I grew up, and still spend time in, West Texas. And when I say West Texas, I mean about five hours directly west of Dallas, and 100 miles from the nearest mall. My hometown is the largest town in our county, at a whopping 10,000 people.
I grew up on 100 acres of cactus, mesquite trees, wildflowers and various scrappy herbivores and even scrappier carnivores. As a kid, I was always fascinated by hawks, floating on the air currents like they hadn’t a care in the world. An armadillo my brother cleverly named “Army the Armadillo” lived in the grove of Chinaberry trees. Armadillos may carry leprosy, but they’re adorable. Crafty jackrabbits were always an exciting spotting. They’re fast as hell, and sometimes all you see are their giant ears, bounding through the tall grass. At night, my brother and I would sit outside and listen to the coyote packs call to each other, from miles apart. If we couldn’t hear them at first, we would call out ourselves. Howling and giggling, until the coyotes called back. They always do.
When I was growing up, sunflowers grew to insane heights. A child, on horseback, nose to nose with flowers as big as my head. Every spring, the ground would be blanketed with every color of the rainbow. Texas is famous for its wildflowers. Our chinaberry grove was the closest we had to real trees. Mesquites get to be real tree size, but they are scraggledy, scruffy plants with thorns. The chinaberry grove was full of tall willowy trees, that actually changed to fall colors and lost their leaves. None of the other native trees on our place did that. Many a day was spent out there, building tree forts and playing super heroes.
Last year, Texas was ravaged by wildfires that reached temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees. They swept across the landscape leaving such destruction behind, you can still see damage a year later. Whole patches of earth that can’t sustain even a little grass. Stones that shattered in the heat.
However, for the most part, the earth is recovering remarkably. After all, before people came along, wildfires were a natural part of the ecosystem here. So, now, everything is growing back, turning green. The creatures have come back and are slowly building their numbers up. In spite of this summer being one of the hottest in history.
The chinaberry grove is gone, but it’s been replaced by what my brother has called the “chinaberry nursery”. Tiny, baby trees. I went to check on the nursery and I got lost. The paths we spent 18 years wearing out through the grove are gone. It’s young and wild all over again.
Hiking out to the chinaberry nursery, I had to keep an eye out for snakes. I stepped around cactus. I shoved my way through sharp, prickly bushes. My dog got grass burrs in her feet. My face ran smack into a Mesquite limb, and I tripped over a rock. I was hot, sweaty, bleeding and annoyed.
Here’s the thing. West Texas has been described as an acquired taste. Not classically beautiful, not particularly easy on strangers.
Mostly because West Texas just doesn’t give a damn.
It’s here to thrive and survive, not to please you. It’s your job to learn to deal with its challenges. Snakebite survival 101, tornado warning signs, where to step to avoid getting your feet stabbed with thorns, etc etc etc.
It’s also your job to appreciate it’s hidden beauty, it’s glorious strength and the treasures it has to offer if you’re paying attention. If you don’t want to bother, well that’s fine. West Texas didn’t need you here, anyway.
But, before you give up on West Texas entirely, you really should hear about the frogs.
Of all the creatures and growing things of my home, my favorite are the frogs. Now, West Texas is very dry. Very. Which is what makes these critters even more remarkable.
They burrow under the ground, and lie dormant…until there is a rain. And not just a sprinkle, but a real, soaking rain. We get three or four of those a year if we’re lucky, and every time, the frogs come out. Suddenly, the air is full of a sound that is almost alien, it’s so rare. Hundreds upon thousands of frogs, suddenly awake and rejoicing in the rain. They sing and sing and sing all night long, until time for them to return to their sleep.
It’s remarkable. All my life, it’s never ceased to stop my heart in wonder.
Just a year after those devastating fires, we can still hear the frogs after a rain.
And that is why West Texas is the BAMF of the Continental United States, and where I plan to end up after the Zombiepocalypse.
I often think about what it would be like to be adrift in space. There’s no up or down. No left or right. There’s just…you. How do you know if you’re upside down? With no gravity, does it matter? How do you know where you’ve been, or where you are, or where you’re going?
This is how I feel at being unemployed. I have defined my life by the things I have DONE. The GOALS I have ACHIEVED. And somwhere along the line that life went horribly wrong. I turned around one day and realized I was completely depressed and miserable.
So now I’m trying to live a stripped down life in order to really figure out what I want in life. What do I really want? When I die, what do I want to look back on and be proud of? If I were to die right now, what would I most regret not doing? Not having?
If I’ve learned anything in the past two years, it’s that you can’t live for the amazing moments. The amazing, incredible, mind blowing moments in life are wonderful, but you can’t build a life on them.
The fact is that you have to build your life on the mundane moments. I recently crashed with two friends and I was blown away by how wonderful the boring parts of their life are. I thought “Damn, no wonder they’re so happy.” The times in their life that involved ABSOLUTELY NOTHING were filled with…contentment.
I learned a lot from living with them. The times in my life that involved nothing were usually filled with working towards a spectacular something. It didn’t even occur to me that there might be something wrong with that until I walked into a room full of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and felt envious. I looked at those mundane moments and realized for the first time what was truly missing in my life.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about a boyfriend. I’m talking about the ability to just be…to just exist, without a constant feeling that you’re missing out on something better. Always before I felt contentment meant the death of ambition. This has been proven to be untrue. I witnessed two of the most spectacularly brilliant people I know, both of whom are in the process of working towards realizing their dreams, sitting on their couch doing absolutely nothing of import. And I felt nothing but contentment from them and a feeling of missing out within myself.
Life has plenty of spectacular amazing moments. Life has plenty of heartbreaking defeat and disappointment.
But the true beauty lies in the simplicity. The quiet moments.
I’m not going to lie. I have absolutely no idea how to live that way, and I’m starting to panic. I feel a lot like that astronaut who accidentally got untethered and is basically going to just keep drifting for as long their momentum will carry them. All I can think about is the fact that my calendar is empty and I have nothing of import to do all day.
But I’m working on it. I guess that’s all anyone can really do. I’m trying to look at the nothing and not feel terrified of the lack of something. I’m trying to channel a little Zaphod Beeblebrox.
I’m trying to be ok with taking some time off from having THINGS to DO. This is what I’m saying. Actually, maybe instead of Zaphod, I need to be channeling the Tao of Pooh.
No, I take both of those back. I should be paying more attention to my dog. She took a 20 hour road trip with me. She had no idea where we were going or why we were going there and had this look on her face the whole time:
Yeah. I think we should all be more like Lisa.
Love has a tendency to take hold of your heart whether it makes sense to you or not. Falling for a boy you never think will love you back. But you fall anyway, because the heart makes decisions without consulting your brain. But then, maybe he falls for you, too.
Two people who, on the surface, seem to have no common ground. Yet, somehow, they vibrate on a deep level in perfect harmony. They live life never able to decide on what music to listen to in the car, what movie to watch on Friday night, what to eat for dinner, or where to go on vacation. They never quite match up in any way that matters to most people. You’d think they would feel lonely. You’d think they would feel separated by their differences. But…somehow, some way, they feel more understood than ever before. It can’t be explained. Two people who look at each other across a chasm of film, music, hobbies, pop culture, life experience, and every other surface commonality that feeds relationships. They gaze across that great divide and see something in each other. A binding recognition that moves them together in a manner that can only be described as fundamental. An understanding of inner spirit that recognizes its twin. A simple meeting of eyes that says “You. You are for me.”
But the chasm is not an easy one to bridge. The hearts that gaze in longing can’t always meet in the middle. And when the bridge is burned, those hearts pick up the pieces and carry on with life, leaving a little something behind. But the heart never forgets its pieces. The heart goes looking for it, without consulting your brain. It just wants to check on that missing piece. Are they taking care of it? Do they cherish it as you cherish theirs? Your heart just has to know.
So you find yourself writing an e-mail, or making a phone call. The heart that made this decision in your throat, racing, uncertain. Thanks for the stress, dude. But, suddenly, there they are. A response, a smile, the enthusiastic “I was just thinking about you!”
And you reach out to each other across the years, across the heartache of before, across that great chasm of differences…you reach out and see each other. A little older. A little battle scarred. But there it is. There is that bit of your heart in their hand, and theirs in yours. They gaze at you from across that chasm saying “You. I know you.”
Hello again, old friend.
It is not my responsibility to teach you how to not be a CREEP on the internet. But I’m pissed off at the moment, so I’m going to give you all a little primer. Are you ready? Excellent.
#1. Unless we converse on a daily basis or have hung out multiple times in person, you are a stranger to me. Do you walk up to women you barely know in the street and make sexual or boob jokes? Do you think they would find it funny if you did? WE DON’T LIKE IT ON THE INTERNET EITHER.
#2. Unless we converse on a daily basis or have hung out multiple times in person, you are a stranger to me. If you tweet me a link with no description, I’m going to assume you’re a spammer. If you tweet me a link with a description that goes something like “Blow jobs” or similar, I WILL BLOCK YOU. End of story. I don’t care that you thought it would be funny, and that the link wasn’t actually sexual in nature. Would you do that to a woman you don’t know in real life? Then don’t do it on the internet.
Expectations are a funny thing. If you think about it, our society runs on expectations. You are expected to stand in line, ALL THE TIME. You are expected to comply with laws and social norms.
It is expected for you to not run down the street naked brandishing a banana screaming “The Doctor said I needed one!!!”
No matter how much we may want to, it’s just not expected.
Our society runs like a mostly oiled, but sort of neglected, machine. The gasoline that keeps it running are our expectations.
Expectations can be good, based on social norms. Make good grades, study for your SATs, get into college…things are statistically easier for people with a college degree.
Expectations decree that you dress appropriately for a job interview and say all the right things. Complying with these expectations can get you a job, which can get you food on your table.
In every way, expectations define the way in which we survive in modern society.
But expectations can override your life. They can overload your senses. When you’re being handed baskets of expectations from every side, every angle, every person…it will break you. Those expectations don’t even have to be opposite. They can all work well together to develop the Perfect Human for your particular Situation.
But you aren’t perfect. You’ll never be perfect.
Some people are fine with expectations. They do their best, and have no desire to rock the boat. The thought rarely occurs to them. Some people prefer to be handed their expectations and thrive in an environment where what is expected of them is spelled out. And that’s totally fine. That is evolutionary biology at work. That is Life, Surviving and Procreating and Being.
Some people buck like a wild mustang the second those ropes of expectation are wrapped around them. “Why? What does it matter?”
In the extreme, these cases cannot survive. They can’t get good grades, because they are misunderstood. They can’t get a good job, because they didn’t play the game enough to get into a good school. Or they can’t keep a job because they can’t play the game enough to keep a job.
We all have to swallow so much BULLSHIT just to survive. It’s a frustrating tragedy of every day life.
However, the majority of us walk the line. We think “This fucking sucks ass, but I’ve got to do it in order to get to the next stage, so I guess I’ll just deal with it.” And I think we are the ones who have the hardest time. That line is thin, and dangerous. You comply, because it will get you somewhere. Because complying means accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. But you always keep your own True Self in mind. To be honest, your own True Self SCREAMS AT YOU. “This is injustice. This isn’t fair. That guy should be punched in the face.” But you calm it. You tame it. You compromise just enough to make it, but you stay true.
The real trouble, is that we are so ingrained, in our deepest evolutionary biology, to adhere to certain societal expectations in order to ensure our own survival, that when we get into that place of moderate success where everyone we meet is handing us another batch of expectations…our instinct is to comply. “This is the life I’ve chosen, these are the expectations I am being handed for this life. My choice, I must comply.”
It’s not even robotic…it’s animal instinct.
And…sometimes…we spend so long trying to match all these expectations that we break ourselves in half.
And it’s so insidious. So subtle that we don’t even see it happening. And when the real break happens we think we’ve gone insane. “What’s wrong with me? Things are on track, I’m doing well. Why am I so depressed? Why am I so anxious all the time?”
When you’re handed piles and piles of expectations from every angle, when you take those upon yourself and try to comply because your instincts are screaming that THIS IS SURVIVAL NOW, and your other half is screaming I CAN’T MAKE THEM ALL HAPPY.
Then the brain breaks. The soul shrivels. And despair sets in.
Oh, despair. Do animals feel despair? Are we, alone, cursed with the ability to have higher functioning brains that are also running on animal instinct? Our instincts tell us to comply with the Pack, while our higher functioning brains grieve for the great sacrifices we must make to survive.
Maybe it is just us. But, the good news, is that our higher functioning brains have also blessed us with things like love.
Now, I personally, think love is a dumb word. It’s like trying to take a Hydrogen Bomb and name it Fluffy. Love is undefinable and can’t be contained. It’s deeply personal and can’t be described in any way that actually makes sense.
However, for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to explain the many ways in which love can save you.
First off, some of us, some lucky few, have people in our lives with no expectations. They have love, and they have hope. But those two things are quite different from expectations.
Spend a little time with someone who just cares for you, and hopes the best for you, but never expects you to do or be anything but what you are…and that True Self you thought was lost will find you again.
It feels, on the inside, just like putting Aloe Vera on a 2nd degree sunburn. Soothing, comforting…healing.
However, not everyone has that. In the case that you don’t, take this advice:
Tell everyone to fuck off for a week. A full 7 days. Get away. I’M FUCKING SEROUS, GET AWAY. If you don’t have much money, then unplug your phone and tell them you’re out of town. If you have the money, get out of town. Even if you’re just at the Holiday Inn a couple hours away.
Remove yourself from the expectations. Give yourself enough time to stop thinking about those expectations and start imagining what you really wish your life was. What do you want? What you wanted 5, 10, 15 years ago may have changed drastically, but you were so buried in expectations and compromises that you stopped listening to what was inside. Sometimes your heart cries out for years, and you miss it because you’re too busy answering e-mails and trying not to punch your boss in the face.
So get away. Do whatever you have to do. Go sit on a rock and listen to crickets. Go sit in a hotel hot tub and people watch. Binge watch every season of Doctor Who there ever was. Whatever it takes to get away from those mountains of expectations and really LISTEN to what you REALLY want your life to be.
Why? Because there can be no greater love in the world than that you can have for yourself. You live with yourself EVERY DAY. It’s a burden, sometimes, to look out of those eyeballs and think “Why did I say that?” or “Why didn’t I handle that better?” or any other number of things. No one will ever know you as well as you know yourself, and you won’t know real peace until you really love every part of yourself. Yes, even the giant selfish asshole who does dick things.
It’s ok. We’ve all got one.
The thing is, I really think it’s possible to comply just enough to achieve the life of your dreams without compromising your sanity and happiness along the way. And if your dreams change along the way, that’s fine. Nobody ever said you aren’t allowed to start over. It’s frowned upon for someone older to suddenly change their life, but those expectations can just go fuck themselves.
I’ll stand in line for a donut, but my life is my life, and I’ll be proud of the choices that make me happy. FUCK YOU AND YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
I know me better than you. And that’s all I need to know.
That being said, running down the street naked with a banana screaming “The Doctor said I needed one!” sounds pretty fucking awesome sometimes. Not because I want to be naked in public, but because shocking the ever loving shit out of people while hearing random Doctor Who fans screaming encouragement would be pretty damn cool.
There’s a girl in her 20’s at this airport in an adorable dress, matching belt and 4 inch heels. Only people in their 20’s travel like that. I remember those days. Thinking “I should look cute in case I get a seat next to a handsome stranger.” The closest I got was getting a seat next to a guy I’d had the worst/most awkward one night stand of my life with the year before.
Today I’m travelling in sneakers, my glasses and a muffin top that CANNOT BE CONTAINED.
Travel is like this other dimension. When your driving on a highway or waiting in an airport or sitting on a plane, it’s almost like real life has paused. You’re in the In Between place. Nothing of consequence happens, and if it did you couldn’t do much about it. Everyone lives by different rules (drinks at 10am=normal) and no one is fully engaged with the outside world.
I find the act of transferring myself from one place to another infinitely more enjoyable than any destination. Every origin point and every destination are each filled with their own let downs and disappointments. Interactions with people are required. Compromise is common. Disappointing yourself or others is, unfortunately, inevitable.
But the In Between place…I love that place.
Life pauses, and I breathe.
As women, we need to stop looking at other women and assuming they are dressing a certain way for male attention. Every time I go out and there is a woman there dressed in a tight dress, or whatever, shaming starts immediately. Not always to her face. But it’s there.
There seem to be people who think that we have control over whether or not we get objectified, and that somehow what we wear affects whether or not OTHER women get objectified. That one woman wearing skimpy clothes gets added blame for bringing down women as a whole.
Look, objectification comes from OUTSIDE. It is not in our control. WHETHER OR NOT WE GET OBJECTIFIED IS OUT OF OUR CONTROL. Maybe that woman in the short skirt really is only wearing it to get male attention. Maybe you don’t like that. Well, get over it. You know nothing about her, her experiences or what she may be feeling. Not to mention the fact that women get objectified regardless of what they wear. I could go out with a paper sack on my head and some dude will still check out my boobs. I could wear a garbage bag as a shirt, but someone might still look at my ass.
So what do I do? How do I feel sexy, and dress in clothes that make me feel attractive, without allowing myself to be objectified?
I can’t. Because objectification will happen regardless of what I do or what I wear.
And here’s the real danger with this kind of thinking. This idea that what you wear determines how others will treat both you AND others of your gender only serves to further undermine women and lay blame where there is none.
Our ability to be empowered on our own terms defies those who wish to make us less than what we are. Wear what you like. Wear what makes you feel strong and good about yourself.
The real work, ladies, needs to be done on those who objectify to the point that they no longer see that woman as a person, and treat her accordingly. Your arguments, your finger pointing, your vitriol…rests solely on them. Not the woman you feel is inviting it.
You should be fostering confidence and empowerment in your friends, family and colleagues. That is what will further the cause of equality.
I believe in equality for every race, gender and sexual orientation. I am proud to be a feminist. And I do not believe that feminism should be one and the same with shaming, judgement and finger pointing. Feminism and the road to equality should be empowering. The road to equality IS empowering, when focused on the things like encouragement, education, and enlightenment.
Keep fighting the good fight, everyone. We’ll get there.
Note: This is a blog I originally posted at the League of Extraordinary Ladies website.
Hollywood likes to take our childhood over it’s knee and spank it till all it’s change falls out of it’s pockets. Then Hollywood grabs the change and takes off laughing about what a sap you were to stand in line for two hours on premiere night just to get your ass spanked. There is much evidence for this, but my favorite rant is the crap writing and casting that goes into putting some of our favorite comic ladies on the big screen. I’ve singled out a few of my least faves.
#5: Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane
I don’t hate Kate Bosworth. She’s not terrible. But as Lois Lane?! What?! Margot Kidder was an INCREDIBLE Lois Lane! She had such…such…BALLS. She was tough, brassy (with the exception of that weird flying poetry), and one of my first female role models. Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns. I mean, let’s put aside the fact that now she’s a mommy (aka, barefoot and in the kitchen), but where’s her sense of adventure! It’s all “Oh, I love Superman, He’s my baby daddy, I won a Pulitzer writing about how mad I was that he left me, er I mean the world…” Good job, Hollywood. Way to take one of the most kick ass women in Comics and make her LAME.
*sigh* Moving on.
Halle Berry as Catwoman
Catwoman aka Selena Kyle, is a sexy woman. She’s incredibly powerful and embraces everything about herself that is Woman. Men drool, women drool…she’s kinda like the Angelina Jolie of comic books. So, of course, Hollywood casts arguably one of the most beautiful women in existence….regardless of whether or not she is actually even remotely tough in any way. ‘Cause, Halle Berry is about as intimidating as a caterpillar. Really guys? Really? There weren’t ANY hot, sexy actresses you could cast who are actually badasses? No? Fine.
#3: Jessica Alba: Invisible Woman
OK, I didn’t hate her in the first movie. I hated the first movie, but it was such a clusterfuck, it was hard to concentrate on any one element. It was Rise of the Silver Surfer where my WHAT THE WHAT radar went off. Jessica Alba is neither white nor blonde. I think we all know this. So they dyed her hair a really weird fake blonde. In the first one it was kind of dirty blonde-ish and I didn’t really notice it. In Surfer, it’s like “Whoa! Did she do that herself? Was she drunk?” Too much, guys. Too much. It really should have stopped there, but they also shoved blue contact lenses in her eyeballs that looked even less real than the blonde hair. What possessed them to do that? Were they blind? Like, literally, were they completely blind? She looked freakishly strange and weirded me out so much I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the “plot” of that movie was. All I remember is freak hair and freak eyeballs.
#2: Anna Paquin: Rogue
I loved reading X-Men as a kid. LOVED IT. And as a little girl from Texas, seeing a Southern Belle kick some serious ass was awesome. Rogue is a hot redhead from the South who flirts while she punches and it’s HOT. Then Hollywood decides to make her about 12 years old and wimpy. OK, she wasn’t 12. But she was young. And all up on Wolverine’s nuts like a mutant Lolita. What were they thinking? What a waste of an awesome character! They made her young, scared and virtually useless. USELESS. I AM STILL MAD ABOUT THIS.
Which leads to my number one:
#1: Halle Berry: Storm
Storm is another incredibly powerful woman. As a kid, I always thought of her as the matriarch of the X-Men. She’s a leader, she commands LIGHTNING AND THUNDER PEOPLE. But, no, let’s just grab any excuse we can to put Halle Berry in a skin tight costume. Oh, and then let’s make her character do ALMOST NOTHING because it’s more fun to have Wolverine and Cyclops get into a pissing contest over Jean Grey while tiny worthless Rogue clings to Wolverine like a desperate spidermonkey. Don’t even get me started on 2 and 3.
So there you have it. The story of how Hollywood took the role models of my childhood and made them worthless. Thanks, guys.
I’m confused. Is it just me, or is 30 way too young to have your shit together? We all grew up with this idea that by 30 you would have things pretty much well in hand.
I’d really like us to get rid of that kind of linear thinking. It’s so depressing and destructive. Not when you’re young. Ho, no. Then, if you were like me, you were supremely confident that by 30 you would absolutely have your shit together. I was positive that I would have reached my career goals and then be totally ok with settling down and popping out some babies.
However, I’m about to be *cough cough* 32, and here is the state of my life:
1. Around 30 my goals took a drastic turn for a new direction. I made a lot of headway in what I want in life, but there is still a lot of hard work and uncertainty ahead of me.
2. I have yet to have a relationship go for longer than about 9 months or so. Changing cities every three years while I figured things out in my 20s didn’t really help with that, though.
3. My biological clock appears to be broken. I always assumed I had one and that I would look at babies once I hit my 30s and think “I want one!” I do not want one. Not in the least. I look at babies and all I can think about is all the various yucky fluids leaking from its orifices and the fact that you’re pretty much committed to the thing full throttle for the rest of FOREVER.
4. I own a car. It’s almost paid off. That’s pretty much my only financial accomplishment. Other than the fact I’ve finally stopped bouncing checks….like 4 months ago.
So, let’s review. I don’t really have my shit together. I’m smart, talented, driven. It’s not that I don’t know what I want. But…shit. Life’s HARD. So many curve balls come your way that it’s almost impossible to stay on any sort of focused track. And the curve balls are SUPPOSED to come, because if they don’t you’ll never realize that you were actually on the wrong path and dodging that curve ball put you on the one that you’re supposed to be on.
Not to mention the fact that our generation is coming of age in a technological revolution. The way we live our lives is drastically changing at lightning speeds. Some of us went to college specifically for careers that are on their way to being obsolete. Most of us are probably kicking ourselves for not taking more web design and computer programming classes (I know I am).
Not to mention the economy. Massive lay-offs, ever rising gas prices, complete and total economic uncertainty… We’re choking just like everyone else.
There’s a term out there called “Boomerang Kids” about all the people of my generation who end up living back at home. I mentioned that phrase to my friend Brian and he said “I hate that term. That implies that we just lost our momentum in one direction and came back. We’re more like tennis balls that get smacked into a brick wall and bounce back.”
He’s totally right.
So…can we stop kicking ourselves if we’re in our 30s and still feel like we’re figuring things out? Look, as long as we’re moving forward…it’s ok. As long as we’re TRYING, we’re fine. Because we can only do our best.
I’m going to say that again for emphasis. We can only do our best.
Do your best, and don’t worry if everyone around you looks like they’ve got it figured out. I’m willing to bet they don’t.
And for God’s sake will everyone stop acting like you have to be a grown-up by 30? YOU’RE STRESSING ME OUT, OK?!
Being a grown-up is overrated. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to pick out which super hero t-shirt to wear to a midnight showing of the Avengers.
So I decided to play around with doing a Vlog. This is my first attempt. More are coming soon.