Parasites & Politics


Like Trump & the body politic, I want to thank these parasites for taking up residence in my belly over the course of the summer.

They brought into stark relief the deep imbalance already present in my system and highlighted the places that function well.

Despite this helpfulness, it would be detrimental to continue to host these organisms who daily damage the systems upon which my vitality depends.

And yet, even in this way, they have been useful–forcing me out of the habit of complacency to seek out new healers.

These are the thoughts I scribbled down this morning from the mat.

As class began, I sat tall, suddenly understanding the intersection of body-mind-spirit as three sovereign triangles, while simultaneously Senators of the United States of America gathered in our nation’s capital to disregard my humanity.

E Pluribus Unum.

Fears unrealized, metastasize, leading to the election of a man like Trump, emboldening those who disregard the many to protect the one.

Giardia. Blastocystis. Entamoeba. Until something is named we suffer in the dark. But once identified, the path to equilibrium is revealed.

Misogyny. Oppression. Patriarchy.

Even sick and assaulted, the body is our greatest ally—insists on being heard; serves as our faithful companion—there when we incarnate in our mother’s womb and there when we leave this world.

How so might we recognize and respond to the the body politic?

The doctor tells me that I must treat this infestation for at least 6 months, without letting up, and after that, the underlying issues that made possible such a vicious attack must be addressed.

I am heeding her counsel, just as I am turning toward the voices of women, particularly those further marginalized by race, as the path to a more perfect union.

Crucible


Among the many crucibles women face when reporting (at any age) is rejection from family (see WP: “Christine Blasey Ford’s family has been nearly silent…”), even while perhaps already marginalized by being born female.

I think of my family, not nearly as well to do as Dr. Ford’s, and yet in any social occasion, say with some of my sisters (there are 6 of us “misses” as our father calls us or “mistakes”), he will direct his attention and conversation to the closest male in the room, typically a son-in-law to the exclusion of conversing with the women in his proximity, unless she is new or young or pretty.

I’m certain he doesn’t realize this, not entirely, just as his daughters may not entirely realize their exclusion, just as women may not fully recognize their exclusion in society. (See Senate Judiciary Committee–not a single woman, ever, from the Republican party.)

Because our exclusion is normalized.

Even so, one of my father’s favorite restaurants is Hooters.

For the wings.

At the moment of most abundance

My son calls about once a week, typically on his walk home from work or on his way home from class (sometimes sustainable design, sometimes women’s studies); and his brain at 9 pm is on fire, and the possibilities in front of him unlimited, and his capacity to ponder and purpose and pursue lines of thinking is exponentially expansive while my world steadily shrinks in the dark.

“I bought a new spice rack and a Q-tip holder today,” I tell him. “And I found a chai frosted pumpkin loaf at Trader Joes!”

Which is to say, I’m tired, and not just at 9 pm, but in 2018 and 2017 and 2016.

Has it been this long?

It won’t always be this way.

Once my guys (and the country) are set, I’ll rise up again, right? Just as soon as I dismantle all the photo albums and the bins and the boxes in the basement and the attic, 25 years of home-nourishing that in this empty nest weigh me down.

It’s just around the corner.

57 is apparently the peak of women’s happiness, not 18 or 21 as suspected. My mother died at that peak and my grandmother just before it, like the leaves who let go at the height of their beauty.

What is that poem? I have it somewhere. What’s her name? It’s something unusual.

Monza Naff, that’s it!

Wait, aren’t I FB friends with someone named Monza Naff? Did she write the verse that I’ve turned toward every September when the anniversary of my mother’s passing comes along? (Is that how we became friends. Memory!)

AUTUMN

~Urge me to drop every leaf I don’t need
Every task or habit I repeat past its season
Every sorrow I rehearse
Each unfulfilled hope I recall
Every person or possession
to which I cling-
Until my branches are bare,
until I hold fast
to Nothing

Blow me about
in your wild iron sky,
crush
all that’s puffed up,
fluff
all that in me needs
to go to seed,
send my shadows to sleep.

Tutor me
through straining night winds
In the passion of moan and pant
The gift of letting go
At the moment of most abundance
In the way of
falling apples, figs, maple leaves, pecans.

Open my eyes
to your languid light,
let me stare in your face
until I see no difference
between soar and fall

until I recognize
eternity
in single breaths,
faint whispers of cool air
through lungs.

Show me the way of dying
in glorious boldness
Yellow,gold, orange, rust, red, burgundy.

~

“At the moment of most abundance.”

Yesterday, I woke with the runs, today I woke angry. “Anger is sad’s bodyguard.” This is sometimes true about anger, especially if it is stuck. But I needn’t fear. She is coming. We saw her yesterday.

Dr. Ford–vulnerable, poised, transparent in terror and anxiety, clear, considerate, accomplished, tender, fierce.

What is leaving is just as certain.

We saw that yesterday afternoon too.

Petulant. Entitled. Blaming.

Kavanaugh and Trump are emblematic of the Patriarchy unhinged; and day after day this creaking of the archaic contraction that has long oppressed so many wakes more and more of us, especially the women–from our illusion that strength and purpose and understanding is outside of us–finally realizing that we can lead–through tenderness, strength and purpose matched with commitment to voicing what is true, while loving husbands and brothers and uncles and sons.

“I can’t think of anything but Kavanaugh and chai-frosted pumpkin cake,” I might have said to my son when he called home last night, but instead I marveled at his capacities, and how I helped bring them to bear, and how if I’m fortunate, they will help make life better for others, and for himself, long after I’m gone.

COMPLICIT

Turns out I was heartbroken when Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court; though I’m just feeling it in 2018.

I don’t even remember–Was he conservative or liberal?

What was most relevant was that he was a he, and she a she.

Disposable.

I always thought it was her that I disdained or the whole sordid ordeal. A decade later during labor, I cringed when my midwife pulled out a cold coke can to place on my lower back.

I never allowed myself the time or space to sort out the complexity of my feelings during the Thomas hearings, if in fact I was equipped to do so.

Newly married, teaching sixth-grade social studies, I was immersed in a beach town where girls were raised to be desirable and boys to be desiring and our bodies up for grabs, leers, comments–the hoots & hollers from passing cars serving as our A+ report card for coming of age in just the right way.

“I can’t believe how big your tits are,” a colleague said, outside the principal’s office after we’d seen each other on the beach the day before. (He was one of the nice guys.)

One of the not so nice guys was talking to our sixth-grade students–the 11-year-old boys–about my ass. (Some of the girls confided this to me.)

Before teaching, I managed a restaurant where from time to time, I reported to the Head Chef’s office. Above his desk hung a woman’s spread, updated monthly, facing us both as we talked about menus and staff. The same view welcomed or rather unwelcomed me at the car repair shop or when using the bathroom at say, my aunt and uncle’s house.

Which is to say, what was Anita Hill thinking?

She must have lived in a different world to speak about such things in public.

I can barely listen to that hearing. Every few moments I have to hit pause. My skin crawls now with the audacity.

Of men.

…How another good guy, Joe Biden, put Clarence Thomas dirty words in her mouth for all to see and hear so that it was she who we found distasteful instead of him.

Isn’t it always that way.

(See, Elizabeth Bruenig’s piece: “She Reported Her Rape. Her Hometown Turned Against Her.”)

But “distasteful” misses the mark, doesn’t it? As does sordid or gross or crude; which a man’s personal habits or interests may be; but when shared with others, unwelcomed, or exposed in the workplace like my colleagues, or like Keillor, Franken and Lauer, is something more than discomfort.

It is the perpetuation of a man’s world where women, if not invisible, should remember their place. And other women should help keep them there. Like I did when those 11-year old girls complained about the teacher who was talking about my ass, by shaking my head and doing… Nothing.

“You have a husband and sons, don’t you?” writes a Facebook follower on my wall. “Aren’t you worried that some woman could bring them down with a lie?”

Somehow it’s still about the men.

When I listen to Anita Hill now, I no longer hear a dirty woman. I hear a warrior.

I didn’t have your back Anita Hill.

I have yours, Professor Ford.

Whose dream? (College Drop off, Part II.)


Friday is the day of detachment. Today we tell our children: Enjoy the journey.

I spoke those words to my youngest just before we took him to college last Friday (and every Friday before that for most of his life.)

But the body doesn’t care.
The body is unapologetically attached.
The age of the “child” irrelevant.

“He’s seeing someone from Istanbul,” I tell another mother about my oldest. “I’m afraid he’ll move there.”

“My daughter lives abroad,” she says. “We have such interesting conversations. Isn’t that what we wanted? To raise interesting children?”

“I want close children,” I say with a smile, before pushing my shopping cart in the opposite direction.

My oldest and I share a passion for conversation. He studies philosophy and economics. When he visited home in the first months away or after his return from a semester abroad or a winter living on a horse farm in Spain, he liked to engage in our well-worn dance of the mind.

I wanted to put my nose to his skin and keep it there, wishing I was a cat and he a kitten so that I could lift him by the soft folds at the back of his neck.

But back to my second born, our baby. The engineer. No matter how “interesting” he is, it’s irrelevant. I’m incapable of understanding so many of the thoughts in his head.

Both boys are brilliant and more importantly kind. “Why don’t you get better grades,” I often asked them.

“I had a stable childhood,” my oldest said, “I don’t need to overachieve like you.”

I applied the same pressure on myself as a parent which for me meant giving up a career.

“Aren’t your worried that he won’t get into a good school?” the other mothers asked after I announced that I’d settled on a play-centered preschool in the next town.

“I just want him to be happy,” I said. “To be kind. To like learning. To stay curious.”

I may have gone too far.
Both boys are comfortable going too far.

“My dream is California,” my youngest says.

My mind reproaches this resistance: This is normal. This is good. This is even welcome. (Or at the very least: This is how it goes.)

But the body… my body is horrified, trapped in a nightmare, looking for signs that she is not the only one that recognizes the tragedy being enacted on campuses across the country.

A family passes me in the parking lot of Vermont Tech. The mother didn’t think to wear sunglasses. (I wore mine inside which is a good thing because I cried as soon as the President of the college said, Hello, and pointed us to the coffee table.) The mother without sunglasses wipes her eyes with the side of her hand while her other arm embraces the shoulder of a younger teen as they head to their car without a body part.

“THIS IS WRONG!” I want to scream right there in the middle of the campus. (Where is the bell tower!)

But this is how it goes. It must be normal. Everyone is doing it. All around the world. Every day another post. Another drop-off.

Entire families accompanied freshman to their dorm rooms at Vermont Tech last Friday. I hadn’t seen that before. And I don’t mean both parents and all the siblings. I mean grandparents and aunts and uncles and exes and new spouses.

“We should have brought more people,” I said. “I didn’t know.”

(I made my father drop me off on the road outside the campus after he took me grocery shopping.)

“Don’t forget to drink water and eat vegetables,” I told my son.

It’s not that that I want something else. I miss my own rhythms of sleep and focus and food. I’m eager to place myself at the center of my life again. I may need to leave home to do that. Sell the house. Take a job abroad.

I’m reminded of the old adage about not cutting your hair right after… delivery? a breakup? I can’t remember. I tell myself to wait before doing anything radical. I cringe when I think back to dropping off my firstborn. Right away, I posted to my friends: Is it too soon to make his room my office?

I wasn’t getting on with my life. I was protecting myself from the gaping hole in the fuselage.

“I’m signed up to volunteer at the shelter,” another mother tells me. Her youngest and mine were at the same preschool. “What else will I do with this extra time?”

SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF!! I want to holler at this self-sacrificing mother, but we’re all just trying to cope.

I’m more inclined to empty than fill. “I want less!” I holler at my husband who wants to raise a pole barn this fall. “I want less house. Less responsibility. Less community.”

Divorce?

I think the greater risk is going on as if nothing has changed. As if laying down your life for decades is something tidily completed. “Well done, Me. What’s next?”

I want to feel into all the space, even if it means more fighting.

There’s so much space for fighting now. And movies.

The newly released film “Puzzle” is as subtle as early lung cancer, no signs of any impact until you’re too far gone.

There was a moment when the main character was alone, at the table, dying several dozen eggs for the annual family Easter Party, when it hit him.

“I’m so sorry I left you alone to do all that… all the holidays, everything,” my husband whispered, as I ate popcorn.

I couldn’t reply.

“That’s not me, that’s my mother,” I wanted to say.

I had been so sure I’d avoided her footsteps.

I wasn’t surprised when those a generation older than me, all women, laughed heartily at the scene where the wife intentionally leaves behind the item her husband expects from the store.

“Where is my Manchego cheese?” he asks. “Did you forget it again?”

I cringed as they laughed, knowing that they had spent too long in a supportive role.

The preview for “Puzzle” was “The Wife,” and it wasn’t like lung cancer at all.

Think: Glenn Close “Fatal Attraction,” but instead of a woman scorned, see the fierce, post-menopausal spouse who has revolved around your life for too long.

We drove home in the dark.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more films made like these,” I said. “Thanks to the Great Awakener in the White House.”

In the morning, I said what I couldn’t say aloud the night before, the cancer realized:

“I think I’ve been living all this time inside your dream instead of mine.”

~

(Demeter, College Drop-off, Part II.)

(The Edge of Now, College Drop-off, Prequel.)