Friday, February 25, 2011

Dear Right-Wing Politicians of Iowa and Nebraska...

 You can't protect life by condoning murder.  Or does "life" not matter once it's actually out of the womb?  I suppose not...otherwise, you'd be doing more to actually make things easier for the families of all those babies you're so keen on making women have.  Y'know, like giving them access to good health care, educational prospects, childcare options and the like.

Oh, but I forgot—those are the concerns of us bleeding-heart Liberals, eh?

With All Due Respect,
Zillah Threadgoode

Postscriptum: When I say "with all due respect," I mean none at all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bill Zeller's Last Words

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Sexual Abuse

I've just read The Agonizing Last Words of Programmer Bill Zeller.  For anyone who doesn't want to click through, this is apparently the suicide note that he left when he took his own life earlier this year.  In this note, he describes the horrific sexual abuse he suffered as a child and the darkness within him that resulted, a darkness which controlled his life and took away his ability to engage in a range of everyday human behaviours from using the bathroom normally to having a healthy romantic relationship.  He was afraid that he was becoming a danger to other people, and he felt damaged and dirty.

People have often called suicide a selfish, egotistical thing to do—the coward's way out.  But I can't help but think that if he felt that this darkness was becoming a threat to other people, and if he believed that killing himself was the only way he could save other people from it, then perhaps it was truly a noble thing—even considering the possibility that he was wrong about the danger that he might pose.

Whatever the case, I hope that in death Zeller has found a greater peace than he ever found in life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Transforming Attitudes

Ten years ago, spiritually speaking, I have to admit that I was a bit of a hypocrite.

By that point in time, I'd been a practicing Pagan for about four years.  I admit, I still wasn't quite out of that stage in my life when I was extremely disillusioned with the faith of my childhood.  I believed that most Christians were closed-minded anti-Pagan fanatics who wouldn't hesitate to persecute the Hell out of me in the most literal sort of way, should they possibly suspect what I was.  Furthermore, at the time I started hearing the first mentions that I can remember of sexual abuses perpetrated by some priests against some altar boys, and when I first heard about how the priests had simply been moved to other parishes and the whole thing had been swept under the rug, that cinched it—I was never going to be able to call myself a Roman Catholic again.  I won't say that I hated Christians, exactly, but I felt a real distrust of them and a disgust for the closed-mindedness, misogyny and hypocrisy that I perceived in every aspect of Christianity at the time.

Yet at the time I was still attending a Catholic school.  (I graduated from high school in 2001.  Until about 2003, most Ontario high school students could look forward to five years of high school, though they could elect to graduate after four years if they were going to college or straight into the workforce; as a teacher, I have to admit that I wish that the fifth year hadn't been eliminated for quite a lot of reasons.)  I was a member of the school choir, which meant that at least once a month, and sometimes twice, I actually had a fairly active role in the school's spiritual life, and—unlike a fair number of "real" Catholics in the student population, I might add—I never missed a school Mass.  Not seeing any way out of it, I also took communion every time it was offered, which I really shouldn't have done for several reasons which I think are probably pretty obvious—not the least of which is the fact that by then I was technically a heretic, even if I didn't talk much about it, and in Catholic doctrine, that's grounds for automatic excommunication.

Furthermore, even in my broader social circle (mostly within my community choir, I admit), I was well-acquainted with several committed Christians, and I had nothing but respect for them personally.  I even loved the church where we practiced when I first joined the choir, and occasionally even after we'd moved to another church if our usual practice space was unavailable.  (Incidentally, that church is the one in which one of my aunts was married when I was a child and in whose choir I ultimately ended up singing.  Odd coincidence, that...)  And of course, not long after there were the two choir trips in which we sang Evensong for a week at an English cathedral (Winchester the first time, and Lincoln the next), which—though we went at a time in my life when I was thoroughly Pagan and hadn't yet allowed that much of my Christian past to seep into my spiritual life—were a couple of the most overwhelmingly spiritual experiences I've ever had to date.

Suffice it to say that I am not particularly proud of that period in my life, spiritually speaking.

And yet I can still easily understand why I held such a poor attitude towards Christians in general.  Not a week goes by without my hearing about something that some Christians have done that casts such an awful light on so many others.  There's that pastor in the States who was going to burn copies of the Koran on September 11 last year, though he later decided not to.  There are those people who harrass women who go into and out of clinics which, among other things, perform abortions—sometimes even physically attacking those women.  There's that Baptist minister who refuses to baptize babies in the church if their mothers aren't married.  (Odd in itself, since Baptists usually don't baptize people until they're old enough to know what they're agreeing to.)  Every day, particulary of late, I hear about people, many of them presumably Christians, who want to take away a woman's power to choose whether she has an abortion—and of some who would even deny her that abortion if it was needed to save her life.  Recently a pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a woman who needed a medication to stop excessive bleeding on the grounds that she "might" have had an abortion.  And hardly a fortnight goes by when I don't hear about something else that the Pope has done which underscores how truly out-of-touch he truly is with the times and even with Basic Humanity 101.  No denomination is immune.

This, I suspect, is largely because every group of people has a few loudmouthed (and unfortunately quite powerful) assholes no matter how well-intentioned the majority may be.  For a period of several years in my life, I let those assholes define how I saw a very large group of people.  As William Blake once said, "To generalize is to be an idiot..."  Though in this context Blake was utterly eviscerating Sir Joshua Reynolds' Seven Discourses on Art (and making a lot of good, and sometimes hilarious, points while he was at it), and he was making something of a generalization of his own in saying that, I do think that he was right.  I generalized.  I was an idiot.

Now, I'm not going to extol the many virtues of Christianity, or claim its superiority over all other spiritual paths, because that would just be wrong as well—and also hypocritical, because although I know that I don't speak nearly as much about the Pagan part of my spirituality (a habit I'm trying to break, by the way, though I'm not sure how, possibly because in my mind I don't actually compartmentalize my spiritual life even if it seems that way in my blog posts), it's very much a deeply-cherished part of my life.  But what I am saying is that it's not right to make sweeping generalizations about other groups of people, and that if you do, it just might come back to bite you in the butt one day.  And it likely won't be just a slight nibble.  I'm talking "big painful chomp" territory here. know, especially since embracing Christo-Paganism, I have often thought that if more Christians—especially the loud ones—spent as much time acting like Jesus as they do talking about him, the world might be a very different place, maybe even a better one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Dieting" vs. "Eating Disorder"

Oh, hello, Eating Disorder.  You've been behaving so well lately that I hoped you'd managed to starve yourself to death instead of trying to do it to me.  Foolish, I know...

I've written frequently here about my frequent urges to sink into that self-imposed state of semi-starvation that I believe is some form of eating disorder.  Social beliefs about fat people and our supposed constant gluttony being what they are, on the occasions when my problem has been in some way apparent in public it's usually been mistaken for dieting, which is (of course) one of the few socially-acceptable behaviours for anyone who's much above a Canadian/U.S. size six.  I'm praised for my supposed iron-clad self-control when I don't consume more than a single cup of tea at parties.  The "don't worry about me, I ate a couple of hours ago" line is so familiar that even I tend to believe it, even if I only ate an apple and the "couple of hours" was really closer to eight or nine or even twelve.  I can only recall one instance when someone picked up on what was really going on with me, and I later found out that the person who realized it was herself recovering from an eating disorder.

There really isn't that much of a difference between dieting and disordered eating, you know; the biggest difference is intent.  The intent behind dieting is usually just to lose weight, often for health-related reasons (though crash dieting can reduce life expectancy and that obesity in and of itself may not be as harmful as conventional wisdom says it is), and usually with a lot of appearance-related motivation as well.  I can understand the need to make changes for one's health—after all, I did that when I started to walk more, and since I took over the grocery shopping about eight years ago my mother has consistently complained that we don't have enough junk food in the house because I practically never buy the stuff.  And dieting can be mistaken for a healthy lifestyle choice, and can even occasionally be one—provided, of course, that you let yourself eat foods you like and that you actually give yourself enough nutrition for your body to function and thrive, which I've noticed that many dieters rarely do, and provided that your eating habits weren't healthy in the first place.

But the motivation behind an eating disorder can be a lot more complicated than that.

As far as I am aware, my particular ED-like behaviour is the result of several factors: a lifetime of insults because of my eternally much-less-than-perfect physical appearance, a feeling of lack of control over my life—even if I can't control anything else, I can control what I do or don't put into my mouth—and the need to assert what control I can, stress, worry, fear, shame caused by being so damn big when the ideal figure is just a little more than half my current size, a not-so-subconscious belief that I don't really need to eat anything because I already carry a reserve of energy with me at all times, guilt over being so fat when there are people here and in other places in the world who are obviously starving to death...all these things and more are things that can trigger my urge to starve myself.  

There is nothing healthy about an eating disorder, or even a sort of vaguely eating-disorder-ish form of behaviour of the sort that I all too often display.  When people succumb to an eating disorder like mine, health doesn't even come into the picture except maybe as an excuse for not eating in situations in which anyone might be expected to eat.  It isn't even health-motivated; health is quite possibly the furthest thing from my mind when I consciously make the decision to ignore my hunger pangs (and the other physical things that come after if I ignore them too long, like dizziness and headaches).

I know that it isn't healthy to do this to myself, but I keep doing it.  Sometimes it just feels like the most fitting punishment for being fat, and I hate that there's still a part of my mind that thinks like that, because I know it's so wrong and it's no help to me at all.

And this is what makes me think that sometimes, for some people, there isn't so much of a difference between dieting and eating disorders after all.