Protecting the Sacred.

I’ve been following the actions of the water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota since the summer. The images coming out of the camp are at once beautiful and alarming, and when I look at them I feel a kind of longing. I harbor these fever dreams in which I gas up my car and make the trip out, abandoning my job, my school, and my cats.

I can’t do that, and that’s not what the longing is about anyway. The longing is about culture. I think a lot of white folks feel this, I think it can also express itself as a kind of resentment or dismissiveness. And I think it’s what leads well-intentioned white folks to appropriate the cultures of other people for new agey rituals, etcetera.

The bulk of my ancestors were Irish, which means at some point they traded in a part of their humanity to accept whiteness. They assimilated; they gave up their folk music and dances and folk arts and names and accents in order to be perceived as white. It was a way to get out from under the boot of the oppression that they were experiencing at the time, but it was also to fend off the fear of ending up at the bottom of the social ladder, the same fear that seems to be driving some of the Donald Trump madness currently happening in this country. I understand why it happened, but I also recognize it as despicable in its own way. The Irish of early America were happy to allow and even further the oppression of those whose skin was darker than their own as long as they could have the jobs and the lives that they wanted.

I see men and women dancing and singing and drumming at the camps in North Dakota, and it strikes me that these people have struggled desperately to avoid that. Despite constant attempts to extinguish their cultural ways, spanning pretty much the entire history of this country into the modern day, they have saved whatever they could. I feel that longing, but mostly I admire these people for finding a better way than my forebears did.

It’s stuff I’ve seen in my travels as well. In Bhutan, in Singapore, in Mexico, in Thailand, in Malaysia… we are the dull birds of the global forest. And while whiteness has taken over enough of the modern world that we can go through our days thinking that the native dancers, the bhutanese family with a penis painted on their house, the dancers wearing wild demon masks are the odd ones, the fact of the matter is they aren’t.

We are.

This is part of a sickness that infects the soul, this breaking down of folkways and communities and traditions. We, as human beings, need these things to be whole, I think.

It can seem unfair; we didn’t make the decision to give these things up. But we have lived with the millions of advantages, some big and some tiny, that are granted to white people. How we become whole again is a thing I’ve thought about often, and it’s a difficult question to answer and the actual answer lies in some realm of thought that I don’t have access to.

You see, whiteness, the privilege we’re afforded, also colors our thinking and our worldview. I can’t see past the whiteness to get a complete answer, if such a thing exists.

But here’s what I currently believe to be true.

The very first steps in becoming whole again is to acknowledge that these things are and can be sacred.

So much of the culture that most of us white Americans have lived in for our whole lives is about money, value, trade, debt, and theft; nothing is sacred to us in macro. Everything is for sale by someone. This is a colonial mindset.

I’m going to be wading into concepts here that I’m not a hundred percent that I completely understand so bear with me.

The colonial mindset, among its many other crimes, prevents us from understanding that some things are sacred. We can know things are sacred. We can listen when someone tells us this and we can file it away in a mental box labeled “sacred,” but I think a lot of us, even the religious among us, don’t really understand what this means. It is outside the colonial mindset.

The way that white people start to become whole is by overcoming this mindset. By decolonializing the way that we think. And part of that, and I think it’s important to note that it’s just a part, means understanding sacredness, and accepting that some things are sacred. This includes the folkways of other people. These things are sacred. The dances that I watched Bhutanese monks do in the restaurant of the hotel we stayed in at Thumphu are sacred. The songs that water protectors in North Dakota sing, those are sacred. They are important. They are vital.

This doesn’t mean that we adopt them. In fact it kind of means the opposite. We understand that they’re important enough, sacred enough, that we won’t fuck around with them. We listen, we learn, we read, and we try to stand up and help when we can if these sacred things are threatened. We value them without needing to possess them.

We can’t have our own folkways until we do this. Because until we can understand the sacred nature of these things, we’re still trapped in colonial thinking. It’s funny to say that, because I think white people get defensive when people tell them to decolonize their thinking, but the fact is we’re prisoners of this kind of thinking.

I don’t know, this is all kind of half-formed.

I guess it can be summed up thusly: for white middle class folks like myself to earn that back, we have to stop being assholes, and try to stop other white people from being assholes. We have to defend the sacred, and stand with those who do too.

 

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Homework About Race.

So, my friend and podcast co-host James High gave everyone some homework stemming from a panel that he attended on race and poetry at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. The assignment is this: write about the first time you became aware of your race. So here goes.

I was a little child. I think it was before I was attending school, but maybe it was just summer. In my mind’s eye we were living in the beachside house in Anacortes, WA, with its empty lots next door and the big stone facade with big windows facing the sea.

But that can’t be true. So I think we were living in the Fox Hall neighborhood in Anchorage, Alaska. The Anacortes house takes the place of the Fox Hall house because it is the earliest house that I remember, possibly because I’ve been back to visit it as an adult. Such is the subjectivity of human memory.

This was before my mother cut my hair as punishment and I lived a school year insisting that I was a girl to all my doubting classmates.

I was outside, walking up to the house, and my dad was outside, wearing a blue jacket and sort of hiding a lit cigarette behind his back. I think he was taking a break from some kind of yard work. He saw me coming up the driveway and he asked me if I’d been off playing with that little black girl.

I don’t remember the girl’s name. I have a vague memory of a dark skinned little girl with her hair in twisted pigtails. I don’t remember what games we played or if we played at her house. I don’t think she played at mine.

Maybe I had heard my father talking about black people at some point when he didn’t know that little ears were listening. It’s possible; my dad was the second youngest of a big farm family in Arkansas. He was a casually racist man, though he later reformed.

So maybe it was the awareness, the uncomplicated awareness of a child that my father did not approve of black people that made me feel like I had to defend my friend. Maybe it was that which caused me to feel like calling a little black girl a little black girl was an insult.

So I looked up at him, and said, “she’s not black! She’s brown.”

My dad laughed in the way that you laugh to indulge a child who doesn’t understand how the real world works, and he continued to laugh, telling that story among family, in front of guests, to men from his office.

I walked past him, up to the house, having now absorbed the understanding that there was something different between her and I other than being different colors like kittens in a litter. Something silent, something that adults didn’t talk about around children.

I didn’t keep up with that little girl after we moved, which if we were in the Fox Hall house would have been the move to Anacortes. If we’d been in the Anacortes house, it would have been the move back to Anchorage. I was too young to keep a pen pal and there was no internet. Keeping in touch with her would have required a lot of help from my parents.

And my parents had little enough interest in me, let alone a little black girl from the neighborhood.

The Primary Post Mortem.

Well, now that the Democratic Primary contest is over…

No. No, stop. It is over. I don’t care if Bernie Sanders is going to “take it all the way to the convention,” and in fact I would find it highly undemocratic if he were to attempt to subvert the popular vote through use of superdelegates…

That sounds weirdly familiar. Where have I heard that before?

Oh yeah. Now I remember. I heard it from the Sanders campaign.

Anyway, now that the primary is over, I hope we can all get over hating each others guts for long enough to govern.

Hillary Clinton won, and I’m very glad that she did.

Clinton is a candidate with problems in her past, but you know, so are literally all candidates. Yes, including Sanders. No, this is not up for debate. Sanders has made bad votes. He has even made votes in favor of military and paramilitary action.

What I have noticed the most, the absolute most, during this primary is how easy it has been for us  to blame every disastrous problem in our government in the last fifty plus years on her. I find it odd that the issues with corruption and cronyism and whatnot that, I find it important to point out, were caused and exacerbated by men, are so handily blamed on Clinton when she has a chance to become president.

I also find it strange, for the Bernie-or-Bust crowd, that we are suddenly incapable of going to the polls for a flawed candidate after years of voting for flawed candidates.

The above is of course a lie. Bernie Sanders is a deeply flawed candidate. But I’ll get to that later.

There’s been this weird narrative that people only vote for Clinton because they feel like they have to. I saw one person on Facebook this week saying that the vote must be fraudulent, because seriously do any of you even know any Clinton supporters? There’s been this idea that Clinton isn’t inspiring, that she’s not “likable.”

I’m here to say that yes, people voted for Clinton, yes, she has supporters; yes, many of us support her because we actually like her. We’ve just been invisible in particularly Bern-heavy parts of the discourse because we quickly got tired of being called genocidal cunts and corporate whores. Easier to just shut up and vote at that point.

This is, of course, why I stayed home during the Washington State caucuses. Because fuuuuuck that.

I started out as a Sanders supporter. In fact Sanders was a hero of mine, and I was excited when he ran. But the shine quickly wore off, and now I really don’t like Sanders very much. This was a disheartening thing to realize. It’s painful when heroes tarnish.

But Clinton was also a hero of mine, so I got over it pretty quickly.

There have been dozens of opinion pieces written about why people don’t “feel the bern” since around the middle of the primary. I’ve been hesitant to criticize Sanders, not just because it’s illegal in 30 states to do so, and not just because you will be called female gendered slurs if you do so, but because (unlike the Sanders crew, apparently) my first priority is keeping Republicans out of office, so even as I came to dislike Bernie Sanders, I didn’t want to contribute to him becoming an unelectable candidate in the event that he won the nomination.

You see, I’m female, and women actually stand to lose some rights if the Republicans win. I know that’s hard for people to understand, but women, as well as gendered minorities, sexual minorities, and racial minorities, can’t afford to wait out four to eight years of a Trump presidency. We are already under attack.

So anyway, I’ve held off criticizing Sanders because if he won the nomination I needed him to be able to win.

But he’s not going on to the general election.

At least, not in any politically viable way.

So now I can get some shit off my chest.

Referring to voting for Clinton as the lesser of two evils is acting like Sanders wouldn’t be the same. Listen to me: all people who rise to power in our government have  bad votes on their records, and those bad votes are generally speaking the result of difficult choices that now seem easy in hindsight. So I don’t really hold these things against Sanders, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that the left’s favorite demagogue isn’t perfect.

Bernie Sanders has voted for war.

In fact, his vote to support the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia caused staffer Jeremy Brecher to resign in protest. From his letter of resignation to Sanders:

“Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support? Where does that limit lie? And when that limit has been reached, what action will you take? My answers led to my resignation.”

And while he did vote against the Iraq war, he did later vote to authorize funds for not just that war, but also the one in Afghanistan. Additionally, and most chilling to me, he voted t authorize funds for the Israeli assault on Gaza. Do you remember the 2014 assault on Gaza? It was a nightmare.

Like I said. I don’t hold these things against Bernie Sanders to any particular degree. But I think if we’re going to blame Clinton for voting for the use of force authorization for the Iraq war, it’s only fair to acknowledge the blood on Sanders’ hands.

I’m also not much of a fan of the infamous rape essay (hint: it’s not infamous because it’s illegal to criticize Bernie Sanders in 30 out of 50 states, remember.), nor of his admitted admiration for socialist strongmen, nor his praise for the morality of breadlines.

But all of those things were a while ago, so why hold them against him? We all grow and learn and change, right? (I of course mean everyone but Clinton, who is held responsible for working on a Republican campaign at the age of 16.)

But I’ll tell you what did push me away from the Sanders campaign… his supporters. And not in the way you might thing.

Don’t get me wrong; being yelled at and having gendered slurs flung at me is off-putting (seriously did you guys think that would get Sanders more votes? Really?). But that’s not the reason.

The reason is authoritarianism.

There’s been this weird undercurrent of belief in the Sanders camp that if they elected Bernie, everything would be okay. That’s really weird when you take into account the difficulty our current president has had getting literally anything done. There was this weird idea that Sanders was going to change everything, with little to no discussion about Congress. And this was encouraged by the campaign.

It was as if Sanders could just magically ignore the other half of the country and their representatives and votes. Now, I don’t agree with the political right in the United States on pretty much anything. But I acknowledge that they’re human and citizens and have votes and voices that are equal to mine.

When you asked about it, if you were lucky enough to not be screamed at, there was this notion that Sanders would just “sweep” people into office. Which is weird because he actively campaigned against the Democratic Party (I know I know, the party is an evil plaything of the Prime Evil, Hillary Clinton), and it didn’t seem that Sanders voters were particularly interested in voting down-ballot.

When he finally did announce that he was going to fund downticket races, it was only for people who had endorsed him, which is a weirdly Soviet and cronyish way to go about it. If he got his three BFFs elected, he still wouldn’t be able to get shit done without more Democrats in congress. So strange, so confusing.

His willingness (and his supporters’ willingness) to vilify Democratic heroes of mine when they didn’t agree with him also gave me pause. Like, Bernie? You’re going to have to work with these people.

And in with all of this was the kind of dangerous rhetoric regarding the primary process, rhetoric that came directly from the campaign and indicated that the primary was somehow rigged against him.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

But here’s why this rhetoric is troubling: it set up Bernie supporters as somehow marginalized and oppressed and further deepened suspicion of the Democratic party. There was this idea that the inconsistencies in places like Arizona and New York were aimed at Sanders supporters somehow, which is weird if you stop and think about it. Sure, maybe voter rolls were purged in New York inappropriately. But they were purged in places that favored Clinton. Arizona’s irregularities were the result of Republican oversight, and could easily have been prevented if anyone bothered to give a rat’s ass when the Voting Rights Act was gutted in, what, 2013? You see, Arizona was a Section 5 state, and was such due to its tendency to disenfranchise native and latino voters.

In fact, voting irregularities all over the country aren’t new, and aren’t limited to this primary, or even to the Democratic party or to primaries in general. People of color have been complaining about these irregularities for literally years, and nobody listened until Sanders supporters decided that they were being oppressed.

But tied up in this is also the idea that votes for Clinton are somehow illegitimate or don’t matter.

And that’s more of that weird authoritarian thinking. If you’re not with us then you shouldn’t have a say.

Now I’m not saying that Bernie Sanders supporters are racist, or that they’re authoritarians, or even that Bernie Sanders was a socialist strongman in the offing. I actually like a lot of socialism; I think we need way, way, way more of it. But these things, and the fact that they were actively encouraged by rhetoric coming out of the campaign, definitely pushed me towards Clinton.

As did the fact that the Sanders campaign carefully skirted a line between censuring his most reprehensible supporters just enough, but not enough to actually discourage them.

As did the sexist rhetoric coming out of the campaign.

Also, I really like Hillary Clinton.

But that’s a subject for a different post.

On Objectification.

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I ran into a conversation online in which a man was claiming that men are objectified in the same way that women are.

I want to start out by saying that this guy is probably saying this fully believing that it is true, because he doesn’t suffer the kind of objectification that women do, and because objectification is so common in our society that we are socialized to it and it seems invisible unless you’re looking for it.

Second, I want to say that objectification and sexual attraction are different; nobody is trying to make a villain out of a man who is sexually attracted to women or vice versa.

Third, yes, men can be sexually objectified, but the objectification that women face is far more pervasive than the relatively isolated and few situations in which men are objectified, and since men are assumed to have power they do not suffer the same kinds of negative effects of objectification that women experience.

So what is objectification, where and how does it happen, and what are the impacts?

Objectification is when women are presented as objects, with their autonomy and agency stripped away. In most cases, women are objectified for the sexual enjoyment of heterosexual men.

And it happens almost everywhere.

Advertisements are a huge culprit. It’s obvious that sexualized images of women are used heavily in ads, because hey, sex sells. Women are presented in advertising as interchangeable, without identity, sexualized, sexually available, subject to violence, unable to consent, and sometimes even as stand-ins for objects or products.

Women are also objectified in television and film; often portrayed as sidekicks (sometimes interchangeable, such as with “Bond girls,”) who have no motivation that doesn’t begin and end with the male protagonist, given out as prizes for a job well done, with few lines of dialogue and little to no agency.

It is also rampant in video games, and presents itself across all genres of fiction. You even see it at almost any kind of convention in the form of “booth babes,” intended to be attractive to men, decorative, and interchangeable.

So what’s the problem?

This objectification, this stream of images and narratives that strip women of their humanity has an impact, a real, measurable impact, on how we view women. Multiple studies have shown that both women and men process images of women similarly to how they process images of objects in the brain.

This perception of women as objects leads to women being perceived as less competent, less worthy of respect, and less intelligent than men. It contributes to glass ceilings and pay disparity in the workplace. It contributes to discrimination against women of “non-ideal” body types. It feeds into rape culture and violence against women.

Moreover, it impacts the well-being of girls and women. Aside from notable disparities in the workplace, it contributes to women’s medical issues not being taken seriously (a kind of holdover from the days of “womb hysteria”). Objectification is internalized by women and girls, leading them to see male approval as their only benchmark for self-worth. Women and girls exposed to sexualized images of female bodies report lower levels of self esteem, and women who self-objectify seem to be at greater risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, when women’s value is determined by an external source and not by herself according to her goals and values, etc, it automatically places the women in a subordinate sociological position.

So what can you do?

Well, you can stop (or reduce, let’s be realistic here) your consumption of sexually objectifying media. The reason that advertisers (and television shows, and film studios, and video game studios, etc) use these images and tropes is because they pay. Reducing the amount of sexually objectifying media that you consume, whether you’re male or female, may also change the way you look at the world. I found that advertising was the most severe example; I stopped watching television and stopped buying magazines. It’s an enlightening experience to watch television for a few hours and note the number of instances of female objectification. I think the ads are worse than the shows because they’re shorter; producers can get away with way more sexism for a shorter period of time than they could for an entire television show.

You can make sure to take the things women say seriously, and foster healthy multi-gender friends groups. You can call out harassing and objectifying behavior when you see it (the tendency to call out sexist behavior is reduced in both men and women in the face of objectifying media).

I Feel The Rain Coming.

The air feels still and close today. It is one of many strange days and I can’t help but wonder if the feeling of a storm coming in isn’t both literal and metaphorical.

I feel as though we are on the verge of tremendous change. Social, economic, and political. And when I say “we” I don’t just mean the United States. I mean the entire world. It is a feeling both ominous and hopeful. While the change is likely inevitable, what form it takes is not.

It’s particularly surreal to feel this here, sitting in my Macroeconomics class, learning information that will probably be obsolete for the next generation… which may in fact already be obsolete. And here we are, unable to see it. Like ants, too small to see the boot sole descending upon us, and the boot sole no less inevitable for all our myopia.

I think those who are younger than I am feel this more acutely. They were born into this season of change. I, a late gen-Xer, was still raised with the idea that if I worked hard enough and played the game well, I would be rewarded with stability.

The cynicism of my generation was the product of disillusionment; the understanding that what we’d been taught was wrong, that our corporate masters would not take care of us no matter how hard we worked. The understanding that employment did not mean safety and that saving for retirement was not a guarantee. The knowledge that we were a generation that would see soaring inequality.

Since the Boomers, each generation has thought of itself as doomed. Hunter Thompson said as much in his essay, Open Letter to The Youth of Our Nation, which he penned in 1955 at the tender age of eighteen. In it, Thompson takes on the heartily ironic voice of John J Righteous-Hypocrite and urges the youth of America to work hard and apply themselves, excoriating them as lazy degenerates. But the second and third lines of the essay feel prophetic:

Do you realise you are rapidly becoming a doomed generation? Do you realise that the fate of the world and of generations to come rests on your shoulders?”

Generation X, my generation, also felt the weight of this doom, but perhaps not so heavily as does Generation Y, whose opting out is viewed as laziness and entitlement.

But I have to wonder, how can we demand that they invest in a system that’s falling apart?

And I have to wonder, are they investing their energy into systems that will support them when ours will not?

Because I guarantee you, our system will not be there to support them when they need it. Hell, it’s already not here to support me.

And the system is falling apart. Whether you put any stock in the study that predicts the collapse of western society, or this opinion piece on the death of capitalism, the fact is that a free society will not continue to persist under the current conditions.

Capitalism as a system relies on the redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom; without it it cannot continue, as there are no customers to buy products. The decline of wages in real world dollars represents an inefficiency, a decline in the flow of capital that allows the system to function.

I’m not a doomsayer, though. I like to think that the coming storm of change will, like events perceived as collapses in the micro view, lead to better systems, higher standards of living, and an improvement in management of the commons.

I just worry it’s going to hurt the people least to blame in the process.

I keep stealing glances out the window to see if the rain has come in. I start a fourth page of notes on obsolescence. I wait. I study for my exam. I wonder.

On Day Planners and Desperation.

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I wrote about using a paper planner and how much I love it. Well, I bought myself a new paper planner and I love it even more now.

The new planner is really flexible and customizeable. Basically its lack of features means that you can use it in whatever way you want, and you can put different kinds of paper in it for using it for different things. It’s so flexible that I decided to look at some day planner videos on YouTube to see how other people get organized and hopefully pick up some tips.

That was the beginning of a huge rabbit hole.

They call it Planner Porn.

There is a whole community of people on YouTube displaying their planners and journals. And there are a lot of people out there who decorate their day planners like scrapbooks.

I think this is great. I think there are people for whom the reward of creative time helps motivate them to get organized and be productive. Me personally, I don’t have the time or the inclination to spend my creative time that way, and to me the need to make every day beautiful and memorable seems somehow deranged, but I encourage other people who find it rewarding to do so.

What I found really fascinating about these videos, though, is that there’s a tone of misery or desperation running under some of these videos that speaks to something very essentially human. There are people who do this who, when they talk, sound like they’re barely holding their lives together. People who put things like “shower” and “change clothes” on their daily habit trackers to make sure they’re doing basic self-care.

Full disclosure: there are days when my life gets close to unmanageable, times when I cannot keep on top of my housework. Also? If I don’t put “clip fingernails” on my to-do list, it doesn’t get done. So I want to make sure you know that I don’t think this is funny, or that I’m gawking at them.

I’m not trying to set these people up as freakshows. I don’t think there’s any call to make fun of people who are in a difficult point in their lives, or people who struggle with mental illness. (That’s why I’m not referencing specific people or posting any links to specific videos.) But I do think there’s a kind of an unspoken assumption in modern life that happiness is the default and that if you aren’t happy most of the time, there’s something wrong with you.

I don’t think that’s true. I think being a live thinking human being is a struggle more often than it isn’t. I think a lot of these people picked up the planner habit in order to rein in a life that had in whatever way become unmanageable. And if their pretty planners help them do this, I can’t blame them at all for the desperation with which the speak about the planning regimen they subscribe to, nor can I blame them for the almost religious way that they decorate them, stringing an idol with flowers and beads.

So it’s not that planners or journals are specifically for people who have this deep-seated misery. Rather, I think we all hold this tension, this unhappiness, and I think that the act of showing off a planner or journal is a weirdly intimate act that just puts that misery closer to the surface. It’s really fascinating to me, and it’s another one of those weird and wonderful things that we simply would not have without the internet.

And honestly, watching this stuff makes me feel a little less alone. It reminds me that what we’re told is “normal” really isn’t; that the days when you feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water, there’s thousands of voices crying out in desperation with you. And that’s really important for me to remember, because when I am overloaded and things fall by the wayside, I feel like an absolute freakshow, and there’s no reason for it.

Because modern life is hard on all of us in different ways.

Because we’re all people.

And being people is hard sometimes.

The Journal and the Pen.

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I like to keep a journal.

I know that’s no surprise to those of you who come here on a mostly-weekly basis to see what it is that I’m feeling anxious/angry/happy about. But I mean beyond this, I also keep paper journals.

Like writing, by hand, with pen.

And it’s not like the stuff you see on this blog. Some of it, a lot of it, is made up of to-do lists. Some of it are running lists I keep, such as ideas for short stories, or subjects for blog posts or podcast episodes (Did I mention that I have a podcast now?). Thee’s also stray thoughts, quotes I find interesting, notes I take while reading… it’s basically a pseudo-organized Book of Me.

This is a really recent habit of mine, and it’s not entirely consistent, but I love it.

Aside from helping me stay organized (which believe it or not this does and I’ll talk more about that in a second), I feel like the act of writing things by hand is really important for me. It’s as though the tactile feel of writing by hand allows me to touch a part of my brain that composition and typing don’t reach. I find that if I’m brainstorming, the freedom of the blank page makes things easier. Ideas come more quickly, and I’m better able to organize them visually on a page than in a notes app or a word processor.

I also find that the process of writing out a daily to-do by hand gives me more opportunity to think about and mentally prepare for what’s going to happen during the day ahead. The slower process of hand-writing the list gives me greater clarity to prioritize wisely, and often to let go of the things that don’t absolutely need to get done.

And keeping running lists is the best. Before I would write down some ideas on a sheet of paper and cram it in my pocket. With a paper journal, I can pick a page for the list, number that page, even give it a sticky tab if I want to, and just continue to refer to it day-to-day, rather than ending up with twenty partly-used pieces of notepad paper in the bottom of my purse, slowly collecting the grime of a life well-lived while I completely forget about both their contents and their existence.

Keeping a journal has allowed me to take what often feels like a chaotic nightmare of an existence and project an illusion of control on it. I don’t know that I necessarily get any more done in a day, but at least I know the stuff that didn’t get done and I can assign it to get done on a different day, rather than allowing it to fall by the wayside and become a specter of ongoing anxiety.

I think that last one is the most useful overall. I can soothe my anxiety by convincing myself that I have some kind of control over my life. Anxiety is a productivity killer. I don’t mean the kind of anxiety that spurs you on when you have a deadline looming. I love that shit. I can work miracles under that kind of stress. I mean the kind of paralyzing, life-threatening, deer-frozen-in-front-of-headlights anxiety. That is the potent poison that leaves me listless on the sofa unable to even think about anything other than numbing my brain with YouTube videos.

But whenever that specter threatens now, I have my journal. Seriously. It sits perfectly in my purse, nestled in between my Kindle and my wallet.

And since I use a mutant bastardization of the Bullet Journal method, I can kind of do it any way that makes sense to me. Which is great, since I never understood the use of the monthly planners. Who can write everything they need to get done on a day into those tiny boxes? I can even make a list of things I want to get done over the course of a week, and just slot things in my daily to-do lists wherever I can.

And the thing that strikes me as odd about this, is that I’ve tried to take these exact steps before with many note and scheduling apps (I do still use Google Calendar because it’s awesome), and I had never been able to maintain any kind of organization or stick to anything that could reasonably be called a journalling schedule. And I genuinely think that it’s the meditative effect of handwriting that allows me to get it done for once. Isn’t that crazy? An act that is slowly becoming more and more anachronistic being the thing that helps me, who if anything is over-connected and over-screened, organized and on-task?