Monthly Archives: August 2018

Why “Ugh, Men,” Will Probably Get to Me, But “Ugh, White People,” Probably Won’t

In social justice circles, there has been a recent, common acceptance of the idea that jokes targeting privileged people never count as unkind. This isn’t the argument everybody sets out to make, of course. Many people make a sensible distinction between targeting privilege and cultural institutions, as opposed to targeting groups of people. But the pervasive attitude is that complaining about jokes that come at the expense of a privileged identity is uncool. Privileged people should always be able to shrug them off.

I think this is a flawed attitude. First, I think any joke told in an unkind spirit is automatically unkind. An unkind joke aimed at a person of privilege probably won’t be as institutionally damaging as one aimed at a marginalized person, that much is true, but if the intent was truly mean spirited and hurtful, the teller of the joke still bears the responsibility for intentionally being an asshole to another human being.

But there’s also differences in the underlying structures of privilege, and the messages people send with common jokes. I am white and male. When a Black person teases me for being white, the dynamic is starkly different from when a woman pokes fun at me for being male.

For one thing, racial jokes typically poke fun at attributes that don’t especially matter. I’m quiet. I’m an awkward dancer. My tolerance for spicy food leaves something to be desired. These are traits that are so irrelevant, in the grand scheme of who I am, I can’t possibly imagine them being made fun of with a real intent to do harm. It would take a remarkably thin skinned person to find them genuinely offensive.

But when I hear a woman start saying, “ugh, men,” I flinch, because I expect to be hit somewhere that will actually hurt. They do generally cut to something that goes deep under the surface. For example, crying. I’ve known a lot of strong women who mock men when they cry. This comes in two ways, often from the same people. One minute I hear men torn down for being insufficiently emotional. The next second I see men who complain when they are sick or hurt or sad called “crybabies.”

The stigma against men crying is tied to a lot of sexist ideas about emotions and weakness; ideas that harm both men and women. Women are allowed to express most of their emotions, with the exception of anger, whereas for men anger is often the only avenue permissible. Really, all humans should be allowed to feel and express the full range of human emotions. Feminists are good about reclaiming anger for women, but not all of them are actually comfortable with men reclaiming things like joy, pain, grief, embarrassment, and sadness. Expressing pain and sorrow is critical to processing it, and the pathological effects of men not expressing it is actually documented. Men are less likely to seek help when sick, and thus more likely to die of treatable conditions, and while women attempt suicide more often, they are far more likely to engage in the hesitant, cry-for-help sort that leads to lifesaving treatment. Men are significantly more likely to hold off on any mental health treatment until they are absolutely beyond a shred of hope. Then they actually kill themselves. The rate of successful first-time suicide attempts for men is much, much higher.

In contrast, white people don’t eat as much spicy food because we came from areas without as many spicy plants. So we grow up with more mildly spiced food, because that’s what’s in the family recipe book. It’s not exactly a big deal.

And yet, I feel as though, if I point out the distinction between these jokes, somebody is going to lump me in with the people who pretend we’re in a free speech dystopia just because sometimes privileged people are being mocked too. That’s not it. That’s not it at all. I don’t mind jokes that don’t come with a mean spirited intent, and that aren’t targeting a genuine source of pain and trauma.

I just want activists to take a moment to think about which category their joke actually belongs in.

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On Love and Meltdowns

I’m currently relearning how to do special education. I spent seven years in Virginia, supporting a mix of affluent and middle class families, in a relatively privileged and academically advanced district. Now I’m in a city that I love, but which does not have a good reputation, as far as education goes. I’m in a school that mostly supports low income families. Their idea of a kid who is academically doing well is one who I would have considered, in Virginia, to be a solid grade behind. On top of that, I’ve switched from classrooms that mainly support autistic or learning disabled students, who occasionally had behavioral or mood disorders complicating their situation, to a class where the primary issue for nearly everyone is behavioral/emotional.

It’s been a pretty sobering week, and on my third day in I nearly cried, but not because of anything particularly bad that happened. Bites, punches, kicks, spit and the odd thrown chair are all part of the drill for me. I can shrug them off, and get right to, “why did this happen and what can I do about it?”

Not much bad happened that day. Nobody was on the verge of getting hurt. But kids were being defiant, in a way that bothered me not because I particularly cared whether they listened or not, but because it was a type of defiance that only comes from a place of deep hurt. There’s a type of disobedience that you only see from kids who have given up on the whole idea of adults being trustworthy. Or who have given up on the expectation of patience and gentleness. Or have given up on themselves.

I’m not used to that. I’m used to a kid having a meltdown because they want to ask for gummy bears but the batteries are dead on their communication device.

Now, for the first time in years, I have no clue what I’m doing.

But here’s the cool thing. I’m not just in a “bad school.” I’m in what’s called a turnaround school. I’m in a school where the parents and educators recently rose up, said that enough was enough, and demanded the resources and accountability to get things fixed. I’m in a school where, behind as they are, over the past year their scores and achievements have dramatically increased. I’m in a school where the whole team is done with “this is hard” as an excuse.

The one thing I haven’t seen is a lack of love for the kids. I thought I worked with some great teachers in Northern Virginia (and I did!) but there were always some rotten apples who just didn’t care anymore. Or who only wanted to care about the “good” (read, “easy”) kids. Or who only cared about the white and Asian kids. In this school, I haven’t met a single person who wasn’t ready to work their ass off to help every damn kid in the building.

I wanted to cry on Wednesday, but I didn’t, because one of the behavior support staff said, “we’re just glad you’re trying. In the past we’ve worked with people who don’t even try.” And then we had a long, good conversation about what I was learning about these kids, and what I can do better. I tried her advice, and today went better.

Tomorrow might be better or might be worse. But it will be okay. It will be okay.

Rumi, by Farrukh Dhondy

Image result for rumi farrukh dhondy

What It’s About

Love, religion, hope, ecstasy, being a human in search of connection with the great divine, whatever that is.

Why I Think You’d Like It

Rumi was a Muslim poet from the 13th century. He started life as a Sunni and became a Sufi mystic and one of the best loved writers of the Arabic speaking world. In the English-speaking book lover’s world, he is at a weird position between famous and obscure. If you’ve heard of him, you’ve probably stumbled into a corner of the literary world where his presence is truly prolific; the kind where people go, “wait, you haven’t heard of Rumi?” If you haven’t… you’re in the sad boat I was in up until about a year ago and I’m so sorry. His shit is so fucking good.

The main reason I didn’t recommend Rumi up until now was that I felt I had to look carefully for the right translation. Poetry translations are, by their nature, very interpretive. Poetry isn’t straightforward. Points are alluded to with cultural associations, ideas are pretzeled around to fit a chosen structure, and simplistic points are elevated with tricks of rhythm and alliteration. And apparently, according to Arabic speaking, Muslim fans, English translators have tended to let Rumi’s faith slip through the cracks.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of beauty in Rumi’s work even if you don’t get all the religious connections. He speaks to the human condition. But at the same time, his experience of the world and his art was closely entwined with his faith, and he would probably be heartbroken to know how much of that was left out. When you add the modern need for a more complex understanding of the Muslim faith, that’s especially tragic.

Farrukh Dhondy’s translation is by far my favorite. It adds in enough to make the faith explicit, without alienating readers who are less familiar with Islam. It helps the reader connect to Rumi’s faith, regardless of where they are coming from, while still engaging with the romance and devotion and raw joy that makes Rumi so captivating.

Also, there’s an introduction that specifically discusses these issues, as well as the early history of Muslim mysticism and spirituality, which is one of the rare introductions that I have found completely engrossing on it’s own. I normally skim or skip introductions, but this one was interesting enough to make me want the author to write his own book on the subject. If he ever does, I’ll be reading it.

Content Warnings

You’re good.

The Enneagram Through Popular Songs, Part Two

When I was originally making the list of songs from yesterday, I was torn between “Cheap Thrills” and “Chandelier” by Sia. Both were great, but “Chandelier” really cut into the core of a Seven. Almost too much. It felt unfair to give all the others some basic introduction level songs, and then give Sevens one that dove uncomfortably deep.

So of course I made a second list of songs that ripped uncomfortably deeply into the hearts of all the other types. See why this system is so much fun for character writing?

When I was stumped for any of these, I asked myself, “what is the last thing that a [blank] is willing to reveal about themselves.”
I think for Ones, that’s how much they enjoy a bit of righteous smashing. They want to always have a good reason for it, as exemplified by the line, “this used to be a funhouse, but now it’s full of evil clowns.” But there’s a glee there, and it’s scary to admit, because if you admit that you enjoy destroying your enemies, that raises the question of whether they deserved it. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes no. But it’s a hard question for Ones to remember they have to ask.
This was an easy pick. “I love you desperately, but you aren’t willing to take it to the same intensity level as me, and I don’t know how to handle that.” That’s the ultimate Two problem.
I mean, I think the title gives it away. The deep, dark, badly kept secret of a Three is their struggle to find themselves behind their own masks. I especially like this song because of the lines about having nothing left to lose and nothing left to prove. I think that’s the scariest time for Threes; when they have already proven, achieved and won over everyone, and suddenly they just have to live with whatever mask they’ve constructed. It’s a scary time to ask how well that mask fits.
Man, I wouldn’t have expected Slim Shady to be the one to perfectly encapsulate the essence of a Four. Twice.
But I love this story he’s telling of being lost in the vicious cycle of his own celebrity. I think the trap of a Four’s fourishness is that our self-reflections, without external contact, become self-devouring. We run out of things to write so we write about our art. Then our writer’s block. Then our depression over our writer’s block. The most terrifying realization is that we sometimes need to look outside to find ourselves.
5. Both Sides Now, by Joni Mitchell (the song which I only recently learned wasn’t actually called “Clouds”)
What is the ultimate result of wisdom? The realization that our puny human brains are too small to fully encompass the shifting intricacies of reality. It’s a pretty vicious Catch-22 for any intellectual, and particularly cutting for a 5.
If the deep dark secret of a Two is their clinginess, the secret of a Six is their willingness to turn on you. Their commitment comes from a desire for security. They understand that security is something that they, in part, create for themselves through their commitments. And if the math turns out to not be worth it, and they’ve checked and double checked their figures, they will turn. They would love to be the person who would go off a cliff with you. But only if you actually prove you’re smart enough to not drive them off a cliff. Sixes are willing to veer at the last minute and leave you shooting over the edge. And if you shout “why????” as you go plummeting to your death, their answer will probably be a shrug of half-hearted guilt, and a “you kind of forced my hand, bro.”
Now, I don’t think that’s at all what was going on with Taylor Swift and Kanye/the Kardashians, and I’m mad that I even know enough to have an opinion. I just think a lot of the lines about betrayal and suspicion and finding a hidden dark side do a good job describing the backstabby side of Sixes; the one they don’t want you to find out they have.
Again, this is the one that inspired the whole series. It lays out the twisted inner workings and dark anxieties of a Seven too perfectly to not inspire a playlist. Just… just listen to it, if you haven’t already. It’s the guidebook to a Seven.
Eights were surprisingly hard, largely because they are so intense, it’s hard to think of the side they wouldn’t want you to see, on the level of Chandelier or Funhouse. But I think the thing that scares Eights about Eights is that the ultimate person they have to control is themselves.
The deep dark secret of a Nine is how stressed out they actually are. How much they wish someone else would take over that work of making things okay for everyone else.

The Enneagram, As Explained Via Popular Songs

Note: for those unfamiliar with the Enneagram, it’s a personality typing system illustrated by the pretty diagram below.
Image result for enneagram test
It’s my favorite system for character development, both in the sense of real-world self knowledge and fiction writing. I love it because it focuses not on behavior, but on root motivations, anxieties, and patterns in solving the problems that go along with those things.  I would love to write my own lengthy write-up of how it works and how you can use it for writing. But currently I’m challenging myself to write a fast thing every weekday for a month, so I’m just going to explain them all with pop songs. If you want to read more, here’s some fun links.
1. The Perfectionist, also called the Reformer or the Judge. The type motivated by a desire to transform the world, and a deep-seated fear of inner corruption. Bossy and demanding, but also capable of incredible personal integrity.
Theme song: Quiet, by MILCK
“Something is wrong with the world, and I WILL be talking about it.”
2. The Giver, also known as the Helper. The type motivated by a desire to help others and a fear of being left alone. Sugar sweet with a side of clinginess.
Theme song: Kill ‘Em With Kindness, by Selena Gomez
“I solve all my problems by loving everybody.”
3. The Performer, also called the Achiever. Motivated by a desire for success and a fear of ostracism. The hard working, image conscious guru, and the prettier half of 90% of all power couples.
Theme song: Finesse, by Bruno Mars
“The best thing about how great we look is that everybody knows how great we look.”
4. The Romantic, also called the Individualist and (if you ask 4s themselves) the Tortured Artist. The type preoccupied with self-knowledge and preservation of the soul, terrified of the idea of losing their own identity. Deeply authentic and unafraid of the darker sides of human nature, prone to turning issues most would flinch with into breathtaking art. Also, let’s face it, capable of being a real whiny bitch.
… Full disclosure; I’m a solid 4.
Theme song: Lose Yourself, by Eminem
“My life sucks and I cope by throwing myself into my art. The worst thing that can happen is an artistic block.”
5. The Observer, also called the Investigator. The one who fears incompetence and copes by withdrawing to a world of ideas and discovery. The classic reclusive genius.
Theme song: Handlebars, by Flobots
“I can solve all my problems by mastering obscure skills and accumulation of knowledge.”
6. The Loyal Skeptic, one of the few types that is always described with a similar two-word phrase, although I also like to think of this type as the Lieutenant. This is the person who handles their anxiety by forming a squad, being loyal to their squad, and every so often slamming the fucking door on a member of their squad; not, and this is important, not because that member was necessarily mean to them personally, but because they were fucking up the group.
Theme song: New Rules, by Dua Lipa
“I loved you. You fucked me over. It will be hard to get over you, but I will do it, because I’ve still got everyone else who I’m loyal to, and I’m going to teach them how to recognize and avoid assholes like you.”
7. The Epicure, or the Enthusiast. The person who avoids bad feelings by always being on the brink of a new adventure. Flaky as hell, but a shit ton of fun when you can manage to keep up with them.
Theme song: Cheap Thrills, by Sia
“There is no practical obstacle that will stop me from having a good time.”
8. The Protector, or the Challenger. The one who copes with all the terrors of life by being in charge. Of everything. All the time. At their worst, they make the controlling Enneagram 1 look like a lightweight, but at their best, you’ll never feel safer than when you have an 8 at your back.
Theme song: Gangsta’s Paradise, by Coolio
“Life is brutish and short, but at least I’m the king of it.”
9. The Peacemaker, or the Mediator. The one who is hit by everyone’s fears all at once, and just wants to find some peace. Whether this means they’re the ultimate conflict avoider or the ultimate conflict avoider depends on the maturity of the individual.
Theme song: Let it Be, by The Beatles
….Come on, it’s right there in the title.

Shock

I tested a new coworker today. We were working on setting up the classroom, and I was putting together the sight words for the word wall. The question came up; were we going to laminate these before sticking them up, or not?

She twisted her lips back and forth. While she thought, I said, “I have an argument for not, but I’m not strongly attached either way.”

“I’m leaning towards not,” she said.

“Ok. Want to hear my argument, or just stick with that?”

“Eh, go ahead.”

“Sometime this year, a kid is going to freak out, run over here, and tear all these words off. Some of them will be ripped up and need to be completely remade. If we laminate them the first time around, we will have to laminate them again. That’s more work to be done before the classroom is back to looking normal.”

Her eyes widened for a moment. Then she shrugged, and nodded. I was elated, because she didn’t get stuck on the part where some kid will inevitably try to rip apart her classroom.

I kind of like shocking people with my Special Ed stories, because I’m a storyteller, and I like telling stories that get a reaction out of people. But what I like even more is not shocking people with my stories. I’d much rather the world get past shock. I work with kids who have behavioral issues, which means that when kids in my classrooms act out, shock is the wrong reaction. In the best case scenario, it wastes critical seconds that you could be using to assess the situation, block the kid from the opportunity to do something more seriously dangerous, and figure out how to make sure their behavior doesn’t affect the other students adversely. In the medium-bad scenario, shock leads to panic, and a counter-productive reaction that makes for a very bad day for the both of you. In the worst case scenario, shock leads to surrender. Surrender is poison for the kinds of kids I work with. They know when you don’t believe in them, and they have a hard enough time believing in themselves.

Kids with behavioral issues aren’t helpless cases. Their behavior has biological roots, yes, but what grows from those roots is shaped by the reactions of people around them. Often, the most negative behaviors were shaped by people who didn’t intend to make things worse, but were simply acting on instinct, from a place of shock. I don’t exactly blame anybody for being shocked by tantrums and meltdowns. It’s part of basic human neurological wiring. But if someone has signed up for working in behavioral health and education, I expect them to come prepared to turn that shock response off, real fast.

The posters on the wall that we will have to replace don’t matter. The kid’s growth matters.

When I tell a story to shock someone, I usually don’t tell a recent one. I tell one about a kid I knew one, two, three years ago, so I can fill in the part where things got better. The kid learned self-control, or coping mechanisms, or communication skills, or got therapy for some emotional trauma. I want people to know that I work in a scary world, but also one where things get better, so long as you don’t panic.

Being a Trans Male Feminist, Part One of Many

I am supposed to be writing about whatever I am most motivated to write about. I keep almost writing about my issues with being a trans man in the world of feminism, and then panicking. The whole point of this exercise is that I have to publish something now, and I keep writing a few sentences and thinking, “there’s no way this is going to be ready before bed.” Then I write a few more, and think, “no, this really isn’t ready,” delete it and move on.

But the time limit is just an excuse, because I’ve also been doing this for years, with longer pieces. By “not ready” I actually mean “someone is going to respond to this, not with firm but constructive and good-faith criticism, but actual vitriol and mean-spirited disgust. I can’t really deal with that right now.”

I get the vitriol. A lot of women are in a space where they have been repeatedly hurt by men, and also conditioned by society to prioritize male ego over their own mental health. One strategy that many of them use is to hurt male feelings, until they cease to feel guilty about it.

The trouble with that is that, well, it’s a horrible thing to do. Also, it subtly reinforces sexism.

Part of misogyny is the idea that women are “the weak sex,” and in contrast men are strong. Men need to prove that by refusing to acknowledge when they’ve been hurt. This sexism disempowers women, but it also dehumanizes men. Straight privilege and white privilege exist without dehumanizing or harming straight or white people in any way.* Male privilege comes with snares. You buy into it for the power it offers, and suddenly find that half the things that make life worth living are forbidden in the contract. Apathetic abuse of men plays directly into that system.

And it’s hard for me to talk about that, because often the response is a repeat of that abuse, and it affects me personally in the way that, say, anger from a Black person about race doesn’t. For example, I recently posted something body positive about men on Tumblr. I got an anonymous message that said, “men are hideous, why ru lying?”

I didn’t want that statement to affect me, but I’m still thinking about it. My original body positive post was a response to a longstanding message I got that men aren’t allowed to be attractive, and that beauty is the sole purvey of women. That message gave me a lot of pain when I transitioned, and I’m still working through it. It’s a message that damaged my partner. It’s something men struggle to bring up with each other, and when they do they break down and cry. They sob from the bottom of their hearts, because it’s a wound that is deep and vicious and they aren’t allowed to talk about.

And the worst part of receiving that bit of anonymous hate mail wasn’t the message itself. It was the knowledge that the sender had a cadre of people who would cheer them on, while still feeling like they could call themselves activists. They could play directly into gendered notions of beauty, which harm both men and women, and still call themselves feminists. I don’t care about the cheering and support. Bullies find their crews of like-minded assholes. I care about the fact that so many allies of mine, in the fight for gender equality, don’t see the hypocrisy in upholding half the imbalance.

*I want to explain the differences in more detail, but I’ll have to put a pin in that.

My Morning

8:30 – arrive promptly on time for a critical staff training. It will involve how to handle kids who regularly exhibit behaviors that are dangerous, either to themselves or to others. I have been informed that if I am fifteen minutes late, I will not be allowed to take the training. My job description can pretty much be summarized as “handle the kids who are potentially dangerous to themselves or others.” No way in hell am I going to be as much as five minutes late.

8:45 – the person who is supposed to be giving the training is fifteen minutes late.

8:50 – tag team with the other attendees as we search the building for the person who is supposed to be leading the training.

9:15 – Pass around a sign in sheet, which we all take pictures of once we have signed it. We are not yet sure of what to do with it, but we now know we need our own documentation that all 21 of us showed up to the same place, at the same time, as we were directed to.

9:30 – watch the old timers reenact the training we are supposed to take. They get recertified yearly, so it’s old news to them. I note with relief that it is extremely similar to the system I was trained with in my old job.

9:45 – trade stories with other attendees. It’s a bit like that scene in Reservoir Dogs where Mr. Orange establishes his credibility with the other gangsters, except presumably all of our stories are true. We aren’t paid enough to make this shit up. Those who new to behavioral health suddenly realize what they have signed up for.

10:00 – talk of leaving becomes serious, as we finally track down somebody who, while they don’t know what is going on, knows the right people to talk to.

10:30 – find out that the training was cancelled yesterday. The assigned trainer was informed. None of us trainees were. We are given the email address of the person who can make sure we get paid for the time we just wasted, thanks to their incompetence. We thank the person who actually bothered to sort this out for us, and head to our respective schools.

10:45 – arrive at my school, explain what happened.

“Yup,” the secretary says. “Welcome to the Philadelphia School Administration.”

Sigh. At least I like my actual coworkers.

A Patriotic Sentiment

I like America.

America doesn’t seem like a thing I’m allowed to like.

If you’re on the right hand side of the political spectrum, you are allowed to love America, but only in a pained, nostalgic kind of way. You are supposed to conjure up an image of “back when everything was fine and we lead the world and there was none of this PC bullshit” and idolize that. Not like it. Not feel warm about it. Love it. Love it the way you could only love something that embodied perfection. Love it the way you could never love anything that was able to exist in real life.

You also aren’t supposed to have positive feelings towards it the way it is now, except for the scraps that vaguely resemble what it was supposed to be in the past. If you like America the way it is now, you can’t make it great again.

If you’re on the left, you are allowed to be bitterly disappointed in America. America, land of the free, place of opportunity, bastion of liberty; all, as it turns out, lies. Bitter, twisted concealments of a nation that committed not one but two crimes against humanity to create itself; genocide against the indigenous peoples, and slavery of imported Africans. A nation that, yes, occasionally went to war against horrific foes like Nazis and… well, Nazis, but that also harbored its own fascists in the form of the KKK, the skinheads, and the modern phenomena of Trumpism. A nation that rode that glory through far less justifiable wars, that used a self-appointed policeman’s role to cover up imperialism. A nation that has repeatedly committed acts of oppression, both against it’s own people and those abroad.

What both of these reactions have in common is that they are not in reaction to America as a mass of land that some people share via legal contract. They are in reaction to America as an ideal. They are in reaction to America as a fiction, a dream, a thing no country ever has been, or ever could be.

I like America. I like it because I like things that fail at noble goals. It’s relatable. Failure is inevitable. The world is driven by entropy into a point of total freeze, and in the meantime most of us are fairly incompetent. If your choice is to fail to either fail at being great or fail at being average-to-poor, I think it’s far better to fail at being great, because then there’s at least a chance you’ll end up fairly decent with a trend towards marginal improvement.

That’s the kind of country America actually is. Sure, we’ve done some fairly horrific things, but if you think that’s a uniquely American feature your world history teacher has rather pathetically let you down. We at least have the decency to (mostly) feel bad about it. Is that a cold comfort? Yes, of course it is. Of course it invalidates none of the bad, any more than the bad invalidates the good.

And America is so human, isn’t it? All countries are, but I possess the biased feeling that America is especially so. All of us mashed together with our different backgrounds, squabbling and clashing and trying to fit in and then rebelling against the entire notion of “fitting in,” putting in some effort to make things work and then collapsing on the couch in exhaustion, saying, “fuck it, this will be good enough for now, let me watch some TV in peace and I’ll give it another try tomorrow.”

America tries so damn hard. Sometimes it makes progress. Sometimes it makes things worse. But it really does try. I like that in a nation.

An Update on the Summer of Massive Changes, and What Comes Next

This summer has been transformative. I mean that in both a practical and personal sense. There has been far too much to list everything, but here are the highlights of the past three months;

  • I moved from Northern Virginia, a place where I never felt like I was at home despite growing up there, to Philadelphia, a place that felt like home even before I could receive mail and pay rent here.
  • The move, which seriously tested my relationship with my partner (as moves are wont to do) confirmed that I have absolutely found the person I need to be with for keeps. There were so many rough days and crying fits and moments of “why is this longstanding issue exploding right now in the middle of everything else? Oh right, because we no longer have the energy to ignore it.” But there has been a long pattern, in our relationship, of bouncing back from fights as an even stronger couple than before. If anything was going to break that pattern, this move was, and it motherfucking didn’t! In February we are having a commitment celebration and I am taking his last name.
  • While working at a Jewish summer camp, I started talking to God again. In the midst of playing along with some prayers and Shabbat services, just to show respect and set a good example for the kids, I felt the presence of God in a way that I hadn’t since I was a child. I don’t know if that means God exists, or if this was just a kind of pareidolia that emerged in a place of love and community, but I don’t really care about those questions anymore. It just felt good.
  • I became a biological uncle. I was already an uncle of choice; last year Grant’s brother decided his kids should call me “Uncle Lane.” But in July, my older brother and his wife had a baby. There was a time when I thought that, when he had kids, I would have nothing to do with them. Not because I didn’t want to be, but because we were estranged beyond the point of return. But over the past few years, we worked on our issues, cried things out and worked to rebuild that connection. Now he has a little daughter, and she’s my niece. I get texts with videos and pictures and updates. We are working to figure out when Grant and I can visit.
  • I finished stories that I actually know what I want to do with. I’ve finished stories before, but stories that I was happy to be done with rather than excited to put out into the world. Now I have completed stories that I can’t wait to share. I’ll be posting updates on that, as soon as there are updates to make.

Hopefully this helps excuse my failure to maintain anything like a reasonable posting schedule. A lot of shit went down this year. Even when I had time to write, I really needed to use that writing energy to recharge and process everything that was going on. I ended up doing a lot of private, creative writing, which was amazing, but also not stuff I’m ready to share. (again, though, stuff that I will actually be sharing, at some future date. Stay tuned!) Everyone’s patience during this is really, unbelievably appreciated!

Another effect of these changes is that I want to shake this site up. I don’t know how, exactly. I do want the book reviews and Reviews as an Ex-Christian to continue (yes, another name change, now that God and I are on speaking terms “Godless Heathen” doesn’t feel quite right anymore). Possibly not on such an intense schedule, though. I feel like I want to make something else the main, recurring feature. I just don’t know what.

To figure out what, I’m going to try writing a short post every day. No rules about what it has to be, or how long. The only rule is that, before I go to bed, I have to hit that publish button. No perfectionism allowed. On weekends I take a break, and get to focus my writing energy solely on creative writing.

My hope is that this will force me to make decisions based on what I’m passionate about. From there, I’ll hopefully be able to figure out something more permanent.

My plan is to keep this up for a month. So here’s my first post, on August 20, and on September 20 I’ll make my final post. Then I’ll take some time to work out where to go next.

Thank you all for continuing to read and comment, even with my lack of posting. I appreciate you sticking around! Have an awesome rest of your summer.