Riding the Tram in Mannheim, 4-20-17

Riding the Tram in Mannheim, 4-20-17

A sweet little black girl, running around a flower bed at the parade square, her braids bouncing. She stops when she sees her mother trying to take a picture or a video, and does that cute little girl pose, half shy and half in love with herself.

I see a branch of the bank I used back in Salzburg, and feel a surge of homesickness.

Three young guys at a park bench, eating ice cream and laughing together.

A man and his short-legged dog stand in front of McDonald’s. The man is watching a woman help a little girl with her bike, the dog is intent on the door that leads to the good smells.

I hear “Servus” and “Grüß dich” and get confused about where I am.

The post-modern church with the minimalist clock.

I still haven’t made up my mind about Mannheim. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t funky in a cool way. It is, however, decidedly German.

I keep my eyes on the ground at the tram stop because it feels less intimate, I worry about making eye contact. An ant steps into a tile valley under my foot.

I had to take a picture of the Vietnamese Restaurant, which has the same name as one of my cats.

There is a castle, I’ve watched it go by while riding on the tram. It isn’t much to look at. I suppose I’ve seen too many castles, how can this dinky little thing in the middle of Mannheim compare to Neuschwanstein or Hellbrunn?

My view of the Rhein is kind of ugly, full of factory buildings belching white smoke, metal pipes and run-down buildings. Still, there’s a beautiful late afternoon sun making the water shine, and the trees are vibrantly green. It’s a beautiful kind of ugly. Squinting against the bright sunlight, one of the factories almost looks like a castle.

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Higher Education and Me

I had lunch with my aunt on Wednesday, and we talked about several things, but one that stuck in my mind was our discussion about education.
 
I’m pretty sure I never want to go back to school to get another degree. Although there were a lot of things I enjoyed about both my experiences in higher education, there was a whole lot that I found intensely stressful as well, and most of it had to do with how academia is set up.
 
I actually really love learning, as most people who know me are aware. As a child I loved watching History Channel and Animal Planet (back when they had actual history and actual animal footage, rather than the current lineups of reality show after reality show) because of what I learned. I love inserting random factoids into conversations, and talking about what interesting things I’ve learned recently.
 
What I don’t love is sitting in lectures, being assigned readings (especially for “required” classes that have little bearing on what I actually intend to do), and having to regurgitate information I barely absorbed for tests. I don’t like feeling like I’m under a microscope, or that my grade is resting on one final project, or dealing with professors who care too little about their students and too much about their egos. I don’t like how anxious and unhappy I feel all the time, how difficult it is for me to deal with my procrastination (which for some reason I’m usually much better able to handle when I’m being paid, I still haven’t figured that out yet), how often I feel like I’m letting people down by not doing my best work.
 
Again, I don’t want to imply that higher education is horrible and I hated it. But what I know is that I enjoy learning when there aren’t high stakes attached to it. I know that once I get settled with my career and living situation, I’m going to want to find a local college where I can audit classes as a “lifelong learner”, simply for the fun of it, to stay sharp by matching wits with young people who think they know everything (and may surprise me in my jaded old age with what they do know), to learn about subjects I have only minimal knowledge of currently, to improve my understanding of subjects I’m already fairly well-versed in. Some of my happiest memories from my time in undergrad were classes I took for fun, things I didn’t even really need to graduate and had nothing to do with my major, just things I found fascinating and wanted to know more about.
 
And I hate writing essays. Free-form writing like this, the kind of writing I can do for blog posts and social media, I love it. Essay writing is torture and I hate it. Even worse when I have to write essay questions on tests, when I almost always run out of time because I try to write too much or think too long before starting. Essays are evil and I hate them.
I have many friends who’ve chosen the academic life, and I have the utmost respect for them (they wouldn’t be my friends otherwise). Like teaching, it isn’t the life I want, I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it. I’m so thankful that there are smart, talented people who love it, because that means I’m free to choose another path.
Of course, I expect that I’ll take classes in the future, get certifications of various kinds (I definitely want to get my C1 in German, and eventually Japanese as well). But I don’t plan to have a “Dr.” in front of my last name. And for the foreseeable future, I don’t plan to go back to higher education. That isn’t where I want to be. That isn’t where my joy is.

Sailing on Pungo Creek, October 30th, 2016

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Diamonds on the water, precious and fleeting, beautifully alive. A school of shining silver fish,  leaping to the surface, only to disappear again beneath the waves. Stars in the inky blue-black firmament.

Our captain cries a greeting to Jonathan Seagull, the radio app on his phone broadcasting classic rock across the water.

The sun bakes our faces, the wind is behind us, filling our sails. Floating down the creek toward the sound, the only sure signs of movement are the trees on the horizon. There are no clouds, just a blue expanse of sky, fading into white where it meets the water.

Laying on the deck, a baseball cap protecting my eyes from the sun, I say “this is perfect.” The sailboat rocks gently as the wake from a motorboat reaches us.

A bald eagle circles lazily overhead as we turn to head back. The glittering diamonds follow us all the way back to the dock.

It Could Be Me

Last night, there was a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. Today, my friends are sharing their stunned responses to this tragedy. A lot of people don’t know what to say, and I can’t blame them. But I do have a few things to say.

Not. One. More.

I am 3o years old. I remember Columbine. I remember Sandy Hook. I remember Virginia Tech, and Fort Hood, and so many, many others. I remember last year when a young man killed several people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. I remember the horror, the helplessness. I remember the anger, so much anger, at all the lives lost. And I remember the frustration, every goddamn time, when people would try to start a dialogue about gun control, and they would be shouted down. Even though the crimes just keep getting worse and worse. Even though more and more people die from guns. Even though the very simple things that are called for (harder background checks, licensing, closing manufacturing loopholes) are things that most sensible gun owners agree should happen.

I am shaking with rage and sorrow as I write this. I may not have known anyone who was killed in Orlando, but I know the LGBT community. I’m part of it, I have many friends who are part of it, and we are all full of rage and sorrow because we live every day knowing that our lives are less valued, our chances of rape and death are much higher, because of who we are.

And I have something in particular to say to my family and friends, the ones who might be saddened by this, but will forget in a week or so, move on with their lives, because thank goodness, it wasn’t anyone they knew.

I’m someone you know. And I could be next. I’m a bisexual woman who believes in equality and has friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, so on. I could have been in that club. I could’ve been there for a fun night with my friends, for dancing and drinks, and I could’ve walked in and never walked out again. It could be me whose phone keeps ringing and ringing as the rescue workers walk through the club through the cacophony of desperate people trying to reach their loved ones. It could be me whose voice you never hear again. It could be me who’s lying in a morgue, marked as “Jane Doe” because in all the chaos I dropped my wallet and they haven’t had time to figure out who I am yet.

Don’t turn away. Don’t stop reading. You need to know this. Those of you who might not have known my sexuality, who might not have thought about it, who might not have considered that it could be me. I want you to think very, very hard about that. About what it would feel like, to not know if I was okay, to wait hours in agony, trying to tell yourself that maybe I’m out of town, or maybe I lost my phone, or maybe this or maybe that because you don’t want to believe that I could be dead. To find out from my mom or brothers that I was killed, violently. I want you to think about how you’d feel. I want you to think about it. Because it could be me. Because of who I am, because of what I do, because I’m a bisexual woman living in the United States, I could be killed. It could be me.

We can’t let this continue. We can’t.

Throwing the Rope

Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a canyon. The canyon is very wide, and deep, but you can make out the other side, and you can see the bottom. You really want to cross the canyon, but there’s no bridge. You can see someone across the way, and you know that if you could get something to them, a rope, that you’d be able to cross it. You’ve yelled at them your plan, you’ve thrown the rope across many times, but they don’t see it, or they can’t catch it, or they let it slip through their fingers. You keep dragging it back and throwing it across the canyon, hoping that they’ll catch it, so the two of you can try to build a bridge, even a simple one, so you can cross over and meet them, and they you. But no matter how many times you throw the rope, they can’t catch it. Sometimes it feels like they let it go on purpose, and sometimes it seems like there’s something or someone else deflecting the rope, but you don’t know. You just know that you’re getting tired of throwing the rope when they never catch it. You can see the broken remains of a bridge at the bottom of the canyon, and you remember a time when you used to be able to cross it, but that doesn’t help you now. You have people on your side of the canyon, who try to help, who sometimes throw the rope when you’re tired, who pull you back from the edge when you get too desperate or careless and almost fall. But you still want to get across the canyon, so you keep throwing the rope, over and over, hoping that this time, they’ll catch it.

This is the analogy I used this morning to talk to my therapist about my relationship with my father. It started simply, with me talking about the canyon between us and trying to throw the rope, and fleshed out quickly, every aspect of my relationship becoming part of it, the broken bridge as the remains of what our relationship was when I was a child, my feeling like I was always trying to reach him but he wouldn’t or couldn’t catch the rope, my mom and brothers on my side of the canyon, helping me. I talked about how if he’d just catch the rope, that then we could both start building a bridge. I took responsibility for my part of the bridge, saying I knew I’d have to meet him halfway. My therapist asked if I felt I could trust him to build his part. I said I don’t know, since he still won’t or can’t catch the rope. We talked about people in his life who might not want him to catch the rope, and how tired I was of trying to throw it when he wouldn’t catch it, and who might be across the canyon with him. I compared it to my relationship with my mother, a tiny but sturdy wooden footbridge over a small creak, where even if the bridge broke, I wouldn’t fall far, and it wouldn’t take much effort to fix it. She asked if my brothers ever threw the rope, and I said sometimes, although it didn’t seem that they did it as often as me. My mother couldn’t throw the rope, because he would never accept it from her, although she had tried a few times in the past. Mostly they were there to pull me back from the edge when I needed them, and to commiserate about the width and depth of the canyon. I talked about how I felt like it got wider and deeper every year, and sometimes I was just resigned to it, but other times I would start throwing the rope again, harder than ever.

The fact is, I love my father. I want to have a relationship with him. I call him regularly, far more often than he calls me. I try to visit, although the visits aren’t particularly pleasant. I invite him to come visit me, but he never has time, or never has money, or something. I want him to be part of my life, and to be part of his, even though I’m far away. But my arm gets tired, and I get discouraged. Sometimes I wish I could just stop throwing the rope. I look down at that broken bridge and remember how easy it seemed when I was a kid, how effortlessly we played, how happy I was to see him. I remember him being gone a lot and often being tired when he was home, and I remembered him yelling at me sometimes when I did something dangerous, because I’d scared him and he didn’t know how to show it except to yell. I remember playing with him and how happy we both were. I remember the nicknames he gave me.

I know that I can’t go back to my childhood. That bridge is broken, and it’s beyond repair. But I still want to build a new one. I still want to try to have a relationship with my father, because I love him. If I didn’t love him, it wouldn’t hurt so much that the canyon was between us. If I didn’t love him, it would be a lot easier to turn and walk away from the canyon. And sometimes, very briefly, when I see him or talk to him, I feel like he’s caught the rope for just a moment, things are like they were when I was a kid, and I think “maybe this time, we can build the bridge.” But then he lets it go, or it slips through his fingers, and I have to pull it back again, and every time, it seems to get a little heavier, a little harder to throw. But I haven’t given up yet. Maybe someday, he’ll be able to catch it. Maybe someday, we’ll start building the bridge, slowly. Maybe, someday, I’ll get to cross it again, and everything will be good.

All I can do is keep throwing the rope.

Dream Journal 5-8-16

[CN: child abuse, rape, PTSD, hostility to consent]

This was a doozy. The dream started with a girl (maybe 11 or 12) and her father. They were part of a group of humans who had landed on a habitable world to settle it, only to find that there was two groups of humanoids already there and in the middle of a war. Because the humans were almost indistinguishable from one of the humanoid groups, the other group (who looked very much like dragons or giant lizards, but with opposable thumbs) decided we were also their enemy. They began attacking us and the father was trying to broker a peace treaty. In the midst of negotiations, the leader of the dragon-people showed up with a small human child in chains, saying something about “bringing a snack along”. The girl reacted very strongly to this and basically confronted this enormous dragon-man (he was much larger than most of his species, which is partly why he was the leader), and he was intrigued by her, and proposed a trade. Her father objected, but she agreed to go with the dragon leader if he let the child go. She was terrified of being eaten, but she couldn’t just let another person be killed, especially a child. So the dragon leader took her with him when he left, and basically made her his pet. Often he would bite her, just enough to break the skin and make her bleed, but not actually take a chunk out. Although the dream never showed any sex, it was also heavily implied that he used her in that way as well (although they weren’t technically physically compatible, there were plenty of ways for him to abuse her). She became very quiet and withdrawn, and although the dragon leader sometimes took her to further negotiations or diplomatic meetings where her father was, she was forbidden to talk to him or even acknowledge him, or else suffer harsh punishments.

The dream then skipped a number of years, and the girl had grown up into a young woman. She’d been freed a few years earlier, when her captor had died of old age, and his family didn’t want to bother with her. Unfortunately her father had died before she was freed, so she never got to see him and explain everything. She had received an education while enslaved, so once she was freed she went to college and got her teaching degree. Now she was a teacher at a school, but it was on the border that the humans shared with the dragon people, and the peace was very uneasy. Sometimes the dragon people would show up and parade through the halls of the school, just to show they could. One day, they showed up in greater numbers than normal, and seemed to be inspecting all the classrooms. She watched with terror as they came closer and closer to her room, but her students didn’t understand why she was so frightened. She overheard one of them say that they were looking for her, as the grandson of her captor had decided that she was a fine trophy who needed to be brought back to his family’s keeping, to prove that they could have whatever they wanted. Her mind flashed back to her time as a slave, and she ran from the school. Miraculously the dragon people didn’t notice her leave, but she continued to run, knowing eventually they’d figure it out and come after her. She couldn’t stop reliving the horrors she’d endured as a slave, they played over and over in her head as she ran. She entered a forest that was extremely alien, a place most people refused to enter, as the trees were black (not just dark, but actually black) and seemed to suck away all light, making the interior of the forest pitch black. Cries of animals or maybe lost souls echoed inside the forest, a place of sheer terror. Somehow she made her way to a clearing, and collapsed on the ground, unable to run any further. She heard footsteps approaching, and half-buried herself in the sandy grey ground in an attempt to hide.

A young woman, who was me in the dream, found her there. She whispered to me and begged me to hide her. As I had the ability to use some magic, I turned her body into a small dog, and stored her soul inside a piece of soap. Just as I finished taking her things and bundling them up, a man showed up and demanded to know who I was and what I was doing there. I told him I was a traveler, and he somewhat rudely demanded that I continue my travels with him. I agreed, however, because I felt that it would be safer for me and for her to go with him. He led us out of the forest, and I put the piece of soap on my shoulder to keep it safe (???). At one point we ended up base-jumping off of a very tall cliff into a valley below, where it turned out he was going to settle down and make a life, and he expected me to be his servant. Because I was afraid of the other woman being discovered, I turned her back into a person, albeit a different-looking one, and stored her emotions in another piece of soap, so she wouldn’t have to feel the terror or suffer from PTSD anymore. Unfortunately, it made her very vulnerable (very much like a blank slate), and once I brought her home to the man who was my employer, he convinced her to marry him and then get a job so he could stay home and do nothing. I also tried to get a job with her, to keep anyone else from taking advantage of her, but I was fired almost immediately for telling off a customer. I realized then that this was a much worse situation than I thought, and I needed to give her back her emotions so we could both escape somewhere else. Unfortunately, I had lost the piece of soap where I’d stored them. I searched all through town, terrified that I’d lost it during our jump (remember, it was on my shoulder, not exactly in a secure place), or that it had fallen into the sea and dissolved. Every time I found a piece of soap (which were all magical objects in this part of the dream), I would hold it up to my forehead and if it resonated I knew I was close. One piece glowed a bit but it wasn’t the right piece (maybe someone else’s emotions, but not hers) and so I kept searching in frustration.

And that was where I woke up, still searching for her emotions so I could turn her back to normal. 😦

Dream Journal 5-5-16

Since I have a lot of really bizarre dreams, I’m going to start posting them here. 😉

[CN: alien abduction themes, experimentation, hostility to consent]

Last night I had a dream about one of my friends and her fiance. In the dream, she told me that her fiance and his parents were actually aliens, and had been performing experiments on me and other friends and colleagues of ours, usually while we were sleeping. Since she was engaged to him, they’d decided they could trust her and bring her into the fold. They’d also decided to see if I was trustworthy, so she invited me to see one of the experiments. She told me all of this matter-of-factly, as if it was no big deal. I was understandably horrified, and I went to see my oldest brother to get his advice. My middle brother showed up as I was heading to our meeting (which appeared to be in a hotel in Tokyo), but I refused to tell him what was going on, because I didn’t want to endanger him, since he has a baby. My oldest brother showed up to see what was keeping me, and he also told our brother that it was too dangerous, so he left in a huff and the two of us went upstairs to a fancy dining room to discuss the situation. He told me that I had an obligation to humanity to see what was going on, basically to act as a double agent so we would be better able to fight back against the aliens. As he was telling me this, a giant robot started attacking Tokyo, and we calmly watched it from the windows of the fancy dining room as it attacked other buildings. He reiterated his point that it was my duty to do this. So I left the dining room as the giant robot came closer, calmly warning several people on the lower floors that it was about to attack the building, and teleported back to my office to tell my friend that I was willing to witness the experiments. The first experiment I watched was a recording of me, and they stuck a probe up my nose to scan my brain. Then we went to another friend’s house, and just as they were about to start experimenting on her, I woke up.

I’m not particularly good at dream analysis, but since my friend’s wedding is in a few weeks, I would guess that the representation of her fiance and his family as aliens probably has to do with my fear of our friendship changing, which is pretty silly, because I know her fiance fairly well at this point, and he’s a great guy who I get along well with (I haven’t met his parents, but I’m sure they’re very nice). I’m really not sure what the giant robot and meeting my brother in Tokyo were about, though. 😉