Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Giving Up Junk for Lent

Even though it's been a long time since I've attended church, I still see the value of observing Lent. During Lent, one should either abstain from something, especially something unhealthy, or one should take up a new good habit as a spiritual discipline. Lent is a good time to make an effort to improve your lifestyle.

Lately, I have felt crowded in my apartment. I feel burdened by too many possessions. Yet at the same time, I have trouble getting rid of things because when I have purged my belongings in the past, I have regretted getting rid of certain things, such as the two-foot-tall poseable Godzilla I had when I was a child, not to mention all of my Transformers. So I accumulate things and things and more things. And now I feel like I am drowning in stuff.

So for Lent, I have decided on a matched pair of disciplines.

Number 1. Although I may buy consumables and useful things, including clothing and books, I may not buy anything that has no purpose other than to sit on a shelf and look cool. No statues, stuffed animals, action figures, knick-knacks, ornaments, or anything else of that ilk.

Number 2. I must get rid of something every day. It doesn't matter whether it is large or small, whether it comes from a prominent display shelf or from the depths of the junk drawer, or whether I toss it in the trash or in a box to donate--at least one thing must leave my possession each day throughout Lent. If I purge several things on one day, it does not remove my obligation to get rid of at least one item the next day. The donation box can stay in my apartment, but I can not take anything back out of the box, and when the box is filled and sealed, it goes.

Looking forward to a less-cluttered apartment in forty days!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

White Out on Highway 30

Twisting curls of snow
Dance, roll, flow across the road.
Exquisite, deadly.

Will-o'-the-wisp glows
Headlights emerge from the snow
Like ghosts in the white.

Highway closed both ways.
Stranded travelers smile, shrug.
Gas station refuge.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stone Butch Blues

I just finished reading Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, which is the February selection for my book club. The Omaha Public Library only had one copy, so I bought my own. I'm glad I did, because I can imagine wanting to read it again in ten years. This book stirred up my heart in more ways than I can count. Although it's fiction, it reads like an autobiography. You could approach it as a lesbian novel, or a transgender tale, or a gritty story about a blue-collar worker and sometime union organizer.

The main character was complex and layered, and she felt like a real person. She could be my neighbor, or the person in front of me at the grocery store. And she experiences all of the horrible things that human beings do to another--terrible abuses at the hands of police, coworkers, hospital staff, and strangers on the street. At times while I was reading, I was absolutely furious--not at the book, but at the world it portrayed--because I knew things like that really happened. (Sometimes they still happen. Maybe LGBTQIA people are able to live more openly than we used to, but society always finds someone new to focus the hate on. Right now in the US, it seems to be illegal immigrants.)

But the book isn't about cruelty. It's about not only surviving the abuses but (eventually) growing. All the things that happened to the main character forged her into a strong person. For all her deep wounds and through all her self-made armor, she remained able to love and to see beauty. The overarching theme of the book is learning to accept one's self, when one's self is unacceptable in the eyes of society.

As the author said in her afterword (for the 2003 edition), "Never underestimate the power of fiction to tell the truth."

I don't care who you are or what your life is like. Read this book.