Spent the weekend in Canton, Michigan. I wasn’t feeling that well but still managed to take the dog for a two mile walk, goy a few good pictures with my iPhone, edited some with the PicsArt app. Now I’m back home in Grand Rapids cuddling with my cat on the couch. #Sundayfunday
“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.
Traditional Native American saying”
Once a month I scour Instagram for relatable posts on #periodproblems. Mostly I’m looking for memes that portray perfectly just how much pain I’m in from cramps or relatable content on mood swings and the absurd amount of blood that comes out of me when I sneeze. I don’t shy away from posting about my period either. It acts as a way to engage with every female friend who is feeling the same sort of way, it’s a way to talk about periods which I think is one of the greatest things about being a girl (being able to talk about them, not actually having a period) and maybe it’s a warning shot put out in to the universe that my boyfriend will stumble across before he decides to jokingly crack open my last Diet Coke open and start chugging (real story, just happened this morning, still salty). And just the other day, because of the birth control I’m on, my period happens whenever the fuck it feels like it; so I used Instagram to figure out the last time I posted a meme about cramps or PMS cravings. #Instagramismyperiodtracker.
One of the more surprising things I found on #periodproblems is women feeling empowered by their periods. If I had to make a list of ways I felt during my period, the list would include irritable, uncomfortable, depressed, angry, anxious, inconvenienced and hungry. Nowhere on my list would be the word empowered. And it’s not just the Anything you can do, I can do bleeding type of empowerment, or the Diva Cup, reusable pads and fuck the tampon luxury tax empowerment, which I support 100%. It’s the type of I’ve never felt more like a woman than when I’m bleeding empowerment. Which I get on a surface level because only women bleed (save trans-men), but how do you look past the agony of everything that comes with your period? The week before you start your period, PMS: the uncomfortable bloating, cystic acne and the depression that leaves you wondering if you are worthy of love, if you are worthy of living; the insomnia, the black hole that is your appetite, being so sensitive that you can’t take a joke or watch a video with puppies in it. Diarrhea, nausea, then you start your period and you’ve got the crippling pain, the temper, the impatience, the heaviness of expectations from everyone in your life, or from the universe in general.
This past Saturday, the second day of my period, I was working by myself in the office hoping the phone didn’t ring too much and that only a few people came in that day so I could have some peace and quiet. I’d already somehow bled through my Diva Cup, had to take it out and readjust it twice to poop and I wanted to slather my body in roast beef from Arby’s to quell my period induced gluttony. My feet hurt, my back hurt but mostly it was quiet until the end of the day. The phone kept ringing back to back with people wanting something from me, it’s always people wanting something from me. Someone had come into the office saying she’d been misled and lied to, her attorney told her so, there was nothing I could do. She made me promise not to tell anyone she’d talked to her attorney. I bit my tongue, wanting to assure her that I was definitely going to tell someone she’d talked to her attorney and if she’d like to stop this conversation right now, I’d be fine with that. But instead, I just smiled, nodded and listened to her for 45 minutes of scattered conversations mostly with herself until she remembered she had food cooking on the stove at home and she needed to leave. I had been researching my #periodproblems earlier and really trying to reflect on what it meant to feel like this was a magical time of the month for me. I started to take note of how I felt at any given moment.
In the 6 hours I worked, I thought about telling an innocent person to fuck off more than once. I wanted to throw a temper tantrum every time the phone rang and when the front door swung open, the weather strip sliding loudly across the vinyl floor, I wanted to drop dead as to avoid whatever or whomever was walking into the office. When the woman, lied to and misled, parked in our handicap parking spot out front I felt a part of me die in order to handle not crying as soon as she said Hi Brooke! And that’s when I realized if I had been a man my day would have been a lot different. I may not have been able to keep my job but I assure you if I told my boyfriend how I was feeling or if I told him about any one of the million annoying things that had happened during the day he’d react the way I wished I could of. He’d huff and puff, saying “Fuck that” or “You should have told them to fuck off!” My man is loyal in the way that he takes my anger and he feels it. Whereas I am forced to throw flowers on top of my anger, confuse my mind with the smell of roses and be considerate. That’s when I realized, I feel more like a man when I start my period than an empowered female. I had the temper of a man not worried about offending anyone or seeming too brash, I had the patience of a man who is so used to getting everything he wants without considering anyone else, I had the anger of a man who could afford to be angry because society had only ever told him to be angry. I had the unpredictability of a man who felt all of the worlds expectations constantly on his shoulders.
It was a revelation, this idea that I felt more masculine during my period than any other time of the month. Female empowerment, what the fuck are they talking about? When I am a man, mother nature makes me bleed to remind me of this curse of being a woman. I bleed to be reminded that I have to control my feelings, my emotions even in a time of no bodily control. That is my worldly expectation as a woman.
Is that a curse though? Maybe female empowerment is carrying around angry masculinity in your chest and still being able to take a deep breath and exhale the scent of the feminine divine. Female empowerment is the ability to bite your tongue, taste the metal tang of blood and still smile while being considerate of someone else’s time. We harness the ability to be angry, to smite those who smite us and yet, we don’t allow that anger to turn us into something we are not. Instead, we use that anger to understand our bodies, to understand the chemical changes in our head, our heart, our cervix and we turn it into a lesson. That without this female empowerment, this magical elixir of beauty and contained rage, we would not be able to speak in a poetic way that true masculinity can not interpret. We do not lose our cool and when we do, we apologize. We do not tell someone to fuck off because our femininity gives us better control of our tongues and more fear of the consequences. When we lose control of our body due to menstruation, we do not allow our mind to go as well. We do not allow our manners to slip, we do not allow our bodily functions to dictate the outcome of our true heart. We are females and even at our most masculine, we plant flowers and sit patiently while our sod is trampled and then we fucking bloom.
I’ve always been a reader. Neither of my parents were avid readers but growing up my grandma always had a novel in her hand and I was always picking through her bookcases. Something must have stuck because if there’s one thing I know for sure about myself it’s that I’m a reader, always have been, always will be.
Have you heard of The Great American Read series on PBS? They voted and curated a list of America’s 100 best loved novels.
I’ve read 22/100.
How many have you read out of the 100?
PBS The Great American Read List
List organized by highest ranking votes
1. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
23. The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett
24. The Stand Stephen King
It’s funny how I didn’t start to appreciate sun rises and sunsets, fall colors, spring warmth even the first snow fall of the winter until I was older. It’s probably a part of getting old but the first thing I do when I’m starting to feel emotionally under the weather is to find beauty in everything, in everyone and everywhere.
I tried not to take the quick trip along the nature trail behind my apartment complex we made last week for granted. Because maybe the appreciation for nature comes along with the knowledge that we will not outlast it.
I had an epiphany last night and I want to speak some things in to the universe.
First and foremost, I was reading an article on how to sell your photography skills online without using social media. A few months ago I not only wrote a blog post about how I was giving up social media but at the same exact time that I said that, I created a second Instagram account for my photography. James had bought a Nikon last year and it hadn’t been used much, it was at risk of being sold. I had to do something. My Instagram was my motivation. In a month’s time-span I have 100 follows and average 20-25 likes on every picture. It’s exciting and it’s been motivating me to take my camera everywhere but it’s holding me back from the intention that was set with the camera, which was to hone in on my photography skills and book some paying shoots. Instead of quitting social media, my iPhone tells me I spend 15 hours a week on Instagram. I’d justify the 15 hours as research, as I spend a lot of time checking out other photography pages and mostly comparing myself to them and wondering how they got that perfect shot, before realizing it was probably made in Photoshop. I also do a lot of research for future projects that don’t involve my camera, like painting or wood-burning, or figuring out how people can stand the stickiness of vinyl long enough to use their Cricut more than once every other month. The problem is, I never spend any of those 15 hours actually doing the projects. I have stacks of vinyl, even more stacks of wood planks, a wood-burning kit, an unopened Dremel, an unopened pack of watercolors and brand new paint brushes but instead I just browse Instagram wondering how to do the things I need to do without actually doing those things.
Back to the article I read, the writer was discussing how to market your business without depending on random likes on Instagram based on random hashtags, although the outreach is much further on social media, the return isn’t really genuine. I can attest to spending a lot of time throughout the day scrolling and mindlessly liking pictures on Instagram and hardly ever clicking on a link to a store or a blog to read further. (Although the other day I was walking around downtown Grand Rapids and saw an art piece at the Kendall Art School that was done by an artist I followed on Instagram. It was a little exciting.) In the article, the writer mentioned creating a blog as a portfolio for your photography and then updating your blog as often as you update your Instagram. What. A. concept. I can update Instagram at least once a day and be amazed that in such a short period of time, I have 100 followers. But I update my blog once every month and wonder why I have 7.5 followers. So what’s the difference?
Well, first and foremost, it’s pretty easy to keep yourself removed from a photography Instagram page that just has pictures you’ve taken and a bunch of cheap hashtags from an autohashtag website. No one really knows what you were thinking when you took that picture, who you were with and why, where you were and why. They especially don’t know that you’re nervous as fuck to post that picture or you’re insecure that your pictures really aren’t that great and this is all you’re going to be, a seemingly fake Instagram account, except your pictures are shitty not ripped off from other, better Instagram accounts. On my photography Instagram I haven’t even posted a picture of myself, the anonymity is great. It’s different with writing because if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it for attention. I’m going to be called a great writer, I’m going to get feedback and followers, I’m going to be considered a voice. But that’s not easy to do, at all, so sometimes it’s just best that I avoid it all together. Why even start, when I’d have to put so much into it to be successful and there’s so much laundry to do or I could go yell at my boyfriend to take out the trash. And I have to walk the dog, I should be working out, I wonder what’s new on Netflix since it’s already so late, I can’t start a new project tonight and why am I only motivated to really write while I’m at work. On a conscious-level, the thought of putting as much effort in to keeping this blog alive is torture. I could delete my Instagram photography page and feel nothing, no shame at all. But to fail again at keeping a blog, it’s embarrassing, it’s soul crushing. Which is what tells me, it’ll really be worth it.
And that’s why I’m going to do it.
Mark my words.
This is an anecdote, completely pointless except to point out that it is impossible to be a human being in this world.
First and foremost, it’s telling that I titled this ‘Brett Kavanaugh’ instead of Christine Balsey Ford. I did it because I figured more people would search for a monster, than a female. Even I’m guilty of it this morning, searching for the live feed of the testimonies I searched his name knowing it would lead me directly to the show.
I watched but I mostly read about the situation, looking for someone else’s perspective to ensure that I was of the left mind. Either side, left or wrong, I think for both parties they had an impossible task today. They stood in front of the masses, through every social media and news resource and tried to defend themselves the right way. Much of the articles written after or during the testimonies mostly focused on the demeanor of both people, Kavanaugh & Ford. Ford was very demure, very steady and strong. Kavanaugh came out loud, aggressive, emotions swinging. But what options did they really have?
Ford, being a female was expected to be the emotional one. You’d think, the woman who was gang raped, even if it was almost 36 years ago; would be the one yelling for justice, crying in anger, defending herself in sadness and determination. And I believe she’d be completely justified if she did act that way. But she couldn’t do that, if she had, the most prominent voices would have pointed out that she was irrational. She’d forfeit any credibility for not keeping her emotions in check, she’d be deemed unstable. It’d be a loss for females everywhere. So her next option is to act as she did, very stoic and controlled. She was authentic and honest, worthy of trust and credibility, believable. Even with her togetherness, some accused her of being a pawn in a game of politics. If this had really happened, why was she so calm, why now, why didn’t she call the cops 36 years ago. If this really was so traumatic, why is she just now bringing it up before he’s brought into the Supreme Court, who is she helping; the conspiracy theories are endless. Because Ford gave her testimony first, if she hadn’t had the calm and credible demeanor she had today, that would have been a win for Kavanaugh. He would have brought up her instability for his defense. But Ford stayed calm, that is why Kavanaugh had to play his emotional defense.
Kavanaugh led with a fierce lack of apathy for victims who have previously been steam rolled into silence. His words, his tears, his anger — his gavel, he was ruling in his favor from the get go. A show was put on to make you stop thinking about how credible, how cool, calm and collected Ford had been in the face of a life altering moment recanted. But what choice did he have? If Kavanaugh were not-guilty, you’d think he’d have the right to stand up for his testimony in a calm and probably offensively passive manner. He could stand up and recount his night, deny the happenings of a gang bang, calmly explain he truly is, for real, seriously a good guy, the he was being targeted. He could give it the ole college try but we would have torn him apart. Where we would have written off Ford for being overly emotional, we would have written off Kavanaugh for being so blasé. Guilty or not, Kavanaugh had no choice but to act as the over emotional one in this situation, the one who has so much of a reputation to lose with a rape allegation from 36 years ago, the tears, the rage, the 10 year old daughter as a character reference; all to make you believe he isn’t guilty. Even if some called him out for his privileged white male anger.
Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation for both Ford & Kavanaugh. I have no solution or any insight in to how to handle situations like these because the contradiction happen so often. Ford & Kavanaugh were both faced with the impossible task of being a human, a person in the world where there can’t possibly be a right or wrong. We’re all acting in a play for each other. We all live up to an invisible audiences expectations and we lose anyway. We get gang raped by a college hunk, we get gang raped by gas prices, our doctors, cost of living, the economy, our government, taxes. We get gang raped by every person with a voice and at least one ear to scream into.
She sat up straight in the old chair, covered in stained fabric. It was the kind of chair you’d find in a doctor’s waiting room with hard wooden arms her flesh stuck to. Maybe she was getting sick, she thought. Her skin was warm and the room was cold, lacking any air circulation. Aside from a dusty, fake tree in the corner, the chairs and the mahogany desk they sat in front of, the only other form of decoration was a small plaque on wall recognizing the #1 salesman Ed Lincoln at Lincoln & Hughes Funeral Home. The walls were a faded yellow color, the desk had an old version of a stereotypical office phone and a few business cards for the funeral home and local priests on it. She tucked her arms into her lap, feeling the chill now, her left leg bounced quickly as she waited for Ed Lincoln to come back into the room.
Paul sat back in the chair comfortably, legs spread out, one hand picking at the fuzz on his jeans, the other across the back of her chair. He hadn’t even considered the comfort he could have offered to his wife in that moment, instead he kept looking at the clock on his phone, even scrolling through emails, wondering how long this would take.
“Claire…” he whispered, even though they were alone. She blinked, but didn’t look towards him, “Hey Claire.” he repeated.
She slowly turned her head, feeling a tsunami like wave of exhaustion hit her as she made eye contact.
“How long do you think this is going to take?” he asked.
Claire looked away from her husband, cleared her throat to fight off tears, “I don’t know.”
“Ok,” he kept going, “It’s just, I want to get home, get the grass cut.”
She was wringing one hand in another letting her nails dig into her skin a little bit. She thought she might have to plan two funerals if Paul was to keep talking. How could her husband be so unfazed, so inconvenienced by her mother’s death. Had he always lacked empathy, was this something she had missed or worse, chose to accept years ago when they’d met. As this dialogue played out in her head she could hear Paul cracking his knuckles, snorting back what drained from his sinuses, adjusting his ass in the chair, and chuckling at some joke in his head. Her mother was dead and the only word repeating in her head was divorce, divorce, divorce.
Ed, the salesman walked in, “Sorry to keep you waiting.” He held a binder in his arms, he set it down gently on the desk in front of Claire and Paul and sat down in an office chair that squealed loudly enough to make his eyes open in mild shock. Claire almost laughed out loud, but she couldn’t. “Now, we have this book you can look through. If you’ve decided to cremate, these are rental prices. We can order any casket that we don’t currently have in stock, we can also customize caskets and if you’d prefer to see them in person, we have a back room I can take you to. But…” he paused, shuffling through a few pages in the binder, “We understand that can be a little overwhelming. And we do have payment plans. So please, look through, let me know if you have any questions.” He pushed the binder towards them and before Claire could touch the first page, Paul was talking again. She held her breath.
“What’s the cheapest?” Paul asked.
“Oh, sure we have a budget section right here.” the salesman reached across the table to flip a few sections of the binder. “You’ll see right here they start at …”
Paul interrupted the man, “No, I mean the cheapest. I did some research, you have cardboard caskets right?”
Claire just stared at the salesman, willing an apology from her eyes as her heart pounded in her throat, making her incapable of speaking.
“Oh…” the salesman was shocked but trying to be polite, avoiding eye contact with Claire, “We don’t have cardboard but we do have some more inexpensive, eco friendly options. Such as these wicker caskets right here.”
“A thousand dollars,” Paul exaggerated his mild sticker shock, “I mean, she killed herself. We’re not exactly trying to celebrate a meaningful person here. What other options are there?”
Claire maintained her posture, she didn’t even flinch at his disrespect, divorce, divorce, divorce.
The salesman looked at Paul for a second too long, Paul laughed, “Come on, there has to be something cheaper right? What can we get for a couple hundred dollars?” Paul was leaning forward in his chair now, wheeling and fucking dealing Claire’s mother’s funeral.
The salesman shifted his eyes to Claire, “Miss… excuse me, this was your mother correct?”
Claire took a deep breath, “Yes, she was.”
“Ok, I’m her husband. And the only one working right now, might I add.” Paul almost shouted.
The salesman didn’t break eye contact with Claire, “Did you ever have a discussion with your mom about what she may have wanted done with her body after she passed?” he asked kindly, not paying any attention to Paul.
“Woah, hold on. She gave up any right to an opinion the minute she pulled that trigger.” Paul sat up straight, his hands held up in mock surrender as if he hadn’t made up that rule right then and there.
Claire’s chest swelled, divorce, divorce, divorce.
“Ok, I apologize sir. We do not have any price options that are below $1000. One thing I have heard of other people doing is purchasing caskets online. There you’ll find other options such as cardboard, wicker, hemp, pine and even cloth.” He coughed a little, obviously struggling with the idea of a cloth coffin.
“Cloth. Holy shit. Now that’s fucked up, right Claire.” He laughed, slapping her leg with the back of his hand. “I mean why not just bury her in the body bag, right? How much for the plastic that covers her in the morgue?” He was laughing, proud of himself.
The salesman was less than amused, he looked over at Claire and tried to salvage the moment, “Miss, I’m very sorry to hear about your mother. As I said before, the cardboard caskets are not only cost efficient but they are very Eco-friendly. They are 100% biodegradable and 100% combustible, if you decide to cremate. To be frank, if you decide on cremation, if you were to purchase a rental casket through the funeral home, we would have to remove your mother from the casket in order to cremate her. With a cardboard, or pine casket for instance, she doesn’t have to be removed at all. The wood makes for clean ashes, as well.”
Claire cringed through the sales pitch, but she felt bad for the salesmen and she was sure her facial expressions made that clear.
“Oh shit,” Paul muttered, “Why are we even here… I mean no offense but I’m a carpenter. I bet I could put together a plywood casket for her, easy.” He looked over at Claire, waiting to be showered with praise. “Right babe, I could do that.”
Claire managed to give a gentle, barely there smile, closing her eyes and hoping to open them to a different point in her life. Either one before her mom was dead or one after this funeral mess had been taken care of. One where she was divorced.
“Is there any additional charge if we use our own casket?” Claire asked.
“Oh, good question babe.” Paul smiled, pleased with her seeming agreement with his ability to craft a box for her mother’s wasted body.
The salesmen looked at Paul, a flick of disgust crossed his face, then back to Claire. “No ma’am, there is not an extra fee.” He was speaking softly with kindness in his voice, Claire was relieved, “If you are going to cremate your mother there is a rule enforced by the FTC that states a funeral home cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online, at a local store, or anywhere else. We cannot charge you a fee either. And we cannot require you to be there when the casket or the urn is delivered to us, either. Now if you’re planning on burying her, you’ll need to check with the cemetery. I know the one across the street allows eco-friendly caskets, such as cardboard or pine but there is one south of town that does not.”
Claire nodded, “Thank you so much for your help. I really appreciate it.” She wasn’t entirely sure where she found the strength to speak but she stood up, smiled politely and walked out of the room, leaving the door open behind her.
Paul stood, “Yeah, thank you. We will let you know what we decide I guess.” He reached out to shake the salesman’s hand.
“Sir, there’s still the actual funeral to discuss and whether there will be a ceremony at the cemetery. Even if she is cremated, we still do this as a part of the viewing and funeral to offer some closure and solace to the family.” He shook Paul’s hand as he spoke.
Paul laughed, “I mean, the lady wasn’t right. She shot herself in the head. And you know the worst part, she didn’t even do it right…” He stared in the salesman’s eyes. “My wife Claire,” he gestured back towards the door with his closed fist and thumb, “She found her. Found her mom I mean, gun shot through the side of her face but still taking these shallow breaths. I used to be a cop, I can hear those shallow breaths, gurgling with the blood. How are you going to do that to your own daughter? She knew Claire was coming over that day. She knew she’d be the one to find her. She died a couple hours after they got her to the hospital, would have been a vegetable anyway, totally brain dead they said…” Paul looked around the room, “Oh well, better off without her anyway. You got a business card I can take with me?”