Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Weight and Liz Cheney

Weight has always been an issue for me, as it has been and is for every woman (perhaps for every person) in Hollywood.  Perhaps for every American.  Perhaps for everyone in the world.  Even when I was young and lithe and limber and strong, I never felt thin enough.  But I do love me some food.

Three times I have had dramatic weight losses.  What is common to them all is that they happened to me and were not the results of any commitment or resolve on my part.

1) In 1976 I had a bad sore throat for 12 days, couldn't swallow at all.  The weight I lost then stayed off for a long time.

2) In 1991 my thyroid went hyper-active and my metabolism speeded up so drastically that I lost weight no matter how much I ate.  I went down from the size 10 I had been to size 4.  It was several months before I finally went to the correct doctor, got the correct diagnosis and the correct medication.  That weight came back.

3) In 2000 I moved away from Los Angeles, lived on the central California coast, and started a new life.  I exercised more, discovered all sorts of community dances, and fell hyperbolically in love.  Weight simply fell off without me thinking about it.  That weight stayed off until menopause hit me like a hot brick.

I'm not happy with my weight now, and with more reason than I had at any of those other times.  The trouble is that I haven't proved to myself that I can lose weight by choice.

I exercise every day, sometimes two or three times a day.  Clearly my problem isn't activity but food, which I use the same way I use video games and movies - as a way to avoid deep, troubling, sorrowful, conflicted feelings.  So naturally I'm not eager to deny myself one of my avoidance mechanisms, when it will mean experiencing all those feelings: what it's like to live with the tensions, anxiety, and rancor of the COVID era; my outrage at what the Republican party has turned into (I never would have thought that Liz Cheney would become one of my heroes, but she certainly is right now.  Surely some of her Republican colleagues are squirming with shame as she models integrity and courage.  No wonder they want to kill her off.  She's making the rest of them look like the stinking cowards they are.); how much I miss my mom and being near my family; my feelings about my sister-in-law; doubts about whether I have it in me to write a superb play; terror about the inevitable fact that I'm going to die without knowing when and how.

I have to believe in myself right now, tell myself I can instead of that I can't.  "I can't" is a powerful phrase and takes a lot of spine to overcome.  "I can" has a different power, the power of the possible, the power of the unknown, the power of belief over certainty.

So here goes.  I can.  

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Oscars and racism, Part 3

The exchange with my brother continues, and once again, I find I am inspired to examine my own thoughts and opinions in order to understand and express them more clearly.

I had claimed that he and I have no idea what it is to be a POC in this country.  Which isn't completely true.  Certainly we have ideas about what it might be like.  But Bro objects to my saying that we can't truly know what it feels like to move through the world with black skin.  He contrasts my avowed inability to imagine that with my sympathy/empathy for the situations in which Palestinians live.  (This conversation about the Oscars has grown branches and twigs and leaves.)

It's true that I have been to Palestine, or what used to be Palestine.  I have had conversations with Palestinians, visited some of them in their homes and orchards, seen the spent tear gas canisters and rubber bullets lying about, seen the walls and barbed wire and check points, the Israeli solders patrolling the streets with their rifles.  I have read books written by Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, and Brits about life in Israel.

Still, I continue to assert that I don't really know what it is to be Palestinian, what it is to be black, what it is to live the life of the oppressed, because even if I could imagine it fully and deeply and truly, I could also stop that imagining and go back to my safe, un-oppressed life whenever I choose.  I can't possibly know what it is the live an oppressed life and not be able to get away from it.

I used to think about what it would be like when my mom died.  I could easily make myself cry with those imaginings, they were so vivid and emotionally powerful.  But when she did actually die, it wasn't like anything I had imagined, and that was mostly because I could never leave that state of grief, couldn't get away from it, but had to live with it all day every day.  And even this is not a completely analogous situation (the difference between the imagined and the actual), because grief eventually fades. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Oscars, Part 2. Also Karma.

After my previous post celebrating the diversity on display during the most recent Oscar telecast, I got an email from my brother discussing his objection to the possibility of the Oscars being given for what seemed to be political reasons, or for any reason other than rewarding exceptional talent and skill.  His comments caught me by surprise, because I had felt that every award this year had been earned and that none had been given simply for the sake of political correctness or forced inclusivity.

Our exchange did get me thinking, though, about what truly was the reason to celebrate this year's diversity.  I was able to express my response only clumsily at first, until I finally saw that what is truly cause for celebration is that more stories are being told, more kinds of stories about more kinds of people; more voices are being heard; different kinds of experiences are being shared.  Oscar voting has always been led by the voters' biases, allegiances, and subjective tastes, never simply by recognition of the most exceptional work.  (The example I used in responding to my brother was the year, 1969, in which "Oliver!" won Best Picture over "The Lion in Winter", which to me felt like a travesty.)  That subjectivity will always be an influence in the rewarding of any works of art.  How splendid that the subjectivity and biases are finally starting to point in more directions than just toward the work of white men.

Sweet Hubby also added to the conversation that it's not just a matter of who gets nominated and who wins the vote.  It's about who even gets the chance to work as a filmmaker, whose vision has a chance to be seen, whose voice is  heard, whose story is told.  This country, this world, is so rich in diversity; how splendid that that diversity is showing up on screen.  That's what I celebrate.

Okay, on to the other part of this entry: Yesterday I visited an elderly friend of mine.  She's a lovely woman, part of a spiritual group I have been with for many years.  She is also responsible for me traveling to Israel and Palestine a few years ago, a journey I had long imagined but might never have made on my own.  So she is certainly a valued friend, who is now living alone in senior housing.  It's a nice enough place, but still, my friend moved there during COVID and because of that has been in virtual isolation for almost a year, just at the time when her mental and physical powers are diminishing and limiting what is possible for her.  I know she both needs and deserved attention from friends, and I was happy to go, but really it would have been easier for me to have stayed home, where I could have given time to the several projects calling for attention.  I sort of didn't really feel like making the effort.  So I was looking at why I had.  I was under no obligation, had made no promise, and she has no particular expectation of attention from me.

I realized that I visited her for the same reason I remove nails from the street.  On some level, I seem to believe that if I save someone else's tire from puncture, then somehow my tires will be saved as well.  If I visit my lonely elderly friend, then when I'm lonely and elderly myself, people will visit me.  I know that this is not scientific nor reality-based thinking.  Plenty of people who do magnificent acts of generosity wind up with cancer or in car crashes.  Moving this nail will not save me from the next one.  I do know that, and I pride myself on not being superstitious.  But my own actions have revealed to me that I seem to be a believer in some kind of karma.  So I'm going to keep removing nails from the the street.  Just in case.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

And the Oscar goes to...

This is the year that the Oscars became truly diverse.  Not symbolically.  Not with tokenism.  But truly, authentically diverse.  So many actors and filmmakers of different colors - and a second female Best Director!  The tide is turning.

But there are battles still to come.  If everyone is going to get her fair share, some people are going to have to give up theirs, and they may not want to.  I may be one of those.  I want to be generous, support what I believe in and know is right; I want to make a difference.  But on my terms.  I don't want to risk anything big or important to me.  I'm not a Tubman.  I'm not proud to admit this, but it's true.  I hold the right ideals, but don't actually want to do very much about them.  Like most people of privilege, I enjoy what I have and don't want to give any of it up.  I just want the brownie point for right thinking, as though that were enough.

I know it's not considered progressive to think in terms of a zero sum game, but certainly for everyone to have enough, those with more than enough are going to have to let go of some of what we have, right?  Is that how the country will become more fair, more equitable, more just?  Is that how the old, old wounds of racism and inequity will heal?  Can they heal?  Surely these wounds were inflicted so long ago, they have scarred over.  Which may take excision to remove.  Which is a more violent process than  healing. 

I don't know.  Equity seems almost more out of reach than ever these days.  For one thing, there are so many of us, and so many are so angry, no doubt partly because of the changes happening all around us.  That anger is fear-based, people afraid of change, afraid of losing what we've got, and that fear makes us brittle and suspicious.  It's discouraging. 

Still, there was the Oscar telecast, which showed the whole world what a fairer world can look like, a world in which talent and skill are rewarded regardless of color and gender.  That's something.  That is something.  After all, with enough drops, the bucket will eventually fill.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

To my friends and family, just in case

I can't help but think about what life will be like, what state I'll be in, should the worst happen and Sweet Hubby dies before me.  (He has promised I get to go first, but we both know a promise like that can't always be kept.)  I've been composing a message that I would want to send to the most important people in my life, should that happen.  I'm writing it now because I don't know if I will be capable of it then.

"Dear loved ones, I'm going to need help to survive this.  I need someone to make sure I eat once in a while, and drink lots of water, and take a shower now and then.  I need to know that Flow is taken care of.  If you are able, please come, for a few hours or a few days, whatever you can do without neglecting your own life.  I'll have the futon set up.

"But please only come if you can be with me as I go through this.  Don't try to make me feel better.  Just be with me.  It's probably going to be hard and scary.   I have to know that you will take care of yourself, too.  If for any reason you can't come, know that you will never have to apologize or explain.  I trust you to know what you are capable of, what you have to give.

"Someone please step up and coordinate with the others.  Thank you in advance for your love and company."

I'm fortunate to have people in my life I could send this to, people I trust, people who care and will show up if they can.  May there never be a need.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Big guns and small changes

I have just read an editorial describing Russia's military build-up along the Ukraine border.  The editorial claimed Russia's intentions are unclear.

In my experience, people who carry guns want to use them, find reasons to use them.  Russia's intentions are absolutely clear: to intimidate and threaten and prove they are ready and willing to carry out their threats.  They have the weapons and they have the will, and there's not much doubt they will use both.

I suppose if I were in charge of a country, I would understand the desire/need to take what I wanted from whomever else in order to grow/succeed/feel safe.  But since I'm not in charge of much of anything, I look at acts of aggression, such as Russia's toward Ukraine and China's toward Hong Kong and Taiwan, and wonder at what seem unnecessary and rather barbaric greed and shows of force.  I know there is always a complex dance going on between countries as each one tries to maintain and improve its standing in the world and the lives of its people - or at least of its leaders.  But will we as a species ever outgrow the need to aggress against others?  Because of course the national aggressions are only larger and more formidable examples of the smaller aggressions humans inflict on one another every day.  

And maybe that's the point I'm trying to make to myself.  I can't do much about Russia militarizing its border with Ukraine, but I can certainly become more aware of my own acts of aggression, hostility, threat.  When I'm at my most sensitive, I understand that even speaking sharply to someone, or being sarcastic, or gossiping, all are ways I assert my power, or try to.  So I guess if I do those, I oughtn't to be surprised that the leaders of countries do the same sorts of things on a much grander and more dangerous scale. 

Will it really make a difference if I finally rid myself of my own hostility and unkindness?  I suppose if everyone on the planet were able to, there might be a chance we could all settle down and create a finer and more equitable life for all.  But I am just one, so could my own healing actual help heal the entire planet?  It doesn't seem likely.  It's also all there is for me to do, because if I can't, how can I expect anyone else to?  

"Oh Lord, thy sea is so big and my boat is so small."

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The luxury of my feelings

Lately I find I'm terribly sensitive and feel fragile.  A recent minor and quickly corrected miscommunication with a friend left me weeping for an hour.  I get inordinately angry at inanimate objects, overly frustrated when something I'm cooking doesn't turn out, and I sometimes become rebellious against Sweet Hubby so quickly and unexpectedly that it takes us both by surprise.

As lovely a marriage as we have, as splendid a husband as he is, SH and I most definitely butt heads now and then, and when I'm as emotionally thin-skinned as I am these days, I usually end up fighting harder than I need to.  I'm up against a lot when we disagree.  He is highly educated with, as I like to joke, "more degrees than a thermometer", while I'm a college drop out.  He is an only child who never had to learn to share and is used to being in charge of his life and not having to compromise, while I grew up with siblings.  I often come to him for help (usually with the tech which dominates our lives), while he almost never turns to me unless he is sick.  And he is a man.  All of this places him in a position of invisible power, power he would never consciously wield, but which is understood in a native way, the way dogs understand who is alpha and who needs to show her belly.  The trouble is, I'm used to being the alpha in my own life too.  I'm not educated, but I'm terrifically smart and strong.  But because of the advantages I'm aware he has, I too often feel powerless.  When he and I are toe to toe, all I've got is guts and instinct.  Fortunately for me, he is man who can be reasoned with, who can listen and explain or amend.  But that's only when I come at him with reason.  When I lead with the heat emotions, as I seem to be doing more of lately, then he also fights from a place of defense and survival.

I understand this emotional fragility I'm feeling.  Four years of the ignorance, hypocrisy, corruption, and mendacity from the Trump administration, and this last year + of COVID anxiety, as well as the social and racial divide that has come noisily to the surface rightly demanding to be dealt with, along with the continuing and growing threat climate change poses, these circumstances have worked on all of us, grinding away at our sense of safety, our hope for the future, our trust in our leaders.  I'm surprised any of us are still standing.

Yet even as I give way to tears, self-pity, and lashing out, I'm aware that the ability and right to have and express these feelings are privileges not afforded to many people.  I don't imagine the people in Yemen, in Syria, in Palestine, in COVID-ravaged households have the luxury of pouting because their avocadoes have brown spots, or of throwing temper tantrums because their marriage partner said something that hurt their feelings.  I don't imagine the people living in the ever-growing number of tent communities around the city have the luxury of saying "I'm bored, I kind of don't feel like doing anything today, I'm slightly depressed and think I'll just pull the covers over my head."  I don't imagine someone who is working full time from home as well as educating and entertaining four children has the luxury of saying "I'm so sensitive, I should just take a day off."

We feel what we feel, we think what we think.  I know that.  But I also know that it behooves me (isn't that a great word?) to stay as aware as possible of how fortunate I am, not to take it for granted, and always to keep in mind that indulging my feelings is a luxury I have not earned but have been given by the good fortunate of whatever mighty forces come together to make up my life.