Listening to Sia was kinda the only thing holding me up this morning. I’m job searching and just not feeling it. Looking for a new cubicle and talking about my skills feels a bit like sitting in a college classroom in the months after hurricane Katrina. I made straight B’s then because it wasn’t where my heart was at. What’s happening in our country has got me going back to old coping mechanisms, reading and writing to deal. My words come out better at times like this, just flow and can’t stop. It’s kinda perverse that writing jobs don’t pay much of anything nowadays or else that’s where I’d go.
I’m also in a mood where I miss my Grandad, the person I’d talk to when stuff was on my mind and I was trying to figure out next steps. He’d either argue with me and have me sure of my own views by the end of it, or he’d give me advice that was true and good but annoyingly calming in its cliches, like “well, whatever happens, you’re not gonna starve to death.”
I would like to hear his voice now, telling me just about anything. He passed away on this day in 2012. Five years ago. I looked through old photos and found one of him as a baby, being held by his own grandmother. That’s the face of someone 5 generations before me, someone the word “ancestor” can apply to. I let that sit with me. The frailty and the iterations of life. We are here until we are not. All we may leave behind are the things that exist once we are gone. And all that can possibly exist from us are things we do and create. Our unspoken and unacted upon ideas are already lost. I don’t even know her name. I wonder what she’d think about her legacy if she knew. I wonder if I’d have anything in common with her at all.
I’m trying to figure out where my skill set and my interests should bring me. It feels momentous but it’s probably not. I’m feeling kinda done with human services work, being underpaid and overworked, badgered, told it’s ok because the at-risk population needs us. I won’t be a martyr for it, that easy kind of woman we’re all taught to be. Self-sacrificial for the cause of caring so that others can forget. I am not Atlas and it isn’t helpful for anyone to act like I am. Mother Theresa herself was no Mother Theresa.
I thought that by my 30’s I’d know my path, be the adultier adult, maybe have small children and a house by now, do it my own way. And if I didn’t, traveling through the world alone, came to seem more ok over time too. A childless aunt who has adventures is a wonderful thing, a well kept secret. Not a bad life at all. So Plan A and Plan B. Still, my own twist on the cliche “have it all” was what I wanted. It’s an audacious expectation, given the stories we hear of those before us who made do until they didn’t, but we always have a better shot if we can guard against people trying to take bits of ourselves from us, free ride on the women around them. And yet they always are there. Always have been. Seagulls at your picnic thinking you should be making them sandwiches.
Some people like stolen objects, stolen people, much better than their own selves. Objectification is endemic and comes out in strangely banal entitled ways. I don’t get it. But I recognize it as an epidemic, much like the accompanying gaslighting vehemently denying it.
I notice holes, connect patterns, try to plug in pieces. I have never felt jealousy in my life, only heard other people describe it. This leaves you with a strange blindness to it, an anosmia, recognition of what it is like only by the subtle expressions on others’ faces. I have never courted envy or sought power over, achievement above, although I’ve often been accused of it. It confused me, as I want collaboration, safety, and to keep power seekers toned down so as not to upset the seed leaves of a new order, a delicate balance where we are all significant, none sold out or spoken over.
It is an extravagant hope, I know. Especially in times like these. But it’s one I won’t let go of.
I can desire collaboration and sometimes have my wishes come true or give up on it and never get it. I’ve made my choice.
I am not entitled to have power over anybody but myself. I cannot make anyone respect, love, or appreciate me or anyone else. I can only do so for myself. When we stop hating and fearing we stop buying all the products that capitalize on self hate and fear of others. It frees us. And we lose self-loathing friends, become freer there too, if we can train ourselves to see these departures as less like a grenade in our hearts than like loud fireworks, generally harmless gunpowder explosions in the night sky. A flash in the pan, memories of a time that go out in lights, and then done. Moving on. Constant change, room made for the new even when you wish the world would just stop for a day.
I have been learning. My greatest desire is that I always will.
This journey has brought me many places I didn’t know existed and through many iterations of myself. For that I am grateful. If I were to be gone tomorrow, I could not say that I’d had a boring life. And yet there are so many things I still want for today and tomorrow, still see and feel sparks of joy over. May it always be this way. May it be this way for us all.
I am planning to marry this summer. I’ve been with my now fiancé for three years. It’s much less climactic than I thought, this love, this decision, than I was raised to believe or experienced before. We picked out a ring together, bought it, had it resized, told our families. There was no getting down on knees or surprises or fancy ways to ask and say yes. Just us being us. We live in an apartment together and although the first year of that wasn’t particularly easy, melding two cultures and two people’s lives, it was a connection that has since added roots, enriched the simple things for both of us, providing a sense of touch that pierces the loneliness of being a human dropped into this wilderness without a compass.
It counts for a lot, having a lover who is also a friend. And it is equally significant to know that if he were not there, not all would be lost.
We are what hipsters aspire to be, I suspect. Two ways of living combined in a cozy apartment of practical thrift store finds, mid century modern furniture, hand me downs from his mother, my grandmother, and discount IKEA. Homemade food and takeout noodles. One of my friends said our place had hygge. I guess it does. It was important to me to make my home my sanctuary, a thing that fully reflected being safe and loved. It was one of my biggest goals these past couple years, perhaps my whole life.
I did not reject the domestic or feminine sphere, where I was imprisoned, but rather got out and slowly build my own designer layers upon the cage of the past.
I do not fear being imprisoned in that room again, not by a husband or a father, and not by an employer. Some have tried and none could hold me.
I am a designer. I will build what I cannot find. I will make what I dream of and cannot yet see. If it lasts it lasts and if it doesn’t at least it was mine for a moment. I have hope in this. This spark of easy love focused on life. So does my fiancé. So does Sia. You can hear it in her voice. And you probably have it too, in your own.