music on repeat

(BBC Concert Orchestra – Keith Lockhart, conductor – BBC Proms, 2013)

Because I still miss Carrie Fisher very much.

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a Twitter story, 1

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Thoughts from Friday night.

The Ann Leckie referred to in screenshot 3 is the writer of the Imperial Radch series of novels (Ancillary Justice / Ancillary Sword / Ancillary Mercy).

The statement “The point is, there is no point” continues with a declaration: “Choose your own!”

So this is a thread in which I am trying to look for a point of my own, considering what my starting position at present is.

I need sleep and coffee and food and I know that doesn’t make sense

But I also need a break from the voices in my head, so: here is a quote from the show Elementary, which I think might offer a glimpse into that same unruly head of mine. This is from the episode “The Eternity Injection”.

Sherlock Holmes: If you must know, Watson, I’ve been feeling a little bit down of late. It’s the process of maintaining my sobriety. It’s repetitive. And it’s relentless. And above all, it’s tedious. When I left rehab, I… I accepted your influence, I committed to my recovery. And now, two years in, I find myself asking, ‘is this it?’ My sobriety is simply a grind. It’s just this leaky faucet that requires constant maintenance, and in return offers only not to drip.
Dr. Joan Watson: You have your work, you have me. You’re alive.
SH: I’ve told myself that many times. So many times, it has become unmoored from all meaning. Odd. I used to imagine that a relapse would be the climax to some grand drama. Now I think that if I were to use drugs again, it would in fact be an anticlimax. It would be a surrender to the incessant drip, drip, drip of existence.
JW: I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. What can I do to help? Do you want to talk more, do you want to maybe speak to Alfredo?
SH: Yes, I think perhaps I will see Alfredo. But in any case, I shan’t be using drugs this evening.

Pick myself up, keep moving, try to make some of those movements into steps forward.

here I go again with the part where I battle my self-censorship

(and seriously, self, wtf? you even have a tag on this very blog that says “better out than in”. take your own damn advice.)

So.

Let me begin by putting my confession for today right at the very top of the post, and that confession is: I’m terribly terribly lonely.

Oh and also: there are kinds of lonely, okay, so I’m going to focus on the particular type of lonely that I have been carrying around for a while now.

And in this case “a while” means almost one year.

Except not really, because this kind of lonely is not entirely unfamiliar to me.

Imagine: you present yourself to the world as being happily partnered. You present yourself as being in love and being lucky to be loved. You present yourself as this and that and the other and what the world doesn’t actually see is the part where you’re at home, hidden in the blankets, left to yourself because your so-called partner is spending long hours with his other lovers.

You are not against polyamory. But you are against the kind of polyamory where you can clearly see that your partner is with the others in mind and spirit even when with you, where you see that your partner would rather be kissing the others, holding on to the others. Where you can see that your partner isn’t interested in having sex with you, or does it with you when they’re clearly not there because they’re with the others.

That’s not polyamory, that’s abuse.

I’m okay with polyamory if it means my partner actually is with me when they’re with me. There are different kinds of polyamory, and what I want is the one or the ones in which my polyamorous partner is actually really present in the moment with me when they’re with me.

I know. I’m needy. Too many reasons for that.

And I know that I lived for many years in a relationship that was already falling apart below the surface, so I know how familiar and intimate my particular kind of lonely can be.

So yeah. Next month it will be a year since the relationship I had been in for a long time definitively fell apart.

I’m here, I’m still here, I’m doing everything I can in order to live and to stay alive.

But I am lonely.

I miss being held. I miss having someone to be with, in all the many shades of “be with”. I miss having someone to sleep with, in all the many meanings of “sleep with”. I’ve always been one to crave physical affection and also a lot of reassurance since I’m carrying so many anxieties and issues around. It’s like that song, you know? “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine” and apparently that wasn’t what I had, from 1999 to 2016.

My kind of lonely is something I’m sick and tired of.

And I also feel this kind of anger at myself because why am I still afraid to tell the world about my problems and my hang-ups and my rage? I’m like, really, self, get over the fear that was imposed on you. Better to be flawed and to acknowledge those flaws, better to need and acknowledge that hey maybe your needs are normal and you DESERVE to have those needs filled.

a lament for the fools and for the thinkers

The thing is, we are all born ignorant.

Each of us comes into this world as the proverbial blank slate: and sure, maybe there are some people out there who might hold a few stray memories of that sojourn in the womb. But it takes time before a child can start gathering information from his or her environment, and it takes time before literacy and numeracy and all those other good things kick in.

So we begin as ignorant, each and every one of us.

And then for a while, we must rely on other people to give us the information that we need to get by in the cultures in which we happen to live in. A parent’s voice, arms, smell, walk; and then that circle gradually grows wider and wider. There are stories to hear, and songs to listen to. There are all kinds of things to learn, and we are provided with these things that we need to learn by those who raise us, those who care for us as infants and as young children.

So it goes, and on and on the trail unfolds, whether we go to school or not: we pick up the skills and the facts and the knowledge of the world around us, and that is mediated by the other people who live around us.

All sorts of things can be published in books. All sorts of things can be posted to the Internet. All sorts of ideas can be found on social media.

At what age are we expected to decide that something is “true” or not?

And, as a corollary, at what age are we expected to start deciding on that which is true or false?

I am writing about these things because there is a rising tide of willful and malicious ignorance swamping the media, swamping the consumers of that media, threatening to drown us all everywhere we turn. It isn’t even a NEW phenomenon, all things considered: propaganda has more or less existed from the dawn of time, and depending on the times and places in which one happens to live, one is more or less smothered in propaganda practically from day one.

But yeah, I have been seeing so much foolishness in the past few days, and I continue to feel the need to fight that tide. Yes, I’ll be Doña Quixote if I must. That is a fact of my life.

I started a new job, so I am really seeing that I know nothing about the new world that I have entered, and I am working hard to overcome that lack of knowledge, even if it means throwing myself headfirst down the work equivalent of a rabbit hole. I’ll go in with eyes wide open, not caring whether there’s a bottom to the hole — and not caring if the bottom of the hole is lined with teeth, claws, or — only if I’m really lucky — a nice warm warren to curl up in.

Okay, so there’s me, knowing I am at a real disadvantage and fighting my way onward, step by slogging step.

What about that person who feels that they’re entitled to an easy coast to the top?

What about that person who expects everyone to make concessions for them, for their ignorance, and demands those concessions in the way of grasping greedy shits, which is what they are?

And it’s not just about my job, either.

So my country’s hosting the Miss Universe pageant over the weekend. This year, I am not not not rooting for my country’s bet. What did she do? She was willfully ignorant. She claimed that the <i>terno</i>, a beautiful dress that has become one of the “national costumes” of the Philippines, was invented by Imelda Marcos.

Yes, that Imelda Marcos, who accumulated shoes and art and garish jewelry by robbing her country blind. Who, together with her equally treacherous husband and the rest of her complicit family, sucked the national coffers dry in the pursuit of overweening personal and monetary gain.

Miss Philippines has gotten called out for her fault, and apparently things are all well and happy again in beauty-queen land.

Okay, so, here’s my problem.

Knowing that Miss Philippines can’t have gotten to where she is now without her own native and innate knowledge, knowing that she has learned things, why is it that she allows herself to be surrounded by people who are not only ignorant but are also pursuing a far more insidious agenda? Why is it that she cannot think to question the people, media, books that are her sources of information? Why is it that she was never asked or even encouraged to develop <i>critical thinking</i>?

Oh, I know why.

I live in the Philippines.

The best minds of several generations have been killed, and ruthlessly so, by politics.

Damn dirty thing, politics in the Philippines.

Martial Law was only the most obvious massacre of the intellectuals and critical thinkers. Those brilliant minds that were mercilessly tortured and killed and disappeared by the Marcoses? They’re the top of that enormous heap of the good and the smart and the wise and the DEAD.

Only the top.

Either the great minds are snuffed out, or they become co-opted by the corrupted systems and culture of this country, and then they turn into assholes. They retain their brilliance, sure, but they become assholes.

I would be so brave to say that anti-intellectualism has always been the norm here in the Philippines. Yes, there were courageous and scintillating exceptions to the rule. Apolinario Mabini, anyone? But he was ultimately surrounded by people who preferred to be brutes instead of being thinkers, and so it has gone ever since, and from the leaders of the people this has trickled down and down and down to all the rest of us poor ordinary citizens toiling to survive from day to day.

If you see a “smart” person in any form of Philippine media, the chances are good that he, or rarely she, will be the butt of jokes — or, weary cliché, the villain in the story. And that villain will almost always be pitted against the handsome and lucky but completely stupid hero/ine, and of course the hero/ine will always win the day, because the hero/ine is good-looking. Never mind the brains on that one, eh? He or she will be so pretty that others will rush to help him or her.

I am so sick and tired of that, and I am also sick and tired of all the stories where the bookworm or the intellectual character is lured away from his or her books to become “cool”. Is it always a one-or-the-other thing? Why the hell can’t it be both? Why can’t the hero or heroine be both book-smart AND street-smart?

Because “smart” is intimidating, here in the Philippines.

Because people go to school for the status and not for the actual, you know, education. And there are such silly stupid stereotypes slapped onto those people who go to places like science high schools, or national universities: usually that they’re either going to run away to other countries, or take to the streets to protest anything and everything.

And you know, I get why they immigrate: maybe they know they will never ever ever get a good deal here at home.

I especially get why they protest because the system is rotten and stinky and smelly and completely and totally corrupt — and why is it wrong to ask for, to expect, something better???

It’s wrong to ask for better things because that would inconvenience everyone who thinks they’re entitled to an easy time because of reasons. It means these entitled people will need to think, to make their minds work, in order to move forward — and if their minds have atrophied? Then they’ll sink to the bottom of the heap and be even more hateful and petty and entitled.

It’s a no-win situation.

I know what it’s like to be ignorant in so many ways. I did not know what emotional abuse was, so I labored in a bad marriage for so many years, thinking I was just fulfilling that which was expected of me. I was and still am fatally bad at numbers, so I have to depend on a calculator for my bills and my expenses. I learn about new things every day and have to play a lot of catch-up. And, of course, there’s the new job and the skills that it requires, which are a little tricky to learn.

So, Miss Philippines, I come back around to you. I wish you would entertain that thought, that niggling idea in your brain, that there is more to learn and more to become aware of. Learn about your history and about the things that have brought the very country that you are supposed to be representing to its present state. Learn about the history of the world and the causes that you can use your platform and visibility to be an advocate for.

There are so many things to learn! It’s exciting! It’s challenging! It’s fulfilling! And you get the chance to do it all, dressed up and made up and with all eyes on you. I mean, put that <i>terno</i> on, and respect the fashion and the culture that actually shaped it, and be the brilliant and intellectual you that you can be.

And I will keep learning. It’s my fond hope that I will never stop learning. It’s a lifelong process. It’s something that will consume all the days of my life. I want to keep learning. I never want to stop.

she is one with the force, and the force is with her.

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(Photo: Plain 4×6 in index card, on which the following has been written in fountain pen — “Carrie Fisher: Princess. General. Writer. Script doctor. Advocate for mental health issues. Advocate for LGBTQIA+ folks. Advocate for all who identify as female. Took no shit. She is one with the Force.”

I know that it would be doing a great disservice to Carrie Fisher to identify her as Princess Leia, or as General Organa, and as no one else.

But it was as Leia that she burst onto the scene, and it was as Leia that we first knew her — and now it turns out that it will be as Leia as we will last know her.

Carrie Fisher was a funny and abrasive and vibrant actress, it’s true. (I still giggle when I think of her making that cameo in the first Blues Brothers movie: she was pissed and she was taking no prisoners, and by the way, that was a really large gun okay.) She was a brilliant writer and script doctor. She wrote honestly about herself and her problems and her issues, and she got us all to laugh with her and understand what it was that she was going through. What it was that she was struggling with.

Carrie Fisher was an advocate. She fought for those of us who aren’t straight. She fought for women who aged, who gained weight, who fell headlong into addiction. She fought for her self-esteem and her self-regard every damned day of her life. She fought to make it easier to understand that mental illness is real and that it needs to be known, and that it needs to be treated — and seen with kindness and understanding.

Carrie Fisher didn’t give a fuck, by the way, for my opinion or yours. She had her own path to walk and it was not an easy one. But she was damned proud to walk it. She owned that path.

She died on 27 December, having succumbed to complications from the heart attack that she suffered over Christmas weekend.

She died, and we are bereft. I am bereft. She was a hero, she was a general, she was a princess, and she was a badass. I am fighting back tears, writing this, because I feel like I have lost someone important — and I never met her, I never actually crossed paths with her, but she was important to me.

To me, and to so many others all around the world.

I am devastated.

Just as he is:

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And now she is gone. She has become more powerful than we could ever imagine. She is with the Force, now.

Of all the losses we have endured this year — hers is the most profound, for me.

“Missing you at Christmas”

There’s a song people sing in December or so, in my country anyway, and the lyrics, translated, go something like this:

I’m going to have a sad and lonely December, because I miss you
Though I try to force myself to be happy, I’ll be missing you at Christmas

Doesn’t matter where I go, I’m always looking over my shoulder, but there’s no one in the world like you
The strange thing is that there are so many people in the world who’d be better for me than you.

That’s roughly the first verse — it’s not a very long song, all things considered. Maybe it’s a little simple, too, and a little too pat: the singer’s not going to be with a loved one for the holidays, and will subsequently be sad at a time when everyone else is supposed to be full of cheer and good will.

I’ve always loved that song. It can be easy to sing, or you can make things complicated by adding all kinds of flourishes to the melody. And it’s literally been around for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been listening to it every year, and sometimes the cover versions are really heart-rending and sometimes they’re just — meh, you know, like recycled pop pap to cash in on something that inevitably comes true every year.

And this year, yeah, that song pretty much hits too close to home for me.

Especially since the last line of the song is actually:

The problem with Christmas is, this year you’re loving someone else

Um, yeah, hahaha, no.

And it’s such a cold December right now in my part of the world, with a very real promise of rain on the 24th itself, no thanks to what looks like some kind of tropical storm forming in local waters. How much more dreary can it get?

Why am I whining about this now? Why am I more affected by being alone at Christmas than on, say, my birthday? I have no idea. There’s a cold rage churning in my gut, to be sure, and a redoubled sense of being betrayed. There’s the simple lack of skin-to-skin contact. There’s the fact that I have to juggle complicated emotions — and not just mine, but others’ too — when I’m already feeling a little overwhelmed.

In short, welcome to the blues.

Not exactly unfamiliar territory, to be sure, but it’s just a different month, and one that’s fraught with too much surface happiness, so that it feels like an entirely new kind of pain.

It does sound like I should really take care of myself at this time. Self-care has to be the priority — well, it should be, at all times, but right now I need it more than ever.

I am grateful for a few things. I’m only bereft of a romantic partner at this time — I have friends, I have family. There are people in this world who care about what happens to me. I can write again, thank goodness. I can still be moved by stories.

Gotta remember that.

It’s okay to be tearing up.

a good day and a bad one, all at once

It’s okay to feel grief at the passing of a loved one, and it’s okay to feel grief at the passing of someone or something that you might not have known on an actual hello-nice-to-meet-you level. I think that’s just the way human thoughts and emotions work. We become attached to things because they help us get through the dark days, or we become attached to things because they help us to find happy thoughts and good things, and in this case I’m talking about food and a quirky series of videos.

I learned today that Francis, the titular dog of the Web series Cooking With Dog, has died. (Got it from the official Web page, in this case the official Facebook page.) And as I’ve said elsewhere: it was always clear in the videos that Francis was not a puppy. It was always clear that Francis was kind of getting on in years, in terms of dog years anyway. Death was a nearer possibility on his particular horizon, and the official FB page says that he died at the ripe old age of 14. (In terms of human years, anyway. What that means in terms of dog years, I have no clear idea, since I’m not too sold on the idea of one human year = seven dog years.)

Still, I feel shocked and unpleasantly surprised, and I feel the grief that comes from losing a sort of distant kind of acquaintance, and an even more distant kind of “friend”. I’m putting that word in quotes because — hey, what does Francis know about me anyway? I’m just a fan of his videos. But those videos have gotten me through some tough times. They’ve helped keep me sane during some really bad nights and some really interminable work shifts. They’ve kept me hungry, and inspired me to try to eat and cook new things. Francis and Chef were — well, they were sources of smiles and laughter and inspiration, and now one of them is gone and it’s also been made clear that Chef really is getting on in terms of years. I wonder what will happen next — will the Web videos continue? Will Chef gracefully retire? Will there be a different cooking series? No idea.

But maybe we can remember Cooking With Dog and Francis the dog by cooking and eating and continuing to watch the videos, whether they keep going or stop at the latest installment.

Here’s a link to one of my favorite Cooking With Dog videos. This is in part because I love to eat this particular dish — it’s become sort of my point of judgement whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant, sort of how I know if the people in the kitchen know their stuff. And this is in part because this video made the process of making this dish so easy to understand.

Cooking With Dog – Katsudon (remastered)

And now, to end this entry on a more positive note.

As I write these words, it’s the 7th of November in my part of the world, and that might not mean much to some people but to me, and to the many other people who fell into the fandom centered on the video game franchise Mass Effect, it’s N7 Day: it’s the day when we commemorate the stories, music, characters, and pretty much everything about those games. It’s a day to play the music from the games, or maybe start another playthrough, or just anticipate the upcoming sequel. (Mass Effect: Andromeda might come out next year, delays and rewrites and retools notwithstanding.)

I actually can’t tell you the reasons why I just fell into the fandom. Maybe it’s got to do with the female version of the hero, Commander Shepard (of the original games, anyway) — she takes no shit and she saves the galaxy despite all the obstacles thrown in her way. Maybe it’s got to do with the way she interacts with her friends and family and crew. Maybe it’s the music or the moral choices. I certainly can’t play third-person shooters worth a damn but Mass Effect is just compelling to me. And that’s why I was happy to be reminded that today is N7 Day. I’m happy to be part of that group that got into the games, and maybe got to feel a lot of emotions because of the games and the stories and the characters.

So — raise a glass to Commander Shepard, whoever s/he might be, and raise another glass to his/her squad, and raise yet a third to the upcoming hero of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ryder. May he and she take us through just as compelling a world and game universe.

 

the twists and turns of recovery

Recovery: now there’s a word we all want to become more intimately familiar with. We want to recover from that which is currently pushing us down, or that which is currently holding us back. We want to recover from a broken leg, a sprained wrist, a hurting heart, a hole in the lungs. We want to recover from a long national nightmare of wtf are we doing to ourselves and to each other? We want to wake up and spend one day, one hour, free of the nagging voices and terrible whispers in the backs of our minds.

In my case, it’s pretty much a grab-bag of things. I’ve been laid low by what is now looking more and more like the flu, which is still lingering in the form of a nasty cough, which is only going to exacerbate the wound in my lungs, but that’s how it goes. I’ve been laid low by loneliness and the sense of having to take another day’s step forward, and then another, and then another. People talk about the healing power of touch, and they’re right, in the sense that I felt worse precisely because there was no one around to hold on to. (Not that I would have wanted that person to linger, for fear of catching what I had, but I personally know how helpful a brief hand-clasp might be.) I’ve been laid low by a sense of personal dejection, in the sense of I’m wondering if I’m just not losing my identity again because I’m functioning to help others and doing very precious little to assert my own self.

Last week, as it turns out, a senator in my country filed the Mental Health Bill. I suppose it contains provisions for helping out those who already have some kind of mental illness, and that it would provide for educational and support resources, and a lot of other necessary and needed things.

The problem is that no one in this country even wants to acknowledge the fact that there is mental illness all around. Or, if these people do know about mental illness, they think of it as — a joke or some kind of punchline, a cheap gag to drop in a cheap comedy act. People also think of mental illness as immediately equivalent to being socially different, in a culture where conformity is king and queen and the entire damned court. To be mentally ill is to be immediately labeled as violent, or aberrant, or disruptive, and I honestly don’t know which is worse: be a disruptive influence, or be invisible?

There are many days when I really can’t get up in terms of my mental health — so my body gets up, takes the stress, possibly gets sick or rebels or reacts in some other way, and then it’s back to the feeling despondent and feeling so tired I want to throw up or just not wake up any more.

But there are days, too, of wanting to get up and wanting to do things like cook and go to the movies and read a book. Most of the time, though, I just take it out in terms of listening to my music. I have a pretty big playlist — it’s at least four hours long, end to end, and it’s actually missing some of the other tracks I’ve collected over the years, so I have to get started on recovering those, too. The music is my companion when I’m working and when I’m trying to write, and some days, it’s also my outlet for my emotions. I should get into more detail about the playlist and its genesis and its very reason for being, maybe in the next entry.

But, hi. This is to say, I’m still alive, and I’m recovering, and there’re things in this world that need to be done and need to be enjoyed and need to be experienced, and — I’m doing my best.

…only to wake and hide your face

Bastille – Oblivion

It used to be a red-letter day
Until you used your words like needles and spears
And now all the red has gone from the date
And today is just another day.

I just want to sleep, and not spend my nights coughing and tossing and turning. I just want to sleep, in the hope of waking up to face a new day. One new hour after another to get through, or to make the most of, or to waste, maybe. One new moment after another to make my own.

Can’t look back. Must look forward.

I will try to put together a proper blog post one of these days — I just need to take a few moments to breathe.