Last week I was texting my aunt Lori and she relayed some sad news to which I replied, “Did she die?” Lori texted back, “So far not dead,” which made me giggle despite the sad. I told her that “So Far Not Dead” would be a great title for a memoir and she said she would sell me the rights.
Summer is supposed to be my time to paint, but I have been too sad to paint. Joy has not found me this summer, which causes anxiety in all new ways because it’s my only time off. I cannot write that without tearing up because I know that school is around the corner and I know what that means. It means investing 100 percent of me into others. It means I missed my window.
Plus each night I go to bed surrounded my giant canvasses stacked up against my wall, paintings that did not sell from last summer, have nowhere to go, and it’s hard not to roll over and think “Why bother? Still poor.”
Yesterday something happened. I watched an eight year old boy be humiliated by his swim instructor and something in me snapped. It has been the third time in a row this summer that I have witnessed an adult authority figure embarrass a young boy. I had to pause and ask myself why this keeps showing up for me. I got in my car and shouted to the universe to stop showing me how much people suck. There is really nothing in the world that brings me to a boil more than watching a child be threatened by an adult. Nothing. It’s my zero tolerance line.
Yet none of the other parents watching this incident seemed to flinch. They didn’t even shift in their seats with discomfort. Even last time, at the toy shop, where the mother kept screaming at her crying son, “You are so annoying. You annoy me. I will whip your ass right here you are so annoying,” did anyone else flinch. I had to walk out of that toy store and throw up. I texted Susie, “How does anyone survive?”
In my mind I wanted to tackle that mom, to taser her, to, if nothing else, kneel down at the boy’s eye level and say, “What’s the matter, honey?” It made me think about how Grandma Jean used to sigh and say, “These things happen until one of them kills us.”
Yet so far, not dead. Chris says maybe it keeps showing up for me because It is a reminder that women hurt boys in ways that don’t get talked about a lot. We forget that denying that story and enforcing girls as being hurt by men keeps women in a culturally weaker state be enforcing the narrative that girls are victims and boys aren’t. “It sucks,” he said, “Needs to be addressed culturally.”
I don’t know if I can shift an entire culture. Maybe I can. I dunno. My mind has been racing with stories about times in my own life in which I felt or witnessed humiliation or abuse. I could go all the way back to pre-school when my mom bought me a pair of khaki pants. Twin girls at the Little Red House school teased me about looking like a boy. I was three, too young to know who Marlene Dietrich was.
So with the lack of painting I have decided to begin to log these accounts on an illustrated Instagram feed. My goal is to untangle for myself the stories that reside in me that make me feel small. Maybe these short stories will make you feel inspired or connected or maybe you can just be my witness. Maybe together we will make a cultural shift. I was debating about committing to this and then two things popped up on my feed. Russell Brand posted an Ursula Le Guin quote: “You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit or it is nowhere.” Also, my dad posted a New York Times article, Who Will Teach Us How to Feel? In both instances, I felt my arm shoot up in the same way it did when I sat in the front row of all of my college classes. I will. I will be the revolution and I will teach you how to feel.
So here I am. Feel free to follow and heart and share, or comment. Collectively, as witnesses, a revolution: https://www.instagram.com/so_far_not_dead/
I think that shifting the paradigm is all you can do. You cannot make all of this “better” or right. But you can do what you are doing.
One of the best things I ever learned about myself is that I can observe and react but I cannot let myself marinate in the emotion. And when it starts I wish I had equal time to marinate in the happy, but I dont.
You are doing something about the evil, sadness, anger. One painting one blog or one child at a time. And I’m proud of you.
Beautiful! I join you in the revolution