Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: Perception

  1. Reading Magic and Loss

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    Over the past few years, I’ve read fewer books than ever before, and of those books, even less fiction.

    I’ve said that the internet has melted my brain, wrecked my attention span. Or maybe the problem is my 50-something vision, or my glasses, or the quality of the light by my bed.

    I listen to podcasts while walking Sadie and getting ready for work and washing dishes; I read everything from news to email to long articles to social media to forums to product reviews on the internet from waking to sleeping, on my desktop, laptop, and phone.

    I listen to audio books on long drives; the music that calls me is still the music with lyrics I care about.

    There is no shortage of words in my life; only a shortage of (the reading of) books.

    But still rising from all those words is a longing to be immersed in another person’s thought processes, as well as the ability to make notes and reread, that comes a weekend with a physical book. And I was determined to finish reading a book.

    On the top of my stack was Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan. I’d heard her interviewed on Dan Harris’s 10% Happier podcast and I was intrigued by her story and the possibility that the internet is “among humankind’s great masterpieces,” as the blurb on the back of the book suggests.

    Part philosophical deep dive, part history, part memoir, Magic and Loss touches on many of my preoccupations: technology (and the way it’s changing my brain every day), one person’s story, religion, writing and story telling.

    And Heffernan wouldn’t judge my 2017 reading habits: As she says, “Codices, scrolls, leisure, work, epic poetry, tweets: let’s call it all real reading.”

  2. And here we are.

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    I started blogging right after President Obama’s inauguration, participating in optimism and a sense of community here and in my little corner of the early days of Twitter. Vice President Biden championed victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and the Violence Against Women Act was strong and enforced.

    But life–my life, your life, the life of the country–goes on, gets in the way, changes everything. And here we are.

    My brother-in-law’s cancer fight over; my sister’s grief is a little bit less fresh.

    Mr. Z and the dogs and I have moved house and reshuffled priorities.

    My book  is still in revision. I’m back to it now.

    It’s time for me to start talking again, with anyone who will listen.

     

     

  3. Grey Area

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    Life is easier, in some ways, when things are neatly divided into them/us, bad/good, never/always boxes.

    When those boxes crumble, when the lines between certainties blur, our assumptions and givens shake. Things get trickier and more interesting.

    A few box-crumbling events have happened in my world over the past few years:

    • a friend’s husband was accused of molesting their granddaughter. I believe that he did not do it.
    • another friend was attacked in her home and brutally beaten. She found her way to deep forgiveness.
    • a trusted employee was arrested for domestic violence. I decided to pay for his bail.

    In an either/or world, I believe in accusers/victims no matter what; I want my friend’s attacker to go to prison for as long as the law allows; I draw a hard line and fire the batterer.

    In the grey zone, I can be open to the possibilities of believing in the accused, marveling at forgiveness, and hoping for the batterer’s change.

    My bias remains toward accusers and victims. I believe there is no justification, ever, for emotional or physical violence and also that it is very, very difficult to stop learned behaviors like battering.

    Living a little bit more in the grey helps me better understand my own story. Living in the grey is expansive.  Challenging my assumptions makes my ultimate conclusions–or what will be my interim conclusions–more nuanced, more complex, more allowing of further refined understanding.

    Living in the grey allows the possibility of telling and hearing all the stories.

     

  4. Handbagged

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    This morning I happened to be reading Deborah Tannen’s Talking from 9 to 5, the chapter on women bosses.

    Tannen critiques a Newsweek review of Margaret Thatcher’s memoir for its handbag image:  “The image of Thatcher ‘clobbering them with her metaphorical handbag’ undercuts the force of her actions, even as it gives her credit for attacking her opponents. A woman clobbering men with her handbag is an object of laughter, not fear or admiration.”

    Thatcher died today, and this afternoon’s  New York Times article about her life references the handbag metaphor, too: “Brisk and argumentative, she was rarely willing to concede a point and loath to compromise. Colleagues who disagreed with her were often deluged in a sea of facts, or what many referred to as being ‘handbagged.'”

    Regardless of any reservations I might have about Thatcher’s policies, and these are subject to revision based on this piece by Andrew Sullivan, I have to admit that I admire her force, her commitment, her political will. I think for a moment that I wouldn’t mind having it said about me that I “handbagged” someone. I like a good handbag as much as anyone, and I have been known to resist conceding when my convictions are at stake.

    But I’m thinking again. In between this morning’s coincidental reading of Tannen on handbagging and this afternoon’s reading of the Times on Thatcher, I had an intense conversation with a man about another man’s use of the word “rape” to suggest “plunder” in casual conversation. I believe with Tannen that words matter, and that “rape” is a very specific kind of sexualized violence and a word that should not be used lightly. The man I was talking with invoked dictionary definitions and said that I have a chip on my shoulder.

    He’s right: I do have a chip on my shoulder about rape.

    Or maybe it’s a shoulderbag.

  5. Swear to Stay

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    This was the plan when we started this sell-the-house thing:

    Sign goes in yard.

    Potential buyer makes offer.

    Price is agreed upon and contract is signed.

    Rental house  is found to fit Max’s requirements of one story and easy access to the yard (no steps).

    Move everything and sign the papers.

    There.

    All of this would happen before I had time to feel too much about it. For goodness sake, I had felt enough about it already, hadn’t I?

    I wanted to leave this house for years.  Too many bad memories; too many broken dreams.

    But while plenty of potential buyers have looked, and the feedback to the realtors has been generally positive, we have not yet gotten to Step 2–offer making.

    Today this house felt good to me, felt like home, but maybe it’s not the house itself. Maybe it’s something else.

    I picked a book off the shelf: Thin Places by Amy Armbrecht. Here is the final sentence of her preface:

    And I discovered that the ability to discover the sacred at home–living life as a pilgrimage–is what can turn any place into a home where it is worth swearing to stay.

    I think that’s what I’d like to feel that I have: a place worth swearing to stay.

     

  6. From the Fridge

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    I’ve thought about food a lot for as long as I can remember, in ways sometimes more, and sometimes less, healthy and sane.

    This month in my Wednesday night workshops, “food” will be our theme.

    I’ve been appreciating a blog lately called Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty, (I share all three of those traits with the blog’s co-writers) and I’m  thinking today about their posts against tracking and in favor of tracking what one eats.

    I’ve counted Weight Watchers points. I’ve counted grams of carbs, protein and fat depending on the conventional food wisdom of the moment. I’ve counted the non-nutritive calories in sugar-free Cool Whip and Jell-O pudding.

    For the past nine months or so, I’ve been tracking what I eat, both macronutrients and calories.

    Confession: I like to track.

    I don’t see it as unkindly restrictive or self-flagellating; it gives me a framework within which to eat, just as I have frameworks and goals for writing and working out and anything else that I don’t necessarily do well or consistently without planning. I agree with Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty’s Sam B when she writes, “my food log often serves as a way to remind me that what I eat matters. For me, it’s much more about making sure I take care of myself.”

    At a few points in my past, I’ve taken more care with Max’s food than I have with my own, and tracking keeps me focused on eating well, eating enough, eating not too much.  I appreciate my food more when I pay attention to its quality and pleasure and the nourishment it provides for my body.

    If I’m hungry for chocolate (or whatever), I eat chocolate, savoring every bite. And then I write it down.

    Am I talking about mindfulness? Paying attention? Self-care? All of the above.

     

     

  7. Aurora

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    This morning when I heard the news of the Aurora shooting. I immediately thought of Jeanne, whose son lives in Denver, and who wrote a beautiful post today that weaves a whirlwind of reactions into a reminder to love each other.

    I keep thinking about the story of one of the people who was killed. Jessica Ghawi was in Toronto just last month at the Eaton Center, where another shooting took place. She blogged about her experience here.

    Jessica wrote,

    I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

    I hope she lived the past 45 days with those words in mind. I hope all of us can live with those words in mind.

    In Walden, Thoreau wrote, “All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.”

    May we all be children of Aurora today.

     

     

     

  8. Freedom From::Freedom To

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    I’m thinking about freedom–

    thinking about it so much that I put this cardboard cutout of the Statue of Liberty on the wall of my study (yes, just under the Christmas lights that stay up all year).

    Freedom From::Freedom To will take me through a July exploration of freedom with photos, prompts, playlists, poems, ponderings.

    What are you free from::free to?

  9. On Fire

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    April:

    Month of rebirth,

     month of two anniversaries.

    Good Friday, 2002: a beating, an interim separation.

    April 11, 2007: another assault, an arrest, the first night of a final separation.

    Easter weekend 2012: time for a fire.

    Tonight two Adrienne Rich poems:

    “Burning Oneself Out,”

    its last lines:

    “or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire
    of my mind, burning as if it could go on
    burning itself, burning down

    feeding on everything
    till there is nothing in life
    that has not fed that fire”

    and

    “Power,”

    about Marie Curie,

    “[who] died a famous woman denying
    her wounds
    denying
    her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

    ::

    What has fed your fire?

    Can you see that your wounds and your power come from the same source?

  10. Happy Birthday, April

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    You may know April as the mother of Hunter and Colton, Mr. Z’s grandsons.

    Today is her twenty-seventh birthday.

    She is generous, wise, funny, loving, comfortable in her own skin.

    Yesterday she said, taking Colton from me, watching him fall instantly to sleep on her shoulder, “He just needed to smell me so that he could go to sleep.”

    I didn’t know that babies connected with their mothers through smell. But she was telling me something more, something deeper that I can’t quite understand and can’t stop thinking about.

    She teaches me every time I am with her, and I’m never sure whether she knows it or not.

    She doesn’t seem to worry. She is.

    I wish for her not to change.

    And while I’m wishing, I wish for Hunter and Colton what Adrienne Rich wished for her sons:

    “If I could have one wish for my own sons, it is that they should have the courage of women. I mean by this something very concrete and precise: the courage I have seen in women who, in their private and public lives, both in the interior world of their dreaming, thinking, and creating, and the outer world of patriarchy, are taking greater and greater risks, both psychic and physical, in the evolution of a new vision.”
    — Of Woman Born

    Happy birthday, courageous April.