Grieving

Jun. 26th, 2017 10:17 am
mackenzie: (Weather - Thundersunny)
Each morning, I wake up and they're still dead.

Sometimes I think about it. Sometimes I don't. It remains true regardless. I don't expect otherwise.

Four people dead in six months. A friend and once lover. A professional mentor. A beloved colleague. An old friend. Each death with varying levels of suddenness, surprise, preventability, and relief.

I've not struggled with grief in the past. Deaths came at leisurely intervals, always expected or distant enough that the grief flowed through me on its own and resolved to a manageable hum. But the first death, eight months ago now, was the first close friend to die, as well as the first person loosely in my age cohort. This grief is different.

Each subsequent death has further destabilized me. I frequently find myself feeling cold and struggle to get warm. Layer upon layer of clothing and scalding hot showers have little effect. Eventually the cold gets whatever it came for and moves on. I sometimes look up and realize I've lost the last twenty minutes and I don't know how I arrived at this moment. Socializing can be hard.

June 10th was the last memorial on my calendar until the next person dies, for the woman who served with me as co-president of my high school's gay-straight alliance. We were deeply connected for two years in high school, but that faded when she graduated. We hadn't seen each other in about fifteen years, but shared the infrequent, distant contact of Facebook friendship. I don't miss her presence. I notice her absence.

The memorial was a disjointed, uncomfortable affair. When a speaker would break and begin to cry, they'd stop and chastise themselves.

"This isn't what she would have wanted. She would have wanted us to remember the good times and celebrate. She wouldn't have wanted us to feel sad."

While I grappled with my feelings about this most recent death and whether to attend the funeral at all, Jon repeatedly told me "Funerals are for the living." Listening to her friends and family speak of her, and indirectly chastise me for feeling sadness at her death, I thought about this and became angry. I get "she wouldn't want you to feel sad" is a thing people say, but I don't get why it's considered so thoroughly reasonable. She's dead. I straight up don't care what she wants. Feeling sad at the loss of a life is achingly normal.

In short, when I die, feel free to experience the full range of emotions that accompany death and grief, including sadness.

It's what I would have wanted.
mackenzie: (Quatchi - Papers)
Disclaimer: My guess is that my own list is limited to those of us born sometime during the 1980s and schooled on the west coast, but I'm going to just throw it out there as if it were actually universal.

What are the canonical books that you read in elementary and middle school? You know, the sort of books "everyone" read.

Some of mine include Maniac Magee, The Martian Chronicles, The Giver, Hatchet, White Mountains, In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and Charlotte's Web.

What about short stories? I remember "The Lottery" and "To Build a Fire" the most clearly. I read "The Cask of Amontillado" for extra credit when we read The Martian Chronicles.

I'd love to hear your lists, even if they contain repeats. I know lists like this one exist, but I'm most interested in what you remember reading.

[livejournal.com profile] bennj and I just reread The Giver together, and we're moving on to Maniac Magee next. Elementary school goes a lot faster when you finish the book in an evening, let me tell you.
mackenzie: (DS - Dead)
[Poll #1535544]
mackenzie: (Weather - Sunny)
I'll begin this with a note. The term "manipulation" has a really bad reputation. I was introduced to it as a neutral term for changing an object or a situation. I later found out that it has a strong pejorative connotation when used in a social context. When I talk about manipulation here, I am speaking of it in a positive light. Manipulation is a tool for creating as positive and/or productive a social interaction as possible for all parties involved.

When you look at a social interaction... )

Jinx!

Jan. 16th, 2010 03:05 pm
mackenzie: (Misc - Triscuit Love)
I apologize in advance for the lack of inclusion of a "Ticky box!" option. Please attempt to carry on in spite of this glaring oversight.

[Poll #1512466]
mackenzie: (Misc - Triscuit Love)
On Facebook today, a friend (both in the Facebook and traditional sense of the word) was lamenting the practice of sending a Facebook friendship request to someone they've barely met.

This is a practice in which I regularly engage. In the social networking vernacular, I'm a collector. I have 862 friends on Facebook. My friends include people I know from high school, college, social dance, work, graduate school, and my various subculture communities.

Facebook friending new acquaintances is a way to bridge the gap between two busy sets of social schedules and make a down payment on a possible future proper friendship.

I might meet someone who is interesting at a party, but I'm unlikely to see them again until the next party hosted by the same people. Exchanging contact information and then e-mailing back and forth isn't a particularly efficient way of establishing compatibility as proper friends, as more than one dating website has shown me. LiveJournal puts me smack in the middle of a person's life in a falsely intimate way. And, with my schedule, I'm very unlikely to be able to make time for someone of unknown compatibility and fun when I have people in my life I already know I really really like but never get to see.

Facebook friendship lets me see how someone interacts with the rest of their social group, get invited to events they may attend, and see who else we both know. It puts me into their life in context without overwhelming me with information that is out of step with how close we are based on a single initial conversation.

In short, Facebook friending someone I barely know is a way for me to express interest in potential future friendship in a way that doesn't force intimacy and time commitment.

Not everyone sees social networking the same way. Some folks really only want to be internet friends with people they're, you know, friends with. This absolutely makes sense to me in the context of answering the question "Who do I share information with?" but it doesn't make sense in the realm of "social networking." From a network perspective, I want my network to be as big as possible while still allowing me to maintain it.

One of the nice things about social networking as opposed to, say, LiveJournal, is that a mismatched set of expectations surrounding the word "friend" doesn't have the same potential for drama. A collector will send out friend requests more or less willy nilly, and is unlikely to worry much if they don't get an affirmative reply. A person who prefers to only friend people they know will just decline the request and roll their eyes at people who think exchanging names is grounds for "friendship."
mackenzie: (DS - Dominant Paradigm)
In 2004, I took a course called Radical Political Theory. It was easily the best course I took as an undergraduate and formed the basis of much of the academic work I did thereafter, including giving me the inspiration for my thesis. The class was focused on looking at hegemony, patriarchy, racism, black nationalism, and queer theory. The class was small, somewhere around ten people.

Mark, the professor, started us on a conversation about music videos and the concept of the male gaze. He showed us Britney's video for I'm a Slave 4 U and started us in on a discussion of where the power was in this video. There were a lot of negative opinions on Britney and most of the class felt that she was a tool of the patriarchy. I had always liked Britney, as an artist, even if not as a role model. What I saw in the video was a lot of reaction shots of men gazing at her, which I didn't feel was as dehumanizing as a "traditional" male gaze situation.

After our discussion, Mark assigned a chapter from John Fiske's Reading the Popular on Madonna. Before we left he said "If you feel, after reading this piece, that you can defend Madonna, ask yourself why you can't defend Britney Spears".

The Fiske piece was excellent and I still have my copy of it. One passage is highlighted and starred up and down:

Madonna knows she is putting on a performance, and the fact that this knowingness is part of the performance enables the viewer to answer a different interpretation from that proposed by the dominant ideology, and thus occupy a resisting subject position. (p. 105)

In the margin, in bright pink pen, it says "Does Britney know she's putting on a show?" In follow up discussions in class, I decided that she did. Most of the class felt that she was somehow different from Madonna, but couldn't quite put their fingers on why. I had a similar feeling, but strongly felt that I couldn't defend Madonna and not defend Britney. To do so would have given me a strong sense of cognitive dissonance.

Looking at it now, I think there are a few primary perceived differences in their early careers. In terms of fandom audiences, Britney was marketed to appeal primarily to teenage girls and has more or less stayed in that market, with some branching out to the gay market. Madonna, however, was initially marketed to teenage girls, but has entrenched herself in the gay market as well as the adult market (though she's had a lot more time to do so). Another is goals. I got the sense that Madonna wanted to be famous and Britney wanted to be successful. Lastly, and for me this is the big one, was where they challenged convention. Madonna challenged views about sex, religion, and patriarchy, both lyrically and in her videos and public appearances. I felt like Britney challenged convention by playing directly into stereotypes, primarily in her videos. Lyrically, Britney's music doesn't do much in this arena, and her public appearances were highly controlled. Madonna had interviews where she said her most erogenous zone on her body was her belly button.

So, why revisit this now? Well, I've been listening to a lot of Lady GaGa recently and got into a kick where I watched all of her videos today. I think Lady GaGa is everything I was trying to make Britney into while I was in college. There's a tongue-in-cheek knowledge of what she's doing. She's become something of a fashion icon, even if only on Go Fug Yourself and she's really playing with the ideas of fame, beauty, and disability in her videos and appearances.

While I still wouldn't call Britney a tool of the kyriarchy, I would say in terms of doing any kind of anti-oppression work, that Lady GaGa is situated more similarly to Madonna.
mackenzie: (Quatchi - Papers)
When a person graduates from college (or high school, but especially college) and enters the workforce1, there are two major transitions that occur. One is social, and the other is professional. The professional transition is often much more overwhelming than the social one.

In an educational setting, everything is compartmentalized. Classes come in discrete units (quarters, trimesters, semesters). When the course concludes, the work is not directly revisited. There is time to shake out one's mind. While the content of the course will carry a student through their education, the assignments themselves will not. If a student writes a poor paper their frosh year, no one is going to approach them senior year to discuss the quality of that paper.

This isn't mean to discount the social ramifications of doing poor work in school. A student might get the same professor the next semester and end up fighting against a perception of the quality of their work. A professor might decline to write a letter of recommendation for a student who once submitted poor work. A group of a student's peers might actively avoid working with our intrepid hero in the future because he or she doesn't pull their weight. However, when compared to the workplace, there are very few professional implications to barely scraping through a class.

In the workplace, there is very little compartmentalization. Long ongoing projects intertwine with other long ongoing projects. Few things ever truly conclude. If there is an error in work an employee did six months ago, it is likely that it will eventually need to be fixed. Buggy software needs to be patched, convoluted documentation needs to be clarified, someone needs to be held accountable for errors and their correction.

There are certain college behaviors that indicate an individual might have an easier time transitioning to the professional world. As I've been thinking about how this relates to my own professional transition, I can see actions that contributed to the ease of my transition. I took 25% of my undergraduate classes with the same professor. In retrospect, I was seeking continuity and long term accountability for my ideas and development as a theorist. I remember feeling so ashamed of a paper I submitted for one class my sophomore year that I never took another class with that same professor.

Alternately, I remember seeing students who would churn out work the night before it was due because of an overwhelming workload (or just old fashioned procrastination and poor time management). They found undergraduate incredibly stressful, even if they still tended to excel. As they transitioned into the real world, they discovered that the work was easier. Unfortunately, the idea of "flawless execution" so important to businesses required a much more significant adjustment.

I think that people crave long term responsibility for our social behaviors. This responsibility forms the foundation upon which our close, long-term friendships are formed. In the workplace, this responsibility is significantly more overwhelming. There is a natural hesitation to avoid getting emotionally invested when there is money being exchanged. Also, just as in college, there is often a confusing social approval that occurs when a person talks about how much they dislike their work or how much they have to get done. For individuals just getting established in the workplace, these seas are treacherous to navigate.

1I find this conflict to be more true for college (as opposed to high school or a vocational education program), as it tends to be a time for many 20-somethings where they have significant social freedom without significant professional or financial responsibility. I recognize that education (and education with out the distraction of working to support oneself) is a privilege, but with some tweaking, this discussion could also apply to moving out of a guardian's dwelling or entering into the full time workplace for the first time.

Unlocked at the request of [livejournal.com profile] dclayh.
mackenzie: (Misc - Jamba)
Two of my coworkers are sitting around talking about jazz music while they're working. There's a lull in their conversation and one of them turns to me and asks "Do you like jazz, MacKenzie?"

Slightly distracted, I reply "Not particularly."

He takes a moment to think about this and says "You strike me as the sort of person who would love jazz. What music do you like?"

I pause to think. Before I can answer, my boss pipes up "She likes polkas."
mackenzie: (Quatchi - Marching)
I was at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago. I finished my shopping, counted my items, and hopped in the express lane. A moment later, a woman and her son wheeled in behind me. She counted her items and discovered too many, so she moved one lane over to the non-express lane.

I smiled at her and cracked some forgettable joke about how you never quite know if you're following the rules. She laughed and we chatted a bit back and forth.

Her son, who is somewhere around five years old, is clearly growing uncomfortable and begins to tap her very urgently from his seat in the front of the cart. She leans over and he whispers in her ear frantically. She smiles, straightens up and says "Oh! Don't worry. I know her. I'm not talking to strangers. Her name is..."

"MacKenzie."

"MacKenzie! She isn't a stranger."

The child seemed more or less satisfied with this response and turned to smile at me.

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MacKenzie

June 2017

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