It’s Friday, I’m in Love

I spent a non-trivial portion of today thinking about awesome sh*t.  Maybe it was the Betty Who and Lana del Rey on iTunes.  Maybe it was the upcoming long weekend (F*CK YES Y’ALL).  Maybe it was the double-shot sweetheart latte this morning.  Maybe it was that the office is quiet today, and I’ve gotten a lot done with very few unwanted interruptions.  Maybe I just made a really good perfume choice this morning.  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I look even cuter than usual today.  Whatever it was, I managed to float happily on the surface tension of lovely thoughts, plans, and hopes, despite being at, you know, work.  So in the interests of keeping things happily balanced between sort of heavy content, and light-hearted stuff, here’s what’s up in my head today:

  • Within the next five or six months, we’ll be living in our favorite neighborhood in Philadelphia.
    • Corallary: We will likely be neighbors with a bunch of awesome people, and be able to do things like come home from awesome jobs and make excellent food together in one kitchen or another, with music and cocktails.  Ginny and I will take walks with hot cider in cool weather while wearing tweed.  We might knit on someone’s awesome porch, even.  I will peg friends with snowballs on the way to my car in the morning.
    • Corallary: In the new ‘hood, we can probably afford an entire home for what we currently pay for a cramped cozy one bedroom third floor walk-up, with the option to include a housemate if we need breathing room on the rent.
  • We hit the farmer’s market yesterday evening after work (and a glass of wine) and I scored the ingredients to make borscht, including a beef heart, oxtail, and some really lovely looking beets.  Today’s weather was perfect for it, but I’ll likely make it Monday night, after the thunderstorms break the heat that’s coming this weekend.  Tom’s never had it, and I think he’s going to like it a lot.
  • I treated myself to a manicure today at lunch.  I went with black like it’s 1997 and I’m uninterested in your judgment.
  • I’m running a very informal session of Jade Regent for three of my players tonight.  Indian food and a lot of them fannying around the tavern (in game) are likely.  I might send them into the swamp for funsies.  Tom has a new character he’s introducing who is likely to be fun.
  • I’m wearing a houndstooth dress with pockets.  That is all I have to say about that, because nothing else needs to be said.
  • I get to see two of my dearest friends this weekend, and hang out with them by the pool with their kid, and that’s awesome.
  • I get my own birthday all to myself this year, and don’t have to share it with anyone.  Mine mine mine mine mine.  Thirty-three is going to be great.  #vernalequinox  We’ll have a new place and I can have my own party (or not) and I won’t have to split my time between competing groups of people who love me.  Glorious.

So yeah: Pretty awesome dudes.  2015-2016 is going to be THE YEAR OF AWESOME SAUCE.  I can’t wait.


It’s Friday, I’m in Love

Perfect Poison

I’ve recently joined a group of thinkers and writers who are all recovering from contact with people on the crazy-making end of the narcissism spectrum.  I have referenced (sometimes obliquely, and sometimes directly) that my father was my initial contact with narcissistic behavior patterns, and that since cutting off contact with him seventeen years ago, I’ve had the occasion to run into a few others who exhibit similarly disordered patterns of thinking, behaving, and interpreting the world.  As I shuffled through the threads written by the members of this new group, I paused to reflect how prevalent the focus on perfection and perception was.  This is a topic about which I have a great deal to say, so I am going to try to do so in a somewhat artful fashion here.  It is likely a topic I will return to, as the anthology takes more shape and becomes more of an active and living project for all of us.  With that as a preamble, here we go…

There are times when perfection feels like armor that just won’t fit no matter how hard I try.  At my best moments, my response to that is to throw it across the room, give myself a hug, and accept that it’s a stupid trick my brain plays on me to reinforce the veracity of my early and formative life experiences (which were honestly pretty mixed to begin with).  During less enlightened moments, I have a wee tendency to beat myself up.  I will pull on the zipper of Perfection frantically, sure that if I just wiggle a little bit this way, or straighten up just a bit more, It Will Fit and everything will be the way it was supposed to be. Forget that it has the wrong number of sleeves for the number of arms I have.  Forget that I don’t even really like the color.  Forget that it is itchy and uncomfortable.  Forget that I don’t even remember why I am trying the stupid thing on to begin with.  I will wrestle perfection out of myself and Be The Thing That Is Required, just you try and stop me.

I actually probably mean that.  Maybe try and stop me, because all of that right there is more than just a little bonkers.

Close contact with someone on the narcissism spectrum will do that to a person, and the earlier in life that it happens the more tenacious and unyielding the attachment to that stupid, ill-fitting, poorly constructed garment will be.  Because here’s the message: “the entity that wears this garment?  Her dreams will come true.”  And so you believe it.  You believe that being just right, Mary Poppins style — practically perfect in every way — in all things will earn you the fountain of love, acceptance, safety, affirmation, and adoration you know in your smart little heart, you need and deserve.

There are several problems with this paradigm.  Perhaps the most glaring is: it is false.  And it is false for so many reasons I am close to Not Even with the Ability to Can in relation to it.  It is false because the being you contort into in order to get those things is no longer you, little being who is worthy of love.  It is false because the garment is always changing based on the fluctuating needs, desires, and whims of a person not grounded in a shared reality. It is false because the garment doesn’t even actually exist — it’s a collection of carefully cataloged and curated minutiae sifted and panned from the behavior and words of a person who is actively attempting to control others such that they see themselves reflected favorably in their eyes, even when they are cruel, manipulative, and ill.  But primarily, it is false because that garment won’t do what you think it will do.  It’s a trap.  It’s bait.  It’s the carrot, and the stick is just behind it.  I have often wondered if the person wielding the carrot (and the stick) is aware of that fact, or if, for them, our inability to capture it is not an unfortunate encounter with a fluid, indescribable, and unattainable impossibility, but rather a failure — and more importantly, a failure to adequately ‘love’ them.

I try not to dwell on that particular piece of macabre reflection for too terribly long, because ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is my realization, dawning slowly over the last few decades, that it is okay to stop talking about too much or too little.  It is okay to let go of the idea that a perfect balance of personality traits will somehow insulate me from harm (it won’t).  It is okay to look at my flaws and laugh: I wear shoes with no socks, my feet are smelly.  I cry easily and often, but sometimes can’t and get grouchy.  I forget to eat sometimes, and act like a brat when I do.  I will fight bedtime even when I’m tired.  I stink at getting up early, and I can’t pack lunch to save my life.  These items are just as important as my more admirable and useful traits: I am fierce and resilient.  I am clever and loving.  I am often joyful and take great pleasure in delighting others.  I am grateful.  This constellation and all of my too muchness and too littleness, the quirks and winding alleys and hiccups: that’s the little creature who deserves to find all she hopes for.  And if I give her up in favor of chasing that stupid carrot, she’ll never have a chance.


And she deserves any chance I can give her.  So f*ck that carrot.


Perfect Poison

How teachers can best use TED Talks in class, from the perspective of a student

TED Blog

What happens when a teacher mixes Madame Bovary and a TED Talk? Good things, actually. Photo: iStockphoto What happens when a teacher mixes Madame Bovary and a TED Talk? Good things, actually. Photo: iStockphoto

By Olivia Cucinotta

My high school English class had just finished reading Madame Bovary, and we were all confused. (For those of you who have not read it, please skip to paragraph two. Spoiler alert!) Emma Bovary, a listless housewife in search of the passionate love she’s read about in books, has many sordid affairs, falls deeply into debt and kills herself by swallowing arsenic, and her ever-faithful and terribly dull husband Charles dies a while later of a broken heart, and their daughter, upon finding her father dead, is sent to work in a cotton mill. We were all baffled and upset by the end of this intense, complicated novel. When we arrived in class the next day, our teacher asked us the question: “What can we learn about real love…

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How teachers can best use TED Talks in class, from the perspective of a student

A Certain Levity When it Comes to Naming Things

I like naming things.  I think this is primarily because I really like words.  I like words a lot, because it has been my experience that they are a source of beauty, of power, and ideally, of authenticity.  I read some beautiful words today that named important things.  

I tend to name things, especially heavy things, with a certain amount of levity.  This can be for self-full reasons and it can sometimes be because I have a wee tendency to efface my own feelings for the amusement of others.  I recently named the month of June of this year “Galactic Collision 2014,” and feel pretty clever about that.  Here is what happened:

Shaun wrote this:

And then such people become the source of the strings of others, pulling them towards this ugliness. They become one source of misanthropy, collecting people mired in anger, hatred, and judgment temporarily.  Often, they collect as many people as they can, so long as they are useful, especially if such people are willing to exist around this misanthropy due to cowardice, apathy, or through being led to believe that they might be an exception to such misanthropy–a nice thought, to be an exception! The longer such people remain in such quarters, the longer it feels natural, normal, and even superior.

And I was briefly struck by this image of us all sort of careening through a galaxy, where the way that people are is like a certain kind of gravity, and that coming too close or plotting an uncareful course can land us in an orbit that normalizes that way of being.  If you circle a star or a planet long enough, it looks like home.  It looks like YOUR home.  And leaving home is so hard, because out there is Not Like Home Was, and it’s like you forget that OUT THERE is your real home, and you used to have your own kind of being, and it was Really Good Being You.  You just were smaller, or more flexible, or less dense, or made of the right stuff to turn into an asteroid belt for whatever larger energy field happened to be in your path.
It’s funny, because I often playfully tell Tom that he is my sun, and I am his satellite, orbiting happily around the place that feeds my plants and moves my oceans, and helps me feel that I belong in a place and have meaning.  But I think it’s because his gravity is HIS, you know?  Plus, he reminds me that I change his orbit by being there.  I’m not small and insignificant: I make him wobble around a whole lot.  
But we’re not always so fortunate.  Sometimes the quirks of our characters make us more susceptible to acquisition, and sometimes even another satellite to a toxic star can pull us away from our real homes and our real selves.  Escaping that orbit is hard, and requires help from our true gravitational homes.  This happened to me, recently, while interacting with an Event Horizon of toxicity.  I consider myself really fortunate, because I got to a point where I just kept spinning faster and faster, hoping to keep all of my tectonic plates on me, and keep the core of my little planet from leaking out into my atmosphere.  A collision happened, blowing me clear of the inevitable assimilation I was facing, whereupon I’m pretty confident I would have lost myself entirely.  And then, something magical happened.  There was this whole constellation of people (with Tom at the center of them all) ready to set me straight on my axis, like, “hey there, li’l planet you’ve had a tough time just now so let’s just get you back and situated in the places where you don’t have to fit in — you just belong.”  
So really, We’re all in this moving constellation, helping each other correct our courses and be the little moons and planets and big crazy stars we are.
And I like that idea and I think it is really beautiful and I’m glad it is happening and I wanted to share it with you.
The end.
Except not The End at all.  More like, Decidedly the Glorious Middle.  
A Certain Levity When it Comes to Naming Things

The love we deserve

My dearests, Ginny and Alex have started a tumblr to collect stories and images depicting the beautiful ways in which people have been loved. I plan to submit some things to them, and encourage you to take a moment, and remember the last time someone filled your heart to bursting, write about it, and submit it to them.
This is a labor of the heart.

Skepticism, Properly Applied

This is cross-posted from my brand new tumblr! Where I’m hoping to collect tons and tons of stories, pictures, videos, etc that also go under this theme of, “these are some amazing ways people have loved me.”


Dear Younger Ginny,

I’m writing to the girl who sat across from her mentor, tearfully talking through issues with the boy you were dating. Your mentor listened for a long time, and then asked, “Ginny. Does he make you happy?” And you thought for a minute and said, “No, not really.” And she said, “If he doesn’t make you happy, you can break up. You don’t need a reason or justification.”

It was a revelation to you then, and based on what’s happened in the last 15 years, it didn’t entirely sink in. So I want to tell you some true stories.

You have always loved opinionated and argumentative men, and a…

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The love we deserve

Squinting Down the Tunnel

I wish there had been some way to know, back in December, how I would feel about my job in August.  Welcome to life, there, little human.

Tom’s acceptance to school has been put on hold, for entirely bullsh*t paperwork related reasons. Some administrative snags, delays, and miscommunication will likely mean that he will begin classes in January instead of, you know, next week.  I know he’s disappointed, and I’m disappointed for him (and maybe just a little irate on his behalf — not helpful, Rabbit).  

Meanwhile, my job has become even more of a rat race.  Or maybe it’s just that my perspective has shifted, I really can’t be sure.  Six new cases landed on my desk yesterday, but only after I asked for them.  Our division partner was gently critical of my billing in June when our litigation calendar was slow (and you know, my private life was mid-explosion — thanks again to the jerkwad askhole extrovert bombadier brigade for that one!), and I know I’m more productive with a big backlog.  The fact that training a new paralegal to bill (and bill well, she’s doing great) has not been mentioned, appreciated, or rewarded is sort of sticking in my craw, as those hours were not billable hours but definitely added value to our firm.  I’m expecting something of a shite review in December, and I wonder how much of that is me over-emphasizing anything less than glowing feedback (like I do) and how much of it is that it’s probably a bit apparent how emotionally burnt-out I feel.  

I’m so tired of my sort of impressive amount of brain power being devoted to cramming more billable tasks into six minutes blocks, indefinitely, for at this point, close to nine hours a day, five days a week.  As it is, I’m coming in early and lying about it to try and boost my billable totals to maybe justify a bonus that’s big enough to make the last three months feel like they’re worth something.  I haven’t taken a day off in five months.  I don’t anticipate taking one off for another three and a half months.  I haven’t even made time to go to the doctor, figure out my car, or get my teeth cleaned, because: Billable Hours are God, or Something.

I’m doing what I can to stave off the tide of decay.  I have plans to tackle the English/Language Arts curriculum for eighth grade and provide a comprehensive analysis of that list of books, probably here on this blog.  I also want to see if I have the chops to develop a reading list and syllabus for a critical thinking course that would be appropriate for grades 6 through 8, potentially using a work of Agatha Christie’s as a backdrop.  And Then There Were None seems like an excellent place to start. I will also be researching puzzles, games, thought experiments, and riddles for that course, I think. I’ve modified my somewhat aggressive tabletop game schedule to give myself more time to hit the library, devour books, and crap out thoughts about them.  I also need to bone up on, I’m assuming, MLA citation guidelines (which I have always held was a racket set up by High School English teachers, and prefer the Chicago Manual of Style, but whatever, no one asked me).  

I’m glad I’m coming up with projects that make my hopes and dreams feel a little more present, tangible, and fortifying.  It feels like I’m squinting pretty hard down a long tunnel, hoping that the light at the other end is real.

Squinting Down the Tunnel