Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Three Story Life Separate

I'm sitting here in the dungeon wondering if the pain in my chest is physical. If I don't finish this post, you'll know it was. Just had another quaky conversation with our father about Scott going to the grocery store. We disagree on whether Scott is comfortable going. My brother is Dad's legs. He claims it helps Scott to fetch things - keeps him alert. Perhaps. Dad offered as evidence that Scott hurries to carry out tasks assigned. My brother has speed issues. His awareness of where his body ends, and how fast it's traveling, is compromised by Alzheimer's. Scott said no to the store the other day. That's major involvement for him, and I'd like for his choices to be honored. Later I heard Dad tell Scott to get his coat on: they were going to the store. Tried to talk about it today because Dad's sitting upstairs waiting for Scott to come home from an outing and he'll take him to the store. I tried hard to be reasonable, thoughtful and respectful. I said I would go to the store. Dad said he himself wanted to go out. Fine, I said, I'll pick up most of it and you can go mosey later. Dodging and weaving around the issue. Dad was lulled into confessing that he is still focused on discipline. This is our primary difficulty in the house. While our father may mildly grasp the realities of Alzheimer's disease, he deeply believes that Scott's behaviors can, and should be, controlled. Curbed. That's the word he used. And my heart started aching again. I have no more strength for this situation. So discussions will commence with the rest of the family about alternatives. I cannot help either of them, and I cannot help myself from here. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Gift of Self Esteem

I don't know how it got here, but I know the day it did. I tweeted its arrival. An early and unexpected Christmas gift from the universe on December 22, 2012. For the last half of 2012, I was fascinated by a call for entries from an Eastern Michigan University senior fine arts major named Felicity Baker. She is double minoring in psychology with women and gender studies. The exhibition, during March (Women's History Month) will be head and shoulders renderings of what contributors understand about the looking-glass self. Presented by Charles Cooley in 1902, this theory purports, as Baker quotes, "I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am." Twisty, huh? It took a handful of weeks to even understand the concept. I've had several ideas of art to submit, but I am thinking in three-dimensional art, rather than flat art asked for submission. And I am thinking about whether this theory is true. For me. In the long years of the past. Today. The art I imagined is a discarded frame hanging in my workroom. Around the edges I would paint "I have a framework. It is constant and divine."  True. All the wiggly bits and electricity and chemical compositions that make a human are there at the beginning. Centered in the frame on fishing line is a light. Small, bright. This is my essence. Powerful, as significant in every way as anything else in the cosmos. As mighty, as miniscule. True. In front of this incredible light would be transparent panels representing what has, and is, obscuring that light. 1st layer: painted with the parent brush. 2nd layer: painted with the peer brush. 3rd layer: drawn with the teacher pencils. And so on. Bosses, coworkers, lovers, enemies, circumstances. True. And understanding emerged. We have no way of knowing what others think of us. But we make it up. We absorb what our culture feels about us. We suffer for it. We do it to ourselves. For the last several months, I've been removing the painted layers from my mental work of art. When these obscuring layers are abandoned by me - because I am the person who keeps them installed and effective - when I remove the layers, what remains is my light. Small, powerful, steady, calm and bright. So bright. And on December 22, 2012, when I subconsciously reached for the veil, it wasn't there. None of them were. Self esteem. "I am what I know I am."

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Getting acquainted with Jon Meacham's biography of Thomas Jefferson, I admired the weight and the paper. Hefty and fragrant. Started with Notes on the Text, at which point Meacham writes that he tidied up Jefferson's correspondence for our reading. All the it's were replaced with the proper its, etc. In the introduction Meacham then didn't bother with primping a Jefferson household slave's description of his master. I needed to calm down. Pictures are good. No pictures of Jefferson's wife. Turns out there are no portraits of Martha existing. 10 years married, and 6 children later, she was dead. Jefferson is highly reported as mourning his diminutive and ill wife's death, but what did he do about keeping her healthy while she lived? Aargh. A plate of Elizabeth Merry, wife of British minister Anthony Merry has Jefferson describing her as a "virago," and references a social skirmish over protocol. Meacham's book is subtitled The Art of Power. What more do I need to know about power? That it is male, hierarchical, dominant and a pain in my ass for a lifetime. Words can soothe me, so I looked up virago. Once upon a time, it meant a heroic woman. And then the Latin Bible scholars got hold of it. Aeflic, and St. Jerome, followed by Merriam-Webster, the Oxford Dictionary and its online ilk. Wikipedia gives a more thorough etymology. Jefferson used the repulsive and first promulgated modern [14th c.] definition for virago:  a shrew, a loud and overbearing woman, and (adding insult to other cultures) a termagant. Over a dinner party? I don't want to read this book. I don't remember why I got it from the library. I just finished reading about Generals Grant and Sherman, and I'm male ego-ed out. I hope I'm done this lifetime with reading about gentile slaveholders in glowy prose. I'd rather perhaps read something at all about Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, who inherited her father's 100 slaves at his death, but didn't really own them because all property went to those wielding The Art of Power.