Monday, October 30, 2017

Harm or Mystery

There's a predator crouching in your soul.  And it might be why you love gory, violent movies depicting torture and other bodily harm.

Jungian psychologists know where it crouches. "This predatory force can manifest as a psychopathic torturer in outer reality or as a tormentor, who attacks us from within. Like all creatures, the human creature must learn that there are predators, in the world out there and within us."  Dr. Heidi Kolb

Horror movies can sublimate the predator, or they can empower it.  The evidence shows that people who are more aggressive are relaxed by violence in media, while people who are less aggressive are upset by it.

I fall heavily into the second category.  Especially after completing the EMT program at Swedish Hospital 20 years ago, my fascination with gore and bodily harm in movies did a 180.  When you train in emergency medicine you don't just learn bandaging.  You look at pictures, lots of pictures, of crime scenes and child abuse.  You learn how to spot who was murdered and who committed suicide. You learn to spot systematic abuse by the movement of bruises and the way victims often defend the offenders.  You get to know how brutal people can really be to each other, especially to innocents.  And you also do rotations in emergency rooms and ambulances where you see plenty of bodily fluids relocated to where they don't belong.  You see pain and suffering and harm.

So, no movies for me named after wood shop tools tearing humans apart.

But the predator can also be an ally.  It can warn you of trouble if you pay attention.  And it can even increase your quality of life by reminding you, with some of your darkest thoughts, that life is not forever.  That we will die someday.  And that can give you plenty of energy.  It can also remind you of the mysteries of simply existing.

In my distant youth Halloween aesthetic was one of otherworldliness, eeriness, and the textures of autumn and harvest.  Back then Halloween always seemed to come on an overcast day with dark, heavy clouds, lush piles of crisp leaves you could jump into with a soft landing and a rush of their spicy funk.  There were always scents of pumpkins and apples and spices, or roasting chilies and bonfires, and stories about grey ladies and ghost trains.

Those Halloweens were about mystery, unanswerable questions about afterlife and other worlds.  Supernatural rituals like masking and carving demon faces into ground fruit connected us to to those worlds.  There was a sense of something beyond our understanding that we were linked with, whether spirits or goblins or (since there were no big bags of manufactured candy at the store and everybody made Halloween by hand) just Mrs. Williams' magically amazing peanut butter popcorn balls.

Harm has never interested me much.  I'll stick with the mystery.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hold Up A Mirror

That's a quote from my friend Bill Thorpe, a brilliant man and great radio personality, copy writer and producer, among other things.

In radio, we're still doing a lot of inside-out thinking.  We talk, the audience listens.  And that works to a point because passive listening is a relaxing service, and also because audiences have learned to expect it.

I talk, you listen.

But audiences are looking for their own reflections in their media and entertainment.

That's why the news has been taken over by a handful of outlets that pander to their demographics, to the point where nothing is really news anymore; it's just a version of reality the outlets have determined that their audiences want to hear.

It's the reason representation is so important and why you see a much, much more diverse cast of characters in most TV commercials and stock photos than you saw even ten years ago.  Representation pumps up sales.

It's also why radio needs to bring back phones.

Phones have been phased out somewhat, because most people don't call anyone anymore.  Most people text or message and only call for business or Mom on the weekends.  Still, radio needs to try again to make phoners work much more often.  Because people want to hear themselves on the radio.

Particularly during tragedies, as my friend Bill says, most stations get it wrong.  They work on making the killer famous, or spew out statistics to incite outrage, or dive into political rhetoric. What we should be doing is letting listeners tell their stories and express how they feel.  That's why social media works, and why stations that use phoners and ask for listener input get bigger ratings.

What we really do, if we do it right, is hold up a mirror.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How I Pay The Bills

...tossing out silly double-entendres weekday afternoons in between Korn and Imagine Dragons songs...


Saturday, October 14, 2017

One Reason...'s been a long time between posts.

The shed, which I kept angora rabbits in.  Turns out angora rabbits are very unhappy in cages, fight when taken out to play in the grass, and fight when taken inside to safety.  Also, my dog Sunny killed one of them (through my negligence).  I rehomed the second bunny in a good herd.  I was writhing with remorse over it all, so the shed sat for a year looking like this:

 ...and finally ended up looking like this:

I tore out the rabbit-pee-saturated old insulation, scrubbed it out, bleached it out and painted. 

The most pressing problem was the door, which had sagged and warped, and no longer closed. I didn't want to buy a whole new door.  We'd made a trip out to Bent's Fort and Jim's engineering brain had memorized the Old West/Steampunk technology locking mechanism, which he then recreated from scratch:

It also needs to be said that Jim painted the exterior, put the roof on it when we first got the thing and put in a brand new window.  Who's spoiled rotten?  Oh, yeah, that would be ME.

Then, the ceiling needed to be insulated.

My Mom bought the recycled denim insulation I wanted.  Installation was a puzzler, but we finally decided to use bird netting and staples to hold it in place.  It worked brilliantly.

I didn't want a bunch of heavy, space-eating paneling over it, so we went with simple muslin panels, stapled.

Then it was time to insulate the walls.  I wanted to keep as much space in the little shed as possible, while keeping it comfortable.  I went with foil-backed foam.

We didn't end up using much glue, since Jim put all the foam insulation in for me while I was at work one day by just cutting the pieces to fit between the studs and wedging them in snugly.  I was grateful, since the glue I'd started using was not agreeing with me.

Still trying to keep as much open space as possible, I didn't want paneling, but I did want the feel of a shed.  I chose contact paper that looked like rough white panels...but a little like birch bark, too.  I pasted it right onto the foam.  The glue in the contact paper wasn't my friend, either, but I had it done in a weekend.

The table had belonged to my friend Kim; I had sanded the ruined finish last year and painted it.  All I needed was a desk chair, a space heater, and a working computer and BAM:  Writing Shed.

But...I added a few things I already had that belong in any writer's space: a Day of The Dead skull because "Alas, poor Yorick" and also as a tribute to Lord Byron who was said to drink wine from a human skull.  Also Rouser, my raven puppet, because Poe.

The view from my desk is awesome, too...just trees soon to be hung with bird feeders, and the compost pile behind them.

We're not fancy.  But if feels like a massive luxury to have this little writing space. An embarrassment of riches.

And now, to get my word count up.  November is coming.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Grief Post-Its

I almost need post-its around the house. 

On the sliding glass door inside: “Don't look for him. He’s not coming home ever again.”

On the outside: “Don’t bother to pull the screen door shut and prop the box fan just so when you go out to weed and water; he’s not here to open the door and let the kitten out.” 

On the bathroom mirror: “He’s never going to be sleeping on the bathmat or in the tub again.” 

On my bedroom door inside: “He will not be waiting in the hall for his breakfast.” 

On the outside: “He’s not on the bed taking a nap. Go ahead and turn the overhead light on.” 

In the writing shed: “He will not need a bowl of fresh water ever again.” and "Don't look for him napping in the big chair.  He'll never be there again."

On the front door: “He is not lounging on the deck waiting for you to look for him here.”

In the office: “Don’t look out the window-he will never leap on top of the fence out there and stalk across the field, never again.” and "He won't interrupt your writing by jumping up, sticking his butt in your nose and stretching out across the keyboard ever again." and "He won't nap in Jim's chair again."

For the kitchen:
“Don’t put an extra spoonful of yogurt in a cat dish and take it in the office. He will never have it again.” and "When saving the tenderest, fattiest bits of chicken or salmon carefully unseasoned, only put a tiny bit in the tiny dish for the kitten.  Bob is not here anymore."

In the garden: “He will not meet you today to lie in the weeds and watch you.” 

And at night, before storms: “Don’t call him like you're calling your cub home. He’s never coming home again.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Magnificence of Creaturehood

How you taught me that, over and over.

The way you hid when we first brought you home, then were seduced slowly, treat after treat, finally into my arms.  The way you would glare at me when I offended you.  The way you rewarded me with the fur of your back under my nose and the swish of your long, thick, lush tail over my eyes when you were pleased with me.

The way you'd mount the 6 foot wooden fence like it was a speed bump, pause up there on an impossibly narrow edge gripped in your big paws as you surveyed your domain of fields and woods, your territory.  The way you would slip gracefully down and then stalk through the tall grass, the muscles in your shoulders rolling under your glorious black and silver coat as you set out for adventures.

The way you would join me in the garden and lie a few feet away, available if I needed you and always reviewing the action.

The way you would climb heavily onto my chest in the middle of the night, your whiskers pressed to my face as your purr thundered, and make biscuits with your huge claws digging into my flesh; you were so beautiful that I tolerated it as long as I could, wincing and finally rolling you gently off, which sometimes got me bitten.

How you could BITE, leaving the puncture wounds rimmed with bruises.

And how you could love.

And how you maintained your pride and magnificence to the last moment, bearing your agonized breathing as casually as if it were some new fashion accessory.  The way you refused to get in the carrier one last time.  Even while gasping for every breath, you could fight.

There was so MUCH of you.

You leave a gaping sinkhole for us.

We'll try to bear it with the pride, the pride of your creaturehood.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Cave

I've spent the last few weeks in what I call the cave, because it feels like the Degobah cave.

Processing trauma takes a lot of energy.  Tara Brach wrote, "Even years after the actual danger is past, the trauma, undigested and locked in our body, randomly breaks through into consciousness."

I'll be strolling along through my life and suddenly come upon the cave again. Sometimes it's triggered, and that has happened several times, but sometimes it just appears on its own. When it does, I have to go in there like Luke into that cave.

Integration of trauma and abuse takes a lifetime, but it's not your whole life.  You can go years functioning at a pretty high level and then suddenly be pulled into the deep dark undertow of the injury and all the other injuries incurred because of the first injury: the shame, anxiety, sleep disorders, mood disorders, flashbacks, panic attacks, harmful coping strategies and the additional injuries from people who don't get it and worse, presume to judge, which adds insult to injury and often ignites rage and sorrow and feelings of isolation, depression, and then anxiety; and then the cycle is triggered and starts all over again.

But if you don't do it, if you settle for half-life, it's like being half ghost.  You have to plunge into the cave, fight the fight, accept what's unacceptable, and then emerge.

I'm emerging again now, and still dragging tangled vines and tracking mud, but stumbling into the open air.

And hopefully, getting back my word count.