Saturday, June 26, 2010

And Lou Reed Was Playing In My Head On Repeat

Yesterday was the perfect day. A mid-year course correction. Since I went back to work, I have been using Writing Fridays for house-wifely items, and yesterday was the first time in a long while that I actually had the entire day to write. I had dropped off Zygote and got the grocery shopping done all by the time I usually get to work. I drove to Walden Pond, and alternated between reading and writing all day, only breaking to eat some fruit and swim for a half hour. I finished an essay, started another one and did some free-write exercises. Warm, freckly, perfect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What I DO Give A Shit About

So yesterday was one of those days.

Image courtesy of Hyperbole and A Half

I was whining to a coworker about how I don't give a shit about technology and I don't give a shit about corporations and I don't give a shit about profit and loss unless it's my own and how really, I don't give a shit in general. Most of this was brought on by lack of sleep and watching the documentary, The Corporation, which was great, by the way, but not the right thing to watch when you are in a mood and feeling kind of ick about your place in the whole corporate world. Especially the segment on PR and all its YOU GET TO BE THE MOUTHPIECE OF THE CORPORATION YAY YOU stuff.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the key question in all that ranting and raving -- what do I actually give a shit about? So I made a list because that is what I do when I am feeling ick. A list of things that I get all frothy and passionate about.

Things JM Gives A Shit About In No Particular Order

* Zygote
* YG
* Family and friends
* Women's Rights: yes, this is all encompassing but work/life balance, gender inequality, abortion rights, moms' rights, etc.
* Body Image
* The politics of health and fat/Health at Any Size/nutrition
* Running/exercise
* The corporatization of the whole fucking world
* Living Simply
* Parenting
* Fashion and style, and not in the New York Times way
* Literature -- mostly the reading of, not the critiquing of
* Music -- appreciation of, not making

These are the things that usually get me to stop and pay attention, and I'm not quite sure how to take the things I care about and turn them into something I can do for a living. I am good at my job, and I like the choices and flexibility it gives me on most days, but I'm never going to be GREAT at my job because in the end, I don't give a shit. I am not creating art in the world (and yes I know that sounds all 'I wear all black and care about womyn' but bear with me). I create spin, and while it's good, I'm just not sure it matters.

I thought it would be different when I moved to Massachusetts. While I have a number of reasons I publicly state for coming here, it really was a great escape and I did it because I wanted to change everything that wasn't working. For the most part, I did. I absolutely love where I live and I love my simplified lifestyle, and I can't figure out a way to say this that is not vomit-inducing, so I will just say that I absolutely love my husband. Those things are all GREAT. But I'm still struggling to figure out my place in the world. To figure out what I should be doing with all the immense privileges that I do have. I don't feel I put that privilege to good use, and right now, I want to be open to well, anything. I found myself recently journaling about "when we move to San Francisco..."(which wouldn't be until MG went to college anyway, so we're talking years), and all the escapist fantasies that come with that. And then I knew that it's time to stop fucking around and figure out how to make myself useful. Advice welcome.

Fun With Keywords (Or How You Find Me)

Google Analytics can be pretty addictive. I like to check in every once in a while to see what's going on and imagine who you, dear reader, actually are. I actually know some of you in "real" life, but I'm more curious about the folks that just lurk and read like I do on a good many people's blogs.

And oh my god, do I love the keywords!

The vast chunk of you get here by searching for "the fantasy of being thin" and that's probably because I refer back to that post so many times. The real Fantasy of Being Thin was written by Kate Harding and is here and you should go read it RIGHT NOW. It was a defining piece for me, but alas, I did not write it. Another big mess of you get here by searching for "like seriously?" or variations on that, and I assume this is because we have all lost the ability to communicate without sounding like Valley Girls.

My personal favorite searches are just the really weird and unexplainable shit. For a while there, "swinging testicles" might have been my all-time favorite, but new contenders include:

* "i need something that could make last , when i am doing sex , i am coming too soon ."
When I am doing sex makes me very happy.

* "knee socks"
More random than anything. Who searches for knee socks and then stays here? Oh, it's my compelling prose!

* "seriously how to grow boobs"
Very serious, indeed. Nothing to joke about there with the growing of the boobs.

* "that teenager persists, when these songs materialize over the speaker systems in department stores or reworked as television-commercial soundtracks"
I like this sentence. I wish I had wrote it. It's from Fatshionista. I cannot imagine typing that entire thing into Google. You are a very specific searcher.

Tell me about you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not Buying It

I am amazed by the bloggers that manage to have full-time jobs, families, and scads of well-articulated essays. Here's how my week usually goes. I go to work and eat my lunch at my desk. This is designated Blog Time, where I read through the blogs I follow and attempt to shovel in food at the same time. I usually send links to my personal account with subject lines like "For Blog" or "Write This Topic" or "Think" with the idea that I am going to go home, eat a meal, spend quality time with kid and husband, read all the books that are piling up on the bookshelf, and then write some brilliant essay based on someone else's post, and then get to bed in time to get 8 hours of sleep. Yeah, right.

If I ever do anything with the links, it's usually more of a Link Love post with a message that says, "they said it better than me."

That being said, I have been thinking about this post, Why We Buy, over at Cat's Meow for a while. The sermon at church today discussed our culture of conspicuous consumption and how even so-called Christians base decisions about the life of the church on money and status. It reminded me that I wanted to write something about this.

I took a big paycut after I went back to work post maternity leave, so that I would have a day free to spend with Zygote and to write and to basically do all the housework things that don't get done when they are not part of someone's job description (grocery shopping, dry cleaning, pediatrician appointments, etc). Before Z, I was aware that a disproportionate amount of my money goes to clothes and books, keeping my hair a shade of "natural" red, remaining hairless and drinking lots of wine. In other words, grooming and being selfish. I've had to cut back drastically, but I still notice that I am surrounded by clutter, STUFF. This was the impetus for the outfit project and this month's "no clothes or books" project.

Cat's Meow asked the question,
"So, why DO we buy stuff we don't need, like that much, or possibly even afford?
And why, for goodness' sake, do we clean up, and then go and buy more useless stuff to fill the empty space?"

That's it, isn't it? The why. I know that I'm capable of saving money when I need to, and I have never used a credit card to pay for "fun" purchases, but I get serious, clear out, and then replace everything. Editorial note: the day last month's shopping ban was over, I bought a bunch of new jewelry and dresses at the Ann Taylor outlet. Same DAY people. And yes, I may make hilarious fun of the Dwell kids on Unhappy Hipsters, but my main reaction is fascination: Where is all their stuff? You know, the books, the piles of shoes, messy magazines, cds....where is it?

The explanations that most resonated with me were:

-We feel insecure and uncertain in the world and what the future will bring, so we buy "for the future". Like the world is going to run out of stuff soon and we need to hoard a "safety net".

I am a multiples buyer. Almost all the time. Just in case the world ever stops manufacturing the cotton underwear I like, I have enough to last me for the next couple of years. Same with gym socks. If you are ever having a gym sock emergency, call me.

- We like to project an image of a person we wish we were, say bohemian, artsy, intellectual, sporty, adventurous.. through our belongings, clothing and home decor.

I have lots of "on writing" books.

-We think that the knowledge from the books we own magically "belongs" to us if we just own the books. Buy the book, be smarter. Lose the books, lose the information they contain. (Hey, anyone heard of libraries and the internet?)

Our books situation is a bit out of control. We have boxes of books in the basement that were never unpacked and shelves just bursting from the weight of my books. Now we have a shelf re-arranger (read: Zygote) so all of those books end up strewn all over the floor. I always said that I buy books because I like to write in them and take notes (true), and then I can refer back to them when I want to write about a quote that stayed with me (also true). But I think Cat's Meow's explanation hits closer to home. It's been so long since I've had any kind of real creative work, and/or intellectual stimulation. I think that all the reading I do about topics outside of my daily realm help prove to myself that hey, look, I can be smart and that I do know things.

-We are depressed and use shopping as an escape.

I do not do this anymore, I think, but it's been a habit that was hard to break. I still have clothes with tags on them and unworn shoes and unread books that I bought when I was seperated from my first husband. When he was away in treatment, I would visit on the weekends and then hit a different outlet mall every time on my ride back. I wouldn't eat. I wouldn't drink. I would just buy things.

-We are happy and want to celebrate by buying ourselves a gift.

Also known as: Stay Away From Anthropologie.

-We are bored and entertain ourselves by shopping.

Same as above. During the seperation time, if I had not made plans with a friend or my family, I would wander around the mall and buy things to make up for the fact that I had nothing else to do. The JCrew sales girl knew my name, and I will always remember her fondly because she never brought up the fact that I spent most Saturday nights during that time, alone in the mall, eating at Starbucks for dinner.

-We buy in to the subconscious idea that happiness is just one purchase away. After you get that one thing, it's still just one purchase away. We think, "if only I had a bigger home", "if only I had a better car", or that fabulous couch, that awesome outfit, the perfect pair of jeans, flattering shade of lipstick, and on and on.

This is a little bit like The Fantasy of Being Thin, but with shopping.

So what do I do with all this information? I'm not quite sure. I'm still trying to institute a ban on "extras." YG doesn't think that I have a spending problem, but it feels like it's about more than the money. I really do want to try and simplify things, make do with less, de-clutter, blah, blah, blah. I don't NEED anything right now. I worry about what happens to all my stuff when I'm done with it. I worry about raising another generation of conspicuous consumers. And I'd like to keep the money I make for me. And so on.