on compassion, in sickness and in death

It’s odd how we fuss about compassion when it looks like God-fearing Americans might die far from home in a horrible manner.

Yes, Kent Brantly and Nancy [ed:] Writebol put their lives on the line. If they didn’t know that they were there for the duration, or that leaving the hot zone would be a phenomenally irresponsible act, they should never have been let in. You don’t go in unless you’re willing to accept the hard truths about a pandemic.

(You damn well don’t bring your family with you.)

We call this act compassionate. To whom? To the inexperienced staff at Emory, who now have to learn how to cope with a disease unlike any they will have expected to see? Ever? To the people of Atlanta? To the sick themselves, whose families still will not be there to nurse them through?

Truly and honestly, I believe a hospital room on domestic soil is no better than a tent or a hut in Liberia. I think it’s worse for the other patients, to begin with, but I also think it tricks staff into complacency. No, none of you are any safer because this is the developed West. Since you are not operating in a Biosafety Level 4 environment, you must take the same precautions as you would in that tent or that hut.

By the way, this country does have places to put people who have been exposed to the worst of the worst. It has to. We have scientists working with the worst of the worst. Lab accidents mean quarantine, and there are facilities set up expressly for this purpose. Why are we risking a whole civilian hospital when all we need to do is take these patients to those facilities?

Compassion? Compassion is the doctor in Tennessee who thought he might have been exposed — and it sounds like he was sent home against his will — so he’s now holed up at home and will not permit another living soul to come tend him. Compassion is finding ways to provide better treatment in West Africa instead of assuming it’s a lost cause. (Because apparently none of the millions living there by no choice of their own deserve the same standard of care as two missionaries who went there on purpose?)

I think we apply compassion to the people who look like us. I think we apply it to the ones to whom we relate best. For shame, you who are just now bawling about compassion. Seven hundred of your fellow human beings are already dead. What are they to you? I apply my compassion equally across the board. If seven hundred dead in West Africa are just part of the pandemic, so are two dying in America and to hell with exceptionalism. Try directing your compassion at the people who live in the natural reservoirs where this thing breeds. They don’t have nearly the choices you or I do. I can all but guarantee it. Try directing your compassion at those millions who are coping with Ebola not in an isolation unit but right there in the neighborhood. What’s going on in Georgia right now scares me crapless; what would it be like if I lived in Conakry? Put yourself in Conakry or Monrovia.

Much as I fear an epidemic, I’m also willing to nut up, suit up, and help out if it happens. I’m willing to kiss my mum and dad goodbye, tell them to look after things here, and not come back until it’s over. I wouldn’t want them at my funeral. I wouldn’t want a funeral. I’d want a very deep burial, whether I was a sack of virus or a pile of ash. Essentially I’d want what was safest for my community; if it means someone delivers me my tent and my airbed while I turn to sludge, fine. Just pass the propofol so I don’t have to feel it and the convalescent serum so I can contribute something to science.

and a better happy ending

I quibble with the trajectory of the eating disorder narrative, at least when it comes to our changing bodies. This is tied up in Feelings about my own journey, admittedly, and I wouldn’t use the j-word except that I’m thinking of Joseph Campbell as I write.

I’m supposed to be better for myself, right? Not for anyone else. But at the same time, there’s way too much emphasis on how guys don’t find skinny women attractive. We don’t have curves; we’re walking skeletons. Do we want to lose our boobs? Do we want to lose our hips? Our bottoms?

Quite against my will, I’m still losing weight, and coupled with all that crap, how am I supposed to not hate myself? Because if I’m hideous anyway, why not just let myself slip further downhill? It’s easier than fighting the system for the things I need to gain weight. Twenty pounds only made me pudgier, not magically curvy. — And you may wish to argue with me how I’m perfectly curvy, but it’s not any one opinion that counts. It’s the mosaic of images that hit and hit and hit with every passing moment:

either I am tall/lanky/athletic
OR
I am little/curvy/va-va-voom.

But I am 1.5 meters tall, just shy of five feet, with bird bones and a high natural waist. I favor tighter pants and skirts because they make the most of the bottom I’ve got, and I let things drape on top because that’s how best to flatter A-cups like mine, or so I believe. I maximize my hip spring and strut around in heels and it’s all an illusion, darlings. It really is. Short hair, long legs, strong shoulders: proportionally formidable, but in such miniature that they don’t really make clothes for me. (I have sung this song before.)

This is not the shape the narrative promises. They say that one of the benefits of recovery is that shape, and for whatever reason, I will never have it. If I console myself that by not fighting, by listening to my body’s demands (or lack thereof) for food, I can at least be the teacup version of Halle Berry, have I thus failed the hero’s journey? I’m eating. Willingly. And I don’t want to die anymore. I thought those were the goals.

I’m glad there are people who are just that happy with their bodies now, you know? But I wonder how many of us exist who look in the mirror and wonder: is this it?

the name of the (wode)rose

My birth certificate says Christina. I have not been comfortable with this, or with any of the nicknames that go with it, since I was seven. Ever since then, I have swapped names according to what felt the most right.

Sometimes it was a fannish thing. I latched onto Cass because of a Harry Potter epic (all the Mary Sues, but I adored them), and Lune during my latest love affair with Sailor Moon. Sometimes I tried to follow convention. I saw a bunch of writers using color names and I took one — Blue. Forms of Catherine have always made me happy.

Underneath them all, I’ve been myself, and as I’ve become more solidly me, the names have solidified. Either I’m a variant on Catherine (Cass is one of these), a variant on Elen, or a variant on Lune (including Lunochka). I am contemplating a name change, as in for real, through the courts, that includes the first two somehow, so no matter who says what, I can say it’s me. This is odd, but not full-on weird; I have loads of friends with two totally different names, so three isn’t too terrible, is it? Besides, I have an extra country or two, depending on how you count.

. . .

You wouldn’t think an amazing SCA event would be just the thing to whack my chemistry back into my normal. Surprise? I haven’t blogged about it yet, so what I will likely do is collect it all up from Facebook and pop it into a post. Short version: I got my AoA, and everyone who helped kept it so quiet that I must really have looked funny when HM Etain called me up, let alone bestowed it upon me. Kinda like a kid finding a puppy under the Christmas tree. 🙂 I’m sleeping better, especially when I take it easy on the Pepsi after, um, midnight. Oops?

Freshly washed hair is curlifying (it will, when damp). Found perfect combination of orange, mustard, and black clothes to wear: comfortable and chic. Tomorrow morning archery, tonight French toast. The character who resisted naming for so long finally up and got named. This is me kicking back and luxuriating.

on equality, in love

My Eleven, my beloved, the Fitz to my Simmons, expects no trade for acts of love and kindness. Rather, from the start we have given of ourselves to each other, in service, because this is right and good. This is how people who love each other behave. We found ourselves in agreement on that very early in our relationship. Eleven says that at an upcoming SCA event, he intends to stay back a little, because he is a natural extrovert who doesn’t want to outshine me. Would you believe the lady protested? Yes, she did. And though he will be my man-at-arms, he will be no less important. We are interdependent: capable of functioning apart, but even better together. We are not 50% + 50%. We are 100% + 100% and somehow we come up with 250% when we combine.

We are alike in our thinking. We think not as a man and a woman but as people. Where gender is important to consider in a matter of perspective, we discuss it. He’ll never shake his head and mutter “Women!” under his breath; I’ll try to overcome that problem in myself, that “Men!” that comes hissing out sometimes. We are so vastly diverse, we humans, within our genders and between them. No, of course he hasn’t had a period, and he doesn’t have fibro, but he gets these awful spells of back pain, and so he understands what it’s like to be down and out because of it. No, he can’t get pregnant, but he can get someone pregnant, and though I would want him to decide with me what happened to a child of ours, he would understand that some choices are not choices, no matter how much we wish they were. He knows that my body is not a place to nurture a child, even half his beautiful genetics, because my body barely sustains me and my chances of mental health problems as a result are higher than those of neurotypical women. He knows I couldn’t put a child I did birth into unknown arms, because my father was so very damaged by that action (but his mother had no choice, either!). I think we would both grieve. I also think we would find ourselves at peace.

I can say these things with about 99% confidence because we have taken the time to crawl into each other’s skin and to share each other’s values. I could never ask a person to make fundamental changes just to become compatible with me. You love who you find as you find her and leave the if-onlys behind. This is part of how we build trust: by knowing each other that well. I feel secure when I have a reasonable idea of what he’ll think about something. I’ve been in the dark before; it’s scary. But we’re standing in the light together. And that is worth so much more than adhering to expectations or norms.

Maybe I am a prideful little thing because I need to be with someone who can admit that my advice is as valid as his, when one or the other of us is lost. That we can both be lost and want a lifeline. It doesn’t change the need to be equal. We have areas of expertise. I value his. He values mine. Where they cross, it’s almost frightening how fast we come to similar or even the same conclusion. This, too, is a security that makes me a better partner because it’s easier to admit you’re wrong to someone who isn’t Right About Everything. If I find that I need to be right about something because it’s my truth, we’re capable of differing with respect.

I am borrowing from a blog post I have open, a post that made me think about why the blogger’s opinion on relationships bothered me, when I say this:

No number of sweet notes, fixed garbage disposals, daily “I love yous”, little presents, kisses, surprise dinners, or in my case weekends at SCA events will balance a relationship in which these things are collateral. Trade. No. These are the things we give freely to each other, except the garbage disposals; I’m afraid I’m hopeless at plumbing. We chose each other. We choose each other. We define ourselves as free and sovereign within ourselves, fully human, fully equal. What we change about ourselves we change because we know the other person has a need unmet, or a wound unhealed. There is no such obligation, only the desire to be even happier. We each have our own way! Often! Because there is room in our world for “yes, and” despite other limited resources like time. Seeing him get his way doesn’t mean I won’t get mine. Gratification is not always instant. We’re adults. We can cope.

I am not his queen, or anyone’s (outside of a Society context, and even then you couldn’t pay me to run myself that ragged). We stand side-by-side, or arm-in-arm. I’d jump off any pedestal from any height just to stay that way.

peace in the form of a dream

Secretly some part of me wants the dreams in which I am the action hero. Every time I hit back is a time I am stealing back from the girl who just followed orders. Use your words.

Words did nothing.

I broke Neutral Good and that was lucky. I learned to obey rules because not obeying meant punishment, even though my parents tried to teach me not to fear the punishment. I wonder how many detentions would have gotten me suspended? How many suspensions would’ve gotten me expelled? And how awesome would that have been for me?

Why did I not hit them? Kick them? Bite, scream, curse more roundly? Because America was the land of the free as long as I toed the line? (But there are exceptions for people who are born into power, or are willing to commit enough evil to achieve it.)

Soft girl. Soft skills. And I watch the people around me try to work within the system. I wonder whether I can do it. Can I be a company (wo)man? Can I believe unflinchingly in what is right, so that when it all goes to hell, I’m the one left standing to rebuild? But Phil Coulson knew how to kick some serious ass in order to get where he got. What can I leverage to make people think twice before they screw me or mine again?

But I’m too weary to become a lawyer. I have the teeth for it. Just not the energy. Also, the brain fog would wash me out of law school in three seconds flat.

This is why, when I think about my career, I don’t think as much about the comfy suburban office and the sad post-millennials I will inevitably have to cure of their parents’ stupidity. I suppose I’ll do that when I’m even older and more decrepit, but in the meantime, I want to be the one with the police or the EMTs, taking the scary calls. I want to wear a vest with block letters on. Or I want to work in a prison with people society couldn’t be arsed to help in the first place. Or I want to be the witness who takes down the motherfuckers who use and abuse those who are smaller in any way.

I am one point five meters, eighty-five pounds of you-should-be-afraid.

In the end I’m still the daughter/niece/cousin of people who do hard things. I can’t erase that piece of my identity any more than I can scrap either of my nationalities. In my direct line of descent alone are two military men, three if you count the grandfather by adoption. I’m pretty sure what my grandmother did at the end of the war was looting from the nasties. Success was survival, and kid, it still is.

How am I supposed to live with myself if I never put my ass on the line for anyone else?

I regret:
that I wasn’t brave enough to sock my bullies in the nose
that I listened when they told us it would go on our permanent records
that I stayed a minute longer in that school than I had to
that when they let him off easy, I couldn’t stand my ground
that when it turned into him using my body, I didn’t get some of my own back
(except for three lilac trees)
(which I love independent of their sender)
that when he went all Uncle Terry on my cast, I didn’t fucking film him doing it
that I didn’t have footage to leak to YouTube
that I didn’t lawyer up and sue the fuck out of Dilip and his sweatshop
that I can’t even get Nitwit to back the fuck off
that someone broke my dad and I can’t do a damn thing about it.

So I can’t go the rest of my life being passively resistant to the bullshit in the world. A force for change is a goddamn force.

And now I have to turn this into an essay for a bunch of bureaucrats so I can have a degree before next June. Then the real work begins.

flight of ideas

I won’t lie. It feels good, once I get past the anxiety. If I can manage to push through and breathe away the panic, yes, I enjoy riding the highs. But I don’t enjoy it long and I always have reason to regret, like when the morning hits and I wake up feeling as if I’ve been on a bender: stomach gurgling ominously, a film of sweat on my neck, exhausted body but racing heart.

Is it hormonal? Is it neurodiversity? I can’t say. But I do know that last night, I had a flight of ideas that made me write a whole filk despite the nagging suspicion that someone else had gotten there first. And I still can’t find the lyrics of the other song as proof that someone did. But I could swear I’ve heard it now that Anneke mentions it. I also know I was awake enough at two in the morning to spend two more hours singing.

I took all my meds, even the valerian. The trouble could be that I’d also had a Pepsi, but it feels ridiculous to say that. For God’s sake, normal people can drink Pepsi and be fine! It doesn’t exacerbate whatever I’ve been riding out.

I’ve gone from being able to sleep for twelve hours straight to only seven or so, which for most people is a sign that something’s right, but it worries me in context. I shouldn’t be this alert. I shouldn’t have kept waking up. I am normally a far heavier sleeper; weekend morning noises didn’t faze me. Why can I hear them so well now? And I didn’t say anything about the amount of sleep I need. I will probably sleep again later in the day. The amount I seem to be able to get in one stretch has changed; the requirement has not.

Last night wasn’t the first time this week that I’ve felt the same rush It’s been going on for a little while, more during the day and never that euphoric. My spooling down mechanism is officially on the fritz. I have to wait for my brain to go back to normal. It always does. I’m scared of the alternative. I can say the words but I don’t like to say them because they are an admission of something I can’t face, so if it’s okay with you I’ll just not say them and go on my overly merry way.

one part eviction, one part better flat elsewhere

So, how did bad Christians shove me out of Christianity in the first place?

Alternet has some ideas as to why people leave (and leave, in some cases, is a vast understatement). I thought I’d see if any of these reminded me of why I did not just embrace a different worldview but left the other behind.

1. Gay baiting. Hm. I suppose coming out and losing friends will do it, especially when they point to Jesus as the reason (wait, you mean the guy who hung around with whores?). But the friends weren’t all that great in the first place. I ended up realising that if a person can’t deal with my queerness, zie is probably not worth my time anyway. I can’t say I ever had an “it gets better” problem in that respect. Now, you take some of the New Testament with regards to gender and sex roles…

2. Prooftexting. I have a hard time believing that is God speaking. At best, the Bible begins with a whole series of creation myths, throws in some “No shit, there I was” stories, makes rules, and has a singalong. I’m not even sure I believe all of what the church fathers said about Jesus. They may have accurately described what happened, but their commentary is as crap as most modern punditry, and just as slanted. So when some bigoted arsehat throws said Bible at me in an attempt to convince me I’m wrong, not only do I take it with a whole shaker of salt, I’m likely to snort and look up my nose at whoever’s doing it. Your book is outdated. Find the parts that stand the test of time and get back to me with a serious set of revisions.

3. Misogyny. I never did see much of this; the worst was the whole women-can’t-be-priests thing. That said, see above. I’m not comfortable with the parts of the Bible that say all Christians have to adhere to moral codes established two millennia back or better.

4. Hypocrisy. If I could give my high school cohort a gold star for this, I would. I may not have been anywhere near perfect, or even good at some points, but I did my best to follow “harm none”. Love thy neighbor as thyself, except if she’s different. Wait, that’s not how it goes? So I ended up hating a lot of the people I grew up alongside. I’m still not past the resentment. I’d like to be. But that youth group lot? They were bullies. They were fecking mean and nobody ever called them on it.

5. Disgusting and immoral behavior. I didn’t see much of this happening within any church I attended. I do, however, wonder why my evil heathen arse wasn’t the one binge-drinking or hooking up. I have no problem with those things — but their God sure seems to. This is of a piece with the above, I suppose.

6. Science denial. Nobody was quite that fervent, or that stupid, to my face. It’s good to know that there are people who will outright lie about science and hide behind God.

7. Political meddling. Again, nobody ever did this on a small scale. That said, my adolescence was the large-scale version of this. For crying out loud, I was fourteen when Bush v Gore was handed down — or was I already fifteen? It dragged. Nevertheless. I took my sweet time connecting these dots.

8. Intrusion. Actually, I quite liked giving the Mormons tea.

The thing about this article is that it leaves out the positive aspects of other viewpoints that might draw people away. My dad talks about having faith in himself; his locus of control shifted into the realm of the tangible. I found solace in polytheistic, goddess-centered ideas. Holy mothers appeal to me. It’s why, despite its drawbacks, I still go to Mass sometimes. They still venerate the saints. They still love Mary.

I found something that excited my soul more than anything had, and I’d been trying hard to do the Catholic thing. I had. But it didn’t fill in what was missing. Eclectic (very eclectic) Paganism and, later, an all-gods-welcome approach did. Now I have a Kuan Yin on my little living room altar, and symbols of the elements. Even my mother lights incense in prayer to her. In my most desperate hours, I will always cry “Mama!” It’s my business whether I’m crying for the one who bore me or the one who nurtured my spirit.

i can’t even

Oh, Thought Catalog. Sometimes you’re my favorite hate-read. You got thirty-three men together on Reddit who apparently have really strange girlfriends, and you actually published what they had to say about said girlfriends? Well, there’s thirty-three men who probably don’t have girlfriends anymore.

But seriously, these are not all things that women do — and these are not all as hideous as you make them out to be.

1. For one thing, when I take my dreams too literally, I talk to Eleven about what happened, and he assures me that whatever it was, it’s not founded in reality. I don’t get angry at him. It’s just that I’ve always had effing vivid dreams, ever since I was three.

2. Sometimes topics need rehashing because they weren’t resolved the first time. If that’s the case, it’s way better to talk about it than to let it rot in your head.

3. Of course men have discretion when it comes to sex. I keep telling him “You know, if you want to, when you’re out of town…” and he’s all “No, don’t feel like it, but thanks for the permission.” And we’re polyamorous. So much for that stereotype.

4. I say “awww” when I find something adorable and wonderful. Cope.

5. I damn well do not ask lose-lose questions unless you have already failed spectacularly and need to own up to it.

6. It is not our job to serve you like a queen, and you’d better believe a guy would get an angry feminist mob bearing down on them if they posted something similar about men. It’s not funny and makes you look like a bitch to all men, no matter how many of your girlfriends agree.

If I look like a bitch because I’m asking for what I need, that’s your issue, not mine. I treat him exactly as I want to be treated: like a thinking, feeling, human being who is her own person. I haven’t always gotten that in the past. I wonder if there are women who ask to be queens because they’ve been their lovers’ peasants.

7. Passive-aggression looks hideous on everyone.

8. Eleven and I have phone conversations in which neither of us can decide what we want: to do, to eat, whichever, we wish the other would have an opinion, so we roll with it and figure one of us will decide at some point — and the person who actually has a preference will get that preference, end of. Sometimes I do, sometimes he does. But it’s definitely not a woman-thing, this decision-making problem.

9. I don’t do this, but food for thought: if we come out and say what we want, we’re bitches. If we don’t, we’re passive-aggressive. Exactly what do you want?

10. I am never more annoyed than if I’m in my own head and someone yanks me into the real world. Can I have my penis and balls now?

11. He thinks it’s great when I steal his food. Sharing is caring. He’d like to eat less, I’d like to eat more, so if I nosh from his plate, we both win.

12. Excuse you, but I don’t stab my sisters in the back. Or my brothers.

13. Turnabout is fair play.

14. Being on your phone all the time is rude. Where are you finding these women? Did their families teach them any manners?

15. It’s called the pause button. And the rewind button.

16. Dilemma! I leave my eyebrows be, I get comments about them. One is partly-gray. If I fill them in so you stop commenting, you… feel yourself justified in commenting anyway?

17. Uh, hi, gay people are people. Duh? I see one of you thirty-three is a bitter kitten about a sad few who still buy that whole “gay best friend” thing.

18. Stop treating sex as something you let us do to you. Either want it too or fuck off.

I can’t imagine why she’d think sex with you is a chore, buddy. I really wouldn’t.

19. If I have my feet up on the dash, it’s because my legs hurt badly enough to want stretching.

20. This may seem oddly specific, but please stop trying to prove that you’re stronger than I am.

I hope this man is not 5’6″ and one-twenty soaking wet. Also, I don’t have to prove I’m stronger by play-fighting with anyone. I merely have to break down my own camp, haul most of my gear back out to the car, and decide it’s stupid to haul gear when the car can be driven up to my campsite. I am actually quite the pack mule.

21. This is number nine in sheep’s clothing.

22. I feel like a giant fake when people compliment me on some things. When it comes to others, you may think it’s a compliment, but on a dating site, if all you can say about me is that my looks meet your approval, go back and read my profile.

23. Real tanning ages skin prematurely and causes skin cancer. I’ll risk the comparisons to Snooki.

24. He gets up way before I do. We don’t fight about it because we’re adults who understand about mismatched circadian rhythms. If I do wake him, either I’m having a panic attack, I’m in pain, or I want something specific which he ain’t gonna turn down.

25. People still care about mixed-gender friendships? Oh, right, because this dude’s girlfriend found a way better guy. Poor you.

26. More like resting bitchface.

27. With regard to that particular phrase, the end of the sentence is implied: “I cannot believe anyone would expect me to waste words on this level of stupid, except if I am taking apart a Thought Catalog article point by point.”

28. I’m perfectly honest about my bed-hogging habit.

29. Speaking of not stabbing my sisters in the back…

30. This is number twenty-one in a ski mask.

31. We know guys can get hurt. Some of us happen to understand realities about the world that mean you get hurt less often because of your gender. We care no less about your pain. We would simply like to even the odds a bit.

32. I’d rather be “one of the humans”.

33. Take us apart only to rebuild us. Nice, Professor Higgins. Niiiice.