Monday, March 31, 2008

Transsexing continued. . .

". . .Our situation ultimately will ask everyone to embrace the gamut of human possibility and to define for themselves what is normal." -Thomas Beatie

A pregnant man. Now this is right up my alley!
You know how I love blurry lines, in varying shades of gray. It intrigues me to no end. Someone to push the boundaries of our thought processes, test our belief systems, and challenge our institutional values. And a gender pioneer to boot? I am sold.

I do feel the need, as always, however, to climb atop my soapbox (read: high horse) for a lecture. I know this may seem a little bit nit picky, but I cannot help but feeling sad when people misuse the term "transgender." Perhaps it isn't so much misuse as it is over use. While all transsexuals are transgendered, not all transgendered people are transsexuals.

Transgender is an umbrella term, housing a broad spectrum of individuals. Transsexuals cease being merely transgendered at the moment of medical intervention, be it hormones, plastic surgery, or sexual reassignment.

I find it important to make this distinction for a couple of reasons. First, it is simply more accurately descriptive, let's call a horse a horse. Second, I feel that by using these terms incorrectly(or interchangeably, as it were) the transsexual community is gaining visibility, understanding, and acceptance at the cost of an entire class of people, by subjugating the rest of their transgendered peers. Where are their voices? And where is the revolution in doing that? Instead of simply adding one category to our current binary system of sex and gender, why not shed light on a vast spectrum of possibilities. Doesn't that help everyone in the end? Am I wrong?

Many congratulations, and best wishes to Mr. Thomas Beatie and his family. Thanks for showing us all what true freedom looks and feels like. The freedom to stand proud in exactly who and what we are. May we all one day be so lucky.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Perplexing Transsexing

Ever since my first semester at Cal, I have been fascinated by the study of gender, sex, and sexuality. By the idea that there might be this vast hidden network of lies and misconceptions, of expectations, and definitions that we live our lives inside of, yet remain entirely unaware of their presence, of the effect that they have on shaping our lives. "Like fish in the water, who don't know that they are wet," we live within the parameters of this ill conceived, predefined world. Wearing our identity labels like bar codes, we squeeze ourselves into these tight little boxes, and line ourselves up on these tiny little shelves.

It is easy to forget that it hasn't always been like this, this black and white world in which we currently live. And the time has come again, to seek out, to embrace, to cultivate, to re-inhabit the gray.

Transsexualism is the perfect case study for anyone with interest in this field of knowledge. Those individuals who cannot be contained within said boxes, who belie definition, who fight only for the right to be themselves. In the last ten years, I have read every article, book, memoir, and case study, every documentary, that I could get my hands on. Like Augusten, I am Transfixed by Transsexuals.

After all of it, however, I am still left wanting more. What seems to be lacking, at least for me, in this small edifice of transsexual scholarship, is the one ultimate, quintessential, personal account, the description of how it is that someone does not feel like themselves, in their pre-transitioned bodies. Ultimately, my question remains, are we transcending sex, or gender?

Undeniably it is both. I get it. But all of the accounts I have seen or read to date seem to lack the real decisive language to push beyond just describing a gender issue. Yet the transition itself is related entirely as being about sex. Anatomy that needs realignment with one's inner self. Which isn't to say that I don't believe that there is a disconnect, but rather that it remains unsatisfyingly articulated into words.

Too often have we heard tale of boys who, when alone, put on dresses to feel comfortable, and girls who refused to wear them in the first place. Of boys who preferred the company of dolls to green plastic army men, and girls who chose to build things or climb trees over playing house or jumping rope. These are without question, however, issues of gender and not of sex. And while this may have been part of the experience of the disconnect, it does not capture the need to alter one's physical body. After all, many males, myself included, as children enjoyed dressing up in women's clothing, and playing with traditionally feminine toys, without then feeling the need to amputate our penises.

"Would you feel comfortable if you had a penis?" Jenny Boylan asks Oprah.

Were she to wake up with one tomorrow, probably not. But were she to have been born with one, and lived her entire life inside that body, then yes, she most probably would. This is not a convincing argument. I feel like it's close, but it still falls short of being satisfying. And while her book (She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders) beautifully describes the transitional process, it fails to adequately address, for me anyway, her need to transition.

Moreover, I often have trouble reconciling the issue of sexual orientation. It is easy to view the transition as being entirely about sex, when one retains their innate sexual orientation well after transitioning. But many do not. And there are others who, I can't help but feel, seem to be transitioning in order to cope with themselves rather than to fully become themselves.There are males who, for example, are attracted to men, but only as females themselves. And there is a part of me that wonders if some of these individuals simply cannot wrap their minds around being feminine, of being sexually attracted to men, and, in order to make sense of it, they fit themselves into the nearest box that does make sense for their feelings. If I am these things, then I must also be a woman, kind of rationalization.

Again, I cannot stress too firmly that I am one hundred percent pro transsexual. I do not wish, in any way, to minimize the amount of courage and pain that transitioning requires. I absolutely respect and admire the path that they choose to walk. I am, rather, desperately pleading for the intelligent transsexuals of the world to step up to tell their stories more thoroughly. To fill in this gap. To give me my next book to read.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I Had A Dream. . .Again

I have the talent and, apparently, rare ability to universally remember my dreams. I always remember both having dreamed, and what those dreams entailed. In fact, I can recall in graphic, vivid, technicolor detail many of my dreams that I awoke from twenty years ago. I have talked to many people over the years who can never seem to remember their dreams, and still more who do so only rarely, so perhaps this makes me special?!?! I don't know.

Like most people, I imagine, my dreams involve random pairings and situations, places that weren't actually places, and people who are seemingly themselves one minute and someone else entirely the next. You know what I am talking about. How many times have you struggled to relay to someone your experiences only to find yourself having to say something like "I was at my grandma's house, only it wasn't really her house. . ." etc. In this way, dreams are as fascinating as they are confusing.

And while my dreams are always vivid and ever changing, I have some recurring themes that I have cycled through hundreds of times over the years. And while their situational specifics may differ, their overall messages seem unchanged. Why they replay themselves over and over I cannot say. Perhaps they contain a message that I have yet to actually, truly receive. I like to believe that my dreams are more than just a random firing of neural pathways, that they might be, rather, a way of unconsciously whispering in my own ear.

First, and perhaps most prevalently, I dream that I am in a play, only I somehow do not know any of my lines. In these dreams I often find myself being thrown into a part at the very last minute, or never being given a script in the first place. I spend what little time I have before the performance searching for the script for said production to no avail, and usually wake up before the curtain actually rises. I have this type of dream at least once a week. Now, call me crazy, but I don't need a crystal ball to deduce that I obviously have a deep seated fear of being caught unprepared. For other people, this same fear plays itself out in the form of surprise tests, or pop quizzes, for which they have not studied. For me, it is always performing. And while it may seem silly, at the time this dream is very unsettling and produces a great deal of anxiety. Undeniably, too, the theme of searching is almost universal in most of my dreams.

I also have dreams where I am at my father's house visiting, or while no one else is home. Now, bare in mind that I have not seen or spoken to my father in thirteen years. And while I have no specific desire to share the entire back story, suffice it to say that these dreams are accompanied by feelings of constant dread and impending doom. In them, I know I am not supposed to be there, and am often there due only to the coercion of others. My time is spent constantly worried about being caught, mounting fear of what will happen if I am found, and often involves a great deal of both hiding and running. Now this one is a little bit blurry in terms of obviousness.

While it cannot be denied that my inner child is still quite fearful of being forced into any interaction with my father, I would like to believe that I have gained enough perspective, and the emotional and physical distance in which to feel vastly more comfortable than this, yet it consistently reemerges and plays out in my sleep. It may also be worth noting here that the theme of running away, and being pursued or chased are also major universal themes in many of my daily dreams.

Lately, too, have I had dreams in which I awaken to find myself back in New Mexico. Trapped. Isolated. Caring for my ever more demanding grandparents. This one, I have to say, feels more like post traumatic stress than secret hidden message, but its nearly daily repetition of late is undeniable, and worthy of emotional exploration. I still feel such guilt and resentment about the whole situation. Guilt that I didn't dedicate the rest of my life to their constant care, and resentment that my sizable contribution went essentially unnoticed and forgotten. I guess half of me fights to return there to fulfill a deep need to satisfy some primordial sense of familial obligation, while the other half of me is running toward freedom, away from the emotional tyranny. Somehow I have to find a place to forgive myself for (essentially what ends up feeling like) failing to fix their situation, and forgive them and my family for having expected me to do so in the first place.

Also, since getting Bentley, in almost every dream I have, at some point I realize I no longer have him in my hands, knowing that he is typically with me at all times. I panic. I have neglected to keep an eye on him, and now he is lost. And a huge search mission then mounts and intertwines into whatever the dream's current situation.

I do feel a deep fear of not being responsible enough for caring for my little dog. Like an unfit mother, I fear that he will be taken from me due to abject negligence. And while I know he lives perhaps the most pampered of all chihuahua lives, I fear not providing him with enough love, and comfort, happiness, and affection. Isn't that silly?

Is this just a fear of being irresponsible? Of losing the things and people that I love? Of not being enough? Of failing?

Is it strange to dream essentially the same dreams over and over again?

Are there more, patently obvious, overlapping issues that I am missing here?

Am I just a complete nut job?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Music Man

Music is a huge part of my life. Not listening to it. Creating it. No, no, no, have no delusions, I am not a musician, nor do I possess any remarkable musical abilities beyond that of your common curbside, homeless chanteuse. But this fact alone does not prevent me from singing, whistling, and humming along to the soundtrack of my day, which plays exclusively in my own head. Twenty-four seven, FM Jacob.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I spend a good seventy percent of my day singing. If not out loud, then in my head, or under my breathe. I always have a song right on the tip of my tongue. Always.

For as far back as I can remember, and even earlier, or so I am told, I have always essentially woken up each morning singing, much to the horror of my family.

Long have I snuck away to the privacy of the back of my closet, steps of the back porch , or bathroom shower stall to belt out my repertoire at full volume, to my little heart's content. And, granted, while in adulthood, it no longer requires my sneaking away, and what was once my closet has now become my car, that same earnest, youthful exuberance with which I once performed these private concerts still remains.

In my mind, singing and emotional expression are absolutely, inextricably linked. Every loss, triumph, happiness, and heart ache has been exorcised from my spirit through song. Ballads flow forth like tear drops. Lyrics lingering like lovers. I inhabit the music. It becomes my own story, my voice, my tragedy, eulogy, anthem, or battle cry. My happiness, sorrow, anger, outrage, and joy all balled up together in one.

To this day I often find it difficult to look someone in the eyes while listening to them sing. It feels so intimate. They stand emotionally naked before me, exposed, and I avert my eyes in order that I might help preserve their modesty. I dare not look too long, for fear of stealing from them some small piece of themselves.

This is probably a big part of my disproportionally large irrational fear of performing in public. Exposing too much of myself. Accidentally losing secret parts of me to the sea of prying eyes.

A good friend of mine is what some might describe as being tone deaf, and, fully aware of this, she sings loudly, passionately and with reckless abandon. I admire and envy this acceptance. This expression so pure it need not be harnessed, measured or muted by the enjoyment or judgment of those around her.

The soundtrack to my life is varied, unique and ever changing, but the space it fills, and the effect it has on my days is undeniable. And so it is that I march along, dancing to my own little drummer.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Consumed With Consuming

Tell me, when did shopping become a pastime? The end itself rather than just the means. Honestly, what has happened to us? Where has all the living gone? When did we forfeit productivity for rampant, frivolous, wanton consumption. When did we stop doing things in lieu of simply buying things?

I am deeply troubled. Sickened, even.

Weekends once spent visiting, vacations once spent relaxing, afternoons once spent exploring, are all now spent aimlessly wandering the isles of Target, Old Navy or the Outlets, filling our carts, our houses, and our lives with mountains of completely unnecessary products.

It has become such a burden carrying around all of this stuff, and our lives are buckling under its weight. Am I the only one who feels it? This wet wool blanket of desperate consumerism.

Granted, I love my expansive collection of gorgeous things, don't get me wrong, and I will snarl, bite and scratch at anyone who dares to come near them. But, rarely do I find myself in a store without a specific purpose, and prefer a mad dash 'grab and get the hell out' kind of battle strategy to the more popular 'let's spend an hour and walk up and down every single isle' school of thought. I can do a weeks worth of grocery shopping in minutes.

And while I am guilty of wandering around kitchen stores from time to time, simply coveting their inventory, I do so only if and when I am in said store for the purpose of buying a specific item, which is to say not very often. And, moreover, baking is a pastime that I enjoy immensely and partake in often, and so I would categorize these items as utilitarian, at least within my own lifestyle. Maybe I'm just rationalizing.

Is it that we have become so alienated from the fruit of our labor that we unconsciously need to buy these things as proof of our hard work? I worked forty hours in a miserable job this week, but at least I have this (insert meaningless item here) to show for it, kind of thing? Since we no longer make things, we must buy them in order to feel the same sense of accomplishment?

I don't have the answers. But it seems to me that we should be more disgusted with this, and ourselves, than we seem to be. What is the solution? I'm not sure. Perhaps we should challenge ourselves to a week without purchasing anything, excepting gas and food. A whole week. Without buying. It seems simple enough. Right? Why should that be hard?

Will that be enough to slap us awake from this consumptive comma?

to be continued. . .

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hi, My name is Jacob, and I don't like men.

The other night Gab and I were talking, and I just happened to mention my dislike of men, and, after laughing hysterically, she encouraged me to expound upon it further.

Throughout my life I have had only a hand full of male friends, tending to be drawn more towards the personalities of women. The few male friends that I have had were either one of two types. The first, what might be termed peripheral friendships, never close friends, our relationships remained perpetually shallow, and socializing was better left to group situations. Second, the gay male friend, or "frenemy," whose relationships, while often extremely close, were always necessarily adversarial.

Like Bentley, I just don't like men. At all.

Well, that isn't entirely fair. More accurately, I don't like masculine people, or, really, personalities. Male or female. My discord here is absolutely based more in gender than in sex, and to say otherwise would just be grossly disingenuous, given my educational background. That being said, however, remaining disharmonious with masculine females does not pose the same sort of problem in my life that it does with their male counterparts, as I am not typically inclined to want to be sexually intimate with them.

Granted, undeniably, a large part of the discontinuity that I feel with men stems from my own childhood abuse, a subsequent complete lack of trust, and, to whatever degree, fear, and a feeling of never being entirely safe while in their company.

I guess, however inappropriately, I associate masculinity with being both unpredictable and volatile, qualities not prized in the early formation and cultivation of friendships and/or relationships. In my mind, too, I further distort the image of masculine people as being universally arrogant and misogynistic. Prideful to a fault, I see these men rely too heavily on, for lack of a better word, machismo, to steer their actions. Moreover, it is their stoicism, and lack of emotion that leaves me waiting for the other shoe to drop.

At the core, too, I feel like we often simply have nothing in common, no common ground upon which to stand. We typically lead vastly different lives, care about vastly different things, and share not even a common language, or vocabulary, with which to speak.

I realize how ridiculous this all sounds, and how remarkably unfair it is to make such broad sweeping generalizations, I do, but it really is genuinely how I feel, based on twenty-seven years of experience interacting with men. This isn't to say that I am not intellectually open to the possibility of my mind being changed on an individual, or possibly even group, basis.

Now gay men, they're a whole other can of worms.

A contributing columnist to OUT magazine once said that, "Gay men are men first, and [let's face it] men are pigs." No community is more judgmental than that of gay men. So shallow, so catty, so superficial, so self centered, driven entirely by sex, gay men wield the social weapons traditionally associated with women with the vindictive disposition classically attributed to men. But I will rant in more detail about that some other time.

So where does that leave me?
A twenty-seven year old gay man who dislikes the company of men?
Uh, screwed.

But realistically the gay men that I am inevitably attracted to are neither distinctly masculine nor feminine, they are, rather, both. And, while some might vehemently disagree (and to hell with all of you), I would also include myself in this category. Androgyny is both revolution and evolution, living life in the gray, the blur between the lines, skimming the best of both, "To combine the idealized strength of a man, and the idealized grace of a woman." (Sexual Outlaw)

And, strangely enough, this is what inevitably makes me less relateable to said masculine men. And the cycle continues.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where the streets are lined with gold. . .

With my mother in town for the weekend, we decided to take a trip up to Seattle for a night. And, having never before been, I was at least mildly excited about it.

Our hotel was located two blocks from the space needle, and, I was assured, only a short walk to Pike's Market. Being a foodie, and gluttonous whore, Pike's was the only real stop on my agenda whilst in the city. So we deposited our belongings at the hotel, and happily began our voyage.

As each street we walked seemed to steadily, drastically, and frighteningly increase in downward incline, I found myself already dreading our walk home, and for several blocks began to grow bitter about abandoning my car. But I caught myself. Why ruin my whole day, just because the latter portion of it may or may not be unpleasant? I decided to make a conscious effort to remain in the moment, and to really experience each new second in this beautiful new city.

The wind was cold, and the misty rain was an inconvenience, yes, but still, I was determined to choose to enjoy myself. After walking blocks and blocks and blocks in the wrong direction, however, what had began as a brief, leisurely stroll, slowly disintegrated into little more than a Dickensian death march. Morphing my enlightened, positive, optimistic new outlook into bitterness, anger, and deep, profound annoyance. Cold, hungry, seething, and exhausted, we finally arrived at our destination. And, surprisingly, ever so slightly, I could feel my mood begin to lift.

(To know me at all, is to know that I love markets. I dream of little more than traveling to India, Morocco, Madrid, Provence, and the tiniest villages in Italy just to wander aimlessly in the vast open market places. To be enveloped by the aromas of exotic spices, and overwhelmed by the vivid colors of the produce and flowers, to really, genuinely experience life in each new place.)

Still consumed by bitterness, I was still viewing the world through filthy brown lenses, and somehow now became equally determined not to have a good time. And so, I walked past each vendor, unimpressed, bored even, with an air of superiority about me. Had this really been worth all of the physical anguish and turmoil? Yet another, of many, recent disappointments?

As we stepped out onto the street and into the light, suddenly, all around me, everywhere, hundreds, thousands, possibly tens of thousands of daffodils. Every roof top for blocks in each direction lined with overflowing planters, every booth, nearly toppling under the weight of their huge vibrant yellow bouquets. I was taken aback, overwhelmed by their loveliness. And, for the briefest moment, the whole world began to slow.

I was suddenly so aware of the wonder of the universe, that beauty such as this is even possible, its design so perfect, so effortless, such flawless, unquestionable goodness. And I was overwhelmed. Thinking of it even now I get a little teary. For in that moment, that split second in time, when the world around me melted away, standing among the daffodils, I remembered, what real happiness felt like. That joy still remains somewhere inside of me left untapped. That the world itself is still alive with possibilities, overabundant goodness to be had, if only we choose to see it.

A very dear friend once explained to me that "daffodils are the happiest of all the flowers." And, finally, years later, I think I understand what she meant.

On the walk back, I got three blisters on my feet.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

FWD This: You're Dumb!

Okay, I have to get something off of my chest.

I hate hate hate people who send chain-letter forwards.

Many years now have I been forced to wade through a veritable mountain of forwards in my email inbox. Each with its desperately clever sayings, "funny" poems, secret cash prizes, deep and profound meaningful messages, religious and/or patriotic propaganda, and inevitably, in the end, without exception, some vindictive, evil voodoo curse. Untold happiness awaits you if only you keep the chain alive. And for those of you who don't, well, forget about ever falling in love, having children, remaining disease free, or living past next Tuesday.

And silently, though, believe me, no less judgmentally, I have simply acquiesced to their presence in my life. But now a line has been crossed. People are now beginning to send them to me via text message. Read my lips : This is unacceptable. And I am here to say that I am drawing my line in the sand.

Whenever I open one such forwarded message (emailed, texted, or otherwise) my first thought is to question the intelligence of its sender. How is it that I am even friends with this person? Do they actually believe this? And, moreover, did they think for a second that I would appreciate it? Really? Have they met me? I mean, honestly. What the hell, yo?

If you are one such sender, and you know who you are, it isn't too late. Please. I beg you. Stop sending them. Period. Not just to me, to everyone.

I think I speak for the rest of humanity when I say that we can do without this bullshit in our lives. If, and when, you hit that send button to take up precious time from my life with someone else's message, you had better be damned sure that I am going to be riveted by it, that I will literally wet my pants from hysterical laughter, or that you genuinely believe that I will weep, openly. If not, do me a favor, go sell crazy somewhere else. We're all full here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not man's best friend

As many of you already know, I am the owner of a small, male chihuahua, named Bentley. And, like any proud parent, I really do believe that he is superior in every way to all other dogs, and lets face it, some children.

Long have I wanted a small dog that would remain a puppy forever. And, after years of searching, I found an acceptable little companion. Little did I know, however, that this cute, furry little accessory would wiggle his way into my heart.

Granted, I did know that I would love him, I mean look at him, who could help but to love him. What I wasn't prepared for was the extent to which this love for him would grow inside of me. And, surprisingly, I find myself feeling more love and affection for him now than I do for most people.

There are moments when he looks up at me, his ears back, flat against his little apple head, and he is so cute that I want to take him in my hands and squeeze him and squeeze him until he is dead. No, I am not deranged. I just love him that much.

I talk to him. I sing to him. I clothe him. I sleep with him (or he with me). And, for the most part, I take him with me everywhere I go. I devote a considerable amount of time seriously contemplating his emotions when making my plans, and how said plans might make him feel. For the last year we have spent nearly every waking (and sleeping) hour together. He is like my child, or my parasitic twin. This is how seriously my love for him has become. Which is to say, borderline unhealthy.

Unfortunately, there are also moments where Bentley is not so altogether cute and charming.

For example, Bentley does not like men (a trait that we ironically share, which will no doubt be the topic of a future post) or people in hats. I, of course, use the word "hats" here loosely, as he really equally despises head coverings of all varieties. He also does not like drive through personnel, though this may be at the core also a hat issue. It's hard to say.

And when young Bentley is confronted with one such person he barks. Loudly. Constantly. Incessantly. And in these moments I also want to squeeze the life out of him, but for very different reasons. But I resist, chalking his barking up as part of his charm. (I mean, I did, after all, name him Bentley Barker Bates-Blankenship. What was I expecting? Another lesson to be filed away under the category heading "be careful what you wish for.")

Lately, on the one night or two a week that I leave him at home for a few hours to be lovingly puppy-sat by my sister, there has been a small shift in our routine.

Gone are the days when he would hear my key in the door and happily jump out of her bed to run at full speed to give me my 'oh thank god you're home, how dare you abandon me like that' kisses.

Now I must do everything short of tap dancing to lure him out of his cozy hideaway under my sisters down comforter. I squeak his toy, I call his name, I make kissing sounds to no avail. Nothing. Fifteen minutes later he will leisurely saunter down the hall, with a look as if to casually say "oh, you're home."

Et tu Judas?

This is not cool. I can't help but feel like a scorned lover hell bent on winning back the affections of a lost love. I should be happy. Knowing that he is content while I am away. But like a mother dropping her child off on the first day of school, there is a tiny little part of of me that is secretly thrilled when he throws a tantrum upon my leaving. That he might love me most.

But in the end, it does not matter, as long as he is happy here with me. After all, he is just a tiny little dog.

My child. My little boy. A little love bug. A bug of love.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

All I needed to know about life, I learned from watching Oprah

As you well know, I am in a time of flux, or transformation, or reinvention. Starting from the ground up, I am re-imagining my life, for the very first time, the way that I want it to be. Too long have I been the person to do what was expected, or what was "right" or what was needed, sacrificing my own vision of myself for the good of the group. (No, wait your turn! I'll be off the cross in just a minute!)

I bring this up, because on this journey of self actualization I find myself exploring new ways of thinking. Well, not new per se, but new to me. And while I have not found need to subscribe to one school of thought completely, I have found some common themes emerging among the many, that seem to strike a cord inside of me.

The law of attraction is simple. If you dream it, it will come.

Well, maybe not that simple.

What I take from it is this, it is the things in life that you clearly define, articulate, and focus your energies on that ultimately manifest themselves.

How many times have we all said "God, I am having the worst day!" Which, as the day rolls on, is inevitably followed by compounding evidentiary support. Murphy's law? Perhaps. But if you look only for bad things, bad things are all that you find.

If you have a blemish on your chin, for example, and are extremely self conscious about it, every time you see someones eyes move, or hear someone chuckle as you pass, you are sure that the entire world is focused on it.

The Secret recommends making a vision board, and putting this board somewhere that you will see it frequently everyday. Clearly delineating exactly what it is that you want your life to be. This often takes some broadening of your definitions, and thinking about what you actually want."I want a job in Art." May actually be "I want a job about which I am passionate, and in which I am able to fully utilize my creative energies, and help others to do the same. In this position I want to feel confident, successful, and purposeful, to know that I am of use, and of inspiration to others." Or something, and so on and so forth for all of the areas of your perfect life. It is in this carefully defining of your goals, they argue, that you are able to view situations, opportunities, and possibilities very differently.

Have I lost you? I know, this may seem disgustingly esoteric, but stick with me.

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat has a similar view on the topic of reordering your home. For each room you define what you want from it. What do you want this room to feel like? What do you want to happen in here? etc. And as they take each item in hand, they ask themselves is this helping me to create that feeling? Or is it standing in the way of my creating it?

Why can't we do this with our lives as well as our spaces?

The author also goes on to say that of all the clients he has worked with, helping to de-clutter their homes, a vast majority of them, in so doing, lost weight. Simply by cleaning out their houses.

This made a great deal of sense to me. If everyday you are surrounded by clutter, if every time you chose what is easy over what is good, if every time you walk through your door you are bombarded with it and its accompanying shame, guilt, feeling like a failure, feeling constantly overwhelmed, feeling like it is insurmountable, it stands to reason that these feelings inevitably spill over into other areas of your life. It becomes the self fulfilling prophecy.

Could it be that the vision boards have the same effect only in reverse?

to be continued. . .

Dear Little Bitch, You're fired!

In school, early on, they talk to you about peer pressure. That one day some hip young kat friend is going to approach you with some drug, or some behavior and say the ill fated words "but all the cool kids are doing it."

What they neglect to mention, as you are gathered there sitting "Indian style"on the carpet, is that this scenario never actually happens. That it is, in fact, entirely in your head. Your thoughts. Your feeling. Your own little voice, telling you that if you do not do whatever it is, then you simply will not be enough, to be accepted.

I often refer to this voice as 'the twelve year old little bitch who lives in my head.'

Too often lately I have heard myself, for no conscious reason, making apologies, or offering up completely unsolicited excuses for my own behavior/beliefs/opinions/personality/person-hood . As though I lived in some large fish bowl, watched by millions, and am constantly feeling the need to apologize for my roommate's horrible flatulence.

Only I don't. Live in a fish bowl that is.

There are no people lined up waiting for my explanation of why I think I am an acceptable, worthwhile, human being. There has been, to my knowledge, no committee formed to tabulate my tolerability quotient. Still I dare not cross that invisible line into becoming unacceptable, or indigestible to others.

Why is it that I feel the need to constantly offer up these apologies? It's that little bitch in my head always sounding the alarm. All of this deep, unconscious, hidden fear of not being good enough, so much hidden, self induced shame. It is so visceral. It goes completely against all logic and reason.

No more.

I am so over it.

From this day forth I am living my life completely.


Unapologetically, shamelessly me.

I mean, if that's okay?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bullshit in a bag. . .

You're walking along, minding your own business, having a perfectly charming day, when all of the sudden, without any warning, BAM, it happens.

Out of the blue, some alleged "friend"of yours bestows upon you a giant plastic baggie filled with some mysterious goo, passing along the dreaded curse, of the Amish Friendship Bread. The most dreaded of all baking chain letter, voo doo, recipe bullshit.

Now, of course, in my mind, maybe I'm alone here, but I instantly think less of this person, and try to choke down the words that bubble up in my throat to tell them exactly what they can do with it. I will do anything to get out of taking it. I will suddenly change the subject and "accidentally" leave it on their desk, or on the roof of my car, or make up some excuse about being homeless and not having access to an oven, whatever it takes. But these defense tactics can only take you so far in life, before you inevitably find yourself with this evil bag of guilt on your counter top.

And now, riddled with obligation and an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and guilt, you follow your hand written care instructions. And, like a needy child, you must feed it. You must play with it. You must burp it. For ten days it haunts your every waking moment.

Like me, you probably have a hard time suspending your disbelief that the Amish avail themselves of such products as jello instant vanilla pudding, but still you don't ask questions and simply add it to the final mix and toss it in the oven.

Later, when you slice into this cakey curse, over which you have slaved and waited on hand and foot for ten days, you think to yourself really? This is it?

I mean, it's alright. It doesn't taste like rat poison, or rotting meat, but has it genuinely been worth all of this time and energy? Certainly not. In fact, in the time it takes I could have whipped up untold numbers of other 'to die for' desserts, and be sitting now in the grips of sugar induced ecstasy. But no. I'm not.

Now I am supposed to pass it along. And I cannot think of four people whom I hate enough to continue this epicurean nightmare.

The chain ends here.

I implore you to join me in ending this madness.

If and when you are faced with this situation and find yourself staring down one such bag, calmly look into the eyes of your trusted friend and simply say "You're dumb." Turn around and walk away.

Later, be sure to delete this person from your palm pilot.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me!

After reading Martha Beck, I began the challenge of, for a brief period of time, all together removing complaint from my life. A week. Without complaint.

Complaining is like life's steam valve, she says, letting off just enough to make us once again comfortable with the status quo of our unfulfilled, unsatisfying, settling for less than we deserve, again putting myself on the bottom of the list, unhappy lives. If that steam power was not vented and instead harnessed, she argues, it has the power to transform our lives. She suggests that we resist the temptation to complain for a period of time, and instead channel the energy of that frustration into positive change in our own little worlds.

Maybe there is something to this, I thought.

After all, Gandhi himself said "It is not that I do not feel anger. It is that I do not give vent to anger. . .As heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world."

Yes. A complaining fast. My path to enlightenment.

Simple enough.

Easy really.

Oh Jacob... silly, silly, silly Jacob.

What I had neglected to take into account was that I was cutting out a HUGE chunk of my life. Apparently, I can't go three seconds without complaining about something. Anything really. Like you , for example, sitting there so smug with your. . . just kidding.

Minute after minute, I caught myself mid sentence. Hour after hour, I could feel the anxiety and rage mounting. I had to do this. I had to make it through. The entirety of my life's future happiness was at stake. (dang drama!)

But as the first two days passed, the pressure seemed to subside into clarity. The rage was still there, don't get me wrong. But instead of simply turning to a trusted friend, gas attendant, or stranger on the street and ranting for an hour about why I was so pissed off, I instead was motivated to have the constructive conversations (words chosen carefully) as a means to the desired ends of rectifying the anger producing situations.

And while I didn't end world hunger, or our nations dependence on foreign oil, and my enlightenment is left still somewhere out of reach, I do feel like I gained a better understanding of myself from the experience. Now, while I still like a good rant from time to time, I think more closely about things before I hear them tumbling out of my mouth. And I avoid complaining about situations over which I have total control.

Granted, it could be argued that we always have control over our own attitudes, and thus really never have the right to complain about any situation. . .but, I'm just not there yet. But I'm not complaining. Maybe someday.

For now I will bask in this tiny victory.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Just another magic bullet?

In the same way that Michael Moore's movies are worth watching, despite his often ridiculous tactics, unabashed spin, and thinly veiled agenda, so too is this film. In the end, beyond the spin, there is good information to be had, new information, blatantly obvious, commonsensical information. That is the stuff that scares me. Are there global conspiracies to form one totalitarian world government? Probably not. But what about the little things that we let slide under the guise of governmental bureaucracy.

Why aren't we asking questions?

Why do we accept "no comment" as a legitimate answer from our elected representatives?

Where has our anger gone?

Was Rosie O'Donnell right all along?

Granted,I must admit, my mind does lend itself well to conspiracy theorizing. . .I mean implant one little seed of doubt (like the aforementioned movie) and all I need do is look around to find support for its claims. Evidence is suddenly all around us. And, scarily, my mind begins to weave all of it together. Like perhaps this is the unifying theory to explain all of the conspiracy theories that have become so common as to be practically urban legend. Now I consider myself to be somewhat intelligent, logical and rational, and even I can't seem to dismiss some of these claims.
I guess it is the possibility of their accuracy that haunts me.

If a plane didn't crash into the pentagon, what did? And do you know that one did? Really?

Why did tower seven collapse without being struck by a plane?

Can jet fuel really vaporize thousands of feet of steal and concrete? Turning three buildings into nothing more than six inches of dust spread round the city?

My fear is not in the answers to the questions. My fear is in our not even thinking to ask them.

I must go. I can only think about these things in moderation, for fear of being consumed by them, winding up rocking in the corner, my head wrapped in aluminum foil to keep the government from reading my thoughts.

Is ignorance bliss? Really?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I put a little more mascara on. . .

I wear makeup.

There I've said it.

I wear it everyday, and have since I was sixteen.

It isn't something that I have talked openly about until recently, and that makes it seem as though I am ashamed. And I'm just not. Not by the MAC clowns. Not by the sorority girls in Sephora. And certainly not by you. So here it is.

I begin my morning ritual with my four step bare mineral foundation, to achieve the effortless look of flawless bare skin. I then contour and shadow, and begin my five color eye-shadow application, with my MAC brush set (thanks to may may). I finish it all off with some eyebrow gel, clear mascara on curled lashes, and the omnipresent soft-lips (vanilla). All in all, it takes five to seven minutes. And while I can't say that there are not the occasional days where I inadvertently emerge from the bathroom looking like Liza Minnelli, for the most part I try only to enhance my god given features. I mean my whole body just hangs off of these cheek bones, don't cha know! I'm only joking of course. I'm really not that vain. No, really.

Is it ridiculous? Perhaps. A little over the top. Of course. But a little too much is just enough for me. Why shouldn't I want to try to look my best?And why not put my artistic skills to good use on my own face?

And, really, anyone who doesn't like it can lick it, put a stamp on it, and send it to someone who gives a shit! Okaaaaaay.


Silence is Golden

Somehow all of my friends have finally come to their breaking point all at once about my recent unresponsiveness. I find myself having to explain over and over again. In truth, my gift to these friends has been my silence. I do not answer their emails or texts or numerous voice mails, for the simple truth that I have nothing to say to them. And when I do finally answer these communications, out of guilt mostly, I am told that I am being short, or distant, or neglectful . My point exactly. I am just not very god company for myself, let alone anyone else right now. It isn't you. It's me.

The truth of the matter is I am depressed. Deeply. Profoundly. Depressed. While this is in no way a new emotional frontier in my life, it is much different now than it has been in the past. I have always had what might be described as back burner depression, a general background feeling of malaise. Whereas today, at this very moment, it is much more like a thick fog. An acute sensory awareness of constant, profound unhappiness and despair. I feel disconnected from myself. Separated from my innate Jacob-ness. I feel like a stranger, uncomfortable in my own skin. And, sadly, I'm no longer sure whether that person I once was is simply lost, or somehow no longer exists. I don't say this to be melodramatic. I don't say this to reach out to you for help. I say this because it is the present truth of my life.

My experience in New Mexico was transformative. It feels as though I got the hope kicked out of me, and my purpose, contentment, passion, my sense of self all went along with it. And if that were not bad enough, to have it now all thrown back in my face as a huge waste of my life, by the very people I had hoped to have helped. It is difficult not to feel a combination of anger and relief. The relief that comes with freedom. And the anger that comes with loss and betrayal.

The moral: I need time to pick up the pieces. Give me my space so that I can reinvent or rediscover who I am now, and determine what that means. And bare in mind that no matter what the outcome, I will be changed by this experience. Maybe that is the answer. This is just the manifestation of my unwillingness to accept and go along with the change, my need to evolve, to embrace the ebb and the flow of life. As the buds of spring eventually burst forth into bloom, so too will I emerge from this dark and dreary winter.

Monday, March 3, 2008


For the record, officially, I think that blogging is ridiculously self indulgent. Almost sickeningly so. And while I do spend some small fraction of each day, eyes glued to the blogs of others, I am certainly not the kind of person who sits down to write one. I have no delusions that anything I might say here will be of even the mildest consequence to anyone other than my own over waining ego . But, alas, despite my better judgment, our journey together begins here.