Category Archives: Personal Reflections

The stuff that has nothing to do with the rest of what I write about.

The troubling history of the crack epidemic in Lower Manhattan: A video

In digging through my storage unit over the holidays, I came across a VHS tape featuring a set of news stories from 1987 about a protest march in the NoHo area of NYC.

Residents were protesting the ‘invasion’ of crackheads and crack dealers into their once safe neighborhood. They ‘didnt feel safe’ and ‘these people should be locked up’ They demanded a larger police presence and the arrest of addicts and dealers alike.

Knowing what we know about the racial sources of the crack epidemic, I find this to be a severely depressing glimpse into the many ways that the powers that be manage to pit us against each other and ignore systemic oppression, as well as the state of race relations in NYC in the 1980s.

NoHo is now one of the most chic, sought after and expensive blocks in the whole city. I should know, I grew up there (and you can see me in some of the news footage as a kid on a bike). I remember very distinctly feeling quite ambivalent about the protest, as even back then I felt that addiction should be treated as a medical issue.

I hope this video is enlightening.

What I Should Have Said At My Father’s Memorial Service

My dad’s memorial service was this weekend.

There were a lot of old Artists there.

They come from an insular world in which Art is the only worthwhile endeavor, where “selling out” is the worst imaginable sin.

More than a few people got up to extoll his virtue as an Artist, his lifelong commitment to Art and being an Artist, and his keeping his promise to himself to always make Art.

They spoke of his legacy: His art.

(I guess I don’t really count. To them.)

I was in the room when they said this.  They said it to me.

I saw the heads nodding along.

Invalidating my actual existence. Relative to almighty Art.

Old wounds scraped up.  A roomful.

 

I’m told I went up and said some words.

I’m told I was generous.

 

Here’s what I should have said.

Art isn’t a legacy.

Art is poison pigments in glass cases.

Art currently taking up space in an empty house, needing to be housed until what… some magical surge of interest?

My father died alone. He died alone because he put Art first.

It’s not fucking noble.  It’s childish, delusional and deeply selfish.

As was he.

My father was not there for me.  He was there for Art.

He loved me when it was convenient.

Your precious Art cost him his family.

It’s ink marks on paper.

It’s not noble.

You are delusional.

I’m his fucking legacy.

Art can go to hell.

You want legacy?

Kiss your kids.

If they still talk to you.

If not? I guess you have your fucking precious Art.

What I should have said.

On fucking normal and fucking expectations.

Lately I’ve been spending some time thinking about all the ways in which I am not what society expects me to be.

I am smart, wise and curious, but I do not have a college education.

I am industrious and skilled in many areas, but I have not had a full-time job since 2011, and I am not interested in finding one.

I am male, straight and a feminist in a committed long-term relationship, but some of my views and activities do not fit squarely into any of those labels (for instance, we are not married and I don’t think of a marriage certificate as an essential part of what makes for a happy life.)

In many ways I am not living according to the expected plan, the treadmill. The ‘be born-go to school-go to college-get a job-meet a girl-move in-get married-buy a house-have kids-retire-wait to die’ treadmill.

In the past, there have been aspects of it that have bothered me.

I’ve had an underlying critical voice that pokes at me that I should be doing something more important with my time, that I’m just putzing around and wasting my life away.  It tells me that not spending time either looking for a job or ‘being entrepreneurial’ and Getting Things Done is somehow wasteful and will lead to regrets later in life.

And then recently… holy fuck! I don’t have to live up to others expectations of what my life should be.  I don’t have to give away my power to whatever I’m “supposed” to be doing.  I can be a feminist and also enjoy checking out girls in yoga pants (respectfully, of course).   I can build my own life, make my own rules.

Sometimes I will be uncomfortable, when my values and the values of the world at large come into conflict, be it individually or as part of a couple or as part of a social group or a political party or anything else.

But, you know what?

There are worse things than being uncomfortable.

This is my declaration of independence from feeling bad about not being who the world expects me to be, or living up to some imagined standard of ‘normal’.

Fuck normal. What an imaginary nonsense concept solely dedicated to making us feel like we’re doing something wrong pretty much no matter what.

Fuck “but you’re so smart, why don’t you just commit to something”.

Fuck “So, any wedding bells in your future?”

Fuck “You’re so interested in human behavior, why don’t you go to school for psychology or something?”

Fuck pushing myself toward making other people more comfortable with my life.

It’s better for me to embrace the freedom and awesomeness that is me right now than worry about not living up to some standard for how things are supposed to work in the name of being more normal.

This rocks.

Come with me.

RIP Charles Meyers 1934-2013

My dad Charles Meyers passed away this past Sunday, August 4th at around 8 in the morning.

Those of you who knew him knew that he was quite a character, with a dark-as-night sense of humor and a predilection for awful puns and flirting with service industry folk (in case anyone was wondering where that came from).

For those that didn’t know him, he was an amazing artist, and you can see some of his work at http://www.charlesmeyers.com/

My father devoted his entire life to pursuing his dream of making art.  He taught art history, oil painting and watercolor part time at City College of New York for longer than I’ve been alive.

Few of us will be able to say at the end of our time on the planet that we lived our passion every day.

He lived for the last 40 years at the same loft in the East Village of NYC.  His entire life was in that loft.

A lifetime of things,  small comforts and poisons, college papers and keepsakes and art and art and art.

The stuff that makes up the least important and most comforting/suffocating part of a life lived.

I wrote a little bit ago about leaving a legacy.  This is his.  All the art, and the lives he touched, and the people who can call themselves artists now because his teaching inspired.  And me, I suppose.

He was not perfect, and we struggled to maintain a relationship as I grew, but in the end we came to an understanding and now he can rest.

You did okay, dad.

Safe travels.

Be kind to yourself.

On Taking Back My Power, Which Was Freely Given.

One of the great­est (and least dis­cussed) bar­ri­ers to com­pas­sion prac­tice is the fear of set­ting bound­aries and hold­ing peo­ple account­able. I know it sounds strange, but I believe that under­stand­ing the con­nec­tion between bound­aries, account­abil­ity, accep­tance, and com­pas­sion has made me a kinder person…

Dur­ing the inter­views [I did as part of my research], it blew my mind when I real­ized that many of the truly com­mit­ted com­pas­sion prac­ti­tion­ers were also the most boundary-conscious peo­ple in the study. Com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple are bound­aried peo­ple. I was stunned.

-Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection

In my last post, I wrote about being compassionately selfish, and how it is a totally necessary component of having full and nourishing life.

I spent some time thinking about what I’d written, and realized that what I was actually talking about in some ways was taking my power back.

Power is another loaded word. we “fight the power”.

We “speak truth to power”.

“Power corrupts”.

People in power are the enemy because they hold the rest of us back. There’s a definite ‘power’ stigma happening.

Noticing how much of my power I give away in everyday life is quite astonishing.

I want to be compassionate, I want to help people who ask me for help, or to talk, or are even just around.  I genuinely enjoy having the “well, why do you think you do that” types of conversations that many of my friends have come to rely on me for (leading, somewhat unfortunately, to have a few remark “why should I go to a therapist when I can just talk  to you!”)

Even my path forward has been hindered by ‘what if it’s not the right choice’, I give my power away to uncertainty.

No, let’s try that sentence again.

I have hindered my path forward by allowing ‘what if it’s not the right choice’ to rule. I give my power away to uncertainty.

It’s no wonder that sometimes I feel really stuck and like I have to wait for some external force to pull me forward!

It’s time to take the time to shore it up and put some appropriate boundary walls around.

Set better boundaries.

Kinder boundaries.

Boundaries that allow and encourage me to be more of my full self.

Here’s where fear and resistance shows up. The fear says “People rely on you to be available to them. This is what friendship is. If you say ‘no’, then you will be alone and you’ll just sit in your house and talk to yourself all day.”  The fear says “This is just shutting people out”. The fear says “You’ll never be able to stick to it, you need someone else to make you do stuff”.  The fear says “You’re being ridiculous, just stay as you are.”  The fear says “You’re talking about control, and everyone knows that nobody actually has any control over their lives.”

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true.
Carl Sagan

What if “intuition” and “common sense” are other words for fear? What if the less automatic choice is the more loving one?

And what’s wrong with being selfish? We answered that already. It’s essential.

One day at a time.

  • Also essential reading on this topic: Megan Elizabeth Morris’ “Nothing Motivation

[Photo credit: Boundaries by Wonderferret]