Archive for June, 2014

This Is Not a Test

June 27, 2014 15 comments


“I realized that God gave breast cancer to women because women can handle it.”

Guys, no. There is nothing okay about this statement. And yes, it’s something I just read on Twitter this morning. And yes, the person in question HAS breast cancer. I get it. It’s scary. And it’s good to find ways to be strong about – positive things.

But I have so many problems with this statement. For one thing, God – if you believe in God – is not giving people cancer. Cancer isn’t a challenge one overcomes. It’s a disease. Not a test. Nothing about it is a test. It’s certainly not a test of will to see if a woman can handle it.

Let’s break down the language and suss out the implications. A woman gets breast cancer as a challenge, and it’s a test of strength. So, if she handles it well, she…what? Gets to live? If so, that would imply that every single woman who has died from breast cancer couldn’t handle it. And thus, they were punished.

That means the strongest person I’ve ever known (my mother) – who had more goodness and decency than 100 people – failed the test of breast cancer. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have died, right?

NO. This is not okay. This is not okay to tell every woman who has, or had, breast cancer. You don’t defeat it through righteousness. Cancer is never a test. You don’t handle cancer. You have it.

As someone who lost her mother to it, I find this view insulting and insensitive to the memories of everywhere we’ve all lost to that disease. And we all know SOMEONE, don’t we? We’ve all lost someone. We’ve all suffered.

Breast cancer is not a test. It’s a tragedy. And that’s all I have to say right now.

Categories: Uncategorized

I Miss Lloyd Dobbler (or More Reasons Why Robin Thicke Is a Creep)

June 24, 2014 5 comments

            Alright, y’all – we need to talk about Robin Thicke. His new song premiered recently, creatively titled, “Get Her Back.” I’m not going to pull any punches, here: it is an extremely pathetic attempt at guilt tripping his estranged wife, Paula Patton, into getting back together with him. Guys and girls, this is no Lloyd Dobber, holding a boom box outside of his girl’s window, playing “In Your Eyes.” This is a complete and utter fail.

            Forget the fact that “Blurred Lines” was pretty much a douchebag rape anthem, with a stupidly catchy beat that even I found myself booping along to when it explicably ALWAYS was on the damned radio. Put that aside, okay?

            Presumably, Patton and Thicke split after a photograph came out in which has hand was groping that ass of a female (model? Who knows. Doesn’t matter). This was after that disastrous bullshit of a Beetlejuice suit performance with Miley Cyrus and her inexplicable tongue/foam finger nonsense.

            Patton left Thicke quietly. Like ninja quiet. Just, “Okay, I’m done. Thanks, bye.” And looking at all the public evidence, one can hardly blame her. If there’s that much stuff that’s leaked into the public sphere, I can only imagine the stuff we aren’t privy to, the things that happened that the maddening crowd never saw.

            Now, there’s this freakin’ video (there’s a great analysis here). In it, it appears that Thicke uses text messages that he and Patton exchanged as some kind of bizarre coercion tool. Because, seriously, nothing solidifies the “Take me back” sentiment like airing your private messages to the world. Sexy, right? And not at ALL invasive, sleezy, or creepy?

            In the video, there’s a woman who is supposed to look like Patton. She’s naked. I’ll repeat: the chick is naked. Because, hey, way to oversexualize the person you’re supposedly trying to apologize to, right? Thicke, as far as I could tell, is also naked. Or at least shirtless. I tried not to look too hard, because honestly, the very fact that he has a ‘successful’ music career pisses me off.

            As the blog I linked to points out, this entire video is an exercise in public shaming. His private pleas to Patton must not have worked, especially if his lame-ass texts in that video are actually his. So now, he’s thrust her into the court of public opinion, tried to paint himself as an apologetic victim, and dragged their private situation into the public sphere. This, plain and simple, is bullying. It’s manipulative. And it’s utter bullshit. Yes, artists write about their lives, sometimes. “Cry Me a River” comes to mind immediately. But Justin Timberlake never went on TRL (remember when that was still a thing? GOD, I AM OLD.) and sang a song called, “My Hoebag Girlfriend Cheated on Me.” That’s a wee bit too on the nose, yes? If you look at the track listing for Thicke’s new album, it’s really all about HIM. About what he wants. Not about what she wants or needs. And the album is basically shoving their relationship, and the horribly difficult situation in which they find themselves, in her face. Constantly. Because, hey, it will inevitably end up on the radio.  It’s a whole new level of humiliation.

            Imagine you’re engaged in a messy divorce. Now, imagine the other party’s warped feelings about it ON THE DAMN RADIO. No. NO. NOPE. Not cool. And not okay. This isn’t merely an artist venting his poor broken heart. This is the person in the wrong trying to gain public sympathy and shame his wife in the process. That video smarmily says, “Look, I’m sorry! See how sorry I am? Now, you have to feel bad for me, because see how sad my eyes are?”

            Honestly, I’ve never seen something so epically douchey AND hideously desperate at the same time. I don’t know where all of Thicke’s friends and family are, but maaaaybe someone should tell him that this is NOT the way to gain friends and influence people. Ever. If I were Patton, this dickbag king of the asshat parade move basically would reaffirm my decision to leave him and not speak to him. Because the maturity level, here, is befitting a five year old – except, hey, five year olds aren’t SUPPOSED to know better. Because they’re FIVE.

            Ultimately, this relationship doesn’t affect me. But the dynamics of bullying and abuse should be talked about. They should be analyzed. This isn’t art. It’s emotional propaganda. And you can argue that art IS emotional propaganda, but art itself never has an agenda. You basically make something and shove it out into the world, hoping in affects people in some way. Not necessarily a specific thing. Art shouldn’t have a thesis statement. It should just fucking be art.

            I usually like to have a good ending, but I don’t. Mostly, I’m too angry and annoyed to be clever. So, until next time, folks – same Bat time, same Bat channel. OR SOMETHING.

Categories: Uncategorized

jump off the cliff

June 22, 2014 Leave a comment


Sometimes, we choose the wrong words. Even when it matters most, sometimes everything comes out in a tumble of moron. There are other times where even the right words (as much as words can be right) are ineffective. You speak, but nothing changes. Perhaps you aren’t even heard. Perhaps you find yourself shouting into the void. Perhaps you are trying to move a mountain with the wind.

What happens in a moment like that, in a situation like that? Do you keep talking or do you just…give up? Me, I believe in words. I believe in the power of words for so many reasons. Communication is a vital part of any relationship. That doesn’t make it easy, but if you can’t honestly talk to someone, even when it’s difficult, the relationship will die. And not quickly.

Everyone tells you what they need, if you just pay attention. This includes non-verbal communicate, the space between words, the particular way a silence hangs in the air. The stories shaped between the lines matter a great deal; they are often composed with the things we are afraid to say. I love you. I miss you. I need you. I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time. I don’t know what to do. Any of these things can be easily tucked inside a paragraph, sneaked into a sentence.

I wonder, though, what one does when what someone says directly contradicts how that person feels? How does one reconcile should with the heart? I don’t have the answer. I don’t know that there is one. But I feel as if that space between heart and mind is a dangerous, tenuous one. It’s where we either make beautiful decisions or harmful ones. Just as the secret to compromise is giving, meeting in the middle, the secret to navigating the ground between head and heart is this: don’t let logic strangle your passion, and don’t let passion overwhelm everything. To honor the heart, you follow it. And yet, to honor the mind, you sometimes have to ignore it. That seems counterintuitive, I know. But sometimes, our rational selves are simply a tool that leads us to examine a situation. That is not what should govern a choice or a situation. Our fears should never lead us. Our fears should never define us. Too often, I think, we mistake fear for rational thinking. And fear, darlings, makes us less brave — less true to ourselves.

I don’t always pick the right words when speaking, but I always speak from a place of love. (I mean, unless you’re being a jerk. Then I’m not going to CareBear you.) I may not always be an easy person to handle. I’m often more keen on feelings than any other things. The truth is that I don’t have shallow emotions. I don’t have tenuous convictions. I’m deep. I’m a river. You might think you’ve found the bottom, but a second later, there’s nothing under your feet. I’ve got a current. There’s a pull. But if you close your eyes and lay back, there’s freedom in that. And freedom, I think, is something we all want.

Yesterday marked the start of summer. And I don’t know about you, but spring was a rough season. For me, it felt uncertain, shaky, full of hairpin turns, and rife with doubt. It made me question a lot of things. There were times that I felt alone, perhaps misunderstood. There were times that I felt an odd sense of loss, too. But I’m not dwelling on those things, now. Yesterday began a new season, and with that new season, things begin to grow.

I may say that wrong thing. I may be a complicated person. But I’m ready for the sun, loves. I’m ready for all the promises that come with summer. I’m ready for logic and fear to take a backseat. I’m ready for the promises of passion and following my heart. Nothing grows in the shadow of fear. It’s time to step out of the shadows and leave all doubt behind.

As summer begins, follow love where it leads you. Give love what it needs to grow. Offer everything you have on the hope that it may be well-received. Expect nothing, give everything. Teach everyone who crosses your path a different secret about love in whatever form you choose. And above all, trust.

“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” ~Ray Bradbury

Confessions of a Book Junkie

June 19, 2014 1 comment


My Amazon wishlist is, almost entirely, books. If I go too long without reading, I feel strange, definitely less me in an indescribable way. Eventually, I get novel-rabid, looking for a spare moment, even five minutes in the parking lot before work, where I can read two paragraphs of Neil Gaiman’s latest whatever.

 This is my brain. This is my brain on books.

 I grew up with a love of reading. There wasn’t a childhood vacation where I didn’t run through all the books I packed two days into the trip. This always resulted in my dragging my parents to a bookstore to slake my word-thirst. I was the kid in high school English class who loved summer reading, who always read ahead, and who the school librarian knew by name. This only got worse in college, all the way through graduate school. I practically ate everything from Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters to Michelle Cliff’s Abeng. My English Literature major did nothing to stave my habit; instead, it only made me more ravenous for literary things.

 But this isn’t something non-book people understand. (Yes, they exist. They are not a myth.) My best friend is not a reader. In fact, she teases me, good-naturedly, about my book nerd ways.  I always bring a book when I stay over her house. The last time she drove in my car, she exclaimed – with mild horror – “There is a BOOK in your backseat. You have a problem.” Yes, yes, I do. I am a book junkie.

 The other day, I was telling her that a chunk of my paycheck had gone toward the purchase of books, despite the lack of space to store them and there never being enough hours in the day to actually read them. She gave me a look. You know the kind. It politely says, You’re crazy. I love you anyway, but you’re still crazy. She then asked, “But why?”

 Some people spend their money on shoes. Or purses.Or ponies. I spend mine on books. (And coffee. But that’s another story.) I tried to explain it to her, as I’ve tried to explain it to others over the years: Without books, I am less me. I read, therefore I am.

 I love books. I love the way they smell. I love the way they let me escape for a little while, getting a glimpse into lives I’ll only live adjacently, through words that leave the door open to a previously unseen kingdom. Recently, I even went so far as to buy an e-reader, despite the fact that print books are my first love, because I absolutely adore the idea of being able to instantly acquire pretty much any book my nerd heart desires.

 To me, the most horrifying episode of The Twilight Zone is “Time Enough at Last.” It’s the one where Burgess Meredith plays a man who loves to read and ends up being the last person on earth with all the time in the world. He proclaims, “Books. Books. All the books I’ll need. All the books I’ll ever want,” only to have his glasses break. He can’t read without them. That is a terrible, awful fate.

 This is what I try to explain to those who do not love books. Mostly, the explanation is met with a placating smile and a nod. I guess it’d be like someone trying to tell me why they like math, because (to me) math is the Devil – and I’m all out of Winchesters. Books, unlike math, are messy. They’ve left me grief-stricken. They’ve made me laugh. They’ve kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, with a flashlight, frantically muttering, “Just one more chapter!” like an addict.

 So, maybe there are people out there who don’t get it. They won’t understand why I spend a heap of my paycheck on ALL THE NOVELS. Or why I might keep two books on my nightstand, only to fall asleep with at least one in the bed. But I’m a book junkie. And, to quote Walt Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

summer secrets

June 18, 2014 Leave a comment
When you can’t shake feelings of
error and mistake, as if every word
has become an enemy, every silence
a weapon – what then? Do you
arm yourself with exorcism
and prayer? Do you clutch
forgiveness like a rosary,
or do you make apologies for the bleed?
When you can’t cast aside feelings of
lost and alone, as if every step
leads in the wrong direction, revealing
another wall, another place
you shouldn’t be – what then?
Tell me: what is the quickest way
to unravel this labyrinth
in my head? Tell me: how do I find
and vanquish the monster
surely at the center of it?
Perhaps I am just flying
too close to the sun,
all height and no safety net,
all consequence and no relief.
Forget the bandages –
you cannot fix a heart on fire,
and I fear there is no tourniquet
for all the things I wish.
But when I can’t forget the way
freedom and hope feel, as if
these fierce summer secrets
know the winds of my soul – what then?
How do un-love?
How do I un-ask?
How do I undo every promise?
That is not my religion –
tell me: is it yours?

On Doors, Being Open, and Kindness

June 16, 2014 4 comments

How do you open? Much of life is too often spent curled up tight, not letting things in – and ignoring feelings. Tamping down whatever might tip the apple cart, simply as an attempt to cut off or avoid a situation. It’s only every temporary. Denial is a transitory solution. You cannot stay closed for a lifetime.

 So, when everything is shut tight, when you’re walling yourself off, how do you stop? How do you open?

Small steps and kindness. Kindness, honest words, and love. I think, at the end of the day, you can open any door that way. Take small steps in the direction that you want, and that’s progress. Often, though, we are apt to be kind to ourselves – and less kind to ourselves. For me, I am my own worst enemy. I will champion the hell out of you and your feelings, while sometimes mine leave me feeling inept and decidedly idiotic.

In life, there are always doors – places we can go, steps we can take. The doors might be closed. It might look like a dead end. You might assume, “This can’t happen.” After all, a closed door is hardly an invitation. And yet, doors can always be opened – the question is: how?

 For this, I see two possibilities, generally. Brute force will open a door – but it will break it in the process. Strong-arming your way somewhere may get you to where you want to be, but it might not be the situation you wanted or expect. You don’t want to break what you love, so it is often to fight with a kind emotion – working from a place of love. You’re not trying to win. It’s not about winning. No pursuit in life should be something you check off a list. You should, simply, be following your passion.

 But the best, truest way to open a door is be open yourself. Doorways go both ways. So, follow your heart. Let that little monster lead. Be that person who dares to feel passion and pursue. Perhaps all you need to do to change a situation is to look at it from a place of honesty, openness, and acceptance.

 Nothing has to be one way. Nothing has to stay the same. There are infinite doors and infinite stars, darling. Be open. Say yes. And good things will happen. 

Go Searching for Sunshine

June 12, 2014 4 comments

            This week, for me, seems to have a theme. Maybe two. It’s been all about perception and honesty. Sometimes, the smallest thing – a conversation, an offhand comment – can shift everything. It’s like someone turned on a lightbulb, and you didn’t realize you’d been sitting in the dark. Except, you were. And now everything is different.

            Don’t get me wrong: illumination can be difficult. But nothing worth having/being/doing is ever easy. Anyone who tells you differently is a lying liar, whose pants are aflame. My point is that an honest conversation can change the way you see a situation. And sometimes, you pick up a clue you didn’t know you were missing in some unrelated event. This has happened to me several times this week. A few minutes ago, I stumbled across a quote from, of all things, Winnie the Pooh: Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.

            That small, simple sentence just shifted a whole heap of things for me. Some things, I already kinda/sorta knew. Others, maybe not. But the funny thing is that I’m able to see something more clearly, which has been a constant development this week. It’s the emotional equivalent of finding money that you forgot about in a coat pocket. Surprise! Here’s the thing that’s yours; it’s been here all along, but you just now found it. Or rediscovered it.

            And that can lead to a new reality. Finding things. Allowing yourself to accept that kind of happy, unexpected gift. Sure, it might’ve been there all along – but you can now embrace it. It’s yours. Do something with it.

            It’s funny, too, the things you sometimes discover about yourself when someone shines a light in your direction. I realized, this week, that if I have one gift, it’s probably complete faith. If I am certain about something or someone (and I’m damn good at assessing people), nothing can shake that faith. If I believe in something, nothing can shake that. I have, I suppose, passionate conviction. There’s no “maybe” in my heart. There’s no room for it, anyway, because I’m basically chockfull of love and sunlight. All of this can surprise people. Especially since I am also the person who takes every kind of risk based on that faith. There’s no higher place to make a decision from than that. Decisions made from habit or fear are never healthy. Decisions made from a place of love and faith? Those are always inspired things.

            That’s what I know. That is, perhaps, what I’ve rediscovered in my emotional pocket, tucked away. I know how to believe. And I know how to believe in the impossible. And god help anyone who dares to question that. Because…no. I come from a long line of stubborn, strong women. And faith is a strange thing when it’s unshakeable: it can move mountains, no matter how painful or difficult. It can also save you when, maybe, you didn’t even realize you needed saving.

            If I were to give you advice based on what I’ve been lucky to learn this week, it’d be this: find whatever, or whoever, makes you feel like sunlight. It might be scary. It might mean radical change. It might cause you pain the process. But life is too short to sit in darkness. Find what lights you up and makes you feel happy and safe. In the end, it’s the light that matters. After all, it’s what chases away the dark, no matter how impossible that might seem.


“Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch.” 
― Walt Whitman


“We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

How Big Is Your Brave?

June 5, 2014 1 comment


I’ve seen a lot of conversations centered around bravery, lately. Mostly, it’s people wondering how, exactly, to be brave – how to be strong enough to make a change or go after something. Incidentally, yesterday morning, I was grappling with that very thing – stuck in the very moment where you vacillate back and forth, wondering if you should do The Thing or Not. There’s a kind of pulse-shaking fear in that moment before you decide to do something. Adrenaline might be kicking around in your veins. That makes it hard, because that turns a choice into a fight or flight. You either do The Thing (fight) or you don’t (flight).

Usually, I go the route of Marilyn Monroe, say, “What the hell?” and do the thing. Because if there’s one piece of advice I’d want you to heed and carry with you, it’s this: Always do The Thing. Whatever you’re searching for the courage to do, whatever it is nagging at you or haunting you, do it. Go after it. What lights up your heart, who lights up your heart, don’t be held back by fear. Be brave. You will regret the things you let slip away, doomed to always wonder what might’ve been or what-if. That kind of regret is far more powerful than the kind that comes with things that don’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped. So, dear heart, do The Thing. And don’t look back.

So many of us put walls up, keeping ourselves theoretically safe, but also keeping ourselves from possibilities. There are moments in a conversation, sometimes, when you can hear that exact moment it happens – a question is asked, a consideration is raised – and, suddenly, there’s a wall. (In your heart. That no one can get through. *ahem* Song lyrics just spat themselves out of my brain. That’s a lovely song.) It’s as if the other person is holding up an emotional (or informational) stop sign. I suppose it’s most cases, it’s wise to respect that. But much to my detriment at times, I do not believe in walls for the sake of walls. I do not believe in keeping distance between myself and those I love. Ever. It’s usually a temporary structure, for one thing. A diversion. A false pretense. And, almost always, it isn’t constructive – such things hurt more than they help.

If you miss someone, tell them. If you want to see someone, see them. Stop saying no so often, and give yes a try. Yes opens doors. And no is a drowning word. And for god’s sake, if you love someone? Tell them. It doesn’t matter if nothing comes of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s half-insane or seemingly impossible. A person should know he/she is loved. There’s no more important truth to be told, if only to tell it. Saying that out loud is a powerful thing. And it always matters, even when it may not seem to. It always matters, even if nothing comes out of it. It’s not always about a happily ever after. It’s about the moment of knowing, of letting it out. It’s being that brave and that vulnerable. But you can’t do that – any of what I just said – if you’re hiding behind walls. Get rid of them. They do you no real good.

Do The Thing. Always, always do the thing. Your heart – your life – will be all the better for it.



“If you’re crazy, be crazy. If you’re broken, be broken.” ~Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Belladonna Bay

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin


Confessions of a Book Hoarder

June 1, 2014 3 comments


I’m running out of places for the books to live. They’re everywhere in my house, like some sort of word-born Tribble. They’re under my bed, living in my closet, stacked corners, boxed in the attic, on top of my dresser, and stuffed into my actual bookshelf – to the point where, to get to one book, I have to remove ten. There are books in the chest at the foot of my bed (which was meant for clothing), books in boxes in a storage closet, and books (possibly…definitely) in the linen closet. The attic flooring, honest-to-Hawthorne, has actually cracked under the weight. Now, there’s a sad patch of ceiling in my hallway that has been temporarily nailed together. With great books comes great responsibility, and the poor attic couldn’t handle the pressure.

Some might see this as a problem, even an addiction. My To Be Read pile appears to multiply at night, and if it ever were to become sentient, I’m fairly certain it’s large enough to murder me in my sleep. (Has Stephen King written about a homicidal book yet? I know all about the Evil Pie. But, surely, an evil book is much more terrifying. He could even call it Levon Red Rum. Mr. King, you’re welcome.) Yet, despite the overwhelming Book Plague of Unquantifiable Proportions, I still keep buying books. Anytime anyone asks me if I want a gift for something, I ask for books. When I don’t, eyebrows are raised and people assume I’m ill.

Recently, I brought Suzanne Palmieri’s The Witch of Belladonna Bay to read on my lunch break at work. Who needs food, when there are words? Okay, I need both, but I’m more than capable of eating and reading, just don’t mind the salad dressing I spilled on one corner. The other day, I realized that I can’t find my copy of Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave – a novel with the best opening sentence I’ve ever read. In a fit of pique, I ransacked all of my stacks, piles, and boxes – only to remember that I loaned it to a book-thieving mongrel who kept it for himself. I consoled myself with the notion that it’s a perfectly justifiable reason to buy a new copy. Right now, I’ve got my copy of Stephen King’s It on the passenger seat of my car, in case I arrive someplace early and have a few minutes to kill.

If you’re not a booklover, loving books to the point of clutter and mild hording is somewhat confusing, if not a slight bit horrifying. I’ve been advised in the past to – get this – part with some of my books, simply to make room for new ones. This is, of course, a WORLD of NO. I can’t do it. I couldn’t pick which ones I’d be okay abandoning. What if I’m struck with the sudden urge to walk down Dorothy’s Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz or visit Thornfield Hall and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre? What if I find my version of Ted Hughes and need to re-read Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals immediately? Plus, if I parted with these things, I’d lose all my margin notes. I suffered through graduate school to put them there, and by Gaiman, I will not see that suffering be in vain. (If you could see me right now, I’m doing my best dramatic Scarlett O’Hara defiant flourish.)

My name is Ali, and I’m a book hoarder. I’m addicted to books. I have a book problem. Sure, it makes vacuuming a bit of a challenge, but I reason that having to move piles of books around is good exercise. Yes, my purse usually weighs a metric ton (why carry one book, when you can carry TWO?). And, okay, fine – I once might’ve lost my cat underneath the bed, because the books ate her. Well, technically, she squeezed between the book heaps, and I had to remove them all to free her. But that was just one time. It couldn’t possibly happen again, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think the cat is stuck behind some Shakespeare. Or is that a human foot?

Categories: art, books