Now Is the Time

I need someone to explain to me why we must so diligently defend the right to own a gun.

No, really. Someone please explain it to me. Real reasons.

I confess up-front: I hate guns. They are instruments of death, created only for the purpose of injury or killing. That said, I understand that some people need guns to protect themselves or their families from wild animals. I understand that some people need to hunt in order to eat. I understand that some people live in places where they don’t feel safe unless they have one. I have a bit of trouble with that last part, because I don’t think owning a deadly weapon should be a safety blanket, but I don’t live somewhere where I feel I need a gun, so I won’t claim I understand.

But here is the amendment so many people so vociferously and sometimes ferociously defend:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Why do we always seem to forget about the first half of that amendment and insist on the second half? A well regulated militia securing a free state. Also known as the military and law enforcement. Not everybody and their brother. Everybody and their brother are not a well regulated militia. 

What has happened so many times in our country is not just about the second amendment. It’s about a lot of things. But it does have a lot to do with guns, because the other potential reasons – the breakdown of family, the secularization of society, generational poverty, lack of opportunity, the glorification of violence in mass media – none of those things cause murder with spoons or sticks. Mental illness is a global problem – it does not discriminate based on age or gender, nationality or creed, geography or income level. I will always, always advocate for the mentally ill. I will always insist that we remove the stigma of those who are unwell. I could and might write a whole separate post about it. But there have always been the mad among us… yet there have not always been these kinds of mad acts. Proof of this exists in the numbers of gun-related deaths around the world. My God, we have so many more. And so, so many unsolved. Welcome to America: you’re free to fire. Wave that flag.

And it’s not that I don’t love my country. In fact, it’s the opposite. I love my country so much that I want to stop proving to the world how much tragedy we allow under the guise of defending words ratified 221 years ago (December 15, 1791), presently pushed in the name of commerce, trade and lobbying. There hasn’t always been easy access to guns. But we’ve already slid down the slippery slope. We already have literally hundreds of millions of guns in this country – I heard one estimate that there’s one for every man, woman and child.

The Constitution, the Bill of Rights – these are not the Bible. These are not the infallible words of God. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written by human beings trying to extricate themselves from a king. They had rifles that had to be loaded through the barrel with a tamp, and pistols that puffed smoke when they fired. Bring back Jefferson, bring back Adams, bring back Hamilton and Franklin and all the undersigned, and I swear to God they would all tell us we’re out of our minds for letting everybody who wants to own a gun do so in these times when we are not trying to beat back Redcoats in front of the farm. I swear to God they would want to know how all the people who walk into gun shows and all the people who thrill at the power of the weapon in their hands constitute a well regulated militia.

We are wrong about the Second Amendment. We. Are. Wrong.

But we have slid down the slope, so I can be reasonable. Can gun rights advocates be reasonable, too? I won’t take away your right to own a handgun or a shotgun. But I for damned sure am done with your supposed right to own anything more, or to own, frankly, more than one or two. I am done with your supposed right to own more than ten rounds of regular, non-armor piercing, non-hollow point ammunition for a handgun, or the average number of shotgun shells needed to bag your family’s dinner for a month. It’s just not reasonable. It’s not. And I declare this forcefully because no one has ever been able to explain to me why it is.

Twenty-eight mass shootings since April 1999 and ColumbineTwenty-eight. And every time, those who advocate for gun rights say “now is not the time… don’t politicize the tragedy… guns don’t kill people – people kill people.” I’m done with it. NOW IS THE TIME. Make it political, because gun rights are political. The NRA can go to hell. Twenty children are dead. 

I’m done.

 

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Newtown

I was grumpy today. I didn’t even realize it until I was at the chiropractor and she was being pushy and I didn’t have the grace to entertain it. I was worried about a sudden $1300 medical bill I didn’t expect, and the fact that my washer won’t spin and the clothes have had to be wrung out by hand before I could put them in the dryer.

Then I got a text from my sister, asking if it was really true that 18 kids had been shot to death in a Connecticut elementary school.

I feel many things, like all of us do, but mostly I feel so tired. Enough now. Enough. I have stopped asking why things like these happen. There is no reason. Reason implies logic, and there is nothing logical to mass murder, regardless of the ages of the victims. There may be explanations, and we may learn more as time goes on. We may come to greater understandings about the gunman’s disturbed motivations. And there may be causes. Contributing factors.

But there is no reason.

My nephews are five. That’s how old a lot of the victims were. I can’t even imagine their parents sitting home tonight with Christmas trees sparkling and gifts hidden for a child who won’t open them. An elf perched on a shelf to make sure she doesn’t misbehave. The beginnings of a college fund somewhere in a bank. 

There will be no Christmas in Newtown, Connecticut this year.

What hurts us the most as a society is the innocence of these victims. Too young to have done anything wrong yet. Too small to have harmed a soul. Too sweet, too round-faced, too bright-eyed, too soft.The worst things they’ve done was to kick a sister or color on a wall or break a mother’s heart heading off to school as time requires. No one deserves a day like this. But all of us have things for which we must account when we meet our final judgment. These children had nothing to confess.

Children are the hope of the old, the frightened, the lost, the weary. Children are the hope of nations. The world got dimmer today. The night is not as bright.

The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels.

And there is no reason.

You Know the Island of Misfit Toys? Apparently I’m the Doll.

Fabulous news. I have created a new category on my blog. It’s called Navel-Gazing. All things Jack, all things shrinkapy, all things inherently narcissistic and what-does-it-all-mean. From now on, if you see one of my posts has been categorized in the Navel-Gazing file and you don’t feel like dealing with that hot mess, you can skip it entirely. Yay for you!

Now. On to the navel-gazing.

My assignment from Ali Velshi on Friday (I got an assignment!) was two-fold:

1) stop thinking I belong on the Island of Misfit Toys (his words – Ali Velshi is kind of awesome);

and

B) change the image of myself being an old lady in a nightgown sitting in the dark in a horrible chair in front of a rabbit-eared television.

We all know B can’t possibly happen, because by the time I’m that old, no one will even know what a rabbit-eared television was. Also because I’m not the nightgown type. AV’s larger point was that the way we see ourselves becomes the vibe we give off and therefore becomes the way other people see us, thus turning us into that which we saw to begin with. Self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t want to be a sad old frizzy-haired lady alone in a chair in front of “Hee-Haw” reruns, then don’t picture yourself that way.

But why have I ever thought of myself that way?

Enter Misfit Toys.

The first time I felt “different,” I was six years old, kneeling backward in the avocado-green swivel rocking chair in the living room, staring out the window and thinking about how we were moving to a different town. I felt set-apart, sad, lonely and isolated. At six.

From there, the pattern of what seems like pretty regular kid stuff emerged: glasses by age 8, a move to another state, mocked for talking funny. A ridiculously large vocabulary, a tendency to think I was smarter than the teachers. Bad perms (there are no good perms) and social skills close to normal, but not quite. Nonexistent athletic abilities despite years of trying. They’re all things I’ve grown to own about my nerdy early years. I laugh about them and I know every kid goes through difficult growing pains.

But I’ve come to realize that maybe for me, the typical experiences had a dark effect. My mother remembers me at 10 throwing down my books, yelling that it was all “too much” and I couldn’t take on one more thing. I remember having stomach problems at that age. By 14, I was suicidal. At 16, I was clearly internalizing every bad message I got, but none of the good ones. I don’t even remember good ones, but the bad seemed to come from everyone – boys, girls, and especially my mother. My first real love, who was also my best friend, wound up finally confessing when we were 20 that he didn’t want me because I wasn’t pretty enough for him. (I kept him in my life until I was 27.) After years of feeling ugly and believing those who told me, I was primed for a very bad situation with a married coworker who said he was in love with me. He was the first person ever to tell me I was beautiful, and I needed to believe him. I didn’t have an affair with him. But I liked that he wanted to, and then hated myself for liking it.

At 24, I moved, for the eighth time, but by my own choice, to take a job. I grew into who I was – finally at an age, education and experience level where my persona made more sense to other people. I went from the midwest, where people are a bit less likely to compliment for fear of seeming skeevy, back to the east coast, where men have no problem telling you what they like about your looks. And I found one Midwest born-and-raised man in particular who was very good at making me see myself differently without being piggish.

Jack.

He never knew how I saw myself, but he made me believe I was better. And I started acting better, feeling better, presenting myself better, and getting more compliments, leading to more confidence. Jack made me realize I’m not actually ugly at all. He made me realize how good it is that I’m smart and strong.

I fell in love with Jack, but Jack stopped short of loving me, and by my late 20s I was tired of telling myself that I wouldn’t be on my own my whole life. The men I’d loved most, who’d known me best, still couldn’t quite love me. Maybe there really was something wrong with me. Maybe I really was going to end up by myself. So I’d better be prepared for it so I could feel empowered, rather than sad and pathetic. And after a while, and some meds, I got to a place where I was much more comfortable with that idea.

Now, Ali Velshi says I have to change the idea.

I don’t wanna go back there. That was a bad place. I was sad a lot. I had maaaaassive anxiety attacks. It was awful. I’m much better now that I—

Oohhhhhh, wait a minute.

I’m much better now that I’m being treated for anxiety.

Well, shit.

Was that the problem, then? Not the being alone thing, but the anxiety thing? Was that why I felt so especially awful?

Was that why the litany of normal stuff for kids had affected me so badly for so long?

Twenty-five years? Thirty?

The thing about having an anxiety disorder (which is a phrase covering a wide range of anxious reactions – mine has been severe at times, but not debilitating) is that you don’t always realize that your reactions to regular old things are colored by that anxiety. So I didn’t know – and still don’t – how much my anxiety issues may have colored the way I saw things, or reacted to things.

But the thing about fearing you’ll be by yourself, unloved, forever, is really about one thing: it’s about believing you’re not worth what you hope for. I’ve worked for years at knowing I’m worth it. But apparently, somewhere in me, I don’t believe it.

Jack told me once, years ago, that I deserved someone better than him. I told him, full of what seemed like confidence, that I knew what I deserved.

And I held on to him.

Last year I went on a rant about the claymation Rudolph special, and in particular about the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys. There is nothing wrong with that doll. But according to Rudolph’s producer, Arthur Rankin Jr., Dolly’s problem was psychological, caused by being abandoned, suffering depression from feeling unloved.

I’m the damned doll. There is nothing wrong with me. But I don’t know that.

Wonder if Santa has my new address.

Heartbeaten

There is a danger in having nearly unfiltered internet service at work. Namely, it allows me to creep on Jack and then have a torrent of self-aware recognitions that lead to a steady stream of tears down my face on my hour-long drive home, culminating in pouring myself a martini even though I’d put the wine in the fridge to chill down a bit.

As all of us who are on Facebook know, Facebook is going to destroy everything. Like, for example, relationships. Because it lets one person look up another person’s goings-on without them necessarily knowing, to the extent that their settings allow. And when that throws up a roadblock, it allows us to see their friends, and then work backward.

It’s basically sanctioned psychosis.

And so I found myself on Facebook, looking at Jack’s page even though I have hidden him from my news feed so I’m not tortured by the rare but consistent posts referencing runs and marathons and Gwyneth. And he hadn’t had anything interesting to say since Thanksgiving when he posted a generic good wish. That was hours after he had texted me one on Wednesday (the day before the holiday, of course – because he does that – he acknowledges significant dates the day before, so as  not to give one the impression that he’s thinking of one on the actual significant date). I had ignored it – the first time he had communicated in two and a half months, and I was not in the least bit interested in engaging, because if there is to be communication between us, it had better be in an actual voice-to-voice or face-to-face manner. None of this cowardly electronic shit. Sack up, asshole.

So anyway.

He hadn’t had anything interesting to say, but apparently he’d attended a party last Saturday.

I clicked.

Gwyneth’s party.

There’s her address.

Holy f&*k. It’s not even a block away from a house I looked at.

That. Would. Have.

SUUUUUUCKED.

Aside from wondering whether she rents or owns, and, if she owns, whether that makes her better than me since she’s also eight years younger and I just bought my house…. aside from that, you know what this means.  It means I googled the public property records looking for evidence of whether she owns the house. (I told you. Internet = sanctioned psychosis.) It means that I (not really) narrowly averted living less than a block from the woman who had essentially stolen my man. (No. To whom my man, who was not really my man, had gone, of his own inexplicable volition.) It also means I know her address. It’s like two miles from me. Which means I could, theoretically, cruise by some late night/early morning and see if his car is there, thereby confirming the nature of their “undefined” relationship.

Or not. If his car wasn’t there.  Thereby perpetuating my hell.

Ugh… I am entirely too old for this shit.

If you haven’t been single since your early twenties, you are probably totally alarmed right now by the thoughts that have already been posted here. Because seemingly, people who marry by their mid-20s never think crazy shit like this. They never had to.

So lucky (provided they’re still happily or at least not adulterously married).

And so it was that I started thinking yet again about why this whole thing with Jack hurts so much. And so it was that I had those recognitions I mentioned earlier. That I still just don’t understand how something that had lasted ten years and been so meaningful could be so easily dismissed in his mind and his heart that he wouldn’t even try to maintain it when push came to shove. That it is not only deeply painful, but very insulting. That, in healthy terms, I should not care to be attached or involved or at all connected to someone who could care so little about something that had meant so much… but that there are reasons I do:

Because, after all, there were real reasons I was so attached, involved and connected for so long.

Because believing he loved me enough, even though he never said it, was better than anything else I’d ever had, because no one has ever said it.

Because I believe that something that was wonderful for a long time, but less than what I wanted, was better than nothing at all.

Because feeling heartbroken for him seems better than feeling nothing for anyone.

Because it feels like giving up on loving him will mean giving up on loving entirely.

At the risk of being dramatic (oh, like it’s not too late for that disclaimer): I’ve had my heart broken kind of a lot. And I’m not, you know, totally crazy and pathetic, all evidence to the contrary. I’m not a hideous hunchback who got hit in the face with a bag of hot nickels, and I don’t get irrationally hung up.  I’d like to believe I’m regular-crazy and pathetic, at worst, because I’ve seen a step above that, and wow. But when you’ve had your heart broken kind of a lot, and you don’t fit the profile of someone other people shake their heads sadly about with any regularity, you come to a place where you’re just not sure you can take it again. There seems to be a limit. And you’re pretty sure that one more time will kill you inside. So you don’t want to let go of this time. Even though it hurts like hell, even though you don’t want to feel like this, you don’t want to let go, because you suspect that it’s your last chance to feel anything at all.

And so it is.

I love Jack, and I still see so much reason to love him, even though he’s a selfish, cowardly, stupid ass. And I don’t know if there’s any way at this point to fix it, to make it better. I know the best of us, the most of us, is probably gone. We don’t even speak. He doesn’t even know I bought a house.

But I love him still, and I miss who we were, and I hate where we are now.

Obviously, I expect to hear from Maury Povich any minute.

******
Now on my bookshelf: Rules of Civility – Amor Towles

For Planning Purposes, Vis-A-Vis Your True Love

It’s entirely too early for this, since the 12 Days of Christmas don’t actually begin until Christmas Day. But in case you were saving up or trying to budget, I thought I’d share a little financial info with you. The 12 Days of Christmas Gifts? Are freaking expensive.

The folks at PNC Wealth Management, having, evidently, absolutely nothing else to do despite this cliff we seem to be hovering over, have worked out how much the 12 Days of Christmas Gifts would cost.

Hint: Your kids can’t go to college anymore.

First, the partridge. Pear trees don’t automatically come with partridges, you know, so you’ll have to fork over $15 for the bird. And then $190 for the tree.

Then there are the turtle doves. By the way, does anyone know what a turtle dove is, as compared to a regular old dove? And why they’re called turtle doves? Do they pull their heads and legs into their bodies when they get skeeved? Anyway, they go for about $65 each.

The hens. Three of them, and French, s’il vous plait. They’re about $55 per bird, which makes them, surprisingly (since they’re French and all) cheaper than the turtle doves.

Now to the four calling birds. Why the hell did this song need so many damned birds? We’re looking at ten birds here, people. Ten birds of varying species, who may or may not even get along. This could be downright Hitchcockian in the end. Your true love winds up being Tippy Hedron.

Anyway, calling birds. I don’t know how they decided on this, but the calling birds in this scenario are canaries. Do you know how much a canary is?! AH canary is $105. Four of them? $520.

And we’ve killed so many in coal mines!

On to the five gold rings. Now, I don’t know the size of these here rings, because as I understand it, gold is presently $1,696.33. So these must be some really skimpy rings PNC Wealth is using, because the five of them only cost $750. By my calculations, that means each one of them weighs less than a tenth of an ounce.

Six geese, specifically a-laying. $210. Thirty-five bucks each. And more birds to crap all over your house. Plus they’re a-laying, so they’re about to multiply exponentially. I don’t think you have to pay for the chicks.

Seven swans, swimming. Again with the fowl. Swans are a grand each, and PNC doesn’t work up how much you’ll pay for whatever they’re swimming in. Also? Swans make a ton of noise, and they’re not pretty noises. They honk.

It’s a goddamned cacophony in the house at this point, and we’re just getting started.

Eight maids a-milking. Milking what? Goats? Cows? Themselves? Each other? I don’t understand. I also don’t understand PNC’s range for their prices, which they put at somewhere between $58 and $10,000. Not a typo. I’m more offended by the $58. Why would maids cheapen themselves so much? They’d be $7.25 each! That’s a fraction of the cost of one flippin’ bird! Is this minimum wage milking for exactly one hour?

Nine ladies dancing. Well, the cost of this depends rather obviously on what kind of dancing we’re talking about here, because any strip club patronizer might say, “Eh, throw a $20 at each of ’em, down your beer, call it a night.” But PNC figures the nine ladies would cost about $6,925, per performance.

Ten lords, hopping around and probably molesting the milk maids. They’re royalty, so that’s a pretty penny right there. $4,767 per ten, per performance.

Eleven pipers blowing it out their kazoos. (Does anybody have any Advil?) $2,430 per 11, per set.

Twelve drummers. Who the hell invited the damned drummers? One drummer isn’t enough?! $2,630 for the single night’s gig.

Now, if you take the song literally, the sender sends each gift on its given day, and then again each day after that. So by the time you’re done, you’ve got 12 partridges ($180), 12 pear trees ($2,280), 22 turtle doves ($1,430), 30 French hens ($1,650), 36 canaries ($3,744), 35 gold rings (by now weighing just a smidge over three ounces and having cost $5,250, but with a market value just under that), 48 gestating geese ($1,680) and 42 swans ($42,000), plus the 40 maids, who are apparently from Cambodia or something because they work for practically nothing and put up with entirely too many shenanigans from the lords. ($2,320).

That puts us at $60,534 over twelve days.

But we have to add in the performers. Thirty-six dancing ladies. Nine danced once, nine danced twice, nine got three nights, and nine got four. $69,500 total.

The lords: 10 played three sets, 10 played two, ten played one. $28,702.

The infernal pipers: one group for two concerts, one group for one. $7,290.

And the drummers who remind you why you never let your kid have a drum set: one gig. $2,630.

Hey, drummers. Make yourselves useful instead of just creating a ruckus. Gimme a drumroll.

Grand total for the 12 days: $168,656

Assuming the maids will go for the $58 deal, which I find totally discriminatory because they’re making way less than the pipers, drummers and lords (all of whom, I presume, are men) and way, way less than the sluts on the poles.

This does not include the cost of whatever it is the maids are milking, nor does it include the cost of clean-up, feeding, or the new house you might have to buy. I guess for feeding you could, theoretically, kill one set of birds a day and feed them to the performers, plus give them the milk from whatever it is the maids are milking… but you’d better hope these animals are all simpatico or it’s going to get ugly up in this piece.

By the time all of this is over and it’s the Epiphany, you’ve had one of your own: Your true love is a wackaloon with a set of seriously weird fetishes.

But he’s rich.