Terrible Things.

When I was in college, I volunteered for a grand total of one day with an organization that bused UCLA students to an east LA home for abused teenage mothers.  I was interested in the organization because I was a psychology major and loved children and thought it would help define what direction I wanted to take my counseling career (Yes.  Counseling.  The one field I have not worked in as an adult).  While on the bus with a bunch of other white, clueless college second-years, I daydreamed about all the good we would do – all the supplies we would sort and people we would meet and lives we would touch.

And then we actually got there.  Once off the bus and inside the house, it took me about fifteen seconds to realize that there was nothing in the entire damn world I could teach these girls that they did not already know, aside from, of course, that college kids from the suburbs can occasionally be misguided, self-involved assholes, who show up in their university sweatshirts to help “save the children.”  We were there for four hours, wandering halls and seemingly not expected to do much more of anything other than parade our incredible privilege around, and the experience made me so entirely sick that I never went to another campus meeting and stopped answering the club’s phone calls.

That story is important because it shows you that I am fully capable of knowing when I’m out of my depth and that when I know that I cannot possibly say (or do) anything meaningful, I avoid at all costs.  Perhaps it is the Puritan stock of my father’s family.  I would rather seem like a cold, unfeeling alien monster from another planet than overstep boundaries or shower someone in pain with trite, useless words.

This brings us to the intentionally vague portion of today’s post: someone I know had something terrible happen to them recently.  I know about it and have cried actual tears about it at home and yet I have not addressed it except in the broadest of terms with this person, despite the fact that I can’t even think about it without being overwhelmed with grief for them.  This terrible thing is something that is foreign to me and hugely personal to them, and to say anything about it makes me feel like a total fraud.  So, I’ve said very little.

I am a deeply emotional, sympathetic person, who, for some reason, can show more kindness to spiders I find in the shower than to people I know who are devastated.

Half of me hopes that not forcing people to engage in long conversations about their tragedies spares them having to cry in public, so that they can continue eating the dinner they’ve ordered or work they are doing or whatever blessed momentary distraction is taking their minds off their realities.  And then, later, the other half of me is horrified that I might have seemed too cool or removed or emotionless.

Can someone please tell me how normal humans handle loss with other normal humans?  Because I am a total failure.

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Darwin Awards.

Hello everyone!

Do you love my new header image?  It’s me!  At my whiniest and evilest!  I am so proud of it.  My husband said it would make this blog look like I have a daughter who is a dick (I’m paraphrasing here.  I think he said, “It makes your blog look like it’s about a five-year-old asshole.”).  Regardless, I love it.  Oh, tiny Sarah in your kindergarten Thanksgiving garb – I feel you.  My face looks just like that right now, because I just can’t with this:

As a woman who is completing a Masters in anthropology, the very discipline of science from which FOX is bastardizing theories, I cannot believe the raging stupidity in that clip.

Before I begin, let me just state for the record that I find it completely disgusting for any person who gives zero craps about improving public education or maternal or infant health care in the United States to trot out abortion statistics or OMG THE CHILDREN!!! in attempts to terrify the masses.  You know what’s bad for children?  Not having insurance or access to acceptable schooling.

I’ve decided to leave behind how vomitously sexist it is to say that working women are the downfall of American society, because I don’t want to throw up all over myself.  Instead, let’s consider for a moment the irony that these FOX anchors have built their argument on the fundamental assumption that human beings have strict sex roles, which are similar to all the comparable sex roles in all other species – roles that are standard in the “animal kingdom” and have been in place for a very long time due to biological differences in male and female skill sets.  This is sounding a lot like an evolutionary theory, my friends.  Which is pretty incredible, considering much of their fan base doesn’t “believe in” evolution in the first place.

As a student of anthropology generally and evolutionary theory more specifically, it always chaps my ass to hear people use the theoretical framework to justify an adherence to the way things were.  That’s upsetting on the surface level because to make an anti-progress argument like that is to completely ignore the fact that it is EVOLUTION, you dummies.  The definition of evolution is the moving forward of a species or a society or, dare I say, a conservative blowhard worldview.  It’s upsetting on a deeper level because you cannot pick and choose the things from the past with which you can cling to with your white, white, white male knuckles.

It’s true that in the last fifty years, women have upended the “natural order” of things by taking jobs outside the home and choosing not to be fully submissive to the whims of their husbands.  Sound the alarm, people!  Things for chicks are not how they used to be (read: pretty effing terrible)! However, here is a short list of other things that are also not the way they used to be:

1) Communication: No one experiencing explosive verbal diarrhea on a television show cluttered with as much extraneous graphic design as those jerks can argue that there has been no change in communication.  I don’t hear any of those creeps crying over the poor, abandoned rotary phone.  OMG, YOU GUYS.  WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OPERATORS?!?!?  (Oh, wait.  Most of the operators were women, right?  Who gives a shit.  Amiright???)

2) Food: Unless you’re really into scavenging for meat from the corpses of large animals on a savannah somewhere, you should probably thank your lucky stars that we’re not eating the way we did when biological sex roles were super important to ultimate survival.

3) Travel: At the zoo on Sunday, I saw a woman who could walk riding around on a Rascal.  The end.

4) Clothing: You’re of the party that endorses putting real clothing on fake statues.  Enjoy your 21st clothing options.

5) Sexual Relations: Preeeetttty sure there were no little blue miracle pills in yesteryear for all of you.  Although, to be fair, back then, you would have all been dead by 30, so it wouldn’t have mattered.

One hundred thousand years ago sounds like it was a total blast.

Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight.

A few days ago, I confessed that I don’t have favorites, but that might have been a little bit of an exaggeration.  I have some favorites, and they include Before Sunrise

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and Before Sunset:

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These movies, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, focus on the relationship between Jesse and Celine, two 23-year-old strangers who meet on a train to Vienna in Before Sunrise, which was released in 1995.  Then, nine years later in 2004, Before Sunset catches up with them, when they are both 32.  Before Midnight, which came out in theaters on Friday, finds them in 2013, at age 41.  And it is fantastic.  Beautiful, bittersweet, emotional, universal.  I’ve loved this series since I was in high school and I was nervous that a third movie wouldn’t live up to the beauty of the first two.

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(I’ve been known to be wrong.  Occasionally.)

You should all watch these three movies immediately.  I am crying just thinking about them.  They are that good.

Total Zoo.

Today, my husband and I decided to make good on our recent promise to have Cultural Sundays and finally cashed in the San Diego Zoo day passes we’ve had for months.  We left LA super early and made the two-hour drive to the zoo with no traffic (miracle of miracles!) – only to then spent the next four hours battling throngs of people in attempts to see the giant pandas and new, massive “elephant odyssey.”  Despite the fact that it was packed (and I tend to get a little anxious in crowds), I had a fabulous time walking around adoring The Husband, eating a churro and drinking an ICEE.

The animals were pretty cool too.  (Notice the order of importance: Husband, Churro, ICEE, and THEN zoo animals.)

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In addition, I felt like a rock star (by proxy, of course), because the new elephant exhibit drew lots of parallels between current Southern California animals and the (now extinct) animals alive in Southern California 12,000 years ago.  This led to much exhibit-wall discussion of the La Brea Tar Pits, a museum built around asphalt seeps in mid-city LA, which have yielded, and continue to yield, thousands of incredible Ice Age mammal fossils for nearly one hundred years.  In my past life, I spent two years as a Sunday volunteer in the lab there, excavating, cleaning, sorting, and reconstructing the bones of mammoths and dire wolves, and I am lucky to know several people who still work there as excavators.  Some of whom, I discovered today, have been immortalized in photo collages at the San Diego Zoo:

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That woman with the notebook in the middle photo?  She wrote on the comedy paper with my husband and me, and was the person who encouraged my love of anthropology and got me a volunteer position.  Man, I used to be so cool, guys.

Jealosaur.

I used to be a really good friend.  In college, if someone needed a pregnancy test and was too embarrassed to buy one, I would walk right into the tiny convenience store on campus near the dorms and purchase it, making sure I looked directly into the eyes of the person behind the counter, for maximum awkwardness.  If a friend needed housesitting or animal sitting or a ride across the country or money or food or several visits or a kidney, I was all about it.  I gave and gave and gave to the people around me and I was happy (and maybe a little proud) to do it.  My friends were my life, and I gave of my life according.

However, as time has kept marching mercilessly forward, and I’ve gotten consumed with the really important and super stressful workings of my adulthood, I haven’t had the time or the energy or the life force to really give to my friends that way I used to.  I struggled with that for a long time – what does it say about me as a person that I can’t, with any regularity at all, return the phone calls of the people I adore?  I have weekends free – why can’t I visit them?  They need a kidney, Sarah – get on it.

There are people in Los Angeles County, who live a grand total of ten miles from where I live/work, who I haven’t seen for nearly a year.  The way I feel about them hasn’t changed at all – the simple truth is that I am tired.  I am tired and old and after work I like to come home and drink a glass of wine while sitting in the very center of my couch (where the cushions bow in, under the weight of many such nights), watching whatever TV show I missed the night before, when I fell asleep at 9 pm.

So, most of the time I’m still the nice, giving person I once was, just burdened by responsibility like every other schmuck in the world.  Until, of course, May and June roll around, and everyone starts posting photos of their graduations from all their insane law school or med school or grad school programs, while I sit here and rot in my graduate school prison, still unable to graduate until I can convince the people around me that I am worthy of an email reply.  I feel like grad school, for me, has been one bureaucratic or personal or financial nightmare after another, and I’m not above admitting that I am overwhelmingly jealous of people who have positive experiences – so, the end of school year can be a cruel mistress.

Basically: I’m sorry for being such a shitty friend, everyone.  But that’s pretty much all on you guys, for being inconvenient and not living in my house, and for graduating from programs that are going to actually benefit your life.

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Submitted as proof that I have graduated from a university once. You know, just in case I never graduate again.  

 

Failure To Vlog.

Hey guys!  This afternoon, I thought it might be fun to try something different and use my new computer to record a weekly video, and it ended up being an epic failure.  Apparently, while I am skilled at talking to children and building biological profiles for skeletal remains and fishing cat hairs out of my eyes, I am pretty, remarkably, hugely terrible at acting like a normal human woman while talking to a phantom audience in my living room.  I was really excited about this new venture and all I’ve got to show for it is about fifteen horrifying minutes of humiliating nonsense hanging out in my trash folder.

I fear that this is as far as any video will ever make it on this blog.  Enjoy.

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Has anyone out there mastered the vlog?  How do you not embarrass yourself?  Or rather: how do you embarrass yourself and then choose not to care about it?

(Also, yes, I know my house is a disgusting mess in the background.  That was to be the point of the video.)

Wild Abandon.

I suppose I can’t really call this a guest post, as I am essentially just lifting this from my dear friend’s personal blog, but I’ve wanted her to write a guest post on this topic for months and am re-posting this with her permission (thanks, love!).  

This friend of mine, whom I’ll call Victoria (her chosen pseudonym), is one of the bravest people I have ever met.  She grew up in a very religious community in our very small conservative hometown, and yet she has taken the most glorious, adventurous, incredible risks.  She has lived all over the world.  She has traveled endlessly.  She has flown by the seat of her pants.  She has spent the last several months living out of the country with the love of her life – a man she met while working on a tropical island she moved to all by herself.  She is beautiful and brilliant and a fantastic writer.  She is honest and hilarious and wonderful.  She is, quite obviously and always, bursting with kindness and goodness.

I want to be her when I grow up.

The topic of this post is controversial and probably divisive, but I believe my friend has expressed herself gorgeously and painfully and so I ask that even if this inspires some feelings, please be kind to her and to me in the comments.

It’s not a cry for help. It’s a cry for recognition

Victoria Hart

I am losing my religion.

Slowly, painfully, like life-giving blood oozing from my body. And, like a mortal wound, it gushed out at first. Frustration, pain, longing, loneliness, despair. And now, with each pulse of my spirit, my whole soul aches. The last little bit of that part of me is leaving.

Let me explain what I mean.

When I was barely 19, I had my first anxiety attack. It was crippling and horrible; my breath caught in my throat, my fingers and toes began to go numb, and it felt as if someone were constricting my whole body at once. I was in sacrament meeting when it happened.

Over the next 2 years, I phased in and out of activity in the church.

I submitted my mission papers after a period of 8 months where I didn’t attend. My bishop approved, because one of my best friends had just attempted suicide, and he thought it would be good for me.

I went on my mission. My soul rejected my actions every day. I love that time for what I learned about myself and my God. I hate that time for what it forced me to become.

Ever since my mission, I’ve been struggling with the church. Silently, most of the time. It seems to me that mormons are nice to everyone except people who doubt, question, or leave. So I kept it to myself.

And yet, it was still happening. When I talked to people about what I felt, it was as if they were trying to help me solve a different problem. Here is an example of how the conversation seemed from my end:

Me: “All my fishes are dead.”

Friend: “It’s okay! I’ll help you find them.”

Me: “No  – I know where they are, they’re just not alive anymore.”

Friend: “Don’t panic – I’m sure we’ll find them. Where was the last place you saw them?”

And so you see, I couldn’t really talk to anyone about what I was feeling. Partly because I didn’t know what I was feeling, but partly because no one seemed to understand what I was saying.

And so, I planned to leave. To leave Utah, to leave everything I knew and loved. To separate myself from the situation, to clear my head. I needed everyone else’s voice out of my head, so I could get some quality time with myself and with God.

Last summer, I think I knew it was the end of something. That’s why I wanted to relish it. Why I wanted to spend every waking moment with the people I believed would shun me after they realized how I felt. I spent joyful days, hours, and moments with friends who may hate me after they realize who I am.

And then I left.

And I found a world I didn’t know existed. A world of people who lived because there was life, and swam because there was water, and breathed because there was air – and never seemed to think twice about being happy!

I was angry and jealous and wanted to blend in. Happiness seemed always, to me, a glimmering prospect just out of reach. Something I had to concentrate on, and focus on, and every 3 months or so, I’d have a moment. But these people – they were happy! Really, really happy! Why? What was I missing?

I started to question everything, piece by piece. I’ve visited all the anti websites. I’ve read all the damning articles you could find on the internet. I have considered, and pondered, and prayed.

And here is my conclusion.

I love the gospel. I love my God. He is nice, and he is kind, and he loves everyone. And he doesn’t like when we’re mean or exclusive or unkind or judgemental. Because he never was. I love Christ. He is strong and gentle and constant. I love the restored gospel. I love that God speaks with men.

I do not love the church.

I can’t love the church. It makes me feel wretched and awful about who I am. I can’t be a good mormon if that means supporting the idea that people can’t choose. Agency is everything in my mind. I can’t be a good mormon if that means trying to deify evil things – like witholding the priesthood from black people, or making me swear my sacred oaths to my husband rather than directly to my God. I can’t abide an organization that controls young people so rigidly so as to overpass the most rigorous regimes. I can’t look back on my mission experience and all the indoctrination that was done there without feeling wretched and bitter.

I feel trapped and suffocated when I attend church, and I feel trapped and tricked and something close to rage when I wear my garments. I feel like the God I know and love wouldn’t ask his children to do or support or say the things my church wants me to do and support and say.

I can’t do it.

And so here I am, sobbing, as I write this blog. I feel so alone, and so hopeless. And yet so much freer and happier than I have ever felt.

I will always believe in God.

But I cannot believe in the church.

A Few Of My Favorite Things.

One day, long, long ago, before he knew better, my husband asked me to list a few of my favorite things. Favorite movie, favorite song, favorite book. As a massive collector who probably ranked all his underwear from best to worst (I’m speculating here), my husband was horrified to discover that I don’t really have favorite things. I love the Beatles. I adore A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Ramona (the late 1880s novel by Helen Hunt Jackson, just to clarify). I could watch and rewatch and rewatch Zoolander and When Harry Met Sally. But are these my favorite things of all time? I couldn’t say. I can’t commit to them – there are too many amazing things in the world for me to have favorites.

This permeates my life in many ways, both big and small. If you’re a regular reader (or if you are a new reader and immediately scoured the Whiny archives when you decided to follow), you’ll know that I am essentially useless at nailing down a real, solid career path, because I am fascinated by lots of things, including (but not limited to): writing, editing, digging up and analyzing dead people, and teaching five year old children. That’s a big way in which my lack of ULTIMATE FAVORITE THINGS impacts my life.

A small way I’m affected is that I don’t have tons of expensive things to my name. I don’t feel compelled to trade Disney pins or buy first edition books or collect antique furniture. I’m not particularly fulfilled by objects (cue disgusting sex joke made by all the gross people I know) and I tend to use my money for experiences – things like movies in theaters or day trips or delicious meals. This is (one of) the reason(s) I drive a 2006 Toyota that my dad and brother drove first, and why paying $400 for a hideous Louis Vuitton wallet strikes me as borderline insane. (The other reason is: money. Obviously.) I just simply cannot be asked to care about “luxury items.”

Which leads me to the point of this post: I just bought a brand new, shiny, beautiful 13-inch MacBook Air and I am in love with it. I saved up for approximately one century and had enough cash to buy it outright and also be able to afford to eat real food for the rest of the month. One point: me! I’ve needed a new computer for much longer than I am even willing to admit in this public forum (hint: about 24 months). I am unapologetic about my purchase because I really need it.

However, I’m most excited about it for one reason only: I bought it because I wanted it. I wanted it and I worked for it and I got it and I love it.

And now, for just this afternoon, I understand favorites.

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