cannot unsee

Me this morning, cutting strawberries: You ever notice how strawberries really look like human tongues?

Mark: What? No.

Me: They do! Look! (holds out strawberry)

Mark, shaking head, moving in the other direction: No. No, I don’t want to see. Once you see you cannot unsee.

Me: I know, right? But seriously, look…it looks just like a very red human tongue. (wiggles berry)

Mark, still refusing to look: Noooo! I don’t want to think about it! (shields his eyes as he leaves the kitchen)

I don’t know what he’s got against delicious disembodied tongues, frankly.

I’m sure that yellowing at the tip would not be a good sign if this was actually a tongue but since it’s not we can all just laugh about it and not spend any time obsessing about our actual tongues in the mirror today, right? Right.

stupid human tricks

Sometimes it seems like my life is just a series of things I do to amuse myself that end up backfiring and causing me extra work or costing me more money.

Case in point: today’s vegetable peeler incident.

I have Fridays off for a while – I won’t bore you with why (it involves needing to use up a bunch of vacation time at work because I can’t roll it over). Just know for the sake of this story that for the last six-ish Fridays I have been largely home alone, with only the dog for supervision. Which, being an only child, a latch-key kid, and a social pariah for most of the 90’s, you’d think I’d be used to functioning under those conditions.

It’s not that I can’t function when I’m home alone, so much as that I have a harder time filtering the near-constant stream of questionable ideas that my brain produces. Especially the ones that I think are funny. This isn’t even a case of ‘doing it for the ‘Gram’ or making TikToks or whatever…this is literally me just indulging the stupid shit that pops into my head because I know no one is around to judge me for it (not that my husband would judge me for most of the stuff I do…not out loud, anyway. He IS British, after all).

Today I was making a batch of soup ahead for tonight’s dinner. I had my dance mix going and was grooving along to Jamiroquai (I know that guy is problematic – I assuage my guilt by reminding myself that he’s probably only getting like half a penny from Spotify whenever I listen to one of his tracks. And yes, I know Spotify is problematic, too. I assuage THAT guilt by reminding myself that I get to pay the student rate rather than the full monthly subscription rate because I take one measly college course per semester. Also, good luck finding someone / something that ISN’T problematic these days, mmkay?), as I peeled some carrots. I peel the carrots over the garbage can because I hate cleaning up carrot peels off the counter, but my garbage can is also across the room from the counter where I chop stuff and there’s no flat surface around the garbage to put anything down on, so I was taking one carrot at a time over to the garbage can to peel it, then bringing it back to the counter and grabbing the next one.

That makes it sound like my kitchen is huge. My whole house is like 1100 square feet. The kitchen is like three paces across, max.

Anyway.

So, carrot peeling got tedious very quickly. As I finished the last carrot and was half-dancing back to the counter, the song I was jamming to reached a funky breakdown part. Carrot in one hand, vegetable peeler in the other, I did a little twirl, then flipped the vegetable peeler up in the air with every intention of catching it.

Now, it’s worth noting here that I’m actually pretty good at doing this. Flipping things up in the air and catching them, I mean. It’s a random stupid human trick that I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember, with basically anything that has a handle. I’ve done it with screwdrivers, hammers, paint brushes, all manner of kitchen utensils, pans, a curling iron twice (once it was on…had to up the stakes, apparently. While home alone. I am very stupid)…you get the picture. There is literally nothing else physical that I’m good at, so I’ve really honed this one craft, trust me. As a result, I almost always catch whatever I flip.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

The vegetable peeler flipped end over end, almost up to the ceiling. I reached out with perfect timing, right on the apex beat of the song’s crescendo…and missed the handle by a hair’s breadth. I watched the bastarding thing hit the floor and, in seemingly slow motion, the blade popped out of the handle and skittered directly under the stove. I got down on the floor to try and fish it out with a wooden spoon, but the thing was so far in that I couldn’t even see it. It is officially lost to the Beneath.

So now I have to shop for a new vegetable peeler. I’ve had that one probably ten years. Have there been exciting new innovations in vegetable peeling technology in the last decade? I’m guess I’m about to find out.

Rest In Peels, Peely. You were a real one. Carrots won’t be the same without you.

annoying realities of being an adult with ADHD, #457

Some days I can’t read.

Like…technically I can…but there are days where anything more than two or three sentences in one go turn to smoke somewhere between my eyeballs and whatever half-rotten corner of my brain is responsible for word comprehension.

Part of it is definitely interest-based: I can read what I’m writing right now, I could pick up the novel I’ve been reading and be perfectly fine getting sucked into that for an hour. But I have this 11-page instruction manual that I’m supposed to be reading (and understanding) right now and it’s just not happening. It’s not even that my brain is making a specific choice in that regard, either. I’m not sitting here saying “I’ll read this but I won’t read that”. Rather, what happens is that I go in with every intention of reading the thing I’m supposed to be reading and my brain is like “hey, here’s something else we definitely need to do RIGHT NOW”, and that just keeps happening until it’s 4pm and all of a sudden I’ve done everything except the one thing I really needed to get done in my workday.

Urgency is a big thing for a lot of people with ADHD. Many of us joke about leaving important things until the absolute last minute as a strategy for success and that tends to sound kind of unhinged to neurotypicals but the thing is…it works. It SUCKS, don’t get me wrong. I definitely don’t enjoy sitting here knowing that I have six hours to do a thing and then waiting five and a half hours before I start it, but I’m so much more likely to get the thing done if I start it with half an hour left before the deadline than if I start it hours ahead. My brain literally needs that pressure, that sense of dread, to function some days. It sounds masochistic, I know. Trust me, most people with ADHD wish we didn’t operate this way as it causes us a lot of stress and aggravation…but sometimes you have to do the best with the maladaptive coping mechanisms you have, and some days putting things off until the last minute is the way that happens.

I sat down at my desk this morning with literally two things on my to-do list: deal with emails, and read this 11-page instruction manual with enough understanding that I could then put it to use in the software it’s for. The emails part was easy because it’s quick snippets of stuff with definite answers, and I get a nice little dopamine hit from each one that I deal with. But since I’ve finished emails, I’ve done the following, all in the interest of not reading aforementioned instruction manual:

  • clipped the dog’s toenails
  • made a snack
  • made tea
  • spent an unmentionable amount of time on Instagram (my dopamine peddler of choice)
  • downloaded a video editing app I don’t need and will probably never use
  • spent 20 minutes practicing German (another way I try to feed the dopamine beast)
  • had two fully unnecessary chats with coworkers
  • did some stretches
  • did a circuit of planks, push-ups, and various other upper body exercises with a resistance band (which, to be fair, the physical movement did at least settle me enough so that I could sit down and write this, so…winning?)
  • writing this blog post, which originally started out as an Instagram stories post but for once in my life I realized maybe writing on the blog rather than just word-vomiting on IG would be good practice for, you know, writing…which is a thing I claim to want to do more of

And probably other stuff that I don’t even realize, because that’s how ADHD works. See the shiny, chase the shiny, go back to the thing you were meant to be doing three hours later with sticks in your hair, missing one sock, a strange taste in your mouth, and the inability to think of sea anemones without shuddering in fear.

All because my brain decided it can’t read today.

But, soft! What fuckery through yonder window breaks? It is the west, and oh fuck me, who cares.

long weekends (a hypotenuse)

I have a theory about long weekends. I developed it just now while standing by the microwave waiting for my burrito to cook. I guess technically it’s not actually a theory but rather a hypothesis. Also, full disclosure, I DID just have to Google ‘scientific method steps’ to come up with the word hypothesis because I knew it started with ‘hyp’ but all my trash brain could come up with to fill in the rest of that blank was ‘hypotenuse’, for like the full 60 seconds that I was able to devote to trying to remember that word. Also I definitely just Googled ‘hypotenuse’ to make sure I spelled it correctly. My brain may be trash but I still have standards.

Anyway.

So, my hypotenuse is this:

Long weekends that involve a Friday off are FAR SUPERIOR to ones that involve a Monday off.

Think about it. What’s better, a normal week that converts to weekend a day early, or a weird week that doesn’t start when it should so you spend the whole week slightly out of whack? A week where the routine is already basically set and you just have to adjust to get stuff done one day earlier, or a week where you can’t wrap your brain around what fucking day it is because everything that SHOULD have gone on YESTERDAY is happening TODAY along with all the TODAY stuff and it’s all just very confusing?

Mondays get so much hate, but Tuesdays are already worse than Mondays to begin with, and then a long weekend like the one we just had essentially converts Tuesday to Monday, and that seems like too much shittery to pile into one workday. As much as I dislike Tuesdays, I don’t want them to have to bear that burden.

So that’s my hypoalgesia. My hippodrome. My hypotenuse. Now I’m off to try and figure out what work I can get away with putting off until later in the week when my brain finally catches up to my body in time and I know what day it is again.

Me bailing on today

20 years

Twenty years ago on September 11th, I was just getting settled at my desk at work after returning from the trip of a lifetime. I had just spent two weeks exploring jungle caves and Mayan ruins in Belize, and wasn’t quite sure how I was going to re-adjust to my tech support gig after being out in The Actual World for basically the first time as an adult.

As I was signing into my email, my phone rang.

“Are you watching the news?” Becky sounded slightly breathless.

“No, I just got to work, why? What’s going on?”

“Bring up a news site. Something is happening. A plane just hit a skyscraper in New York.”

I pulled up a site and saw a picture of a plane hitting a building, with a little blurb about breaking news, but the internet was a much different place in 2001 and it was actually fairly hard to find much as it was happening. Becky was home and had the news on so she was relaying information to me as it was reported. We watched the second plane hit in as close to real time as was possible at that point.

A couple minutes later, someone down the hall from my office yelled that everyone needed to come watch the news. They had a TV set up and CNN or something was on. It was a small office, only a handful of us. We stood around, fixated on the set, still not understanding what was going on. Cell phones started ringing, then office phones. People wandered off to take calls and then came back, sometimes with wet eyes, sometimes with pale faces.

Our little office in Vermont was a long, long way from Manhattan, but some of my coworkers had family down in that general area, and we were all booked to go to a trade show in the city at the end of October. I had just flown in to JFK on my way home from Belize two days before. The friend I had been travelling with was still there, spending time with other friends for a few days before his flight back to London. They were staying just a few blocks from the towers. We had walked by them one night on our way to dinner before we left for Belize.

Nobody in the office really knew what to do with themselves. Someone said that the local Catholic church was doing mass shortly and several of us decided to go. I don’t think a single one of us was Catholic, but it was more about being with other people and trying to wrap our heads around what was going on.

Mass was surreal. I had never been to a Catholic church before and had zero understanding of what to say or do. I mostly just sat and cried on and off as waves of emotion washed over me. Everyone else was doing basically the same thing, although most of them knew when they should be kneeling, at least. When it was over, my coworkers and I wandered back to the office in a daze. We were greeted with the news that two more planes had been hijacked – one crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside and the other hit the Pentagon.

I don’t remember if we got sent home, if we just left, or if I stayed the whole day. I think I probably went home early. I was still living with my folks at that point. My dad would have been at work still, and I think my mom was still working nights then, so she would have been asleep I guess. I honestly don’t remember a thing about that afternoon or evening at all. It’s just gone. All I remember is being very worried about my friend in the city and not being able to get through to his cell…which was understandable, of course. I know I eventually did get an email from him a day or two later and he said they were all fine, aside from some breathing issues from all the dust in the air, and of course some mental trauma.

After the attack, I remember weeks and weeks of almost every channel we had showing the footage of the planes hitting the towers over and over again. They did finally stop showing the clips where you could see people jumping / falling out of the windows, so that was a small relief, but still. Looking away felt like dishonoring those people in some way, I think…so we just kept watching and watching. Trying to see where it all went wrong, maybe. But it’s pretty hard to learn from mistakes when a country can’t admit that it actually made any.

We did end up going to the trade show at the end of October. My mom was worried. She kept asking what if it happened again while I was there? All I could do was shrug and, with a wisdom well beyond what my 21 years should have afforded me (and which I since have seem to lost the vast majority of), say “life has to go on”.

The venue and our hotel were a good three miles or so from the footprint of the towers. One night as we were getting into the elevator to head back up to our rooms, a guy in a hard hat and orange vest waved at us to hold the door for him. He was maybe 25 feet further down the lobby and walking very slowly. When he got closer, we saw that he was absolutely caked with dust and dirt. When he got into the elevator he apologized for making us wait.

“I would have walked faster but I’m kind of beat,” he said half-jokingly.

“Are you working down there? Where…it happened?” one of my coworkers asked.

He nodded, keeping his eyes trained studiously on the ground. My coworker silently put out his hand toward the dusty guy, who reached out and shook it with a quiet “thanks”. It was a long, quiet ride up to the 20th floor where my group were staying. When we got off the elevator, we turned back to wish the guy good luck but he was leaning back against the wall of the elevator, eyes closed, chin tipped like he had nodded off. We didn’t disturb him.

I hate what the anniversary of 9/11 has become. I hate that it has been co-opted by the ‘Murica crowd with their These Colors Don’t Run t-shirts and their Terrorist Hunting Permit bumper stickers and their racism. I hate that they refuse to learn history, to understand context, to grasp nuance. I hate that they can’t see that this cycle will continue to play out over and over again because this country keeps making the same mistakes, keeps voting for the same wrong-headed politicians pushing the same wrong-headed ideas. I hate that we can’t seem to find a way to honor the lives of all the people that died in the attacks and the aftermath without turning it into some kind of garish, jingoistic, self-masturbatory political spectacle. Those were real people, with real families, real lives. They deserve better than some bullshit parade full of rednecks waving Don’t Tread On Me flags. They deserve better than a country that continues to vehemently deny it bears any responsibility in the way the world is crumbling around us.

But life has to go on.

sharks

Last night I had a dream that I was on a rock in the middle of a huge body of water.

Not an island, but just literally a bare rock. Big enough to stand up and walk around a little bit…probably like 10ft by 8ft, tops.

There were other similar rocks around in the water, and I had this deep understanding that I really needed to get off my particular rock and on to the other ones if I wanted to live. But the other rocks were all just far enough away from mine that I’d have to get into the water and swim to between them, and the water was so, so dark and murky, and seemed incredibly deep (swimming in deep water has been a life-long fear of mine, even in clear water where I can see the bottom).

I kept thinking I could see sharks and other scary things zooming around under the water out of the corner of my eye. The water felt very very unsafe to get into even though I understood that, if I didn’t get in and get to the next rock, I’d eventually die there on my rock.

I’d love to be able to say that I mustered up the courage and jumped into the water, got to the next rock and the next, and on to better things…but I didn’t. I just sat there being petrified until the dream changed to something else.

And I’m not sure anyone could come up with a more accurate-feeling metaphor for my life, to be honest.

The pandemic has taken so much from so many people. Loved ones, jobs, homes, schooling, friends lost to disagreements over public health policies that have no damned business being politicized and yet continue to be. So, so much. And I have been so incredibly lucky: my job immediately and smoothly transitioned to fully remote and my employer has no interest in forcing anyone back into the office, and my husband’s job takes swift and proactive measures to keep everyone as safe as possible. Hubs and I were able to get vaccinations relatively quickly and easily. Neither of us had bad side effects from the vaccination. Neither of us has caught the virus so far (although that’s not fully luck as we are very, very careful). My folks got fully vaccinated and are conducting themselves relatively responsibly despite their having quaffed their fair share of the right’s thoroughly tainted Kool-Aid. Almost all of our friends and extended family have been pro-vaccine, pro-mask, pro-safety, pro-the-greater-good.

I have very, very little to complain about.

And it’s not that I’m complaining, exactly. It’s more of a…reality check? A personal “coming to Jesus” thing, but in slow motion, and without actually involving Jesus because I’m not Christian?

Basically what I’m trying to get at is that the pandemic has been showing me a lot of things that I should be grateful for, but it’s also been shining a big-ass spotlight on some themes in my life that I had not been previously picking up on. And that’s something to be grateful for, too…the opportunity to do better for myself. And having these realizations while I’m still relatively young means I’ve theoretically got time to work on things.

But I’m on that rock, you see. And the next rock is just over there, but there’s so much deep, dark water in between. And every time I turn my head I’m pretty sure I see a shark…

the mechanic

A few weeks ago…ok, probably a month ago? I’m bad with how time works. My brain reads hours as minutes and weeks as days more often than not.

Let me start over.

A month or so ago, I’m pulling out of my driveway when my neighbor flags me down. Our individual driveways merge into one small road that goes out to the main road, so we see each others’ comings and goings fairly regularly. I roll down my car window and smile.

“Hi there! What’s up?”

“Did’ya know your tail lights are out?” His voice is gravelly from years of heavy smoking. He’s got about four visible teeth in his mouth, presumably due to the same.

“Oh no, are they?” I had no idea. I’m never in back of the car when it’s running, let alone braking.

“Both of ’em. The one in your back window is working, but it’s small. Better get those fixed before you get hit,” he says sternly.

“You bet. Thanks for the heads-up,” I say. We pull away and continue along down the drive.

Of course I instantly forget about the tail lights.

A week or so later, he flags me down again, this time headed into our driveway.

“Tail lights still out,” he mutters. His rheumy blue eyes betray that he’s more disappointed than he sounds. And he sounds pretty disappointed.

“I know it, I meant to stop in at AutoZone and get them fixed but I’ve been busy, and then I forgot, and…you know how it goes. But it’s on the list, I promise.”

He nods and waves me along. As we pull up to park, I say to my husband, “You watch. One of these days he’s going to get sick of my shit, come fix those tail lights, and not even tell us”. We chuckle and don’t think much more of it.

This afternoon I’m sitting here working and my cell phone rings. It comes up with the neighbor’s name so I answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hello. Your keys in your car?”

“Uhh, no. Why?”

“I was gonna come over and fix those tail lights.”

“Oh, I’ve got an appointment at the garage next week, I was going to have them do it then.”

“Not safe to drive around without ’em. I’ve got the bulbs and the tools. I’ll come do it for you real quick.” And then he hangs up.

Well. No sense arguing, I guess.

He’s maybe 15 years older than me, but he looks much older. Decades of heavy drink and smoke will do that to a body. He recently had part of his pancreas and stomach removed, spent six weeks in hospital, and was out mowing the lawn in ten-minute bursts within a week of coming home. Once he was feeling better and moving around more easily, he started in on trimming back the limbs along the shared part of the driveway because he wants to have it widened and re-graveled this fall. His flower garden is extensive and immaculate. The man truly doesn’t know how to be idle.

While he’s here fixing my tail lights, he notices that my tires were really worn down. I say I was kind of putting off replacing them because I’ll need to buy snow tires soon enough anyway and I don’t really want the expense of buying two sets at once. He leans down, brushes the dirt off the sidewall of a tire and reads out the size.

“195/65 R15. I think I have a set of used ones in that size at the shop.”

“Oh! That would be great, I’d be happy to buy them off you.”

“Used. They wouldn’t cost you anything. You couldn’t run them a whole season, you’d still have to buy a new set come spring. But they’d get you through inspection and last you ’til you get your snows put on.”

“Ok, well…let me know, I guess. My inspection appointment is Thursday.”

He nods slowly, then starts walking down the driveway, back toward his house.

“Hey, what do I owe you?”

He turns his head halfway back over his shoulder as he continues walking.

“Nothin’. It was just a couple lightbulbs. See ya.”

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you’re forgetful and not good at car maintenance, get yourself a mechanic neighbor with a lack of boundaries and a generous heart.

six degrees

There’s a route I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday. I drove it regularly many years ago, then I switched jobs and didn’t have to drive it for like ten years. Then my husband switched jobs and we had to drive it occasionally but usually went a different route. THEN we bought a house south of the towns he and I work in and we started driving the route literally every day. Then the pandemic hit and I started working from home but my husband is still learning to drive so he doesn’t take the car by himself, so I am still driving (or riding, if he’s driving) this route twice a day, pretty much every weekday.

It just occurred to me right now as I type that this information would probably be stalking GOLD if someone were motivated to hunt me down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not going to become an issue. If I somehow end up getting famous and stalk-worthy at some point, I’m going to need one of the six of you that actually read my posts to remind me to come take this one down, ok? Ok.

So, on this route that I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday, there’s several traffic lights. One stops at a highway off/on ramp, one stops at the entrance to a local high school, one stops near a bunch of sprawling manufacturing type buildings, and one stops at a cross-street that comes down from between the high school and a big medical clinic. That street passes in between two financial institutions on its way to the intersection. Those two financial institutions are where our story takes place. Sort of. Mostly it takes place in my head, but…you know.

One of the financial institutions is a credit union. The other is a small branch of a big regional bank. Both these places have big light-up signs with digital read-outs that flash back and forth between the time and the temperature. As an aside, why is this a service that banks specifically feel is important to provide? You never see a gas station or a McDonalds or a chiropractor’s sign flashing up the time and temperature in 2-foot-tall digital characters. Why have financial institutions taken up that mantle? Was it some sort of package deal that came along with the mini calendars banks give out every winter? Was the sales pitch to early bankers something like “here’s the thing: you give them a calendar to take home so they know what day it is, but if they wanna know the time or what the temperature is, they’re gonna have to come to…you guessed it! YOUR BANK!” These are fully rhetorical questions, by the way. I very much do not want you to email me the history of American banking. I know that of the six of you reading, at least three are unrelenting pedants, so I just want to make sure I’m very clear on that.

Get to the fucking point, Shelby. Jesus.

So these banks are right across from each other, separated by just a narrow two-lane side street. They both have the digital signs. The clocks on both digital signs are always the same.

But the temperature is not.

And it’s not just a degree or two of difference. You know, something you could attribute to maybe a passing breeze or a rogue shadow. No. The temperatures are a full SIX DEGREES different. And it’s not just an occasional thing. The one on the south side of the street is always six degrees colder than the one on the north side. I have driven by these banks, on average, 500 times a year (twice a day X 5 days a week X 50 weeks per year to account for vacations and whatever), for at least the last two years. That’s at least 1000 trips past these signs just in the last two years. Do I notice them every single time we drive through there? No. But every time I DO notice them, which is at least several times a week, they are ALWAYS six degrees apart.

And it bothers me. Clearly.

Now, rationally I know that it’s probably just due to difference in the sensitivity and/or location of the sensors. I have a rough grasp of science and I can accept that. What I have a harder time accepting is that likely the people who work in both of those buildings simply don’t care about this difference. They have probably noticed and just accepted the fact that one thermometer, less than 50 yards away from another, is reading a FULL SIX DEGREES different. I bet it doesn’t make their teeth itchy. They may, in fact…not even notice! I am mystified by this.

Instead of letting it gnaw at me that the temperatures are six degrees different for no good reason other than human ambivalence and/or possible electronic malfunction, I’ve made a decision: I am choosing to believe that the six degree difference is due in fact to a small furry rodent that has found its way into the space that holds the temperature sensor, and made itself a lovely cozy home there. Maybe it’s a clever red squirrel with bright eyes and a nice big cache of acorns. Maybe it’s a whole big family of tiny voles who each raise the temperature near the sensor just part of one single degree because they’re so wee. Maybe a possum squeezed its trash-smelling, tick-eating, screaming-at-their-own-ass heart of gold in next to the sensor for a long winter’s nap. Who knows.

All I’m saying is, this is how I’m coping with it. Things feel a little easier to handle if you can come up with a reason for them. Which is how we ended up with religion, of course, and look how THAT turned out. Hey, maybe my calling in life is to start a possum cult. Our central rituals could be going around to local banks to calibrate the thermometers on their digital signs, and screaming at our own asses because we exist.

garden grace

Peace has always been hard to come by for me, and even more-so lately. Inside my head is forever a hot mess but the threat of the virus, the carelessness and abject stupidity of our government and its supporters, the constant march of time despite being stuck in this strange wormhole where we never seem to leave the house anymore and where work has become home has become workhomework, plus a whole bunch of other stuff…
…it’s been overwhelming to say the least.
It’s raining today, but not hard. Just a slow, soft, frankly kind of half-assed rain where the sun is partially out a lot of the time.
I went outside at one point mid-morning to get something out of the car. Stepping out into the cool, humid air, I expected to be swarmed with mosquitoes immediately (move to the woods, they said. It will be fun, they said). But, to my surprise, between the slight breath of breeze and the slow drip of rain, the mozzies weren’t chancing it.
Realizing this rare gift for what it was sent me back inside to get my gloves and pruners. I spent the next 45 minutes working my way through the garden: deadheading the big-leaf rhododendron and azalea, pruning back the small-leaf rhododendron, clipping dead wood and sassy bits of yellow loosestrife from where it had insistently emerged in the middle of hydrangea bushes, and chasing down the origins of some intrusive blackberry brambles (don’t worry, I kept plenty). I got to visit with my little garter snake friend who lives under a partially propped up brick near the damp tangled shade beneath the rhododendron.
Chipmunks chittered and birds hollered. Something with some girth to it slowly crunched along through the underbrush but I couldn’t get my eye on it to get an ID.
The whole time I was out there, I just WAS.
I was damp from rain.
I was stretching to reach branches and stooping to pull weeds.
I was moving with quiet and purpose, not having to think about every little thing I was doing or what I was missing inside or who wanted something from me.
And somewhere in the midst of all that, I found some much-needed, if fleeting, peace.

privilege

This is not a funny jokey ha-ha lol-times post, and I am not apologizing for it. It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to. Kthanksbye.

I just finished watching this week’s episode of Finding Your Roots and I have a lot of feels. I’m a genealogy nerd and a sucker for life stories so the show tends to be my jam anyway…but the episodes where he traces the family trees of African Americans always really get to me. It’s a similar story almost every time: the tree gets to a certain point and then just stops because you inevitably get to a time when this person’s ancestors were no longer recorded in census data because they were basically considered livestock.

If you’re white, REALLY think about that for a minute. Think about what it might feel like to be told that your great-great-great grandparents were owned by someone else. OWNED. Someone looked at a fellow human being, passed judgement on their worth, placed a price on them, and exchanged them for currency. Imagine looking at another living, breathing, feeling, human being…and somehow constructing the belief in your head that you are so superior to them that you could BUY and SELL them, let alone force them to do your bidding, rape them, beat them, and keep them in appalling conditions. And this was the norm for centuries.

It’s deeply uncomfortable to think about these things, and that’s why so many people just…don’t. Being uncomfortable isn’t fun. It doesn’t give you a good story to tell, a cute meme, or a nice photo for Instagram. But discomfort is an excellent teacher. Lessons learned through a filter of discomfort are often the most impactful ones.

My ancestors were very likely not slave owners. I could tell myself a nice story about how it’s because they were all good people who knew right from wrong and valued every human life…but the hard truth is that likely a lot of it was down to the fact that most of them were dirt poor their whole lives themselves and buying slaves for their farms just plain wasn’t an option available to them. Even so, I have internalized racial biases inherited simply by so many generations of my ancestors being white. Even as a dirt-farmer in rural Vermont in the 1800’s, being white was still a shit-load easier than being anything other than white, and I have directly benefited from that privilege. I continue to benefit on a daily basis from a system filled with those same internalized racial biases. Life is just plain easier in many countries in this world if your skin is white.

I’m not waxing about any of this to earn any sort of credit or prove any self-righteous point. It just struck me how uncomfortable and ashamed I felt while hearing the stories of these peoples’ enslaved ancestors, and rather than run away from the discomfort, I decided to sit with it, to turn it over and look underneath it for a bit. Acknowledging to myself that I have and will continue to benefit from white privilege isn’t that difficult for me – I’ve felt it since long before I had the catch-phrase to define it. What is more difficult for me, and what I find myself subsequently leaning into tonight as I write this; is admitting it, fully and without couching, to anyone who chooses to read it. But I refuse to keep choosing my own comfort, and the comfort of those who I know don’t understand or agree with me, over the truth. This is the VERY least I can do as a white person in this fractured, racist world…but it’s all I’ve got for tonight.