Who am I and Why am I Here?

30 Days to a Better Blog… Well, I could use a better blog! Why not? I’ve had this blog for a little over a year, it was born out of my frustrations with my health, joblessness and the idle time that accompanies that. Lately, my health has been good, work has been steady, and my hands have been full so my frustration/call to arms posts have not been present recently. If I’m not bitching, do I have anything to say? I hold on to this because I think I do. I’m still on my path of unconventional growth, my book-lust has been going strong for about a year, I’m back in therapy analyzing every thought and feeling, I’m applying what I’m learning in therapy to my professional development. Stuff is happening, I’ve yet to articulate it in this format but it’s something I want to do. I want to leave evidence of where I’ve been and what the journey looks like (mine anyway), what I have to offer.

Introduce Yourself
Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post.

Hi, I’m Melissa, sometimes melissa, sometimes Mel.
I’m here because I’m inspired (and also frightened) by disclosure that leads to connection, I’m here because I want to participate in that and experience that for myself. I’m here because I want access to a wide variety of people and the individual wisdom they hold.

I’m about ideas, inspiration and the process of reading and research that comes with trying to identify ways to address an issue. I’m about starting that process of addressing an issue, but I’m often on to my next idea before I can see it through. Having said that, I’m also about procrastination.
I’m about self care. I’m about having peanut butter, video games, crackers, and beer for dinner. I’m about sushi, fried cornbread, and all the parts of a coconut. I’m about singing in the car and listening to a song on repeat. I’m about stimming, spinning, and rocking.

I’m about books that challenge how I see the world. I’m about books about my profession that were published before 1985. I’m about myth and metaphor. I’m about running with the wolves and laughing full belly laughs.

I’m about my imperfections and learning to love them. I’m about distractibility and absent-mindedness. I’m about taking “flaws” and making them strengths.

I’m about irreverence, sarcasm, and cursing. I’m about saying “F*ck it!” I’m about facing and engaging my darkness. I’m about doing things that scare me.

I’m about constantly asking “why?” and “so what?” I’m NOT about rules, I’m about dismantling them. I’m about experiments, I’m about tapping the fish tank, just to see what happens. I’m about learning for learning’s sake.

I’m about documentaries, dark comedies, and dysfunctional family flicks.

I’m about a cup of hot tea, in the morning and after lunch. With a cup of tea, I can face the day.

I’m about meeting my varied needs in a variety of people, rather than having all my needs met by one person. I’m about vocalizing my Needs.

I’m about gratitude. I’m not about debt.

I’m about selfishness. I’m about going with a person on a journey because it’s fascinating and redemptive, not out of an altruistic desire to help. I’m about the feeling that comes with being an instigator, a container, a mirror. I’m about people and if I’m spending time with you, it means I like you.

I’m about knowing and being known. I’m about visibility.

I’m NOT about keeping it together. I am not together. I will never be together. I’m not about pairing my socks, I often grab my clothes for the day out of a basket. I’m NOT about being “good,” I am about humanity and wholeness.

I’m about the search for answers, not having them. I’m about the journey.

Broken…

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I think I loathe/fear this word more than any other. Broken. Damaged with a feeling of finality. Broken. No longer (or never will be) useful. Broken. Trash to be thrown away. Unable to perform it’s intended use. Unable to be of service to others.

Having said that, I love quilts. A comfort both physically and metaphorically. I’ve heard it said, “when life falls apart, make quilts.” Gather up all the broken, useless, and discarded pieces and dare to make something beautiful. Ultimately, that is my purpose.
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Mapping How Emotions Manifest in the Body – Olga Khazan – The Atlantic

An interesting graphic in my Facebook feed today… I talk often of being mindful of where you feel sensations bodily when one experiences an emotion. The following is a graphic of a collection of anecdotal reports of the location of physical sensations when a person experiences a certain emotion. Personally, the graphics for Disgust and Shame look familiar, I often feel those things in the pit of my stomach. I may have to make use of this article with my more visual consumers…

Mapping How Emotions Manifest in the Body – Olga Khazan – The Atlantic.

Mapping How Emotions Manifest in the Body - Olga Khazan - The Atlantic

The Way…

From If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him:

The way is not without danger. Everything good is costly, and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It will cost you your innocence, your illusions, your certainty.

Reconnecting with Music…

In responding to my trombone withdrawals, I started attending rehearsals with Tri-State Community Orchestra near my home. As a lifelong band kid, I had yet to have the experience of performing with a group that included string musicians. It’s been fun so far, although my engagement hasn’t been as strong as in other past musical ventures. However, it’s been a good place to let go and engage in a little self care after a full day of work. To speak without words, to commune with others non-verbally is a need I have I think. To breathe and move with others, to have a common language, to be able to connect in a different way… I find this all very sustaining, and when I am without it, it’s something I crave…

And with most of my musical ventures, there is eventually a performance which offers it’s own natural highs…

Having Trombone Withdrawals…

To most folks in Southeast Alabama, we are entering the holy season of college football… But to me, that’s just what happens before and after the band plays! A former bandmate directed me to Troy University’s youtube channel, where videos of my days in the Sound  (2000-2003) were posted. So many great memories! I thought I might share a few…

Also, I have to give a shoutout to Atlanta Freedom Bands. So much love for this great community band! Also, many congrats for being selected to host the 2013 Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) conference. Indeed a great honor and I am very honored to have been a part of this band, even if only for a short while. AFB is probably what I am missing most after moving away from Atlanta… Anyone know of a great community band in Columbus or SE Alabama, be sure to let me know!

Pickle and Praline Party!!

I can’t believe I’ve had my blog all this time, gave it a “crafty” name, and have yet to make a crafty post!?! Well, time to remedy that…

I’m going to give a bump to Jessie’s (my sister-in-law) blog, It’s Pretty Much Permaculture, that features her and Nathan’s (my bro) crafting and permaculture adventures. Jessie seems to have this amazing ability that I have yet to learn… how to actually FINISH projects consistently… I’m in awe! <AD/hD problems>

This past weekend, Jessie and Nathan were gracious enough to share the fruits of their pickling labors, of which they have outlined on their blog. They seem to have altered a recipe from the cooking god, Alton Brown. Additionally, they seem to be collecting pecans in the area and have been roasting, spicing, and making some into sweet and savory pralines. Nathan is quite talented in the kitchen and has been able to get to me to try (and like) things that I never would have tried otherwise. So of course, Mom and I were very willing participants in Pickle and Praline party!

Yummy, pickle-y goodness!!!❤

CBS WKBT News Anchor’s On-Air Respsonse to Viewer Calling Her Fat (Oct. 2nd, 2012)

Thank you…

I love the response from The Fat Nutritionist. (Here’s your obligatory F-bomb warning…)

Telling fat people that they are bad examples for daring to have jobs and exist in public spaces is eliminationist rhetoric – it suggests that fat people have no place in this world, that they need to just go away, hide at home with the lights off, and starve themselves until they are fit to be seen in public again.

Fuck that. Fat people exist, we have existed, we will continue to exist. We have as much right to this world, and our jobs, and the public eye, as anyone else.

Our bodies and the status of our health are not public property. Our existence is not open to debate or discussion. We are here, and our health is between us and the people to whom we’ve given informed consent to make judgments about it. It is not a handy club for you to beat us with. And if you cared one iota for fat people’s health, you would shut the fuck up and let us handle our business. The constant pressure and questioning and needling and harassment fat people get from family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and perfect strangers all combines to create stigma, and that stigma materially hurts people’s health. <more…> TheFatNutritionist.com

My relationship with fat (another obligatory F-bomb warning, B-word, etc…)

I use the word “fat.” I use that word because that’s what people are: they’re fat. They’re not bulky; they’re not large, chunky, hefty or plump. And they’re not big-boned. Dinosaurs were big-boned. These people are not overweight: this term somehow implies there is some correct weight. There is no correct weight. Heavy is also a misleading term. An aircraft carrier is heavy; it’s not fat. Only people are fat, and that’s what fat people are! They’re fat! – George Carlin

Reclaiming the word fat was the most empowering step in my progress. I stopped using it for insult or degradation and instead replaced it with truth, because the truth is that I am fat, and that’s ok. So now when someone calls me fat, I agree, whereas before I would get embarrassed and emotional. – Beth Ditto of Gossip

Hi, I am FAT. Fat is an accurate descriptor that describes me. I am fat and I also like and enjoy my body. I am fat and am happy and a complete person. I am fat and I have an extremely enjoyable personal life (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more). I am fat and I am smart and happy with my accomplishments. I am fat and I do NOT hate myself, spend my weekends alone, or cry every night alone in my room. I am fat and I enjoy activities that are physical in nature. I am fat AND attractive; my WHOLE body, not just my face.

Assholes: You should hate yourself because you’re fat and that’s ugly.

Fat People: I think I look marvelous.

Assholes: Well, you should hate yourself because being fat isn’t healthy.

Fat People: Why is my health your problem?

Assholes: Your being fat gives a bad example to my kids who then will think it’s OK to be fat and unhealthy.

Fat People: Why are your kids my problem?

Assholes: Why won’t you hate yourself?

Fat People: Because then I’d be just like you. (source)

I do not find my fatness to be problematic. I find others relationship to my fatness to be problematic. I find it problematic when others use my fatness as an excuse not to treat me with dignity and respect. Similarly, I do not find my queerness, my gender expression, my female-ness, my income level, my dis/ability, my adoptee status, my childfree status, etc. to be problematic. I find it problematic when others use my queerness as an excuse not to treat me with dignity and respect. I find it problematic when others use my gender expression as an excuse not to treat me with dignity and respect. I find it problematic when others use my female-ness as an excuse not to treat me with dignity and respect. I find it problematic when others use my income level as an excuse not to treat me with dignity or respect. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

I say these things to remind myself of my value as a human being, to engage in radical self-care in order to survive and thrive in a culture that devalues so many parts of my identity. Not only that, I consciously and purposefully choose to put myself in places, in relationships, and in contexts that treats my differences as strengths and as adding to a better and more diverse world.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.  — Audre Lorde

However, this path hasn’t been without some sacrifices. For example, it has also meant saying goodbye to the Southern Baptist Church, which I still consider part of my culture, but to expose myself to the SBC on a regular basis would mean leaving my humanity at the door and placing myself in an emotionally unsafe space. Oddly enough, I still miss it, probably in a way that a child might miss an abusive parent. Like I said, it’s very much a part of my culture and where I come from, but for my own safety, I have had to create home in other places. In order to be in more affirming spaces, I’ve avoided spaces that are more heteronormative. I’ve avoided healthcare. I’ve avoided relationships with others including my family of origin because the stances that are harmful for me are reflected back to me through them. “You have such a pretty face… it’s what’s on the inside that counts… you should grow your hair out long… I worry about you not finding a husband if you are fat…” while simultaneously giving me looks of pity or disgust and judgment…

I’m sorry folks from my past or my present who have been put in a distant place, but I’ve had to unlearn some of the things you have taught me (that our culture has taught you) in order to become a happier person. I know you probably meant well or you were doing the best you could, but you taught me to HATE myself. I refuse to do that any longer.

I am the woman who… has to love herself or die. If you are not as strong as I am, what will we make together? I am all muscle and wounded desire, and I need to know how strong we both can be. Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is how long it takes to learn to love yourself, how long it took me, how much love I need now. – Dorothy Allison

By engaging in radical self acceptance, choosing spaces and relationships that are affirming, and even directing my online readings to an affirming place, I have created a life that is strengthening and enhancing. So, I would like to direct you to some of the readings, bloggers, etc. that are a part of my life and philosophy. Why? Because self acceptance is awesome. I’ve become a better daughter, sister, friend, lover, citizen, therapist, etc. as a result of learning to treat myself with respect first. I feel more whole as a person. I take more risks. I question myself less. I am able to identify my strengths more. My relationships are much more satisfying.

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female.” more…

The magnificence of a body that shakes, spills out, takes up space, needs help, moseys, slinks, limps, drools, rocks, curls over on itself.  The magnificence of a body that doesn’t get to choose when to go to the bathroom, let alone which bathroom to use.  A body that doesn’t get to choose what to wear in the morning, what hairstyle to sport, how they’re going to move or stand, or what time they’re going to bed.  The magnificence of bodies that have been coded, not just undesirable and ugly, but un-human.  The magnificence of bodies that are understanding gender in far more complex ways than I could explain in an hour.  Moving beyond a politic of desirability to loving the ugly.  Respecting Ugly for how it has shaped us and been exiled. Seeing its power and magic, seeing the reasons it has been feared. Seeing it for what it is: some of our greatest strength. – Mia Mingus                                        more…

Posts on Radical Self-Acceptance from LoveLiveGrow

Reddit Users Attempt to Shame Sikh Woman, Get Righteously Schooled – I included this because I also am hairy; eyebrow, lip, the works… I’m loving this woman’s response to rude comments about her facial hair so very much!

Fat oppression is insidious. It’s the kind of thing that affects everyone intensely in ways they are rarely aware of. Mainstream media teaches us that fat is aesthetically and sexually undesirable and the rhetoric around the obesity epidemic will teach you that fat = death. Like many other kinds of oppression, fat oppression is fear-based. But rather than just being afraid of fat people, often thin people get freaked out by fatties because they are afraid, themselves, of becoming fat. Oppression also acts as a way that people get power and control over other people using social constructions. People actively engaging in fat hatred are using the arbitrariness of body size to get a sense of power over fat people and also over the fear they have of getting fat. (more…) – Bevin Branlandingham at QueerFatFemme

So, having said all this. I suppose my post isn’t really about fat. It’s about people, it’s about assumptions, fear, hate, judgement… it’s about oppression… because like I said, my problem isn’t with my fat, it’s with others’ fear and ignorance…

The moment I realized I didn’t have to be beautiful was the moment I was finally free.
Ugly. Ugly bitch. Ugly fat bitch.
So fuck you. Fuck your “flattering clothes.” Fuck your “cover your fat rolls.” Fuck your “ideal weight.” Fuck your “you’ll never get a date.” Fuck your picking apart my face and body. Fuck your “I’d kill myself if I looked like you.” But most of all? Fuck your “pretty.”
I’ll aim for “compassionate” and “kind” and “strong” and “brave.” I’ll aim for “doesn’t harass people online in hopes of making them kill themselves.” I’ll aim for “authentic.” I won’t always succeed. But I’ll try.
So take your “pretty” and I’ll be over here. Working to become something better. Something more. Something beyond “pretty.” (more…) – Heidi at Attack of the Sugar Monster

Vocational Rehabilitation 101

Another resource about which people don’t often know…. If the term “Vocational Rehabilitation” sounds a bit novel to you, here’s some 101-type info to get you up to speed. <insert plagiarism from Wikipedia, because that’s a reliable source right?>

Vocational Rehabilitation is a process which enables persons with functional, psychological, developmental, cognitive and emotional impairments or health conditions to overcome barriers to accessing, maintaining or returning to employment or other useful occupation

Vocational Rehabilitation can require input from a range of health care professionals and other non-medical disciplines such as disability employment advisers and career counselors.

Techniques used can include:

  • assessment, appraisal, program evaluation and research.
  • goal setting and intervention planning.
  • provision of health advice and promotion, in support of returning to work.
  • support for self-management of health conditions.
  • making adjustments to the medical and psychological impact of a disability.
  • case management, referral, and service co-ordination.
  • psychosocial interventions.
  • career counseling, job analysis, job development, and placement services.
  • functional and work capacity evaluations.

US Rehabilitation Services Administration <- more info…

Vocational Rehabilitation services in my area are provided through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS). Created by the Alabama Legislature in 1994, ADRS is the state agency that serves people with disabilities from birth to old age through a “continuum of services.”

ADRS is comprised of four major programs:

  • Alabama’s Early Intervention System – services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays.
  • Children’s Rehabilitation Service – services for children and adolescents from birth to age 21 with special health-care needs and their families. Staff work closely with local school systems to enable children with disabilities to participate fully in school.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Service – provides specialized employment- and education-related services and training to assist teens and adults with disabilities in becoming employed. Includes services for blind and deaf persons.
  • State of Alabama Independent Living/Homebound Service – provides a wide range of education and home-based services to assist people with the most-severe disabilities in leading independent lives at home, at school or in the workplace.

If you are in Alabama and feel you may benefit from such services, check out the office locations/services search page of the ADRS site.