Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On being like Michael Jackson, part two

Sometimes all I want to do is shake my sweet thang.  I'm the sort of runner who awkwardly dances while running, I'm the sort of girl subtly keepin' a sick beat at the bus stop with a understated two-step and perceptible gyrations.  In the shower I belt out Les Miserables (and would be a walk-in for Eponine or basically any character if auditions were held in my shower), then jive to daft punk throughout my entire rushed morning.  I've got music veritably spilling out of me and I always have at least one soundtrack going on-- sometimes daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally.  If you knew me in the summer of 2010, I was basically always groovin' to "Dance Yrself Clean" by LCD SoundSystem as I limped/grooved/walked down the fresh sidewalks of Madison.  It becomes more than a soundtrack- more like a life style. All the lyrics become internalized, personal, meaningful.  This last week, my soundtrack has been "Foxy Lady"- which really puts the fox in my trot.  It also unfortunately has cast me as the aforementioned foxy lady.  Not sure where this particular song will lead me but based on my "Dance Yrself Clean" summer when I came into my own as a hair-flipping marvel on the dance floor with moves I didn't even know myself capable of- then watch out, and take cover, residents of South Saint Paul. 

I take a lot of inspiration from different sources.  MJ, himself.  From my roommate who has been known and witnessed to dance to MJ dance wii when into her cups, and who moreover has so amazingly mastered all of wii dances moves, that she should probably start charging people to watch her.  More groove per square inch than most people'll ever have.  I'm also inspired by my father who is well-renowned to put the "Ding!" in Wedding with his awe-inspiring crowd-drawing wedding reception dance moves, and has more than once, according to witnesses, ended in attempting splits ala' John Travolta. Admittedly, this propensity to be a serial wedding-solo-dance-marvel was confusing and sort of embarrassing when we'd hear reports from our friends at school such as, "Man, I heard your old man tore up the dance floor and brought down the house last weekend at so and so's wedding."  Hmmm.  Not sure how to take that as a 14 year old.  I hope I can appreciate it more, now. 

Anyway, I think dancing is the way I balance myself out.  It's like a necessary chemical reaction results in it.  This is all to say that I'd rather be dancing somewhere.

Other thoughts: It seems sorely inadequate to have 1 earth day a year.  It's like all other days are slotted for human-centered dominance and destruction. Every day should be earth day!!! We should love the earth every day and consider it as a factor in our decisions.  Using a reusable starbucks cup once a year-though admirable- should be more of a constant mindset.  As should carpooling!  We live in a nation of near-empty cars, where in other countries you don't leave unless you are over-capacity and are touching a goat.  We need to be more welcoming to inconvenience and to delayed gratification.  I hate writing all this, because it's soap-boxy and everyone knows all this but it's hard to change because it's so engrained in our culture.  I much prefer writing about dancing.  To make this easier:  So, the Earth is the belle of the ball, the prettiest damn girl at the dance with many eager partners waiting their turn.  Not just humans.  Also trees, goats, bears, flowers, wind, etc.  We wait in line to dance with Mother Earth and once it's our turn, we dance together with the earth, or we should, moving as a team, conscious of the other, trying not to step on feet.  Instead, something has gone terribly wrong.  While all the other flora and fauna continue to wait in line to dance with mother earth, the human species has gotten drunk on punch, has cut in to dance with earth, and now is grinding on her and fist-pumping.  Where's the love and balance in grinding?  It's just gross. 

We need to remember how to coexist in all ways, but not least, at the most elemental level.  We need to relearn how to be part of the earth- not apart from the earth.  We are, after all, just another grouping of weird animals that happens to currently live here.

to over-twerk the dance metaphor, I end with these words from "The Dirty Projectors:"

There is an answer
I haven't found it
But I'll keep dancing till I do

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's not easy being Michael Jackson

I had a two day financial literacy training this week, and don't let the 'literacy' bit have you fooled like it did me, because the training should have just been called "Financial Finances Financing."  Not surprisingly, I pulled one of my regular tricks out of my sleeve, and appeared to slide into a state of enlightened meditation, when it reality I became catatonic and blacked out due to necessity.  As I have recently discovered, I share many bizarre characteristics with Michael Jackson (arrest thy judgement!) outside of an uncanny sense of rhythm and style.  We both happen to share a previously unknown personality (neurological disorder??) where we become severely affected by high levels of stimulation.  We are both "Highly Sensitive People," which means we are both shy and weirdly extroverted, creative, and easily freaked out by strobe lights (except when performing?!).  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/200907/was-michael-jackson-highly-sensitive-personhsp-are-you  or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-barry-kaufman/creative-people_b_829563.html  Ah, tis so perilous to be a brilliant artist, you see!  The dark lives we lead.

While this condition led Michael Jackson down the gold-paved road of crotch-grabbing and stardom, it has led me to black out when confronted with financial concepts, and to feel panicked in Byerlys.  This actually cracks me up because the personality type defines me pretty much to a T.  But it's not like I can use this as an excuse for atrocious behavior in respectable workshops? "Oh, I'm sorry. You see- I'm a highly sensitive person.  Do you have a quiet, dark, moody room where I can retreat to for a half hour and listen to Enya?"  I think I have Ilse-seizures 20 times a day when I get into crazy stressful situations like when my phone rings at the same time that I receive a new email! Or when I hear a siren!  Or when I'm in a bright room full of people talking!

It's not easy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

America, the lonely

Sometimes all I notice here is the loneliness.  Surely not only a Midwestern phenomenon, but perhaps partly prompted by our icy politeness.  We only go so far in our gestures towards others.  For talkative men on buses, we content our psyches by smiling and looking away, we may ignore teenagers as they walk boldly up sidewalks with big energy and big pants.  We talk to coworkers and inquire into their lives outside of work but never expect our personal lives to share space.  We create walls and borders and boundaries and categorize each other to our heart's content, without truly considering the heart of the matter.  We hesitate and stall and avoid inviting others into our circles of connection; we are each our own icy bubble of own-ness, of me-ness, of not-you-ness.  Sharing a meal with strangers, is, at this stage, unshakably inappropriate.  We care about each other in a political, legal way, and definitively dodge the more personal.  We log-on when seeking that oh so necessary element of human experience---because we can safely log-off afterwards.

I tend towards introversion, and I love the lazy safe space I create around myself when I'm alone-- I love having myself for company.  I can spin stories slowly in my mind as I walk along the street, I talk to myself in low-tones about the people I see, I babble and dance to music.  This is something I love.  I also love and crave the magical moments of human connection and engagement.  My favorite day last week?  Walking to work from the dentist- my tooth throbbing like a sweet secret inside my mouth, the day cold yet shining with sun, and while crossing a street and feeling the warmth on my face, and passing a man as he walks the other way, we both stop and smile at each other-- the smile like a natural extension of the sun on our faces, creating the squint in our eyes, and he says, "love that smile," and then my smile grows more than I thought possible.  My favorite days having nothing to do with work goals met or exercise or tasks but this one bright moment of human acknowledgement.  This bright moment in the sun doesn't always pan out exactly like this-- I've had unexpected conversations on public buses turn from warmth into disgust into "i hope he doesn't get off on my stop" but it's still there that unexpected sharing of intimacy.  I want to be a collector of these moments, a cataloger of the rare self-changing times when we recognize each other and exchange human warmth or curiosity throughout our busy days.  I want to be able to draw out examples and episodes and rare feelings to show others, to share with others, to give examples for myself on how to live more like a person and less like a facebook account.

I hate those walls we have.  Strongest around class, income level, race, culture, they block us off from each other and define us strictly.  We are categorized by the facts of our physical appearance.  We are a melting pot of slow-cooked tension and fear.  That essential ingredient of life-- a sense of belonging- in America comes at such a cost.  Tribeless, some of us, and so we cling to our strictly defined echelon and only color within those lines- because it gives us a semblance of tribe, and we use the rest of our energy towards painting everyone else in a few bold strokes of color.  I haven't been here for long and know little, but it seems like we live on one of the loneliest places in the universe.  From an early age, we are eager to leave and experience the world- if we are so fortunate to have these dreams- and we are always leaving, planning, scheming, to get somewhere else where people seem to live more.  Where those human moments come daily.  I was acknowledged and engaged in so many interactions in Uganda that I became sick of it.  To leave my house somedays was harder than I'd like to admit.  I was tired of long-winded, perfectly obvious greetings, that would waste my time and decrease the amount of daylight that I had to get to the market and back.  I was so sick of being special, white, foreign, rich, different, alien.  Because, I didn't see myself that way.  (Who does?) I wanted to blend into the red dirt roads and cassava fields like everyone else.  I felt cursed to be this privileged visitor that would never integrate anywhere in the world besides a suburb.  Those walls, existed even there.  But now, I miss the greetings, the acknowledgement, the curiosity, the joy, the sense that time wasn't an issue.  In America, we are fueled by our silence and privacy and singular possession of time.  We are seen by each other as different/strange/unlike us/privileged/impoverished/ignorant/alien.  That's not different.  What is different is that the walls are just too high and solid to see over.  We can't shout greetings through the cracks and holes and spaces.  We can't connect.  We see each other as alien creatures traveling on the same planet as US.  There is still US and THEM more than we'd like to admit. 

Cursed by luck or cursed by unluckiness in our birth.  Unforgivable, any way that you look at it.  We never will look or be seen the way that we view ourselves.  So few people will see through the cracks and openings to acknowledge each other.  So few people try.  I've never fully noticed any of this until now.  Because I was lucky enough to go to college, because I was lucky enough to stave off two years of my adult life by living abroad, I've been sweetly ignorant and blind to what America feels like.  America sounds like a million keyboards typing out individual messages to far-off receivers.  It smells like condemned brightly-painted restaurants that still smell like the Asian food they once sold.  It tastes like the individual chemicals and preservatives that make up our meals.  It looks like the Mall of America on a busy day as individual dodge each other in the hard bright pathways on their frantic routes to specific stores.  It feels like the long waiting to see your lover again, when you know in your heart that it will never happen.  It's a waiting.  A waiting amidst the tightly screwed time conscious movements and routines of our busy daily lives, as we move, and plan, and work, and sweat, and talk, and worry, we are all of us just waiting for that one bright moment when someone looks us in the eyes and recognizes us.  America, the lonely.