No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I'm not sure I can truly answer this question. It seems I've begun to call more and more often on the inexplicability of things in this last year.
Several friends of mine suffer from PTSD, or one of its variants, as a result of previous trauma. I also have several friends with various forms of anxiety disorder. It is my belief that my knowing numerous people with one or both of these conditions is not actually uncommon. That is, from what I can tell a lot of us suffer with or from these things.
The truth is that each time I post one of the comics for my month-old series "Saying Goodbye to Mr. Circumstance: A Life with PTSD, For M" I have to spend part of the rest of the day in bed. The first two installments demanded most of the day. Some people believe that this is a sign I am somehow more fully healing what ails me--that needing to lay in bed means that I've allowed the feelings to come up, and in allowing them to come up that means I'm also letting them heal.
I'm going to be honest. I don't know if that is true. If I can tell anything from more than ten years now of living with nightmares, hallucinations all in the form of one person, fears that he will some how find me, a strong attachment to the use of my post office mail box, not my street address, and other things--it is that it is not clear to me that these things heal so much as shift in attention. That is, the symptoms do seem better. They are less debilitating. Though, I have always been deeply determined to not be stopped by what ails me so that even if I might have been grabbed by an anxiety induced hallucination I would just damn well keep going about my grocery shopping anyway, or whatever, while simultaneously having to coach myself through my breathing, and the fears that it really was him. I guess what has changed is that with myself I have to do less coaching.
Why in the mother fucking hell then would I bother with doing this kind of thing, this writing of a comics series that basically amounts to some sort of confessional? (Especially when there are all kinds of ways I have failed to admire confessional trends in art.)
I can only answer that question with the statement that every time I type out the final part of the title "For M" I feel a little jolt of happiness. That somehow I believe that in giving my various pains around this issue public airing I am doing something honestly for M, and for my other friends that have suffered from anxiety too. What it would be that I am giving them seems somehow inexplicable too. Except that what I hope is that, as a reader commented on last week's installment, it is the gift that somehow none of us are alone in any of this. That this gift is, unfortunately, a layering up of the pain with the thought that many of us do relive such hurts, and yet a softening of it simultaneously, in the idea that we can better understand ourselves, and each other by admitting to what we experience, and thus seeing better what it is, and what it isn't--that somehow by admitting to these experiences, and understanding them better, we learn that we're still mixed in inside of it all, and so, ultimately, as I do something for M, I get to do something for me too. I give me back to my self.
I was reflecting this morning on how my only truly valuable lesson in the last decade has been the lesson of gratefulness--that I really do feel better every time I give thanks for the incredible gifts of my life, and there are so many. I am so fortunate. I mention this because I feel gratefulness acts like what I said about healing and the shift in attention. It isn't that being grateful means what is hard goes away, it is instead that our attention turns towards what we have, and in that we (re)discover our riches. Riches that have been there all along. In being willing to admit to this story of my life that honestly does still pain me for having gone through, it isn't that I make it go away, instead it is that I turn my attention to the "For M" part of the story--the people that I love, with the hope that in my willingness to be honest and open my heart they will feel the love too.
My daughter has asked me to get back to posting on this blog too. So, I begin by posting a couple of things originally posted on Facebook as a note.
I casually made a comment on Facebook last week about living a life of vulnerability without weakness. Florentien thanking me for saying it got me thinking.
Here's the truth: I spent just under a decade setting up, and living a career in academia. That decade closes with me leaving that career after facing the truth that it is not my best path. To put it that way sounds cheesy, and so may diminish my meaning, but mostly my choice is just inexplicable. So, I won't waste time trying to explain it. Though I have clearly had success as an academic, it was no longer what I wanted to devote my life to. Still, I in no way regret the decade I've spent developing as a person in these ways. It has made me who I am, given me innumerable gifts, and I am grateful.
People come to understand themselves through the activities of their days, and the associations they develop. In letting go of these things we have to discover ourselves in new ways--to find new ways we would wish to behave, and new people we will spend our time with, or at least to spend time with the same people in new ways. When we leave a career we simply do not see those people we worked with everyday with the same frequency, and the opportunities to talk with each other about work drift away. Much of the time these changes mean having to develop new friendships too. In terms of activity, when we let go of one job, we must learn the demands of the new one. In all of these cases we live in a state of vulnerability as we make the changes--having to experience ourselves in new ways. These changes also produce stress within ourselves as we must respond with greater awareness when the things we are doing are new to us.
In letting go of my graduate program, and now also my university teaching career, I am living in a state of vulnerability, most obviously because of the changes I am making as described above. But also because in making such changes ones understanding of their own identity also changes. I am having to find all over again some of the ways I am going to choose to be as a person.
My horoscope for this weekend advised that it was best for me to cultivate stillness as I wait to discover the best path forward. This choice was posed in contrast to trying to run around and do many things to see which might work out for the best. I believe the idea of stillness here presents a notion of vulnerability as well. Many of us when faced with stress respond by focusing on what we will do to deal with the trial we face. The idea described in the horoscope, however, was asking me to instead concern myself with how I will be, and then went on to state that it was only from that focus on how I am being in the world, that I could then come to discover the best thing to do. The horoscope, I believe, was an invitation to see how I can behave better by caring about the how of who I am.
In the last months I have chosen to make a kind of leap of faith. I have felt compelled to give up what no longer feels right for me, and to step slowly forward into something new. Part of what is profound in this experience for me is how clearly I cannot predict what the something new will be. What I've realized is that it my willingness to live in the delicacy of that not-knowing that is the important part of the something new. I will surely go on to do many things, some of which will define who I am as a person. But I believe that more foundational to who I am than any of those things I will turn out to do is my willingness to slow down and live in this state of intuition, trust, faith in something inexplicable, and, through these things, of choosing for myself even if I cannot explain what I am choosing. The contrast I am presenting here is against choosing what it seems like I should do whether because of our current economy, or because I am an only parent, or because I had a job so I should just keep it, etc, or even because teaching was something I was good at so I should just keep doing it.
I have spent the last five years teaching Ethics, and also reflecting on what I believe to be the most important ethical question--what it means to live a good life. This has moved me deeper and deeper into my own ideas arising out of a kind of Aristotelian virtue ethics, through which I have come to see a defining emphasis on process, rather than merely result. Aristotle helps us to see that virtue is something that develops over time, only by us having the right orientation (caring for the right things), and also by doing the right things. We discover too though that we can only determine what is right to do through a thorough grounding in the actualities of our lived lives. That we cannot predetermine a rule book to then just be applied to whatever situation we find ourselves in. As a result, being good depends upon us cultivating our own awareness of ourselves, our tendencies, and our surroundings. But also, Aristotle shows us that we must practice being who we want to be to become that person. It is through our choices, and our ability to follow through on them that we develop our character. The doing of our lives, then, turns out to be important. But we can only choose rightly if we understand how we want to be as people too. Our best actions arise out of knowing what we care about.
I can say by now that I have been living a life that shows me to be capable in numerous ways, one of which is having the strength to persist, and to keep loving in the midst of great challenges, or hardship. I am so grateful to be such a person. It is something that matters to me. By now though too I have learned that the only way for me to be able to continue to persist in the midst of hardships is to admit to the feelings of fear, of insecurity, of uncertainty that come with such hardships. That sometimes I worry that I suck too. I have come to feel that it is my willingness to live in honesty with such feelings that I have and can continue to have the strength to risk radically changing my life as I am doing now, among other things. I believe this because I believe it is through our willingness to connect with each other that we find what makes living through hardship worthwhile. That is, each other. And that it is in being honest that the things I do in my life are hard that I can be open in other ways too, like expressing joy and appreciation for others, which is what allows any of us to actually connect. But also that it is because my openness comes from an honesty about the complexities of who I am--risk-taking and fearful, capable and scared--that I can be open with my vulnerable places without being weak, or unsafely exposed while vulnerable.
This is a lot of what I mean when I claim that we can live a vulnerability that is not weakness, and to state it even more strongly, that we can actually cultivate a vulnerability that is strength. In these ways I believe it is possible for us to find our greatest strength, our most creative capabilities from being willing to live our lives as our most human--simultaneously vulnerably open, and righteously capable. That is, avoiding the pretenses that deny that we are limited, that we are exposed and affected by each other, that even at our most successful we are still only mortal and trying to accomplish what we can in our lives. In these ways, choosing how we will be, and so from that discovering what it is best for us to do.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
by lily-elaine hawk wakawaka
Hope to see you there!
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
She just loaded up another guest blog post from me. Here's the link, if you're interested.
I've Started Making Comics; This is the Third Edition But I Post It Here Now Cause it Was Written For a Handful of Dear Friends
Saturday, August 13, 2011
So, as an outlet for one of them, I've created a new twitter account featuring one-line only fashion collection reviews. I'm having fun with it.
If this particular interests overlaps with yours, here's the info you need:
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
as my friend kittee so wisely put it recently, what are people? sheep? i responded, yes. yes they are. that is, in my experience, a lot of people go with what will keep them comfortable without even really understanding if it's true to them or not, or even what "true to them" would mean; or maybe they like to argue in verbal, outward ways so that it might not LOOK LIKE they are just sheep (that is they APPARENTLY disagree with people freely), but they still just kind of do what the masses do--buy stupid crap that costs too much, vote for who they're told to vote for, wear ugly stuff because it's on trend. in the midst of such a cynical view as i've developed, it's refreshing to have friends that calmly and proudly have never baa-ed a day in their life, and manage to, from their non-wool composure, at exactly the same time be utterly dignified and respectful both to those with differing views from theirs, and to those that might happen to be sheep a time or two throughout their lives too.
i'm grateful to say marie of the ginger hair is a woman like that. some of my favorite memories of her over the at-least-16 years i've known her include discussions of the clothing she's gotten away with wearing to work, the surprising connections she's made with people at parties or other social events, and even the hilarious and absurd stories she's told about tenants she and her husband had to deal with in one of their rentals. (honestly, i wish i could recount any of these three things in greater detail but i feel this is too public a forum. let the point just be: marie is one of the people in my life that consistently keeps me entertained, wide-eyed, and happy, and to say that about anyone means having said a lot.)
i mentioned marie as a counter-example to the social-sheep problem up there because that's exactly who she is--a lovely counter-example to the social-sheep problem. one of the things i appreciate about her is her very well-grounded clarity about who she is, what she values, and how she lives her life coupled with a kind of balance between an ability to listen to others' views and the understanding of precisely when to stop listening. that is, marie has an openness to hearing what others care about too, but she also understands herself well enough to know when what someone else is saying has gone past the point of he or she simply recounting what he or she cares about. what the hell am i talking about here? i'm saying, i value marie's ability to care about others, and her ability to recognize precisely when a person's talking isn't really about that care anymore because it's crossed the line into whoever-they-think-they-are trying to make other people just like them. let's face it, most of us too readily fall into thinking others should be like us for us to get along with them, and we act that out by trying to tell others either what they should think or what they should do. marie carries with her a kind of centeredness that means she is neither swayed by such bad faith behavior, nor does she participate in it either. that is, she also doesn't do it herself. in all the years i've gotten to participate in conversations with marie, i've never seen her try and tell someone else what to do. the closest she's come to that has been saying what she has done in similar situations and giving reasons as to why she chose what she did--reasons that focused on what she values; and even there the tone of her account has hovered over recognizing that's what she did, and other people are simply different.
am i making my point here? we live in a polarizing world these days with media accounts, on the one hand, of how so and so celebrity politico, or just trash celebrity really screwed up and now we've gotta think badly of them, and, lots of media accounts too including economic rhetoric telling us what side we're supposed "to be on" or else. hell, insert fifteen more so-called hands here to capture all the other ways we're taught that we better only know how to get along with people that are either just like us or, swayed to our opinion. in the midst of such social dichotomies it's refreshing, relieving, and bolstering too to share a connection with someone that has their own strong-minded views of what is right, certainly, and at precisely the same time happily shares in conversation with others that might not agree, without concern over whether or not they sway to her view, and, even more generously, without demanding they speak the way she wants them to for her to keep talking to them. she knows what she cares about, and that's a lot.
way up there at the top in the title to this post i implied that marie is some kind of "pot stirrer." here's the actual truth: i don't think marie is much of a pot stirrer at all. i think she just speaks clearly from her own center of well-earned truth, and when anyone is able to do that a whole lot of people in the world suddenly find that they have much more rocky ground to stand on. it's not that their pot got stirred, it's that a lot of people have been living like sheep so long that when they try and stand like people again, on their own two legs, it turns out they've got not very strong, or well-balanced legs. when your knees are knocking like that, and you're holding a pot of stew, that stuff in there is gonna start mixing all around without anyone ever having to put a spoon in to stir it at all. (i'm mixing all kinds of metaphors here, i realize. but i think you can get my point anyway.) marie doesn't go around stirring anyone's pots, she just stands there as an example of how much brighter and stronger the rest of us can be (whether we're holding a pot of stew or not).
(incidentally: damn! i love stew. marie has a load of good recipes for that too. mmm... what a good friend to have!)
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
we met in a philosophy class on relationships during jenna's first full year at the university here. gratefully the class allowed time for connection beyond the typical class discussion, and in the midst of that extra interaction jenna struck me as a caring person both in terms of putting care into whatever she does, and in terms of caring for others. she took time to make sure she understood her studies, and she also cared deeply about how others were managing their workload, and their feelings too. this year i've gotten to interact with her in more social settings totally outside of the campus environ and have been blessed to see more of these very traits i mentioned at the opening of this post.
in jenna's upcoming life she is getting to extend her studies to an exchange program in western europe. the experience is significant and new for her as she will be abroad for at least 6-months and as a result also geographically removed from everyone she is close to. having gotten to see jenna as she prepares for her adventure has been touching in that both those characteristics --open heartedness and bravery-- are clearly showing through her.
though it may seem an unlikely source, the disney movie PRINCESS DIARIES has the following insight on bravery. courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. jenna has been honest that in the face of the remarkable life change she is experiencing great nervousness. she has said she is scared and has even felt trouble breathing at times anticipating it. but she's also made it clear that this trip is something she is going to do. in the midst of all her worries about the newness of the experience i have never heard her express a question of whether she will go or not--she is simply clear that what she is doing is important, and what is important deserves a kind of nervous reverence. in fact, nervous reverence seems, in my mind, to most clearly reflect a profound awareness of the very idea that what she is doing is important. i admire her ability to live fully through that sort of vulnerability and in doing so authentically celebrate the presence and effect of her own life choices.
in the midst of her plans, jenna has also taken great care to connect with her friends and loved ones, to share with them her feelings, to be open to their thoughts and suggestions, and even more beautifully, to be open to the discovery of what all of this will bring into her life--a newness that cannot be predicted. in this way, she's shown a remarkable openness to her own life that i feel blessed to be witness to. i know she blesses others in her life too by her open hearted example.
Monday, July 25, 2011
YEARS ago students at a university in the pacific northwest started a unix based bulletin board as a computer science project. with the help of a professor, the university decided to host the bulletin board on their university wide network with the idea that classes could use it for help with homework and various class projects. as these things do, it quickly exploded into a social utility connecting staff, faculty, and students from all over the university community with each other. i've been lucky enough to be on the bulletin board since it's fairly early days (though many people got on a few years earlier than i did). it's a community that honestly has shaped my life, my sense of humor, my sense of connection to others, and has bolstered me in some of the tougher times of my life.
over the years the number of members still willing to connect via a unix model dwindled, but a core group of fucking interesting odd balls remained and have kept in contact with each other from the early 1990's all the way through till now. many of us stay connected via facebook now rather than through the original bulletin board, but even so it is a community deeply committed to each other.
one of the details that i always appreciated about being part of this online world was that the intimacy of the group allowed us all to share important aspects of our personal lives, and from that too to get to know the array of quirky knowledge any of us had in our arsenals. the bulletin board became the quickest go-to spot for finding an answer to any question that might come up through the course of any particular day. honestly, faster than a google search, posting in the unix world would return an insightful response to whatever it was we needed to know, and with more detail, and greater confirmation of what the asker particularly needed guidance on.
in the midst of this online world we got to know each other through mutual irritation, and mutual affection both and yet a long term understanding that each of us mattered to the other.
one of these beloveds is ogden andrew. if you need knowledge about cheese, current events, contemporary politics, IT intricacies, or the most recent celebrity death, ogden andrew is the man --he'll have the information. he's quick too to offer analysis of intellectual concerns people could be suffering under, always willing to contribute to such a conversation.
one of the elements of his personality that i've always admired is his deep commitment to his family. whether they be struggling, celebrating, or just having a regular day, ogden's response is always one of presence, care, and dedication. i've been blessed to hear of the development of both his boys over the years from toddler to teenager--through the huge range of occurrences in his boys' lives he's happily shared with our community what they're up to. his love of family has also shown itself through a profound steadiness with his wife. i have appreciated the subtle and consistent ways they support each other--celebrating each other's grace, and rallying together in challenges too to point out what each has done to move forward together.
those of us that have gotten to meet him in person have consistently talked of his friendly demeanor, and willingness to share (especially share cheese... mmm... cheese...). for myself, i have only gotten to interact with ogden online, but he has been a reliable, and important figure all these not-quite 20 years. he's someone that breathes life into online communities, and helps establish the architecture of its house of friendship.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
several years ago we both found ourselves in the over heated city of toronto attending a week-long philosophy intensive focusing on the intersection of kant and education. what a combo. we often sat on opposite sides of the circle-sitting group. about half way through the week though i wore a deconstructed, super loose fitting vivienne westwood airy white shirt dress and a pair of ankle wrapping, barely there black chie mihara sandals. the style of the sandal some people identified as "gladiator." they are wrong in that identification, but the point of mentioning it is that the chie's were made, and i was wearing them, before the gladiator trend began to dominate summer shoes, and even if these sandals don't, in my categorically-driven mind, count as gladiators, they were still for their time interesting and unusual. at the end of the week, matt and i finally ended up standing outside on a toronto library sidewalk next to each other. he confessed to me that when he saw me in the shirt dress and the sandals he noticed me uniquely, and wondered to himself, "i wonder if she knows what she's got on there, or if that outfit was just lucky." i'd been speaking up about kantian metaphysics and its lesson in the gains that can come from genuine humility as a learning comportment all week. but the thing was, the group was FULL of people talking about kant in complex and interesting ways, so it took the shoes to really grab his attention. by the end of the summer, matt told me, he'd answered his own question--does she know what she has there? with, she does! she does! and that was how our friendship started. we met with common interest in both a city, and philosophy, but it was our commitment to keeping an eye on fashion as an aesthetic project that made us friends.
i mean, along with the drinking.
and the gay-pop-rap-disco concerts.
and me single handedly encoring Cazwell at the end of his Toronto Pride 2007 show.
and our mutual commitment to gender-sexuality-race-class-liberation-aesthetic-development-responsibility politics.
matt is, hands down, one of the smartest people i've ever met. he's directed that intellectual ability towards feminist, and queer studies, as well as european philosophy. i've been able to have with him the most interesting conversations about what it means to be a self, the incoherence of such a question, the role of gender in society, the challenge of negotiating subject position, and all the other obvious stuff that connects to those utterly important and simultaneously trendy topics. even more interestingly, matt and i have gotten to share in a multi-year dialogue on the importance of fashion in relation to those topics--as the site through which they come to life, and can be more directly and effectively negotiated. it's a topic many people mistakenly resist. i know i'm not wrong about that.
a couple of years ago whysuttonloves made the comment that he thought the back-and-forth fashion related thread matt and i had developed via each others facebook walls could be turned into a critical discourse text on fashion, aesthetics, politics, and the self. that's a book i believe we could one day write, and it's also clear it would have to have a few chapters on leather and marshmallows added in.
matt has been my go-to person when it comes to dressing myself, planning costumes, and thinking through the challenges of finding slimane-era dior homme, or deciding if demeulemeester is really worth the price (the answer to this is always 'yes') since we first met that summer in toronto. this may sound trivial to some, but the truth is, imbedded within this conversation on clothes has been a powerful experience of recognition and its accompanying sense of acceptance, expression, and celebration. i know that experience has been true for both matt and i. in the midst of that engagement i believe we've both become more comfortable with ourselves, while we've also grown more open with each other.
in being close to matt, i've not only learned a hell of a lot more about fashion. i've also learned a hell of a lot about myself in relation to everything from relations with others--both in terms of romantic dynamics and in terms of political engagements, to the complexity of feeling and doing, to the necessity of glitter pants on a wednesday night in the middle of winter when no one else is even outside. in the midst of all that learning and growing i've done over the several years of our friendship, i've seen matt move through his own comparable developments too. indeed, his reflections on love, aesthetics, revulsion, post-modern challenges to the cohesive self, kantian perfectionism, hegelian spirit, deluezian drama ... has pushed me to grow too from witnessing and involving myself with his growing self. (lord, that sounds cheesy and complicated, doesn't it?)
in the midst of all this, matt has also extended the gift of my friendship with him into his willingness to engage with my friends too (including a couple of really hard to deal with ones that he patiently helped through their own self-awareness challenges through months of chatting online). matt is not only one of the sharpest minds i know, but also one of the dearest hearts.
perhaps, for a moment, to put it more simply, and to borrow his language: i love you, matty-bear. (and that's where the marshmallows show up.)
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
grad school sucks a lot, even if you wanna be there. moving to a country where it feels like no one understands you sucks a lot too. living in extreme heat and extreme cold when you're used to pretty moderate and consistent temperatures sucks good too. holy heck! i met luis under these three circumstances. he'd moved from brazil to montreal to go to graduate school. the areas of brazil he lived in previously all had moderate, fairly consistent temperatures and weather. his home country of course included his home culture, whereas montreal, obviously, did not. and i already said he'd moved to montreal for graduate school. so, he moved to montreal for triple suckness. that sucks a lot. on my side, i'd moved from areas of the united states that had far milder temperatures too, and even if i am from alaska originally, the winters there are NOT as bad as in montreal, and we just NEVER get that kind of humid-hell-heat. plus, as the post-palin world now knows a little too well, alaska's ideals are radically different from anywhere else. i'd made a point of expanding my interests since my life in that state, and as much as i loved montreal, i still found myself outside the norm there.
in the midst of the triple suckness though, somehow, luis and i found kindred spirits in each other. it turned out by simple luck of the draw he moved to my side of town (the east side), and as a result our friendship began by my offering him rides across town to his home. inevitably each ride home would include me suddenly realizing we had enough time for a quick stop and so i'd excitedly ask if he'd mind making a quick stop for something fabulous. it turned out luis was always wonderfully game to try something fabulous. and so together we got to taste our way around the city big-eyed savoring all kinds of yummies from local chocolates, wonderful croissants, one of a kind Hungarian apertifs, rose', macaron, and loads of other treats like Portuguese burgers, Spanish meats, and champagne after champagne after champagne.
my favorite things include intelligent conversation, enthusiastic appreciation of flavors with substance and elegance, passionate pursuit of leisure in proximity to hard work, and willingness to befriend a friend. luis was a treasure for these things during my life in montreal. he proved to be even more of a treasure for these things after my departure as i discovered through the many visits i've had since. prior to each visit luis would have scouted a new something-fabulous for us to savor together. in this way the effort i'd made to introduce the best of montreal to him when he first arrived in the city, he returned to me in multitudes. on top of our ability to happily share in these existentialist delights, luis and i have gotten to share in wicked humor, secret complaining, and long walks about the city. i'm grateful to have someone it feels safe enough to joke irreverently with, and talk through what troubles us or seems unjust within the communities we find ourselves. it's rare to share such luxury with someone in a genuine earnestness to help through listening and understanding.
luis has consistently impressed me too with his ultra sharp mind, his ability to pick up new ways of thought with quick, open-minded ease, and respond in thorough consideration and critique of the ideas almost on the spot. as simple a thing as it might sound, i've also always loved hearing him jump between English, Spanish, Portuguese, and more recently the French he's picked up living in montreal. he reads Latin and Greek too, i might add.
my deepest appreciation for luis, though, is found in his gregarious, deep-tummied laugh. it's one i recognize from those few i've found to have the best humor--a kind of earthy, light-hearted, and naughty rumble from deep in his torso shot gunning through his throat.
on top of all this i count myself especially lucky in that i am the only person, as far as i know, in montreal that he told his actual birthdate too--a day on the calendar i promised him i'd never reveal, even if i make a point of wishing him a happy birth anniversary each year just the same.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
So, last weekend my friend Kate and I took up a blog-and-dressing challenge where we had to pick someone that would see us everyday for three days and let that person dress us for those three days without any intervention or interference from either of us--they got to pick.
I fell into camera troubles the whole time and so day 3 happened but posting the pics got delayed. Here they are finally. For day 3, Rachel said she wanted to take the challenge of dressing me in someone else's clothes. She borrowed my friend Nick's shirt and tried to put it on me as JUST A DRESS--that is, I'd be wearing the button up shirt as the only covering of my torso AND legs. Nick's a tall (6'4") guy so his shirt's pretty loose on me. Rach was thinking that looseness would be enough to make it long on me too. Once I actually put it on though she THANKFULLY realized it was a bit short for such ideas and added a skirt underneath. phew!
the simple truth is our parents can't provide everything for us when we're growing up. there are logistical limitations, time constraints, and personality mismatches. most of our parents do their best and where they don't meet our needs they often aren't really to blame. when we're lucky other folks come in and provide more of what helps make us who we're busy becoming. growing up i was lucky enough to have a lot of these other folks in my life. one of the main ones is a man i now recognize as something like a second father, larry meyer. he and my parents met in college. the story goes that larry was busy pulling pranks much of the time, though i don't think i heard many accounts of him getting caught. eventually he and his wife, and my parents ended up all living in the same town in alaska, and larry and my father taught at the same school too. my mom had grown up in bristol bay, alaska, home to the biggest salmon run in the world. as a result, she'd been commercial fishing almost since birth, being her "grandfather's only boy", as she likes to put it. my father married into the industry, then, and balanced his teaching life in the winters with the fishing life in the summers. by the time my parents had me, their third babe, they needed more help in the fishery and so larry became my mom's right hand man. (my dad drift nets, while the rest of the family set nets. larry became a setnetter.)
the gifts larry brought to the family fishing operation are numerous. his meticulous nature provided thorough organization to the equipment, the approach, and the timing of the operation. machinery, if broken, was quickly fixed, and NEVER broke due to something that could have been prevented like rust or wear. the safety factor for my family's fishing crew was high and reliable thanks to larry's dedication. when i became old enough to start fishing too at the age of 9 larry carried a high level of patience in his approach to teaching me basic skills and putting me through the paces. i thank him for always carrying that calm presence into what were often high pressure situations.
one of my main memories of the meyer's house growing up was the calendar they kept in the bathroom. the calendar stood out to me as important because on each day were small marks of numbers denoting the mileage larry had put in that day running. by the end of each year he'd have a tally of miles run, and now still decades into the project he can tell you how many miles he ran, say, in the 1980's, for example. i admire still his thoroughness. i also have a fondness for the construction i got to witness on the meyer's home as i was growing up. larry built a small shop complete with saw, lumber, and innumerable tools, and then he used the shop to remodel, and expand the family home. as a result, the meyer family--maw, paw, and two kids, plus different dogs over the years--was able to comfortably stretch in the same home all the decades i've been alive. there is a kind of richness to life in one place like that and i am grateful to rest in it everytime i go back to visit them there.
one of the greatest blessings of my adult life was realizing that my having grown up to develop my own interests meant i'd also grown into a person that could converse like friends with larry. i'd aged enough to interact with him not just as a father figure, but as an intellectual confidant too. larry taught jr. high level social studies as his career. then, post retirement, he dedicated his life to continued study and reading on western religions. when i return to alaska now we are able to discuss his interest on the matter in a way i know both of us appreciate.
i am grateful to have gotten to have a connection with larry meyer that reaches over the duration of my life thus far. it's a precious gift to be guided in growth by a steady mentoring figure, and then to reach a stage when something more like a friendship can develop too. larry is one of the people that helped provide the landscape of my life, and thus has helped make me who i am today.