Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Limits of My Pacifism


A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a bar dispute. I wanted to tell my mom but I knew she would judge me for being at a bar in general. I was fairly proud at the way I handled it. However, there was a split second where I looked at the beer glasses in front of me and clenched my fist and thought about throwing one of those glasses against the face of the woman who was testing my patience.

I’m not the type to fight. I always say that if someone wants to hit me, let them. I’ll press charges because that would be my ultimate revenge and lesson against them. I’ll ruin their record, hindering them from getting a decent job or at least making it harder for them to do so. They’ll remember me every time they apply for some aid and are denied and I’ll faintly in a ghost like way say “Was it worth it?” That’s my ultimate revenge. But if they end up murdering me then I’ll just haunt them and that’s just as good a lesson.

So this woman drops her drink on my back. Complete accident but I’m on my third or fourth drink so I’m annoyed. She keeps apologizing to me and I accept it, still annoyed. Her friend tells her “Don’t apologize. She’s making a big deal” I’m not but I say “Uh, yeah it’s a big deal” so she looks at me and says “Don’t apologize, maybe that way she’ll lose some weight”

HOLD THE FUCK UP. WHAT.  I’m trying to internalize what she just said. “What did you say?”

“You heard me. Maybe you’ll lose some weight” Oh yeah, because getting beer spilled on my back somehow will change my eating and exercise habits. It was that moment when cheap Bud Light beer started to run down my back and onto my butt crack that I said, “Oh man, I’m going to lose some weight. If I were 20-30 pounds lighter, this would have never happened”

I stood there for a few seconds deciding to either cry or retaliate.

I was teased horribly throughout my elementary and junior high years. These are scars that are still fresh and I revert back to when I’m feeling singled out, rejected or talked about. I was teased over my weight, my skin color (even though we were all brownies. Kids always justify their dumbass logic. “Yeah but I’m not as brown as YOU,”) my hairy arms and my looks. Basically, I was teased for just being ME. For years I never knew how to defend myself. I never knew what to say back. I never learned how to stand up for myself. Then I worked in fast food, retail and at a public library and now at 27 my skin is a reinforced steel tank with grenade launchers. Kind of.

So I turn to her and say “That is a rude fucking thing to say.” It wasn’t the most earth shattering thing to say to someone who feels this pointless superiority over you. I’m a smart lady and I know that these people just want a reaction. They want to feel better about themselves by putting other people down. I won’t give them that satisfaction.

Other things were said and I can’t remember all of it due to the level of alcohol but I do remember feeling the bar around me going deaf because as she spoke non sense and pointed out her husband to me, “I don’t give a fuck who your husband is. You’re a rude bitch,” I felt this anger boil in me. This anger that has been boiling up inside of me for 20-23 years. I kept looking at the glasses feeling ready to just throw one for the satisfaction of my impulse and to shut her face up.

In those moments, my friends stood up for me. My co-worker called her a Cunt. Her husband came over, “Hey bro, this is between the ladies. You hurt my girl’s feelings you know?” WHAT ABOUT MY FEELINGS! I did manage to yell that over to him. Her husband seeing they were severely outnumbered grabbed her by her arm and left.

I still wanted to cry. I felt incredibly embarrassed in front of my friends. Someone had called me fat in front of them. It made me feel insignificant. It made me feel like I was 7 again and these two girls came up to me and kicked me in my legs for being ugly. I ended up crying on the way home. But I wasn’t crying because she made me feel fat or because I believed it. I thought of Mindy Kaling in that moment. “I’m not overweight. I fluctuate between chubby and curvy.” It’s one of my favorite quotes from her show. I was crying because I let some dumb stranger get the best of me. I wasn’t proud of calling her a bitch. I vowed not to use that kind of insult against anyone because it’s cheap and ignorant. In hindsight, calling her a bitch was probably a better decision than hurling a glass at her face. I had to choose the lesser of two evils and I daydream of working at The Huntington Library so I value my clean record for that reason.

I started crying because I was crying. It makes sense when you’re drunk.

“She’s not worth it. She is dumb. You’re beautiful”

“I know I am! I am smart. I am awesome. I am way smarter than her. Her life is over. She has saggy boobs, that other lady told me so. She hates me because I am obviously cute and awesome. But what’s the only thing wrong with me? I’m “fat.” I’m not fat. I am but I’m not. I don’t care. I like being thick but that’s the only thing ignorant people can attack me with. And I hate that and I’m crying for that”

I know I’ll never see this woman again. She has three kids and an obvious inferiority complex. She probably doesn’t have a very good life or didn’t have a good life. Someone who is secure with themselves and happy with themselves does not verbally attack strangers. Normal people do not do that. Everyone commended me at the way I handled it. The lady who originally dropped her drink on me told me “No you’re beautiful. I’m way fatter than you and she has saggy boobs and you don’t!” Bras are really awesome at making boobs look great. I told her she didn’t need to say that. She didn’t need to put herself down. It wasn’t about being fat.

When I got home, I woke up my sister and started crying to her. It wasn’t about being fat. I kept crying because I just thought, why do people need to be that way? It’s a rhetorical question. Why do women need to be that way? I know why. Millions of psychological issues. Not knowing how to control impulses and passions. Not being able to internalize the differences between people. Not knowing how to let go of petty thoughts and insecurity. I’m a fucking nice person and I really just wanted to go back and ask that woman, “Hey, chill out. Why are you so insecure? It’s ok. We can talk about it” Call me a sissy or a little bitch, because I’ve have been, but if people talked about their problems and had a healthy outlet for their thoughts, the world would be a better place. That’s some hippy utopian shit but I know a lot of people that quote John Lennon’s Imagine but would never actually practice peace, understanding or pacifism in altercations.

I almost didn’t. I don’t think I would ever actually hit someone or throw a glass at them. But it’s scary to think that I contemplated it for that second. I don’t want to be that type of person. I also don’t want to be the type of person who hurls cheap insults. It’s a reflection of your character. But it’s also hard to keep a stoic temperament when you’ve had three or four drinks.

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21st Century Happiness

This week is international Stoic Week. A week where one lives according to the principles of Stoicism, a philosophy founded in the Hellenistic age of Athens, made prominent during the Roman Empire and demonized by early Christianity. Throughout the years, Stoicism has had a bad reputation. When one describes a person as being stoic, a connotation of indifference or cold comes to mind.

I like to explain Stoicism as a way of life that could have ended the war in Westeros, Rob Stark could have kept his head and Joffrey would have died at the hands of the Starks. If Rob Stark had been a Stoic, he would have put his passion and love aside for the good of his people, his land and his family. But no, he chose to wed Talisa and break the alliance between The Starks and The Freys. Everyone was rooting for Rob Stark. That moment when he looks over to Catelyn, chest pierced with arrows, and says “Mother…” is both heartbreaking and enraging. I was rooting for you Rob and not only did you betray bitter old Frey, you betrayed me. ME. This is something that keeps me up at night and is probably a big reason of why I am still single.

But to those who don’t watch Game of Thrones, the principles of Stoicism teach us that humanity belongs to a single universal order. We are all part of nature, equal in reason and free of mind. It teaches us to keep our passions in check (Ahem, Rob Stark.) Passions such as love, greed, vanity lead us to stray from “the good life” or a virtuous life. Well, you can love partners and family but when it starts to cloud reason and judgment or when your army and kingdom depend on you marrying a Frey girl, then it’s a problem. Pursuing glory and fame for ones name is not a virtue. Apathy in state affairs or apathy in ones well being and health is not virtuous in Stoicism. Promiscuity is not virtuous. Marcus Aurelius, the last great Roman Emperor and Stoic, believed that homosexuality was not virtue either. Most ancient Stoics probably didn’t include women in their philosophy. The more I start to go on, the more it starts to sound like some early blueprint for Christianity. If this were a research paper, I’d make a case for that and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Hell, I’d say Plato was a proto-Christian.

But this isn’t a research paper tracing the beginnings of Christianity. This is a whiny post about war tactics in Fantasy worlds and post modern anxiety. Despite some of the negative attributes and connotations about Stoicism, I believe it’s a relevant philosophy that can and should be incorporated into some of our daily lives. I don’t consider myself a religious person but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am an atheist. Mainly because I don’t like to be associated with groups. I do me and only me. I am a spiritual person. I do believe in natural order, justice, equality and some universal energy that predates human, animal and cosmic existence. Not science necessarily but just something that has guided life, air, water and energy. I want to believe there is some purpose to our existence. Whether its defined by ourselves or by something bigger than us, we do have a purpose. It’s scary to think there is nothing outside of this realm of existence. I am a firm believer in balance. Naturally, I am a libra but whatever that’s some new age shit I won’t get into. If there is Balance in my life, I am happy. Stoicism is teaching me balance and patience so I can achieve a happiness that is bigger than my self.

I bring up Stoic week because I recently became obsessed with Marcus Aurelius and the Roman Empire. I started to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I began to read it just after my holiday meeting at work where some of my co workers where recognized for their hard work throughout the year. I was not recognized. It was a serious blow to my ego because I as I sat in my chair, I began to think about what kind of strut I should do while I went to collect my Nightmare Before Christmas bobble head or some shit. I just thought, I’m going to be recognized. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve taken the responsibilities of a superior knowing full well I’d only get a quarter increment in my pay. I do it because I like taking care of shit and I do it well. But I didn’t get my stupid bobble head nor the recognition of my store in front of my peers. Naturally, I thought fuck this shit. My performance as of late has been flaky. I’ve called out more times than I should. I can’t do the minimum job requirements because I just don’t work that way. I planned out all of our Black Friday plans without the help of anyone and detailed and outlined it for the managers, because I’m just that person. But I still think, fuck this shit. 

For the record, I am not one those people that is obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas. I actually have to repress my disdain for those things because everyone seems to love all that shit. I already have a reputation of being a hater. It’s not that I hate it, I’m just not into it.

Anyway, what does this have to do with Stoicism? After reading some of Meditations, I came across a passage where Marcus Aurelius talked about glory, fame and name. One must not seek these things. Simply do your work, do it well and go on with your life because there is always work to be done and if you seek glory for your work, you risk falling into the trappings of the vanity of your ego. I thought, well isn’t this appropriate? I always seem to think that the Universe is somehow against me. That I try and I try and I try and the Universe is just some mean dick yelling ha-HA at me constantly. Along with Meditations, I started to read Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. Now this is a guy who got bludgeoned to death for elevating Philosophy near Religion. In it, Philosophy is this angelic figure telling Boethius to quit his whining because everyone suffers; how dare he think that Fortune was forever. Laugh now, cry later motherfucker. That was my scholarly interpretation.

So I didn’t get recognized. For a few days I was depressed about it. It wasn’t just solely that act but just feeling alone, rejected and just frustrated with my lack of career or social level depressed me. The fact that I work in retail and I am part this empty failing corporation brings me no satisfaction. I can’t thrive in numbers. I don’t thrive on quotas or sells. I tell people not to buy dumb shit because it’s expensive. I can’t accept this as a livelihood but I am forced to because of my circumstances. And yes, I realize I sound incredibly whiny and privileged (big popular word now a day.) I know I am being self centered because there are a million and billion things that could be way worse.

When I walk into work thinking fuck this shit and I do the minimum or act like I am at least doing the minimum at work, I daydream about what it is to be happy. The definition of happiness that is. I’m sure this isn’t an earth shattering thought but Happiness is never out of fashion. From the moment we became self aware we started to ponder our happiness. Every philosopher and rich lazy thinker have written so many books throughout history about it. Happiness has never changed. Technology evolves, regimes rise and fall, revolutions come and go but we still can’t figure out what makes us Happy. Well, we still can’t figure out how to keep happiness. As Hobbes put it, the joyless quest for joy. I hate him so I’m not quoting him because I like him. I daydream about what makes me or what would make me happy and I get sad. Oh how I suffer, sarcasm. I’ve learned to be grateful and patient but what happiness is to me is simple: I want to ride my bike to a job where I contribute to  something much deeper and greater than consumerism. Where my worth is not a number. Where I have a level of creative freedom and serve a part of a community. To be part of the greater good. To contribute not just in my own pursuit of the good life but to influence other people to pursue the good life. I want to be part of something much bigger than myself.

But when I come back to reality, I look around me and I think uuuuugh. 

If I summed up my 20’s it would be uuuuugh. 

I know I went into a terrible tangent because I am sleepy and I am a terrible writer but getting back to Stoicism, I’m slowly adopting some principles of this ancient Philosophy. It goes really well with the spirituality of yoga, it meshes well with Religion and it restores a balance that is sometimes offset by our 21st century anxiety. I can be really egotistical and self centered but Stoicism (and getting back to my History studies) has been teaching me to practice patience, letting go when I need to and living virtuous according to the law of own spirituality. So what I didn’t get recognized at work, I am going to school to get a better job. So what that boy didn’t text me back, there are a million other dudes in the world. I am not happy right now but there are going to be worse things in my life, in my future, that these moments will be completely insignificant. Just as there will be worse things, there will be way better and happier moments to come and I will be that much stronger and grateful for them. These are just my uuugh years and they will be over one day.

However, I do admit that this Friday will be one of my biggest challenges as a baby Stoic. Like I said before, I work in retail. I cannot harmonize my spirituality and philosophy with my work. I work with books but we all know most people buy shitty books anyway but that’s okay because at least they are reading. I don’t think I have ever been this angry or bitter about Black Friday. I don’t expect tons of people being at my work but I just get so angry at the idea behind Black Friday. I will try to stay patient throughout the holidays and try hard to think of the purpose of each human that I encounter, even the mean ones. I kind of had the same attitude last year, until a man sneezed on my face and left snot in my hair and dress. I just wanted to cry. What would Marcus Aurelius do? I think he would have probably said, fuck this shit uuugh. 

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this is real

I used to not know what it meant to laugh and cry at the same time. I mean, exactly the same time, not one bleeding into the other. Several weeks ago, Ryan and I sat in our car, at the top of our city, in the dark. We had been talking and crying for hours. We’d seen the sun set in the side mirrors, and watched the light fade quickly after, and now we couldn’t see anything clearly, just the faint outlines of our faces. We joked about how pathetic we were. I told him I wanted Oprah, and Yoda, and Dr. Phil, and the Dalai Lama to all emerge from the bushes and tell us what to do, and even Dr. Oz so he could tell us what to eat (“and show us a penis,” Ryan added) and maybe this is not that funny, but it struck me as impossibly funny in that moment and I started laughing and crying at the same time, my chest heaving, my face wet. The sound was insane. Ryan asked me if I was okay, and I was not. Neither of us are. I feel like someone has hollowed me out with a giant pumpkin scraper, like someone died, like I am dying. A couple of nights later, he recorded a series of voice mail greetings. The boys were in bed. It was late. We’d been crying, again, for hours. He lay on the floor, I lay on the couch. Strewn all around us were shoes, backpacks, video games, socks, comic books, wrappers, essays I need to grade, unfolded laundry. “My life is unraveling…leave a message!” “Everything is slipping away…leave a message!” We are devastated. There is nothing funny about it, but we laugh out of desperation, I guess.

He is my best friend. We made two beautiful, amazing little boys, whom we both love so much. He saved my life so many years ago. He is a good person. I am, I hope, a good person.

Our marriage is over. Our marriage is over. This is real.

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