Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ice Cream for Artillery Shells, Lipstick for Snipers

I used up all of my fear and worry and sorrow over fearful, worrisome, tragic things months ago, and I don't have any left. I don't feel anything when I hear the news anymore, and this has been as distressing as it can be for someone who isn't feeling. Do you remember that Jack Johnson song, "a billion people died on the news tonight, but not so many cried at the terrible sight"? I stopped crying, and it feels weird.

I'm so unable to appropriately cope with public tragedy any more that I find myself disdaining the general way in which others express grief. The same laments, over and over, combined with the certainty that it will happen again renders the hashtags and the Facebook posts hollow, at best. The most I could muster in response to the most recent mass-murder was, "Wow, that's a bummer." I have some idea of why I react this way now, but I haven't been able to escape it without leaping to the opposite emotional extreme.

As twisted as this may be, I feel a level of responsibility and desire to carry part of the pain experienced by those who are enduring far greater than I am, but I have found this to be a crushing and fruitless burden. More tears on my part doesn't equal less pain on their part. In light and in spite of this, I had a small realization yesterday that helped me.

There have been two bombings in Baghdad, Iraq in the last several days, claimed by ISIS. We are several days into the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims, a time of fasting and prayer. The first bomb went off at a popular ice cream shop, and I remembered that last year there was an attack in Mecca, Islam's holiest city, also during Ramadan. Last year, I remember thinking it was especially cruel to attack people during a holiday when people gather together with family. What is an ice cream shop if not a place of wonder and joy where families and friends come together to enjoy each other's company?

And yet, despite last year's attacks during Ramadan, or attacks on Churches in Egypt, people keep celebrating holidays. They keep leaving their houses, keep eating ice cream, keep going to church. Life goes on, and the best thing we can do is to keep living it with as much joy and normalcy as possible for ourselves and our children. I am trying to remember that within my own country and my own city too, when I feel helpless to prevent foolishness and pain.

It's difficult for me to find a good place to hang out in between debilitating sorrow and complete apathy. I am trying to mourn as best I can with people that I know, and speak up when I see injustice, but I can not run my feet ragged with protests nor cry my voice hoarse with slogans when those things become like slamming my body up against a wall. Exhausting but fruitless. More than that, I don't think it's the best response when the very people I'm worried for have more courage than I do. They keep getting ice cream as an act of defiance. It's not always an overt defiance, but more likely they continue to get ice cream simply because they want to put a smile on their child's face. Living as normally as possible can feel like ignoring the extraordinary going on all around us, but when the shocking becomes a daily ritual, it takes great strength and courage to stay calm, levelheaded, and put one foot in front of the other.

I heard an activist talking about her time abroad, and when she asked women in war zones what she could bring them, they asked for lipstick so they could keep on with their daily routines. It made them feel normal when everything around them was falling apart. One woman said, "I wear lipstick every day so that when that sniper guns me down, he will see that he has killed a beautiful woman." So I must be a bearer of lipstick and a maker of ice cream where I can not be a dismantler of bombs or shout loud enough to repair foreign policy.

"Activism" (in itself a term that has become hollow and coarse to me) isn't supposed to be self-flagellant, it's supposed to be humble and compassionate. Not "look how much pain I am in on your behalf", or "I want to suffer to make myself feel better about watching you suffer", but "how can I make your life as normal as possible for you"?

Keeping things normal does not mean being unaware of the struggle going on around me or being unaware of my privilege to have the option to live a pretty normal life. But I'm also learning not to punish myself emotionally and psychologically for having a measure of privilege, nor to assume that my privilege is the antidote to injustice (such that it's up to me to fix everything that's wrong in the world). As far as I've come to understand it, my privilege is an opportunity to listen. To listen to what someone else's need is, even if it's not as momentous as I think it should be. In short, even if it doesn't make me look glamorous or assuage my fears that I'm not helping enough. It's the chance to make someone else's worry my worry on the most normal level - I can't topple dictators, but I can buy lipstick.

If I'm waiting to be "of enough impact" I will never fill that hole, and I will continue to feel overwhelmed and ultimately deadened by my inability to fix everything. But if I can share ice cream and I can acknowledge the humanity and the courage in the mundane, I start to see, and feel, beyond the magnitude of sadness on the news tonight.

{image by Steve McCurry, taken from his Instagram}

Monday, May 29, 2017

Writing in Zero Gravity

I want to write, but I'm having a hard time.

I've been questioning why I write and should I write and how can I not write and sometimes what I should write. I start to write frequently, and then it's not good enough, and I throw it away and I try again.

I am a writer, but I'm not the best writer, and I hate this. I know that I will never be the very best, and that doesn't bother me so much as knowing I'm not as good as I could be and hopefully will be eventually. I know that between me and her, there is a lot of writing, but I hate that too.

I don't want to write fiction, I want to report and hypothesize and discuss and chastise and repent, and then repeat. But this is hard. Sometimes people don't like you or say things that hurt and make you question, and that is hard.

I want to write so well that no one can argue, but that will never happen. And that's probably a good thing. I want getting better to be enough and I want doing my best to be enough, but right now it's not. As soon as I make it half way through writing something, I hate it. Start over. Throw it out. Start over. Hate it. Start over. What am I doing. Start over. Who cares. Start over. It's pitiful. Start over. Trash. Start over.

What if I'm not brave enough to be a writer?

I read an article on writing by a renowned author recently who said, "writing is what you've done after you've thought." Which is lovely and ludicrous as a job description. Another writer wrote about how fundamentally, writing is a very selfish profession, always asking everyone to pay attention to your view of the world, to what you have to say, and why they should listen to you.

I wouldn't even bother writing if I didn't care deeply about what I have to say, and that's what makes it so hard to weather criticism - I put my guts on the line, and sometimes people hate it. It's difficult not to take it personally. Sometimes people mean it to be personal.

If writing is what you do after thinking, and my writing isn't always good or right, then perhaps my thinking is wrong. I'm sure that it is at times. In fact, more and more I question my thinking. I think I am changing and beginning to see that a lot of the ideas and beliefs I have are only a reaction to a previous set of ideas and beliefs I had which I decided weren't good enough. I imagine this happens continuously throughout anyone's life, but there is zero gravity in between. Who am I if I don't know what I think? And how can I write with confidence if I can not think with confidence?

I want to write, but I'm having a hard time.

{image source unknown}

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Instagrammies 05/04

Here are my latest favorites on Instagram, and why. What has made you stop scrolling in your tracks recently?

@nectarandstone Is it a flower? Is it a cupcake? It's hard to say on this account, and I'm okay with that.

@japanloverme As if I wasn't already enamored with everything Japanese. But seriously, this account is a feast for the eyes, and they also sell amazing jackets, all of which I want, but especially the Stay Weird one, of course!

@marine_edith_studio If you think the average person can't or doesn't want to buy fine art anymore, you'd be wrong. These small and incredible ocean paintings sell out in minutes and they're like $500 each! Don't they remind you of little portholes? I want one.

@meandering_mari I imagine that these kaleidoscope watercolors are so therapeutic to make. Not easy, but all that paper cutting and arranging must be satisfying when it comes together as a paper quilt in such pleasing structures and colors. This account has lots of beautiful paint swirls and dollops in addition to the finished products.

@findingpaola I love this woman's attitude. She calls herself a Haitian fairy, and employs women to help her with her line of headwraps. This particular photo is fierce (she is on the far right), captioned "for our Granddaughters" (which I think is fantastic), but Paola's stories are gregarious and hilarious. She was posing with a friend and giggling, "don't mess with us. We'll throw glitter in your eyeballs," which is my kind of threat. Her regular style is colorful and polished, and recently she's been sharing about these fantastic dress shirts that she's altered to have patterned bell sleeves. You guessed it - I want one.

@simplymoroco I think this account might be run by a travel agency, or perhaps even the tourism bureau of Morocco, but they're doing a damn fine job of making me want to go more than ever.

@asiyami_gold Style for dayyyyz. This girl takes so many incredible trips and looks fabulous doing it. Her hair is often a wig, which I didn't realize for a long time. I know that the topic of African/African-American hair can be pretty charged, so it's interesting to see what different women do or don't reveal about their hair.

@foodwithmichel All I want to do is to drive to LA and eat my way around. I can do that vicariously through Michel. Who knew there were so many over the top hand-held eats?! I don't see food very often that I *don't* want to eat, but still, Michel and I share brain waves about what sort of junk food looks mouthwatering.

@patmcgrathreal Pat McGrath is a famous name in the fashion world as a makeup artist, and she's recently come out with her own line of shimmery "stuff", for lack of a better word, with pretty amazing results. The videos in her stories are mesmerizing and I'm totally on board for galaxy eyes and glitter lips (as if I wasn't before, ha...).

@farwestchina This guy and his family live in the city of Urumqi, in far western China, where I used to live! It's wonderful to have a connection to that place (he travels throughout the province) now that I live so far away, and I appreciate the beauty with which he captures so many subjects close to my heart.

@fancytreehouse Rare are the occasions that I am up for watching IG stories of other people's kids or even looking at pictures of other peoples kids. Fancy Tree House?! MAJOR EXCEPTION. I think Coury (isn't that a cool name?), the mama, is a fashion blogger. I love her style and how she styles her minis. She seems like a really great mom and her kids are incredibly cute. I stare at them eating cereal, that's how cute they are.

@sacraluna I don't think of myself as very into mystical stuff, but let's face it - crystals are pretty. I'm especially into the "flower glass" this artist makes! There are some pieces she's done of flowers set in glass inside the cavities of sea shells! It will delight you.

@marillustrations Paper cutting takes great precision, and I'm in awe of the layering in the incredible miniature scenes that Mar makes. The color of the food tins that often house her artwork frame each piece like trim on a colorful house. I'm so in love.

@michelle_morin Watercolors have never grabbed me the way that more saturated and textured painting often does, but Michelle Morin's work is so colorful and full of life. I also love thistles, and her paintings look very much like the area in which I live, so they are that much more beautiful to me.

I love to think that there are things that the future holds that I will love, but haven't even dreamed of yet. Who knows what will be in my next batch of IG favorites? I already have a few more in mind, but I'm also looking forward to discovering BRAND NEW things that I love. Catch you next time! 
Related Posts with Thumbnails