essays, my truths, tv, write it out, writing from the heart

On ‘Girls’ American Bitch & having your shoulders rubbed

Nussbaum-TheStunningAmericanBitchEpisodeofGirls-690.jpg

Last night, as I do most Monday nights, I crawled into bed, gummy bears in hand, and watched the latest episode of GIRLS. Usually it makes me laugh; sometimes it makes me rage-y (MARNIE IS THE WORST). So I  wasn’t expecting anything too extraordinary. (I mostly watch because I love the recaps and commentary on the Man Repeller.)

But this episode was p h e n o m e n a l. Phenomenal in its timing. Phenomenal in its social commentary. Phenomenal in its telling of millions of women’s stories. Phenomenal in its response to so much of today’s public discourse and victim blaming.

To sum the episode up: A prominent author asks Hannah to come over to talk after she publishes an article about his predatory ways. He plays the victim card over and over again until winning Hannah’s forgiveness. Then he abuses it.

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker of course, puts it a thousand times better than I ever could.

The key to “American Bitch,” Sunday’s scathing and timely episode of “Girls,” is the compliments. “Hannah, you’re clearly very bright,” Chuck Palmer, a novelist celebrated for his confessional work, says. “I could tell that from the first sentence you wrote.” He reads the sentence, as Hannah struggles to hide her pleasure: “ ‘If one more male writer I love reveals himself to be a heinous sleazebag, I’m going to do a bunch of murders, create a new Isle of Lesbos, and never look back.’ ” “You’re funny!,” Palmer says. “That’s a funny sentence.”

This initial intro scene was enough to make me put the gummy bears down and pay closer attention. As the episode progressed, the more I wanted to crawl inside myself and cry, while simultaneously wanting to run outside and scream THIS THIS THIS.

Nussbaum continues:

In certain ways, it’s a classic exchange between an older artist (rich, decadent, in print) and a younger artist (poor, moralistic, online). Chuck scores some points: it’s the women who throw themselves at him, he argues, because they are seeking stories to tell. Who really has the power, he asks: the zitty older virgin—him—or a beautiful young model? Hannah resists those arguments; she scores her points, too. “I’m tired of gray areas,” she tells him in disgust, when he waves off any sense that he’s even powerful. She shares a story about having being groomed by a grade-school teacher, another older man who selected her, making her feel chosen and special (a story that’s one of Lena Dunham’s own real-life stories, which she wrote about in her memoir). Chuck sympathizes. Eventually, he asks Hannah about herself—as, he suggests, a form of ethical payback for the exploitative relationships with his fans: he never really listened to the other young women, but now he’ll listen to her, see her as a person, in order to make up for it.

This scene made me cry.

Because I can count not one, but two teachers (one a professor), and a boss from a restaurant I worked at in high school, who would all rub my shoulders or touch my waist without my consent.

The first time it happened I was in elementary school and didn’t realize how inappropriate this behavior was. I’m lucky in that it never went further, and I was ignorant to know what this meant.

The second time was when I worked at a restaurant and the regional manager came over as I was working on the cash register and placed his hands around my waist. I immediately turned to him and told him to “please don’t touch me,” and I was fired a week later for a random reason. When I was fired I told my manager about what had transpired, and what was no doubt the reason for my being fired, and asked if I could have the contact information to file a sexual harassment suit, he told me “no such thing exists.” Though my parents encouraged me to take it to the corporate offices, I decided to just let it go.

A few years later, in college, a professor came over to my desk while I was working on a story and put his hands on my shoulders and rubbed them. I spun my chair around and told him to not touch me. He laughed it off. I reported it to the Dean. I have no idea if he was ever disciplined. But I’m glad I said something. Both to him and the higher ups.

These weren’t the only occasions this occurred, and I’m sure they won’t be the last (what a tragic reality to admit).

Being a female in today’s world, though we’ve come incredibly far, continues to be a incredibly difficult thing to be. Often I’m asked why I so strongly believe in the women’s movement and why I march. My response could be summarized into one simple sentence:

I march because I never want my nieces or nephews to have their shoulders rubbed predatorily.

Because this one sentence says so much more than the words used. Because this one sentence says everything.

Standard
adulthood, anxiety, brilliant reads, healing heartbreak, life, read it love it, write it out, writing from the heart

Broken but hopeful

Life can be really hard.

I’m writing this during my lunch break; a break I haven’t taken in some weeks so as not to drown in to dos. My apartment’s a mess. My clothes scattered around, as though about in a fury. My refrigerator is empty. My cabinets sparse.

A month ago it wasn’t like this. I had a full fridge and even hosted my first dinner party. I had a hand to hold regularly and looked forward to the weekends.

But life just happens. And things get heavy, fast. No matter how much you think you have everything under control the truth is that sometimes you have no control. Being OK with that fact is half the battle, I suppose.

So here I am, surrendering to what is. Accepting what may be. Holding on tight to what I know to be true.

In the meantime, I recommend this piece from “Ask Polly.” Because it chewed me up and spit me out and put me back together all in the course of 5 minutes. Now I reference certain lines as reminders. As hope. As a grace to get me through.

Until my fridge is full again. Until my laundry is done. Until my to-do list is finally completed.

I have two daughters, and this, for some reason, is my biggest fear when it comes to them, that they’ll waste their lives chasing men in circles instead of recognizing how much sunshine and genius and expansive, outrageous possibility they carry around with them everywhere they go. But this anxiety of mine isn’t just about young women and their tendency to ignore their own value and worth and potential. It’s also about 30-something men and 40-somethings and 50-somethings and everyone under the goddamned sun. We are all so completely poleaxed by our own longing, by our own magical thinking, by our own physical resistance to hard work. We put our faith in prefabricated fantasies instead of reality; we believe in easy answers and short cuts instead of craft; we admire popularity instead of originality; we find ourselves reaching for shiny dreamworlds and ignoring human beings. The world tells us that we should be disappointed in ourselves, every single day. The best party is across town. The best party is across the universe. We should be fucking a ghost that looks like Chris Hemsworth, gently, in some galaxy far away. 

Let’s just be ourselves instead, broken but hopeful, and let’s be right here, right now. Let’s look around and see the scrappy, mediocre, mundane details of our lives and proclaim them exalted and glorious. Imagine for a moment that I can see you clearly for the first time. I can see you clearly, and you are radiating pure, lusty, brilliant grace and divinity. Feel it. Believe it. Carry it with you.

xx

Standard
bloggers, blogging, ethics, growing up, journalism 101, my inner journalist, Summer 2014, writing from the heart

What’s in a blog: An Airing of Grievances (kind of)

 

I started collecting quotes I liked on thinkexist.com around 9th grade. This was pre-tumblr, pre-blogging–or rather, my discovery of. But I loved the inspiration I gathered and filed away into neat little folders on my account. It’s where I would go when wallowing in the throes of whatever highs school heartbreak I was experiencing that week. It was as though those quotes could snap me out of it; a smelling salts of reality, if you will.

Then I discovered blogging.

I happened upon inspirational blogs during what I would argue were “the hay days” of inspirational blogs. I was immediately hooked. So many souls with similar hopes sharing their bits of wisdom and finds as if we were all on a team, cheering each other on with advice and proverbs of sorts.

Then Tumblr came along and things shifted a bit. But this didn’t affect the main blogosphere too much. The two actually coexisted brilliantly–almost complementing one another somehow.

And, of course, Pinterest.

Which may have taken a bit away from the main blog stream, however, I’d say it created a hybrid of mediums, making it easier for people to draw inspiration from multiple sources in one spot. My mom, for instance, can’t manage navigating through a blog roll. Well she can, it’s not that she’s incapable. She just doesn’t have the patience or time to go through them, one by one.

Understandable. Life happens. Blogging is a part of life. It is not your life. 

But I digress. 

In the last few years a shift has occurred in the blogosphere. And not one that is particularly positive. First it was the influx of sponsorships, and, when done ethically (proper acknowledgement of said sponsorship, etc.) it was seen as being a smart, savvy way to make money while running your blog–still is. Still can be.

I get it. The blog world got it. No big deal.

And then, little by little, design blogs became live advertisements for scotch tape, mommy blogs began shelling bleach pens, and salad dressings were being hocked on party planning blogs.

And again, money. I get it.

But then affiliate links starting trickling their way into everyday posts.

I saw a post about a recently passed author which included links to some of her books. Links that, when clicked, earn the blogger money. Besides this being, in my opinion, a bit tacky, there was absolutely no disclosure to the links.

I have seen endless bloggers “curate” gift guides only to provide an endless list of gifts with affiliate links to product after product. 90 percent of the time these links are not disclosed.

My university’s School of Journalism had extensive courses on ethics. In said courses we discussed whether or not you could accept a meal comped as a food critic and had endless debates on accepting gifts of any kind from sources. We listened for hours about the importance of proper sourcing and the importance of your credibility as a writer, editor, etc. I always thought these debates were excessive, often baffled that people couldn’t draw a line between right and wrong–how conflict of interest was such a difficult concept for some, and how it could affect your reputation in media.

Then I looked at, about, ten “big name” blogs. And I was flabbergasted by the numerous things so glaringly unethical. What’s worse, sometimes even illegal.

Do I think the FTC will actually hold these bloggers accountable and we can soon look forward to an “Orange is the New Chevron” miniseries of said violators? No. Do I think it’s still incredibly tacky and a little offensive that some bloggers think I’m dumb enough for such click bait to pad their pockets, literally? Absolutely. 

The problem with this new formula for success — though wildly lucrative for the blogger, from what I have researched — is the fact it dilutes the quality of content, diminishes the trust with readers. Blogs I once looked to for inspiration and new ideas have become one big advertisement.  

Is this post really endorsing X because you liked it? Or did you get $ for a quick mention and photo of your using it? 

It’s become a guessing game.

I understand that these blogs have become self-described brands. There’s no harm in branding your online presence. It’s actually quite a smart move. But if you brand yourself as a business, you have to start acting like one.

I’ve heard the argument many times from these bloggers that “magazines are like one big advertisement!” This is true. But magazines have to follow regulations, pay their writers legally, and are held accountable for their content. Magazines receive endless amounts of negative feedback, as any publication does. It’s part of the game. If you’re selling a product, your consumer will expect a product of quality. Magazines also report their earnings in their taxes. (Which I’d be surprised if many bloggers do this at all, when applicable.)

These magazines, in turn, do not flood to their proverbial twitter soapboxes and cry “bully!” when their product/content is called out.

The difference with these blogger/brands is that they love to toe the line.

One week it’s all sponsored content, because “they’re a business, after all.” The next week they are “just being brave putting their lives out there!” 

Unfortunately, with the internet, some negative comments are neither constructive, nor particularly eloquent. But there are a lot of constructive, poignant comments on many “brand” blogger posts that are deemed “bullying” and that is absolutely ludicrous.

I remember my first creative writing workshop class at college. I remember the tears stinging my cheeks as my writing was ripped apart. And I’ll never forget the comment scribbled in pen across the title page of my first piece: “A lawn mower manual was more exciting than this drivel.” 

I also remember my friend calling my bullshit when I said I was being bullied.

She looked at me across the lunch table and said, “Anna, get used to it. We’re writers. This is what we signed up for. Do you wanna get better? Then remember the comments that stung the most next time you’re writing. If it stung it must have been on to something. Was your story boring as a lawn mower manual?” 

It was. 

And, in fact, while writing this I can already feel it venturing into “lawn mower manual” material…

The point I’m trying to make is this: if you’re in the business of blogging, in the literal sense, take pride in your work. Respect your readers. Don’t put more value on a dollar than your reputation. And, if you are putting it out there, own it. Not everyone will like you. You will get heartless comments sometimes. You will also get comments that are constructive, learn from these.

The good news is this: not everyone has to like you.

But people will respect you a whole hell of a lot more if you respect yourself enough to have pride in what you put out there.

As the brilliant Nuala O’Faolain once stated: “Stand by it.”

That’s the blogging we used to see; That’s the blogging that I miss. 

 

Standard
about me, growing up, health, ocd, recommended reading, writing from the heart

We’re the gladiators.

http://worn-in-perfection.tumblr.com/post/73130757378
 
A few posts ago I admitted that I had been in a (one-sided) fight with my therapist. The absurdity of this statement doesn’t lessen no matter how often I admit it. But I was angry. Furious. Because of my own absolute stubbornness. And, because he wasn’t saying what I wanted him to say, he was no.1 on my grudge list. Who do you talk to about irrational fights when the person you’re in a fight with is the person you go to? You wait. At least that’s what I did. A month. no, two months went by before I got over myself.
 
I went back because at the beginning of our sessions last year he recommended the book The Depression Cure, and after scoffing for a good nine months at the title, I finally caved and bought it. ($6 at Barnes and Noble, I had no more excuses. Bonus: it was written by a professor at my alma mater. It has to be good. 😉)
 
This book, with its heinous title and all, has been a game changer for me.
 
Let me explain: I have suffered from OCD my entire life, but wasn’t diagnosed until I was 14. You can read more about that here. It’s an awful lot like the chicken and the egg dilemma when it comes to my depression. Does the anxiety cause the depression, or vice versa? I know my triggers, and I know that the two definitely feed off one another. It’s a mess, really. But at some point, it doesn’t so much matter as how you got this way, as it does how to cope and beat it.
 
So this book, with its horrible title and all, (which allegedly the author hates as well…), definitely gave me some perspective I had yet to hear or come across in my research of my situation–which millions of others suffer with as well.
 
It talks about lifestyle changes, minor ones at that, and certain foods and supplements and habits that can significantly lower your depression. Immediately I bought the supplements, Omega-3, and you guys, I felt results in days. Days. I’ve also started doing some sort of exercise, for at least thirty minutes, three times a week. (Yoga is my jam!)  
 
I don’t want to get too into it, because let’s be honest, I’m not the greatest at explaining why these things work, and how etc., but the author has done extensive research on it and is a medical professional–and a professor at my alma mater, remember?!– so I’ll just direct you to his wisdom
 
Of course, I had to go back to thank my therapist for the recommendation, and, upon doing so, I had a really great talk with him. I guess he did make a pretty good point. Our (one-sided) feud is up! Hoorah! 😉
 

———————————————————————————————

My second grade teacher liked to ask us,
“How do you feel today, on a scale of one to ten?”
Ten always meant I’m super, thank you
and one was always not today, Mrs. MacAuley, not today.
But I never liked numbers, they would always
twist and rebel against my mind so I chose
to speak in colors instead.

January third – I am the color
of mint chocolate chip ice cream
but I’ve eaten all the chocolate chips.
I am calm.


February seventh – I am a bruise of
blues and violets today. I think it would
be best if I sat by the window.
These are unhappy colors.

April eleventh – I am turquoise, I am magenta,
I am every color in the rainbow.

April thirtieth – I am gray, I am silent.

May first – I am orange, the color of melting
creamsicles on a beach in July.

June twelfth – I am as yellow as the school bus
that will bring me home to summer. I am free.

Twelve years later, I still use colors.
The winter makes me feel cobalt blue, the ocean
turns me a seafoam green. Violets and purples
leave me uneasy and scarlet is a fever of fury.
Some nights I drown in shades of navy, denim,
and cornflower but other nights I meditate in forests of
harlequin and shamrock.

But you,
you leave me a blinding white followed by a soft yellow:
the color of sunlight after a period of darkness.

Kelsey Danielle, “A Diary of Colors” 


———————————————————————————————
 

Important note: please don’t start taking supplements without talking to your doctor and reading more and seeing if it’s right for you. I don’t want this to come off as though it’s taken me from super blue to perfectly fine. Honestly, some days are worse than others. Some hours, even. And while I still struggle tremendously, these few lifestyle changes have made a difference for me. I truly hope they work for you as they have for me, and I hope their effects are truly as long-lasting as research has found. Additionally, I do take medicine, which I won’t go into detail on here, but it is monitored extensively by my doctor.
 
And, if you’re suffering please don’t hesitate to reach out. Also, this post can maybe give you some resources to contact if need be.
 
 
Title of this post is a lyric from Lorde’s Glory and Gore, because I am unapologetically obsessed with her at the moment…
 
 
 
Standard
happiness, joy that little things bring, memories, Munich II., my life, photos, september 2013, writing from the heart

Undeniable happiness.

Munich. Oktoberfest 2013

The night this photo was taken was one of utter and complete happiness. I feel joy so often, daily, but this happiness, this happiness was accompanied by no underlying anxieties or jumbled thoughts rolling around in my head like a bunch of marbles in the background. It was one of the rare moments in my life where I felt I was where I belonged.

Midway through the tent’s brass band rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” –singing along at the top of our lungs, swaying back and forth with arms locked together–I could feel happiness that reached deep into my bones.

“This,” I thought, “is a happiness I will always remember. This is a moment that will change everything.”

And it did. It truly did.

So stumbling upon this photo last week on Facebook brought it all back.

But most of all, it immediately made me think of this post from the ever-so-enlightening Laura at Little Things and Curiosities...

“And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.” -J. R. R. Tolkien

Standard
anxiety, cope, Fate, hope, january 2014, mental illness, ramblings, words from my heart, writing from the heart

This new year.

New Year’s Eve 2013.

If I said things were going just peachy at the moment I think you could probably sense the fact that isn’t true from 10 million miles away. Things are tough. Yes, I have a job I am beyond thankful to have. Yes, I have family and friends that love me. Yes, I have a place to rest my head at night, a place to escape the plunging temperatures. 

But when your heart is heavy and your mind is racing with anxieties, it’s hard to take a minute to enjoy much of anything. Especially when you try to focus on your breathing to deter panic attacks that are always one small trigger away. It’s pretty scary. And the fear climbs on and clings to your bones like its your koala baby and its life is dependent on its ability to latch onto you. Maybe a parasite metaphor would have been more appropriate…

Here’s a inconclusive summary of my mind as of late:

I miss Munich. I do. I wish I could have gotten my Visa. What if that was it? What if I won’t find my dream job again? What if I’m supposed to be there, but I am here? What if I could have done something? Where is my life going? Why is everyone else so calm? How are they? There’s obviously something wrong with my mind. I’m always a thought away from a full-on panic attack. I am bad at life. I miss him. I can see he wouldn’t miss me. Does he? He might. Does it matter? Is this as good as it gets? Was that taste of my dream life just God being cruel? Do I really trust that everything happens for a reason? How can other people be so good at this life thing? I can barely function. I need to exercise more. That would help. I need to change. I need to figure out my life. Everyone else has it figured out. What can I do? I miss them. I want to tell everyone who has been hurting my feelings lately that they have been doing just that. But I can’t. It’s my own problem. I’m too sensitive. I miss Munich. I wonder what life would be like if I were there now. I have to stop analyzing everything so much. I haven’t heard from them in a while, I bet they are mad at me…I need to change.

I think exhausting is too simple a word. 

Maybe you feel the same way? Or have you before? How do you get by? And, I’m truly stuck on this notion: Do you believe in fate? Do share your wisdom!


❝ … always rub honey into wounds instead of salt. ❞– Meggie Royer
Standard
january 2014, life lesson, recommended reading, wise words, writing a book, writing from the heart

Nuala O’Faolain on the art of writing a memoir.

I hadn’t heard of the Irish writer Nuala O’Faolain until last November when I happened to grab her audio book Almost There by chance at the library. I’ve always wanted to write about so many personal things, more so than I share here, but have had numerable reservations about the whole thing. She addressed so many of the specific concerns I had about the writing, and she convinced me it is worth doing, if not for someone else, than for yourself. I’m beyond grateful that I was nudged in this book’s direction on the shelf a few months back. What a way life has about answering our unspoken questions. The cherry on top? After hours of listening to her read in her beautiful Irish accent, I feel my accent skills might just be improving.

Memoir is, surely, a genre that leaves a lot of blood on the tracks. Unless it is completely solipsistic, it involves reporting on other people who have real lives. And the autobiographer knows in advance that there is going to be an afterlife, when the people within the book read it. It is therefore, of all seemingly candid forms, the one most likely to be shaped by diplomatic necessities. If I were the biographer of an autobiographer, I’d be very interested to discover what they felt they had to clear out of the way before telling their story. 

Novels are complete when they are finished, but the memoir changes its own conclusion by virtue of being written…. I was not at all the same person , when I handed the manuscript over to the publisher, as I’d been when I began. A memoir may always be retrospective, but the past is not where its action takes place.

The words it chooses to describe relationships are another development in those relationships… that I do not understand other people as they understand themselves… I am one person and other people are themselves, and not what I have decided they are. I see the beginning of some kind of learning about how to be a member of the social world in these realizations connected with writing a memoir. And that sliver of clarity was part of a wider clarifying of the muddle in my head.  

…And then my friend said three words to me and the three words were words that changed my whole view of what I’d done. They were words that made me want to look after what I’d written as if it were part of me, like a child. She had leaned across and and said three words that couldn’t be more ordinary, but they had stopped me apologizing for what I had written and made me want to get the best life I could for it. And the three words were “Stand by it!”–and then when I’ve said the words, there’s been a gasp of understanding. They’re words of real power.  

It took decades to learn how to talk myself into believing, every time I went out to do a job, that I would not fail… 

I found journalism hard, like a relationship that is always hampered by misunderstandings… I was always made uneasy by the three-way relationship between the journalist, the situation written about, and the reader who believes that what he’s reading is somehow a neutral account of the situation. Perhaps a need for greater truthfulness built up within me. I know it was a liberation to turn to relative honesty of memoir and then, fiction. 

A lot of journalists I’ve known have been working on other kinds of writing and it’s assumed that this is because working with words is their field, but I think it’s because even the best journalism is emotionally unsatisfying. The conventions of journalism are oppressive to the honest self.  

…and writers are the nearest thing to the human community has to spokespeople. 
We’re in this together, this getting through our lives, as the fact that we are word-users shows.  

Where I wrote, that was where I made my best effort to be a thinking person, able to get older every day without being pulled down by apprehension, looking forward, or regret, looking back. 

Writing has brought me up from underground. I’ve been my own Orpheus. 

I am trying to find where to watch Nuala the documentary, but have failed miserably in finding a copy? Anyone happen to know where I might stream/buy it? 

Standard