culture, philosophy, portfolio, psychology

Sometimes I Wonder If This Means Anything

Recently, I’ve had the time to think about what it means to be a person who is nonbinary-identified, who otherwise appears to most to be a “woman.” That is, what is the difference between, “me” as “myself,” and “me” as, “woman,” when to the untrained eye, we’re indistinguishable?

Well, perhaps not indistinguishable, but a general sense of civil politeness dictates not to draw attention to that aspect of reality, as divergence is seen as a fault. The differences don’t show up until you’ve known me for a little while and notice that my behavior and thought process is, to a sensitive yet civil person, “slightly different”; to a person who expects conformity, “slightly off.”

When I don’t go out of my way to prove or show in any way that I’m not a woman, that is…when I’m talking about sewing and beadwork and librarianship…what is there to distinguish me from the backdrop? (By the way…this article is my own, not in any way representative of my profession.)

Activities assigned a gender by culture do not imply the gender identity of the person doing the activity

Because I participate in pastimes that have been culturally allotted to me because of my assumed gender, that doesn’t mean that assumption of my gender is correct. To skip ahead slightly, if cryptically: I identify as nonbinary because it liberates me from being trapped in the game.

How do I know I’m not a woman?

For one thing, I don’t.

I can’t compare my experience to experience I’ve never had.

For another thing, how does anyone else know if they’re a woman? Without referring to tautologies, that is, such as the most common assumption I seem to find: that sex = gender. That sex, in short, creates gender.

I would look at this from the other end, however, and ask one to consider the possibility that people are targeted for gendered psychological conditioning which differs on the basis of their known (or assumed) sex. That, over the long term, encourages (but does not cause) the development of societally-conforming gender expressions; even though this may cause quite a large amount of distress for the person being conditioned.

Accepting the identity of “woman”, in short, does damage to who I am at core, because I have internalized concepts of womanhood which are particularly damaging and oppressive to me as an apparently female person, who is interacted with, and expected to respond as, a woman (or “girl”) because of it. The response expected can differ widely from the reality.

But you know what? That’s sexism.

In particular, the level of societal violence (emotional, interrelational, and physical) directed at people who are, as I once openly was, “gender-nonconforming”, is something that severely negatively impacted my mental health. The fact that I knew it was being demanded I conform — to be something I wasn’t; to live someone else’s life who didn’t exist, to pretend I was her for everyone else — in order to stop the torture, didn’t help.

From the time I was about 19 or 20, once I knew about gender variance, and that it happened to more people than myself, I had been considering the option of physical gender transition. Right now there are only so many options for that, however; fewer still which will not result in additional societal violence.

As a person who doesn’t have a man’s identity, I won’t be able to transition to male and expect anything better than what I have now. In fact, I’d expect worse. There are differences I’d like to have in this body — unfortunately, the window of opportunity for that (for example, to have a larger frame, to have a flat chest without surgery, to be a fully functional male who didn’t have to take hormones) has either passed, or never existed. Some of the actual possibilities could only have been attained with intervention before or during puberty. In my case, that was in the 1990’s.

Wasn’t happening.

History

If I think on it, my gender nonconformity goes back through my childhood, at least to kindergarten. There were rules to being a (supposed) boy or (supposed) girl that first showed their faces, there. Like not playing actively if one were female, or being targeted for random unwanted kisses (from one particular boy) if one were female. I didn’t know and didn’t care, and that made me something of an outcast — though, of course, I thought the problem was everybody else, not myself.

That pattern has marked my existence since then, though I didn’t have an awareness of it until the sexual harassment kicked in fully at 14. I still have a hard time considering myself to be, “normal.” I have a hard time thinking things are good just because they’re popular, and with the idea of exposing myself to all kinds of media, when I know that some of that media is actively violent towards people like myself.

I think I was perhaps 16 or 17 before I started thinking maybe there was something to the harassment that was thrown at me, and that I could have been, as I was being labeled, a gender-nonconforming female who loved women (two culturally linked but separate things which were both taboo in the institution of high school; I’m uncertain I can say the actual word on this platform, as it is still hate speech). I tried to “reclaim” the label, by actively identifying with it. The theory was that if I built a positive identity around the term, it could no longer be used to hurt me.

That got me only so far, as externally-imposed slurs tend not to leave a lot of space open for identity development. However, it gave me space to break some of the walls of my box, unapologetically, and with minimal loss. Even at that time, I knew there was something wrong — but I didn’t know what it was. This was the period in which I first experienced clinical depression; but I only consented to pharmacological treatment for that after I realized that maybe the thing making me sad was something I couldn’t fix. I can’t fix the world by myself. But avoiding suicide gives me a little more time to try.

It wouldn’t be until I removed myself from that situation (taking my meds with me, of course) that I would learn that I had a choice over who I would be, and become.

Fast-forward: I’m likely around 19 years old, away from my parents — and the community that has seen me grow up — for the first time. I realize, from meeting some people, that it’s possible to alter one’s gender expression, and that I’m not stuck with the name and pronouns given to me at birth; or the roles placed on me by others.

The concept of identities being like clothing in a wardrobe is introduced to me. I realize I don’t have to be what others have told me I am; that I can change out of the leather jacket I’ve been carrying with me, into something that may be more suited. Something that may make me happier.

Woman/Not-Woman: Does It Matter?

It wouldn’t be until far later, in my 30’s, that someone would tell me that they kept hearing me say I was not a woman, but they never heard me say I was a man.

“Man”, never really fit, except within groups where I knew people knew what I meant by it, and within which I tempered the identity by acknowledging my female history. It wasn’t a portable identity, at least not if I paid attention to people complaining about “their” identities being, “watered down.” (Yes, there is exclusion right there; the idea that we couldn’t share the same word for ourselves because we were different. This was before the emergences of the genderqueer and nonbinary communities…and possibly the catalyst for their formation.) I wouldn’t learn that it would be tough for me as male, though, until I was about 25, and had tried living as one — with various interspersions of behavior that I considered distinctly, “unmanly.”

I don’t know where these ideas about men and women came from. But I suspect they’re learned.

The thing is: my society emphasizes two (and only two) genders. If a person isn’t one, the next step, often, is to believe that one then must be the other. However…that’s not where my journey took me. “Not-woman” is not the same thing as “man”. “Woman” is not the same thing as “not-man.” One is a positive assertion: many variations on one truth. The other is a negation: infinity-minus-one possible options for truth remaining.

I’m thinking that we’ve had a tendency to think the terms are equivalent, though (much as “not-woman” got linked with “lesbian” for me in high school), because of our particular historical and cultural locus. Most people repeat concepts in this sense without knowing where the concepts came from or why they think what they do, but ideas in this sense are inherited from the past, and sometimes they’re outdated to an embarrassing extent.

What I know is that trying to think of myself as a woman has done concrete psychological damage to me. Because I don’t fit. I’m not a woman — regardless of the shape of my body. Not-man and not-woman (at least, not as this current culture defines “man” and “woman”) leaves infinity-minus-two possible outcomes for me. Not all of them require medical transition or intentional alteration of presentation. Or, “masculinity.”

If one tries to think of oneself as something one is not, chances are that one is going to be riddled with senses of inadequacy. All the time.

When I try to think of myself as a woman, I expect myself to grapple from an inside position with messages about what women are and/or should be, which rarely ever fit. Which makes me angry, as I presume other “women” like “myself” also find those messages and concepts not to fit.

But is that the case? If so, the world really is a dystopia.

And then again, I see myself conforming for the sake of the approval of others. Trying to be someone who doesn’t exist, so I can stop being hurt and excluded. Only now, I’m the person hurting myself. No one else has to torture me: I’ve taken over that job. And I’m getting the perks of fitting in, knowing full well that the external torture and isolation and exclusion may resume if I let down my facade.

Other people then also expect me to conform to messages about what women are and should be — but they (almost) always do that, except when I let people know that my appearance does not infer my identity. On a baseline, people expect me to be able to relate on a level of commonality that I don’t share. Because right now, I’m a husk of a person. I’ve abandoned myself to take on a role that my heart isn’t in, for the purposes of pleasing others and smoothing social relations.

Boundaries. Somewhere in there, I’ve got to stand up for myself, or I’ll never be able to attain an authentic life. And my life isn’t for the pleasure of other people. It’s mine.

Somewhere in there, I got tired of this. Rebelling against compulsory “femininity” versus conforming to compulsory “femininity”; whereas if I thought of myself as male, even as a gentle one, I realized that what to do with this, isn’t even a question. If I discard the concept of “woman” as outside of myself; as meaningless in my domain; I no longer have to rebel, or conform. The concept no longer holds sway over me; my life is no longer led and controlled by the whims of other people. Let the people who don’t understand fall on their faces. Catering to their illusions isn’t my job.

Risk and Flow

It would not be true for me to say that relative levels of risk and emotional safety haven’t played a role in choosing between life options. At first, I began exploring things that were allotted to me because I appeared female, because I knew they might not be allotted to me anymore in the then-near future. I was trying to find anything good about my situation, before I might change it.

Yes, I’m talking about physical — chemical and surgical — transition. In my situation, the treatments were offered on a harm-reduction basis. It has not been unusual for people to attain things like hormones and surgeries illegally, out of desperation to escape their situations. If I was going to alter myself, it would be better to do it through a compassionate health care system than through the black market.

In effect, I was exercising what is known in sociology as, “agency.” Sociology is basically the study of power constraints on groups of people, and how ordinary people find ways to struggle and survive, despite them. In early college, I took up Sociology as my major, though I wouldn’t stay in it. I was told it was, “the study of groups of people.” That’s an oversimplification.

Sociology arose, most markedly to my mind, after WWII: as people tried to make sense of the Holocaust. Notes online, however, say it began much earlier due to the French and Industrial Revolutions. In my view, Sociology is the study of how power dynamics and methods of social control form among people and how culture is — at times — complicit in, or even driving, that.

Agency may be, in this discussion, said to encompass ways of individual or group existence alongside social control; defying it, without being destroyed by it.

So there are reasons — I would say at their base, coercive ones — for certain things to be considered either “men’s” or “women’s” work. Coercive, because one runs into barriers if they try to do work which has not been allotted to them by their social station.

I’m not a person who likes to fight. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long staying neutral is, or can be, an option. These are not usual times. And, as I am learning, my voice can make a difference. This is still a democracy, after all.

There is something that just came to my mind…I’m not certain I’ll be able to communicate clearly enough to really explain it, especially as it has to do with what is known in the West as Philosophical Daoism (or Philosophical Taoism). I learned about this after having studied Chinese Buddhism. I was trying to figure out where the Buddhism ended and Daoism began. One could write books on this, though unfortunately I have pretty much no reading ability in any Chinese dialect, so research would be difficult (even if possible).

It has to do with the concept of water. Or, Water, if you prefer. The element.

Water always seeks the lowest point, the place where it can settle no further. It is stopped by barriers like dikes, and flows where it is given space to flow. But in floods, it can overwhelm and cross those dikes. In tsunamis and typhoons it can destroy towns. It’s a gentle thing that carves mountains. Crushes and splits stone. Comes down in drops and forms oceans.

It is also something which we depend on for life; without which, there would be no life.

I don’t aim to be a fighter. I aim to be like Water.

To know this is useful; to know this is also slightly frightening, because I know that I also will always have to deal with that drip, drip, drip…building up, building pressure, pushing against boundaries and walls, finding cracks, threatening to spill out. Always.

As for whether I’ve recently overflowed (I wonder if the Japanese term あふれる [afureru: to overflow; I don’t know the correct kanji] is related to this)…it’s hard to say. I hadn’t thought of the one recent instance in those terms until I wrote them, here.

There is also the difference between the “soft” martial arts and the “hard” martial arts, which may aid one in understanding what I mean. Hard martial arts, like karate, are force-against-force. In a battle between two martial artists each using force against force, considering all else equal, the bigger and stronger one will win. In a situation where one is going up against a stronger opponent…it doesn’t make sense to fight force-against-force. I’ve always had to be faster, smarter, choosing my battles. Choosing my questions, finding weaknesses, finding my strengths.

So even though I can’t say that my environment had no hand in shaping the person I am now, I can say is that what you see of me now is genuine — even if, under other circumstances, under different constraints, I may have grown in an entirely different direction.

That’s what it means to be full of potentialities.

That’s also what it means to be human.

“Women’s Work”

One of the difficulties of living in this transitional era is what to do with older identities, aspirations taught to us by our foremothers, made for eras which no longer exist. In my attempt to see if there were anything left for me in being female, I was in some respects immersed in pastimes which — in years gone by — I suspect must have been done by people who were stay-at-home mothers or homemakers, or otherwise supported monetarily from outside (as is the case with me and my parents). I can’t imagine their being able to survive any other way.

Implied in this is marriage to a person who can give one children, and financial support thereby. Also implied is the willingness to be impregnated, and to keep and care for the child(ren). It’s not a given that everyone wants that.

My relations with my own reproductive potential have never been easy. But neither have been my relations with anyone else’s. I’ve never given myself a chance to get pregnant. After having written the rest of this, I’m no longer surprised at having some level of discomfort around reproduction. But my dysphoria is minor, as I’m able to use birth control, in addition to abstinence — which may in fact have run on long enough to become celibacy.

Since I was in high school and realized that marriage to a man was likely not to be comfortable for me (given how few males I was attracted to at all, and the fact that the ones I was attracted to had a tendency to be gay or transgender), I’ve channeled my creative urges into the making of, “things”; objects; writings; not children. Instead of raising a child as my legacy, I’ve realized there are other methods of having an impact on society.

The issue — my main issue, at this point — is finding a way to stay alive while staying creative. To find a way of feeding both my desire to create, and my physical needs, at the same time. The system, as it’s set up…is there a method of independently supporting oneself while staying out of poverty, and still taking the time to do “women’s work”? I’m not certain. But then, I live in one of the most expensive places possible, in this country.

Then there is the fact that “women’s work” in the public sphere — nursing, teaching, clerical, childcare, librarianship — presuppose a level of social intelligence (and inclination to be social) that I just don’t have. The only one I can think of that doesn’t, that I know of, is housekeeping — but I’m not about to go there. Germ phobia, remember?

But that’s sexism, again.

I’m not entirely sure what to do about this. I’m a person who was raised to become a woman who is not; who has to enter territory long held by men in order to survive. That’s not easy for me.

む (Mu)

When I began writing this post, the idea of, “myself as a nonbinary person,” and, “myself as a woman,” were looking too close to call. The difference seemed like splitting hairs. To the extent that both nonbinary and woman identities are cultural constructions and not inherently existent in and of themselves, that’s still true. Hence, the question, “am I a woman?” could be answered in the single Zen term, む (or, “mu”).

The answer of “mu” to a koan, or riddle, means that the foundations of the question are formulated so that no right answer can be given. The example I’ve seen is the question: “have you stopped beating your wife?” when you have no wife; or you do have a wife, but you don’t beat her. The presuppositions of the question are faulty in such a way that to answer either, “yes, I have stopped beating my wife,” or, “no, I haven’t stopped beating my wife,” would be false.

Hence: む. Neither, “yes, I am a woman,” nor, “no, I am not a woman,” are wholly satisfactory, because the term, “woman,” is mutable and has no inherent reality. (Neither does, “man,” or, “nonbinary,” for that matter. They’re all terms which, on some level, most of us just loosely agree have similar-enough meanings to be able to get a rough idea of what the other person means when we say them.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean, in a different sense, that no women exist. But I like the opt-in model, based on authentic thinking and deep reflection; better than the mass-assignment model, based on surface appearances or biological statistics.

From the outside, it doesn’t matter on a large scale (likely to anyone except other nonbinary people) whether I’m called a woman or a nonbinary person — although I will get tripped up when I’m referred to as “that woman” (it has happened)! What matters to me most is how I think of myself, because that’s all I have direct control over. It’s much more important that I give myself permission to think freely about my own gender, than it is that other people agree with me about it or support me in it. (Though support is nice, when it’s asked for and given. When it’s not asked for…there may be a reason.)

At this point, however, I’ve realized things are much more complex than I’ve given them credit for.

To a greater or lesser extent, I believe that all of us have been subject to conditioning, based on the way we’ve looked; on our physicality, or on what little is known about us. But that’s not the total picture. There are patterns we have which aren’t immediately visible based on how we look, or which can be predicted by an image. Nevertheless, they are real. Going back over my history, showed me that.

My experiences as a child, youth, and young adult, are not something that everyone would have been vulnerable to in the same way. As an adult, I’m still not typical…even if my experience is more common or relatable than I imagine. And it is easy to imagine…easier, now…that I am actually truly “normal” even in my diversity. That people the world over have experienced what it’s like not to fit in, for one reason or another.

People are not always what they seem. I’m proof of that.

And that should give me hope.

creativity, personal, philosophy

Yearnings

No amount of purchases will get rid of the hole in my heart. Even art supplies. It doesn’t work if you buy them and then don’t use them.

Right now I’m in bed, fighting off the last of a cold which hit me over Christmas. Well: I’ve been sick for the last week. Although I’m in the mood to be vulgar with this, it’s wordpress.com (not .org), so I won’t be: the worst part of this is that it hit me when I otherwise had the opportunity to see distant family. (Distant in regard to space, not in regard to relation.) It’s good to be back home and not in a hotel. With a kitchen and my art supplies and medications and plentiful books.

But still, I don’t have much of a life here. In regard to friendship, that is.

We’ve been considering moving out to Hawaii for years. But…it’s a really hard place to live. I think I can say that. For most of the time we were out there, being indoors was constantly like someone had just taken a hot shower and vented the hot, moist air inside. It was everywhere, except the places that were air-conditioned. My books wouldn’t survive. I’d have to find a way to put them under climate control, or leave them behind, or forget about them.

The latter is hard to think of, as someone who has trained to be a Librarian.

Tonight, I broke back into my Baochong oolong tea, though I was out of it (fatigued) enough that I thought it was Jasmine. So when it was a little savory, I was kind of like, “I don’t remember Jasmine tasting like that.” Because it’s Baochong. Oolong. Not Jasmine green. Silly dumpling.

And yes, having the water temperature 15° F above optimal, for that oolong, makes it taste burnt. I didn’t know water could burn tea, but I think I’ve found, it can.

So…right. I now have enough tea for like the next two years, but a bunch of it “expires” (does tea expire?) early next year. (My Tieguanyin [Iron Goddess oolong], I was told, was likely fine even though 2-4 years past expiration, I can’t remember anymore. The Jasmine Pearls from that batch were better than the fresher tea I got to replace it, which meant I had to make a run to the good tea store in order to get decent whole-leaf Jasmine green, as versus whatever was in the bulk aisle.)

Granted, I’ll have at least a season to get through it and see what it’s actually supposed to taste like, before it ferments further. But it’s a pretty sure thing that given where I got these from (in Hawaii), maybe that data about expiration was based on Hawaii climate. Like mid-70° F temperatures and high humidity at the end of December. (What is it like in July?)

It was unseasonably cold while we were there, though. High winds, and a storm (with lightning) coming through right on Christmas Day. I still had the window open until the rain got too…sideways, however.

When I was a kid, particularly M would buy stuff for us as a token of love. She wasn’t great at expressing it to us after we got older (though I can remember plenty of times when she picked me up and tried to soothe me when I cried as a really young child — like I don’t know how young, I wasn’t paying attention to my age at the time — but it had to be under six years old, because I remember it happening in my first apartment).

I’ve been doing some reading about Reader’s Advisory and the value and neurological process of reading the narratives of others, which is probably why I’m back here writing this, now. I mean, you know, I’ve realized that writing isn’t totally worthless. Which, again, is a surprising thought coming from someone who has trained to be a Librarian. But it was made pretty clear in my Creative Writing program that Creative Writing wasn’t something one did to make a living.

A lot of that history, though, it’s kind of messed-up from the point of view of an adult looking back on it. If I had to do it over again, I would have at least tried getting back into the Japanese Language and Literature program. But I really wasn’t thinking that far ahead, probably like most people around the age of 20. Actually, around the age of 20, I was just trying to survive.

I won’t go more deeply into that, here, but I will say that my worst enemy was myself, at the time. I didn’t think I would make it to 30; so getting into my young adult years, I realized that I didn’t have a career plan. That’s why I became a Librarian. Or trained for it, anyway. I still have some experience to accrue.

I’m also, now, getting to the point that “young” adult, as a description, is no longer accurate. I’m just an adult, and I’ve got adult problems, albeit Millennial adult problems. Like worrying about how long any of us will survive. What to do if and when my parents are no longer here to help me. Disputing the personal value of faith and belief and religion in the face of guaranteed death and fragmented communities. (For some reason, the term “bad faith” just came to mind — can’t remember who said it, though. Sartre?) And, though I’ve been watching myself for the last 25 years, trying to figure out who I am as versus who I think I am. Because the two don’t have to align.

I am not even sure anymore that I’m a creative person, or if that is something that characterized me as a psychologically vulnerable youth. I mean, I know I’m writing, here. It’s just that I keep accumulating the props of being a creative person, and then not using them. Then that perpetuates the hole in my heart that I try and refill with buying more stuff, when not-being-creative and buying paints and inks and pens for some ideal future destination where I use them (and then don’t), doesn’t heal me.

I actually am using the pens for writing; that is one spot of healing. At the same time, I can only use one, maximum two, pens at the same time, unless I get into some gymnastics; so how many pens does it take to fill that one hand for that one session?

Buying stuff is not working. Using stuff, might; but as I realized on our trip, I do have a bent towards paint and brushes and inks and pens. I’ve overlearned pencils, though pencils can be the base of other art; it’s just that pencils and drawing the same stuff all the time has gotten so rote as to be discouraging. I realized over the holiday that I really don’t like pencils, now. At least, not the ones with tiny points and HB graphite lead. I’ve done enough of that.

In addition — I’ve decided to let the Art and the Writing go their separate ways. There’s no reason why I should, or have to, or need to, force myself to make comic art. Right now it’s influenced a lot of my work…but if I look at it on its face, I’m a much better writer than I am an artist, and I deflate at the prospect of illustrating a book of my own work. How much drawing it is.

With that out of the way, I’m free to paint and make mandalas and study plants, all I want. Right now, the mandalas are pointing me in the direction of abstract art, of which I think I have an inkling. Particularly, looking at some of my portfolio pieces from 2016, I know I have it in me to do this — I see things I was afraid of acknowledging before, like the shapes of women — and I hope that by getting further into it I can discover more about where these things are coming from. Of course, that might possibly lead into the place where I figure out I’m lesbian even if I don’t consider myself a woman and don’t abhor some sweet technically-male things who sometimes (or often) wish they weren’t; but forget judgment, this is your soul talking.

Well, this is your soul raging, isn’t it?

I think it took watching a Dr. Who marathon and voicing that I thought Clara Oswald’s character was cute, to get me to share that I can be/am still attracted to women. (I have a close female relative who cannot stand Clara Oswald [“she’s too perky”]. But then, she also can’t tolerate “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. It’s too screechy for her.)

To each their own.

I still haven’t resolved how and if a person can be lesbian if they don’t identify as a woman. Then again…I think I’ve already resolved (in my head) that the category of “woman” is a social construction, a name for a concept generated by people which is not real on any ultimate level of truth.

Like I was thinking of saying before, not believing in “God” doesn’t mean you don’t believe in “Christians”. You can recognize that Christians exist without proving the ultimate reality of God. I mean, seriously: it’s obvious that Christians exist. The thing they define themselves in relation to, however; that’s not obviously existent, but to them, it’s part of their reality; inasmuch as a multi-tiered system of worlds, dependent on internal personal vibration or resonance, is part of mine.

I almost went there in my last counseling session, but I didn’t. The person I was talking with seemed to imply that being agender (akin to “atheist”, as I used it [I don’t think that’s usual]) meant being “gender-blind”, which is something that I definitely do not espouse. There can be men and women (who believe that they’re “real” men and “real” women) without gender ever being a solid universal or ultimate concept that lines up with reality. It just means that the definitions are personal and vary among people.

That also should mean, though, that maybe I shouldn’t lock myself out of groups based on my own personal gender definitions, when I know that those definitions only apply in my own head.

That also means, however, that it’s possible for me with qualifications to say that I’m a person who has the potential to love a woman (or someone who looks like one or is similar to one in some way). I just look like a woman, though. Just let me get too close to a woman in public, and I’ll automatically be slotted as lesbian; because most people still don’t know about the nuances of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Some may even take any apparent gender difference to be proof of a preference where it comes to who I love. Because why would there be a gender difference if it didn’t have to do with sex. Or something.

In the same way as everyone has to be a “man” or “woman”, everyone has to be “gay” or “straight”. And some people’s ideas of gender boil down to, “like me,” or, “not like me,” which…is worse.

In my reality, though…I find it hard to deal with being in a community where no one else has seriously questioned their gender. I don’t know what it’s like to, “fit in.” Without trying. The closest I’ve come is gender-nonbinary community, but even there, it’s fairly obvious that…well, we’re not obvious. I’m not obvious. And I don’t have any obligation to be.

My reality is much messier than any definition could hold, but you know what that means? It means I’m being authentic to myself. The issue is, then, regulating a channel through which I can contact and interact with the outside world, and I’m not sure how to do that without compromising my identity.

personal, philosophy, psychology, self care, spirituality

Reclusiveness?

Today, I didn’t go to work. It was intentional. Unfortunately, the vast majority of today was spent asleep. That…may have been a good thing, if I’m looking at keeping up my immunity. However, it did feel like time wasted (especially as I was called at least three times yesterday and this morning, to pick up an additional position).

I’m getting better at laying out my future Substitute positions. Last night I figured out when and where I’d work for the next two weeks, though I expect to be called in for more. As it stands, though, I can predict the minimum amount I’ll be paid — at least, unless I get sick. I’m starting to get concerned about the latter. I have a hint of throat irritation, though in the scheme of things, it’s nothing. What it means is that I need to continue to eat, drink water (especially), and rest. Some Zinc and Vitamin C probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

Over the past week, the weather has changed from Fall to Winter, rather dramatically. Of course, it isn’t quite Winter, yet: though I have always said that it would make sense for the solstice to mark the midpoint of Winter, rather than the beginning. But I can’t really change the Gregorian Calendar by myself.

Last night, I did lay out a number of things to do today, but to be honest, most of what I’ve been doing is eating and sleeping. I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s what I’ve needed to do…considering that one of us is already sick. There are a lot of things I could be reading: in particular, I bought a number of books on Reader’s Advisory which would help me out with work. I am concerned, though, about my vision, particularly when I’m looking at digital displays (e-books): if I read for too long, my vision blurs and doubles, and I can’t really get it to un-blur. I usually end up sleeping it off. It’s a bit disconcerting.

There is that 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes you focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, but in an interior environment, I do have to get up and find something that far away — like looking down a hallway. Generally, where I read, I don’t have anything that’s actually 20 feet away for me to focus on. It’s also extremely easy for me to lose track of time while I’m reading. 20-20-20 is easy when I’m reading something I don’t want to be reading, as it breaks up my reading time into short bursts. But when I’m actually absorbed; when the writing is actually good; it can be a bit difficult.

But if it will make it so that I can read for more than a couple of hours at a time, it will be worth it.

I’ve been intending to write in here over the past several days, but it has been a bit of a challenge, as I’ve also been questioning the use of sharing my inner thoughts with others. The difference between the way I feel now and the way I’ve felt before likely has to do with the fact that I’m more socially engaged on a daily basis.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I have had a tendency to not have a lot of real-life friends. However, with the new job, I’m dealing with people almost constantly, including co-workers, patrons, and more distant colleagues. When I’m not at work, I have my family. It’s alleviated some of the need to be social.

On top of that, there are some upshots to communicating in ways that aren’t…you know, publicly recorded.

What I have been doing is writing by hand, but I’ve also been watching my blog languish. It’s just one of those things where, if I don’t see myself putting out some form of generativity or creativity, I get…well, a little sad. Since I’ve been blogging for over a decade at this point, I have a tendency to look online for evidence of my own existence.

The major issue I’m dealing with is anonymity, the lack of it; or possibly entering into a phase of my life where discretion matters. Either this, or I’m just experienced enough now to do things differently than I did as a youth. I knew the time at which I would know better, was coming. I’m just not sure now, at what time it’s going to actually fully kick in.

There is, that is, the question of what to do when you know that actions can elicit consequences, positive, negative, or neutral. As a youth, a person has the excuse of not knowing better. As an adult, one actually knows that they should know better, because they’ve made enough mistakes as a youth. And it helps when we can leave those mistakes behind.

In an era when we’re all free to publicly surveil ourselves and each other, however, I don’t know to what extent that is possible. Nor do I actually know to what extent it ever will be possible again, in my own lifetime.

So the thing about writing…is that it displays some of the innermost parts of one’s own sense of self, and experience of life, to others. Of course, some of this is by choice; a lot of it is unconscious. But it seems that to participate in public life, it’s required to show others a bit of who one is. While it is granted that in my later years of experience, this has been more positive than not — the earlier years were fairly nasty.

As a child, I learned that the more others knew about my own identity, the more accurately they could target attacks directed at me. So I learned sometime as a pre-teen to hold back information and promulgate disinformation, so that when they attacked me, they were (from my perspective) attacking someone else. They didn’t really know who I was, and that made it clear.

I haven’t had to do that for a while. The major difficulty here is not knowing who you are, because you’re too busy throwing people off your trail to practice being yourself. It wasn’t until around my 35th year that I began to get a good grasp on who I actually was. That, in turn, required a lot of unraveling social constructs, learning about people different from myself, and realizing that one of my most salient identities was not a positive, culturally preexisting statement, but a negation of multiple other identities. Despite that, it also includes elements of what I am not: I don’t force myself to conform wholly to being or not being one thing, because those “things” ultimately don’t exist. I have the choice to believe in them or not; I choose not to.

And then, there is the point that pretty much no matter what happens, this is the life I’ve got now, maybe the only one I’ll ever get; and that I really shouldn’t have shame about who I have been or who I am. It’s a work-in-progress. There’s also the point that it isn’t like anyone else is perfect, either. It’s kind of a “human condition” sort of thing.

Earlier tonight, I started to get into more depth on what I’m referencing…but those thoughts aren’t fully formed yet, and I know from past experience that maybe I should wait and think on them, and in three to five years, they’ll be fully formed and available for discourse. Until then, my discussions are speculation, because my thoughts and experience are relatively incomplete.

As a note to my future self, though: these thoughts are including the possibility of being agender/asexual (thus why I have spent so much time on the Internet without my body or sound with me, to code my gender) and having an atheist tendency (though I do have my own, “spiritual,” or at least, “contemplative,” bent; my beliefs have been challenged recently by the specter of our species destroying all life on this planet). I don’t think I would go nihilist, but there is the question right now of what is happening in this country and globally, that brings into question the value (particularly, pragmatic) of “faith” as versus the vulnerabilities that are inborn in faith.

But that’s another question. And I don’t have it in me to answer it, right now.

philosophy, spirituality

Frustrations at the magyikal rock shop

Yeah. So you know I did go back to the rock shop today. Kinda embarrassed to meet the same salesperson as helped me last time. While there I touched a lot of stuff, looked over a lot of crystals, with no time limit. Of course, both M and D got tired and went to sit in the car while I made my selections.

This…I don’t know exactly why I do this. Actually, I do. I have a little Raven in me and get attracted to little sparklies that are supposed to be magic. I’ve also decided that if I’m going to be investing in things to make me feel like I have something, I should make sure it isn’t just colored glass. (Synthetic materials have different energetic profiles than actual stones, at least according to what I can feel.)

I did come away with a number of little colored stones. Unfortunately, one of these was Stibnite. At least, I think so. Stibnite, I found upon later research, is the same thing as Antimony Trisulfide. The primary ore of the metalloid Antimony. Antimony is toxic.

[[EDIT, 8-20-2019: I have since remembered the actual name of this material, and looked it up online. The material is “Shungite,” a carbon-bearing stone, not “Stibnite,” an antimony-bearing stone. Many apologies to the people who run this store! See more details in today’s post. I am leaving the rest of this post as-is to be honest about my folly.]]

Of course, there was a book at that store talking about how Stibnite (if I’m recalling correctly) was mostly carbon, and how to make potions using it (which I assume would be consumed internally; though I didn’t read that far into it, honestly).

I am wondering about the publisher of that book, now, or if there was an ulterior motive to selling it other than driving sales of Stibnite (most of which comes from China, I found on my Web searches). Of course, I’m also wondering if I really saw what I remember seeing, because that was utterly false and dangerous information. It’s also causing me to wonder whether that shop is on the level ethically; or whether the people running it just don’t know what they’re doing, or anything about chemistry or basic research.

And I wish I didn’t have to say that, but looking up “Stibnite toxicity” on Google — at least with my search history (your search history on Google alters your future search results, unfortunately) — comes up with a ton of sites on the first search, saying how highly toxic it is.

Yeah, so given that I was rubbing it on my fingers like graphite (because I thought, at the time, that it was like graphite — and it has a Mohs hardness of 2)…I’m not too cool with that, right now.

The bright spot is having a bunch of other crystals which are beautiful and which I may be able to use in the future, where it comes to meditation. I think. It’s been so long since I’ve done this that I can’t exactly remember how to properly use them.

My project had been envisioned to broadcast energy of healing and strength, roughly. Kind of like a metta meditation, but not Buddhist. Negative emotions are pretty much inevitable; falling victim to them, isn’t. In my mind, life can’t all be Heaven all the time, but we can keep it from becoming Hell.

I am having a little bit of solipsism driving me, as well: the idea that there’s a reason I’m looking out through this particular experience at this particular time — and is it because I’m supposed to do something?

Letting go of organized religion, that is, and not forcing myself to pretend to believe what a group believes, has left me with a sense of the positivity of my own resting space.

Life is a mystery…and even more mysterious when I stop trying to force obviously untrue explanations on it. I have not, however, gone to the point of disbelieving any non-naturalistic explanation, as that requires me to abstain from the possibility of affirming an explanation which might be plausible. (Just because some spiritual explanations are implausible, that doesn’t mean all are.)

I have more to say, but my medications are kicking in, and I’m not going to be able to think on this level for much longer.

As a note to myself, though: that light-colored blue stone (not gem quality) is rough Aquamarine. I know I’ll forget this if I don’t say that. The tiny green stone is a green Garnet — probably Grossular or Demantoid, though something called “Uvarovite” I remember from my book, which can be green. The “massive” (not by size, but manner of formation) blue-green stone in black matrix that looks like Turquoise, is Emerald; and the dark pink stone is Rhodochrosite. Everything else, I should be able to identify easily.

I should also mention that I did go to a bookstore today, and am somewhat surprised at all the dark magic books. Seriously? Coming from a life experience where I had to deal with dark emotions for a fairly long time, I can see it as a developmental step on the way to positivity…but in my case, it wasn’t a place to stay. It’s hard to believe in yourself, that is, when you think or know you’re wrong or lost. What I did read was not…something I could tolerate for long, or something I would go back to.

Of course, “dark” may basically mean, “not Llewellyn brand”, but I haven’t been deep enough into that particular scene, to know.

painting, philosophy, psychology

Getting sick of English language

I’m not sure if it’s the effect of having had to read so much technical and academic writing (actually, it likely is), but I’m beginning to have a sort of dread toward reading in English. It’s also possible that my current vision is…well, I know it isn’t good, and that isn’t helping. I’ve just ordered a couple of pairs of new glasses, but still: my current prescription is the same as the last.

I’m not entirely assured that it’s accurate, particularly as it was done by a student, after a night where I stayed up much too late, devouring a couple of eBooks. So…I’m not entirely certain what was up with my eyes, that day. (My previous prescription was stronger than what the student would have given me, so she deferred to the prior prescription.)

Anyhow…it will be nice, once I’m able to read things for pleasure, again — without my eyes burning. The glasses I’m using now have anti-blue-light coating but no tint outdoors, after years of having gone with Transitions lenses…which normally have a slight tint, even indoors. It’s kind of tough to have no sunglasses which one can see through, let alone drive in…

Right now, for pleasure reading, I’ve got some stuff lined up on why evil exists (seen through a lens of biology — which is much less triggering than reading about failures of certain political projects), and the apparent human tendency to be delusional.

The annoying point is that the person leveling the claims to the latter only relates it back to religious faith, claiming that irrationality is religion’s fault. No, religion is an outgrowth of inherent human irrationality. On top of that, irrationality isn’t always a bad thing — I say as someone who has lived much of their life studying the Humanities: religion, philosophy, language, culture. (But I have to say that, or else my life so far has been wasted, you see.)

I’ve also had to deal with delusions, before. This is to the extent that I can now recognize the basis of it, in the normal human population. The biggest issue I can see as regards the danger of faith, relates to a kind of slippery-slope fallacy, which leads me to the question: If we are able and willing to believe one thing without proof (or in the face of vastly inherent improbability, keeping in mind that life existing is also apparently inherently vastly improbable), how many other things will we also accept as reality, without proof?

And for that matter, what counts as proof? When you’re a writer, the supposed magic behind the writing and organization of a work — I mean, writing and literacy does still kind of seem like magic to me, largely because I still don’t understand how learning works — it’s still a little far to claim that anything expressed in writing is of necessity, holy, because of the form of its transmission.

At the point of having reached the question of where we draw the line as to claims we accept as real without verification, I’m led to question the motivations behind the claims. I think in a normal debate, though, we would be worried only with the claims, not the motivation of the person making the claims. The question of qui bono is there, and that’s a good thing, but I’m thinking…it may be too limited for my purposes, which is to figure out the motivation behind claims and actions, instead of taking those claims and actions at face value (as though they came from a machine, or other logical source).

Although…that kind of gets into the question of why anyone writes, or says, anything; why we create meaning around ourselves in the world, even when we know that we’re only doing it because not to do it means facing the reality of what, before the advent of our being able to wipe out the majority of life on the planet, had been our temporality, insignificance, ignorance (we are so ignorant!), and fear, in the eyes of a hypothetical Nature. (Though, to look at it from a naturalistic perspective, we and this planet may still be insignificant; a sad loss, should we wipe ourselves [and our potential] out, but not one that has, to our knowledge, so far impacted other planetary life. Even if we had, our reach would be, of necessity, limited.)

The problem with assuming the source, here, to be logical: to assume that also means to recognize that sometimes it intentionally displays deception, with a potential for hostility that a machine (at this time) doesn’t have. When that part of the story is uncovered, it may feel safer to believe that the source is simply out-of-control and insane: an insane person (someone who is legally incapable of telling right from wrong) wouldn’t recognize what they were doing. They wouldn’t intentionally be evil.

But I don’t really know what to think about this, anymore. I used to not think that evil was a thing. Then, you know, I lived a little — or came out of my denial a little — and some of the things I’ve witnessed kind of fit under that heading.

Before anyone guesses, yes, I have attempted to psychologically analyze my own writing, before. It’s a major part of why I initially stopped writing. :) (I am assuming that “psychological analysis” means something different and more generic than “psychoanalysis,” which was largely the realm of Freud and Jung, in the late 19th, into the 20th century.) It’s possible to be way too close to your own work to be able to work out why you said what, when; and then it is also possible to be so judgmental towards yourself that you think you know why, and that you need to stop that mess from coming out of you before you make the world an even worse place to live.

But, I think, everyone’s a mess, initially; and I don’t think anyone is really wholly exempt from being (or becoming) a mess. I guess that’s why lovingkindness exists, though I’ve never been too good at that. (I mean, seriously. Just…)

In any case, I started this off thinking that I really need to get back to painting. I am not sure of my motivations, except for the fact that so much of my life has had to do with language, recently, that I really just want to deal again with shape and color. (I’m not sure if “form” fits in there, seriously.) I just need to get back to my colors, and my brushes, and properly not worry about people claiming that I “saved” my painting with the addition of gouache. Just…no.