Ramadan Day 29: One More Day but Here’s a Cool Blog in the Meantime!

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Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding


 

I’m showing this picture of some baby pandas because I don’t think that everybody thinks pandas should be bred. In fact, I have a friend who is a panda hater. I call her The Irregulator. She’s wise and genius-level and quite idiosyncratic. Recently, I was so kind as to share with her as many panda videos and pictures as I could from China. Partly because I want her to stop being so misguided, but also because I find it humorous to annoy my friends.

 

The Irregulator wrote back a loving note about how it was a testament to her affection for me that she basically allows me to exist, despite my panda-loving ways. She will not repent. That’s okay. In fact, she sent me the following articles to try to make her point:

“Why are Giant Pandas so Bad at Mating?”

“Pandas Literally Evolved to Be Lazy”

“Forget Baby Pandas: Andean Bears are the Best at Being Bears”

All of which were articles that only made me love pandas MORE. It’s a sign that I can take the weaknesses of the Irregulator and make them into my strengths. ❤ Isn’t that what love really is?

Today’s baby pandas aren’t just a cute photo. They’re an object lesson for my first question, printed below. RR – if pandas can be made to bred, on the basis that the species is going extinct (partly due to evolution and partly due to human expansion and expansion) – shouldn’t humans, or at least some of them, breed too? At least for 2-3 days a year. LOL. Kidding, I’m only kidding. Or am I?

 

(And btw, non-breeders – I do my best to make all this stuff about kids bearable, especially for those of you who might feel pressure to have kids or feel like society is being an judgmentator, especially women being subjected to this assholery, and don’t want them. I want you to know that I see you, and I support your choice. We’re amazing and whole, without kids. I think it’s crock that people have kids solely because they feel obligated or less-than without them. Seriously – it says something about society’s woes. As my sister said, probably a lot of mothers regret having kids, but the surveys don’t show that because who would want to say that and risk their kinds finding out that they’re the biggest regret of their parent’s lives?)

 

Also, I’m quite punchy today because, as you may know, jet lag and fasting do NOT mix, so I’ve been sleeping and waking weird hours. Today I went with my brother for him to have a surgery to have a benign cyst removed from the back of his head. He wanted me to film it. Of course, nobody wants to see that cyst! I’m in fact doing everybody a public service by not sharing the pics and video I did manage to get (the doctor was basically like hell no, but then warmed when she and the nurse finally realized that I wasn’t going to faint). The male nurse literally stood by my side and asked me if I was going to faint like 15 times, and he kept telling me I wouldn’t know it was going to happen. I said I promise to breathe evenly and not lock my knees. Then, I wanted to pointedly ask him if he was saying this to me because he considered me “the fainting type” – e.g. woman – but then the ww doctor was already mid-cut on my brother’s scalp, so I thought best to not assert my indignation. Eventually, everything was done, and we were about to leave, and my brother had his cyst in a jar. Then, he asked if the doctor would cut into it for him so he could see the inside, and then . . .

 

 

NO, I didn’t faint. Sheeesh. But I still want to barf in my mouth b/c it was the grossest thing ever…So Irregulator, if you’re reading this…enjoy that I put next to the panda thing something you would really enjoy reading..


 

Dear Galumph,

 

I guess I do have a question for you that I’m struggling with. And it’s one that I know that will hit close to home for you too. So you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want because it might be painful or triggering.

 

Is it inherently selfish to have biological children? Are there really any non-selfish reasons to do so? I mean, the world does not need more people. So this isn’t something you are doing for the betterment of the world. In fact, there are already children out there in need of parents. So why create more when there are ones who already exist and need your love?

 

And the selfishness of this desire tends to weigh on you more if you’re having a child on your own and/or having to take steps to help with fertility. And it’s shitty that straight, partnered people without fertility issues don’t seem to struggle with these qualms as much bc the logistics of having a kid are much easier so you don’t have to be as intentional about it (even though having a partner and a stable home means fostering would be much easier than for those doing it alone – maybe all couples should foster and all single people should have bio children).

 

So basically should we think of all people who choose to have a bio child over fostering as selfish? I kinda do. But then again, I want a bio child and pregnancy and don’t know if I have the strength to withstand the heartbreak of fostering.

 

(My private thoughts that I get are judge-y and hypocritical: I wish more of my activist friends with partners (esp those with their own homes and stable incomes and retired or well-off parents) would foster instead of having more bio children. And I think that we should shame them for not.)

 

So if I do have a biological child on my own, how do I get over the feeling that I’m doing something very selfish?

 

Please edit to make me sound eloquent.

 

The Revolutionary Rabbit


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by librecht baker from VETIVER


 

Dear Revolutionary Rabbit,

 

I hope you don’t mind if I call you RR for short. I also went back and forth on editing your question, and in the end decided – not to. Because it has all the voice of your question, and that voice is interesting and beloved!

I wanted to wait a beat before delivering a sad attempt at an answer.

I don’t agree with many of the values embedded in your question. The most important of these is that being selfish is cause for worry.

I’m an Asian womyn – for whatever reason, my whole life I’ve pretty much felt guilty about everything. When I’ve failed, I’ve felt guilty, like I was letting people down, disappointing my potential

But the worst is that I’ve felt my MOST GUILTY — when I’ve been successful. Remember, like the time (we were friends) I led and obtained a multi-million dollar settlement, going against other attorneys who were admittedly more seasoned and more intelligent – I was AFRAID to even admit the truth to myself – that there was no way any of it would’ve happened without me.

At one point, a former supervisor called, on her way to the opening of the medical clinic that I had fought tooth and nail to be built in South LA, The Rev. Warner Traynham Health Center. She said, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be you. Most attorneys can only dream that their work will have an effect. Or that they’ll even win something. But so many of the cases you touched turned to gold, and now they’re about to open an actual medical center that wouldn’t have been built without you. It’s amazing. A miracle.”

If I had met my self, I would’ve worshipped my achievements, and been proud to associate with me. But I didn’t want people to know, for so long, who I was, who I am.

You see, I was scared. I conflated my wonderfulness with what I accomplished in the world. It’s not the gifts. We all have them. It’s what you do with them. And what you do with them makes you who you are. But I didn’t care. I didn’t see myself as having done this wonderful thing and helped a lot of people. I was scared that people would think I was arrogant, or that really, they would see that I wasn’t really responsible for something great. I thought that I didn’t deserve credit.

When I finished that settlement, I went home and cried that I had nobody in my life that even knew what I’d done. My family didn’t care. I was single. I worked all the time. Only a few friends knew, and they and my community, were ultimately the people who validated my hard work. Of course, I didn’t have as much time for friends, because I was too busy working.

And I remember one day when you extended an invitation for me to speak in front of a group of young wannabe lawyers. I was shocked. I mean, nobody wanted to hear from me? But you said, “Uh, they want to learn about how to be a community lawyer and hear about that big case you just did.” And that moment was one of the first that brought home to me that I didn’t need to feel bad about the great things in my life. My success was a part of me.

I could internalize my brilliance and light as much as my failure and wretchedness.

And looking back, it was all worth it – even the constant feeling of guilt. I was a master contortionist. Somehow, I could twist feelings of fraudulence and worthlessness to fit every single success — because it took accomplishing great things for me to see something so simple. That I didn’t have to prove to anybody that I deserved happiness, or a good life. It was that relief of guilt, and of shame, that led me to say that I could suspend being a public interest attorney and write. Somedays, I still succumb, but I’ve actually only advanced my self-love over time.

Get it, RR? Look at all the beauty you possess (Sarah MacLachlan? Weird…don’t know how that happened?)

Really, though, do you still have TIME for guilt?

It’s never occurred to me as someone who wants a biological child, that I’m doing something selfish. Come to think of it – it is selfish. Why is that wrong? Who cares if I’m being selfish?

(I think there are some great self help books about the art of being selfish, if you’re interested. At least that’s what Virgie always told me.)

Look, I know that we’re in different positions with this. I’ve never been expected to have a child, and being queer and single, it doesn’t often occur to me that what I’m doing is thoughtless or easy or simply to fit into a box.

But we’re really not that different. I was just saying that to make you feel better, or me. Not sure which one. We both have various privileges the other doesn’t have. It feels like a whopping big sacrifice to spend a little less time and energy manifesting some dreams so I can spend more time and energy manifesting a baby. I wonder if you feel the same.

You may be wondering why back-to-back, I’ve printed first your question and a poem by librecht baker, a dear friend and inspiration.

Well, that’s because I know you RR, and I know that you’ve always dreamt of breeding like the hot little rabbit you are, and I’m not in the least surprised to hear you asking about whether you should have kids. I mean, you did interrogate me on how I could possibly believe in God when innocent kids were being killed all over the world – was that part of God’s plan too? I love that moment, seriously. It reminds me that I can’t pretend to know the answers, and that belief or Faith is always going to be a question mark. You either have it or you don’t. Shall I say more?

It’s about my Beliefs…

RR, you live your life in the spirit of rebellion for Black Lives Matter and for many other causes. I detest the word causes. You live your life in the service of the oppressed, might be a better way to say it. It’s who you feel a sympathy toward, an affinity — and you yourself have dealt with a whole shit ton of oppression.

You actually form community – I was a lost soul in LA until you brought me into your world – filled with the kindest of things for a lonely heart such as myself – an invitation to have your company. An invitation to friendship. You do that for me and tons of other people. Without being fucked-up and exclusive. You “echo the blessing of rebellion.” Personally and professionally.

Yet, despite your greatness, as long as I’ve known you – you’ve suffered from a relatively useless emotion – guilt, and guilt over wanting something, especially anything good for yourself. I hate to say it, but that guilt goes hand in hand with thinking less of yourself. I mean I trust your integrity.

We live in a world where that integrity, as my friend Courtru says, is challenged all the time. We’re put to the test especially in intimate relationships. When people treat us poorly, or in any way that is less than we deserve. If we tolerate or accept this behavior, instead of changing the situation, then we lose our integrity — because we are allowing ourselves to live outside of our values. The cost of that loss of integrity is internalization. So, however we justify it — that this is the best we’re going to get, that we don’t have the strength to be alone, that other people have it so we should — it always ends up frying our self-esteem system. And the one thing about any toxic relationship – it’s not like most people on the other end think — oh hey, I’m really hurting X person. We might punish them, or try to get them to behave differently, but in the end, that’s up to them. It’s up to us to leave or change the situation some other way.

It’s as if you don’t think you deserve to have what you want in this world. That underpins the question of whether you can have bio kids and still feel good. And children, quite frankly, are too broad a spectrum, too big a phenomenon, to minimize into a hoard that merely represents the future overpopulation/destruction of the world.

We don’t know what’s going to happen next.

You don’t know.

Sure, there’s a chance people will continue to raise families whose only purpose is to be good only to themselves. To get what’s theirs. Children whose idea of civic connection and community is only how they will benefit themselves. That there is a problem. We have a whole society and generations composed of these empty-headed consumers. While we want to believe that we who’re raised in Amerika are the products of some individuality – we are actually a product of our times. A product of socialization.

I know that if parents don’t ask themselves the hard questions, like the ones you’re asking, from the go – well, then we’re lost as a species. Maybe that’s why, selfishly, I’d love for you to be a parent. Also, I want you to have play dates where you play with my kid, and I chill out and watch tv.

Maybe it’s exceptional kids who grow up to be socially-minded and conscious. And sure most kids are born loving little monsters. But left without proper guidance, those unexceptional kids, which is most kids – will grow up to be mindless, destructive capitalists, consuming their parents alive. To be community-oriented, kids needs parents who nurture that sense of hope. Kids need parents who love them. Parents who don’t spend their time tearing down that kid, or comparing that kid, but instead telling that kid they have something special to give, and standing by that kid’s side when everything goes down, which it invariably does.

I have no reason to think that you aren’t incredibly conscious. That you won’t raise a kid who will help not only themselves, but also other people, to have a good life. That you

            (rebuilt a movement, an uprising and flag in remembrance will

            vibrate, actualize change for generations, want

 

            borderlands removed from our life for our lives rightfully ours, to

            believe empowers our spirit, sages our cries, affirms our worth, be

 

            as you are and continue to awaken brave

 

I think you get the picture. (That’s a joke, get it? Also referring to librecht baker’s poem in the picture above?)

RR, I love you. I want you to love you. I want you to have what YOU want. Your guilt, sigh, is an old ache, a friend I doubt you’d know how to live without. Like me! And, I suspect that the second you give birth, all guilt will fly out of the window. You will look at that little schnookum, that nugget of humanity, that little piece of sweetness and farts, and you will say, “Fuck, I’m exhausted. Somebody watch my kid so I can get some sleep.”

 

Also, while I know there’s some heartbreak associated with fostering. I do want to say, for the record, that a lawyer I know in Southern California fostered to adoption, twice. A woman who never wanted kids. If you ever want to talk to her about it, I would love to put you in touch. She said that while the perception of that system is that it’s not navigable, that the opposite is true, and especially with people who understand how systems work (ahem, lawyers), that it’s quite likely that you can work out a situation where if you want to adopt, your chances are very high.

 

I don’t agree with shaming straight people who want kids, either. This is partly because I’m sensitive to shaming as a change tactic. I don’t know if it works. Maybe it does. Sometimes, it feels like a useful tool. Sometimes, it feels like it just causes people to retreat. This is something I’d be curious to know more about from other people, especially activists, who can tell me if shaming is useful, inherently okay, or cruel, or if I’m just being too sensitive here. I do think it’d be nice if couples who are enacting straight privilege were more thoughtful about their privileges, but then I think the same of white people, and straight, white people, so there we have it…I want them to have healthy, happy families too, but I want them to prioritize their kids becoming social change agents, now more than ever. No better place to lead, than by example.


 

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gratuitous picture of Turkey as section break


 

Dear Galumph,

In response to your request, which was refreshing and nice to hear, I’ll offer some thoughts in the hopes of clarifying my question (see “how the heck do you find time to write?”):

As to why I ask, well, mostly it’s to learn about you in the present moment and what you’ve been doing, for pete’s sakes.

But to be honest, this question is a central one in my life, and it’s a question that I don’t ask of everyone. I guess I save it up for the people who I secretly suspect might be in possession of a good answer.

My asking doesn’t come without trepidation, as the question has surely caused many artists a great deal of suffering. Your drafting abilities have always impressed me, so I thought of you in that context, though certainly allowing for some room to discuss revising. Despite your natural strengths in these areas, I have no doubt the question has caused you a smidgeon of anxiety, since you’re an artist, consarnit. We’ve discussed it before, but something tells me your answer(s) may have evolved since last time.

What do you do to get yourself to sit down at a blank page and start? What gets you to that place?

In solidarity,

Romulus


 

Dear Romulus,

 

Thanks for getting back to me after I gave you homework. I don’t know if blog readers know this, but Romulus appeared earlier with a question:

 

I got a q for ya. how the heck does one find enough time to write these days? understood there may be no answer to this question!

 

Romulus – you somehow managed to COMPLETELY SHIRK my question back, at least in intent, which was to write me a letter detailing the specifics of YOUR LIFE. Silly, it was a prompt! I thought that I was being all clever, and that you would write me a long letter full of your details and specifics about how you spend your day, with juicy details over scandal and horror that has no end, at the very least about the juicy little scumbags that you teach. ANYTHING.

 

SHEEEEEEESH. HARUMPH from THE GALUMPH.

 

Imagine that. You turning down a prompt, even in this anonymous forum where unknown friends of mine get to hear a little about my friend’s lives. Don’t you think people want to know?

 

So I’m using your question to leapfrog over to tomorrow’s post where I intend to tell you a little about the present moment. Namely, my trip to China – a question posed by another galumph pilgrim.

 

Wait, hold on, oh right you also asked about the blank page and how I start.

 

Ok, well, obviously, I do love a good prompt, and I thank you for the very complimentary nature of your e-mail.

 

I truly do think 80% of it is literally just facing down that dark and solemn, and chillingly unknown door. I am one of those writers who has a hard time writing more often than I like to admit, though T often tells me that writers constantly kvetching about how hard it is to write are ANNOYING. To that I agree.

 

So, to each their own, but one thing I did was to start journaling online during Ramadan – say about 5 years ago…because I didn’t have the energy. Doing something so public and with such quick turnaround goes against my perfectionist tendencies.

 

When that worked, I also started a mini advice column that I’m debating continuing, in another format, for a lit magazine. (So yes, I would like you to know you’ve all been part of a grand experiment – That’s LIFE! — and please feel free to continue sending my questions even though I won’t be answering them as part of this year’s Ramadan blog.) I did it partly because I was dreading writing everyday. It felt like an uphill slog. So, really, Romulus – you helped me to face a blank page! It was the idea of setting parameters. Making it concrete.

 

I really, really feel an incredible gratitude to every single person who responded in some way to the blog because you’re the reason I wrote every day that I was fasting during Ramadan. Seriously.

 

 

Too often, the project of writing a blank page doesn’t feel like freedom. Of course, I love getting to that state, which has happened – where I wake up and stretch and decide what I want to write that morning. I LOVE that feeling – of seeing the blank canvas and knowing that I can do whatever I want, whatever I feel like doing. But, it’s the dread stuff – when I feel like I have to be productive, or I have to continue on a problematic thing that defeats me. Or worse, when NOTHING is happening, and I just scribble out two sentences and then start eating or cleaning or watching tv.

 

I mean the best book on breaking through the blank page really is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, wherein she dispenses such useful advice as filling up a one inch picture frame. She’s got so many gems, but here I fished one out of the pile that I thought would be particularly useful for you.


Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 11.16.00 PM


 

Bollywood Superstar (many of you remember this gorgeous confidante from last year’s Ramadan journals). I haven’t had a chance to see Bollywood Superstar this Ramadan, but she said something meaningful to me about writing earlier this year. She finished an entire novel ( a second revision, an overhaul) like a ginormous one (and yeah I’ve got a draft to review, baby), and when I asked her a week after she finished what she was doing, she said, “I’m already writing a second novel. I mean, it’s a muscle I’ve developed, why waste it?”

 

I think, Romulus, that the best thing I’ve learned is that I’ve now spent years working on my self-defeating attitudes. That, more than anything, has given me the confidence to write. And writing really is exercise that I tend to lose when I don’t do it. A lot of times, and I suspect this is the case with you, I tell myself I’m just too exhausted to write. The whole Toni Morrison held down her full time job and kids and woke up at 5:30am or whatever too damn early hour to write never worked for me. It just made me feel bad that I wasn’t Toni Morrison, which really is fine, and I think you and I and every writer should spare a moment to revere the great WRITER for whatever it is that we revere most about her writing.

 

When it comes to hacks, there’s no easy way other than to just write. That said, I do think reading is good. Taking classes/workshops can be helpful when you’re having a hard time or having an accountability buddy (buddies) (whattup Tiny Dancer) or a writing group or set readers. Of course, residencies don’t hurt. I’ve set up and use a lot of systems, and you got an MFA so I can’t imagine you’re not familiar with all these external things.

 

That all being said, I do have to challenge myself. For me, the biggest poison is the television set. I LOVE TV. I truly enjoy it. That’s why one ex used to refer to me as her Zomboo. I mean, it’s so damn hard for me to STOP WATCHING TV. So now, I often try to write in the mornings because I can’t fight my urge to watch tv in the evenings, which is traditionally my favorite time to write. Even though I’m groggy as fuck in the mornings, I do it. (Except during Ramadan, because then I’m kind of groggy all the time).

 

I read. I’m not as voracious a reader as many of the writers I know. This is problematic, but I’m improving. I have, however, watched every episode of Gray’s Anatomy and other sci fi shows that many writers don’t know shit about. But language is key. I have a soft spot for reading poetry when I’m stuck. Yes, sometimes I even write it.

 

But, let me get to the point I’ve been rambling on and on about. The one I really want to make. Writing, like life, isn’t supposed to be easy. It doesn’t have to be too hard, either. But it does require work. I’ve known you for a while, Romulus. You’re not afraid to work. You’ve shown up and been vulnerable even when the world hasn’t required that of you. I respect that, and I think that the real point is that you’re at a stag with your writing where I know that you don’t need to hear from me about when or how to start. I’m a procrastinator, remember. You don’t need me to show you how to fill a blank page. I’ve read the exquisite ways you’ve filled that page. You don’t even need a pep talk.

 

You just need to write.

 

P.S.


 

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