Yearly Archives: 2012

Off-Topic: Epic Doctor Who Party!

As Shaun recently pointed out, we here at the Polyskeptic compound are rather big Doctor Who fans. On that vein, we are having an awesome Doctor Who-themed Halloween party!

To start, I made the front door into a TARDIS:

TARDIS front door

It’s bigger on the inside

My kind of party!

Step 2: make an awesome drink menu:

“Polybar Galactica” is the name of the bar at the house

Step 3: Costumes!

Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about it. Allons-y!

Tim Muldoon is an Asshole

I recently read a post on the Patheos Catholic channel called I Believe In One God by Tim Muldoon. In it, Muldoon makes a good point that atheists make all the time:

thinking about God is limiting in the way that Nietzsche intuited: inevitably the god that emerges from our thinking is little more than a creation of our imagination. We create gods in our own image.

Does Muldoon take this to mean that there probably is no God? Of course not. Does he make the conclusion that, even if there is a God, it would be impossible to know anything about such a being, so attempts to follow God’s Will are misguided and foolish? No. Instead, he points to the real villain – thinking:

For as wonderful as thinking can be, it is still a rather small tool…. Jesus reminds us that ultimately thinking is not the aim of faith; rather, living in love is, which he described with the metaphor of “the Kingdom of God.” At the end of the day, when I put down books with ponderous titles, having wrestled with great thinkers who try anew to stretch our imagination and our knowledge of the world, I get up from my desk and am immersed in a world that is in desperate need of rigorously thought-through love. If love is real, and if anything we do in this vale of tears carries with it the possibility of meaning or beauty, then it is because God is present throughout it.

Muldoon, having rightly pointed out that God cannot be intellectually understood, pivots to say that the way to square that circle is just to stop thinking and have faith.

Presumably, Muldoon means having faith in the same things that he (Muldoon) has faith in. Things like if a woman enjoys sex outside of a relationship, she’s not being the person God created her to be. Things like gay marriage is bad for society. He even picks a fight with in vitro fertilization, of all things.

While Muldoon himself points out that even if he exists, knowing the mind of God is impossible, he still manages to hold orthodox Christian views on pretty much every social issue. And when it’s pointed out to him that this doesn’t make sense, he finds a great solution: just stop thinking.

Missionaries!

Wes Here.

Last week, I was visited by a few Christian missionaries. They gave me this pamphlet:

Men, women, black people AND Asians? Amazing!

I decided to talk with them for a while. After I made it clear that “because the Bible says so” was not an acceptable answer for anything, the conversation turned to why we ought to trust the Bible. According to these missionaries, we know the Bible is true because it made a bunch of prophecies that came true. They were a little fuzzy on the details, but the one that they remembered clearly was the prophecy of Cyrus. According to them, the Bible prophecized that Cyrus would conquer Babylon, and that the gates of the city would be open, over 100 years before it happened.

My response was that the prophecy did not seem all that prophetic, and it was rather vague. The missionaries promised to do a little more reading and then come back. That was last Thursday. They haven’t been back yet. But in the event they do come back, I have a printout from the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible for them, all about Biblical prophecies.

However, I have my doubts that they’ll be back. I’m calling false witness.

The Thing About Activism

Several years ago, Wes and I went to Longwood Gardens and I totally obeyed a sign that said, “Keep off the grass”.  I didn’t even think about it.  I follow the rules.  I keep the status quo.  I don’t ruffle feathers intentionally and if it happens, it is usually unexpected.

This is, to put it in thermodynamic terms (as though that makes anything more understandable), my lowest energy state.  Breaking rules, going against the grain willfully, challenging largely accepted world views, all require a large exertion of energy for me.  It is rarely energizing for me to speak out and often I have regrets because I do not have the thick skin required to withstand the attacks of people who disagree.

I care a great deal too much what other people think of me, be they friends or strangers.  I have made “being well liked” a large part of my identity, and as happens with anything you make a Part of Your Identity, challenging it hurts and causes you to question said part.  When I wrote that thing the other day and a few strangers on the internet all agreed that, to them, it sounded like a great afternoon and I’m crazy for being uncomfortable and I found myself believing that they were right.  “Oh no…what if I AM full of shit?  What if I’m just too sensitive?  Maybe I’m just an asshole.”  But thinking about it, and getting counseling from Wes, I remembered the actual inspiration for the post and had to find my wits again to remember that yes, in fact, there was something out about the whole affair.

I am a pretty theatrical person.  Jessie calls me a Muppet all the time (which, in our house, is a high compliment).  I am no stranger to putting myself out there in the arena of Making a Fool of Myself.  I don’t generally fear performing, public speaking, dancing on a dance floor to the cool tunes of the 1980’s (or anything really), but I am deeply insecure about my intelligence and the validity of my opinions about social issues, government, philosophy and other “high thinking” things.

I live a privileged life.  I am not blind to that.  I am married to a man and work in science.  I own a house and a car and worry about things like when to plant tomatoes.  From the outside, I look like a standard white, straight, female member of the middle class.  This identity enables me to blend into society.  All the other things that very much veer me away from the norm (atheism, polyamory, bisexuality, burlesque, and the fact that I knew that David Carradine died of auto-erotic asphyxiation after only thinking about it for like 5 seconds) can be practiced under the protective covering of Socially Acceptable.  I don’t have to be out about any of this to have a high quality of life.  I don’t need to fight the good fight to have it all.

And when I try to fight the good fight, I get exhausted with it quickly.  I periodically get tired of explaining polyamory, the advantages and necessity of applying the scientific method to all things, or the impressive, insidious nature of sexism and privileged outlooks in our modern Post-Sexist/Post-Racist/Post-Everyist society, for the umpteenth time.  When anonymity online emboldens people to cast countless vitriolic, hurtful things on those who dare to speak out with their real names, it is difficult to figure out who you’re fighting for.  And when the other end, the end which tells you that you can not disagree…even when disagreement is civil and for the purpose of furthering perspective…lest you offend someone, who is this conversation for?  I get tired of being told that I am either crazy for having a problem, or horribly privileged to even think something that doesn’t take the lowest of the low into the fullest account.  I do not live for debate.  I do not thrive on conflict.

But then, why do I speak out ever?  Why do I not stay quiet forever?  Well, it’s because I feel an obligation as a privileged (brave, due to that privilege), articulate person living a strange life “behind closed doors” quite normally and healthily to spread the word.  My privilege allows me to speak out and say that these are real things in the world.  These are things that are healthy and rational and they impose absolutely no threat to you whatsoever.

And I worry that if I don’t exercise this right; if I don’t use this privilege not just to my advantage but to the advantage of the people struggling who do not have a voice, what is my purpose?  What is my value?  Why should anyone care about me if I am too much of a coward to speak?

Of course, this is all a bunch of ego.  I’m not remotely on the level of any great thinkers.  I have trumped up my importance to the world and have allowed myself to be defined by it.  The world will not stand or collapse based on my willingness to blog or go to conferences.  I am one voice in millions saying the same shit.  I am part of a force that will continue to swell regardless of my level of involvement.  I am not so important that this should be some kind of grand soliloquy delivered to the fourth wall of the world’s stage just prior to my great act of madness and defiance that will cast everything we know asunder.  I’m just a chick in a labcoat who thinks about things sometimes.  I do not have my finger on the big red button.  I won’t make the statement that brings war or peace.

I’m much more Dr. Strangelove than President Muffley, is what I’m saying…in that I will like cackle and talk in a funny accent while the big boys make plans to nuke a country.  We do what we’re good at in Difficult Times.

So what I finally realized is that activism doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  If you are inspired to speak out or do something, and are able, then do it.  If you find yourself exhausted and without words or motivation, then take solace in the fact that ever little bit counts.  Some people might listen and you might get through, and some other people might call you a Pinko Commie Cunt.  That’s life on Planet Earth.  When you get tired of talking, then you should be peaceful in your quiet because your quiet is what you want at that time.  You speak and you act because you want a better world, but the responsibility of representing the ideals of this better world is not yours alone or even yours particularly. Speaking out is worthwhile.  Living your life as you choose to live it is paramount.  You do not need to do it all to have it all or to have great value.

I’m writing this because I never have much to say about atheism as a movement and because I often get exhausted being an ambassador for polyamory and because currently insidious sexism has hit me and has made it hard to be strong and brave and inspiring.  All this passes and my urge to say things will become strong again…and then it will get knocked back down.  I accept this now.  It is just hard to accept it when you want to do everything and have a great sense of humor the whole time you’re doing it.

The thing is I am not an activist.  I am a person living in the world but I won’t always be shy about what I see.  I question. And with often great difficulty, I call out.  And then I go back to regular life.  And even this low level dissidence is hard to maintain without injury.  So, I applaud those who fight outright.  I commend those who go into the fray and debate and enlighten in a way that I just don’t want to, or sometimes can’t.  And every now and then, I’ll help in the way I want to, but being a little squeak on the periphery saying, “Yeah! I see it too!  You’re not crazy!”

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Yesterday I wrote a post about the insidious nature of sexism in the workplace.  Then, based on a bit of positive response to it, I decided to post it on Reddit (in their Feminism subreddit).  I would call this a mistake, but putting things on Reddit to share with a wider more targeted audience isn’t a mistake.

The mistake for me is ALWAYS going and see what people thought about it.  As has happened before, I posted something and was judged rather harshly about my interpretation of events.  Basically, according to four anonymous people on the internet, I am a fool for going to a sports bar with people I don’t like and finding that I dislike the people and the subject of sports.  There was more, but you can go read the comments for yourself.  I shouldn’t have, except that they have managed to get the wheels in my brain turning now that the fog of self doubt has begun to lift.

It’s not actually a big deal in any rational sense, but I am a pretty sensitive person and I question myself very easily.  Upon reading these things, I immediately thought that I had completely overreacted, that it was indeed my fault for being in the situation, and that yes, I suppose it is the price I have to pay to play with the boys.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It’s true.  It was my fault for going to lunch with these guys.  When talking about where we should go, the place we went was called an Irish Pub by the person who recommended it, but yeah, I should have asked if it was a sports bar and then upon finding out that it was a sports bar, I should have either protested, not gone, or should have pretended to be interested…or simply be quiet (please note, I did do the last two things, like a good little girl).  And if I was being ignored, it’s because I didn’t have anything to contribute worth listening to.  I can’t expect to be listened to if I’m not saying anything of note.  And if my political comments were misunderstood and used instead to comment about how hot conservatives on Fox News are, then, well, I shouldn’t be pushing my political agenda on anyone.  I should just listen to the conservative boys and suck it up.

Of course, I can’t really blame them.  I didn’t put a ton of background into the post about things I have endured over the past several years…things I just sucked it up and dealt with to be an agreeable cog in this particular machine.  It was suggested that my dramatization of what conversation might have happened had I not been there was ungenerous and simply showed my extreme dislike for these people.  Well, sure, I guess it could look that way…but I have walked in on conversations like that when they didn’t think I could hear.  I have very good hearing, and have listened to countless homophobic references, racist remarks, and watched as visiting female salesmen from other companies have been objectified by boys looking out windows.

What I also didn’t say was that this was a professional situation.  And in careers like mine, if you want to really get ahead, you have to make your mark.  Here this meant that I not only had to look good in the technical meeting, but I also had to either not go to lunch and be less visible by management and customers, or go where ever they wanted and…suck it up.  There is a fight happening everyday for women everywhere to be respected and accepted as professional equals in the workplace.  What some people don’t seem to understand is that part of being a successful professional is feeling comfortable socially with coworkers and customers.

And then there is a big difference in how you are accepted.  One way to be accepted is to be quiet and docile.  No one knows a thing about you that way, but they also don’t have a problem with you.  By being this way, everyone feels comfortable with you being around.  There is comfort in that, for sure.

Another way to be accepted is to become one of the guys.  For me here this means being insensitive, mimicking their sense of humor, being bawdy and inappropriate.

Both of these methods of acceptance don’t really work for me.  The easiest times I’ve had is when I’ve been at work/social functions and have gotten tipsy with people and not minded the flirtation or ridiculous sexual comments (not usually aimed at me). Instead of continuing to employ either of these strategies, over the last couple of years I have just tried to show more of who I am.  I am funny, confident, and dynamic…but am also separate from absolutely everyone.  I get along with everyone, but am just a little too this side of weird to really connect.  I am not a recluse, but I do not have friends.

But really, this whole thing got me thinking a lot about entitlement, privilege, and the hoops we jump through in life to get what we want.  My story yesterday was one with a feminist theme, but was my story special?  Is my being female, and a female of strange persuasions the same as anyone with an anxiety disorder or odd interests or whatever else makes you different from the norm? Am I being rejected solely because of my personality and should I just suck it up and deal with the fact that my personality is getting in the way of my being accepted and respected truly? A man with bad social skills probably can’t become CEO easily either.

I can’t tell anymore.  When you mention a realization about how you are treated differently because of sex, a lot of people want to immediately label you as oversensitive and just plain wrong.  It starts to feel like the fact of being female is a disease or disorder that needs to be treated with self denial.  I used to be one of those people, but as I said yesterday, once you see the way sexism colors everything, you can’t really un-see it.  My post yesterday wasn’t about hating football.  It was about not being valued as part of a group.  That is what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world.  Sure, if I loved football I would have been able to throw more comments in, but I did try (because I do like football and watch it and know enough to be part of a conversation) and when I said it, it was ignored, but when a man said it, it was brilliant.  But sure, that was my fault for not being brilliant enough.  I didn’t have the right statistic at the tip of my tongue.  I didn’t have the right nasty name to call one of the coaches.  It was my fault I wasn’t having a good time and for being wrong.

Yes, it was just a shitty lunch period, but are people so far removed from what is often going on in these settings to see the real reason it was shitty?  It wasn’t shitty because I was bored (I get bored when people talk incessantly about art too, but I don’t end up having a philosophical/cultural crisis at the end…usually).  It was shitty because I didn’t matter and I didn’t matter because I wasn’t a boy.  You can accuse me of reading too much into this because it hasn’t happened to you or because you deal with shit everyday and you don’t write blog posts about it.  I am very happy that these things don’t happen to everyone or that they don’t bother everyone.  Why would I wish that on anyone ever?  But I do see, and it does happen, and I do blog.  I am a voice that should exist.

Anyway, here’s a picture of baby badgers, because I shouldn’t take myself so seriously and shouldn’t hate the entire internet.  I mean, I found this picture on the internet, so how could it possibly be so bad?

Once You See it, You Can’t Un-See it.

I just went to lunch with a group of white dudes.  We went to a local sports bar, and as such there were multiple televisions on broadcasting various sports channels like ESPN and, I assume, ESPN 8: The Ocho.

Background for those of you who have somehow missed this: I am a woman in science with liberal politics.  I let people here know just enough about me so that they know I’m strange, but I don’t let them know specifically how strange.

I have been in the world of science for 10 years at this point and, as I have mentioned before, due to my accommodating nature and a great deal of luck, I have been able to integrate into the culture without experiencing the blatant issues that are often cited by women attempting to work in men’s fields.  What does this mean? I keep a great deal about me to myself.  I let a lot of things slide (I pick my battles).  I am generally not particularly excited about going to work because I don’t really have any friends here.

According to the televisions, there was a bad call last night in the Packers game.  Because of the current Scab Ref Situation, everyone is up in arms about how stupid these people are and can’t apparently shut up about it.  The replay was broadcast every 5 minutes.  Luckily, the sound was off so I got to listen to  both of Fun’s singles at high volume while watching various people scream silently about the idiocy of the officials.

I guess this matters to Green Bay or something.  Also it matters if you’re a real red blooded American man! Apparently!  The people at my table felt it necessary to talk about the call every time it was replayed on tv, while also making fun of how much coverage there was.  When there wasn’t something about that playing, no one seemed to have any idea what to talk about.  My guess is that if I wasn’t there, they wouldn’t have opted to talk about how much they like sluts.  I expect the conversation would have gone something like this:

Dude #1: Man, my wife is such a pain in the ass.

Dude #2: Well, you know, ALL wives are pains in the ass.  Why did we get married, amirite?”

Dude #3: I hear ya.  You know what I could really go for?  Some sluts.

All: We love sluts! Until they start wanting to talk and shit.  Then we don’t like them anymore. Yeah.

This was the thought I was having as I watched them incessantly talk about sports.  I attempted to change the subject, but my comments were generally ignored.  My sense of humor is a bit too sarcastic and dry I think and my mentions of nerdy things were met with “Oh, you’re one of those…” faces.  They were talking about building bars in their homes and I said we already have that, and now it’s covered in Star Trek memorabilia.  I then quickly reminded them that I wear a labcoat for a living and we all moved on.

At some point, a female broadcaster came onto ESPN to, seemingly, listen to the man broadcaster say brilliant things about the blown call in the Packers game.  She was quite pretty.  This inspired them to talk about how Fox News has really attractive female meteorologists.

Dude #1: Every woman on Fox News is hot.

Dude #2: Yeah…looks like another thing conservatives got right, ey? Heh heh heh.

Me: You know, there are a lot of foxy liberals out there, guys.

Dude #1: WHO? Name ONE!

I raised my hand and then said, “Also, most of Hollywood.”

Dude #1: People in Hollywood aren’t liberals.  They’re SOCIALIST COMMUNISTS!”

Then Rob changed the subject, which was probably a good idea because I was dangerously close to a Romney AND misogyny rant.

I am tired of this.  I am tired of being minimized because I’m not really one of the boys and because I don’t believe you are worthless just because you need help.  While there is a certainly fun side to being the weird one, it also gets exhausting educating people that there is a huge world outside of their narrow perceptions and experience.  It is exhausting not to have any kind of kinship with these people.

It’s hard to be the woman at the table listening to a bunch of guys talk about football and worry about how you seem to them.  Do I look uncomfortable?  Do I look bored?  If you look bored, you’re a typical woman.  If you look uncomfortable, you’re the cunt that’s going to start trouble.

Or are they looking at me at all?  Do I exist at this table?  Is the answer no?  Is that the worst part of all of this?  I just sat in a conference room and OWNED the room with my knowledge and expertise.  Is my confidence useful for getting the sale, but worthy of being ignored or scorned when the sale has been secured?

I have explained privilege to people like this before…the privilege that makes people think that women are whining about nothing since sexism, like racism, isn’t a thing anymore.  I mean, I’m a chemist.  What more evidence of everything being equal and perfect can there be?

Also, if it snows in January, global warming is horse shit.

I have explained it and no one gets it, but if they observed lunch, maybe they would start to get an idea.

Also, what game were those Scab Refs watching, hmm?  Can I get a hell yeah?

No?

Yeah, I don’t fucking care either.

Science & Songwriting: Is it Brilliant or Did They Miss the Point

As you may have figured out, I am a giant nerd.  I am also a songwriter.  My nerdiness certainly influences my songwriting.  This is especially evident in my choice of subjects to write about.  I write rock songs that reference the Pied Piper and the Bubonic Plague, the Russian space program, Super Mario Brothers, countless references to the Apocalypse, happiness and love from a prehistoric anthropological standpoint, and the role of feminism during the Prohibition Era.  However, though I am a scientist by trade, I have yet to really make blatant reference to scientific concepts in my songs.

A lot of this is because I don’t like to be obvious in my lyrics.  I can understand that back in the early days of rock (and the folk music that was around at the same time), it was revolutionary to say things just as they are.  Perhaps when Barry McGuire first sang “Eve of Destruction,” people were all like, “Far out! I didn’t believe that we were on the eve of destruction, but when your blood’s so mad it feels like coagulatin’ and the goverment ain’t legislatin’, how can it be denied?!?”  Sure, I poke fun at this, but there was a time when this was not an OK thing to do and cryptic lyrics went by the wayside so that teenagers could express their outrage more efficiently.

There’s still a place for that, and if it’s done well (meaning you write something because you have something original or powerful to say about the situation), I like it.  But most of the time obvious lyrics just seem boring to me and so I avoid it for my own writing.  I extend this to obvious scientific references too.  I’m not going to mention Schrodinger and his cat unless they provide the perfect picture for what I’m saying in a greater context.  In short, I’m never going to just write a song about Schrodinger’s cat.  It would be much more likely for me to say quickly in a description of a snapshot in time something like “Erwin and a lion enter the room with uncertainty”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t deconstruct my songwriting for you here.  Then you’ll know all my tricks.  Damn it!

It might have occurred to you that I am pretty critical of lyrics.  I am, in certain contexts.  Really, it’s that I am critical of lyrics written by singer songwriters.  I don’t expect brilliance when I turn on most popular radio stations.  Pop has all kinds of other stuff going for it, like catchy beats and melodies that get trapped in your head, and subjects and lyrics you don’t really have to think about.  But when I turn on NPR or WXPN and hear a whole slew of people singing about nothing and begging me to ask the question, “Why on Earth do I care what you have to say about this and why the fuck are you on the radio?!?”, I just get annoyed.

That said, I really love picking apart pop lyrics.  When driving home, I often turn on Q102 (our local Top 40 station) to see what the kids are listening to.  In addition, it’s because I honestly like some of it.  That’s where you can hear Lady Gaga, for instance, and since I will generally dance to anything that has a good beat (Peter described me the other day as “shameless” in this regard…I think it’s good to be shameless sometimes, ey?), I really can’t say “I hate pop music”.  It serves a purpose.  If the Bee Gees are fun, so is Ke$ha.  Also, there is a true talent to putting out pop hits.  I have often thought while listening to something I have deemed mindless on the radio, “Man, why aren’t I getting paid?”  Well, the answer is that I simply don’t write things that are accessible to the masses.  And I’m not saying this to say “Oh, I’m just so much smarter and more interesting than most people, that they just can’t understand my music”, like it’s some kind of personal compliment.  I mean that my stuff takes a few listens before it sinks in.  It doesn’t usually have immediate appeal…not in a way that would make me millions.  A song sounding simple doesn’t mean that anyone can write it or arrange it.  You have to understand something about mass appeal, and that is certainly an area of expertise that I lack.

Of course, very little of this has to do with the stars that are the face and supposed voice of the songs.  Most of the stars on the Top 40 station are pretty manufactured.  Peter and I were talking about the production process for people like Rihanna and it was impressive to hear him deconstruct what goes into it.  Basically, you can take anyone that you want to make a star and have them show up for a day and hack their way through some singing…and then run everything through several pieces of software and, Voila! A hit is born.  What I didn’t know is that they do this to every instrument, everything involved.  In the stadium sellout, ginormous production value world, you are paying for the computers, the hot bodies of the performers, and the set builders, lighting designers, and pyrotechnic people.

I don’t think I have a problem with that.  As I said, that all in and of itself is art and it creates a product that people want.  So what if you are less talented than someone else.  Do you put on a good show?  Well, good.  The internet makes it so there’s all kinds of music going on with various levels of production and “reality”.

As the stars tend to be pretty manufactured, they have their songs often written for them…I think.  I don’t have any really statistics about that, but I’m pretty sure most of these peoples’ jobs is to stay in shape and to be controversial and provocative. So I get really amused when I hear lyrics that I categorize as either completely brilliant or completely idiotic, depending on how you interpret them.

Take, for instance, Calvin Harris’ “I Feel So Close to You”.  This is pretty much a techno dance song kind of thing I guess, but still, they take the time to have someone say something that is supposed to be romantic…when you’re getting ground on in a dance club somewhere.  Behold the ongoing verse:

I feel so close to you right now,
It’s a force field.
I wear my heart upon my sleeve,
Like it’s a big deal.
Your love pours down on me,
Like a waterfall.
And there’s no stopping us right now.
I feel so close to you right now.

So, sure, pretty unimpressive and cliche.  But I want to direct you to the very first line in the song: I feel so close to you right now.  It’s a force field.

OK, so here’s the fucking brilliant interpretation of this concept:

The love the singer and the subject of his adoration have brings them so close that there is a repulsion between them that keeps them from truly being together.  This is a situation made more tragic by the fact that the singer is completely vulnerable about his feelings and yet, there’s a force field stopping it from mattering.  And yet, despite the invisible barrier between them, the world continues to turn and the barrier is only between them and any real connection…not between them and the rest of life.  A pair of star crossed companions moving forward in parallel path to a similar destination. Hence there is no stopping them right now.  Once they reach the destination, perhaps all this will come crashing down…but right now, the Angstrom of distance means little as long as the closeness is intact.

And…and…just disregard the line about the waterfall.  I, er, I don’t have anything brilliant to say about that.

This is kind of interesting, right?  I mean, people sing about unrequited love all the time, but this is a somewhat original way to talk about it!

What? You think I’m perhaps reading too much into this dumb song?  Ah, well no worries.  I have also developed the Make a Buck with Bad Songwriting interpretation:

By force field, the singer simply means “there’s an impressive force between us”.  Aaaaand the rest of it is just drivel.

There, are you happy now? How depressing is that?  Here I am trying to find some meaning in this life and you just have to nay say and…and…

*Cue catchy chord progression and dance beat*

“Yeah! This song is awesome!” She says as she climbs on the nearest sturdy table to “get down”.

Another example is a song that was more popular on 104.5 (our local…”alternative” station?  Is that still a thing?), Civil Twilight’s “Letters from the Sky”.  It has pretty arrangement.  There’s a string section and synthesizers and such (I think) and there’s this lyric:

One day soon, I’ll hold you like the sun holds the moon.
And we will hear those planes overhead.
And we won’t be afraid.

Brilliant interpretation: Much like the gravitational force that keeps celestial bodies safely in orbit around each other, the singer will keep his loved on safe and protected from destruction, but always at a great distance.  If they were to allow themselves to touch, it would mean that everything around them would crash and burn and everything that they know would be gone.  It would be an end of everything, resulting in the quiet before a new beginning.  Vigilant, the singer and the object of his love sit distanced apart watching the onslaught of man made destroyers.  They do not fear them because their distance holds the key to actual safety and the reality of what would happen if they were to break this distance is far more terrifying than anything that a modern military has.

Shaun also pointed out that this could be interpreted as a nod to polyamory, because you really have to involve the Earth in this, making one big celestial triad.  The relationship between the sun and moon is not exactly direct.  The moon is held in orbit around the Earth due to Earth’s gravitational force, and the sun holds them both in orbit for the same reason.  So, much like how we are not islands and our relationships affect each other, the influence of the various celestial bodies on each other can’t be denied, nor is it preferred for any of them not to be involved.

I think that’s what he was talking about.  I admit that I was on my second mojito by the time we were talking about this at dinner and I also had a mental breakdown at work that day (which resulted in a lot of me stomping around and laughing maniacally), so my comprehension should be held in question.  All I remember is saying, “Ah! YES!  That’s ALSO brilliant!”

And then Wes said, “You know, neither of those interpretations is particularly brilliant.”

To which I said something like, “BE THAT AS IT MAY! It is more brilliant than…”

This, more likely,  interpretation: The singer will hold onto the object of his love really tight and no one has to be scared when there’s an unwavering hug happening. Or something.

I am sure as I listen to more popular music I will find more instances of using science as metaphors and similes in dumb songs and will probably talk about them, because that’s fun for me.  Do you have examples of your own?

Adventures in Therapy – Episode One: The Phantom Waiting Room

Today I took the day off from work to go get a check-up (which was free! Thanks, Obama!) and also to go to my long awaited First Therapy Appointment.  At the time that I made it, I was in a pretty low state and that state had continued for a couple of weeks.  I was starting to feel hopeless waiting for the session because I wanted to feel empowered again.  Luckily for me, I talk to my friends and family about my craziness a lot and they are awesome and like to help when they can.  Kelly sent me a link to MoodGYM, which helps with anxiety and negative, destructive thinking by applying concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  It’s an amazing (and free) program that has really, really helped me.  I’m not done the whole program yet, but just in the week I’ve been trying it out and doing the various suggested exercises, I really feel like myself again.  The program seems to be tailored to my exact issues and I am incredibly thankful for it.  If you have felt like you identify with me when I talk about the kind of things I struggle with on a daily basis, I recommend checking it out!

I was especially happy that I found it today when I went to my therapy appointment and had an experience that was almost enough to make believe it omens.

As I said, I made the appointment a month ago and then this past Friday I called to confirm.  They told me to go to the Haddonfield office, and so I did.  I parked out front and then went to the front door.  The door was locked and there was no sign telling me to go around back.  Luckily, I am smart or something and figured out how to get in the building.  Upon entrance, I was greeted by a completely deserted first floor.  I walked through a couple of hallways and then found myself in a deserted waiting room.  The reception area had windows with curtains pulled closed and a sign that said that they no longer had a secretary so…if this was your first appointment, fill out an age appropriate “Welcome Pack” and then  wait until the person with whom you have an appointment comes to get you.  This made me pretty uncomfortable since I had no way to let anyone know that I was there and no way to know if I was actually going to be seen.  It’s worse than calling an automated answering service, because at least there’s some kind of information exchange there…and usually an option to talk to someone in real time.  This just made you feel abandoned and unimportant and questioning whether you made your appointment properly or something!  The entire place was designed to leave you feeling more mentally unstable than when you arrived.

I went to go sit in the waiting room and then I saw that there was a a board that told you which therapist was where.  The person I was supposed to see was apparently on the second floor, so to the second floor I went.  When I got up there I found that there was a second waiting room, and this time there were two people waiting in it.  Progress!

Well, sort of progress.  I think I felt more comfortable in the deserted waiting room.  When I came in to sit down, both people waiting there turned to stare at me.  One looked very not OK and the other looked suspicious of me or something. I sat down uncomfortable getting the idea that it was very not alright to say anything ever.  I was there for 10 minutes and one of them was called in.  I was feeling confused about what I was supposed to be doing, if I was in the right place, etc, so I quickly asked the other person if this was the correct waiting room.

“We’re not supposed to talk about what services they provide.”

“Ok, that’s fine.  I just want to know if this is the right place to be as I have never been here before.”

She was weird for a while and then she explained that it was the right place, and then told me to turn off my cellphone and sign in (on a sign in sheet that was for a different doctor…I didn’t do that part).  Then she told me that she also had an appointment at 1pm and I feared that we had been triple booked.  45 minutes later, the therapist emerged again and asked me who I was there to see.  I told her and she said,

“Oh…did she know that she had an appointment with you?”

“I would hope so?  I confirmed with the office on Friday.”

“Do you have a phone number to call her?  As far as I know I’m the only person here today.”

“No, I’ve never been here before and I don’t have a relationship with this therapist yet.”

“Oh, for an evaluation?

“Yes…”

And then she shrugged and said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

I thanked her (for nothing) and got up to leave.  I came downstairs to the abandoned waiting room and started to cry.  The whole thing felt ridiculous.  How does this kind of thing happen?  I felt like a fraud for even being there.  The whole time I was dealing with the stupidity, I thought, “I’m glad my issues aren’t that severe. I probably would be completely losing my shit right not otherwise.”  So as those thoughts entered my mind, I didn’t even know what I was doing there.  “What are these people going to even do for me?  I’m fine.  This is stupid.”

As Jessie pointed out though, had this been 2 weeks ago, I would certainly have lost my shit.  I would have cried upon getting into the second waiting room probably and I definitely would have not made it to the abandoned waiting room to fall apart when I was shrugged away.  It is not easy to make the decision to get help with this kind of stuff, especially if you define yourself in large part by your independence.

So I cried for a while in the car and came home and told this entire tale to Wes and Jessie.  They encouraged me to try to make an appointment with someone else.  I was calm by then and happy to have a nice afternoon ahead of me…like I said, I am in an upswing at the moment, so I am able to handle things a lot more rationally than when I’m in a downswing.  Still, I sat there thinking that I just shouldn’t bother with therapy.  There are other people who need it more.  I can handle this crap on my own.  I don’t want to go through this again. (Incidentally, this is my attitude about flu shots…I don’t talk so loudly about it anymore since getting strep last year…will this be the year?)

And then the person with whom I had an appointment called me.  She told me that she had me down for an appointment at the Woodbury office (where she was), not Haddonfield, and that the schedulers totally screwed up.  She apologized profusely and said that she wrote a not-happy email to the schedulers.  And she said, “Here you are making the not-easy-to-make decision to come for help, and you are left to wait for an hour and then your therapist doesn’t show up? My goodness, would that not feel good!”  I couldn’t really say anything other than, “Um, yeah, that about sums it up.”  After apologizing some more, she said she would help get me an evening appointment (since I’m out of vacation days now), and then apologized some more.

Of course, this makes me want her to be my therapist, but I just don’t have the day time hours to go to her, so it’s probably better this way.  I really appreciate that she called and explained what happened and completely understood why it was so shitty.  Because she did that, I will try again and stay with this particular counseling group and hope for the best.  And hopefully next time I’ll be able to tell you, “Man oh man, therapy is awesome!”

May Adventures in Therapy – Episode Two be better than Star Wars – Episode Two.  That’d be nice.

Screw This Survey and the Horse it (Monogamously) Rode in on!

One time at an Arcati Crisis rehearsal, Peter took the time to take a survey being conducted over the phone.  It was some kind of political survey, I think.  The mayoral elections were coming up and they wanted to know where people stood on the issues.  Peter took it and then got off the phone with a scathing review of the survey and the surveyor herself.

At one point she brought up the possibility of bringing gambling to Philadelphia.  Unless you were living under a rock (which I would hope a survey company wasn’t), you may have recalled that the possibility of bringing gambling to Philadelphia was not the simplest of things.  People were terrified of it.  What will it do to the traffic in the already congested area in which they want to build?  What about the potential of an increase in hobos on Delaware Avenue?  WHY DOESN’T ANYONE THINK ABOUT HOBO JOE?  But according to the surveyor, “You probably support gambling because it will bring revenue to the city, and everyone likes revenue, right?”

I feel like that’s like going into a weight loss seminar with a jar of sterile tape worms and saying, “This parasite will make the pounds fly off without any other side effects! Also, the early 1900’s were awesome, with absolutely no caveats!”

If that’s not biased, I don’t know what is.

So, Shaun just wrote about this monogamy survey the GoodinBed.com is conducting, in this post and despite being an intelligent person, I decided to go take it.  I mean, people like us with our big alternative lifestyle should be represented in such things, right?  Right.

Spoilers ahead!!!

I thought about writing a diatribe here, but after I got going it wasn’t so much funny as it was sad.  So instead, I will post the conversation Shaun and I had about it.

Me: Yep.  This survey is dumb.
Shaun: It’s totally monogamy privileged.  There are answers not available to give.
Me: Yeah.  I filled out “other” for relationship status and explained.  And then it immediately talked about you having one partner. And a statement like “monogamy builds intimacy between 2 people” is difficult to answer. Obviously it does, But I feel like I need a caveat there.  I’m sure there’s not the statement, “Intimacy builds commitment between 2 people”.
Shaun: Yeah.  I had the same issues.
Me:  Argh, this is aggravating.
Shaun: Yay, monogamous privilege
Me: It talks about infidelity, but never non-monogamy.
Me: Hahahahahaha  “What are the biggest barriers to monogamy for you? What a way to word that!
(Side note: You were supposed to check off all that apply here.  There were ones that made sense like “Life Experience” and “Attraction”, but there were also choices like “Money” and “Kids”.  The latter would seem like barriers to non-monogamy, but I would be amused if they were suggesting prostitution or something like that.)
Shaun: I was hoping for a feedback box.
Me: Wow…the last part of the questionnaire is the dumbest thing ever.  How well does your partner know you???? This is the Newlywed Game!
Shaun: I know.
Me: Are you thinking of fucking other people right now because you are uncertain your partner knows your favorite food???
  SLUT!
Shaun: lol
Me: Well, I’m sure glad I did THAT
Shaun: You’re welcome.
 Me: I felt completely unable to take it honestly, haha.
“As a person who engages in infidelity, what makes you such a dishonest, mangy slut?”
“Well, I’m not committing infidelity and not particularly a slut…”
“Slut says what?”
“There’s nothing wrong with sluts.”
“Why are you such a SLUT? And why do you hate AMERICA???”
Shaun: You should write a post mocking that survey.
Me: Hmm, perhaps I shall. Ok, I’m doin’ it.  Heh heh, I said doin’ it.
So there you have it.  Shaun posted the results link also and of course the results are that everybody loves and believe in monogamy…but are cheating on their partners a lot, statistically speaking.  But what would the survey results have looked like if polyamorous people could have answered completely?  Would it have shown a decent percentage of people who were satisfied with their relationships, their sex life, and who hold commitment and honesty in very high regard?
Or maybe we’re just the dumb ones that actually took this thing.  Oy!

Monday, You Can Fall Apart…But it’s Friday, I’m in Love.

Today has been, to put it simply, a rather stupid day. I am choosing to write about it because I think often my particular brand of anxiety and other insanity can often be comical…at least when I think about it later.  It’s terrible when it’s happening, but I think I would be dead by now if I couldn’t laugh at myself.

I have recently become hyper aware of how often I get depressed or anxious for no particular reason.  In the past there has been little lag between “bad feeling in the pit of my chest” (somewhere behind my xiphoid process…Not to be mixed up with Zaphod Beeblebrox.  It’s the greatest term I ever learned in CPR training.  It’s the point at the end of your sternum! The thing that will stab the patient if you screw up! Which you totally will! If you are me! Most likely! Also, I wouldn’t really describe any other terms as great from training, so I’ll just say it’s a great term.  Not the greatest.  How do I always digress this fast?) to jumping to conclusions about what it is inherently depressing me.  When there’s no space between those two things, it becomes impossible to see the good things in your life.  You just either project on everyone and everything around you all the fears you have and see evidence of their validity or you remember shitty things from the past and get upset about them all over again.  This is a terrible habit to get into and part of my healing process lately has been to extend that gap and to try and accept more easily that I am feeling lousy for no real reason (although, I would venture to guess that it is purely physical, like a hormonal imbalance or dehydration or blood sugar levels).  My goal as of late has been to accept that sometimes I’m a mess.  It’s been worse lately.  Who knows why?  I stressed myself out a lot last month and maybe I’m still balancing out from that.  Anyway, I tell you all this because last night I really noticed it and I also noticed that my swings back to laughing a lot are also harder to predict.  Once I allow myself to just say, “You’re a mess right now, Gina”, it’s easier to laugh at stupid crap.

Scene One: This morning I did Jessie a favor by dropping something off for her at her doctor in the Northeast.  I figured this made a lot of sense.  Wes didn’t feel comfortable driving with his pirate patch worthy eye and my office is actually oddly close to that part of Philadelphia.  I gave myself an hour to get there and then to work.  This seemed completely reasonable, but I didn’t calculate for the oddness of Northeaster streets and the surprise attacks of the GPS. “Keep going…keep going…NOW TURN RIGHT! NOW NOW NOW! Oh…you missed it.  What a dumbass.  RECALCULATING.  RECALCULATING AGAIN. Dumbass.”  Perhaps I’m projecting how much my GPS berates me when I fail to follow it, but I figure this is how Skynet really prevails.  The machines won’t kill us with laser blasters.  They’ll just be passive aggressive and make us feel bad about ourselves.

Perhaps I just think that because I’m insecure and anything can make me feel that way.  Whatever.  STOP JUDGING ME, CELLPHONE.

Anyway, after taking yet another wrong turn, I lost it in the most functional way possible at the time.  I was fully capable of driving, but I could only do so for a second if I did a death metal drum solo on the steering wheel and screamed at the top of my lungs.  Nothing coherent, just the kind of primal scream that Tears for Fears is always going on about.  Then I had “Shout” stuck in my head and yelled, “Fuck you, Roosevelt Boulevard!”  Finally I managed my errand and was on the road to New Jersey.  And as I crossed the treacherous arch that is the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, Bruce Springsteen lulled me down from assuming that any minute my car would spiral off into the Delaware (not from a suicidal sense.  Don’t worry.  I just envisioned a scene where my car was plummeting towards the murky depths of the river and I would think, “Well, isn’t this just fucking great.  How am I supposed to get to work NOW? Fuck you, Bridge! Why won’t you send your water trolls to save me? Hmm???” or, more realistically, I would think, “SHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIiiiiiiitttttt…” kersplash!), and I was simply a little bit crazed.  OK, I was not actually listening to the Boss, but it’s just sort of in the air, OK?  For all I know, Nickelback was playing and I simply repressed the memory.

I get to work and find my email inbox full of bullshit and my voicemail in a similar state.  I started freaking out again.  I tried to extend that gap between the physical emotion and the justification.  It was hard.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was sobbing at my desk and talking to Wes and Shaun on gchat, saying that I really think there’ something wrong with me.  Then Shaun said, “otters”.  I decided that cute animal pictures were probably my best bet at achieving functionality again.  Wes agreed that this was a very good plan…and it was.  It was an instant fix! What the hell?  Why has no one written their dissertation on this?  And so, due to this photo, I was again able to work:

Scene Two: The other day I wrote an email asking for help from someone.  I spent a long time on the email.  I chose my words and punctuation very carefully, so as to avoid any misinterpretations of tone.  I did not use any emoticons.  Clearly this was my mistake.

I was then informed  that the person I wrote the email to is being vindictive because my email accused him of being inept.

This was so far from the truth that, if I were in a more stable state of mind, I would have had to laugh and say all kinds of snarky things.  But by then the great healing powers of otters had worn off and I was unable to keep calm about it.  There is a historic reason in this particular case.  Namely, the culture of my life before seemed to encourage people to not express their issues directly with the people causing the issues, but rather to gossip to others and allow it to trickle back to the “guilty” party.  By then, it has festered and doing anything about it probably means a big, stupid confrontation.

Upon hearing this, I hit my desk, stood up fiercely and yelled, “Fuck no! This is NOT how we do things, god damn it!”  I stormed out to find the person who had a passive aggressive beef with me, making sure to calm the hell down before talking to them, and then talked to them directly about the situation.

Yes, yes, that whole direct communication thing again.  Gets me in trouble every time…apparently.  Yeah, fuck you.

After having a polite (meaning not laden with curse words and personal insults) conversation with the person, I left and stormed back.  I wandered around aimlessly, unable to focus through my extreme aggravation.  Then someone asked me about it and oh how the curse words flew.

I then looked at otters again and all was eventually well.

Scene Three: I went to the snack machine and purchased a bag of Fritos and a pack of TastyKake Butterscotch Krimpets, convincing myself that this passes as a lunch.  I had some Excedrin as an appetizer.

Scene Four: By 3:30pm, it was clear that the day was a wash.  I decided to clean up my desk and figure out how I was going to be productive next week.  Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel.  After doing this, I was chatting with Kelly who sent me this amazing rant against an anti-gay politician from Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe.  I was so entertained by it and Kelly said that she might have a crush on him based on the usage of the words “lustful cock-monster” alone.   We had the following conversation:

me:  This is pretty fabulous.  He wrote “holy fucking shitballs” to a politician!

Kelly:  I KNOW!  Amazeballs!  haha

me:  “the Russian judge gives you a 10 for ‘beautiful oppressionism”

Kelly:  I know!  He’s intelligent, brazen, pretty funny, and on the right side of this debate!  I’ve never even seen him, and I think I have a crush.  lol

me:  Hahahaha

Kelly:  Oh, he’s from Philly! And one day older than me.

me:  He’s pretty hot. I don’t know if I would think that without the impressive letter, but whatever

Kelly:  haha. I wouldn’t. I think he is rather average looking

me:  Ha, he reminds me of Christian Bale

So there’s that

Kelly:  But he certainly is hotter after the letter! He reminds me of someone I know, but I can’t put my finger on it

me:  He might be Christian Bale in this photo.

Kelly:  hahaha. If there is anything I NEVER thought would happen is you and I discussing the hotness of an NFL player.  Lol!

me:  Ha! Agreed. But it was because he wrote a sweet letter about an anti-gay fucktard.

Kelly:  which was overtly condescending and used an awesome array of curse word delicacies.

me:  Also, I like how much it talks about civil rights and is written by a privileged white guy.

Kelly:  Yes, absolutely.  The swearing wouldn’t have had any effect if there wasn’t intelligence behind it.

 

I should reiterate that the Christian Bale look alike aspect is powerful, but sure, it’s because of the letter.  And the Christian Bale part.

Christian Bale is Batman.

Shut up.

STOP JUDGING ME, CELLPHONE!

Anyway, there’s my nutso day in four acts.  I don’t really have a grand point to make here except to say that this is what most of my days are like.  I can’t imagine what it’s like for people with completely unmanageable problems.  There are days when I barely function at work.  My brain just craps out after too much stress and I have the ability to calm down on my own (most of the time).  How do other people do this?

My therapy appointment is about a week away and I keep oscillating between being terrified that this just won’t help me and thinking it’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.  But most of my days are pretty sinusoidal, so this should come of no surprise to me.

Well, at least it’s Friday, ey?