Alone with Strangers

Solitary confinement

Lightspace

Distinction between light/shadow is as small as that between time/space.

November 17th, 2007

She's 119 pounds

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My mother has been losing weight, steadily, for months. I feed her as much as I can. Her appetite is still good. If I bring her asparagus, or barbecued chicken, she devours it happily, and greedily, like a young cub with its first meat.

Yesterday, her skin looked yellow and waxy to me. I can't tell whether that's because, at 71, she still insists on wearing makeup, and hasn't had a foundation match her actual skin tone in two decades.

It's worrisome.

But she's been smoking for almost 60 years.

June 16th, 2007

Blank slate

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Because I have a blank slate here and a very small audience, I'm tempted to play out some more creative ideas here. I'm as sick of my broken promises as you are, though, so I won't promise you anything.

While the Greatest Journal is the place where I archive the fiction and poetry I do manage to write, I wanted to go deeper here, and I may.

What I want to do is serialize a story here, illustrate it, analyze it, and approach it from as many ways as possible. I refuse to get excited about it or let you get excited about it, because that's just setting us all up for failure. Whether I'm equal to any part of this task is unknown and maybe even unlikely.

I did, however, flip through an old sketch diary I'd mostly filled, and except for the fact that everything is drawn in light, hesitant, uncommitted pencils, I'm not sure I believe I drew them. The shy pencils prove it, of course, but somewhere in there I actually developed some skill for a little while.

And no doubt promptly lost it. Chasing after perfection only gets you lost in the woods, you know.

If I do decide to throw something out here creatively, I'll tag it, but there won't be any other indication of what I'm doing. There are some dark places in my head I need to shine the flashlight on.

June 14th, 2007

Absolutism, again, wherever I turn

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I think I'm the only person I've ever met who cuts people out of her life.

The only one who says "Never again," and walks off, and means it.

Other people seem to manage to deal with annoyances, with anger and with even high drama, without making it some kind of severing blow. Not me. I wall myself up in another room of the castle, unassailable, untouchable, and forever angry.

It's very silly, and I'm tired of doing it.

Once it was a point of pride. I was never the girlfriend who welcomed the ex back for a booty call. I was never the friend who got used and then kicked aside. I was never the coworker who ended up taking care of everyone, feeding everyone, even people I oculdn't stand.

I thought my life was simple. I thought I knew the ground I stood on: I was in the right place for me, and I knew who was a friend, who could not be trusted.

Surprise! Life isn't simple.

People who hurt you don't always mean you harm. People who are selfish aren't always evil. Sometimes people say things that really hurt, and they know it's hurting you, but they don't mean for the hurt to last forever, because that's not how they experience hurt.

Some people are baffled by suddenly closed and locked doors. Some people think they have all the hurt parts padded and protected, and then you pat them on the shoulder and their arm falls off.

Some people hurt to express love, because this is how they've always received love, with at least a cuff on the ear. Some people are fragile and have to be handled with tongs and gloves, and they resent it. Some people don't know how to love halfway and think you shouldn't. Some people never let anyone in.

It's anything but simple.

There have been times that shutting and locking the door was the smartest thing I ever did. There are times I've stupidly cheated myself by doing so.

And it's all been an exercise in absolutes.

I've said again and again that living by absolutes leads you to a place of absurdity, because you cannot defend a point absolutely without running into an exception or an excuse. If you do not honor the exception or the excuse, you reach a place of absurdity; if you honor the exception or excuse, you cannot defend absolutely .

When you say, "Never again," and live by it, you risk hypocrisy and weakness if you back down. That's why they say never get to the point of ultimatum with your child. He will push you past it, and then you'll either lose your child or his respect. Remember Joyce telling Buffy if she went out that door, she could never come back? Buffy went. She had to. Joyce, for a brief time, lost her child. If Buffy had stayed, even setting aside the apocalypse that always seemed to dance around her heels, she would not have respected Joyce or herself.

Joyce lost all power over Buffy as a parent at that point.

Maybe that's a good thing, because Joyce had lost her compassion, lost her willingness to listen. She was operating from fear and all she wanted was to regain power over the situation. By dropping an ultimatum, an absolute, she lost it. It was absurd to demand Buffy not save the world. Buffy had a duty to perform, despite her age, and she chose willingly to perform it. It would have been hypocritical of Joyce to then back down.

So often, I feel like I'm trapped in a hall of denying mirrors. I'm running a maze of them, endless lines of NO. It's as though every time I came to a choice on how I would deal with a person whose interactions caused me pain, I wrote "NO" on another mirror, and now "NO," and myself, are all I can see. I shut this person out, closed the door on this other, ejected someone else. I walked away from this, said "Never again" to that.

I'm tired of it.

I have to find another way to do things, another way to deal with pain.

This way is not working.

At all.

June 8th, 2007

Vulnerability

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There's a scene in The Last Light of the Sun, in which a young woman who has managed by her wits to gain power in the women's stronghold, calls in an older kinswoman from the town. As the woman arrives, the young girl drapes herself in the serpent, the symbol of power that has elevated her to her position, and she shows no sign of weakness.

Until the two are in private. Then she puts down the snake, which she hates, and she stands before her kinswoman. She begs her to stay with her, and collapses into her arms, crying like a child for her mother.

I hold myself away from this scene when I read it. I recognize its psychological value--look at me putting as many syllables as possible between me and the emotion--but a part of me recoils at the weakness.

I hate vulnerability. I hate taking risks that expose my heart. I have tried to do it more often lately, because if we don't, if we stay walled up in ourselves, we come to the end of our lives alone, unknown, and people simply wait for our deaths to tidy up the fact of our existence.

Jenn tells me that the more my honesty disturbs people, the more honest I should be. The more unsettling the content of my posts, the more they expose who I am--the more I should unsettle and expose.

But Anrid only put down the snake because she was reasonably sure she did not have to use it to keep her power. She put down the snake and held out her arms because she had a reasonable hope she would be embraced, accepted. The balance of risk versus safety was in her favor--and here's the key--she was able to discern that.

For those of us who have had trust abused, routinely and for someone's amusement, that ability to discern is damaged. The risk is always, for us, so much higher than the benefit, that we withhold even the simplest and most ordinary exposures, just to be safe.

And all we do is increase the danger of further isolation.

Then, when we are presented with someone who goes out of his way to make us feel safe, we want to believe. We know we have to try. We know we have to step out of ourselves and be exactly who are are, broken edges and all.

But we have misjudged, and once again, the trust is abused. More broken edges result, more retreating, more unrealistic defenses built.... And more isolation.

And one other thing. Blame. We blame ourselves for being stupid, being broken. We go back over the event, trying to find where it broke down. We ask ourselves, "If I had done this differently, if I had been better, if I had been funnier, a better storyteller...."

It's pointless, but the uncertainty is there. We know this latest event would not happen to us if we were not broken. We resent being broken. We resent having the gift of good judgment taken from us.

I wanted a mentor. I wanted a friend. I thought I had one. I took a risk and asked for help, asked for friendship. With the exception of one, who I approached for advice, the people I most love in my life have to come to me, adopted me. They've come up to me boldly, in assumption, and decided we were friends. Some have sidled up shyly and put their hand in mine. But they chose me. They saw something from afar and they came to me and said, in their own way, "I like you. I want to be with you."

I wanted to give that gift to someone else. I wanted to tell someone, "You're interesting. You're funny. You have wisdom. You seem to have strong values. I like you. I want to be friends."

And it was accepted.

But I chose wrong. It was like approaching a dog that wags its tail and accepts love from everyone, approaching it the right way, cautiously and with interlaced respect and command, and the dog smelled weakness and bit down. Bit down, shook its head, let go and walked off, still wagging its tail.

I have to deal with the bite first, then the dog.

The bite comes with all the feelings: Vulnerability is pain. Weakness is destruction. Never trust. Stay behind the Wall. People hurt you, casually and without remorse.

This is what broken people get.

I think what I have to learn from this experience is, once again, my judgment is faulty. I feel a bit like a child that has to ask permission for everything. Hey, friend, I like this other person. What do you think? And that doesn't work, either, because friend doesn't live in your skin or the other person's, so the advice is only going to be as good as the information given, and whatever information you give is going to be colored by what you want.

I don't know how I could have done any of this differently, except the choice itself. The choice was bad. I proceeded with caution, with respect, with humor, and I let myself be vulnerable in the way I had seen him respond to vulnerability before. I thought, like Anrid, I had a reasonable hope of acceptance.

But I was wrong.

And to be completely honest, completely exposed?

I don't know what to learn from this experience, except all the old lessons that don't work.

June 2nd, 2007

Touch starvation

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There's never been any doubt in my head that I'm abnormal. I know that the way I grew up looks normal and probably is normal for most people in the U.S., but I know, when I watch other people, that it wasn't right.

I am a funny little island in this world: completely self-contained, able to retreat into myself easily and without discomfort, for long stretches. There are times I resent being pulled out to interact with others, because I'd rather sit quietly and do something by myself.

It would be all right if, when I was pulled out, I felt at home, glad, connected, but I rarely do. In social situations, I feel merely adrift, as though I were in a rowboat, floating by, and a few people waved to me as I passed.

When I see friends piling upon each other, easily affectionate, puppylike in their physical connectedness, I tend to grit my teeth and stem the feelings that rise up. Feelings of panic, because I don't know what to do, and feelings of envy, because I want to feel that much trust. When people touch me, I really don't know what to do. I mean, I know, I don't have to do anything.

When I was tiny, my parents would often leave me in one of those baby carriers in front of the TV, sometimes for hours. They said I was not a lovey baby (a cardinal sin with my mother, who kisses all over any child under the age of two), and that I would stiffen and cry when people touched me or held me. (No, I was not a preemie.)

Isn't that great? I'm an island, untouchable, untrusting, and it's all my fault. Because I was a bad baby. No, really. You can't blame my parents for that. What do you do with a baby who doesn't act like a baby?

I remember very little about my dream last night, but I remember talking to a Japanese man in Japanese and doing a lot of very nonsexual, reassuring, connecting touch. As I remember, this is a no-no there. Dame da. The Japanese will get right up in your personal space and you'll feel that "holy shit take a step back dude" pressure because their personal space bubbles are smaller than ours, but you don't go casually touching people. (I could be wrong about this.) I remember thinking in the dream that this is wrong, why am I doing this, why can't I stop?

Well, I can't because I have to get my touch somewhere, to survive.

I remember telling Susan on LJ that I thought the reason Spike Spiegel on Cowboy Bebop was always getting his ass handed to him was because he was utterly touch starved and that this was the only way he could get his touch need satisfied, since he was in love with Julia and probably not having casual sex all over the place.

I'm not going to resort to that, of course, but I really don't know how to fix this, and at some point, I'll be at the age where NO ONE will touch me, ever. (Senior citizens in the U.S. are the most touch-starved people as a group, in the world.)

How do you fix the broken parts of yourself that were broken before you were born? When you come out of the factory, so to speak, defective?

I just don't know.

June 1st, 2007

A completely different place

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Sure, it looks like LiveJournal, and I'm sure people are hedging their bets by shadowing their journals here or just keeping them open, but I have a different idea.

LiveJournal is already huge and on an inertial path of fandom that can only really be nudged by those journals large enough to direct the flow.

People, this place is open. Its inertial path is still changeable, still open to direction. If we merely archive here, we make it a dead place, less than a library, only a repository, of interest only to those who look always backward.

I never felt at LiveJournal that I could be anything but what LJ allowed. Once upon a time, I was the writer of some very silly but satifying Mary Sue fics (in which my Mary Sue met a gruesome and hopeless fate) in the X-Men fandom, and I was a lot more popular on Usenet than I ever knew (I only realized how much these were liked a couple of months ago). To write anything like these on LiveJournal now is suicide. There is an established code at LiveJournal and none shall trespass without death by mockery.

I'm not saying, "Whee! Mary Sue City, baby! I'm here to insert myself into every fandom known to mankind!" I'm saying, "Wow. Hey. You know, I could be myself here. I could drop the LiveJournal mask and be whatever I like. I could Mary Sue if I wanted. I could post my own work to some degree. I could let my work speak for itself, and if it found an audience, great. Or not, I could be safe to work and learn."

I could drunk post without wondering whether people will sneer. I could write shitty poetry and actually learn how to do it right. I can be here, quietly here, thinking, working, writing, and not feel like I'm in some kind of race that I'm constantly losing.

I have ideas. Things I could quietly test. I feel creative here. There's much that needs tweaking (though Tweak himself is marvelous and has won me over just by saying, "Bite me, that's right, bite me!"), like I need a good background image, and I need help with the color modifications and really, I should learn how to do stylesheets, but I can do that here.

I can completely fuck this up and make it utterly useless and it would still be of value to me.

I like that.
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