Who Would We Complain To, Anyway?

“I gazed at Kobe harbour, sparkling leadenly far below, and listened carefully, hoping to pick up some echoes from the past, but nothing came to me. Just the sounds of silence. That’s all. But what are you going to do? We’re talking about things that happened over thirty years ago.

“Over thirty years ago. There is one thing I can say for certain: the older a person gets, the lonelier he becomes. It’s true for everyone. But maybe that isn’t wrong. What I mean is, in a sense our lives are nothing more than a series of stages to help us get used to loneliness. That being the case, there’s no reason to complain. And besides, who would we complain to, anyway?

“. . . I was the only customer who was by himself. Maybe it was just my imagination, but everyone else there seemed really happy. The couples looked contented, and a group of men and women were laughing uproariously. Some days are just like that.”

Haruki Murakami

A Walk to Kobe

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live

The world is such an upsetting place.

I’ve been reading a book about the billionaires who control American politics, and I just read about the case in 1996 when a Koch Industries pipeline exploded and burned two teenagers to death. I was thinking about the parents, and the unbelievable amount that was awarded to them$296 million, almost three times the $100 million the family had sued for—and I thought about what I would do if I were in their place.

They hadn’t done it for the money, of course; the Koch assholes had offered them money to settle, as Koch always does, because it was cheaper to just pay off lawsuits than it was to follow the environmental regulations they flat-out ignored. But the family wasn’t in it for the money—they were in it because it is wrong for a company to blow up teenagers, and the company had known what it was doing and just didn’t fucking care how it would hurt others, and the family wanted the company to be punished for murdering their daughter. That’s how I would feel, too. And because $296 million is such a mind-blowingly absurd amount of money, I couldn’t resist thinking about what I would do with it.

Because the thing is, I can’t imagine what you would even do with more than one million. If I had that amount of money, I would give $295 million to the best charities I could think of, and keep one for myself. And that would be more than I’d ever need.

With $50,000 I would pay off the rest of my student loan debt, the albatross around my neck that has completely ruined my 20s and kept my husband and me trapped and barely surviving for the ten years since we got married ($50,000 is what’s left after ten years of paying it down).

With $20,000 I would buy a car for myself, probably a Camry.

With $30,000 I would buy Mike the huge-ass truck he dreams about, even though a little part of me would die every time he drove it.

With $400,000 I would buy a house somewhere on the west coast.

With $30,000 I would finish my fucking bachelor’s degree and get my Masters in Library Science.

I would give $100,000 to his and my familyabout $10,000 each.

I would put $100,000 into a travel fund, so that I never again have to worry that I won’t be able to afford seeing any of the world besides the middle United States.

I would put $200,000 into a savings account, and the last $80,000 would just be for spendingbuying new wardrobes that actually fit us, getting new laptops that actually work, furnishing the house with bath mats and a bed frame and all the things we haven’t been able to afford in our one-bedroom apartment.

And that would be it.

I would finally have my degree, so I’d be able to get a job with health insurance and a livable wage.

We would have two cars, so Mike would be free to get a job wherever he can find one instead of having to stay with one he hates that lets him drive a work truck.

We would own a house, so we wouldn’t have to spend a third of our income renting a tiny box to live in.

And we would have health insurance, so I could finally see a neurologist about my headaches, and we could both get the therapy and probable medication that will make our lives more than just bearable.

What else could a person possibly need? What could you do with any more than that?

And yet: We live in a world where people have not just one million, not just two or three, but thousands of millions of dollars. And they are never satisfied, and they think it is their right to have so much, though there are countless others on the planet who don’t have enough to survive.

And because they have so much, they can pay to have governments skew the laws in their favor, as though they didn’t have enough of an advantage already. Because they have so much, they can afford propagandathey can spend decades and millions of dollars indoctrinating everyone’s libertarian uncles, teaching them that as white men such wealth is their birthright, too, that it is virtuous to protect it; and that if they have not yet personally received their birthright it’s only because of the evil liberal government that literally steals money from the pockets of wholesome, honest, hard-working, freedom-defending, totally self-made billionaires to let the lazy, entitled poor people spend their food stamps on iPhones and manicures.

Of course, these billionaires could buy thousands of iPhones and manicures with just the taxes they don’t pay. But that is not the point. The pointthe only one that matters in the United Statesis that it is immoral to stand in the way of a person making money (especially if that person is already rich). This is literally something they believe.

The more I see, the more I hate this fucking country. I probably hate most of the world, really, and just haven’t had the chance to develop it, not having lived there. But the worst part is that I actually love it so much, and that’s why I hate it (the world, not the U.S.—that I really do hate). It seems so clear to me, so incredibly simple, how everything should be. Do what makes you happy; don’t hurt anyone else on purpose; do what you can to fix it if you hurt someone accidentally. Don’t let anyone else decide things for you; most of all, keep your own damn mouth shut and don’t try to decide things for others. Know that you are neither any more nor any less important than anyone else. Care.

Why is that so hard?

Dangerous Weapons

Did you know that the state of Texas has absolutely no laws restricting the open carry of a shotgun or rifle? There are laws for handguns, which is to say, it’s legal if you have a permit, and unless you make explicitly threatening remarks or unholster it—placing your hand on the weapon in its holster is not considered threatening. (I guess Texas lawmakers haven’t seen as many movies as I have.)

I work for a smallish city government in North Texas, and we received an email today with a reminder about the policies for weapons on city property. Here’s my favorite part: items categorized as “dangerous weapons” are not allowed at all, including stun guns and knives with a blade longer than 5.5 inches. So. Rifles and shotguns, fine. Handguns, fine as long as you have a permit. But if the blade on your knife is too long, that’s when the state of Texas considers you dangerous.

Nope. Gun culture in the U.S. isn’t fucked up at all.

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Chin Up, Claws Out

I went to the Women’s March in Austin, and it was the most okay I have felt since November. It was an amazing day, and I drained my phone’s entire battery in a few hours because I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The diversity, the signs, the almost 50,000 people. Seeing my sweet nieces holding up their own signs. It was worth the 8+ hours in a car.

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Postcards From the Edge

2016 was almost over.

There were only four days left, but we couldn’t even make it that far.

The cruelest thing is that she was fine. They’d just told us she was okay. I’d just thought it was safe to relax. And then I went to work the next day, and Carrie Fisher was gone.

I just . . . I’m so crushed. We needed her so much. We needed her telling us to stop asking whether she’d “aged well,” needed her sarcastic wit, needed her plain refusal to take any more bullshit. We needed her dog Gary, and her funny memoirs, and her openness about mental illness. We needed General Organa to take the fucking galaxy in hand and be the solid, powerful, in-control grownup woman role model we’d never had.

I miss her already. More than any of the others who’ve died this year, even others who were incredibly special to me, I already feel the loss of her. Partly that’s because of the immediacy of Star Wars, the cruel irony that the series had just been revived, that she was going to be in who knows how many more movies. But it’s also because she was such a presence. She’d been through so much, and she showed us how hard it was, how fucked up it all was.

And it is—it is all so fucked up.

Like Debbie Reynolds dying the next day.

Things To Do

Take kung fu, tai chi, or another martial art.

Go to ladies night at the comic book store.

Go to the last Thursday book group at Deep Vellum. 

Join the feminism and social justice book club I was just invited to.

Hang out with friends on my own; doesn’t always have to be with Mike. Hopefully he’ll start going out with G more, so I don’t have to feel like I’m leaving him alone.

Invite M and Z over for a movie, or to dinner on the weekend.

Buy more plants—because we can’t live in San Francisco, but we can try to recreate the feeling at least a little.

Use the apartment’s gym, or the rec center if necessary—just to be around other people.

Read at Starbucks.

Maybe volunteer at the Richardson library.

Thrift store shopping, especially for furniture and art, especially after we move to the new place—also garage sales.

Clean out old things: purses, clothes I don’t wear, dishes we don’t use, random knickknacks. All the things that just become clutter. Reread Marie Kondo.

Limit anime nights with my brothers to once a week. We’ve been doing this for a couple years now and I really like it, but it had become the only thing we ever do, and something that got in the way of doing anything else. We’ve been on a break since my family is moving and they’ve been busy packing, and I’m realizing that it’s a huge breath of fresh air.

When we have a house . . . A garden with cucumbers, radishes, and tomatoes. 

Take a Japanese class, and once I do, start going to the Japanese meetup again.

Watch more movies, not just television shows on Netflix. Maybe it’s silly but movies feel like an accomplishment, an intentional choice rather than just going on autopilot.

Practice knitting.

See if Glass Half Full could become our new Fillmore.

Go to H-Mart and Daiso, by myself if necessary, at least once every couple months.

See better movies. Look for international ones playing at the dollar theater.

Watch Ticketmaster, try to go to more shows.

Stop bringing home dozens of books from the library at the same time, stop doing reading challenges. Just read what I want to read—and read a lot less, as insane as that sounds to me. I don’t need to have five or six going at the same time, and I don’t need to read 200 books a year. It’s just getting ridiculous.

Try to remember how much I want to do these things, even when they inevitably get lost in the fog of depression. Think of them as crutches, ways to make life less miserable until a permanent (or at least official) solution is possible.

Looking Up Through the Leaves

I just had the most beautiful flash of a memory from childhoodthat time around sixth or seventh grade, before you’ve totally grown out of your actual child-ness and into a teenager. I was in the backyard of the house we lived in when we first moved to Texas. Our backyard was an acre, the front half just grass and a trampoline, the back half our own little forest of oak and pecan trees, and for just a little while, there was a time when we had a hammock. I remember a day in the fall, the sharp white rope digging into my skin, looking up through the leaves with a book in my hands.

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(Not fall, but you can see the hammock.)

Adults like to romanticize childhood as free from responsibility, based on the fact that kids don’t have to pay bills, but if you think about itchildhood is nothing but adults making you do things you don’t want to do. Actually, there’s a good chance I was supposed to be doing something else, probably mowing the lawn or cleaning my room with my sisters. But I wouldn’t have been thinking about that. Back then, when I read a book, I was in it. I could sit in the living room with my five siblings running around chasing each other, shouting, fighting, and watching Power Rangersbut I’d be aware of none of it. I miss that, almost as much as I miss the trees.

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(For perspective.)

I really miss those trees.

The Solution

I just had what feels like the most incredible idea ever. Fix all the problems in the world: take the entire population of the planet, mix everyone up, and redistribute equally across the globe. Old systems of oppressiongone. Old prejudicesgone.

How fast would things get fixed if we could strip white people of the ability to ignore every issue that doesn’t personally affect them?

Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.

I’m pretty sure friendship is impossible.

In the first place, I have had, in my entire life, only one deep relationship where I felt like the other person cared as much as I did. It wasn’t until I got to college that I had a best friend who also considered me her best friend. And that was a really important friendship to me, while it lasted.

My late twenties and early thirties have been increasingly dominated by feelings of isolation. I have a handful of friends who I used to be really close with, but now rarely see or talk to; and though we still have a great time when we get together, we don’t have very much in common.

I desperately need friends. I am very much an introvert, but I also need connections with other people. I need alone time, but I also need other people around, and I guess the real problem is that I need them to be really easy to access because my social anxiety almost completely cripples my ability to reach out. I grew up in a large family, and even when I moved out of the dorms in college, I still had five roommates. I went to church regularly until I was 25, and because I was Mormon, church provided a detailed structure for my entire life.

Now, I’m not in school anymore. I’m not religious anymore, and I don’t live with family. I work part-time, and I live in a state where I feel completely out of place, so it’s even more difficult to make friends. I no longer have the kind of friends who keep in touch on a daily basisthe only people who text me are members of my immediate family, and when I do see my friends, it’s once every two or three (or six or seven) months. I am so fucking lonely.

I’ve spent the past seven or eight years racking my brain, trying to think of lapsed friends I could get back in touch with. At this point, I think it’s time to acknowledge that those friendships aren’t going to happenwhich leaves me the option of making new ones. The thing is, I can’t imagine how to do it.

All the aforementioned reasons I am lonely are also reasons it is incredibly difficult for me to make new friends. I am intensely private and insecure; I was bullied all through my childhood, and I’m basically a super-minority in terms of things other people enjoy. I don’t like sports, I don’t like reading romance or thrillers, I don’t like movies about white men shooting everything. I’m a liberal in Texas, an atheist in the U.S., a feminist in patriarchy. I don’t open up to someone until they’ve shared enough with me that I feel they are safe, and unlikely to reject me once they find out who I really am. And the only way for that to happen is for me to be around people a lot, for a long time.

The thing is, also, I have a lot of quirks and weirdness that may be part of my personality, or may be related to anxiety and depression. I have a deep need to find friends who are like me, who love the same things I love and hate the same things I hate. I have friends who don’t really read, and though I like them a lot as people, there is just only so much I can feel connected to them. I have friends who are politically moderate/conservative, and though we have a ton else in common, we can’t really talk about a lot of important things. I have friends who read the same books I do, but are also super into sports, so there are several months of the year when I just roll my eyes and scroll past everything they post on Facebook. I love these friends, and I love to hang out with them. But they don’t fill the space I need filled.

I need friends for whom reading is a natural part of life, who never say the words “I wish I could find the time.” We all experience the same number of hours per day, it’s just some people do different things in them. I need people who can’t imagine books not being part of regular life.

I need friends who swear, or don’t cringe when I do. I just can’t fully take seriously an adult who complains about “language” in a book or movie. It’s how people talk, okay? They’re just words.

I need friends who don’t wear a full face of makeup, who don’t get their nails done outside of special occasions, who don’t shave or wax their legs. I need women in my life who prefer to just exist the way we exist.

I hate to say it, but I need friends who are done reading YA. I am not the kind of asshole who thinks adults should be embarrassed to read itI’m just over it myself, for right now, personally.

I need friends who are sick of movies, because why are they all about racist, sexist stereotypes and cliches? It’s been a long time since I was able to get excited about a movie, and I hate how hard it is to explain that to people.

I need friends who are or have at some point been bigger than a size 8, because (1) empathy and (2) god, sometimes you just need to be able to not see yourself directly in comparison to someone else.

I need friends who drink, because I really like drinkingbut I also need friends who can’t afford, physically or financially, to stay out until four a.m.

I need friends who are interested in things, who like to learn things, who don’t treat me like some kind of exotic alien because I do geography quizzes and watch anime and study languages and memorize the periodic table.

I need friends who aren’t pushy, who are skeptics, who don’t try to make me Think Positive or sell me on their newest Life-Changing Belief. I especially need friends who don’t ask me to push something for them. Yes, I will like your business’s Facebook page; no, I won’t share it with everyone I know. I’m not a sales person.

I need friends who are liberal, feminist, and atheistat least agnostic. These are all places I have reached through a lot of personal growth, and I can’t start back at zero with someone else. I need people who’ve already made it there.

I need friends who honestly, genuinely don’t judge people for all the shitty reasons most people judge people. I need friends who don’t make assumptions about people based on one tiny piece of information, don’t shame parents for not being super-robots, don’t mock people’s clothes or hairstyles. I know we’re not perfect, and yeah, sometimes I’m shitty, too. I need friends who are aware when they’re being shitty, instead of trying to justify it.

I don’t understand why I need such intense compatibility. It’s an INFJ thing, so I know I must not be the only one. But that doesn’t help, because even though another INFJ might understand how specific my needs are, what are the odds that they would match them?