Monday, February 20, 2017

A letter to Michael.

It's been busy.

I actually worked overtime last weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.

I missed half-a-day two Thursday's ago, and Friday this past week due to government exams, so I needed the extra hours to make up for lost wages.

I've been busy, which means I've been tired and going to bed early. I cut what I can when things get hectic, and often that means cutting cooking, art and housekeeping.

I'd applied to two large candidacy pools for government administrative and clerk positions.

I've had to take a litany of exams, one of which involved an arithmetic section that kicked my ass.

I actually just received an e-mail that said I was being added to a first-round for a pool that will be filled out in the next few weeks. So, if I have the basic requirements met, I'll be asked to do exams next week. This pool is closer to home, so it's more interesting to me.

I've been thinking about including my letters to Michael here.

I would edit out sections that speak too specifically to him and his experiences as to protect his identity, but for me, they're where I put a lot of detailed writing attention.

Here's an example, my most recent letter:


2017-02-17

Hello Michael!

Well. I’m pooped. It’s about 4 in the afternoon and I’ve spent most of the day writing exams. I applied to a candidate pool for the federal government for jobs in clerical, administrative and assistant jobs. They’re entry-level positions with a good living wage. This morning I took a Grammar and Language exam, and then this afternoon I took an Office Skills exam that kicked my ass. There was a brutal arithmetic section. Everything was timed. It was bananas. You’d have 8 minutes to do 15 math problems with fractions and division and multiplication all in your head. It was nuts. I think I answered 6. Then there was a section on Classification that had lists you had to put in order, again, in your head, in like 8 minutes. It was so nuts! I can’t have done well. We’ll see. They had a section on verification I think I did okay on. And then a weird word-problem logic section I think I did okay on. They have a cut off grade of 40/75.

I’m just re-reading your letter from February 8th. I’ll try and make a note of sending you stationery. If ever you’re in need just ask though! And remember there’s a delay so maybe when you have a few sheets left ask. I’ll send you some more today, in another envelope (of course).

I’ve only read select pieces by bell hooks, we studied her work when I was in university. I thought she might challenge you - and I know you’re looking to think of things differently and be challenged - so I thought she might be able to discuss gender, sexuality, feminism, relationships, blackness and masculinity in interesting ways. I'm happy you're enjoying her work.

In feminist studies, we use the word intersectionality a lot.
in·ter·sec·tion·al·i·tyˌin(t)ərsekSHəˈnalədē/nounthe interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. "through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us."

I’m going to include a large print-out of the wikipedia article on intersectionality, since it’ll describe it better than I ever could. What’s important though, in most social justice approaches today, is the understanding of intersectionality and the role it plays in oppression.

I also love vocabulary builders. We have that in common! I told you, I get daily words sent to my e-mail! I also read a ton, and love highlighting words or phrases I’ve never heard. After this morning’s exam though - I’m thinking I need to start re-learning basic math! Lol!
 
But I love words and language!
There are only so many hours in the day! We have calculators now! Leave me alone math! 
I definitely can see how I would not seem shy. I’m often told I’m imposing from the outside. I am not really shy in terms of friendship or speaking up. I’m shy romantically and with men. After my first relationship I cut a large group of guys out of my life. And I didn’t have very much trust in men, especially not heteronormative type “dudes.” So I went into feminist studies and spent time with a lot of women and lesbians and queer-identified folks of all kinds, and it was a safe space for me, away from heteronormativity.

When I finished university I had no idea what to do with myself. I wrote an undergraduate thesis my last year, and I knew I didn’t want to go back to school to get a Masters degree - but I also had no idea what to do with myself for work. So, I went back to technical school to get a degree in graphic design, something applied. A trade. I was 25 at the time. It was a rough decision to make, going back to junior college where kids would be much younger. But I did. All of a sudden I wasn’t in classes with 30 kids, some of which were born in the 90’s. I couldn’t get over that. One kid, who I would eventually be friends with, was 17. He was a tiny baby to me. It was hard on my ego.

I eventually became friends with two guys, one was from the East Coast of Canada, from New Brunswick, so he didn’t speak any French. The other was a local guy from the country. We would sit at a table together and tell jokes and laugh until we cried. They’re too really good, nice guys. V had a girlfriend, and was close to his sister and one of his best friends was a girl. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something special about guys who aren’t afraid of women. Guys who don’t instinctively sexualize them. This was a guy with a lot of girls and women in his life and he knew them and loved them and we could become friends without it being weird. Then, with M, he was also very sweet, and had a hometown vibe to him. We took the subway together once and he asked me to step back from the subway track because it made him uncomfortable, my standing so close. He said it with such earnest sentiment, and so sweetly it took me back… Who is this sweet guy who has this oddly simple chivalrous nature to him? It’s like he was from the 1950’s.

By the time the three year program was over, I told them both they were good friends of mine, and that they changed my relationship to hetero guys. Basically, before them, I had zero trust. It’s very hard for me, still, but they did something for me I really appreciate.

M moved back East, and V is now in Toronto. We keep in touch though, and V and I are still good buddies.

It’s hard being attracted to heterosexual guys when most of them are so awful. Lol.

I really appreciated your saying not to be too hard on myself about my positivity level. The fact is, it’s a hard thing to change, but I have been getting better, as I continue to grow. I get what you’re saying about your own positivity and your own environment. You’re right, you are in a very mentally crippling place, and you must often need to be your own light, your own strength. A lot of what you say, can apply to most of us. I mean, we live in this world through our own mindsets.

I don’t know what it is to be imprisoned. My experiences with confinement are more akin to surviving a bad depressive episode and knowing to just “stick it out.” It’s an odd sensation, feeling your own mind is out to destroy you. Your positivity is of the utmost power. You can achieve and project great things. And no doubt, it affects those who come in contact with you.

I know when I’m kind, and open, and have a good day, I can feel certain interactions and the flow of positivity.

I do find it helpful to laugh and be kind, and then see funny things and kindness in others.
 
Being able to laugh at things, and enjoy little bits of sweetness helps. There are these things around us too.

Your letter mentioned you laughing when you saw the Trump illustration I did. That made me happy! I wasn’t sure what you’d think of it! I’m happy you laughed! When I went to a protest here with it a lot of people took pictures of it.

I’m happy my question about self-expression made you think! Our letters to each other are no doubt a means of self-expression! Sometimes learning what we like and what feeds us is a journey in itself!

Like I said earlier, I love language and books - but I’m shit at math! So math isn’t it!

I always enjoy receiving your letters Michael! And I’m happy that as we get to know one another and share information, stories and ideas, we’re developing a short-hand.

The last thing you mentioned in your letter was the shooting at a mosque here in Québec City. It’s been big news here, rightfully so. Québec City is about 2 hours away from Montreal. It’s our capital city. It happened on a Sunday night, and on Monday at work people were inconsolable. Gun violence is rare in Canada in general. Hate crimes are rare. A mass shooting is practically unheard of.

Quebec as a province had a mass shooting here in 1989 referred to as “the Montreal massacre.” We have a world-class engineering school, and that engineering school had started letting in, and promoting the education of young women. A guy, who didn’t get it, and then projected that onto women and feminists, went to that school, separated the women from the men, and shot 28 people. He killed 14 women, which he targeted specifically.

This shooting in Québec, is the biggest shooting we’ve had since. Six people died, and 28 were injured. It makes me really angry because some American coverage (the fake-news type shitty blogs and twitter) were saying it was a Muslim-on-Muslim crime - which it WAS NOT. The shooter was a racist, islamophobic pro-trump shithead who was known locally as someone who was racist and misogynist and had shitty opinions.

This was home-grown terrorism. Similar to the church shooting in the U.S - the Charleton Church shooting.

This is shitty, hateful, racist kids with hate in their hearts and only violence as a means to express themselves. These are kids who are white-supremacists and neo-nazis.

Quebec isn’t perfect. Canada isn’t perfect. Locally, there were marches and there was a big service open to the public to honour the victims of the mosque shooting. Québec City is reeling and they’re dealing with what’s going on there. Our prime minister and local community leaders called the shooting what it is - terrorism, so I’m happy we’re not dealing with white-supremacy openly from our state leaders, like you guys are in the U.S.

That same Québec City mosque was getting harassed locally for a while. Someone sent them a pig’s head and a pork cookbook - real racist shitty stuff.

There is racism and fear everywhere, it’s just been a brutal time since Trump was elected. It’s like these really shitty racist, douchey people feel entitled to be openly racist and shitty now. They’re emboldened.

I gotta go, I hope this letter finds you well! Sorry to end on such a bummer note.
 
Best, 
K.

I've edited it slightly, but there's a lot here. It fills you in on the last few weeks.

I really enjoy writing letters. There's something intrinsically literary about it, and I just think communicating with someone else in such a considered way is beautiful and artful.

Should I include more of my letters to Michael here?

Black Parents Explain How to Deal with the Police.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Alain de Botton on "good communicators."

De Botton writes:
What makes people good communicators is, in essence, an ability not to be fazed by the more problematic or offbeat aspects of their own characters. They can contemplate their anger, their sexuality, and their unpopular, awkward, or unfashionable opinions without losing confidence or collapsing into self-disgust. They can speak clearly because they have managed to develop a priceless sense of their own acceptability. They like themselves well enough to believe that they are worthy of, and can win, the goodwill of others if only they have the wherewithal to present themselves with the right degree of patience and imagination.
Quotes from an interview with him over on Brain Pickings.

Ultimately what he's referring to is the ability to be open and vulnerable. In approaching someone from an honest space, you're able to receive and communicate in a way that's willing to exchange and adapt. Are you coming to me to engage?

It takes a lot of energy to engage someone in a meaningful way. I'm not always ready for it. I don't always have the energy or the attention span. It can be difficult to remain present and alert to a conversation when your own mind wanders. 

There's rarely a fully open conversation, in that we censor ourselves. We wonder what to say or how to say it, we struggle for the language. We can't always find the words. Thoughts trigger other thoughts and memories, we scan our own experiences for relevance - it's easy to fall down a well when trying to find something pertinent to say.

Being able to approach someone in a calm, stable way involves a lot of self-assuredness, and it also take courage to engage the world. The days, things are so rough politically / in local culture, being present and open and vulnerable is a big ask. We can't be on all the time.

I'm generally pretty confident in my ability to communicate - but when the energy is there.

That's the rub. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

More by @sosadtoday.

From her column on Vice:


Started from the Psych Meds, Now I’m Fucked

Well, the Effexor piece (the second one) is nice and depressing, since I know I have that to look forward to if ever I mess with my meds... I've experienced a day of 4-day withdrawals from a  high dose and I felt legit detached.

Her other piece is another good example of writing to describe depression.

If you like her pieces, read her book.