I was like, hell no. So I went left. That split second decision led to me driving on the top part of the Bay Bridge, which I've always found both exhilarating and terrifying. Part of the time, I can't see where I'm going, and it feels like I am driving way too high in the air for any sane person to tolerate, and I'm going to drive off the end of the world. Then suddenly, I'm driving into San Francisco! I hung out in Half Moon Bay for a bit, and then headed for an Indian restaurant in Petaluma. I really can't explain that one, but it meant that, unexpectedly, I ended up going north on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was 1) amazing, 2) free (no toll going north). So I hit both the S.F. bridges. Totally worth it. But that's not all! When I did decide to go back to some kind of logical route to Seattle, my GPS took me through Napa, which is another place I'd never been and was beautiful. I had one of those transcendent moments, driving through the farmland of Northern California, singing at the top of my lungs to "Wild Hearted Son" by The Cult, when I thought, "I'm exactly where I should be, when I should be, and I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life."

Yesterday I learned:
1) I am just someone who doesn't take the direct route, and even if I try, I end up going in circles.
2) I have a strange internal compass that takes me where I don't even know I want to go.
3) It's not logical, but it makes sense.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Escape from West L.A.

Pismo Beach, Sept 9, 2015
I'm on my way back up to Seattle. I don't know if this is day one, or day nine, as I was supposed to be out of my apartment in West Los Angeles on August 31. It took me until September 8, at about 10:30 pm, to actually get out of my apartment. It seems like most things I try to do these days becomes more complicated, plodding, and energy-consuming than planned.

The whole moving away from L.A. plan started with moving to Spokane at the end of July, for the MFA program. I didn't get a teaching position or even a financial aid offer. I actually never got a yes or no on the teaching position, and the financial aid offer was kept being delayed. First, I was supposed to find out mid-April, then June, then July, then August. You get the picture. Every time I emailed or called the financial aid office it was going to be another 2-4 weeks, with different reasons each time. The total amount of financial aid changed for the university, so all awards had to be recalculated. Graduate students get their aid offer after undergraduates. There's no reason, it's just going to be another three weeks. It finally occurred to me that, 1) teaching is a integral part of my Plan For The Future, and there is little to zero chance of me teaching creative writing after an MFA program without teaching experience in said MFA program, and 2) I can't afford more student loan debt. Business school was expensive, and even when I was making the big bucks my loan balance didn't go down significantly. With teaching comes a tuition waiver, and usually a stipend, and many MFA programs are moving to a fully funded model because MFA degrees don't get you the big bucks. So on July 20 I cancelled with EWU, with the intention of applying to fully funded programs for next year.

I'm still moving back to Washington, to Seattle, because reasons. Seattle still feels like home to me, even after eight years of living in Los Angeles. L.A. stresses me out- traffic, poor air quality which has meant annual sinus infections and a reoccurring cough, and so, so hot. Oh my god, so hot. I need to re-group, re-set, re-whatever. But, I delayed moving another month because my dog, Sparky, was getting sick and I had a feeling that it was serious this time. My feelings were right. I had to put him to sleep on August 14. I don't even know what to say about that. I can't sum up how devastated I am. At the same time, I've dealt with this in a fundamentally different way than I've handled emotional difficulty in the past. I was able to stay with it, in the moment so to speak. I didn't numb out or shut down. It's a significant milestone in my trauma recovery. Before, when I experienced bad things, upsetting, traumatic, triggering things, my emotions took a walk. I didn't know how I felt about my life most of the time. It happened at such a subconscious level that I didn't get a chance to consciously decide whether to turn off my emotions or deal with them. I should clarify that it was protective, life-saving even, when I was a child. It needed to happen so I could get through that trauma. It's been a problem in my adult life though. I couldn't manage my life very well, because I was running on auto-pilot so much of the time. The worse a situation was, the more disconnected I got, which meant I was emotionally unavailable to respond, that is, get the hell out of that situation.

Now I am definitely in phase two, the feelings all the time, as they happen, with fire hose strength. It is much better because I am finally getting real-time feedback on my emotional reactions. I know what I'm feeling, absolutely, unfiltered, no moderating it, no avoiding it. Phase two is not the final phase. It can't be. This is kind of like being a teenager again, at least emotionally, with the life experience of an adult. I can keep the strength of my emotions in perspective most of the time, and realize that it's a phase and that eventually my emotional reactions will calm down, and be tempered with, you know, stuff that keeps you from crying in public all the time. But right now, I don't have a filter, and getting hit with fire hose strength emotions is exhausting. Exhausting enough that I can only handle so much, and moving back up to Seattle is a lot of so much. When I moved to L.A., it happened very fast. I got the job, and then movers came and packed up my apartment, and I drove 14 hours the first day, and it was a tornado. In eight years I didn't even unpack a lot of that stuff. This time, I got rid of a lot, but there was only so much I could handle. I ended up throwing things in storage that I couldn't get rid of, and it took me eight extra days. I don't really know why I couldn't finish by August 31st. It took me until September 8th.

Last night I made it to Sylmar, where my friend lives. Today, I made it to Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach was a little random. I want to see the coast. Both google maps (wow, font change!) and my Garmin GPS just can't get off the direct route through the middle of California, so I was trying to trick them into going to the Pacific Coast Highway. I'm actually staying in a cheap hotel on PCH, the Blue Seal. I got here at 6 pm and stopped for dinner, and wanted to walk on the pier and the beach and decided to stay for the night. I didn't have a plan for the next place to get to. It's stunningly beautiful here, very California. I've never seen so many surfers in one place, running down the street towards the beach with their surfboards, and people can take their dogs on the beach. Seeing so many dogs made me cry, and I thought about turning around and hiding in the hotel room. But I sucked it up and kept walking down the pier and on to the beach and to the water, where I ran from the waves to keep my Doc Martens relatively dry, and picked up garbage on the sand. Garbage on the beach drives me crazy, especially plastic.

 When I was an undergrad, we read a book called My Old Sweetheart by Susanna Moore. I don't remember the class, or what the book was meant to teach us, but I remember the book. It stayed with me. It is about a girl in a dysfunctional family, a family where the parents don't take care of the kids, and the girl takes care of her mother. The book is set in Hawaii, and unfolds like a flower. The family splinters, but slowly, languorously.The girl's sister runs away, but the way she runs away is to go to a neighbor's house. Then she goes to a neighbor who lives a little farther away. House by house, bit by bit, she gets farther and farther away until she's in a completely different place.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it's a plan!"

Blog title is quoted from Doctor Who, season 7
I found out last Sunday night that I was accepted to Eastern Washington University's Masters of Fine Arts program in creative nonfiction. I'm still waiting on financial aid and other financial assistance, i.e. a teaching position, but I feel hopeful that this will work out. Classes start in September, which means moving back to Washington at the end of the summer. Moving is a big enough deal, but moving back to Eastern Washington is a REALLY BIG DEAL. Washington state is like a lot of states and the U.S. generally where there are urban, liberal areas and rural, conservative areas, and Eastern Washington is the more rural conservative part of the state. Actually, outside of Seattle but still on the western side is a lot of small logging communities that are not all that liberal either, and where I grew up, Pullman, is a college town and somewhat liberal compared to other parts of Eastern Washington, but I digress. I haven't lived in that area since I was eighteen, which in case you are wondering, was 25 years ago. I never in a million years thought I would move back there, so just the idea that I will probably be living in Spokane by the end of this year is mind-boggling. For me. And most people who know me. Like I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

There's the, I have a lot of tattoos and I'm a liberal weirdo who is completely unremarkable in Los Angeles but probably not going to blend into the Spokane culture, aspect of this, and then there's the moving from the second largest city in the United States to a city that is 3% that size. Even Seattle is almost 20 times larger than Spokane. It's hard for me to imagine, and I was born and raised in a town that is 20 times smaller than Spokane. Small towns or cities are different in so many ways from large urban areas, too many to list. So I'm expecting a significant degree of culture shock. At the same time, I feel like I'm getting a do-over. Even better than a do-over, because I have the benefit of years of experience, having lived my life in a completely different way than I would have imagined before I went to business school. Now I'm going back to what I always believed was my calling in life, to be a writer. I go back to writing with a skill (accounting) that most writers don't have, and a bunch of related skills that I developed while working in accounting, like training and managing people. Then I have what I learned in business school, including the art of faking it until you make it, or bullshitting your way through, if you want to say it in a less generous way. This is a skill that some people learn as they are growing up. If you are moderately privileged, you might assume that you will be successful in life and in the projects you undertake, including school and careers and relationships, and setbacks can be overcome, so if you don't totally know what you're doing it's fine, you'll pick it up. Or, like me, you might have grown up expecting to die in a gutter somewhere, but were lucky enough to gradually learn that you could accomplish your goals like other people, even if inside you felt undeserving and fraudulent most of the time.

Ironically, some of us pursue goals that seem purposely difficult, while maintaining a belief that we are losers even as we work harder and do better than those around us. Plus, those goals that we work so hard at proving we can do despite ourselves tend to not reflect what we really want, rather what we think is expected of us or what is safe. As much as I genuinely like accounting and the feeling of accomplishment it gives me, I chose it as a career because it seemed safer than to do what I wanted, be a writer. A professional, full-time writer. I thought it was easier to get into business school, get hired by one of the five top audit firms, pass the CPA exam, and work in a fairly technical, complicated, and specialized field that is super-conservative and has a culture that doesn't reflect me at all than do what I have know I was born to do from the time I was able to write words. I was so afraid of failing at something that defines me that I succeeded at something that was only hard for me because I didn't believe in myself. But I get to try again, realizing now that I didn't exactly make it easy on myself while I was trying to make it easy on myself. Turns out denying who you are is hard work, and not a satisfying goal to accomplish. Regardless, I am still alive, which means this game isn't over.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Returning to the scene of the crime

In the last two weeks, I've been working on my application to an MFA program in eastern Washington, for creative non-fiction. I've been looking at the MFA rankings in Poets & Writers for the last three years, and location had been a very important criterion until I looked at the 2014 magazine and saw that this program's deadline hadn't passed and I liked what I read about the program. Suddenly, I don’t care where I move as long as it’s for an MFA program. Going back to Washington is appealing, but moving back to eastern Washington is not something I'd considered before. The university is in Spokane, and Spokane is less than two hours away from where I grew up. That would mean I could visit my brother's grave any time I wanted to, but in recent history, when I've gone to the cemetery I've gotten the hell out of there as soon as possible. Strangely, I now have no anxiety about the idea of moving there. Not only does it seem plausible, it seems perfectly natural. Which is weird. Really weird.

Also weird- going through my blog to find posts to include in my writing sample. There is a lot in there I forgot I wrote, forgot happened, or forgot thinking about. My favorite post is still "My Heart" from February 2006. It's about my brother's death, and every time I read it, I cry. I just did some light editing of it in my writing sample and had to take a break afterwards because it made me so emotional. I don't know if it affects anyone else who reads it, but it says everything about how I feel about Jeff's suicide. It is everything about why it’s been so hard since he died.

I picked nine blog posts for the sample, but I re-read most of what I wrote for the last ten years, and I noticed some patterns.

1. I am sick a lot. It's kind of discouraging to read just how often I'm sick, but I'm not surprised. Stress ravages your immune system, and I really wonder if my immune system even developed properly. I have been under massive amounts of stress since I was a little kid.

2. This recovery thing is a difficult, long slog and I am really trying so hard. I keep chiding myself for not being dedicated enough, but I really am trying and it is hard work. Plus, I'm constantly sick. I'm making progress, and that is easier to see when I review the last ten years. But the day to day reality is that it feels like one step forward, three quarters of a step back, over and over and over with no end in sight.

3. I keep getting boyfriends that I think are so supportive and understanding, and I'm so lucky to have them, and then they turn out to be not what I thought. To be fair (to me), it's happened four times in ten years, so it's not like I'm going through boyfriends like Kleenex. The thing that strikes me is that the way I describe them when things are going well is so similar, and I’m soooo grateful that someone is accepting of me because I’m soooo awful to be with. Even though I haven't written about the breakups very much because I don't feel right about making my complaints public, the breakups have been very similar as well. This tells me that there is something specific I'm looking for in a romantic relationship, something I don’t seem to think I deserve, and I keep mistaking it in similar people. That I can see that actually seems encouraging, because maybe I can figure out why these relationships are so appealing, and find a way to fulfill those needs some other way.

This blog, on the other hand, never disappoints me. What an amazing gift to myself that I have documented the last ten years (more in some years than others) and can look back and see my progress, my patterns and my obstacles. In the next ten years I can make exponentially more progress and be somewhere I can't even imagine right now. Hopefully I will be in a place where I'm not always sick.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

To My Well-Meaning Friends and Acquaintances, or Manifesto of an Uncomfortable Blogger

My writing companion
Since I was bullied out of my job, my biggest desire has been to get back to my blog, even though it may be construed that this blog is what lost me my job. Blogging has never been easy for me, and I’ve never been na├»ve to the dangers of sharing the intimate details of my life. I spent thirty years keeping quiet, and I had to overcome a lot of my own fear and embarrassment. Before I started blogging I though, this is a stupid idea that will make everyone think you’re a freak, and besides, confessional writing is usually awful. The only thing that got me past the first couple of months was telling myself that no one was reading it. So when I was “outed” at work and treated like a freak, it wasn’t like I was completely flabbergasted. What I was less prepared for is the well-meaning acquaintances who said things like, “I could have told you this would happen” and “You shouldn’t be putting this kind of stuff on the internet; keep it in your support group.” Well. There are reasons why started this blog, and why it is public and not private. This blog is far more beneficial to me than harmful. It is the single most effective way that I’ve found for dealing with my trauma.

I grew up equating silence with survival, and there is a powerful part of me that wants to avoid anything that might put me in a vulnerable situation. My biggest priority growing up was to survive my family, and I developed emotionally and socially around that necessity. Much of, if not all of my adult life is influenced by the belief that I need to keep my focus on the basics of survival. When I’m scared or just don’t know how to judge a situation, the reaction to clam-up is instinctual and automatic. I do value and respect that part of me, even though it exerts almost tyrannical control over my life. It’s what powered me through, regardless of how depressed or suicidal I was. No matter how much I hated myself and hated my life, that part of me could not be dissuaded from doing whatever it took to keep going. When my therapist marvels that I’m not addicted to drugs or dead, that part of me is why. The challenge is to get past that singular focus, to have goals and aspirations that are greater than just survival. It feels natural to defer to that part of me, and the coping mechanisms that accompany it are so automatically and immediate that it takes consistent effort and self-awareness to stop them from taking over. It is so determined and sure of itself, and is hard to counter when it’s the first one there with a really compelling argument for all situations- “If you don’t do what I think is best, your life is in danger.”

The definition of danger is not just physical. When you’re a child, you’re dependent on adults to care for you, including emotionally. Children need to be loved. I was in danger with my parents from as far back as I remember. My dad was violent and routinely threatened to kill me, and my mom was emotionally, sometimes physically absent. She was depressed, and her inability to bond with me made my survival precarious. They were both verbally and emotionally abusive. You can’t help loving and depending on your parents when you’re a child, and I learned how to love and depend on people that mistreated me. I learned to tolerate and accept people that were unreliable, emotionally absent, unpredictable, and cruel, and to look to them to meet my emotional needs. You can probably see where this is going. If I follow the script I learned as a child, I think I’m taking care of myself in dysfunctional relationships. This is one of the areas where, if I don’t challenge my survival self, I accept familiar but emotionally frustrating and unfulfilling relationships instead of expecting something better. I also struggle to connect with people because of my reluctance to be open with my feelings, because it feels too dangerous. It feels too dangerous to be open with myself about my feelings, especially when I feel threatened.

Paradoxically, child abuse also potentially sets you up to be overly dependent. Children learn how to take care of themselves by imitating their caregivers, in ways that most people are not even conscious of. For example, when a baby cries and an adult comes to comfort them, their brain is actually learning what it feels like to be comforted and calmed. They are able to use that feedback to learn how to self-soothe when they get upset and an adult isn’t there. The stability of your caregivers creates stability in yourself, and that leads to self-reliance and independence. So if you don’t learn self-care as a child, you either need other people to help you regulate your emotions, learn to live with a heighted sense of fear and instability, or numb yourself out so you’re not overwhelmed. Either that, or you try to learn how to manage your feelings as an adult, which involves letting go of your coping mechanisms and allowing yourself to feel out of control until you learn other ways of dealing with yourself.

I did have a relationship that was an exception to my norm, the one with my brother. As much as I understand what he was dealing with and don’t judge him for taking his life, it felt like a huge betrayal. His death took away the only relationship I felt I could count on. It was also terrifying because I struggle so much with being suicidal, and having someone close to me act on it made it feel a lot more possible for me. That is the other side of me that grew strong off the misery of my childhood, my depression. That’s what I’m really terrified will get a foothold, and the part of me that is so hell-bent on survival is what I’ve relied on to keep that part of me that doesn’t want to be alive from rising to the forefront. More than anything, the threat to my survival as an adult is my own depression.

It’s this battle between the two parts of me that were fed and nurtured for most of my life that continues to suck up my emotional resources. To move beyond the limits of that existence, I need to make room in my head for something else. When I got to the point in my life that I felt both unbearably numb and unbearably depressed, realized I didn’t feel close to anyone because I’d locked myself down so completely and couldn’t reveal any of myself, was incapable of talking about my brother at all because my grief was so intense and was only getting worse, felt trapped in a prison of my own making and couldn’t even comprehend a future for myself, I decided to take radical steps. I did the thing I was the most afraid of; I started sharing my feelings.

It has been total hell. I feel lost and out of control a lot of the time. I am both exhausted and painfully awake, and feel like I’ve peeled off my own skin and am just raw to the world. I have so much grief, so much suppressed emotion, so much trauma to work though, and it’s the hardest work I can imagine. I try to moderate the time and energy I spend with it because it can totally take over, but I’m also fighting the urge to push it back down and try to forget about it. The thing that has been the most effective at keeping me moving forward is blogging. It is an act of total rebellion against the self that clings to silence and denial. I want to go back to putting up a front and hiding it all, go back to that comfort. My mind is more powerful than drugs or alcohol at numbing the pain. It takes conscious effort to keep pushing forward, and I lose my way when I stop blogging. I have to keep pulling myself back. It has not gotten easier. If anything, it just gets harder. My survival instinct runs on such an unconscious level that I don’t even know where the resistance is coming from. The unconscious is a vast ocean that can easily throw a tiny boat of conscious intention off course.

So I keep trying to write about it. I try to make it as raw and uncomfortable as possible. I counteract my desire be invisible by dredging up the feelings I am the most reluctant to be aware of or share with anyone else. Once I put it on my blog, I can’t hide it anymore. It’s out there. It’s more effective than thinking about it, or writing about it but keeping it to myself, or sharing it in a support group. It reminds me of writing a poem. It takes shape in your brain, and you write it, and then obsess over it, and rewrite it, and edit it, and rewrite it again, and hopefully you get to a point where you decide it’s as finished as you can make it, and you let it go out into the world. It is your creation, but it’s no longer yours. Creative work becomes something outside of you when you put it out there. As confessional and messy and hard to control as this blog is, it is still my creative work, and I feel like I am letting go and making space for myself.

If you think I shouldn’t be writing like this in a public space, that I’m over-sharing and needlessly exposing myself, and that I’m making my life more difficult, you, 1. Have no idea how painful it’s been to keep this all inside, 2. Don’t know me. At all. This is the most real I can get, and there is nothing that can happen that would be worse than the emptiness I felt when I was too fearful to reveal anything about myself. What I don’t understand is why anyone would read my blog in the first place if they think it’s inappropriate, but I have received that feedback. If it makes you feel icky, don’t read it. One of the reasons this works for me is that I know I’m not forcing anyone to hear about my crap if they don’t want to. If you look down on me for revealing these things about myself, that’s your issue, not mine. I’m not here to fulfill other people’s standards of how trauma victims should act or feel or talk about themselves. In real life, people don’t go through trauma, get it processed and packaged up all pretty so everyone can say, oh, she’s so brave and strong and look how amazing she is but now she can move on with her “life” and we can go back to pretending that child abuse is so rare we can ignore it, rape is not a big deal and has no lasting affects, people who commit suicide don’t mean anything to anyone, and when bad things happen to people it’s because they brought it on themselves.

If you think I don’t understand the consequences of what I’m doing, believe me, I do. I know things you put online will always be out there for people to find. I’m actually fairly internet savvy, and not naively wandering into computerland and thinking, hey, this is so cool! I can post selfies and talk about myself! Please stop with the warnings and advice. I actually didn’t lose my job because of my blog. I lost my job because of office politics and they just choose a particularly nasty way to take me down. Next time you feel the need to let me know the downsides of writing what I’m writing and posting it online, take a breath, restrain yourself, and remember, I got this. I’ve got bigger downsides that I’m dealing with. Okay? Okay. I’m glad we had this talk. Thank you for your support.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Valley of Untenable Vamps

I listened to a podcast called "Lexicon Valley", and they interviewed Peter Sokolowski from Merriam-Webster, Katherine Martin from Oxford University Press, and Jane Solomon from on their publications' choices for Word of the Year- culture, vape, and exposure, respectively. (The name of the podcast is "Exposure to Vape Culture". Until I listened to the podcast, I saw the title and thought vape was some vampire reference, and wondered if I had missed something since I thought the height of vampire obsession happened at least five years ago. Actually, it's a reference to electronic cigarettes.) The criteria used to select the words are, interestingly, completely different. Merriam-Webster chose culture because it was the most looked-up word on their website, especially when school starts. (As to why that is, you'll have to listen to the podcast.) Vape is more of a "of the moment" word; a word used in a subculture that rocketed into popular usage in 2014. (Obviously not used by me.) Exposure is reflective of the events of 2014, such as the ebola outbreak and hackers infiltrating businesses and stealing photos. Lastly, they talked to the Erin McKean, the founder of Reverb and Wordnik, about why crowning a Word of the Year is limiting and unnecessary. In that spirit, they suggested listeners could suggest their own Words of the Year.

It was a challenge to come up with a word to represent my entire 2014, not because so much happened, but because I have blocked out most of it. I really racked my brain for a good half hour until I came up with the perfect word: untenable. Untenable: not able to be occupied or defended against attack or criticism, unsustainable, unjustifiable, weak. I think of it as selecting a place to set up camp, then looking up from your site preparation and realizing there's no way you can stay there, and you can either pull up camp now and look for a better place or decide you've already pitched your tent there, you don't want to move, and hold on until you can't anymore. Or I think of a critical battle in a war, watching your position slip away and your troops inching back, and being in the moment where you're wondering if you should turn and run or fight it out knowing you'll get torn apart. It seems like one of those big fancy words, but it isn't.

I could hardly have a conversation with a friend this past year without untenable popping into my head to describe my situation. It is a word I was aware of but hardly used before this year. I could probably come up with a sociopolitical argument for how perfect it was for the last year. Really, how many situations, even ones that while not positive seemed to be under control, blew up in our faces in 2014? Iraq went from slowly disintegrating to a monumental, unfathomable shitstorm. Ukraine's president fled the country and Vladimir Putin went from problematic but tolerated to an almost cartoonish villain. Ebola went from a horrific but rare and isolated disease to one that aid groups were begging the world to pay attention to, and then it spread outside of Africa and the rest of the world started paying attention. Ferguson, Missouri became the flashpoint for the treatment of people of color by law enforcement. All of these things were problems before 2014, but they all hit a tipping point and became unavoidable. How many people do you know who say they don't pay attention to the news because it's too depressing? It would be hard to find even a news-averse person who hasn't heard about the news in 2014. That's the thing about an untenable situation, you either find a way to get out of it or it gets you. Sometimes you eat the bar...

There were a couple of high points, but my personal year was mostly suffering through a rapidly imploding marriage that didn't so much blow up as make me feel like I was in a two-year hostage situation. To survive it, I returned to coping strategies that I learned a long time ago and thought I was past needing anymore, like numbing and retreating into myself. I used to consider myself an extrovert. Now I don't. For the first time since I moved to Los Angeles, I am homesick for Seattle. Home is the operative word. I don't feel like I belong here. My breaking point has been the weather, something that is usually cited as an advantage L.A. has over Seattle. The summer was hot, and it sucked the energy out of me, but this winter has been more of a winter than I've ever experienced in L.A. It's rained so much that I used my rain jacket for the first time, and loved it. It got so cold I wore my big furry coat. The weather was Seattle but nothing else is; I write as I can hear people arguing in the alley behind my apartment building, a regular occurrence. Two days ago a "sniper" (later downgraded to a guy who shot into the air and then ran into an apartment building and shot his gun some more so they knew exactly where he was) was in a standoff with police one block, and by one block I mean literally one block, up the street. A helicopter was flying directly overhead all night. Thankfully no one was hurt, even the gunman. (Guess what race he is? I'll give you a hint. He's not black.) I go by accidents on the freeway multiple times a week, two last week with ambulances and fire trucks screaming by. We all have to face mortality, but I notice death walking next to me more than I did when I was a goth kid who wore only black. I can't even listen to my music without starting to cry because it reminds me of the person I used to be that I feel so removed from. This is why it's such a struggle to write, which is the most intolerable thing of all. So weather isn't the only reason, it is just the overcast icing on the cake. I truly am only happy when it rains. Who knew?

I've already decided on my word for 2015: clean.