changing the things i cannot accept

angela-davis-quote2016 has been the worst year of my life. My father went through a difficult and painful illness this summer, which resulted in his death in August. The whole ordeal has been devastating. I spent mid June through mid August at his side, then saying goodbye, and now I am dealing with the aftermath. I’m in the midst of executing his estate, which includes the sale of the house. Our family touchstone is gone, and my sisters, nieces, and I are dealing with the loss of that, and working to reform connections with one another. I feel broadsided, bruised, and exhausted.

And then November 8th happened.

Like so many others, I’m in shock, I’m frightened, and I’m very, very worried about what this means for my country, its people, and our reputation as a nation. I feel sick, betrayed, and because I was already down, I am struggling with how I will ever get to my feet and face this.

I’ve been in hiding since I returned home after my father’s death. I do this – I withdraw when I’m in pain. I find it difficult to even lift a hand to reach out to extended family and friends for support. I feel tired at the thought of explaining again and again, and facing my own grief. But now that my grief has doubled, now that an extra layer of confusion and fear have been added to my ordeal, I have to pull myself up, because it’s not only personal, it’s struggle within the populace.

I’ll be honest, I feel defeated. My first impulse is to run away. But I know that’s a feeling, a gut reaction to this struggle. I know that running, hiding, denying is not the way to help myself, or my fellow human beings. So I’m not going to allow myself to be displaced. I have a mind, a voice, and a pair of hands – I’m going to use them.

I’m defining three priorities for myself – three areas in which to direct my energies.

Underrepresented communities

The Environment

Education

Three very large and extremely important areas that directly influence our nation and our planet, and steer what kind of world we live in. I have to pull that in and focus on specific areas if I truly want to be effective, both locally and, ultimately, globally.

When I worked at the university, I served on a minority affairs advisory committee to the chancellor, and on a community building team for faculty, staff, and students. I can use that experience and expertise, and the contacts I made, to continue that work in the greater community.

I have a personal interest in the greening of cities. Composting waste, planting to reduce heat and pollution in highly populated areas, and supporting wildlife by planting to sustain bees and other nectar-seeking insects, and encouraging pesticide-free, wildlife inclusive plant care and gardening. I want to participate in community programs that address and support these goals.

Education is a right. It isn’t elitist, it’s not for a select few nor a means to exclude or compartmentalize, and it’s not a chore, punishment, or humiliation. It’s the means to break boundaries – those we set for ourselves, and those in place as discouragement or disenfranchisement to others. Fuck that. Education IS for everyone, and it IS empowering. This is the great secret – it’s the means to have influence, rather than be subjected to the influence of others. And everyone can achieve it. All those American lies about what it is to be educated in this country have got to be revealed. I’m going to do my part to tear down the deceptions, and encourage exploration of the many paths to education.

These aren’t short-term goals to sustain me until I feel better, forget, or get distracted by something shiny. These are lifelong goals, things I can participate in for the duration. As Doctor Angela Davis proclaimed, I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.

What about you? Which issues do you see yourself working to change?

inspiration, agitation, sweet libation

Not quite an end of the year roundup because that no longer applies, but rather a brief account of what I’m doing, what I’m thinking about, what I’m planning, what will most likely not get thought about/planned/done this year.

iris apfel at home

iris apfel at home

My last post was a tribute to Isabella Blow, and I feel compelled to give a shoutout to another fashion icon, Iris Apfel. Ninety-one years old, this lady has scads of style – literally. She loves decorative chaos, from her modern take on Victorian clutter in her home to being up to her elbows in bangles at all times. It’s an artful chaos, the kind that, like a Jackson Pollock painting, keeps your eyes darting about, fascinated by the layers upon layers of clashing patterns and colors that somehow come together to create a cohesive look. She designed textiles with her husband, and has an eye for curious creativity. She’s amassed a clothing collection that has been on display several times, because it’s just that interesting. I admire the peanuts out of her.

Speaking of clutter (and nuts), I’m working on several different pieces at once—unusual for me, but right now, while I’m having trouble keeping my mind on any one thing for an extended period of time, it’s working remarkably well to jump from one to another during the day. I’m editing one piece, writing two more. Because they’re so different in tone, it’s surprisingly easy to shift about with renewed enthusiasm. I long for the days of unbroken concentration on a single piece, but until I can reclaim the ability, this is a great way to keep me going. I get a little nutso when I can’t write steadily. It’s like going stir crazy, all blue-balled in my head until I become an impossible bundle of nerves. This is the release.

The stress I’ve been under with some family issues, mostly stemming from my mother’s death a year ago, year and a half, has created monkeymind. I don’t think I’m thinking about it, but it’s there, disrupting my calm and consequently, my concentration. I’m hoping that will change this year. Either there will be progress, or I will have learned to back away.

There’s a new way to stay mellow in Colorado. Well, an old way that’s newly legal. Weed, of course. I’ve had it only sporadically since college, I’m lazy and antisocial, so I don’t like to go around looking for a source or a circle to insert myself into. Now I don’t have to. I’ve yet to go a-shopin’ but in a day or two there will be a place opening up about a mile from home. Seems I’m out of touch on methods of partaking. Vaporizers? And here am I, sloppy joint rolling my only method to date. I don’t mind pipes, like bongs, but I’ve never eaten it. I hear that’s a whole different kind of high. I’m planning on finding out.

Hey, there is a purpose to this. Monkeymind needs taming.

my mind was blown

Isabella Blow at the American Embassy in Paris, 1998

Isabella Blow at the American Embassy in Paris, 1998

…By this iconic Ms. Fanciful. A cheeky, insightful, unapologetic fashionista with a natural exoticism that she played up and played with, and shared with others. She is one of my first fashion idols, who taught me what that world is truly about: play-pretties and dress up, pantomime and art. Performance art, yes, but also about inspiration and inborn talent, things that can be faked and mocked and copied, can even be bought and sold, but can only be found in the heart of a true artist. She knew how to find it and nurture it and extoll it, but I don’t know whether she realised that she was IT, smack in the middle of it all.

Dress-up is a great game for those who are hesitant to reveal the uncertain underpinnings beneath it all; to others, and to themselves. At some point, the veil between worlds grew too thin, and she couldn’t cover for herself anymore. I miss her, but I’m still inspired by her. That’s the effect you have when you’re an icon – you never go out of style.

my bohemian fantasy

I’ve been trying to write a review of Graham Robb’s biography of Arthur Rimbaud for my Goodreads page, and all I can come up with is “When I regress, I want to be Rimbaud.”

I am fascinated with the artistic mind. There’s an ongoing debate about whether insanity breeds genius or vice versa, but it’s clear that minds which produce remarkable art don’t fire on the same synapses as most. I think one has to see the world at a slight tilt to uncover the potential of what could be in what is. It’s what causes the “artistic temperament”  – the moods, the inclination to enjoy things that even further skew perception, the disregard for anything that interrupts focus, including practical matters of paying bills and observing social niceties.

A certain dedicated motivation is required to create on that level. We assume they’re being difficult or are just plain crazy, when I think the truth is not so simply measured. Rimbaud is known as the enfant terrible of the decadents, and he became the go-to icon of those who only dream of such ballsy indifference (backed by the credibility of incredible gifts, of course). It all seems very romantic and attractive. It is very romantic and attractive, looking at it from this side, but I have no idea of what it was like to be in his head. Seems to me he lived a relentless life from beginning to end, a sort of hard-won freedom.

I guess the question is whether the legend is worth the difficulty in getting there. He certainly knew nothing of his upcoming immortality when he was slumming it around the streets of Paris, and ultimately dying in pain and delirium. I really doubt he would’ve cared. But if he had to trade in his brief fling with poetic genius for an easier road? No fucking way. He did what he did not as pretense or precursor to fame, but because he could. Experience is what he was after, in his writing and in the way he lived his life.

So maybe I should change that first line to “When I truly want to be Rimbaud, I will progress.”

Ma Bohème (Fantaisie)

I ran away, hands stuck in pockets that seemed
All holes; my jacket was a holey ghost as well.
I followed you, Muse! Beneath your spell,
Oh, la, la, what glorious loves I dreamed!

I tore my shirt; I threw away my tie.
Dreamy Hop o’ my Thumb, I made rhymes
As I ran. I slept out most of the time.
The stars above me rustled through the sky.

I heard them on the roadsides where I stopped
Those fine September nights, when the dew dropped
On my face and I licked it to get drunk.

I made up rhymes in dark and scary places,
And like a lyre I plucked the tired laces
Of my worn-out shoes, one foot beneath my heart.

doing the unstuck

I recently saw an interview with Robert Smith on youtube. You know, Robert Smith – of The Cure? That 80s gothlite band? That was my lifeblood as a young’un, that was. Now, either I had forgotten what his speaking voice was like, or I had never heard it before, because it struck me rather bluntly that Noel Fielding’s character of Richmond on The IT Crowd is totally a parody of my beloved Robert. Am I slow on the uptake – did everyone else already know this?

Listen:

Robert….

Richmond….

These are the types of things I ponder when I’m doing the unstuck – trying to get the words out. This is how my mind hops around, landing on things that may or may not intersect with my needs. For instance, Robert Smith’s lyrics have very little to do with blue y-front briefs. Or so it would seem….

Also, I’m a little in love with Moss. Just so you know.