pulling together

24 03 2009

There are some things I’m trying to pull together that might just remain entirely disconnected, but this is how I’m present right now, so it’s just going to be this way.

*****

I was in a bit of pain, tonight. I think I have a tendency to downplay or minimize my own pain or suffering, for a whole host of reasons, some that I’m okay with and some that I’m not – recognizing that with health insurance, my family’s financial stability, my grasp of english, my access to a car, my race, etc. whatever the problem, it’s going to be easier for me to address than it would be for someone without those privileges (I’m okay with those things as a reason for minimizing my own pain, a healthy does of humility & perspective, that perhaps works to offset an oppressive, internalized, inflated sense of my value in relation to others); recognizing that, as a woman, I’ve internalized all sorts of really problematic lessons about pain and suffering, and about being a caretaker and prioritizing my own needs (I’m not okay with those things as a reason for minimizing my own pain) – but tonight I was hurting. I still am, really. My job makes me sore. I don’t know what it’s about, because I basically just carry a clipboard around for 5 hours, but some combination of the cold and the walking and the clipboard always on my left arm – makes me really sore.

I’m not sure I have deep conclusions about this, but I’m trying to sit with the pain.

And I’m thinking about the other kinds of pain people are forced to sit with, on account of their jobs. Of the personal bodily risks people take to sustain themselves, their families, and their lives. And, again, of how minimal my sore shoulder is compared to all of that. I’m thinking about how our capitalist system organizes people by our means of employment, and about what it means that the bodies that are placed at the greatest risk of harm are so often the bodies of people of color, of women, of the poor.

*****

I might have the opportunity to work on a building crew this summer. I’d be working for a friend, for his  natural building company – at which he prioritizes giving queer and trans folks, and cis women greater access to the trades – and every time I think about this opportunity I get more and more excited. It might not happen, for a whole host of reasons, but I’m simultaneously optimistic & trying not to be too invested. Mixed in with that are ideas about the kinds of productivity that I value, and that I perceive others to value; also about working in the trades, and with wood – the degree to which this is and isn’t something that feels like “my” space.

Physical labor, particularly as a means of supporting oneself, was not part of the upper-middle class world I came of age in. My friends’ parents, and my own, all had advanced degrees and were “profesionals” in that way that usually connotes an office, desk, and maybe even a secretary or administrative assistant, although some were doctors and nurses and I never pictured them having desks like those that were accountants and lawyers. My dad’s office used to have a popcorn machine, which was the only thing that seemed relevant about his job for most of my childhood.

And yet, despite all of that, I strongly associate carpentry and woodworking – and the attendent skills & self-reliance – with my father. A good chunk of our garage is taken up by his tools and workbench. I love the smell of sawdust, and I always thought it was SO cool that he built the house my grandmother now lives in.

I received my first hammer at a pretty young age. It was one of those little ones with a handle that screwed off to reveal a screwdriver, with a handle that screwed off to reveal an additional (smaller) screwdriver, and so on and so forth, until you got to the really small cute one in the end of the handle. That one was my favorite. Nowadays most of the hammers I see like that tend to have flowery designs printed on them. I suppose that makes them more girly? On the one hand, that’s annoying, that tools need to be pink to be appropriate for girls, but on the other hand, if one girl picks up that flowery hammer and finds use and power in weilding it that she wouldn’t have otherwise- awesome.

Floating around my parents’ house somewhere, there’s a picture of me ‘helping’ my dad build the cabinets in our kitchen. I can’t be more than 2, and I’m literally sitting in the cabinet, holding up a tool of some sort (maybe even that little hammer), so proud and excited to be helping my dad build.

One year, for Christmas (that year it was definitely a Christmas present, not Hanukkah), he made me a really beautiful bed. It’s still my bed when I go home, and I love it. The stain is a beautiful deep shade, and there are built-in drawers underneath, painted dark green, with cream colored ceramic knobs. I remember so vividly the weeks that I wasn’t allowed to go into the garage when he was in there, and when I’d finally sneak in (while he was at work, or in the shower, or otherwise preoccupied) I would mostly just stare with wonder and excitement at the nondescript tarp-covered bulk in the middle of the garage. Once I peeked under a corner, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the tarp back far enough to see more than a deep, warm, red edge. Christmas eve, I slept in the guest room, and I spent the night wide awake, listening to my dad and my uncle carry the massive bed upstairs, and then listening to my dad finish building it IN my room.

It is the most vivid Christmas memory I have from my childhood. I’m pretty sure that says something about what my subconscious values.

All of these things are swirling together as I think about this summer. Mostly I’m excited, and it feels like a really ideal way to spend the summer. I get this huge grin on my face when I imagine working outside, really feeling my muscles strain and grow; inhaling fresh, crisp New England summer; harnessing power tools beneath my fingers; creating sustainable, responsible, natural environments; how my hands can help give form to structures, and shapes, and milled pieces of lumber – and also how that lumber will shape and toughen my hands.

Hands. Soft, smooth, silky hands seem to be so strongly associated with class, and so I also feel the weight of my ability to choose to toughen my hands; to welcome callouses and roughness.

*****

My mom is really awesome. Today, she sent me an email with a couple of grant and/or funding opportunities highlighted. She does this occassionaly, she’s connected to development, funding, grant-writing/-giving circles, and so sometimes she passes on interesting calls for proposals. But this time, it wasn’t even for me. It was for my friend, the one I might be working for, who she’s never met. It just struck me as incredibly thoughtful, and I feel really lucky to have had a woman like that in my life for, well, all of it.

*****

I’ve been reading and digesting people’s thoughts on radical love, community building, organizing, sustainability, and accountability.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about someone she is growing close to. She worries about introducing him to some of her friends, to the people she loves and cherishes, because he hasn’t necessarily had exposure or access to the language & frames of analysis many of us employ with one another. And then I read these words today, by Nadia, at Now Snow Here:

feeling alienated in these conversations because of the emphasis on words and specific word choices – that is a conversation for writers, academics, people who spend time with pretentious adults. don’t want it imposed on me right now, it bothers me how judgemental people are when others don’t know or have the language for the *right* way to say things. hard to engage when its so easy to be misunderstood, not feeling like we give or get the space to make mistakes but maybe i’m wrong and just overwhelmed with the intense dialoging.

And between that conversation, and this paragraph, and all of the dialogue happening on Jess’ post at BFP’s (the “people’s thoughts” hyper link, above), I’ve been thinking about the tension this all brings up. About creating spaces to honor and affirm everyone, especially because of what Nadia is describing, but also even for people you don’t necessarily like or agree with, because it is important to honor and affirm their humanity. And I’m also holding on to accountability. I think it’s important to allow for vulnerability and not-knowing; to allow for that instability and uncertainity – I think within moments of uncertainty there’s great possibility for growth. But what do you do when affirming one person’s not-knowing and growth means allowing the negation of another? How do you balance competing, and conflicting, needs or truths? How do we both allow space for potentially screwing up, and simultaneously hold one another accountable?

*****

There’s so much more I want to say on this, but it’s late and I really need to sleep. Hopefully I won’t be as sore tomorrow.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: