Friday, July 22, 2016

The intimacy of Photoshop

There's a strange sense of intimacy in Photoshopping a person--not to change their appearance, but to remove smudges or scratches from the picture's surface. It feels like you're grooming them through real touch, even though you're only clicking on pixels. This can feel odd if you're fixing up a photo featuring someone you haven't seen in years, no longer have a relationship with, or have never met. There's a certain thrill in digitally primping someone you wish you had known, like a famous person or historical figure.

It's hard to divorce two-dimensional images of people from their tangible forms. For that reason, it's also eerie to find a photo of someone who is no longer alive and look into their eyes, even though they were alive in the picture. It's confusing to read a distraught message from a friend while seeing the userpic of their grinning face.

Time is never static, but photos give us the illusion of that. They really do seem to store an unchanging facet of a person. And maybe many of us present two-dimensional versions of ourselves in real life, because it feels safer than showing our fuller and unretouched selves.

The splitting of selves

Whether you still are defensive about something you’ve done in the past, or you feel objective enough to acknowledge the wrong of it without self-disgust, depends on how disconnected you are from that version of yourself. It depends on if it’s actually a past version of you. The transitory point is shame, when you no longer defend what you once said/did but are still not comfortable acknowledging it. That’s like when an amoeba is at the mid-point of separating from itself but is not yet two distinct bodies. Once you become a different version of yourself, you can look at some past actions with regret but not shame because it’s like observing someone else altogether.

Then again, that might be another self-deluding defense mechanism. I’m not really sure either way.

The catch 22 of confidence

I loved what Michelle Obama had to say in her interview with Oprah last month at the United State of Women summit (http://tinyurl.com/gmt6ysd). The positivity she exudes is inspiring. She made so many salient points about motivation, the role of men, and responsibility for ourselves and others that I can’t pick anything specific to applaud. Her whole outlook shines. I’d recommend reading the interview, but there is one part I somewhat differ on:

…That goes back to knowing who you are. And I think as women and young girls, we have to invest that time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are. Because I like me. I’ve liked me for a very long time. So for a long time I’ve had a very good relationship with myself…And we like—we all like ourselves in here. But you’ve got to work to get to that place. And if you’re going out into the world as a professional and you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want, you don’t know how much you’re worth, then you have to be brave. And then you have to count on the kindness and goodness of others to bestow that goodness on you when you should be working to get it on your own. Because you deserve it.”

She was talking about this in the context of the professional world. But in an overall sense, I’d say the process of women developing confidence is more involved than just deciding to like ourselves. I’m sure the First Lady understands this. As a black woman, she’s familiar with intersections of adversity. Unfortunately, though, self-help/positivity culture tends to overlook more complex causes which need more layered solutions. They tend to offer Michelle Obama’s suggestions, but without her background knowledge. Their advice lacks her context.

It’s easier to learn to like yourself if you don’t have major internal limitations. It comes more naturally if you’re smart, able-bodied, a good problem solver, attractive, and socially at ease—all of which Michelle Obama is. She certainly grew up with other roadblocks which her advantages didn’t cancel out. She worked tirelessly for what she has. At the same time, she was at a good starting point in other ways. It’s difficult to feel good about yourself if you don’t have those qualities or haven’t accomplished things you’re satisfied with. If you have a lot of achievements valued by others and you are the only one dissatisfied with them, then that is a confidence issue. But if society doesn’t value what you’ve done, at least not enough for it to gain recognition, then it’s hard to develop self-worth. Confidence is a catch 22. It has to develop from the inside out to manifest in accomplishments. Simultaneously, it has to come from outside in to flourish internally. Ms. Obama says that if you can’t be confident, then you have to be brave. I think it’s difficult to be brave if you’re not already self-assured, and not at a place in your life where you can afford risks.

Confidence for women is often difficult because we are undermined externally in so many ways. This isn’t to say there are no difficulties specific to men. There are, but a great deal of women’s constraints are related to physical safety. Being at risk of assault and violence in public will leave you with a fragile sense of security that can lower confidence. Ms. Obama is doubtlessly aware of this. However, it’s often not taken into account by others who tell women to learn to love ourselves.

There are a lot of factors that play into shaky confidence. While liking oneself is a good goal, it can’t be the starting point because that in itself has prerequisites and there are societal problems to be addressed in the process. It’s a worthy goal for people to find ways to be confident even if they’re not as gifted and capable as Michelle Obama. I’m not sure how to do that yet. I don’t like to lay out a problem without offering a solution, but I honestly have no idea how to resolve this. I need to believe it’s possible, though, in order to retain hope.

I’ll let others know when I figure it out. It can be done; it’s just more than a one-step process. In the meantime, we can learn from the First Lady’s approach to life. She has so many wonderful things to say.

The Nazi room

Some friends have said that they regret using Facebook because it makes them like their peers less. That someone they would probably like in person becomes someone they can’t stand because of the opinions they post. I understand this sentiment, and at times I can relate to it. But at the same time, it’s hard to believe that somebody’s defining beliefs and overall worldview would never be expressed face to face if you know them well enough. And if they are hiding certain values, I’m not sure I’d rather be unaware of what those values are.

In the past, I have written that there is no single “true” self. People are multifaceted, and we can be kinder and more complicated than our belief systems. I don’t believe that a human necessarily has only one set of values; they can have several at odds with one another. But even if their values aren’t a neatly matching set, others can still feel alienated by a particular belief they have—even with the awareness that it isn’t their only belief. I know I will distance myself from a person if they express specific beliefs, just as I know I’m not exempt from alienating others with mine.

The internet is a paradoxical place. It’s a space where humans are bolder and more confrontational about expressing themselves, and at the same time more cautious if their words are for public consumption. It’s a place where individuals can perform a one-dimensional version of themselves, and where they can also share sides of their psyche that are not usually seen. It’s a meeting ground where people dismiss each other more readily because it’s easier to see a human as a set of pixels or an algorithm, but people also might offer each other more time. Because the online world is us, an outgrowth of both space and time.

Just as the internet is people and the internet is a place, people are places. Some are homes. Some are locations we think are homes, but turn out to be stops along the way. Some are havens we visit routinely, but where we don’t ultimately live. That’s why I think of a personality as a house. Some houses have consistent themes throughout. Those homes are cozy and predictable. Some prefer that, others find it dull. Some houses are neat and affable in the rooms that are meant for showcasing, but complete chaos in the private quarters. And others don’t hide their mess.

This is the type of home I’d find most disconcerting: The social, guest-receiving rooms are open and embracing. The living room contains an MLK poster and books about environmentalism and civil rights. Then, somewhere tucked far down a hallway, there’s a study full of KKK propaganda and Nazi memorabilia. The resident is flustered upon guests discovering it, but insists it’s “not a racist thing.” They say they have no problem with (X minority group), they just “don’t want them in their country.” (So what does “having no problem with them” mean? Not objecting to their basic existence, provided that existence occurs far away and they never have to inhabit the same space?) The person who owns and maintains this house may not see the space dedicated to bigotry as their “true” room. They may see it as just one coexisting with all the others, no more of a core space than anywhere else. They may even like to have minority friends in the house; just not in that area. But the guests who liked the main quarters won’t feel comfortable there anymore, and it would be especially scary if the house was a place where they’d regularly enjoyed spending time.

That figurative house is who some people are. Some may not actually be aware that they contain that specific room. Others might know about it but blame others for putting the contents inside, not acknowledging that they choose to hold onto those things. And I know my definition of welcoming is subjective; some would feel a lot more embraced in the bigotry room than in the main socially presented areas. But that is how I see it, and I think the internet provides a window into rooms that might not otherwise be seen—even by those who live in the house. The difference lies in whether or not the homeowner justifies that room; whether they respond to its discovery by more carefully hiding the contents, by bringing them out into the open, or by trying to renovate.

The trickster archetype

Two famous characters which seem to share certain parallels are Joker and the Cheshire Cat. It's not just because they both wear unnatural, unsettling grins on their faces. It's because they both represent order vs. chaos, but in different ways.
The Cheshire Cat acts as a guide among chaos, providing advice and order at times--although he's capricious and only helps when he feels like it. Rather than good or bad, he seems neutral and mainly motivated by his own whims for amusement.
In the Batman universe, Joker is also motivated by his own amusement and says perplexing things. But he wants to upend order and create chaos, which is somewhat the opposite of Cheshire Cat. The latter tries to provide balance between the two, whereas Joker just wants to destroy.
Also, both follow a motif of what they, in their own words, call "madness." They're products of their environments and arguably both well-adjusted to their surroundings, even if others would see them as nonsensical or erratic. It reminds me of the aphorism that it's no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society. The Joker has found a definite means of survival, living purely at the expense of others. He's sustained himself, but not in a way that could ever be seen as healthy. The Cheshire Cat seems better adapted because he accepts the inevitable disorder but tempers it with organization, and he's far less malevolent.

Hipsters in Ugg boots

I wonder how many things that aren't currently "cool" to enjoy will become cool once they're vintage. My theory is that a lot of vintage stuff is only cool because enough time has passed for people to forget why they originally disliked them. Then when it becomes too generic the second time, it gets abandoned because it's no longer ironic.

Prediction: In another twenty years (because it has to be at least twenty), hipsters will be wearing Ugg boots and listening to Bieber.

My inner emo child is showing

Watched Blink 182's new video for "Bored to Death" and am currently torn in two directions like a Stretch Armstrong doll. The song is repetitive and the lyric "Life is too short to last long" is one of those maddening statements that's clearly meant to sound profound, but really is just self-defining (it's like saying "Fire's too hot to be cold"). But at the same time, damned if the scene of the angsty punk boy scratching messages into his desk and his bleach-haired girlfriend jumping around listening to oversized headphones and them skating in the parking lot doesn't leave my early 2000s mallcore heart screaming. I'm surprised I didn't combust into a cloud of AIM icons featuring Sally the Ragdoll and skulls with little pink bows on top.
I’ll start out by saying that the recent cop killings are deplorable. People should not have to fear being murdered because of their jobs. When an officer is shot in vengeance after they did something unconscionable—such as Jackie Neal of San Antonio, who was shot after raping a woman on the job—I have to admit there’s a certain sense of compensation. But that doesn’t mean vigilante justice is right or that killing is an acceptable response, especially when other cops are being shot for another’s offense. So I’m sorry to hear about what happened in Baton Rouge, as well as what happened in Dallas. 

That being said, it's a dangerous assumption to claim that if a person is critical of police officers in general, or simply outspoken against police brutality, or even professedly anti-cop, that it means they must want the police to be murdered. There are people I can’t stand, cop and non-cop alike, but that doesn’t mean I want them killed. I might be petty and wish any number of irritations upon them. I might want them to spill hot coffee on their lap or never find a parking space or only ever step on Legos when they’re barefoot. I might hope they get fired or dumped or face failure, but I don’t wish for them to die. That may not be healthy or mature of me. However, it’s not the same as condoning murder. 

To respond to criticisms of police with “Then you want all cops to die!” is to smother any dissenting opinion. Because then the person is not discussing their actual grievances with the police force or with police brutality; they’re stuck defending their right to voice those thoughts and assuring others that they’re not saying cops should be massacred. Some cops and police supporters might genuinely believe that to criticize a cop is to sign their death warrant, but others use this as a red herring.

Unfortunately, I have heard some on my side of the issue celebrating the murder of cops. I’ve seen statements like “No tears for dead cops,” which sounds more like a command than a personal sentiment. This disturbs me. But that perspective is not the norm coming from those who speak out against police brutality. Most have the mindset of, “We don’t want you to be killed. We want you to stop killing people.” Some have pointed out that if you believe being against police brutality is the same as being anti-cop, it’s like saying objection to child abuse makes you anti-parent.

I’ve heard the argument that speaking against the actions of specific police officers stirs up anti-cop hatred that leads to them getting murdered. The argument can be paraphrased as, “You understand that anti-gay hate speech leads to gay people getting murdered, but you don’t acknowledge the same about cops.” This would make sense, except that criticizing police brutality and racial profiling doesn’t amount to hate speech, and the people who target LGBT people often do so because they literally believe that "God" commanded them to.

It is true that hatred of some groups leads to them being killed, but that mainly happens to oppressed populations. For example, there are individual gay people who hate heterosexuals due to years of oppression, but gay people aren’t shooting up straight clubs in Orlando. There are women who hate men, but there’s no pandemic of women slaughtering men simply for being male (and there are examples of the reverse situation. Elliot Rodger and the Montreal massacre of 1989 are two examples). Police aren’t an oppressed class. They sometimes do get intentionally killed simply for the job they have, and that is horrific. That’s inexcusable. But while the ones who are murdered are in no way at fault for their own deaths, they chose the job with awareness of the risks. Being a police officer is a choice. Race, gender, and sexual orientation are not.

A peaceful protest is still a protest.

When somebody says, "I'm all for peaceful protests, but why do they have to block highways/interrupt airport services/have marches/boycott things/perform sit-ins??", then they do not know what "peaceful" or "protest" really means.

A peaceful protest doesn't mean the participants are quiet and docile. It doesn't mean they won't do or say anything that will make others feel uncomfortable. That's why it's a protest: It's an act of dissent meant to catch the public eye, and that has to be accomplished by disruption. That's how the status quo is challenged. "Peaceful" just means they're not going to murder, batter, or sexually assault anyone in the process. And a lot of people who complain about acts of public interruption, such as highway blockades, will also complain about protests that are fairly sedentary and self-contained, such as Occupy. Their issue isn't that they want protests to be "peaceful." They just don't want any to exist.

The Pokemon cult

When I was out catching Jigglypuffs at West Haven beach today, I passed by a public prayer circle and swore I heard one of them include the word "Pokemon".

Theories:
1) They were praying to catch more Pokemon
2) They have formed a religion around the Pokemon and were praying to a Squirtle
3) One of them may have been lamenting that "All these people are finding Pokemon, but can't find Jesus!" (In which case, I'd inform them you can catch him at Level 20.)

Future nostalgia

If you're bored or sad, it can help to remind yourself of all the things that have been developed/invented in your lifetime which you've gotten so immersed in that you wonder how you possibly could have ever gone without. Think of how many more will come to exist in your future, and then you will look forward to things you're not even aware of yet. The best part of that is you don't miss those aspects or agonize over not having them, since you don't yet know what they are--you just know they'll be a great surprise. And if you can imagine them, you can make them.


Responsibilities

Continuously confused by the narrative that poor people "have no responsibilities". It probably derives from the idea that those living in poverty are naturally irresponsible, and therefore must not have things to be responsible for. Two thoughts: 1) Irresponsible people, by definition, actually have responsibilities. Being irresponsible means evading the ones you do have. 2.) Navigating one's way through poverty actually involves a lot of effort and work to survive. Many work multiple jobs. Many have kids and other relatives they need to attend to. And if you're on government assistance--which is frequently judged as the pinnacle of irresponsibility--there is a great deal of effort involved in both attaining and continuing to collect it. You have to show up to appointments and present armloads of files and wade through seemingly endless paperwork. If anyone's initial response is "Well, what if they put all that effort into trying to find a job?", please know those things are not mutually exclusive. The majority of benefits recipients are employed. Additionally, the common perception of those on welfare living in luxury doesn't even make sense. Saying poverty is privilege is like saying water is dry.

If anything, people with the least amount of responsibilities are rich ones living off an inheritance.

What defines something as childish?

I'm curious about why certain tastes and activities are considered "childish". Things like Harry Potter or Pokemon or board games or video games or cartoons are often called childish because they appeal to kids, but it doesn't really make sense to exclusively label them "a kid thing," since a lot of adults enjoy them. Maybe an entertainment product is considered childish if it was designed and marketed specifically with kids in mind. But all the same, it was invented and developed by adults who may have been thinking of what they would still enjoy if they were socially permitted.

Certain types of entertainment are seen as kid stuff, but still acceptable for adults to partake in (Star Wars and comic books, for example). I wonder what makes some things more socially accepted as crossovers, while others are seen as exclusively the domain of kids. Maybe nostalgia is a factor. Because Star Wars has existed since the '70s, adults regard it as "acceptable" entertainment because it reminds them of their pasts. It also has a lot of philosophical/intellectual merit, as does Harry Potter, so that could be grasped as a reason to give it a pass for grown people.

There's also often an overlap between nerd culture and things that are judged as childish. Fantasy, sci fi, gaming, cosplay. But many of those things are increasingly embraced by adults, and the appeal is generally understood even by those who don't engage in them. This is part of the process of nerd culture moving to the mainstream.

Whenever a new entertainment trend pops up that relates to nerd culture, a lot of people denounce it as childish until gradually, it just comes to be seen as geeky (whether the person uses that term in a disparaging, affectionate, or neutral sense). I hope that will be the case with Pokemon Go. I hear a lot of surly sentiments along the lines of "I don't play because I'm an adult and I have responsibilities!" It's ridiculous to assume all adults who like the game have no responsibilities; many use it as a fun escape in their down time. Everyone who makes that complaint has a hobby, but they don't consider their own leisure activities to be immature. So it doesn't follow that every non-utilitarian act is seen as childish. I think it has to do with initial knee-jerk reactions to nerd culture. I hope to see this game assimilated into the menu of hobbies that are treated as valid for all ages.

Blank spaces

Comic characters can't see the blank spaces between panels as they travel from one to another. If they could, they'd realize that's the space where they have the freedom to draw themselves.

Punching Poseidon

If you can, at least once in your life, punch Poseidon.

When the tide is tall and choppy, curling into water cliffs, charge into the waves. They'll pummel you with salty fists. Stand against them at first. They will start thrashing you. Let them. Let them sweep and scrape you across the shore. Dig your hands and feet into the sand. Be seaweed, rooted down, swaying with the current. Let the foaming mouth swallow and spew you out. Then, when it thinks it's quelled you, run at the waves again. Crash in. Tangle. Switch between boxing with the water and dancing with it. Seize the frothing joy.

The ocean will learn it can move you, but can't claim you. You both belong to yourselves, and will always battle it out or carry each other. You'll return to each other in tides.

Embryonic

Being in the ocean is one of the most soothing experiences. It guides you back to an embryonic lull and stirs with primordial echoes. The danger is that it's indiscriminately nurturing. It cradles you while sustaining your predators. The security and the perils are very much like gestation, because nothing is both as welcoming and dangerous as becoming alive.

Vulnerability as a pejorative

I may have figured out why “Tumblr” is often used as a disparaging adjective (calling a person “so Tumblr”, etc). It’s not just because of associations with far-left politics—although, despite the common perception, it’s not exclusively so. There are Tumblr pages and communities all over the ideological spectrum. The popular contempt for the website also may be because it’s an outlet for emotional first-person confessionals. That kind of vulnerability gets sneered at. Some entries may sound kind of exaggerated or theatrical, but I think what it really boils down to is that the genuinely heartfelt narratives make a lot of people uncomfortable. Readers don’t want to be raw, so they don’t like seeing others that way. That reaction is a kind of non-empathetic empathy.

Such self-expression is dismissed as juvenile because the expectation is that adults talk “rationally” about work and money while teenagers talk about feelings. And honestly, I’m tired of that norm for adults.

There is something about openness that makes some see you as a receptacle. If you’re open, the jaded people want to reach into your space and either drain your substance or replace it with their own. I think there need to be communities where people can talk sincerely with friends or strangers or just a blank page, siphoning off their thoughts into the reflective a.m. hours. Tumblr isn’t perfect, but I’m glad it serves that need for so many.

Economy of obsoletism

I often hear that most jobs will be replaced by robots or mechanical functions someday, and my first thought was that might be a lot more money and effort than continuing to employ people. It would be expensive to create, install, and maintain all that machinery. Mike said the initial cost would be high but that it wouldn't expensive in the long run. That might be true. In that case, the majority of human jobs would be based on building and installing the technology, until machines can do that too. Once that happens, I wonder if there would be a financial meltdown or if the need for humans to have jobs would be obsolete--in the same way we see outdated technology as obsolete? And if that's the case, would we reconfigure our entire foundation of economics? Would there even be a purpose for money anymore?

Crosses and crossroads

When I was about sixteen, somebody from school asked me, “Why do you wear a cross all the time if you’re not Christian?” I can’t remember my exact answer, but it was something like “Contrast.” I saw it as an ironic juxtaposition against a punk or goth-y outfit, and at that age, I didn’t grasp the callousness of using others’ revered symbols as accessorized playthings. But there was another reason behind it that I couldn’t yet articulate.

It was also because it’s a symbol of torture, both in its literal sense and in what the Church had done to many over the centuries, and I was very angsty at the time. Maybe the macabre element wasn’t all that contrasted with my black clothes and skull emblems. But it was also a symbol of rebirth and hope—not hope within a religious context, but in a general sense.

I’ve been fascinated by Christianity’s various forms throughout my life and had a visceral love/hate response to it since early childhood. I don’t talk a lot about the Christian chapter of my early twenties, partly because it may be hard for others to understand and partly because I don’t have much to say about it anymore. (I call it a chapter and not a “phase” because it wasn’t just a fad to me; an accessory cast off easily as a crucifix necklace. It was deeply felt at the time.) 

I don’t call myself Christian anymore, and have not for years, for a few different reasons. One, because I neither see the Bible as a guidebook nor as divinely inspired. Two, because my social values don’t match the mainstream evangelical community’s at all. And three, because the word literally means “little Christ,” and I cannot with any humility compare myself to Jesus.

Although I no longer identify as Christian, I don’t regret that period. For me, it was a stepping stone to liberalism. Raised within secular political conservatism, it was an easy transition to Christianity because the religious right has co-opted the religion and painted their approach to it as the only true north. But within it, I saw social issues in a whole new light. I began to care about people I used to dismiss as lazy or entitled. It was a stopgap to the philosophy I now try to live by. I don’t do it perfectly by any means, and am still learning. But I’ll always be grateful to the more progressive side of Christianity for showing me a path I’d previously only heard of, and had never tried to walk until that time.

From June: Alarm clock haiku

Woke up thinking of an alarm clock haiku:

Over-ripe time fruit
Explodes, splattering loud noise
Onto the morning.

(Side note: I'm actually pretty glad that real fruit doesn't explode. Dream logic, though.)

From June: "You Ripped the Colors Out of Me"

(Explanation--I've been feeling progressively worse the past month and this afternoon I stayed in bed for four hours and did nothing. But then I wrote this and really want to get back on track.)

Spectrum: A Letter to Severe Depression

You ripped the colors out of me
Plunged your hand into my chest
Yanked out a fistful of rainbow,
beams of light
Left me split open, dripping grey
You took my red ambition
Rockets and capes, flight forward
Never a stop sign in sight
You took my orange fruits of labor
My yellow tipsy buzz from
sipping on the sun
(now I can only taste the burn)
You took my purple prose
Leaving only black and blues
Battered hues
and
A ghostly trace of green
Envy for another time
A more colorful self.

Art fights

I recently thought of a really funny fight that my brother and I had when he was about seven years old and I was nine. He was chasing me, so I locked myself in the bathroom and was taunting him from the inside.

Then a piece of paper and pencil were slipped to me under the door. It was a drawing of me being chased by bees.
I flipped it over and, in response, drew him dropping an ice cream cone and crying.
He got another piece of paper and drew me stubbing my toe.
In turn, I drew him surrounded by stink lines.

We kept this going wordlessly for a few minutes, each drawing images of each other that were either unflattering or depicted the other in an unpleasant scenario. It culminated in him drawing a picture of Bart Simpson mooning me, and then we both burst out laughing and I unlocked the door.

This is how siblings fought back in the mid '90s, in a house where everyone drew and religiously watched The Simpsons. And I still have that last drawing.

Stretch

There's something calming about long shadows stretched across chain link fences and sidewalks. Maybe because it shows that even a flat facsimile of you can wrap itself around many surfaces at once and reach across the daylight. If you don't have the energy at the moment, it will fill in for you until you do.

Road maps II

Wires and veins and road maps are all similar visually, and linked in concept. Technology connects people as part of a larger body and is the highway we travel together.

Road maps

All my veins are road maps
Leading back to you.
You three: the vessels that once carried me
Now in vessels
Pulsating with paint and
never-dried ink.
All branch into heart and lungs
Coloring outside the lines of time
Filling in the space
between breaths.

Imaginary seats

Today I was on the swing at the park and a 6-year-old girl was on the blue swing next to me. She got off it for a moment, pushed the empty swing, and told me, "I'm pushing nobody!"

I said, "You're pushing an invisible person."

She answered, "Well, I have an imaginary friend named Mickey, so let's say I'm pushing him."

Over the next few minutes, I guess Mickey became a little more real to her. Another girl from her kindergarten class came by and wanted that empty blue swing, but Morgan (the first girl) said, "No, Mickey's on it!"

They started to bicker. I offered my swing, but the other little girl specifically wanted "Mickey's". So I looked at the empty plastic seat and said, "Mickey, I think this girl wants a turn. Can you let her have it for a minute?"

Morgan immediately eased up and said, "Okay!". She and her invisible friend pushed the other girl together, and they both intermittently conversed with "Mickey."

I think it can help to meet little kids where they are. As funny as it is that she wanted her imaginary friend to stay on the swing, it wouldn't have worked to tell her Mickey wasn't real. Sometimes it's most effective to cooperate with their make-believe scenario and solve problems within it.

(Pictured: Mickey on the blue swing.)

Distrust of finite objects

For a while, I've had a theory that people tend to be suspicious of something that holds a lot of information if they can't see the entirety of where that information is stored. It's why I prefer physical books to eBooks or Kindle; I like to see all the pages together. It also seems to be why Arthur Weasley told Ginny in the second Harry Potter book, "Don't trust something that thinks if you can't see where it keeps its brain."

This may also extend, partly, to why so many humans are distrustful of one another. Among other reasons, it may be because we know that people have whole worlds of thoughts contained within a finite body part, and we can't see the thoughts from the outside.
From what I've noticed, white supremacists often have conflicted feelings about Jewish people. On one hand, they're quick to stereotype and ostracize them. On the other, they love using the Jewish community as an example of white people being oppressed based on race (never mind the fact that Jewish people were oppressed for being Jewish, not for being white, and were even considered an ethnic minority as a means to justify the persecution. Also, they were attacked by other white Europeans, not POC). Additionally, racists often assume that all Muslims are anti-Jewish and will cling to that as an Islamophobic stereotype, even if they themselves feel hostile toward Jewish people.

Another factor I've noticed is how they will either say that race isn't the same as nationality/religion or that it is, depending on whether that will further the "white people are oppressed" narrative. This is a pattern that occurs often:

Person: "White people are targeted. Look at what happened to the Irish and the Jews!"

Then the same person will rail against affirmative action, calling it "racism against whites." When told that Irish and Jewish scholarships exist and benefit a lot of white people, they'll backtrack and say, "Well, that doesn't count because those benefits are based on nationality/religion, not race."

Blather, rinse, repeat.

Mood music

I don’t usually listen to purely instrumental music because I find lyrics more relatable. But at the same time, I can see why instrumental might be even more relatable because instead of including a storyline that might be specific, it encompasses a mood that can be tailored to even more situations.

From June

When my aunt Mary was in her early twenties, she wrote this description of her parents in a journal: “Kiki and Harold: A mass of confused frustration, or a kind of breakfast-out bargain kids who love to get up early! Their house is full of their kids, dogs, and their guests for wok or spaghetti dinners. Their house has so much flea market stuff, but they know that you can always add another addition to their mass of life.”

I’ve never heard a truer description of my grandparents. Kiki, Harold, and Mary were a trifecta of my young life, of my whole childhood. And now all three of them are dead.

I never met a person who disliked Kiki, but she was always my inner litmus test. If anybody didn’t like her, I knew I couldn’t like them.

When thinking of my grandma, I think of her love of African and Native American art. I think of the way she made jewelry and collected thousands of beads. I think of how she was the first woman in her family to go to college—and then went on to be a part of the school board, to become an art teacher, and to start her own business with her husband. I think of her Yiddish profanity, including an expression that literally translates to “Go shit in the ocean,” and an ancient curse of “May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!” I think of how she built an enormous house out of wood and stone while pregnant. And I think of her as a violin virtuoso, and the day when, at 90 years old, she picked up a violin for the first time in decades and realized to her dismay that she could not play anymore.

Kiki’s dementia was especially difficult for her because she was used to being the family matriarch. She was used to always being in charge, and her whole life was defined by giving care to others. So when she was in the position of needing care, it distressed her. After Harold passed on in September, she started saying she wanted to go home. Even when she was at her house, she’d tug on the doorknob and start crying, begging her children to take her home. This was heartbreaking, and my husband had an astute insight about it. He thinks that even though her senility prevented her from processing Harold’s death, she understood something was missing. And so with her husband gone, it didn’t feel like home anymore.

Even in severe dementia, her will was astounding. In the hospice, she managed to live for over two weeks with no food or liquids. Most people can only live that way a few days.

Today, shortly before she passed away, her five surviving children gathered together at a beach by the hospice. They wrote her name in huge letters in the sand with a big heart and all danced around her name, shouting it into the sky and yelling, “You’re free!” When they returned to her room, she was still. She’d passed right as they were “releasing” her.

My aunts and uncles are going to donate her brain to the medical community in order to contribute to dementia research, and to learn more about the type she had. It makes perfect, harmonious sense that they would perform a spiritual ritual while also contributing to science. And I know that’s exactly what Kiki would want, because it means she can help people even in death.

Harold, Kiki, and Mary: you are my blood, my trio, my history. And for the rest of my life, you’ll show up in my Technicolor dreams.

Remixing

Surgeons, tailors, deejays, filmmakers, writers, and painters
all do the same thing
which is editing
Nip-tucking sentences
Operating on colors
Making musical patchwork
And remixing bodies
Fixing, making
Cutting and conjoining
all the different worlds
into one.

The ethics of size

When someone looks at a massive work of human effort, like architecture or a giant mural, they feel a sense of awe because it reminds them of their own smallness in proportion to the world. But what they’re looking at isn’t natural expanse; it’s human bigness. Maybe it’s not a reminder of our insignificance, but the opposite. We wonder if we also contain multitudes, or if we’ll always be microscopic compared to the neighboring giants.

I voiced this to Mike and he sees it differently. He thinks that when we look at human creations, we’re affected more by physical scale than by thoughts of psychological size/effort. He then showed me a game he’s been playing called Katamari Forever, in which the player starts out tiny and steadily grows bigger as they roll up their surroundings into a giant ball that eventually becomes a sacrifice to a god and is made into a star. When they’re smaller, they’re dominated by their surroundings and are easy prey. But then as they grow and start to absorb people, and then trees and buildings and eventually sea monsters and floating islands and planets, everything starts to look more abstract to the point where individuals don’t even register anymore. And then you’re reminded of your smallness again when you present the ball of everything to the deity, and he accepts or rejects it seemingly on a whim.

I’d like to believe that people, and living beings in general, interact on a more profound level than predator vs. prey, and that we can resist the urge to crush or absorb others once we reach enormity. And that it takes something other than intimidation to remind us of compassion. I like that game, but it seems to reduce consciousness to those binary terms, and I’m not sure I identify with that.

Evil objects

I dreamed there was an object that embodied all the evil in the world, and that it kept being passed from person to person and was sometimes inherited through families. It changed form once you either recognized or tried to destroy it. It couldn't be destroyed completely, but could be rendered temporarily powerless and could be contained.

First it was a teddy bear belonging to a little girl. The stuffed animal roused suspicion because it would suddenly have an angry expression on its face, or it would be hanging from a lamp and nobody had set it up that way, or the family would start getting threatening phone calls with no return number.

When they discovered it was the teddy bear, it morphed into a baby bunny that was so cute that nobody wanted to kill it. But someone threw a rock at it and then it turned into a telescope. If you looked into the telescope, it would show you a vision of how you would die. The trick was to avoid the temptation of looking, no matter how curious you were, and then you would win.

After it was a telescope, it transformed into a beautiful, enormous painting that almost covered a whole wall. That painting had to be slashed to ribbons. If anyone photographed or tried to replicate it, it would keep its power even if slashed up. That was a challenge for people because it was so gorgeous. But the family stabbed the painting and the canvas turned completely black.

Then it turned into a collection of clothing. That was more difficult because it had separated into multiple objects, but each had less power separately than they would together. So the family bagged them all up, stored them in the attic, and forbade anyone from ever putting on those clothes or opening the bags.

Then I woke up and was disappointed; I wanted to see how it would progress. I am probably going to look with suspicion at every inanimate object for the next 24 hours or so.

GIF universe theory

The collapsing universe theory, which states that the universe collapses and recreates itself again and again, basically would confirm my suspicion that we're all living in a giant gif.

Dream ideas

Last night I dreamed about a class that was given a writing assignment involving notebooks which were partially, sparsely filled in. Every ten pages or so, they included a page which featured a doodle or an entry from a fictional character or a note written by one of that character's friends. The entries were cryptic enough that they could be interpreted in multiple ways, and never revealed the identity. The job of the writer was to flesh out that character by using those entries as writing prompts; deciding what they meant and who the person was, and creating a fictional story (or multiple stories) around them. They were supposed to write in first person, taking on their identity.

I think that would actually be a cool project and those notebooks should exist in real life.

Going to heck

Just as Hades is separate from hell, Heck is also its own afterlife sphere. Heck is an eternal Sunday potluck full of under-seasoned potato salad, where everyone wears pastel polo shirts and titters nervously if somebody says the word "lesbian" or "underwear". It's overseen by a middle-aged Midwestern couple who have unexplained Minnesotan accents.

From May: My grandma's diaspora

Blank spaces often scare us more than pain. This is why death is so daunting: because our void of knowledge about it is a blank space. The possibilities are infinite, and infinity stretches out past the horizon of our understanding, spinning with so many colors that they all blur into white. This is why many prefer suffering to nothingness; because at least there's still a self to suffer.

When I think of my grandma, who doesn't have much time left, I wonder how much of her memory is buried under snow and how much has been uprooted altogether. Maybe it's like a page where the writing has been erased and she's trying to piece it back together by the ghostly traces. Her page was the first edition, but she's read it to so many people that it's no longer the only copy. The words have scattered from her page onto those of everyone she has loved.

The words aren't lost. Her family still knows her Yiddish and her made-up expressions like "cuckoopots" (meaning anything outrageous). We still know her winking innuendos and her puns; how sitting on a menu is "ass-essing" it. We know her spirited rants against bigotry, anti-Semitism, and bad customer service. We know her stories about how much she loved her students. We know the time the stock market crashed, her elementary school burned down, she caught the measles, and her widowed father remarried all within the same year. How she lay in bed as a sick five-year-old that year, clutching a little toy fire truck, and said to the ceiling, "Mommy, please make me better." How on the day WWII ended, she went to a party in a yellow dress and re-met my grandpa (they'd gone to school together, reconnected at the party, and started dating). How her first boyfriend had been gay, and she grew to care about gay rights before a lot of people did. How she had six children because she wanted one for every millionth Jew killed in the Holocaust.

We remember these things because she told us. Because her life has been a love letter to the world. Or sometimes a complaint letter. Or a bawdy, hilarious manifesto.

One moment a few weeks ago, in a fragment amid a word salad, she said "I want to be everywhere." And she is everywhere, just not in herself.

She has begun her own one-woman diaspora. She has found homes in everyone else.

Why the friend zone is a myth

When I say that "the friend zone" doesn't exist, I don't mean that leading people on doesn't exist. I don't mean that nobody deliberately flirts with someone they know has unrequited feelings for them, aware it will hurt but not caring because it feeds their own ego. And while that behavior is often exclusively criticized in women, people of all genders do it. Anybody who behaves that way is being selfish and dishonest, not a friend. So I'd rather call it "leading people on" than "friendzoning."

When I say there's no such thing as "the friend zone," what I mean is that people do not become friends with others out of spite. Nobody decides, "I'm going to be friends with somebody who likes me romantically in order to punish them. I'm going to relegate them to a confined 'zone.'" And if a person sees friendship as inherently manipulative or punitive, then the chances are high that they're a pretty sub-par friend.

Also, I suspect a lot of people think they're being led on when they may be interpreting friendly behavior as flirtatious. As I said, it's not that this never happens. It's just that there can be misunderstandings, sometimes due to wishful thinking and sometimes due to entitlement.

The US's relationship status: It's complicated.

There’s a meme that says, “I don’t think America should elect any president in 2016. We should be single for a few years and find ourselves.” I really love that because not only is it hilarious, it can be an extended metaphor.

If the President is the US’s significant other, then the US is also polyamorous with Congress. The Constitution is basically a “terms and conditions” of the relationship, and they really need to write a prenup. Every four years it finds itself in a love triangle which gets voted on like a reality dating show. The US is finally reconsidering its bias toward exclusively dating rich white men, but it has a long way to go. And Republicans and Democrats are its “type”, even though there are plenty of other suitors who could be more compatible.

Life as a list

I've been thinking about why people are inclined to make lists, both physically and philosophically. This is my theory: Our lives are lists. They're catalogs of people we've encountered, events we experienced passively, and events we caused. A lot of these components are random, but we spend years trying to come up with a title for the compilation in order to pull it all together and give it a common theme.

I was going to add that we're often shaped by whether we try to make our lives into "things to do" or "things to obtain" lists. But for a lot of us, experiences and accomplishments *are* things to obtain. Also, a person whose primary goal is to amass things may not be materialistic; they may have very few resources and be concerned with survival. So being able to focus on non-survival based goals is a privilege.

The "life is a list" theory makes our smaller lists very meta. Daily goals and itinerary are lots of little collections inside a much larger one.

Self conscious vs. self aware

I wonder why "self-conscious" has come to mean self-critical or embarrassed, when the words themselves just mean aware of the self--not necessitating a judgmental eye. The usage implies that to be conscious of the self is to be self-scolding, when it doesn't have to be that way. To me, self-consciousness is recognition of one's own strengths as well as weaknesses. It could also include neutral observations.

Animals and ego

I spend a lot of time wondering what it's like to have the mind of another animal. Not a species that exists in a completely different way than we do, like fish or insects. More like the internal life of a cat, or dog, or horse, or bird, or other species that humans are better able to relate to. They're said to not exactly have an ego, because they don't have a sense of self. They don't contemplate themselves or recognize their reflections in mirrors. But in another way, they really do seem to have a sense of self because they have distinct desires, fears, likes and dislikes. They form attachments and aversions to other creatures. Those traits all seem rooted in ego because they stem from the way the animal is treated, and what makes them feel good, and what seems like a threat. If not an ego, that's definitely a will. So I wonder what it's like to live with a will but no ego, and if that's even possible for humans with the ways our brains are structured.

The structure of paranoia

I've known a few people who always thought someone was plotting against them when something unfortunate happened. If they lost a belonging, they'd immediately say it was stolen and start blaming family and friends. If their pet got sick, they'd say it must have been poisoned by their neighbor. One of these people had been diagnosed with a mental health condition involving paranoia. But from an emotional perspective, it makes sense why a person might prefer to believe they're being attacked than to think random circumstances are causing harm. Even though it's upsetting to believe someone is out to get them, it provides a distinct reason for what happened and a target to fault. It gives the person a sense of control, even if they think somebody *else* was in control. And it stops self-blame or undirected blame, which leads to sadness. Instead that is converted to anger, which feels more organized by offering a goal.

I'm not saying this is a reasonable or productive way to respond to bad circumstances--it's not. But it's understandable why somebody might gravitate toward that reaction.

Social media time travel

I wish there was a social media network to connect us to people from different times. And before anyone says "books", I mean in a reciprocal way. A Facebook-like service to communicate with others from the future, or the far distant past, or with relatives the way they were before we knew them. Or even with a friend who completely changed; to talk to them when they were different. It would ret-con the universe and completely screw up our timeline, but it would be so damn interesting and cathartic before time starts to eat its own tail and the aliens have to show up and fix everything.

Another playlist poem

Under the bridge, Jane says
“You don’t look back in anger
if
the nature of reality
is nothing to believe in.
I prefer wonder
the waiting for the good life
black snow
and
learning to fly
underground.”

Song titles: “Under the Bridge” and “Snow” by RHCP; “Jane Says” and “Underground” by Jane’s Addiction; “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “The Nature of Reality” by Oasis; “Nothing to Believe In” and “The Good Life” by Cracker; “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant; “The Waiting” and “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty; and “Black” by Pearl Jam.

Playlist poem #3

"I learn to fly with my alien girl
under Saturday's black hole sun.
A riptide of sweetness,
she's the phantom of the disco
with an audience of one."

(Written using song titles by Foo Fighters, Tacocat, Fallout Boy, Soundgarden, Vance Joy, Toadies, Glamour Assassins, and Rise Against.)

Playlist poetry

Today I came up with a game: Writing poems made almost entirely out of existing song titles. 

It could be a poem, or a statement, or a short story. It can be as serious or as silly as you want. It's okay to use your own words to connect the song titles when you construct the sentences. Don't use the same title twice in one poem. If you don't keep playlists, just write a poem/short story/sentence using the names of whatever songs come to mind and would fit together.

Here's mine. I capitalized the first letters of the song names.

"Today, us New Years Saints
Stutter a Connection,
a Whirring Holy Touch.
Welcome to the Church of Rock & Roll."

(Titles: "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins; "New Years" and "Saints" by The Breeders; "Stutter" and "Connection" by Elastica; "Whirring" by The Joy Formidable; "Holy Touch" and "Welcome to the Church of Rock & Roll" by Foxy Shazam.)

Here's another, from the same playlist:

"Graveyard Girl, the Initiator
cordially invites you
to Come Join the Murder
of American Society."

(Titles: "Graveyard Girl" by M83; "The Initiator" by Fefe Dobson; "Come Join the Murder" by White Buffalo & The Forest Rangers; "American Society" by L7. Yeah, my musical taste is all over the place.)

Feel free to try this.

The collective

For the collective "they"
Life until adulthood
is a continuous string of "no"
Until they inherit the word,
Raise it tenderly as their own.

Who are "they"?
Never named
as anything but
"They think"
"They say"
"They won't let you"
Woven omnipresence.

Threads cinch when
You feel the "nos" seep into your pores,
and say them to yourself. 
Fabric rips: a realization
As They say,
there is no "I" in team
but
There is a "me" in "them"
and the nos
are beginning to bleed through.

Pluck them out 
Splinters sting, but
the "Yes" grows back
Healing 
Stronger for anyone else
who still wears "no"
under their skin.

Lost and lucid

Lucid dreaming is an awesome gift when you have no sense of navigational direction. Last night I dreamed about getting lost, but it was okay because I just scrapped the whole landscape and made a new one. That would be an amazing ability in real life--but only for the person who had it. It would really suck for everyone else.

Transmission

Suffering is one of the only diseases
people think can be treated
by transmission.
Show them where your life hurts
and they'll tell you that you're cured
Because they have a bigger scar.
Online conversations are unique in the way that so many of them can take place at once, so your entire frame of mind can change by the second depending on who you're talking to and what about. Sometimes this creates shallower emotions during those exchanges, because it gets draining to become fully invested in multiple intense discussions.

Written discourse in general is also unique in the sense that the words hang in the air, existing at all times. So you can be thinking or feeling something strongly, write about it, and then hear others respond once you're no longer so engaged. But to them, the time hasn't passed. This can result in fixating on something you might not otherwise; the opposite of what happens with multiple conversations. Online exchanges can do one or the other.

Both in-person and written communication have an important place, and I can't say one is superior. It just interests me how they bring about such different interactions and thought processes.

Tumblr has its problems, but the world isn’t Tumblr.

Ever notice how the people who constantly complain that “we can’t say what we really think anymore because everyone is so politically correct nowadays” actually have no problem saying whatever they want, at any volume they want, and often seem to encounter a huge crowd of like-minded peers?

The complaint that “everyone believes X” is one of those opinions that actually becomes less true depending on how many people believe it. Because if the majority is complaining about a supposedly omnipresent belief, then that belief cannot be as pervasive as they say.

This is why I can’t buy the whole “Oh no, the whole world is turning into Tumblr!” claim. Yes, there are communities on Tumblr that use social justice as a cover to bully people, or who misuse SJ theory for personal gain within their groups of friends, or who get angry at others for being genuinely uninformed. There are also those who expect a person to change their entire worldview within the course of a single conversation and then get upset when they don’t. Because I care about social justice, I think it’s important to acknowledge these problems that exist within some Tumblr communities. But the world is not Tumblr. Even the most seemingly polarizing SJ groups are a backlash against an opposing status quo. And yes, there are people who want to make the rest of the world like those aforementioned groups, but they generally don’t have influence beyond their specific social crowd. These are not the people who are running the world.

College campuses are used as examples of ways in which some negative approaches to social justice are gaining traction. While there are campuses in which students have done certain things I disagree with, a college campus is also not a microcosm of the larger world. It’s a sub-community, and a very small one at that. Also, we forget that college undergrads are usually young. They could likely change the way they are expressing themselves as time goes on, and adopt a more productive approach to social justice.

So yes, there are factions of the social justice sphere which are imperfect, and that needs to be recognized. But those factions are not even the entire social justice world, let alone the larger world in itself.

Doodle 4 Google

Doodle 4 Google is a contest that kids can take part in, in which they draw pictures made out of the Google logo and the winner has theirs featured for the day. I wish they had one for all ages. The site's animators and artists take suggestions from anyone, though. I want to suggest a logo made from illustrated amoebas. Each would be splitting into the shape of the next letter, and their mitosis could be animated. That way it shows Google is evolving.

From April

When somebody you love has Alzheimers or progressing dementia, you miss them while you are with them. You miss the self they had always been.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandma Kiki lately and the qualities that will be missed the most.

Her problem-solving was hilarious and tended to earn her standing ovations in public. There was a time when she was caught in a traffic jam because there was a giant snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the road and nobody knew what to do. So Kiki marched out of her car, grabbed a long stick off the side of the street, and brought it to the turtle. Said snapping turtle immediately latched on and Kiki led it into the woods with the stick. All the other drivers started cheering.

Her sense of humor was so lovable. After my aunt Mary was born, Kiki and my grandpa went back to visit the nurse who had delivered her. They brought her a watermelon wrapped in a baby blanket and said, "We're returning the baby. This one leaks."

She also used to approach other old women in the grocery store, align her shopping cart with theirs, and ask if they wanted to race. And there was the time when she and my grandpa were eating at a diner and he couldn't find the menu, then discovered he had been sitting on it the whole time. Kiki told him, "You were ass-essing the menu."

Even though those are qualities that are rapidly disappearing with the brain disease, and it's crushing to watch them go, they will always be a part of my life because they were a part of her. They're a part of everyone who knew her.

Facebook socialization

Liking/reacting: Acknowledgement.
Liking and then promptly "unliking": Ambivalence.
Commenting: Social engagement.
Messaging: Friendship.
Poking: A tepid sexual advance, not invested enough to comment with boner emoticons on all of someone's profile pics.

Instrumental street harassment

After a precious week of no street harassment, I had to use my foghorn today.

On my way to my apartment building, a voice called out to me from a car, "Daaaaamn girl! Yo!" I ignored him, so he repeated it. "Hey, you hear me? I said daaaamn, girl! Yooooo!" Elongating the "yo" so I was sure to not miss a syllable.

I blasted the foghorn at him, in unison with his repetition of "damn girl, yo." Come to think of it, I was actually providing orchestra to his vocals. If he'd honked his car horn at me, it would have been a duet.

Awkward teleportation moments

Advantages of teleportation: No more vehicular accidents, carsickness, or any other drawbacks of taking a long trip. Also, no more gasoline.

Disadvantages: Can no longer use the "I was stuck in traffic" excuse. Also, might accidentally appear in somebody's bedroom, leading to a lot of "honey, it's not what it looks like!" moments. Could just as easily accidentally teleport to people's closets or bathrooms, which isn't much better.

Deer dream

I dreamed I was keeping a pet deer in the laundry room and avoided suspicion by putting a collar on it and telling everyone in the building that it was a dog.

No one should lease an apartment to my subconscious.
I'm intrigued by the common and immediate assumption that if a grown adult behaves badly, they must have had bad parents. I can understand why someone might believe that about a child--even though all children sometimes misbehave. But while our upbringings do affect us a great deal in adult life, we can consciously choose to be better or worse than how we were raised. The assumption that shitty behavior is always an outgrowth of shitty parents offers a sense of control. It placates us into believing that as long as we are good, we'll raise good people. That line of thinking is interesting if you follow it into a family timeline. According to its internal logic, a person is bad or good because of their parents--and their parents would have learned those habits from their own parents in turn. So nobody is fully accountable for their actions, but they are fully accountable for the actions of others.

Split screen memory

I wish that every time you walked into an abandoned house or building, you developed split-screen vision. Half would show you what it looks like today, and the other half would depict the place when it was busy and teeming with life. That side would also show you who used to live and work there, and the most important things that happened in the spot where you're standing.

From March

Yesterday I went to see my 92-year-old grandma. She doesn't remember very much, and gets really confused and distressed at the end of the day. It soothes her to see family, though. Even if she doesn't remember who a lot of us are, she recognizes the familiarity and the affection.

When I came into her room, she was anxiously trying to pack bags. She has been doing this lately because she never feels like she's home. Some part of her brain is aware it's her house, but another part doesn't know where she is. So she always says that she's packing to go home. The way that she packs seems random and wouldn't make sense to others. She tries to stuff socks into books and places spoons with hairbrushes. On some level, though, the packing makes sense. My grandma was always a very organized and capable person. She was smart and a leader; someone who everyone respected. We all used to seek her advice. So it follows that, even in deep-set dementia, she's trying to sort things out and devise plans; to create order. The difference is that now, it's like trying to combine puzzle pieces that won't fit.

A lot of people will try to romanticize dementia. They'll describe it in ways that sound poetic, or act as though the process is somehow "cute." I really cannot do that. I can't assign any kind of fanciful metaphors to what is happening to my grandma. It's heartbreaking and she is frightened. She still finds pleasure in small things, though, in the moments where she's able to be present. She found a penny on her bed and didn't recognize what a penny was, but she thought it was pretty and gave it to me. She said, "Look at this neat little thing!" And, amazingly, she remembered her late daughter Mary when she saw a photo of her from the '80s, grinning mischievously in her tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt and patch-covered jacket.

At one point during the night, my grandma told me, "I think I should go away. And then someone else can take my place so it won't be lost." She may not be aware of very much right now, but I am certain of what she meant by that.

I took a photo of all the things she was organizing, but then deleted it from my phone. That's not the image I want to hold onto. Instead, here is this. It's her and my grandpa at some point in the early 1950s. The picture was hanging on her door. It may be grainy, but there's a look of shared adoration so palatable that it radiates from the page. This is what I want to come back to.




Diagnosis

Let me curl up inside you
while you murmur
"Don't worry.
You don't have to do anything
No need to try
if you drop my name."
Let me drift off to sleep
to the hum of
symptoms listed,
A clinical lullaby. 

Let me try to rip you off
and scream 
because 
I thought you were a label
but you are really my skin.

Let me step around you awkwardly,
A scarf too long
tripped over by others.
I wish you were an accessory 
easily cast off, but
maybe we can live together 
if you're a tattoo.
You are not all of my skin,
Just etched into it
Sometimes covered
and
always worn.