Poems of Further Neglect

Well, I still can’t write.  Because reasons.  Lots of stuff stuck in my head.  But apathy.

Also, the upcoming move is kicking my ass.  Even though I’m not actually doing anything.  I kind of suspect that’s why I’m stuck in anhedonia-land.  It’s like some evil plot that mental illness likes to play: Need to get something done?  Tough!  Time to put on the brakes and completely paralyze and defeat you!  Whee!!!

Or rather: meh.

I feel like if I don’t post anything at all, I’ll completely lose momentum and also NO ONE WILL EVER READ ANYTHING I WRITE AGAIN.  Because melodrama.

So you get more poetry.  My poetry (sorry if you were hoping for something more clever).  These are from my book I Am Not These Things.  Which you can totally buy and I will be pennies richer.

~~

THE ACTRESS

There are times outside of the proscenium
When you, your tongue loosened by wine, and fire reflected in your eyes,
Become especially beautiful

Your laughter mirthful,
Alternating between throaty guffaws and the giddy giggles of guilty indulgence

You close space
And stop time

Spilling compliments and golden droplets of affection
To coat my palms And tuck into my heart’s back pocket

The waves of your hair, platinum mixed with straw
More often punished from view
Now resist constraint, twisted carelessly in a loose braid
Ready to swing away, unpartnered
Or perhaps only waiting for my fingers to cut in
And begin the dance

~~

BEAUTY

When you holler
Hey baby Hey baby
Looking good baby
Look over here, beautiful
Uh huh
Hey gorgeous

I get angry because
How do you know I’m beautiful
Just by looking at me

When you don’t even know me

~~

MOTHERS

I distinctly remember being much more mature for my age
When I was your age
And more respectful of my mother

Don’t believe your grandmother, though
Because she wasn’t nearly as understanding as I am
When she was my age
Back then

/rk

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Poems of Neglect

Between a migraine that refuses to fully depart (if the pain behind my right eye doesn’t develop into laser vision soon, I’m going to be seriously disappointed) and preoccupation with our upcoming move, I haven’t been able to focus long enough to write.  But I hate going more than a day without posting something, so here are a few original poems (which will be in my next book of poetry):

On polyamory:

I’M NOT JEALOUS, I’M ENVIOUS; THERE’S A DIFFERENCE

Honey, you know I love you
And I’m happy he makes you happy
It’s just that I’m not happy
That I’m not happy
With someone else right now
Too

I want to frubble
And comperse
But instead I curse
That your body gets to be poly
While only my mind does
Boo

On vaccines:

MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Although I am clearly
The worst
Most irresponsible mother
Ever

For injecting my child repeatedly
With autism

It is secondary to my crime
Of robbing him of the opportunity
To experience
Character-building

Via measles
Mumps
Rubella
Polio
Tetanus

Because nothing quite equals the strength of character
Gained through

Blood poisoning
Testicular pain
Brain swelling
Paralysis
And death

On religion:

AN ATHEIST BELIEVES

Meeting genuine
Caring
Altruistic
Open-minded true believers

Only serves to reinforce my belief
That the rest of them

Are doing it wrong

/rk

Urbanitey Nite

We take possession of our new house tomorrow.  It will be a few weeks until our actual moving day, but it’s still pretty significant mentally as the shift from here to there.

The last 10 months have been really tough for me.  I made a decision to move out of downtown to the suburbs; which was sound financially and good for my partner, but unfortunately rather disastrous for me.  I can’t honestly say I didn’t see it coming — I just didn’t want to see it coming.  Sometimes my inner mental and emotional needs (and outer physical needs) aren’t practical.  But I’m finally getting the message that they can’t be ignored.

I grew up in the suburbs, and it always felt like a prison.  It’s difficult to explain.  All I know is that when I was there, I felt oppressed and constricted and trapped.  I started to get a glimpse of urban life in my teens when I got into an accelerated program at a high school downtown.  I ended up becoming best friends with a girl who lived not far from the school and spent most weekends at her house.  But I still had to go home eventually.  In my 20s I moved downtown for a year or two, but that changed when I started dating (and ultimately married) my first husband.  I was back in the suburbs.  Trapped again.

During my second (common-law) marriage we nearly went into financial ruin because of my push to move back to downtown.  It was an obsession, definitely, but I knew I wouldn’t feel right again until I was there.  And I did feel right once I was there.  Unfortunately I also felt trapped because of the relationship, so I left the husband, moved out of the house but stayed downtown.

Again, we were briefly pushed out of downtown when I became disabled and couldn’t afford the rent there while we waited the three months for the disability payments to come through.  But as soon as they did, I cut out of my lease after only six months and we moved back to our old neighbourhood downtown.

So what, exactly, made me think I could survive another move out-of-town.  Not just to the suburbs either, but the far suburbs.

I guess the simple answer is that I didn’t want to make it a money issue between my husband and I.  He’s a very practical person.  I wanted to be practical.  It was hard for me to justify the additional expense because of a feeling I had.

A feeling.

It’s interesting how, as someone with mental illness, I get angry when others diminish the impact of the effect of emotions on me as a sufferer of bipolar disorder, and then turn around and do the same thing to myself.  I guess when it comes to me, I can be a bit of a hypocrite.

So we moved to the suburbs and everyone adjusted quite well.  Except me.

I mean, I put on a good front for what seemed like a long while.  I tidied the house, I made dinners, I took the dog for long walks.  I tried to adjust.  But the bad feelings started to creep in, anyway.

I stopped doing much around the house.  I stopped showering.  I spent most of the day sleeping.

That went on a long time before I finally spoke up to my husband to tell him that I wasn’t happy.  It’s a really hard thing to tell someone you love, at a time when you’re supposed to be happy for finally being together, that you’re not.  Especially if they can’t change the thing that is making you unhappy.

So that’s where we were stuck for a while.  Me feeling unhappy and trapped but trying to fake my way out of it, and him being unhappy that I was unhappy and feeling stuck with no way to fix it, until finally thanks to some unexpected financial changes, we found a way to fix it.

At no small cost to them, mind you.  My son has to change schools again.  My husband now will have a long commute to and from work everyday.  All because I couldn’t hack it.

That’s a huge responsibility.

On the one hand, I’m relieved.  I’ll be back in the hustle and bustle of downtown.  Close to people walking and moving and being.  I don’t know what it is that is so important to me about that.  Something about knowing I can walk to everything.  I’m not trapped by needing a car.  Things are laid out in a grid and I can find my way around.  I guess there’s something about being downtown that makes me feel very self-sufficient.  Very un-trapped.

But there is also a certain amount of pressure, because I worry about everyone else adjusting.  If they hate it, I will be to blame.  Which I guess is why it was so difficult for me to speak up in the first place.  I don’t like always being the squeaky wheel.  Except unfortunately, I am always the squeaky wheel — or at least the wheel that squeaks the loudest.  When I’m miserable, everyone is miserable, because my misery tends to get amplified by my mental illness.  I hate that about myself, but I also can’t deny it.

The next two weeks will be the hardest as we dismantle our current house and set up the new one, and I have to deal with mixed feelings of exhilaration and guilt.  I want to jump ahead to when we’re settled in and know that it hasn’t been a huge mistake to put my needs first.

/rk

 

All My Best Friends Are Virtual

**UPDATE** This story was selected as an Editor’s Pick over at Medium.com

(‘Virtual Friend’ from the poetry collection I Am Not These Things)

Some say it’s impersonal
The web
But it doesn’t feel impersonal when someone says something nasty
And some of my best friends are in there
We share comfort while we share posts
Trade links instead of books
Touch base every day
From one website to the next
Different usernames, same us
We fight injustice
Battle wrong-thinkers
Those things we read in the comments
Were so awful, amirite?
Never read the comments
You should never read the comments
We always read the comments
Gosh I like you
We could meet up today
For coffee
But it’s so warm here
And the world is enormous outside
And much safer squeezed into my laptop
Where it can’t get out
Although
You seem down today
Can I ((hug)) your emoticon?
You need cats
Or a nice manatee

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Making (and keeping) friendships was always difficult for me as a child. And because of those early disasters, it took me a long time as an adult to really trust myself in social situations. What few friends I had in childhood and into my teen years, I mostly lost touch with once we went off to university and started our separate careers.

Making friends with co-workers was too complicated. Truthfully, I felt uncomfortable trying to mix social interactions with business because I found it difficult to know where to set boundaries, and to respect the boundaries of others. I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of person when it comes to social interaction: If I’m going to share, I’m going to overshare, and this is not the sort of thing that goes over well in a work situation. So aloof was easier, when I could manage it.

Somewhere around 2007, when I finally relented and joined Facebook (being in my mid-30s, Facebook seemed like a game for kids, and I honestly didn’t think it would hold any appeal), I was surprised by what a good fit it was for me. Not only did I end up rekindling old friendships, but I even ended up making new friends out of old acquaintances. And by that I mean — people who in our previous existence didn’t seem to have any interest in interacting with me now seemed to genuinely be interested in what I had to say.

virtual loveFacebook is often criticized as being a place for superficial friendships. For some people like myself though, social networking has proven to be a boon to my self-esteem and social health. There are certain hallmarks of having Asperger’s that make it difficult to connect by traditional means. Which is not to say I haven’t learned (finally) in my 40s that most adults are actually much more open to those who are neuroatypical than children are. Or maybe it’s simply that I’ve done a much better job in the last several years of aligning myself with others who share my perspective and are a motley crew of oddballs themselves (being part of the queer, poly, atheist and feminist communities helps: counterculture has at least one privilege: acceptance of the non-normative).

Here are my top six reasons why Facebook works for me as an autistic:

1.  Interacting Without Confrontation: No eye contact! Ever! Plus I can post about things I care about and even talk about them ad nauseam, and people don’t have to reply if they’re not interested. I don’t end up annoying people with my tendency to be self-centered or one-sided in my conversation style. I can’t interrupt anyone. Ultimately they don’t have to feign interest, and I don’t have to feel shitty when I realize I’m boring people.

2.  Oversharing is the New Normal: I am no longer the elephant in the room. When everyone else is sharing pictures of their kids, cats, dinner and discussing the minutiae of their day, my tendency to blurt out personal information fits right in.

3.  Facebook Friendships Have Lower Expectations: Comment on someone’s posts once a week, Like the occasional picture, and people are often satisfied. It’s rare that anyone gets in a huff over the fact that I’m a pretty neglectful friend who tends to be a bit limited in my ability to interact IRL. If they don’t find our interactions fulfilling, they de-friend me and I don’t really take it personally.

4.  I Don’t Lose Real Life Friendships: As per above, I can be a pretty shitty friend. I have a rather unexplainable aversion to the telephone, I don’t keep in touch via e-mail, and making regular plans tends to slip my mind. But I can follow people’s lives on Facebook, say complimentary things about their children, and share interesting tidbits from the web that I think will make them smile.

5.  People Get to Know the Real Me: It was illuminating to find out from people I’d known from high school that the reason we weren’t friends wasn’t because they didn’t like me, but rather because they thought I was shy/aloof/quiet/unapproachable/boring or any number of other things. After befriending people on Facebook and interacting I would get comments like “Wow! I never knew how smart/funny/clever/witty you are!” I don’t feel like I’m a different person, but it’s no doubt that the internet has let me operate from my default comfort zone: words on paper (er… screen).

6.  Emoticons: I feel like emoticons were invented for people with Asperger’s. Gone are the days of having to interpret the emotional intent of others. The internet is a level playing field and I’m no longer the only one who struggles for context. But more importantly, the risk of people misinterpreting what I say is greatly reduced. I tend to be very pragmatic in my delivery (which can occasionally make me seem very cold) and I also have a very sardonic sense of humour. Pop a smiley face on that sucker and we’re golden!

What I find most surprising about my experience with Facebook is actually how normal it has made me feel. I am not sure if it is just Facebook or the advance of social media as a whole: They have given voice to not just the misfits, but the misfit in everyone. Because of how open people have become with their lives and struggles on social platforms, there is no longer one single ideal of what normal is.

Facebook and social media are tearing down walls and challenging expectations. Gone are the cliques. Gone are the wallflowers. I’m not the elephant in the room; we’re all elephants.

/rk

Third Gender

(WHAT THE BURRNESHA, FA’AFAFINE AND TWO-SPIRITED CAN TEACH US ABOUT
NON-BINARY GENDER ACCEPTANCE)

While there are clear examples of gender fluidity and/or transgender identity among many cultures, there exist few examples where members of these subcultures are able exist openly with the acceptance and encouragement of other members of their community.

Some, like the burrnesha (aka. sworn virgins) of Albania — women living as men — have their identities thrust upon them. Born into a patrilineal society, Kanun law dictated that property and land be handed down to the eldest males, and when nature did not produce sons (or violent feuds killed off all the male members of a family), daughters needed to step into that role. It was no small commitment: Women were required to take a vow of celibacy and from that day forward dress and behave like the men of their community for the rest of their lives.

Qamile Stema (photo credit: Luis Dafos)

Interestingly, the evolving culture of acceptance around this identity also created the possibility for women to make the choice to live as men voluntarily. In spite of the sacrifice of sexuality through celibacy, this form of gender transition was obviously greatly appealing to those who did not identify with the gender assigned them at birth, and also afforded them not just acceptance, but respect.

Given the historical context of forced marriages in a patriocentric society, it is not unreasonable to attribute a certain percentage of these voluntary conversions to a simple desire for more freedom:

“Imagine […] marrying at the age of 15, 16, 17 years old, conceivably to a husband who might be 40, 50, 60. On your wedding night, your father might slip a bullet into your suitcase, for your husband’s use in case you’re not a virgin […] You will never talk back. You will make no decision, even when it comes to the children to whom you give birth. You will not smoke or drink or shoot a gun. From sunup to sundown, your life will be full of hard labor. According to the Kanun: “A woman is known as a sack made to endure as long as she lives in her husband’s house.””

[… read the rest of my essay at Medium.com]

 

Hope you enjoy it!  I’ll be returning to something more bloggy tomorrow.

/rk

Punching Bag

I grew up as an object of ridicule and scorn to the male members of my family.  I am still not at a place of perfect understanding for the reasons behind this, and it has taken a lifetime to come to the realization that there is a good possibility that I am not, in spite of what they have led me to believe, worthless.

My brother and I are estranged.  If you asked him why (if he even admitted there was a problem), he would probably suggest it had something to do with the events surrounding the death of my father.  Which might even make a certain amount of sense if our estrangement represented a change in the status quo, and it doesn’t.  My brother seemed to have been born hating me.

reenabootsThat’s not to say there weren’t moments in our childhood where we played together or tolerated each other.  It’s hard to keep that kind of resentment going and we only had each other to play with a great deal of the time.  But there was an underlying tension for me, always.  He was prone to regular acts of cruelty for no other apparent reason than that I wanted to do something or go somewhere.  When quite young, he would bar my way to going upstairs and bite me if I tried to get past him.  He would go into my room when I was out and take things.  I remember being particularly devastated to discover he had stolen my penny collection (I had collected pennies from every year going back to the 1800s).  In our teens, he held a knife to me because I decided to eat the last mini pizzas.  In the struggle to defend myself, he nearly sliced through my finger.  The amount of blood scared the hell out of him, I think.

I was angry at him too.  But my overwhelming emotion was hurt.  I did not retaliate.  I didn’t do things to antagonize him.  If anything, I tried to avoid him because I thought maybe he would just calm down and stop resenting me so much in my absence.  I decided maybe he resented the attention I received for my accomplishments:  I was a mostly A student; whereas he struggled in school.  So I stopped over-achieving.  And it seemed to work:  He started to thrive at school.  He was now the good child.  I was the black sheep.

But even though he got more attention, he still seemed to hate me.

The stress of his constant personal attacks and his relentless anger pushed me to the breaking point not long after the knife episode.  I was severely depressed and anxious.  In a fit of nervous exhaustion I ended up at the hospital ER.  I saw a child psychologist who listened to my recounting of my mood issues and the conflicts with my brother.  They said they couldn’t do anything for me and sent me home.

As we got older and moved out on our own, he ended up moving to Toronto and spending more time with my father.  And they seemed to feed off each other in their disdain of me.  I’d hear about conversations behind my back.  I’d come across snarky references about me on Facebook.  Together or alone, neither of them could be in a room with me without ridiculing me or criticizing me and making sarcastic remarks.

I stopped talking in my father’s presence much, because he would always find some way to twist anything I’d say.  I remember visiting him once with my second husband and my son and getting caught in this dialogue:

Him:  “So are you still working for pennies at home?
Me:  “Actually I had an interview at the hospital last week.  It would be full-time, probably at the hospital, but they might let me work from home.”
“They’ll never let you do that.”
“Well actually, they do have a number of work-at-home positions.”
“It probably won’t pay much.”
“Actually it pays XX dollars.”
“Even if you do get it, you’ll probably just get pregnant and have to quit.”
“Uh… If I did get pregnant, that would be by choice, not by accident, and it would be my choice.”
“Well don’t expect your mother or I to support you.”
“Um, I didn’t ask you to.  You did just meet my husband, right?”
“It’s not like that will last.”

I got up and left the room.  We cut our visit short by a day and went back to Ottawa.  I found out later that he called my mum and told her we left early because he wouldn’t give me any money.  Since we had paid our own way the entire visit and in fact turned down his offer of cash when we were headed out to the museum one day, I have no idea what version of reality he was operating under.

It took a long time as an adult to realize that I didn’t need to accept the abuse.  It wasn’t until I had my nervous breakdown that I started speaking up for myself about it and being very clear to both of them, that it was not okay.  That they would have to treat me with respect or not speak to me at all.

My dad chose to ignore my requests, so I had to mostly stop interacting with him, because it was too painful and too destructive to my psyche.

My brother chose to stop speaking to me.  I’ve tried on many occasions to reach out to him to figure out where the resentment comes from and even to apologize for whatever it is I’ve done, to no avail.

There is loss from having to cut people out of your life.  Even toxic ones.  Because you always hold on to that part of them in your brain that is the person you wish they could have been.  But part of my coming to grips with reality and my struggle for mental health has been accepting that I cannot control what other people bring to our relationship.  I can be open and understanding, and do my best to mend fences, but ultimately I have to take a stand against forces that serve only to do me harm.

/rk

10 Reasons You Won’t Date Me

(aka Why I Won’t Date You Either)

As I read profiles on OkCupid, there are certain words and phrases that are an automatic turn-off for me.  I mean, beyond the expletives and crass references to what you want to do to various parts of my anatomy.  Some of them seem fairly innocuous, but for me they’re pretty triggering.

1.  “No drama”

      • I’m going to go ahead and assume what you mean is you don’t want me to argue with you.  Ever.  Don’t challenge you.  Don’t get emotional.  Basically have no feelings of any kind, other than routinely telling you how awesome and right you are.  I’m an actress, so right off the bat I feel compelled to be a bit insulted when you imply there’s something negative about drama.  But for the most part I’m pissed off because it sounds like what you want is a doormat.

2.  “Never stick your dick in crazy”

  • Wow.  You’re so enlightened.  Like, what a great life lesson, amirite?  Bitches be crazy.  But I bet you’re the kind of guy who writes off a girl as crazy any time she calls you on your shit or basically does anything you don’t like.  Gaslighting is not okay.  Labelling a woman crazy everytime she gets emotional or simply reacts to your manipulation is not ok.

3.  “No baggage”

  • If by baggage you mean history – then who the hell doesn’t have one?  Your point is moot.

nice guy4.  “Must be discreet”

  • Ahhhh… so you’re married.*  Or you just don’t want to introduce me to your friends?  Or want anyone to know we’re dating?  Or basically all of the above?  Remind me again why I would want to get involved with a liar?

5.  “Not too clingy”

  • Do you mean a woman who expects you to call her and want to spend time with her?  Expects you to not be afraid to show affection for her and acknowledge her in front of your friends?  That’s not being clingy.  That’s being your girlfriend.

6.  “No hoes”

  • I don’t know if I’m more bothered by the slut-shaming or the fact that you just called a women a name that’s supposed to be applied to an object.  I assume you’ve also maintained your ‘purity’.

7.  “No fat chicks”

  • You’re an ass.

8.  “No Feminazis”

  • That’s not a thing.  And the fact that you think it’s a thing says a lot about you.  You’re effectively telling me that you’re against equal rights for women and that you think any woman who speaks out in favour of that goal is a shrill harpy.  So again, you basically want a doormat.

9.  “Clean”

  • Wait, what?  Are you inspecting me for lice?  I mean, I’m all in favour of both parties disclosing their sexual history and taking steps to prevent the spread of disease, but you’re not ordering a sex toy.  Jeesh.

10.  “Friends first”

  • Clever.  Who could complain about this one?  Everyone should be friends first, right?  Except why do I get the feeling that you just want to be the one to say it first so you can be the one who decides if we become more than that.  It’s all about control, right?  If it doesn’t work out, you can say we were just friends.  You’ve already laid down the ground rules, so you get to decide when and if you want to commit.  Hell, even if we have sex and I think that means we’re dating, you can just say we were friends with benefits.

BONUS:   “Friends with benefits”

  • You want sex without strings.  You don’t want a friend.  

/rk

* I believe in ethical non-monogamy, but if you are married and it doesn’t say so on your profile, or you don’t disclose it, or your partner doesn’t know you’re dating – that’s not ethical.  ‘Nuff said.