My sister always does a nice job of keeping me up to date on the cat’s life.
Hurtful, right?! Even with the frequent pictures, though, it’s best when I get to interact with Sheila myself. She is just the best.
You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you needed something til you got it? That’s how I was with this trip home. I’m a summer intern, so it’s hardly the level of job stress that most people experience. Buttt… I’m in the awkward position of being partnered with someone else in this internship, and we just have very different personalities, very different work experiences, very different ambitions, very different styles. It’s a bit tiring. Meanwhile, my bestest friend in NC is getting ready to move to NYC to pursue her dreams (*sob*) which is so thrilling for her yet so sad for me! And, yknow, life. Getting sick from working at a health department. Being single and trying to figure out if online dating is worth it (between my horror at the thought of putting pictures of myself on the Internet for people to judge and my fear of stalkers/serial killers, I’m thinking no). Battling the blues that always seem to hit me during the summer (perhaps because I have excessively high expectations that I’m supposed to be having ALL THE FUN)? And of course keeping up with the apparently consistently tragic and horrifying news of the world. I’m on a self-imposed NPR ban for awhile, because my commute is long enough that I’d begin and end my workday with a steady stream of horrific news from all over the country and the world. For now, I’m sticking to amusing public service announcements about summer safety.
Anyway, I went home. The drive up was QUITE something, what with the entire Eastern seaboard opting to have a thunderstorm. There was a point I pulled over by Quantico because it was literally like having continuous buckets of water dumped on my car- I couldn’t see a thing. I did stop for a relaxing dinner at Cracker Barrel (oatmeal and tea- I think it’s safe to say the healthiest things on the entire menu)
And then it was time to soak up the family goodness! First, I finally got to meet my mother’s squirrel friend. She’s taken to putting out stale bread on the deck. It’s ostensibly for the birds but this little guy always shows up for it. He has a bloody right leg and looks a little piteous, so it’s okay that he steals the bird food. We hope the leg injury wasn’t Sheila’s doing. Anyway, he appreciates the food, and when my mom goes down to eat breakfast in the morning he’s often waiting there, like, “Well?!”
The reason I was home was to celebrate Malindi’s birthday, which I did in a variety of fashions. Just the little nuclear family (mama, sister, and me) got lunch together the day before Malindi’s birthday. We all got virtuous salads for lunch but then split the epic banana pudding for dessert. They bedazzled it for the birthday girl, and we sang to her!
Then it was time for a rather unusual birthday celebration: LOOK WHO WE SAW!
Yep. Hillz! Actually Hillz and the entire Democratic party contingent from the state of Virginia, hahaha. It was a big ol’ fundraiser (like $30 from a lot of people fundraiser… not $10,000 from a few people fundraiser. We are not that fancy.)
This was a nice little pep talk for the soul, as I’ve been feeling this hard-to-articulate but consistent sense of dread for awhile. I just feel… disliked in our country right now. Like there is a large, voracious group of people (like the lunatics in the comments section of every news article or op-ed ever posted, or the online message boards that Eliot Rodger so adored) who just… hate me. Hate me for everything I represent.
I’m a woman who believes that women should have the same rights as men. I think it’s unacceptable that women’s salaries are 77 cents on the dollar compared to men’s. I think it’s not okay that as gay rights have expanded (which I’m stoked about!) that women’s rights have been constantly under attack. I don’t think that it’s okay that some people with pro-life political beliefs think that an acceptable way of getting political victories is to shut down women’s health centers that provide vital primary care (which has absolutely nothing to do with abortion and, in the case of providing affordable contraception, actually helps prevent abortion). I’m scared as hell of guns, and I don’t think our founding fathers intended it to be okay for people with criminal records to stroll into a gun show and buy a sh**ton of ammunition and assault weapons. I think people who truly think everyone in this country has the same opportunities regardless of the skin color and income levels of their parents hasn’t bothered to learn enough about what it means to grow up in a crappy neighborhood with crappy schools and the threat of violence and chronic stress and limited economic opportunities and (I can keep going).
I was chatting with some friends about this last night (because what better way to celebrate Independence Day than to celebrate one’s freedom of speech and articulate desires for a more perfect union?), and a lot of people made interesting points about my hard-to-articulate dread. One of my friends is from Argentina and she said that in Argentina, there are a lot of guns, and there’s a lot of crime… but it’s rational crime, if that makes sense. Like, people point a gun at you and steal your wallet, and then it’s over. They want money and get it. At least it’s logical. Someone shooting up a church full of people (a church!) because of the color of their skin? Nothing about that is rational. Another of my friends mentioned that America, the idea of empathy isn’t valued. We have a long cultural history, he pointed out, of creating Us vs. Them. You can see it in the Civil War and the Cold War. And “Us” is becoming an increasingly narrow group in this country. It used to be Americans, but a lot of people, like Donald Trump, now one of the most popular Republican presidential candidates, are narrowing it down to “Americans with skin the same color as mine”. And/or, “Americans who agree with me”. I would argue that the disvaluing of empathy also has to do with our national preoccupiation with individualism, which leads to the pernicious transition from “I worked hard and got rich!” to “That guy isn’t rich, so he must be lazy”.
And there’s this big, big, overhanging of hate I feel in this country. And I’m one of the lucky ones! I’m white! I’m economically secure! And I nonetheless think about all the people walking around every day with contempt for so many things that they have decided other human beings represent as a result of the groups to which they belong (women, people of color, people who are LGBT, pro-choice voters, people in favor of gun control). And contempt seems to be viewed as totally fine. Sure, there’s lip service to combatting hate paid when there’s a mass shooting, but has it resulted in any change? None that I’ve seen. When did it become socially acceptable to hate entire subcategories of people? Why are we sticking cameras in people’s faces who advocate for that? Sure, they have freedom of speech, but to me when someone says all Mexicans are rapists, that person gets to rant and rave on a street corner but not be on CNN.
I know a lot of folks grew up during the Cold War, and I know there was a specter of potential nuclear war hanging over the whole population. To me, though, it is no less sinister living in a time when there’s not the same sense of an outsider Big Bad Guy (sure, ISIS is destroying much of the Middle East, but we as Americans are isolated and safe from so much of the outside world’s tragedies, a fact about which I’m not sure we are as grateful as we ought to be) and yet we allow for such emotional violence towards one another (and then the emotional violence explodes into physical violence).
Anyway, all that being said, it was nice to spend some time with people who shared my values. It’s easy for me to view the constant parade of vitriol both covered by the media and, in some cases, perpetuated by the media, and feel as though no one in the world has my same beliefs. Which are, essentially, that we are all worthwhile human beings, and deserve some opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Regardless of our sexual orientation. Regardless of our biological sex or our culturally determined gender. Regardless of our race or ethnic background. Regardless of whether we are gazillionaires or not (and, uh, most of us aren’t, and most of us never will be, and our entire country’s economic opportunity shouldn’t really be catering to those lucky few). And that it’s fine for us to disagree with each other without demonizing one another.
Anyway, it was nice to hear some folks with those same beliefs. I am now a HUGE fan of Virginia’s lieutenant governor Ralph Northam. He’s a veteran. He’s a pediatric neurosurgeon (!!). He can actually talk about health in a way that makes sense and is scientifically correct, and he TOTALLY used the word “vagina” in his speech to talk about the invasive forced ultrasounds Republicans were trying to force for women seeking abortions in Virginia. How many politicians are scared to use the proper terms to talk about women’s bodies?! Or understand basic human anatomy? If you haven’t heard of him, I think he’s going places.
Also, my second favorite part was when Hillary was talking about Republican climate change deniers. She said they hide behind saying “I am not a scientist”. To which her response was, “Then why don’t they listen to scientists?!” I am a big fan of listening to scientists, guys.
So yes, it was a family outing, with my sister, me, and my dad (who treated us to the tickets). It was kind of funny and weird being at this with my dad. I tend to think of my dad as sort of a distant uncle who I see occasionally. I don’t think about us having a great deal in common. However, the experience of cheering along with the same talking points as him was really funny. It’s like being at a concert and realizing you and your dad like the same band, hahaha.
So that was our very exciting Friday. Saturday my sister went off to Baltimore with her boyf. Her birthday gift was a membership to the aquarium I’M SO JELLY AAAGGH! And meanwhile my mom and I had a perfect day: lazing around reading the paper while it rained, getting eyebrows done, hanging out at the Korean bakery, getting mani-pedis, taking a long post-rain walk and talk, and watching a Jake Gyllenhaal movie. HOME, GUYS. IT’S THE BEST!
And the birthday weekend wrapped up with brunch, the greatest meal. Eggs Florentine, mmm.
I was so grateful, not for the first time, to have my whole family in the same place.And I’m also so grateful that my mom is classy and stayed friends with her ex-husband’s family, so I also got get in quality time with my aunt and uncle on that side. I love my new life in NC, and yet there’s friends and then there’s family. Unconditional love is the greatest thing in the entire world. I know I can really do anything and make any mistake and my family will still be there for me, will still think I’m a good person. Will help make me a better person just by being them and giving that kind of love.
I have a tendency to be preoccupied with making everyone like me. Which reflects poorly on me in a lot of ways. It demonstrates unrealistic expectations, particularly in the workplace (sure, you have to professionally coexist, but you don’t have to be best buddies with everyone). It also demonstrates insecurity (and yes, I realize my feelings of persecution referenced above are in part due to a fragile sense of self).
So, having people whose love I don’t have to question is huge. I also benefit from their wisdom. Seeing people in my family letting life come at them while retaining the grace that they do is pretty amazing.