Turning 50 in 2017: A mid-life Constitutional Crisis

In just over a month, I’ll be 50 years old. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, trying to decide how I feel about it, and whether or not I even need to feel anything about it.

Obviously I don’t want to stand in the middle of my life (more or less), turn around and look at all the mistakes I’ve made, and get hung up on my “failures” as a human being. I’m putting “failures” in quotation marks because (with an exception or two) they really aren’t failures. It’s just me following my own weird little path that looks different from the path a lot of other people follow. When I get hung up on being a failure I end up paralyzed and unable to do anything, so what’s the point of that?

Instead, I stand in the middle of my life and look forward. What do I want the rest of it to be? (Assuming I have some say in the matter.)

I decided that I wanted this year to be meaningful, but honestly that wasn’t a decision that I needed to make — that was taken care of for me on November 8th, 2016. It’s already shaping up to be a terrifying and momentous time for the country (and by extension the world) and I have to do my part to keep the nightmare at bay. The actions required are way outside my comfort zone, and will be a nice separate layer of anxiety on top of the layers of anxiety and horror and despair over what is already happening. But I have to get over it and do my best or I won’t be able to look myself in the mirror for whatever years of life I have left. My discomfort is small potatoes right now. I participated in the Chicago Women’s March, which was a really extraordinary experience. It would be great if we never had to do it again, but we will. I’ve made many phone calls to my Senators & Rep (who are solid Dems, so don’t need persuasion as much as thanks and support.) I’m still figuring out how best to proceed with this ongoing situation. One thing I did was create this design, which I’m selling on RedBubble, and donating all proceeds to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I use the skills I have.

But I also want this year to be fun. It will be essential to surviving the other garbage that fills 98.9% of my life. I’ve been to two concerts already this year (Tortoise and Mogwai) and have tickets for Sigur Ròs, U2, and Lady Gaga in the books. Ticket purchases for Tortoise (again) and The Revolution are coming soon. I was supposed to see Adam Ant last week, but for the first time in over 30 years of concerts, I was denied entry to a show because I had a camera. A non-professional, non-fancy camera. I’m still kind of boggled by it, but as problems go, it’s obviously a great one. Two weeks ago I spent the night at Quimby’s Bookstore for their annual Zlumber Party, where I got a good chunk of writing done on my Barney Miller zine. Two weeks from now, I’ll be attending Ladies’ Rock Camp which will result in me standing on a stage and playing a song in a band that will have only existed for 3 days, which terrifies me to my core. I’ll be there with two friends, which will alleviate some fear, but definitely not all of it. I have plans to visit a friend in Colorado in March and do some hot-springs-soaking. I’m contemplating a new tattoo. The calendar is filling with exciting adventures to combat the daily shitshow.

I had a vague dream last year that I was going to be able to do a backbend by the time I turned 50. Well, I didn’t do anything about it so that’s not going to happen. Maybe it will happen before I turn 51. I need to make a concrete plan. I’ve been working extra hard on the self-love-trying-not-to-hate-my-body-anymore & surprisingly it’s working more often than it doesn’t. I have some middle-aged aches and pains, and I’d like to lose another 30-ish pounds. It might happen, it might not. I’ve kept 30 pounds off for going on three years and that’s not nothing. After Election Day I decided that getting in better shape was essential. I might have to run from a Nazi, or punch a Nazi, or walk for a really long time across a dystopian hellscape, or loot supplies from the abandoned Costco. So I started going to a circuit/crossfit-style exercise class. It’s awful, but I keep going back. The best thing about it is while I’m doing it I literally CANNOT think about anything else, so it’s a good distraction, also endorphins are fun. I’m five days away from finishing Yoga With Adriene’s 31-Day Yoga Revolution. If I was a better person I would’ve finished it on January 31st like I was supposed to, but I was sick for a few days and also life happens. Regardless, I’ve done yoga more consistently so far this year than I ever have before. I’m definitely stronger now than I was on January 1st. I have a weight goal I want to hit by my birthday. It’s very possible.

But — I don’t take anything for granted. There are always those lingering worries that my health will take a turn again. It’s been seven years since my surgery and *knocks on all available sources of wood* things have been very stable since then. However if the repeal of the ACA goes through as soon as the Republicans would like it too, I’ll have the scarlet letter of “pre-existing condition” slapped on me and might be stuck at this job for longer than I want to be, because I without insurance I would be in deep trouble very soon.

But really, all of this is speculative fiction, because all there is is today. I might not even make it home from work tonight, let alone to 50. Here’s hoping.

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Turning 50 in 2017: A mid-life Constitutional Crisis

2016 Reading List – Final Update

All these books (with the exception of Welcome to Night Vale) were written by women, and centered on female characters. It was an interesting experiment and one that I would recommend to everyone. I’m a woman, I live a woman’s life every day, but there’s an infinite variety of women’s lives out there to experience and I don’t seek out enough of it. I looked back at the last few years of my Reading Lists and less than half of the books I read each year were written by women. 2015 was particularly bad — out of 17 books read, only two were written by women. If we’re 50% of the population, women should represent 50% of my reading material, yes? I think so. And yet it never really occurred to me until this year, when I made a conscious effort to focus on women. I’m disappointed in myself for not coming to this realization sooner.

There’s a lot of non-fiction and memoir on the list, which I read a lot of regardless of what year it is, but I’ll admit I should’ve looked harder for novels to include. I love Americanah, I’m about a third of the way through it and it’s really wonderful. But women’s history is also important and also hugely neglected.

For 2017, my goal will be to read at least 50% books by women, and include overall more POC authors, both men and women.

*****

Currently reading:
Sipping from the Nile: My Exodus from Egypt by Jean Naggar (I’m not sure I’m going to finish this one, I’ve neglected it for too long & I probably need to start over.)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Read:
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (I started reading this before 2015 ended so it’s grandfathered in here. At least the two main characters are women, even if it was written by men.)
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb (audio book)
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman
Inferno: A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff (audio book)
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker (audio book)
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larsen (audio book)

 

2016 Reading List – Final Update

It’s bleak out there.

It’s only Day 2 and things don’t look good. Not that I thought it would be good, I just didn’t think it would be this rampant. This unashamed. That there was this much simmering racist/misogynist rage in the country. I’ve obviously underestimated the pure shittiness of so many of my fellow citizens. I guess they were just waiting for permission to be their worst selves, and now they have it. We can’t hide from it anymore. We will have to reckon with this. How? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll find out.

There was so much talk during the election about how polarized we were, and how everyone lives within their own echo chambers on social media and only hear from people they agree with, and it was certainly true for many of us. The election results are only making it more so. I’ve seen so many posts from friends on Facebook about “cleaning house” on their Friends list, because they could no longer tolerate the racist and extremist rhetoric coming from Trump supporters they knew. Many heated discussions are taking place in comment threads about it, some saying that we should not be dismissive of Trump supporters because they’re #notallracist, but in my opinion (and the opinion of most of my friends – my echo chamber), if you voted for him you are either a racist or you’re willing to be tolerant of such attitudes, since he so clearly stoked that fire. Not just racism, but Islamophobia, discrimination toward the disabled, and actions toward women that are literally criminal. This is not just a “difference of opinion” that we must all just agree to disagree on and move forward. These are fundamental issues of HUMAN RIGHTS that are not negotiable. Networks of friends and families are splitting apart on these fault lines at this very moment, and the prevailing attitude seems to be “good riddance to bad rubbish.”

I’m lucky not to have this problem. I guess I’d already self-sorted my networks to exclude these attitudes, and no one has surprised me by popping off with comments I can’t deal with. My immediate family is free of Trumpitude and for that I’m grateful. (Extended family has mixed results but I can easily avoid them when necessary.) I fear family gatherings at the holidays are going to be VERY volatile all around the country this year.

I know it’s only Day 2, but I’m having a hard time deciding on a course of action for myself. How much social media do I want to subject myself to? Can I limit myself successfully? I don’t want to abandon it completely. I have many friends I don’t want to lose touch with and I like being reasonably informed about what’s happening. But this is a situation of “too much will never be enough,” and continually beating myself over the head with all the terrible things isn’t necessarily productive. I normally wake up to NPR, read all kinds of news all day long, and have been listening to a variety of political podcasts during the election season, but since Tuesday night I haven’t turned on the radio once. I haven’t listened to any of my podcasts. I haven’t looked at a newspaper or watched any TV news. I haven’t (won’t) watch Trump’s acceptance speech. I haven’t watched Hillary’s concession speech or Obama’s remarks. I will, eventually. But I’m not ready yet. Maybe tomorrow. My mom tells me it was helpful for her to watch it, it made her feel better. But I’m so tired of crying right now, and I know I will cry again whenever I’m brave enough to watch it.

What will my purpose be for the next few years? What can I do? How can I contribute to keeping the damage to our country (and to myself) to a minimum? This is what I have to think about now. . .

 

It’s bleak out there.

2 minutes to midnight.

(it’s actually 12:53 but i’m being symbolic.)

i watched part of the returns with friends, but now i’m home alone. my body is vibrating with anxiety and i feel speechless, but my mind is also bombarded with thoughts, scenarios, ideas, what could happen. what won’t happen.

  1. hope for an early death. like tomorrow, ideally.
  2. turn away from the world. disconnect everything. pretend it didn’t happen (as much as I can, anyway.) become one of those people who doesn’t know anything about the world outside my little apartment box. ignore everything else.
  3. but no. i have friends who do not have that luxury. African American, Latinx, Muslim, LGBTQI, people I love and will not and cannot abandon to whatever this turn of events throws at us.
  4. become fire. scream and rage and not let anything happen without a battle to the death.
  5. become love. perhaps the hardest choice of all. proven tonight, there are many millions of people for whom racist, misogynist, fascist ideas are absolutely not deal-breakers when choosing a President. The idea of approaching them with kindness and generosity is beyond me at this moment. I could look upon them as dumb puppies who poop on the rug because they don’t know any better. but they are goddamn adults and i will rub your nose in that shit because you should  know better. oh wait this really belongs under #4. Oops. Gonna have to work on that love thing.
  6. Become a drug addict. I understand there are a lot of opiods to be had quite easily. Maybe look into that. It would bring up a lot of other problems that would be more distracting than worrying about this piece of shit and everything he’s going to rain down on us.

done with listing. i just don’t know. i just don’t know. I never wanted kids and now i’m even happier with that decision because all the parents i know are tying themselves in knots worrying about how to explain this to their kids.

aside from the damage being done to our country at large, i am overwhelmed with outrage at the idea of Barack Obama having to hand off the Presidency to this horrible troll, the man who was instrumental in trying to discredit his legitimacy with all the birther bullshit. this fucking enrages me more than just about anything.

i’m lucky to live in the blue bubble of Chicago. I’m lucky to be a white person with a decent job and health care coverage. i’m lucky to be menopausal. but so many people aren’t.

i am scared as shit. but i will do what i can. i will do my best. Sometimes i’ll be fire, sometimes i’ll be hiding under the covers. sometimes, if i’m lucky, i might even be love.

i hope we can get through it together.

2 minutes to midnight.

Slurpee & Taquitos to go

I stopped at 7-11 on my way home tonight, to buy myself a cocktail in a can, as I do sometimes. As I walked out the door I was approached by a young woman.

“Excuse me. . . could you buy me something to eat?” she asked, as she rubbed her belly, presumably so I would notice that she was pregnant. “I don’t want any money, I’m just really hungry.” As a city dweller of 35 years my instinct is to be hard and my antennae go up. Am I being set up for a pickpocketing or a purse-snatching? Is she really pregnant? Thoughts and possible courses of action race through my head in a millisecond, then I say, “Sure.”

“Thank you so much. My baby is so mad at me right now.” My head is reeling at this, the idea of being pregnant and being so alone that you have to ask strangers for food. I know this happens every day, but it’s nothing I will ever get used to.

We go back into the store and I ask her what she wants, heading toward the deli case, thinking probably a sandwich or something, but she heads toward the hot food display and my first thought is “Oh god she wants a pizza.” (like honestly would I have said no if she wanted a pizza? Of course not.) But she asked, “Could I get some taquitos?”

“Sure, of course.” They’re 3 for $3 & something, not much. She asks for four. While they’re bagging them up she asks if she can get a drink. Again I ask, “What do you want?” I’m not sure why I needed to ask, I should have just said go head, get you want you want. “Can I get a Slurpee?” I think for a second, and then say, “Sure.” Because what was I going to say? “You’re pregnant, you shouldn’t be eating this garbage?” My middle-class judgy-ness was rearing up inside me. As though I had any business telling her what to eat or not eat, like she lived in a world where that was a choice she could make.

She told me that she’d been waiting two hours for a friend to pick her up and they hadn’t shown up and she hated having to “be all hobo” and ask for food from strangers. I told her it was no problem, and felt like a giant piece of shit for holding two states of thought in my head at the same time: “I’m a sucker, I’m being played” and “Why is anyone’s life like this?” As though one can be “played” for $6 worth of junk food. I told myself to get the fuck over. I’ve wasted more money on that on stupider things just this week.

She thanked me again after we left the store, and asked me where the nearest Blue Line stop was, so I told her, and then I crossed the street and finished my journey home. Now I’m sitting here drinking my cocktail in a can and hoping she got home (or wherever she was going) okay,

I also realize that you can do a (hopefully) nice thing for someone and still feel like garbage, apparently. It’s not enough, I don’t do enough, I should have done something else for her.

 

 

Slurpee & Taquitos to go

anxiety dump.

Time drags so slowly when there’s not much happening at work. (Of course now that I’ve said this, some work-related flaming disaster will rain down on me and I’ll beg for the boredom again.)

But for now, it drags, and there’s a few things I can do: I can go down a Twitter rabbit hole, marinating in election nonsense, finding things to get mad about and despair about (which takes no time at all, let’s be real). I could go into my Flickr account and do some organization. I could go through my inbox and start deleting. (Honestly, are you EVER going to read that article from the NYT from four months ago? Probably not.)  I could go down to the mini mart and get a bag of snack foods and eat my anxiety. (I literally sat here watching the clock from about 12:30 until 1:00 pm when I allowed myself my mid-afternoon snack of a KIND bar. I could’ve eaten it at 12:30 when I first thought about it but then I’d have to make it until 3:00, when I let myself eat lunch. This is my demented relationship with food. (I work from 11:00 am until 7:30 pm, so my food schedule is a little off from the norm.)

Emotional eating has been my primary coping skill for as long as I can remember, and the current state of the world makes it difficult for me to relieve my anxiety while not gaining 20 pounds. Nothing else works quite as well. I’ve been drinking more alcohol now (as opposed to hardly ever), but that’s not a really great strategy either. I don’t smoke. I could probably get a medical marijuana card from my doctor, but I’ve never been a weed person either. Maybe I should start. I don’t know. Then there’s the weed-related munchies, which is what I’m trying to avoid in the first place, so maybe not. I’ve been trying to do more yoga but I’m SOOOOOOO lazy more often than not it results in me flogging myself about not doing it instead of just doing it and then I flog myself about that. How did I ever get this old? It seems like I should’ve just died from inertia by now.

It occurs to me that 75% of my waking time is spent flogging myself about something. I know I’m not supposed to do that, and obviously said flogging is not helping me achieve whatever it is I think I should be achieving. I also flog myself about not knowing what I should be achieving, how meta. The snake eats itself. Better than eating an entire bag of Doritos, I suppose.

It’s almost 2:30 now. I’m going for a walk. Then when I come back I can eat my lunch and then I have to go to a meeting and pretend to care about things.

If you made it through this, congrats, you just experienced five minutes of my brain. Apologies.

anxiety dump.

2016 Reading List Update

Note: In 2016 all the books I read will be written by women, about women (either fictional or non-).

Currently reading:
Sipping from the Nile: My Exodus from Egypt by Jean Naggar
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman


Read:
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (I started reading this before 2015 ended so it’s grandfathered in here. At least the two main characters are women, even if it was written by men.)
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman
Inferno: A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano

2016 Reading List Update