Taking My Meds

I take a lot of medicine. I’m on anatacids and anti-nausea medication and anti-anxiety pills as well. And on top of that, sometimes I use medical marijuana. Last night I decided to record the effects and process of smoking a bowl, one hit at a time.

Photo shows an orange transparent medicine bottle on its side with buds of marijuana spilling out.

Photo shows an orange transparent medicine bottle on its side with buds of marijuana spilling out.

  1. I start to relax in anticipation. It’s been about a week since I smoked, and I’m starting off with some anxiety and nausea, and pain in my shoulders at an 8 on the pain scale.
  2. I start to breathe slower. Anxiety makes my heart race and my breathing shallow and rapid. Getting my body back to stasis helps my mind get there too.
  3. It’s time to start the first of a series of stretches. Cold weather like we’re having right now can cause my muscles to freeze up, so stretching is more important yet harder to do.
  4. As I stretch, I can feel the pain in my shoulders more, but I can also feel blood flowing where it needs to.
  5. I’m beginning to feel calm. At this point, I take a ten minute break to sit comfortably while I determine if I need more.
  6. The knots in my shoulders begin to loosen. Nausea disappears. Pain level is down to a 7.
  7. My heart rate is closer to normal. The muscles I didn’t realize I was clenching in my face begin to relax.
  8. It’s starting to become easier to stretch.
  9. I feel a sense of calm. When a neighbor’s dog barks, it doesn’t produce a startle response in me.
  10. I’m starting to yawn now. My racing thoughts are slowing down. Time for another break.
  11. My mood is pleasant, but my pain level is still at a 6. My neck is still too stiff to turn it all the way in either direction.
  12. My automatic breathing is deeper and slower. I get a satisfying vertabrae pop while stretching.
  13. I laughed at a joke on TV, instead of just thinking “That’s funny” inside my head. Spontaneous laughs and smiles are more common for me when I feel good.
  14. I can turn my neck all the way, but it hurts to do so.
  15. Pain at 5. Still unpleasant, and neck still feels very stiff. The bowl is empty.

Marijuana isn’t a magic cure, and sometimes it takes more than one bowl to bring pain levels down to acceptable levels. Sometimes one is enough. The particular strain I was using last night, Great White Shark, made me incredibly sleepy. I went to bed at 8 pm, despite the pain, and slept solidly until 6 o’clock this morning. I call that a win.

Religious Cosplay

Every few months, a never-Muslim western woman will don a hijab for a day, ostensibly to see what life is like for Muslim hijab-wearing women, and often to turn this into a blog post or paid article. Meanwhile, every single day, Muslim and ex-Muslim women are writing and speaking about life as a hijabi, and what the hijab means to them. Guess which gets more attention?

Image from Ruba Zai's hijabi fashion and beauty YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/hijabhills

Image from Ruba Zai’s hijabi fashion and beauty YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/hijabhills

We tend to listen to privileged people over the disadvantaged in most facets of life. In America, Muslim women don’t have religious or gender privilege, so we are really unlikely to listen to them. But we should, not just because that would be fair, but because they are the ones who actually know what it’s like to be a Muslim woman. Wearing a hijab for a day and then taking it off again doesn’t give one that experience or depth of knowledge.

If putting on a head scarf holds no meaning for you, if it’s not important to your faith or your family or your community, then it’s just dress-up. It won’t tell you what it’s like to value your hijab or to hate it and be coerced to wear it anyway.

I can’t actually walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I cannot know the internal, spiritual experience of a Muslim woman by covering my hair. I can’t know the quiet dedication of a nun’s monastic life by throwing on a whimple. I can’t know what it is to be a business man by putting on a suit and tie.

Lives are full and complex and messy. And they are never just clothes or just outsider reactions to clothes. I was a devout Christian drug-using slut all at once for a part of my life. No outfit can give someone else that experience or what it felt like – the intoxicating mixture of self-hatred and self-medication, the pain and shame of confessing my sins to the god I believed in and believed I had let down.

Clothes are an expression – of individual preference, of group affiliation, of religious devotion. But putting on the clothes does not give us insight. It does not make us wise. It does not let us know what it is to live as another person, a different person. Muslim and ex-Muslim women have special knowledge about hijab that never-Muslim women playing dress-up lack. They know what it is to pray five times a day, or to skip prayer and feel guilt over it, or to pray resentfully while wishing they were somewhere else. They know what it is to wake up as a Muslim woman, go to bed as a Muslim woman, and wake up as a Muslim woman again. This is no short-term, poorly controlled “experiment”. These are lives, full of complication and mess and wisdom. These are the women we should be listening to.

What I Want

I’m not dating anyone right now, for a lot of logistical reasons. I don’t have a reliable babysitter, a car, or cute clothes at this juncture, so I’m holding off. But when I do get back into dating, I have a lot of thoughts about what I want that to look like.

I want to date women. I identified as bisexual from the age of fifteen to thirty-one, but almost everyone I dated in that time was a boy or man. I haven’t been on a date with a woman in a decade, since before I married the father of my ten-year-old child. I feel a lot of regret for wasting my cute 20s on people inherently mismatched for me, and I don’t want to waste any more time on men. I want to date and touch and love women.

I want to be non-monogamous. I’ve given monogamy a fair shake. Every relationship I tried was ostensibly monogamous, though I’ve both cheated and been cheated on. I don’t want another adult to rely on me the way partners sometimes rely on each other. I don’t have that much to give. Between my disabilities and my son, I want to keep my focus on my family of two. I can’t be someone’s everything, and I don’t want to feel like I’m asking someone to settle for less than what they need. I want to date women who have girlfriends they go home to.

I want to date for the sake of dating. I’m not interested in boarding the relationship escalator. I don’t want dating that’s a means to an end. I want to date because I like dating. I love the excitement of meeting someone new and getting to know them. I like going out to eat and dressing up and taking more care in my appearance than I usually get to, as a stay-at-home parent. I like spending concentrated time with just one other person, connecting and sharing stories. I like dating.

I want to try something new. I’ve done monogamy and interdependent (and codependent) dating and I spent four and a half years with a man who didn’t take me on a single date in all that time. I want to have fun. I want to laugh and dance and eat and see new movies. I want to touch and be touched, love and be loved. But above all, I want to be free.

I want to go home at the end of the day, responsible only for myself and my son. I want to sleep in my bed alone, luxuriating in the extra space. I want to be able to have bad days, where I’m emotionally distant and not available for dispensing comfort or solace. I want to date women who don’t need me. I want to date women who want me.

Fiction Installment #2

The latest installment of my fiction serial on a young woman living in a cult. You can read the Intro and the first installment here and here.

color phootgraph of a large Oak tree over green grass.

color phootgraph of a large Oak tree over green grass.

Anna sat in the passenger’s seat of Joanna’s truck as they made their way to the Minister’s house. “And what about the Millers?” Joanna prompted her.

“James and Hanna Miller were founding members of the community. They had three pregnancies, two live births and one still born. The daughter Rachel did of fever as a baby. The son Isaiah wed Naomi. She had four babes, two who survived.”

Anna recited the family tree and the history of their births as the truck bounced down the bumpy dirt road.

“… and their daughter Mary wed Caleb and now they have four children, all born healthy,” she concluded.

“Almost,” Joanna replied. “You forgot about Mary’s sister who died of the cot death, but otherwise you did well child.”

They had reached the front gate. Anna hopped down out of the truck to open it, then close it once Joanna had passed through. She climbed back in. As Joanna drove up to the house, Anna looked around. The minister’s house was a beautiful property, with huge oak trees beside a lake. The house itself was the largest in town, with three bedrooms for the family, an office for the minister, and a front room for meetings. Currently chairs ringed the parlor, waiting for the next men’s Bible study meeting.

Micah Sheppard had been the minister and spiritual leader of their community since before Anna was born. Even Joanna had trouble remembering when his father Lucas had been minister before him. Micah’s wife Lisette ushered them in and led them upstairs to where Micah lay in bed.

“Minister, how are you today?” Joanna asked, while holding his hand between hers.

“I have felt better before,” he admitted with a playful smile. “And how is my Joanna?”

As Joanna chatted with him, she took his temperature and pulse while Anna unpacked the bag of herbs and supplies they had brought with them. Micah traded stories of community members with Joanna as she worked, and they laughed together.

Anna prepared a soothing tincture for the minister, with herbs to combat fever and induce sleep. Joanna supervised his drinking of it, then lingered by his bedside until he drifted to sleep. “I will miss you, Micah” she whispered, before kissing his hand and rising to go.

The ride back was quiet. Anna was prepared for more quizzing on family trees, or more lessons on midwifery. But Joanna merely pursed her lips and said, “He’s dying.”

Anti-Choice Terrorism

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Thousand Oaks (Los Angeles) was the target of an arson attack this week. This is the second time the particular clinic has been vandalized within the past six weeks. Someone broke a window, poured gasoline inside, and lit it. Thanks to an emergency sprinkler system, there was minimal damage to the clinic. The attack took place at around 11:30 pm and no one was inside at the time.

Setting a clinic ablaze in the middle of the night when no one is there is still terrorism. Whoever set the fire knew this was not the first arson attack, not the first clinic bombing, not the first murder of a doctor. This single act didn’t need bloodshed of its own to evoke past events and remind clinic workers of the risks they face.

The first clinic arson attack was in 1976 and the first bombing of a clinic was in 1978. According to the most recently available research from the National Network of Abortion Funds (which doesn’t include this most recent attack), there have been 172 arson attacks since then, as well as 41 bombings, and 91 attempting bombings or arson attacks. In 2000, one fifth of all abortion clinics dealt with extraordinary violence and threats.

Eight people have been murdered due to anti-choice violence and terrorism, often after prolonged campaigns of harassment and intimidation. Dr. George Tiller was shot first in 1993, then murdered in his church in 2009. The entire time between shootings he was stalked, harassed, followed home from work, threatened. Everyone from Operation Rescue (the organization which inspired most of these murderers, arsonists, and bombers) to FOX News called him a “baby killer” and targeted intense scrutiny at him and his practice.

This is terrorism. The political attacks on Planned Parenthood are taking place in a country where terrorism against abortion providers and clinics has been going on for decades. And they know this. The people behind the deceptive videos “exposing” Planned Parenthood know this. The politicians fanning the flames of the anti-choice discourse know this. The arsonist who lit a fire in the Thousand Oaks clinic knows this.

I have to conclude that terrorism is the point. That members of Congress and presidential candidates want terrorists on their side, want them committing acts of violence, want them threatening clinic workers and patients. And as much as I hate to admit it, that really does terrify me.

Disabled Children and Privacy

Parents have an incredible amount of rights over our children and how they are raised in the US. We have access to more private information about our young children than anyone else, and we aren’t legally compelled to keep their medical history secret. So no one is going to make us treat our kids with respect, and no one is going to make us keep their medical data private. We have to choose that.

But I think we should. We live in an ableist world where symptoms of disabilities are often stigmatized and mocked. Bathroom difficulties are high on the list of shameful or scornful challenges. All too often, I see parents of disabled children talking openly and publicly about their child’s difficulties with toilet use. While this kind of talk is fairly common among parents of toddlers of all ability levels, as kids age, most will grow out of toileting challenges, and those that don’t will generally have disabilities. When parents talk about their seven or eight year old child and describe their toilet accidents, they are jeopardizing their child’s future employment prospects.

The internet is forever, and it’s searchable. There are some things no one needs to know about your child. There are some things a few people need to know – like their doctors and school teachers. There are even fewer things that the whole world needs to know, or should know about your child. Future employers don’t need to know about your daughter’s meltdown when she was ten and had the flu. Potential future romantic partners don’t need to know that your son still had bladder control issues as a preteen.

While we aren’t bound by law to protect our children’s privacy, in particular their medical privacy, we should be compelled by love for our children to do so. The next time you think about posting about a meltdown or a toilet mishap or whatever,ask yourself “Who needs to know this?” I’m open about my son being autistic. I don’t go into details about his struggles. I don’t want to bias anyone against him or encourage them to prejudge him or other autistic people based on his toughest moments.

We should encourage the world to love our children and accept them, not to fear them or see them as burdens. Make sure what you put out into the world affirms the rights of your child and adults with similar health conditions. If you really need to vent, if you simply must talk about the bad parts along with the good, do so privately. Call a friend. Write in your diary. Private message with someone who will understand and be supportive and still love your child at the end of the day. The whole world doesn’t need to know about all your children’s struggles, until your children are ready to share those themselves.

Not My Pope

Pope Francis visited the United States this month. I think of him as the Public Relations Pope, here to help distract everyone from the evils of the Vatican and how much his predecessor looked like Emperor Palpatine. He gets a lot of positive press for saying nice things about the poor and for addressing climate change in his discourse. But he’s still the head of the Catholic Church, and therefore still anti-choice, anti-queer, and anti-secular.

This pope doesn’t talk very much about abortion and same-sex marriage directly. He tends to obliquely refer to them in discussion of “the family” which he defines as “the fruitful covenant between a man and a woman.” However, if you don’t know that’s his specific definition, his statements can sound much more ecumenical and accepting than they really are. One of the Pope’s stops on his USA tour was Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic pro-life event celebrating heterosexual child-bearing families. While there, Pope Francis had this to say:

All of the love that God has in himself, all the beauty that he has in himself, he gives it to the family. And the family is really family when it is able to open its arms and receive all that love.

Having “open arms” in this case means being open to becoming pregnant and carrying any pregnancy to term. It doesn’t mean loving your neighbor or donating to the food pantry. It means being fertile and open to the possibility of having children. A Catholic family using birth control (like virtually all Catholic women in the US do) is not satisfying this definition of family, nor is a same-sex married couple with numerous foster children.

The Catholic Church has lost countless members over the past few years, as the prevalence of clerical sex abuse became known, as the potentially fatal consequences of Vatican positions and Catholic hospital policy on pregnancy treatment came to light with the death of Savita Halapanavar, and as the youth of the world becomes more accepting of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and (to a lesser extent) transgender people. Pope Francis does not talk about these issues much, and has advised other priests and bishops to talk about them less. But that does not indicate a shift in position, only a shift in public relations.

In his speech on religious liberty, Pope Francis praised people of all faiths for “defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages” – a clear reference to the Catholic belief in prenatal personhood and the immorality of all abortion. He referred to ours as “a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square” which, if you’re listening closely, suggests that the Pope believes religion (namely Catholicism) does have a right to a voice in the public square. And the voice of Catholicism in public has always meant the legislation of Catholic policy as secular law.

Speaking before Congress, Pope Francis had the following to say:

How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

The threats to family the Pope hints at are, of course, reproductive rights and non-heterosexuality. The people calling into question the very basis of marriage are queers. The richness and beauty of our family life is not what the Pope seeks to find, and our fundamental relationships are being framed as threats to marriage to family, rather than expansions of them to encompass more people.

At the end of the day, he’s not my pope. He may have some nice things to say about economic inequality or global warming, but that doesn’t erase his otherwise conservative views or the history of complicity in global inequality, global warming, and global poverty of the Catholic Church. If you want to take the good with the bad, go right ahead. Just please don’t mistake his gentler tone for a change of church position. The Vatican is still anti-choice. The Vatican is still anti-birth control. The Vatican still shelters rapist priests and prevents them from being brought to justice. He’s a lot easier to listen to than the last pope, but their beliefs are the same.