The Viking Invasion of the Buffet Line

It started out simply enough.  Closing ritual for ConVocation was over, Sarenth had planned to do a rune reading for me, all our other friends started making plans to eat lunch out and invited us along.  It sounded great, and we figured we’d just do the runecasting in the restaurant after eating and getting more grounded.  (Because nobody’s going to notice anything strange about that…but anyway…)

Bear in mind that, leading up to this, I had been getting poked all weekend.  My stomach picked that weekend to really and truly pop an ulcer and cause constant pain and gas and panic attack feelings.  Workshop meditations got interrupted.  My High Priestess recommended a teacher to me (“You’ve just got to go to one of her workshops, even if you miss mine!”) who then opened her workshop with, essentially, a blind joke.  I kept leaving my badge and other things up in my room.  Cigarettes got broken.  Beer and wine got spilled constantly, even though I wasn’t drunk (sometimes before I had a single drink!).  By Saturday evening, I had started intentionally just spilling my drinks a bit on the table before I drank them, so I could get it over with.

The plan on Sunday was to go to a buffet that I had never heard of.  Our friend said it had Chinese food and Mexican food, and it was huge.  She gave me directions, but I really don’t function well on directions given to me orally in a strange town when I can’t even point to the hotel I’m staying in on a map (I just follow my GPS to get there!). I couldn’t even spell the name of the place from what they were saying, so finally I got her to spell it out so I could punch it into my phone’s GPS.  It pulled up a result right away, I showed it to her, and she said, “Yes, that’s it!”  Sarenth asked to ride with me, since I had the GPS and he was also unsure of the area.  Everybody scattered, the others leaving directly for the restaurant, Sarenth and me and the girls to pack up his drums first.

The first thing we noticed leaving the hotel was the roads.  Absolutely horrible, terrible, awful, I have never in my life seen roads that bad.  There weren’t potholes, there were bloody SINKHOLES.  There was one place where it was supposed to be a two-lane ramp from one road to the next.  The entire width of the road was just nothing but craters, leaving nothing to be seen of the stripes on the road.  The cars in front of us were single-file and meandering all over the road, trying (and failing!) to find a truly safe path through.  The truck immediately in front of us was towing an empty trailer that bounced several feet off the ground no matter how slowly he went.  When it came to be our turn, we slowly swerved from one side of the road to the other as I tried to navigate the minefield.  I saw a little red sports car come up behind us, obviously thinking we were just slow and he was going to go around.  Then we saw the Gap Chasm looming ahead of us, stretching from one side of the road to the other. Upon seeing it I wondered briefly whether turning around and giving up was a possibility.  I eased into it, and the car actually stopped and needed to be gunned a bit to get each set of wheels over and beyond.

I didn’t see what became of the poor sports car.

About this time, we noticed that the estimated time to get to our destination was showing 30 minutes.  This seemed a bit much for something that was supposed to be “right up the road,” so we tried texting our friends to double-check the destination.  They never responded, and so we headed onward, over potholes that threatened the tires and slippery ice patches that tried to throw us off the road, reminiscing the day and weekend at Con.  When we finally got there, Sarenth went on in to find the table everybody else was at while I paid for myself and the girls.  As I was signing the receipt that committed us to that restaurant, with a line building behind me, we figured out the news.

We were at the wrong restaurant.

Apparently this buffet that neither of us had ever heard of was a chain with half a dozen restaurants scattered throughout the greater Detroit area.  Everybody else had gone to one that was, indeed, right up the road from the hotel…in the opposite direction.

We were hungry, and we were obviously never going to get to the other restaurant before everybody else left, so we decided to cut our losses and just eat where we were.  Perhaps it was that decision, that realization that our lunchtime fate was irretrievably diverted because we were too stupid to find a restaurant, that unleashed the floodgates of hilarity.  Whatever it was, the laughter started pouring out, louder and greater the longer we ate.  We laughed over how much meat to put on our grill plates, and how confused the grill chef was at our requests. We laughed at the girls knocking their chairs over and Caitlin getting blue teeth from the Superman ice cream. We toasted our gods and laughed at how incredibly silly the whole thing was.

The whole time we were laughing out loud and eating plates piled with meat, we were surrounded by a packed restaurant full of very nice Detroit families who looked like they were on their way to or from church, with nice dresses and hairdos and suits and ties.  The place was full and getting fuller.  There was a line out the door by the time we left.  As we were leaving, I started to notice that we were getting some strange stares.  And when we finally got out the door and back into the sunlight, the last straw hit me.

We had gone out the in door.  Quite clearly marked, the out door was separated from the in door and line by a long wall.  We had marched past that entire in-line, laughing and giggling, obviously going out the in door.  I could just see the thoughts going through their heads: “What on earth is wrong with those crazy white people?????”  And if they were looking at us funny for just laughing and doing silly things…how big would their eyes have been had we gone ahead with the runecasting there in the restaurant?!?!?!

We lost it.  Just completely lost it.  We were already laughing so hard we could barely breathe as we got into the car.  As we pulled out, I noticed that two guys had followed us out and were still staring at us from their car in the next space over, and the laughter intensified again.  It was all “Hail Loki!” as we got back on the highway for the hotel, with me laughing so damn hard I probably should have pulled over.  We wondered what it would look like if we did get pulled over, and started laughing all over again.  Even having three different cars at three different times try to sideswipe us didn’t stop the laughter.  We didn’t stop laughing until we got to the Sinkhole Slums near the hotel.

It just fit in with the rest of my weekend, and poor Sarenth got to come along for the ride!  The Viking Invasion will live on, in our personal history books at least.  What a way to wrap up Con!

Another Con Is Over

I am the one outside the circle, keeping the rhythm for the dancers.  I am the one wandering around the dance floor, never quite joining in.  I am the one laughing out loud where others do no more than whisper.  I am the one who will listen and comment without quite joining in.  I am the singer, the reveler, and I may appear alone, but grab me without my permission and there will be consequences.  Come and join me, though, and we’ll have a grand old time.

It’s that time of year again.  Time for another swift kick in the arse from my god.  Time to go back to the real world with all the knowledge gained at Con, to leave one set of friends and head back to another.  I’m too tired to say more tonight, other than that it was a wonderful weekend.  Don’t let me forget to write about the Viking invasion of the buffet line, though; it was epic!  Also, I picked up some great artwork that I just can’t share online.  You’ll have to ask for it in person.

Gender Nonconforming

It’s odd that it took a Facebook update for me to find this one.  I was scrolling through lists of the available options in the new “custom” gender box when I saw it.  Gender Nonconforming.  Well, what the heck is that, I thought?  Once I went and looked it up, I realized that once again I had discovered a label for myself that I didn’t even know existed, yet which somehow fills a void.

A little background for those still learning about these terms, from my understanding of them:  Sex is the biological and/or physical sex of a person.  Genitalia and genetics are the determining factors here. Gender is more of a social construct, and encompasses how a person thinks of themselves and how they express themselves to others.  A person can have one physical sex but feel they have a different gender, making them transgendered.

Facebook’s new gender options are much bigger than this, of course.  They include terms like cisgendered, where a person’s internal gender matches their physical sex, intersex for those who feel in between or whose bodies are not clearly defined, androgynous and agender for those who feel their internal gender is not clearly defined, and many more.  I’ve been hearing and learning about these terms for years, but I imagine the influx of options might be confusing to some.

Then there’s me.  My sex is female, from my head to my toes.  My gender is also female.  I love being a woman, physically.  I feel at home in my body, with all its luscious curves, and I revel in its sexuality and power.  I have loved the ability to give birth and nurse my babies, and I wish I could do it more.  There is no dysphoria here whatsoever.

Social expectations are another matter entirely.  I have felt disjointed and disconnected from other women since I was a teenager, maybe longer.  I see “American woman” as this thing that I just don’t understand or identify with.  Major plot points in movies and books that revolve around typical female behavior are a source of frustration.  I could offer some pretty superficial examples, such as not getting the concept of name-brand purses and matching shoes, not being interested in painful clothing and footwear for the sake of fashion (or, really, the whole concept of “fashionable”).  It goes beyond that, though.  It gets into the way I feel more comfortable around boys and men, in general, than I do around women.  The way I would prefer to build visible muscles than try to sculpt away visible fat.  The way I feel more comfortable in a frakking topless bar than I do at a Tupperware party.  The way I am more likely to identify with butch and tomboy characters in film and literature than the femme ones.  The way all-female groups tend to violently reject me, as though I am some kind of infectious virus in their midst.

I’ve toyed with the idea of identifying as butch in the past, but ultimately I don’t think that’s where I belong, either.  I have too much swish.  I love long hair and softness and long skirts.  I may prefer using pockets to a purse, but I’m always thinking of ways to attach those pockets to a skirt instead of relying on jeans.  I may prefer boots or sneakers to heels and ballet slippers, but I tend to pair them with skirts and tunics and ruffles.  I’m more likely to be submissive than dominant in any given relationship (and boy does that make things interesting when I get paired up with another sub!).

Then along comes this new (to me) term: Nonconforming.  That’s what I’m looking for!  It’s like being handed the term bisexual was when I was 22 years old.  There’s a name for that? Wow!  It gives me a nice little bench to sit on, where I don’t have to be boxed in with anybody I don’t fully identify with.  It gives me a little esteem boost, takes away some of that “I don’t belong anywhere” feeling.  It neatly encapsulates the way I am a female, the way I feel comfortable physically as a woman, but I don’t always feel comfortable with other women.  Nonconforming.

A Lone Libertarian Walks Into a Bar

There’s a social event going on, and she’s excited to be there.  All the people she knows have filled their tables, though, leaving her to find a chair at a table full of strangers.  With strangers, you never know how the conversation will go.  She knows she shares religious and most likely sexual mores with everybody in the room, but politics?  The percentage of Democrats, liberals, and progressives in this crowd probably approaches 99%.  Any conversation could go wrong.

She finds a table, and slowly the conversation builds.  As the subjects trend into dangerous political waters, as they always do, she remembers to keep her mouth shut.  She thinks not twice, but perhaps ten times before offering any comments or asking any questions.  She starts to wish that the dinner and social hour were over already, that it was time for the loud music leaving no audio room for anything more than shouted one-liners that might be only half understood.

Suddenly, one of her companions at the table mentions a familiar name.  “Did you say Walter Williams?” she asks.

“Why yes, I did!”

She holds her breath.  Could it be? Cautiously, she probes further.  “Ludwig von Mises?”

The hoped-for response comes. “Murray Rothbard!”

Both of them grin excitedly now.  The masks are gone, the pretense is dropped, the danger is finally passed.  No more the fear, the anxiety.  They can speak openly now, heedless of the ears around them.  The names come fast and furious–Matt Gillespie, John Stossel, Friedrich Hayek, Walter Block, Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder, Frederic Bastiat, Ron Paul, Geoff Neale, Robert Heinlein, Milton Friedman–as they trade information and find agreement on so many things.

For one brief, shining moment, the Lone Libertarian is alone no more.  She has a companion, a real person who actually shares all of her views.  It is brief, but its impact is lasting, leaving hope for more to come.

Writing Ritual

This past weekend, my husband of twenty years and myself renewed our wedding vows.  Actually, we went a bit beyond renewal.  This was always intended to be the wedding we didn’t feel like we got.  The first time we got married, he was 19 and I was 18.  I had essentially run away from home to live with him in another state, and both of our families were absolutely furious.  Words were said, relationships were irretrievably damaged, and the upshot was that we had a last-minute wedding in Little Rock, where we were living, with very few people in attendance.  One of the things that hurt me the most was my father’s refusal to attend, and I had hoped he would be coming to this one, as he was at least half my reason for having it. (He didn’t.)  Beyond the family drama, though, we ended up getting married in a Presbyterian church using a standard ceremony.  Neither of us attended that church.  We only chose it because I had been baptized a Presbyterian, so we felt comfortable asking for that church.  I had originally had in mind some kind of more special, customized ceremony, or at least writing our own vows.  None of that happened.

So right from the start, we intended to have a do-over on one of our major anniversaries, and this year was it.  We invited everybody we knew a full year in advance.  We booked a hall, I got a dress together, my mom made a new wedding cake and cupcakes…and I wrote the ceremony.  I had some help with the words here and there from my wonderful priests, but the structure, purpose, and refinement was mine.  It ended up going wonderfully.  We were surrounded by twice as many friends as before, we got to say the words we felt in our hearts, we did nothing that felt forced or masking or in any way false.  It was absolutely the wedding we wished we’d had the first time. (And yes, I’ll post pictures as soon as I get finished sending thank-you cards and sorting the photos…one of those 42-odd things on my to-do list!)

Afterwards, I was surprised by how many people came up and told me they’d gotten all weepy during the ceremony.  I didn’t expect that.  I felt pretty self-conscious about writing the ritual up the way I did to begin with, and was a little nervous about showing it off, even though it came from the heart.  It got me to thinking, though.  I’ve written rituals off and on over the years.  I’ve done sabbats and esbats for myself and for my family, and I’ve devised and cast spells for protection, warding, pregnancy and childbirth, all sorts of things.  Out of the rituals and spellwork that I actually think through and plan out, I don’t think I’ve ever had one fall flat the way improvised things have done.

Maybe this is something I could actually be good at.  It’s an idea, and one that will sit in the back of my head for now as I try to clear out my current to-do list of commitments and promises.  It’s not something I ever really considered, though, and it’s kind of interesting to think I might have an unexplored skill budding.  It’s also giving me a little more confidence to leave behind the scripts of others and do more writing of my own.

Imbolc 2014

Although we normally celebrate Imbolc on the second of February, today is when all the rituals in the area where scheduled.  A nice, clear Saturday afternoon, with everybody free of other obligations.

Except on Hoth, where snow thwarts all plans.  The weather advisories started coming out on Thursday.  Friday afternoon saw Brenden’s wrestling tournament cancelled.  By Friday evening, the advisories had started warning of ice in addition to the snow.  At that point, my own church cancelled our planned Imbolc ritual, and the other main public circle in the area offered for folks to be included in absentia in their working to cut down on driving.

It’s gotten so bad that the local high school teachers have started saying they’ll have their tests on such-and-such day, “or whenever we have school next.”  Every night, Brenden asks about school before going to bed, and I’ve started waking up automatically at 5 or 6 in the morning to brace myself for that morning phone call and text message that school is cancelled.  I think school was open less than half the usual number of days for January.  Even Brian’s office told employees to work from home for the first time in the ten years we’ve been up here.  We’re in the middle of the current snowstorm as I write this.  We’re forecast to get another 12 inches or so next Tuesday, and there is even more snow coming next Friday or Saturday, just in time to mess with our re-wedding plans.

And in the midst of all this ice and snow and cold and shoveling and frozen toes and spiking energy prices comes Imbolc.  Imbolc started out as an agricultural celebration of the time when goats and sheep would begin lactating in preparation for the spring births.  In our modern Wiccan calendar, Imbolc is the day when we are reminded to look around us and see the signs of the coming spring amidst the worst of winter.  While the snow is blowing and the temperature is still dropping, we can see the days getting longer and know that the strengthening sun will soon melt our worries away.  It is a time to light our own candles and fires to symbolically lend our strength to the sun and warm the Mother Earth while she waits. It is a time to begin planting seeds indoors (or snow-sowing!) in anticipation of the time when we will be able to plant the seedlings in our gardens.  It is a time to think about what sort of year we want this to be, what next things we want to learn and create, how we want to grow, what goals we want to accomplish.

Today I sowed my first ever winter seeds1557453_10152588250129745_1657341247_n and placed the little greenhouse on our defunct hot tub.  The snow already covering everything makes getting a level surface a little tricky, so I expect to keep a close eye on its tilt until it is firmly resting on the flat cover.  Also today, I continued working with the new task website I found, getting more things accomplished in less time than I can remember doing in years.  Sometimes a change in tactics or focus is all we need to move forward!  Tomorrow, I’ll make cinnamon rolls, the spiral of the dough symbolizing the spirals of the Goddess and the year.  I’ll take up sewing again this weekend, starting with my wedding dress.  All in all, truly a time of new beginnings in our house!

A happy and blessed Imbolc to all, and may all find warmth and peace this season!

Yuletide

20131221 Yule altarToday is Yule, the Winter Solstice, shortest day and longest night of the year.  I just finished lighting our Yule candle, which will stay lit until sunrise while we keep vigil through the darkness.  Tonight, we will feast and make merry, drumming up happiness and joy to banish the darkness and sadness that surrounds us.  We celebrate life and love, friends and family, and come the dawn we will welcome the rise of the newborn sun with open arms, symbol of life, death, and rebirth, all in one.  For tonight is darkness’ last stand for the year.  Tomorrow the light will reclaim its power to push back the shadows, and daylight and joy will come back into our lives one minute at a time.

There are always rituals planned for Yule, formal circles with friends.  This year, our church elected to cancel our planned ritual in order to combine circles with Chris’ circle for a candlelight ritual in honer of her and Isaac.  An ice storm has interfered with our plans to join them today.  Both my regular church location and the one we were heading to today are more than an hour away, today’s location being down some smaller back roads.  Yule is probably the one Sabbat we have missed the most often since joining Crossroads.  It’s just too far for us to drive the bus in bad weather, especially when we have to leave the main roads and highways.

So instead I have made our own altar to go along with our Yule candle, calling in the elements and consecrating the area for the night.  Our vigil will be our ritual, as we celebrate light and laugh in the face of darkness, death, and despair.  For even the darkest hours must come to an end as the wheel of life turns, and we must remember that all souls will one day be reborn, even those who seem to have been taken before their due time.  Our home will be open tonight to all who dare to brave the weather to join our celebrations, and food and drink will be offered to all.

A Blessed Solstice and Merry Yuletide to all this December night.  Merry meet, merry part, and merry shall we meet again, living and dead.  So mote it be.

DNR

An article over at the New York Post on end-of-life care caught my attention this morning.  You really have to read through the whole thing to get the full impact of it.  The issues raised here resonate with me, in both my experiences and my beliefs.

There was a time when I would have told anybody to do anything necessary to keep me alive.  I think we all do at same point, as we go through that phase of feeling immortal.  I even left that instruction behind, along with others, the last time I went in for surgery.  I would not say that any longer.

Back in 2007, my grandmother died.  Her last years were spent in a flurry of progressively invasive medical care as one body system after another failed.  I thought for several years that she would die any time, and I would expect to get that phone call saying, “Your grandmother is dead. She died in her sleep.”  Instead, I would hear that grandma had a heart attack, spent time in the hospital, got more drugs, and went home.  Now grandma is in congestive heart failure, she had another hospital stay and got some different drugs.  Now her kidneys are failing, so she needs dialysis and more drugs.  She had strokes, mini-strokes, illnesses that turned severe.  It was one thing after another, and I’m glad that I was out of state at the time and couldn’t see her regularly.  The thought of my feisty, crafty, Betty Boop-loving, gumbo-cooking grandmother reduced to that state of living past her body’s time limit makes me very sad.

At one point, Grandma got so sick with what I think was a respiratory infection that she ended up in the ICU on a ventilator, and the doctors weren’t sure she would make it.  She did make it that time, but as soon as they extubated her, she said, “Don’t you ever do that to me again!”  (I wasn’t there, only hearing about it second-hand, but I can just see her face and hear her tone of voice when she did it…Grandma was PISSED!) I talked with my mother about letting her go, about letting her die peacefully instead of trying to fight it so hard.  It wasn’t our decision though, and I have to accept that my grandfather was not about to let go of one second with his beloved that could be gained by intervention.

I have other stories I could tell.  I could speak of the things I saw done to my mother when she was in Critical Care during her chemotherapy treatments, the indignities she suffered, the way every doctor seemed hell-bent on treating her as a statistic in their own subspecialty instead of as a whole woman with integrated body systems, the way it was so hard for me to get the information I needed to make decisions for her when she was incapable.  I could speak of the stories told by my friend Angel back in Texas about his experience with cancer in his teens, what it felt like to be resuscitated by paddles after cardiac arrest, how he never again wanted to be saved or rescued or placed in intensive care.

Ultimately, though, the stories will never be enough.  All of this comes down to our attitude toward death as a culture.  We have removed ourselves from death, banished Her from our perceptions thoroughly.  We mourn and cry at the deaths of those who have lived full lives and died at their due time, as if death does not come for us all in the end.  Death is never natural anymore; it always has a cause, and that cause is always preventable.  No death is ever acceptable.  We live in a padded-room society swaddled in rules, regulations, safety precautions, and securities, determined that life-everlasting must be possible if only we do all the right things.  Then, even after we die, we embalm, we entomb, we fill the bodies with chemicals and then enclose them in expensive, waterproof concrete grave liners, maybe even steel-lined graves, in the expectation that at least the body will never rot even after the spirit has left.

I may not be the gothiest goth you ever met, but I have regarded myself as goth for a long time for one simple reason: I accept and embrace death and the darker things in life.  I wish that society could come just a little over to the dark side with me, enough to bring balance back into our culture.  I’ll grant you your padded-room life if you want it, as long as you don’t impose it on me and my family.  In return, I’d like to have some respect for the end of life, the expected end we all face.  I still want to rage against Chris’ death and expect to spend a long, long time still coming to terms with it.  But I want grandparents to die at home, in their beds, surrounded by family, not in hospital filled with tubes surrounded by medical professionals and beeps and lights.  I want it to be easier for a terminal patient to say, “Enough!” and stop treatment, going home to die or even choosing to hasten death on their own terms.

And when old people die, I want to celebrate their lives and share memories with those still alive, not be expected to cry and mourn over something that is a perfectly natural part of life.

My mother told me that she wants me to scatter her ashes from the top of the Mt. Crested Butte ski lift when she dies.  I like that idea.  Myself, I think I want a green burial somewhere quiet and peaceful, or maybe an illicit burial in my kids’ backyard with a tree planted on top (then I can be a vicious libertarian rule-breaker even in my death!).  I plan to celebrate all the wonderful parts of my mother’s life when she leaves us for good, and I hope somebody throws one helluva wild party when I go.  No crying allowed.

Know Thyself, Redux

I got a prompting to re-examine myself in the light of recent events.  Specifically things surrounding Chris, but also things having to do with Kender and my religious community.  I need to take a step back, take a breath, and reconsider who I am in relation to promises and commitments I want to make.  I need to gather myself and focus on living true to myself and where I want to be.  Do I want to be Chris? No, I merely see things in her that I admire and would like to emulate.  Am I a religious leader? No, I don’t think so, but I do have a place there.

I am that one on the edges, the one who flirts with many paths, the one who takes unconventional steps toward my goals.  I am the one who yearns to learn and hungers to share my knowledge with others, to open their eyes to possibilities they might not have considered or realized were there.  Part of me longs to be just a molecule of water flowing along the river with everybody else, but part of me knows that I am also the rock in the middle of the water, breaking the flow, creating a hazard to travel, making waves, the thing that others watch out for.

Do you want to know why I hardly ever send out thank you notes for anything?  When I was younger, it wasn’t that I was ungrateful.  I just forgot, and forgot, and forgot, and then I was too embarrassed to do it when I finally remembered.  Over the years, that became the grand theme of it: too embarrassed to send thank you cards this year when I forgot all the years before.  My brain turns that into a general disregard for commercial cards and formal things, but there’s the root of it.  I’m just embarrassed of being a loser at the game of social niceties. But I’m not ungrateful.

Do you want to know why you hardly ever see me donating to charity or doing volunteer work?  Because I don’t like to be seen.  I’m afraid of being noticed.  I don’t know why.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about there, but that’s how I feel.  I’m the one who wants to sneak an offering into a donation box when nobody is looking, rather than put it openly in the plate as it’s passed.  I’m the one who sends cash in unmarked envelopes.  I’m the one who leaves things on porches and hopes they’re found.  I drop things off without leaving my name.  I make anonymous tips.  I don’t sign my donations.  I don’t want to be noticed.  I’m just more comfortable in the shadows and on the edges, but I am always there for a friend.

As of this writing, my first post about Chris’ death has gotten 945 hits.  That number blows my mind.  I never expected it to circulate that far.  It was just me talking to my own quiet little corner of the net, thinking I was still hiding in the shadows, and suddenly a searchlight lit me up.  I think my consciously not posting everything here to Facebook since then may have been a reaction to that, my own way of slinking back into the shadows.

I want to live in harmony with the earth, self-sufficient as much as possible.  This is a genuine desire, rooted in myself, one that has been there for a very, very long time.  It is a desire that I saw reflected in Chris, and I saw her take steps toward it that I had not, and I want to move along down that path that she took before me.

I want to do more for and with my kids, and I don’t want it to be about buying them things.  Again, I saw that reflected in Chris, and she took steps that I haven’t yet.

I want to continue my personal growth journey through my religion and my faith because I want to find my happy place.  I want to find out how to stand on that piling no matter what birds shit on my head, no matter what ferry slams into me while docking, no matter what hurricane tries to blow me down.  I want to find that place in myself where I can know myself and be confident in that, and act from it.

Socially Acceptable Venting

I’ve been having a pretty tough day today with Kender. I’m taking advantage of the few brief moments here and there when he is silently pouting to type this out.  I need to get this out, even (or maybe especially!) on a bad day like today, because sometimes I feel like I have no voice.

We have made and still make a lot of alternative choices in our lifestyle and our parenting.  We chose to have children with a disabled parent.  I used medications to reset my hormones and restore my fertility instead of continuing to use fertility drugs.  We chose out-of-hospital births. We chose breastfeeding and cosleeping, cloth diapers and rags.  We chose to use convertible carseats  from the beginning instead of carriers, and slings instead of carriers and strollers much of the time.  We chose natural medicine as much as possible, with personalized vaccination schedules and avoidance of antibiotics.  We chose to homeschool, even when we found out our children had disabilities.

Every single one of those choices is outside of the mainstream, and so whenever we are having trouble with pretty much anything, those are the first things that people suggest we change.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the problem would even be fixed by the solution suggested.  To people who do not share our choices, our choices are the problem.

It reminds me of the problems that fat people face when going to the doctor.  No matter what their health complaint is, they are told the answer is losing weight.  I’ve been told this myself.  I’ve been told that I should lose weight in order to fix a medical problem that causes weight gain…now there’s an infinite loop for you!  Other people have been told to lose weight to fix anything from strep throat to broken bones.

If Kender were in the government school system, it would be completely acceptable for me to complain about the IEP process, about the school refusing to teach him Braille or to use a cane, about how many medications he needs in order to be nice and quiet and compliant, about how getting the schools to actually provide him with an education is a full-time job.  When we homeschool, though, we’re not allowed to complain about how expensive Braille materials are, or how difficult it is to contain him, or about being tired, or anything else.  No matter what my difficulty is, to some people the answer is that he should be in school.  As if somehow that would make all the problems go away, rather than magnifying them or replacing them with an entirely different set of unsolveable problems.

When our lifestyle choices are questioned, there is no consideration for our individual concerns.  There is no consideration for where we live, our past experiences with the establishment, our goals in life, our children’s unique needs.  Everything comes down to, “You are different, and you do not deserve any sympathy or help until you conform and become like everybody else.”  Every problem is reduced to some choice that we’ve made that is obviously the source of all our problems.

Fat and sick? You must become the socially-acceptable Not Fat before you can be treated for your health problem.

Libertarian and lost your job? You are not worthy of charity if you do not support government programs.

Homeschooling a disabled child? The only possible solution is government school.

Trying to find out what makes your child tick instead of medicating him? Sorry, does not compute.

Dealing with a difficult situation and have no support system? You need to change your religion so you can go to church and get help.

Do people who respond this way have any idea of how demoralizing it is to be told these things? How dehumanizing and impersonal it feels to be told that you, your personality, your preferences, your life, your SELF are the source of all your problems?

It’s no wonder that some of us draw into ourselves, that we withdraw from online message boards and real life support groups.  When every time we reach out, we are slapped in the face, eventually we are going to stop reaching.