Monday, November 26, 2012

Marching to the beat of my own Concussion

Remember when you lost your baby teeth? One at a time, they created this void in your mouth, soft, gooshy, smooth.  And your tongue reached out for it obsessively, all day, while working on multiplication tables, diagramming sentences, all day, your tongue sought the emptiness.  That's what it's like in my head right now.  It's a fascinating emptiness, soft, gooshy, smooth, almost soothing.  I feel around up there all day, sensing what it's like, the pressure behind the eye, the stabbing shot of pain from the crown, the lost thoughts, the new switch that turns it all on (such as "on" is right now) and off into total, empty relaxation.

About a week ago I was simply standing in the doorway at a friend's house, wine in hand, chatting, laughing. Blue came barreling through with a light saber and she accidentally hit the chin-up bar above my head.  This chin-up bar was like a bicycle holder for cars, using gravity and the weight of it's duties to brace itself against the wall and the doorjam, so that when it was struck from below, it lost all sense of responsibility and simply crumbled off the doorway on to my head.  I believe it was made of lead. Bonk, bonk, bonk, all three parts clobbered me.  I did not cry.  I did not crumble to the floor like I might have done had I been alone.  I think I giggled a little, cussed some, and was just generally stunned.

A few days later, I was a total mess.  I was lost in my usual grocery store, faint again (on Tuesday the kids dentist had laid me out and given me oxygen), confused, crying.  I ended up at a "doctor's" office (not The Doctor, just A doctor.)  And they were even more alarmed by my inability to make sense and gave me a CT scan. So instead of a new oven, I got a crap load of brain X-rays, Merry Christmas.  It was very difficult to make any kind of medical decisions as confused as I was.  Impossible really.  Huck was out of cell phone range and my mother advised for the CT scan.  And I'm glad I got it - well I kind of have to be since I did get one.  There is nothing that needs surgery, nothing wrong with my brain.  But it was reassuring that 1) the doctors I spoke with were alarmed enough to beg me to get one so that means I wasn't just being ...um.. confused and hysterical just for fun (?!?!) and 2) since things aren't improving all that much I am reassured, somewhat, that improvement will be slow but sure and there's nothing else wrong.

I am a little concerned about writing this blog because this is how things work right now: they make sense when I write or speak them, but when I look over what I wrote, I don't understand anything.  So I'll probably write this and then reread it and it won't make sense so I'll edit it to make even less sense. 

I was going to apply to teach a 10 week class at Blue's school, but when I went to do the lesson plan, nothing made sense.  I worked on it for three hours and this one page plan wouldn't make sense.  Then I tried working on the finer points of our budget for the next six weeks, HA!  And the menu!  I have a four page spread sheet of menu items (I know, this seems a little obsessive but menu planning cuts costs and stress and keeps us sane)  But I couldn't make heads or tails of it.  I got to the part where I planned out what days we have evening activities so dinner needs to be quick.  And I figured out the part where Huck is home, so there's some point in making a meal that's a little more complex, not that I'm "cooking for my man" but that there seems to be little point in making something interesting when I'm the only one who's going to enjoy it.  But when I put together the days of the week, the quick meals, the full family meals, etc, none of it makes sense.

I am writing this in the morning because that is the only time of day my brain works, and I can feel it slipping now.  I think I've used up my day's alotment of focus, but I'm not done with what I want to tell you.  The fog is coming in around my eyes right now.  It's a dark fog, a little tunnel-visionny, and after that settles in... I don't know what happens next, I can't remember.

I have notes all over, "Are you cooking something right now?"  It reminds me of Huck's grandmother with Alzheimer's.  She'd covered Lue's house with sticky notes, "Door", "drawer", "table."  She knew she was loosing something and was making valiant final attempts to remember language and what it means.

Yesterday the kids had something like five or six desserts.  It wasn't until just before bed that I realized they'd had breakfast dessert, lunch dessert, snack dessert, dinner dessert and bedtimes dessert! Ack!  Snack Dessert?! How did I say yes to that?!

It wasn't until Thanksgiving that I discovered the only way to deal with my headaches was wine.  That sounds really bad; my mother made that very clear.  But tylenol, ibuprofen, all the usual suspects aren't working at all.  The doctor offered stronger medicine, but I declined.  One glass of wine can relieve a headache for about four hours, so it's not like I need to keep a buzz on or anything.  It's just medicinal.  Part of me wants to wait until at least early afternoon, for propriety.  But the other part of me is like, "Screw you all and your expectations!  Why should I be uncomfortable with a pounding headache just because you feel uncomfortable with me having a small glass of wine every four hours?  Who is my priority here? Me or you?"  And yet, I can see the danger: have to have a glass of wine to feel normal? That sounds not good.

I'm trying to apologize in advance for all the mistakes I'm making.  Coyote's record-breaking fundraising poinsettia delivery was a complete disaster.  Huck spent much of Thanksgiving morning fixing my mess.  And I spent HOURS trying to figure out what went to who!  But my apologies just sound like lame excuses: "Sorry, I forgot your name, your money, your needs, your child, you.  But I have a severe concussion."  Sounds LAME.  I'm worried I'll loose friends and respect. 

There's all sorts of loss looming here.  Not just my brain, not just the patience of others, but also my plans for the future.  Apparently this thing could go on for months!  How will I tell stories? Teach Exploratories? Write?  Not only do I tire very easily, I don't make sense most of the time.  And I can't remember anything from minute to minute.  I wander around my house discovering half done things.  I am relying on my smoke detector to let me know I am cooking.

But it's a little true that I do like having a valid, if lame sounding, excuse for all my failings. Just as this thing hit me on the head, I was marveling about how my best is so often not good enough, not enough to get the job done, and that's okay.  I wasn't worried about my best not being good enough.  That's fine.  And now, my best is worse than my worst effort before this happened.   Speaking of which, I decided I won't be going back over this blog post to edit for length or sense because I'm worried I'll just make less sense of it with my editing.  Sorry if it's too long or doesn't mean anything to you.

I am sometime frightened by this whole thing.  I do feel a little sorry for myself at times.  I wish, sometimes, that someone was here, checking on me, because I do get lost and confused and it's scary.

But there is some pleasure in this experience, and that is exploring the way my brain feels.  It's totally different.  I'm certain I'm "me" still.  But my thoughts are simple, clear, if completely forgettable and at times confusing.  It's kind of nice to have the mental cacophony dimmed somewhat.  If an awkward social situation comes up I just react, I don't have that thing where all possible reactions and counter-reactions flood my head and paralyze me.  I just say, "Are you ordering a CT scan to make us both feel like we did something useful? Or do I really need one?"  I didn't worry about the doctor's feelings or any awkward moment I was creating, or whether I was pathologically not trusting him because I felt obligated to trust him or blah blah blah.  I just spit out the question as it came to me.  Ahhhh.

There's one situation that is confusing me.  I am wondering if I should tell me friend who's house I was at.  I don't want her to feel guilty, or responsible to take care of me.  But if someone got a concussion at my house, I'd probably want to know. But I don't know how to say it without sounding like ... I don't know.

I also found this switch in my brain, like all the clutter over it was just tossed out and here's this switch.  It's a metal toggle and it turns my brain and body off.  I just have to flip it and everything stops.  It's very nice, but also disconcertingly easy.

So I think that's all I can do right now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Story Appropriations Committee

At Huck's very nice house in Idaho
I don't know how I managed to get such a dorky passion.  But that's me; I am a storyteller and extraordinarily dorky to boot. This passion has all the sexiness of geriatric story time at the old folks home. I tried to change myself to please a few jerks, but as we all know, that never works. Hell, if I can support gay and lesbian friends and family as they accept who they are, whether society likes it or not, I can probably accept myself for who I am.  If you have a problem with stories, it's YOU not me. There are 7 Billion people here, I'm sure you can find people who communicate in the utterly boring way you need them too. I'm just being who I was born to be: a storyteller.  And you know, I love your stories too.  I can also be a fabulous story listener as well.

This passion is not sexy. It's been confusing to figure out how to execute this passion. It all began, in earnest, at the Wenatchee UU Fellowship, thanks to Rita and Rocci who opened up the Children's Story for All Ages to anyone who wanted to be trained.  And that's how I found out there was at least one place for me.  I brought the concept to Spokane and gathered and trained storytellers and then scheduled myself in there too. But I wanted to expand a little. And I finally applied to the Spokane Folk Festival, with my one video of The Girl and The Chenoo (see link at lower right).  I was very embarrassed to ask someone to record that for me and worried people would think I was egotistical.  I know so many many men who do not have those hang ups, including the one who introduced himself to me at the Folk Festival as "an incredibly powerful public speaker."

I'd already gotten notice of my slot so I didn't open the PDF of the festival schedule.  I also didn't open it because my computer doesn't like PDF's which, in my brain, stands for something I'm sure Adobe never intended. So I missed some crucial information that I discovered when I finally received the official, final paper version in the mail two weeks ago.  There I was, performing in Conference Room 126, at 5:00 pm, Sarajoy Van Boven, "Retells Native American Folk Tales."

6th grade basketball
What the PDF !!!?!?  I am 100% certain that I did not apply with that program.  I was thinking "American Folk Tales."  I could see doing one or two Native American stories as part of a slate of Americana.  But a whole program?  Anyone with any cultural sensitivity would obviously note the problem here: I am NOT, nor have I EVER been, nor will I ever be: Native American!  I am Dutch. I am all Dutch. 100%.  Horrifically, after 75 years in America, my family was still producing 100% Dutch babies in 1975. Of course, I radically mixed that up with my post-globalization kids who are 1/2 Dutch, 1/4 Norwegian and 1/4 German.

So what right could I possibly have had to tell these stories? NONE.  True, I grew up in Marietta, Land of the Lummi.  True, I've had many good friends of Native American heritage (who hasn't?).  But none of that gives me claim to their culture.  Shit, man, I'm already living on their homeland, I'm going to hijack their cultural heritage too?  And now, here I was, displayed for all to see, commandeering Native American culture for my own purposes, whether I wanted to or not.  Whether I chose to or not, I will forever be written down as having done this.  At least I wasn't getting paid.

The other problem was that I was hoping to get more recordings to audition for other performances from this presentation, but I realized that if I took any more recordings of Native American folk tales, I would be forever branded (if that hasn't already happened) as That Native American Folk Tale Lady, and/or the Moron Who Tried to Make a Go at Being an Aryan Native American Folk Tale Lady.  This borrowing of Native American tales is very very bad form indeed, especially in storyteller circles, such as they are.

A glass class Blue and I took for a school report.
What were my options?  I could ask my Native friends for permission?  Perhaps Sarah (White Earth Ojibwe) could give permission on behalf of the Pima? the Passamaquady?  There's Lily, maybe I could look her up again and she could give the go ahead for my Tlingkit tales?  But what right would she have to speak on behalf of all Tlingkits? I mean, it's the same damn issue since 1492: Native Americans aren't a monolithic group and don't speak for each other.

And why me?  American Indians have a flourishing storytelling culture still in existence today with festivals all over North America.  There's no reason a Dutch girl would even need to do this.  These people haven't died out. They're here. Alive. They're the remarkable descendants of those who survived several waves of genocide, broken treaties, lies, and abuse and continue to be either ignored or discriminated against to this day.  THEY can still tell their own damn stories.  They don't need me to speak on their behalf.  But as I considered the rest of the schedule, I could see that no performers were Native American.  And if I didn't tell their stories, however wrong it was, they wouldn't be represented by a single performance.

The Spokane Folk Festival is a bunch of seasonal volunteers who put on an amazing program.  They simply accept applications; they don't recruit.  One assumes they did not have any Native applicants, for whatever reason. The ENTIRE festival is basically white people doing other culture's stuff. That's the nature of the region, white. And Native American. There's the white African dance troupe.  The white Bollywood-ers.  The only people doing the right color thing are the Reel dancers and jig pluckers.

Since it was my first ever festival, I didn't feel entitled to do what need to be done, which was to thumb my nose at the schedule and do my own thing.  So, I prepared a few more Native American stories and got working on them.  And the closer I came to the deadline, the worse I felt. Until Wednesday and Thursday where my cultural appropriation angst reached a crescendo. I could not have bunch my panties any tighter.


This is what I saw: angry Native Americans picketing my performance.  Throwing rotten tomatoes.  Or better yet, ROCKS!  And all I could do was crumble to the ground and say, "I know. I agree. You are SO VERY right."  And throw rocks at me too.

But then I realized that the museum was having their annual Native American days celebration (which might account for the lack of representation across town) and so they'd be there. That wouldn't make it right, but I might avoid an unpleasant confrontation. But then (my god! the horror!) word would spread of this nutty lady trying to steal the last vestiges of their cultural heritage and they would all carpool across town in rental vans, sit in Conference Room 126, fold their arms and seethe hate hate hate at me. And rightfully so. Except that I'm a human, am I not? And should be treated humanely even though I cannot, apparently, find it within myself to treat other cultures with a shred of dignity. 

Not a meth lab. It's mining waste treatment experiments
So, obviously, I'd gone off the rails and Huck wasn't there to help me back.  I righted myself by reminding myself that most Native Americans, although reasonably protective of their culture, are also normal humans with a normal sense of how to treat others.  And they would not humiliate or stone me intentionally. 

And it was too late to put together a whole new program.  And I came up with a plan. I built into the program not one, but two opportunities for me to address the living-ness of Native Storytelling culture and my humble borrowings of it for one day only. And if anyone said anything more, I'd respond with this well rehearsed phrase: "You are absolutely right." 

But I think its worse than rocks.  Most people are too polite to say anything so I'll never get an opportunity to explain myself.  Unless they stumble upon this here blog.  Which is very unlikely.  Only the elite few of discriminating taste can find this gem.

In the end, I got my first festival performance. Spellbound-ness happened. I loved it. I can't wait to do it again. Only NOT Native American stories. It would be tempting to do, however.  They are so so good.   

Bonus joke:
Coyote: "Blue, ask me a 'yes or no' question."
Blue: "Okay. Which do you prefer, 'yes' or 'no'?"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Middle school or Middle age?

Now capable of taking risks
Last week was Blue's first basket ball practice where the other kids showed up.  And there were these moms all hanging out in a circle, a shape without an opening. And after a while of standing around feeling increasingly odd and out, I left.  Yes, I was indeed in a middle school gymnasium and I wondered if it wasn't these buildings that cause this sort of thing. After decades of cliques, the walls had gotten infected somehow and were oozing this sort of clannish anti-newcomer virus.  So I left and sat in the car and chatted with my mommy.  But when I returned, one woman broke away from the group and approached me.  Obviously an introvert, she was shaking as she began a conversation.  It was stunning. Someone had learned something in the intervening years. Of course, I made it as easy as I could in my awkward, never-ending fourteen year old way.  And soon we realized that we'd met before and she'd worked with Huck.  And then another woman overheard Huck's name and it turns out that her husband and mine had been in a band together that practiced at her house.  So, I didn't know anyone, but this group of ladies knew my husband - and I felt like I then slid easily into the B-ball moms.

World's Best Cat
Last night was Blue's first game. And another reminder that even my best is sometimes, frankly "is often", not good enough.  I began formulating my plan of attack the night before to get everyone where they need to be.  I might as well tell you now (I usually don't tell for security reasons) that Huck is working out of town for a while.  And by that, I mean that his company got him a house in Idaho. And so things will get tricky schedule wise (and in a lot of other -wises too!). And we arrived early, fed, homework done, etc. etc.  And it turns out that's not where the game was. As all my relatives know, this sort of thing is my undoing.  I have no idea why I over-react to things like this, like missing the ferry to bring my mother to an important funeral, missing my flight out of India, missing all of our flights out of New Orleans once and being stuck there for days and days more. Every so often, even my surpreme paperwork, planning, i dotting, t crossing skills fail and fail spectacularly when they do. And my reaction is usually equally spectacular! 

Eventually we made it to the other side of town, half way through the third quarter of my daughter's first game. First game, in that the refs had to give constant mini-briefings on things like where to stand during free throws, what the lines mean, etc. etc.   Obviously, no one was upset we were late.  No one even cared, except they'd all been there before. And one mom says, "We have to fail like that some times, to give them something real to complain about."

Hard Cider begins
I was concerned that Blue would feel embarassed or discouraged with so many corrections and redirections.  I felt that way.  I started basketball when I was in 6th grade as well.  I actually played for McDonald's through the Salvation Army. And boy, were there some spectacular fails then!  My favorite was when I grabbed the ball and was instantly surrounded on all sides by my opponents, all grabbing into my space for the ball.  I'd seen girls in this position before, so I was pretty sure I knew what to do.  I twisted violently, left and right to get their hands off my ball.  And as I spun a large, thick, wet rope of snot flew out my nose and slapped each girl across the face and then suddenly disappeared back into my nose when they'd all been hit, never to be seen again.  It was like the Angel of Snot, smiting mine enemies. The girls ran away, squealing and screaming. And I got the foul!

But the real trouble came in eighth grade, when my backwards parochial school finally got sports.  First we got a new principal who no longer believed that sports were an abomination to god, a waste of time better spent in worship and devotions, 'cuz that's what we were all doing instead, right?  So we first came up with a mascot, the terrifically frightening "CRUSADERS".  No shit.  We named our team after historical fanatics who killed anyone who didn't believe exactly as they did, including a ton of Muslims, obviously.  Not that they didn't retaliate.  But still.  It was our fantasy that our fledgling sports teams imitate these studly pillars of the faith and slay our opponents mercilessly.  Under this banner of Christ's love, I played volleyball, basketball and baseball. I loved basketball the most.  I was a goddess at guarding, unsurpassed at passing, and a queen at dribbling.  What I was not good at was 1) knowing the rules and following them and 2) making baskets. I wasn't good at making baskets because I never shot and I needed glasses, but we didn't know that yet. I mean, I really never ever shot.  Until the very last game, we were 84 - 2 and my coach insisted that everyone had to pass me the ball until I made a basket.  I nearly passed out from trying to keep from crying.  On the one hand, no pressure.  We're 82 points ahead; we ARE the crusaders.  I couldn't possibly loose the game even if I tried.  On the other hand, the entire fourth quarter was focused on me and my refusal to even try for a basket.  I don't know if I ever did try.  I don't know if I made one or not.  But I have certainly retained a very intense memory and thought it over many times.  My conclusion is that I was afraid to take a risk in front of everyone.  I think it's the same reason I hate to shop in stores with big windows.  I don't know, just that shooting baskets is a very private thing for me, I guess.  Like pooping.  I just need the doors shut and the fan on, is all.  What do you think? What psychosis underlies my inability to take a shot in front of people?
Pirate, Poirot, Death and Ood

Later, I'd play pick up games with Orcas boys, who managed to put me on the "skins" team.  Of course, I managed to get in with the "shirts" instead.  I at least knew enough to play a decent game.  And to take shots eventually, no matter how far afield they go.

I just quested for my McDonalds/Salvation Army team photos to show you how classy I looked in sixth grade with my perm and my goldenrod and red polyester uniform.  I swear I've seen these photos recently.  I think my mother handed them over because she figured I was finally responsible enough, with a cavernous enough house to take in my own memorabilia.  Sorry, mom, you were wrong, apparently.  Instead I found a suitcase full of 14-15 year old Sarajoy.  And it messed with my head. I discovered that I have forgotten what sound like very sweet and lovely memories. Who was Laura, and why were we in her hallway? I also haven't changed enough.  I wrote really messed up letters to people. I wrote excellent poetry, and some really bad stuff too. I wrote about my own death a lot.  I was obsessed with death. I was seriously depressed and lonely and lost. And I feel all mixed up now, especially after watching 6th grade basketball last night.  Am I 11? 14? 37?  

Fingers? Nah, they're people!  With rights!
And so instead of preparing for Saturday's Folk Fest performance, I ran out of the house crying, you know, to prove I'm a big girl now. And I went for a hike. And I found my favorite tree. (I'm telling you, I'm really worried I haven't changed at all!) And I tried to take a photo of it, but my camera was dead.  So I cried, because I'm 37, damn it. And then I climbed to the top of the tree and curled up in a branch crotch and watched the swans. Until I felt like I might actually be 37 again.  And then I climbed down, which was scary because I was 37 again, and decided to further procrastinate memorizing a 45 minute monologue by writing in my blog.  And now I have to go pick up the kids.

 Anyway, I watched Blue and knew she was going to respond to all of this very differently than I did.  But just in case, we plotted our places on the learning curve, to show ourselves that there is more to learn and that we aren't expected to know it all right now.  But soon, we will know so much more than we do, right? right? I'll know where her games are and she'll know where to stand during a free throw.

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