Sunday, October 12, 2014

No Justifications

In Kant's ethics the term "person" is not merely descriptive but normative.  Persons are ends in themselves and sources of value in their own right...  People don't need justifications.  They're people and that's enough.  ~~ Rebecca Goldstein; The Mind-Body Problem 

I am, slowly, working my way through the deep stack of books (both fiction and non-fiction) by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein that I bought at the beginning of the summer.  Her writing is dense and richly textured.  There are no throwaway passages.  It requires dedication and attention to be reading her work.  I am always limited in the time available for leisure reading, and that is even more true during the school year when, as teacher, much of my reading is in preparation for my classes each day.  I can't imagine that, at the rate I am going, I will finish Goldstein's catalog anytime soon.  It is taking me about 2 months per each book, so that puts me out in the range of another year and a half, give or take a bit.  It's OK.  I'm in no rush.  Reading her books is a bit like a long, meandering, ever-deepening chat with a good friend.  It can take as long as it takes.

The quote here is from the very end of her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem.  I like it very much.  The story revolves around what she refers to as the "mattering map;" the internal calculation that many of us make pretty regularly about how we measure up in comparison to everyone else.  The question that plagues us as self-proclaimed "wise men" (homo sapiens) -- who matters in this context, and am I counted among them? She comes, in the end to this conclusion, drawn on Kant, that it is enough to be people.  Just that.

I found that thought comforting and enlightening.  Having spent most of the last dozen years in some sort of frenetic, self-imposed worry about where I stood on the mattering map of my own life, it feels really good to have the knowledge that I matter.  I matter, not because of how I stack up in some sort of contest against all the others that I can see, but simply because I am a person.  That is enough.  Enough.

What is it to be "enough?"  It is calm in the face of all of life's ups and downs.  There is no retribution for having fallen short somehow.  I am not deficient in any aspect.  There are none who are better or worse.  We are all people.  That is enough.

It is enough to be exactly who I am.  Exactly where I am.  This age.  This position.  This place.  This relationship.  This set of skills and talents and lack of capacities.  I need not apologize.  I need not agonize.  I need not worry that someone who matters MORE will notice that I am only pretending to my place, and then I will be exposed for the fraud that I have always feared I might be.

It is enough to look the way I look, dress the way I dress, believe the way I believe, love the way I love, and live the way I live.  Being enough frees me in a way that I have never known.  I will not march to the drumbeat of the market culture.  I will not measure my wealth against anyone else's.  I will not gauge my skills and abilities and unique places in comparison to anyone else.  I will be the human person that I am, living my part in the great drama of the universe, and that will be enough.

I am...

Many of you who have followed me here have expressed some sort of concern about how I am, some hope that I am "well."  I understand the genesis of that concern and uncertainty.  The last number of years have been challenging to say the least.

We tend to ask that "how are you?" question as a social nicety, and I am aware that the polite question may not actually be a request for whatever the whole story amounts to these days.  There is a reason that we most often answer the inquiry with something innocuous:  I'm great.  Fine as frog fur!  Upright and taking nourishment.  Sometimes we even deflect with a question of our own:  "How are YOU?"  So, I want to be sensitive to the social niceties around this type of question.

The truth is that I am well enough.  I sometimes torment myself with the habituated wishing for something different in my life, but mostly I am clear that that is pretty silly nonsense.  I am not getting any younger, and there is no prince charming waiting in the wings for me.  I'd wish for that perfect dominant that would make my BDSM world complete, but I am 99% sure that there is no such person.  I tried to live that dream and I am convinced that it is really just a dream wherein we try to force ourselves and our partners into scripts that are not our own or theirs either for that matter.  So, apart from the occasional spanking when Tom is in the mood (and for a number of months that has meant about once a month), my adventures with BDSM are ended.  I could mourn that but it seems to me that I only have so many days ahead of me.  I don't want to waste them grieving for something that quite possibly never existed at all except in my fevered imaginings.

I am in pretty good health.  I weigh more than I should, and I am working to try and address that, but it is my choice and my plan and the results will be for me.  If it turns out that I am "more desirable as a woman" when I weigh 30 pounds less, then I'm good with that, but it isn't my motivator.  Not this time.  I am inclined to be sad.  Perhaps I have always tended to the depressive side of the scale.  I have no intention of doing anything about that.  Somedays I am sad, and somedays not.  It is what it is.  I'm done with the whole therapy and medications gambit.  This is me.  I still fight the battle with migraine headaches.  I have fired one headache specialist, and am awaiting an appointment with the only other one in town at the end of this month.  I am, as usual ahead of seeing a new doctor, a bit hopeful, but also clear that there are no magic pills for these things.  So.  We will see.

I still teach, and almost always I still love doing it.  This year, for the first time in all of my career, I have only science classes, and it is wonderful.  I love the discipline, and I enjoy opening the world up for young minds to know and appreciate.  It is a ton of logistical management with three different lab classes going simultaneously, but it is a lot of fun.  I still think that I fell , by accident, into one of the greatest schools anywhere, and I am thrilled to be a part of what happens there.  So work is my joy.

Our family is intact.  Changed.  No doubt.  I don't believe anymore, however, that the change is fundamental.  What we tried to build was not a valid reflection of who we all were.  We kidded ourselves and misled one another.  There was plenty of blame to go around, and we all indulged whatever taste we had for that nasty dish.  No more.  I'm neither blaming nor accepting blame.  Each of us have learned what there was to learn from this passage, I suspect.  Now, each one of us loves in the way we are able. Our life together is quiet and relatively peaceful.

So.  I am good.  Fine.  Thank you all for caring.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I really do not feel my 59+ years.  I look in the mirror, and the face that looks back at me does not seem to me to be the face of "a woman of a certain age."  Clearly I don't look 30 anymore, but a lifetime of avoiding the sun because of my very fair skin has brought me to this point looking younger than I am.  At least, that is how I see it.

My knees, however, are a different story.  I have not been gentle on my knees.  I was a happy tomboy, and I was happiest out playing baseball and football with my brothers and the guys in my neighborhood.  I was 14 when I slipped on the grass, trying to avoid a tackle, and dislocated my knee.  Badly.  My dad, bless him, called for an ambulance and wouldn't let anyone touch me until they came.  I remember the orthopedic doc that reset the knee telling me that someday...  "Someday, you are going to regret this.  This knee will never be as strong as it was, and when you grow older, it is going to give you trouble."

And my genetic inheritance is one that practically guarantees a fair share of osteo-arthritis, if not the far more scary rheumatoid arthritis.

The fact is that I have crappy knees.  They are stiff.  They don't bend, and they never feel very sturdy.  I am always worried, especially when I am walking uphill or upstairs, that they will actually collapse and dump me on my ass.  I receive regular synvisc shots, and I also get cortisone injections.  The shots keep me pretty functional.  But it is still what it is.

Today, I walked my 6th grade science classes to a nearby park for a look at the issues related to our urban forest.  It is 1.31 miles each direction, over some pretty significant hilly terrain.  Add to that the mile or so of walking through the woods while we were there, and my knees are thumping tonight.

I'm an old lady.  I'll sit here and soak my feet and later I'll ice the knees.  I'll take some aleve and hopefully, by tomorrow, I'll be up and around again.

No matter what the mirror might say, it is clear that the knees don't like.  Go figure.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dreaming Me

Forty years ago, I was nearing my 20th birthday, and I was "in love."  At least, that is what I thought at the time.  Looking back, I realize that that 19-year-old girl-woman was in love with the idea of being in love, and in love with the idea of belonging to someone who cared, and most of all, in love with the idea of being safe.  Marrying that "knight in shining armor" wannabe was a huge mistake.  He was a good guy, but he wasn't equipped to love me to happiness or security or safety.

I toughed it out in that sad excuse for a marriage for some 25 years.  I bore two children to that man, and I raised those children into adulthood, all inside of that house that was never fully a home.  The guilt of that set of choices remains to this day, but I try not to indulge that.  Guilt is pretty much a useless emotion.  It doesn't do anything useful for them or for me.

As the marriage was drawing to an end, I fell "in love" again.  Having been a faithful and dutiful wife for all of my adult life, I had hardly any more experience in the world of life and love the second time around, and so... guess what?  I fell in love with the idea that THIS time, THIS love would make me happy; give me someone who cared; keep me safe; and finally give me that feeling of belonging somewhere.  Years did not equate to wisdom in my case.  Experience, had I had much of it, might have given me the understanding that I clearly still lacked.  Innocence and naivety are, perhaps, charming, but they sure as heck do not serve to equip a person for venturing out into the big wide world.

Now, I am approaching my 60th birthday.  Finally, I think I get it.  If I am going to be happy, I will need to figure that out for myself.  If I am going to belong to someone, that someone is going to have to be me.  If I am going to be safe enough to face the world without crippling fear, I am the only one who is going to stand in the breach and fend off the dragons, and villains, and soul-destroying predators.

I've spent a lifetime trying to win the love I've craved.  I've cared worked and struggled and watched the long lonely nights for love to come back to me in measure equal to what I've given.  I don't believe in that emotional economy anymore. It doesn't work.  No one ever feels obligated to return the favor.  No one ever accounts for what is given, and then begins to calculate what it would take to repay the debt.  People are simply animals, working to survive in the world, and they will take what is given and keep on walking their own paths with hardly a backward glance.

So.  Today I am promising myself to make myself happy.  I am promising that I will dream my own dreams.  I am promising that when I need to be cared for, and cared about, I will do the caring.  I'm tired of dreaming someone else.  It is time to begin dreaming me.