struggles.

while i’d broken my habit for blogging, i remained fairly dedicated to tweeting [while there was a quick sabbatical this fall, that was due not to my dedication but rather my old, now vintage, iphone].  this saturday i tweeted about the ufc fight.  my boyfriend is a dedicated fan to the sport of mma, and by association, have become somewhat interested in it as well.  the act of fighting, however, and moreover, watching the fights, i have many concerns about.  but, like with any social activity, there is certainly some good hidden beneath the beatings and blood.

usually, i have no stake in the fights.  as i sit there with my boyfriend, at whatever restaurant or bar, i prefer to have some quiet time.  while he first worried i was bored, i assured him that sitting quietly, anonymous in a crowded, loud space is one of my most thought-inspiring spaces [i’m great in airports].  but this past saturday’s fight was different.  i was trash-talking, swearing, and name-calling just like the boys.  this fight was different.  one of the fighters this week was different.  and because of him, i had a stake in the fights.

and then i had a panic attack and lost feeling in my whole body.

***

one of the topics i became interested in academically last semester was that of shame.  i found that it is the leading cause of all violence and personal/social illness.  feelings someone might have about themselves, feelings of inadequacy, of failure, of pain, often result in poor outcomes for the individual and those surrounding them.  they act out on their shame in ways that they think will bring them some resolve to this emptiness–bring some respect, love, or protection.

i became specifically interested in what this idea of shame, relative to economic advantage, had on an individual’s health.  how striving for some material gain, or realizing it was outside of your grasp, could throw off your ability to feel good about yourself and others.  shame is incredibly apparent in situations of violence, but what about those areas where it is not so apparent?  i am interested in those who are victims of this shame and violence, mainly homeless youth.  from my own struggles, i realized the importance that one intervention, one spark of belief in oneself could have toward restructuring your entire worldview.  i began to develop a curriculum for creative-writing to use with two of the area shelters in denver.  writing is not only a skill that provides you with some economic stability–in the way of job skills–but also, overall confidence and consciousness of oneself.  it helps you to overcome the struggle of shame.  if i could help create some spark, it would help empower these youth to end the cycle of shame and violence they had been forced into.  it would give them a means and a hope for survival.

***

‘you’ll really like this, and its done really well too,’ my boyfriend told me, referring to the docu-profiles ufc put out about different fighters, usually competing in the title fight.  ‘you remember that one guy, who is always such a dick,’ he turned to start the video on his desktop, ‘now i get why. and you’ll probably say that you could have predicted this due to his demeanor, but still.’

i sat on his lap with a tupperware full of pre-grilled chicken and brown rice, having just finished a giant bowl of raw spinach and broccolli. i had just begun getting serious about my tri-training, and was craving protein.  mark followed the sport like most follow college football, but as a very intellectual, nerdy mechanical engineer, had a different respect and admiration than most affliction-wearing-applebees-eating-politics-ignoring-meatheads.  it was one interest i worried about when we started dating, but then learned of his view of it and could understand.  as someone who took to boxing early last year like white-on-rice, i too saw the athleticism of these fighters is amazing and worthy of respect.

the profile was of nick diaz and the guy he was going to fight.  nick grew up outside stockton, ca., a city struggling economicall to this day.  his family moved around a lot and he never fit in with his classmates for various reasons and grew to become permanently on the defense.  pushed to fight others, daily, he had to fight to stay alive.  eventually he was going to drop out of school, unwilling to back down, but tired of the struggle.  while being recruited by gangs, he instead turned mma fighting and was able to change his daily life but not his daily struggle.

as fighting had always meant survival, it was no different now.  he did not make friends with other fighters, nor ever speak their praises.  beating them down meant surviving, so he had to win.  and so he was an asshole, but that didn’t matter to him.  he didn’t want the spotlight.  he just wanted life.

i wouldn’t say that nick’s life was shameful.  that shame was something that was his own doing, no.  for no reason at all, he was forced to feel like an outsider, forced to feel different, was disrespected and unloved by his peers that teased, ridiculed and enticed him to fight.  and so, he used fighting as a way to combat these ill-notions and prove that he was in fact worthy of respect, worthy of being seen as adequate, as normal, and worthy of love.  even as his profession, this need to prove himself worthy was still his main motivator for fighting and winning.  losing would mean more than it would to your average athletic competitor.  losing would mean that everyone who had ever belittled him had the right to do so.  losing would mean he had not survived, he was dead.

mark was right, i could have seen that due to his demeanor [and my expertise as a budding social scientist].

he had lived a life of violence, as a victim, and now violence was his only tool to ensure survival.

i liked nick.  i was even inspired by him, not only because he is an incredible endurance athlete [and triathlete] but because he found an outlet that allowed for him to find some self-worth, which few too many individuals find.  but i worried for him.  i worried that one day, he wouldn’t win and his whole idea of self, of life, would crash.  forced by others to only view his self-worth through fighting, if he lost he’d lose himself too.

**

i suffer from ptsd, which means i lived through a traumatic experience that shook my whole life, that ripped the rug out from under my feet, that made me groundless, that left me questioning everything i had ever known about the world and myself.  this confusion, is never really met with answers.  as an individual suffering from ptsd, you can’t just put the puzzle back together again because there are no more pieces, there are no more puzzles.  i felt akin to nick diaz, both groundless, both searching to prove we are worthy of life and love.  success for him, would be success for me because i couldn’t witness his breakdown, couldn’t witness him question his worth, his value.  it would remind me too much of my own questioning.  the night of the fight, i was nervous.

i grew more and more nervous as the fights wore on.  the last of the five, i had been ready to see him fight all night.  his survival, was now tied into my own.  by the fourth, i had lost feeling in my right hand.  i tried to ignore it, pretend it was pins and needles.  the fighters entered the arena, stonefaced intensity.  hate you could smell through the television.  past the growling face, i new deep down, nick was kind and intelligent and all of those good things you strive to be, and was going to fight, just as he always had, to prove that he was.  when the fight started i couldn’t move either hand, couldn’t feel them.  he fought all five rounds, taking some hits and landing others.  all in all, nothing too hard from either side as they were both standing, leaving it up to the judges to decide the winner.

and then they announced it, and the numbness crept up my arms.  nick had lost.  they doned the over-the-top belt on the other guy and the ppv cut off as the bar switched it to music videos.  nick had lost.

all the boys were closing their tabs and returning to topics they chatted about on non-fight nights.  i was quiet. still half-numb.  we walked to the bus.  teasing me, his friends continued their trash talk of nick just for laughs with one another.  i didn’t respond.  when we got to the stop, we got off.  the numbness was growing up my arms and legs. mark lagged behind saying goodbye and i just started walking to the apartment.  and then i ran.  i had lost feeling in my feet and my whole arms and needed it back.  nick had lost.  he was falling apart and now i was falling apart.  i was dying.  i kept running.  in my snow boots and below freezing weather, i still was running faster than ever.  i needed feeling back.  but it wasn’t coming.

mark helped me back to the apartment when he finally caught up to me.  put on my pajamas and lifted me into bed.  kept his arm around me, though i couldn’t feel it and told me i would be ok.  when i told him, i was numb, he got it.  he knew how i had internalized nick’s pain, how it was a trigger for my own.  how his struggle was the same as mine, both damaged and groundless, feeling like the nothing we were cast as by others.

eventually, my mind went numb as i had fallen asleep.  the next morning we didn’t talk about it.  i don’t know what happened to nick.  what he said or did, what he didn’t say or didn’t do.  i just know that he is hurting and struggling to make sense with nothing to stand on.

i think we are both done with ufc.

 

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relapse.

first, i’ll go ahead an acknowledge that it has been nearly a year since i have posted anything.  this is where i say, ‘so much has happened since then..’, ‘i’ve learned so much,’ and on and on.  so pretend that i’ve just filled you in.

writing everyday is a good habit to have.  one that i constantly break but must relapse to.

my cousin has recently started blogging about her training for a tough.mudder this summer.  you’ll see how ‘voice’ runs in our family.  she has managed to take a topic that a great many fill endless posts about and make it original, funny, and inspiring.  she has inspired me to try and return with a similar outlook.

so i guess a little update-bulleted-list is in order:

  • i started classes this past summer.  i’m too smart to be just a masters student, so phd classes are mixed in so that my few required classes are tolerable.  i don’t say this to be an ass, but rather, to show my disappointment in my peers.  we’re reading the same articles/books/thinkers and all have busy lives, yet none take any extra effort in exploring topics further.  so i remain silently frustrated many a nights in class.  [and for the count, i have been required to write over 67 paper so far in my 6ish months of class].
  • i still manage to read several books each month that are neither assigned nor pertaining to my studies, but more on this later.
  • i have a serious boyfriend.  i say serious not because its public on facebook but because he is a seriously good person for me to be partnered with.  i use to be really goofy and light-hearted and worry-free when i was a teenager.  even now, still daily struggling with my ptsd, he lets me be that way again.  one of my old roommates, courtney, use to say that dating should be about learning about yourself while helping someone else to do the same.  that is what my relationship is with mark.
  • i’ve dropped 13% body fat.  while i’ve always been obsessive with my workouts, i can attribute this drastic physical change in my body to my eating habits.  i eat 95% organic, mainly fruits and veggies, and nothing at all processed.  i also drink my weight in ounces of water each day.  i still work out, and until recently again, do only 3-4 workouts a week–very hard, yet short workouts.
  • that until recently above, refers to my goals towards completing my first…and second…and third triathlons this year.  i’ve signed up for the boulder.tri.series which includes a sprint, olympic, and half-ironman distance.  setting goals and chasing after them is the best way for me to stay disciplined and organized.  i’ll blog about my progress here a little, as in many of the books i’ve read retelling the stories of successful triathletes, almost all of them kept some sort of public blog to help them stay accountable.  i’m more interested in keeping a record of what i do and how i feel about it so i can give advice to my friends who may want to do so in the future.  i hope to have completed an ironman by my 10yr high school reunion in 2014.

the most agonizing paper to write each semester is not the last 30pger, but rather the first, maybe 2 pages of each semester.  while i’ve already written several of those already, i hope that i can stick with blogging a little more regularly and increase my muscle endurance so that those next few beginning of semester papers are enjoyable.

vandal.editorletter.09/09

I’ve needed to return to these ideas that I wrote nearly two years ago. Subconsciously I have found myself doing it, reading them in every book that I’ve devoured in the past few weeks. We look to find blame in any other party except ourselves, its that political group, its the food industry, its the patriarchal mindset–but its us. It is us because we allow ourselves to be fooled, to be distracted, to not care.

This was my letter at the beginning of our first issue of /vandal/ 1.1 [walls] . I will soon be writing another, maybe even an entire piece, and I hope that the ideas will be evolved more, because we’ve been doing more to insert ourselves into the responsibility of knowing.

As educator and social critic Jonathan Kozol suggests, too many of us purchase our comfort and security at the cost of building walls around our hearts. The absence of these self-built walls in this issue of vandal leaves a gaping hole in the understanding and consciousness that would empower us to overcome the struggles we face daily as living vehicles of social change.

When we seclude ourselves from one another, when we build these walls, we are allowing others to write the narrative of our community and risk passing on a world that’s meaner; more polarized, more desperate, and unquestionably more corrupt. American society teaches us that history is made by others, that it is out of our hands. Increasingly our knowledge of the world comes from stories scripted by these others, stories whose characters and plot lines are stripped of the most important questions we can ask. This shroud of comfort, of security, replaces our conviction to make change. The dream of private sanctuary, of perfection derived from this constructed history, is an illusion–a facade which erodes our soul by eroding our sense of a larger connection.

The walls we build around ourselves, around those closest to us, and ultimately around our hearts provide just a temporary feeling of safety but they cannot prevent the world from affecting us. The more we construct these barriers, the more our sanctuaries will grow steadily more insecure. With activism, there is no space for these walls to be built up, instead we force the creation of our own narratives as we join with others to close down a toxic wast dump, organize our workplace, or encourage our neighbors to support a political candidate. There is no preordained plot to these stores, no characters free of contradiction or confusion, no tidy, safe ending.

As artists and writers, we seek absolute truth, beauty–perfection–as a way of expressing that which must be shared. As activists too, we often wait for when our courage and wisdom will be the greatest, the issues clearest, our supporters most steadfast, and when sharing is all too easy. Such hesitation is reasonable for we are subject to real pressures and constraints, just like those we face in our creative work. But when in life will we not be subject to pressures of one kind or another? When will public participation not require a shift from familiar and comfortable habits? When will sharing the truth ever be easy? The issues that most need our attention will always be the most complex, most forbidding and most difficult to address. And while we wait for the ideal time to arrive, weeks, months, and years pass by as we squander repeated opportunities to involved ourselves in the larger community. We play it safe. We build walls to block out the causes whose justification may be imperfect and whose outcome is far from certain–in other words, causes that are real.

So many times I have been told that to be a writer, I must write–thinking about it, talking about it, reading about it, does not make me a writer. So too to be an activist, I must act. I must create that narrative that disallows walls to be built around me, a new history for myself that protects the sense of who I am, a sense which leads me to risk criticism, alienation, and serious loss while other similarly harmed remain silent but comfortable and safe.

It is this false sense of comfort that keeps people from standing up for themselves, their neighbors and their earth. The same false sense that keeps artists and writers in the safety zone, a category free of polarizing politics. There is not truth in comfort, no truth in silence. For silence, as an activist or artist or plain human being, is more costly than speaking out for it requires the ultimate sacrifice–our spirit.

It takes energy to mute our voices while the environment is ravaged, greed runs rampant, and families sleep in the streets. It take energy to distort our words and actions because we fear the consequences. It takes energy to act, but its more draining to bury anger, to convince yourself you’re powerless, or to swallow what’s handed to you. We do not have time or energy to wast on silence and comfort. The times I’ve compromised my spirit and accepted something I shouldn’t in order for others to feel comfortable, the ghosts of my choices have come to haunt me proving that only when I could begin to voice the difficult truths of my experience could I begin to change and build, not walls but myself and community up.

As artists and writers, our work is best when we find that difficult truth inside ourselves and finally release it to overtake our creation–no matter the backlash, reviews, or chance at failure. Our work is best when instead of building walls, it breaks them down.

As activists, we are most effective when we realize that there is no perfect time to get involved in social change, no ideal circumstances for voicing our convictions, there is only the realization that our daily lives are nothing more than a livelong series of imperfect moments in which we must decide what to stand for, what to climb over.

I sometimes need a hand, a stool, a lift to get over a wall I come up against, self-built or otherwise. In founding vandal, it is the hope of Daniel, Angie, and myself that the narrative created here will be that step you need to get to the other side, to pass up silence and comfort, to ignite the strength needed to polarize yourself in order to save your spirit.

The rest of the issue can be seen here.

/vandal/ issue 2.1 [in/security] will be out this fall.

04.07:top.10.reads

Militarized Conservatism and End(s) of Higher Education | Truthout.

Chris Hedges: This Is What Resistance Looks Like – Chris Hedges’ Columns – Truthdig.

David Cameron’s Gift of War and Racism, to Them and Us | Truthout.

The Martin Luther King Legacy and the Global Economic Crisis: Can One Influence the Other? | Common Dreams.

Natural disasters? | World news | The Guardian.

Our Climate Crisis Is an Education Crisis Editorial 25_03.

Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Where Do Americans Get Their Calories? (Infographic).

How The “U-Word” Exposes the Anti-Choice Movement | RHRealityCheck.org.

(UPDATED) All Those Alternatives to Planned Parenthood? In Texas, At Least, They Don’t Exist | RHRealityCheck.org.

Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Buying Silence: Big Soda Takes a Page from Big Tobacco.

03.29:top.10.reads

Violence is Not Tough, Love is.

Perry’s ‘Texanity’ Explained – OtherWords. “[Perry] is going to shrink government until it fits into a woman’s uterus.”

The End of Empire by David Korten — Agenda for a New Economy.

Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Texas College Converts Football Field Into Organic Farm.

Assault on Public Unions an Affront to Women’s Historic Gains | Common Dreams.

Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?.

Sarah Palin and the Dozen Dwarfs – OtherWords.

Urban Graffiti Knitters Are the New, Cozier Christo and Jeanne-Claude | Fast Company.

A Texas-Sized Plan for Nuclear Waste | Mother Jones.  We already have a large radioactive dump site, its called Texas Tech University.

Freakonomics » Does “No Child Left Behind” Contribute to Obesity?.

03.28:top.10.reads

Chris Hedges: The Collapse of Globalization – Chris Hedges’ Columns – Truthdig.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: The Surprising New Class Politics – Truthdig.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of fatness | Grist.

Civil Eats » Blog Archive » The EPA: Cleaning Up Crappy Water Since 1970.

Civil Eats » Blog Archive » Cultivating City Blocks With Karrots.

President Obama’s face used on most recent anti-choice billboard campaign. aw. ful.

“Safe” Radiation is a Lethal Three Mile Island Lie | Common Dreams.

Capitol Offensive — In These Times.

In Celebrities We Trust: An Excerpt From ‘Back to Our Future’ — In These Times.

We trade in the responsibilities of democratic citizenship for the pleasure of a superfan’s enthusiasm by simply backing whatever is being pushed by the political Michael Jordan we like.

 

03.26:top.10.reads

here we go again…

NPR Is Not Left Wing Opposite of Right Wing Media Machine | Common Dreams.

That’s why our favorite new word is “agnotology.” According to the website WordSpy, it means “the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt,” a concept developed in recent years by two historians of science at Stanford University, Robert Proctor and his wife, Londa Schiebinger.
Believing that global climate change is a myth is one example of the kind of ignorance agnotologists investigate. Or the insistence by the tobacco industry that the harm caused by smoking is still in dispute. Or the conviction that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, and a radical one at that, who may not even be from America.
Those first two illusions have been induced by big business in a cynical attempt to keep pumping profits from deadly pollutants, whether fossil fuels or nicotine. The third, dreamed up by fantasists of the right wing fringe, is in its own way just as toxic and has been tacitly, sometimes audibly, encouraged by certain opponents of President Obama who would perpetuate any prevarication to further blockade his agenda and deny him and fellow Democrats reelection.
None of them is true; rather, they fly in the face of those of us who belong to what an aide to George W. Bush famously called “the reality-based community [who] believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'” He told journalist Ron Suskind, ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
I’m loving this blog by Kristin Wartman. There is not enough public discussion about health and nutrition in America.

Revolution is as unpredictable as an earthquake and as beautiful as spring. Its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be.

Revolution is a phase, a mood, like spring, and just as spring has its buds and showers, so revolution has its ebullience, its bravery, its hope, and its solidarity.