I Remembered Insomnia

I remembered that I didn’t sleep last night, that I woke at 4 in the morning and that the brain turned on, even though I ran through every means I know to try and shut it off, short of taking drugs, which are not useful when taken at that hour because they leave me feeling hung over the following day and I could not afford to feel hung over.

I remembered that I lay there thinking about finishing my taxes, and whether I’m getting enough exercise, and money, and my children, and global warming, and the novel I am not writing enough of, and you, even though you don’t deserve my thinking.  I also remembered that I thought “You don’t deserve my thinking” and took pains to steer my thoughts elsewhere, even if the alternatives were not very appealing either.

I remembered when I felt tired at 8 and couldn’t understand why because 8 is not that late that, oh yeah, I didn’t sleep last night, and that also, oh yeah, I didn’t go back to sleep, which I usually do, and that, oh yeah again, I had to get up at 7 a.m., but that when the alarm went off, I reset it for 7:20, but still didn’t fall asleep, so I reset it for 7:50, but finally gave up and got up at 7:30 because lying there and not sleeping was foolish and that if I did fall asleep I would feel misery at having to awaken.  Yes, this is a too-long sentence, but forgive me because I’m tired.

Book Reviews

I can say without equivocation that if I ever published a book, I would avoid like the plague reading reviews by readers on Amazon.  Good God almighty some people are nasty! I just finished reading a book that was actually quite good.  The plot contained elements that were highly unlikely to happen, but isn’t that the point sometimes, to read about what might happen, not what is? It’s just like going to the movies, often they are fantastical, but we want that for the escape.  In any case, I googled the book and the Amazon reviews came up and boy, were some of the readers harsh!  I especially love the ones who wrote reviews with terrible grammar and they were complaining that the author should have edited her book.  Pot call kettle black much?   And then of course the negative reviews complaining that the plot was so unlikely.  Well, gee.  If you want real life, write a memoir and read that.  I suppose it is par for the course, and especially in today’s age of Twitter and Facebook status updates, everyone is an expert, so it is to be expected. I know though, that such reviews of my own work would drive me batty.

Lobbyists, Guns and Money — by Paul Krugman

This is an article by Paul Krugman from the NY Times.  It can be seen here.  Please read and share.  Groups like ALEC are ruining our country. Their power and influence must be stopped.

Lobbyists, Guns and Money

By 

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.

And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we’re getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.

And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren’t just about generating immediate benefits to the organization’s corporate sponsors; they’re about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?

Yet that’s not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

Now, ALEC isn’t single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters — a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda — is one good way to highlight what’s going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.

My Eyes Cannot See

I am learning that my eyes cannot see.  I have for so long had one view of how my body should look, that undoing that view requires changing my eyes.  They simply cannot see me physically for how I am, or see that how I am is how I should be.

Nearly 13 years ago, after the birth of my first daughter, I gradually realized how much I had wrapped up who I am into how I look.  When suddenly I did not look as I had, I had to adapt. I didn’t like it, but I had no choice. I weighed more than I ever had in my life.  It was still below average, but I felt huge, and I realized that I had to accept it because no matter what I did, I did not lose those last 15 post-baby pounds.  Considering I had always been below-average thin, it wasn’t such a bad thing.  Just different.

When my daughter was four, she was in a baby ballet pageant with a bunch of other toddlers and small children.  They looked like adorable little sausages in their fluffy costumes and wings. I thought they were precious.

Watching them dance on stage, my mom leaned over and whispered, “I can’t believe they would let all those little fatties dance in those tight outfits.”  The words were a slap. I realized in that moment that I had been hearing similar statements my entire life.  My looks had been commented on and dissected for as long as I could remember.  Still weighing 15 pounds more than I had pre-baby, it was an eye opener, further realization that my eyes had been wearing the wrong glasses for my entire life.

Within another year I was back at pre-baby weight. It took nearly 4 years, and ultimately I shed the final pounds when I stopped breastfeeding my daughter at age four and a half.  I was satisfied with this.  I figured I had learned the lesson those four plus years of being bigger than I was used to.  I also thought my eyes could see, that I had learned with a different prescription.  I was learning so much more about life, and unlearning so much other early conditioning, the body image adjustments were simply part of all of it.

Since gradually understanding this, I have noticed that both my parents are still completely fixated on looks and the body. I have wondered what happened to them in their upbringing that this is how they think.  They are raising my brother’s daughter.  She is nearly 5 and somewhat clumsy.  In terms of western ideals of beauty, she is not excessively beautiful or not.  She is an average looking little girl, based on this definition.  Personally, I think she’s darling. Her impish personality shines through in all she does.  However, when my parents visit us, they compare her looks to those of my daughters.  “Isabel is so dainty.  She has such “feminine” features, just like you had and Milla has.  Sara isn’t like that.  Sara is a clod.  She’s so much like her mother.”  Comparisons, comparisons, all based on looks. It’s constant.  During an entire visit I will hear how beautiful Isabel is over and over.  I notice and it feels strange.  I try to direct the conversation elsewhere.  I know my parents.  If I object, they’ll clam up and not visit for a long time and it will be because I was “too critical.” So to keep the peace, I don’t say anything and remember that their visits are infrequent. They will not have the influence on my children that was had on me. But not poor Sara.

In any case, here I am again, post baby at two and a half years. I have begun working with a personal trainer.  I’m struggling to bring my weight back down to that pre-baby level.  It’s not working.  I’m getting a lot stronger, but I’m not getting thinner.  I am still breastfeeding and this may be part of it, but yesterday when working on one of the many moves I struggle through in personal training (oh, it is so much more work at this age than 20), I finally allowed myself to look into the wall of mirrors and see what it is I saw.  I have avoided these mirrors.  When I’m facing them for whatever reason, I will not look at me.  I do not want to see how I look.

Yesterday, I looked.  I realized that the looking was completely uncomfortable, but I forced myself to keep looking.  I realized that my hips are slightly wider than I want them to be, that my breasts are saggier.  I kept looking away, but then told myself, NO.  I looked again.  I stared. I examined my body completely.  I criticized the self there.  Too big, too big, too big, I thought.

Last night and since, I have been thinking about that.  If I saw a woman with the body that I have, I would not think she was too big. I would think she is fine.  Why the double standard for myself?  I simply can’t see physical body as it is.  I then concluded that my eyes cannot see.  They have never been able to see.  It’s another layer of early conditioning I will need to undo.  Our culture makes it much more difficult. My upbringing makes it more difficult. I’m not sure what the result will be for me, but I want to change my eyes so I no longer believe that someone with my shape who is not overweight, is getting physically stronger all over, and is still actually quite athletic is just fine, and that no matter what I weigh, no matter what I look like, it doesn’t really change who I am.

One More Word on the Page

It is very hard to remain motivated to write when I continuously feel that I am simply not good enough. I realize the issue becomes one of what “good enough” actually is, but I’m constantly reading other writing, always reading so many books, and I see where I lack, and it isn’t a stretch to believe that I’m not good enough. I wish I had known in college what I know now. My participation in creative writing classes would have been so very different. I seemed to get the analytical writing thing pretty quickly, and still feel strong about my abilities in this area, but not so much creatively. I just have nothing against which I can compare except what I read in other books. I know part of why I suspect my fiction writing is not very good is that I’ve given it to many of my friends to read, all of whom are intelligent, capable women, and none of them have said a word. Silence is quite the communicator, and I hear it. Also I’ve submitted some of it for publication or to contests, and have been rejected and have not won anything. It’s disheartening.

I have asked myself why I feel the urge to write and I just can’t come to any simple answer. I just need to, that’s all. This is not helpful. Even when I decide I’m going to give up and never do it again, not much later I’m thinking of something to add to whatever I am currently working on, or something to revise. Maybe it is just habit, but I can’t seem to stop any more than I think I’m not that great. Maybe I’m like the character in the movie Mermaids who wanted to paint, even though his paintings were pretty terrible. Except painting seems more fun than writing. I don’t know.

I wish I could find an editor or some other such person who knew what they were doing in that arena and could tell me how awful my fiction really is. I go to conferences or writer groups or whatever, and it is all about how to persevere through rejection, that J.K. Rowlings was rejected a dozen times before someone discovered her. But at the same time, I have also known people who really are not any good at all and persevere and it seems really pathetic. I guess if the point is to write and not to publish then being terrible doesn’t matter, but as with any artist, I desire an audience, so my quality matters to me. I don’t want to put any more crap out there. The world is so full it already, why add to it?

Anyway, this is my constant struggle. It is always there. I’m not John Irving or Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King or any of these other writers who can rattle off fabulous book in a matter of months. No. Not me. I have completed one that I know is terrible and needs work, and I am in the middle of another and it doesn’t feel like it’s what I want it to be, and I’m tired. I need motivation, but I don’t know how or where to get it. This is actually a theme in my entire life right now, except for parenting, so maybe I should not be surprised. I just keep plugging on. I don’t think life is supposed to be just plugging on, but it has been that for so long, I accept that thinking it should be something else is perhaps magical thinking. My life has not been like a movie, but I don’t expect it to be. I’ll keep putting one more foot after the other, typing one more word on the page. I’ll finish and then it will be something else.

Maybe I should hire a cheerleader.  Craigslist ad: Needed, cheerleader to come to my house and say rah rah rah, sis boom bah. You can do it!

On second thought, no.

There But for the Grace of God

Yesterday at the grocery store, the clerk asked if I would like to donate my bag credit to charity. Sure, why not. I said that the store should donate the money to the large numbers of homeless parents and children I have seen around the city in the last few months.  The clerk said, “Well, they could go to a shelter. They just choose not to because they make more money begging.”

Her attitude bothered me a lot, and it is typical of many who see homeless people and presume that their way is the only way and that if the poor person just did what they were “supposed to” then maybe things would be different. It’s such a paternalistic, patronizing view. It presumes so much and absolves personal responsibility, not of the poor person, but of the holder of the opinion.

Just because someone is homeless, it does not mean that person is stupid, made poor choices, deserves it, etcetera. In today’s economy, where the super wealthy have gotten away with robbing us blind and they use our assumptions about the poor against us to achieve their agenda, slipping from the middle class to homelessness is not such a stretch. I see it all the time.  In just the last two months, I have had six chapter 13 clients who had to convert or modify their plans because their employers laid them off or cut their income in half. Does this make my clients stupid, their choices poor, do they deserve it? No. The longer we keep blaming the victims, the longer we will allow what is happening to our world continue to happen.

I responded to the grocery clerk that just because there are shelters doesn’t mean the person can get into them. Having a child is not a sure thing. Shelters are full. Shelters are not easy to come by. But I realized after I left that this had been the wrong answer. What I should have said instead was, “So what? Just because they are poor, they have to take your version of how they receive a handout for their homelessness to be acceptable? Who are you to decide that your way is the only way for them? Why is it that because they are homeless they suddenly accede the self and the right to make those choices? Why isn’t making more money begging an acceptable choice, and how is that different than you choosing a different job because you might earn more? Why shouldn’t they be able to make that choice if it gets their child fed?”

I didn’t say this. As is often the case, I thought of the best answer after I was gone. I should have said it, and next time I will. We have got to change the supercilious theory that because someone is poor they deserve it. And in today’s climate, we should all be thanking the heavens and saying to ourselves, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s a slippery slope and it doesn’t take much to end up at the bottom of it, especially in this country where we give billions to banksters while we scold poor people for using food stamps. It’s truly obscene.

Time Changes

Baby is perfect. She curls up her arms in sleep, her chin tucked, breaths even, and I want to nestle my face in her hair, breathing her in. She is utterly delightful. I love this baby like nothing else. I loved Milla like that. I still adore her, but it’s different from the crush of baby love. It is more established, the older child love. There is a solidity in her being there. She still lets me snuggle her, but not like the baby does. She doesn’t smell so sweet either. It’s like new marriage versus old, kind of. I love them both, dearly and completely, but the love for Milla has shifted into something like the love of an older marriage.

I have been keeping the self pact to write at least a page a day. It has resulted, every day, in more than one page, which I suppose is a good thing. What is different in the writing of this book from the last one is that I started the narrative knowing where it was going, then I veered off into other pieces. I now have these various pieces written as separate files that I will meld into the main later. Today I finished one of the pieces and had a place for it in the current narrative. What will be harder down the line I think is going through from beginning to end and reading it as one narrative because it is already so familiar. I am afraid I won’t know if there are holes. I need an editor. A good one. I need someone to read it and say This works or This doesn’t or I don’t get this, it needs more information, or You go on too much here, or Move this here. I need someone I can trust who will not criticize because they are not living up to their own potential and want to bring me down, or someone who will not criticize enough because they don’t want to hurt my feelings or they can’t see the flaws. I’ve experienced both. Neither is helpful.

Time for bed. The time change is hurting me. It always does, whether up or down. I wish we could leave our time on the sunny side all year around. I hate the dark winters, nights ending early. I could simply live the daylight time, but the world’s schedule would make this extremely difficult. I’d be at odds with it all the time.

It is time to snuggle the sleeping darling. I get to smell her hair, her skin, her breath. I feel this love for her in my belly. It’s the best way to fall asleep.