209. avoirdupois

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2505_mb_file_2eab8The first couple of days back in an office this week were rough. Not so much the being on a schedule again, although that was certainly an adjustment. Leaving the apartment by 7:40am every day was not fun for this not-morning person.

I’ve been contracted this week and part of next week by a real estate company to gather and put together evidence for an upcoming legal case brought by a former employee. Auditing terminated employee files is tedious, mind-numbing work, made bearable by audiobooks and the reality that it’s work.

(And I’m so grateful to be gay and know that my wages will never be garnished to pay for child support. Seriously, guys. Keep it in your pants.)

The downside of this is that it’s allowed for reflection on how much I hate doing this kind of work. However, my work background makes it damn near impossible to find work other than this. Without further specialized education, the likelihood of finding a non-entry-level job is remote, at best. And getting lucky is something that doesn’t happen to me often.

This is happening on the heels of last week’s game retreat. It might not have been so bad had it not seemed an extension of my real life, where I seemed to lose most of the time. In general, I just don’t get the rules of play. I don’t understand how to strategise, how to posture, how to read other people, or how to plan multiple steps ahead of my current position.

The best example I can extend for what usually goes on in my head during times like these — whether playing a game, reading comment from an editor on a piece of writing, or paging through file after file of someone who was fired for not showing up to work (again) — is a bit from Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years, where one of the characters, Cathy, a struggling actress, is auditioning for a role. The gimmick is that we hear what’s going on in her head while she’s singing:

«When you come home…» I should have told them I was sick last week, they’re gonna think this is the way I sing. Why is the pianist playing so loud? Should I sing louder? I’ll sing louder. Maybe I should stop and start over—I’m gonna stop and start over… why is the director staring at his crotch? Why is that man staring at my résumé? Don’t stare at my résumé. I made up half of my résumé. Look at me, top looking at that, look at me! No, not at my shoes, don’t look at my shoes, I hate these fucking shoes. Why did I pick these shoes? Why did I pick this song? Why did I pick this career? Why does this pianist hate me? If I don’t get a callback I can go to Crate and Barrel with mom and buy a couch. Not that I want to spend a day with mom, but Jamie needs his space to write since I’m obviously such a horrible, annoying distraction to him… what’s he gonna be like when we have kids? «And once again…» Why am I working so hard? These are the people who cast Linda Blair in a musical. Jesus Christ! I suck, I suck, I suck, I suck… «When fin’lly you come home to…» Okay, thank you, thank you so much.

This is basically what’s going on in my head all the time.

I’ve been feeling a growing sense of deep, inner dissatisfaction with my life, where I am currently, and what I’m doing. It’s leaving me feeling isolated, distracted, and unable to truly connect with the people in my community and life. Last night I went to play games with a couple of friends, and just couldn’t enjoy myself in their company. Ended up getting into an argument with a friend of a friend over whether Dallas Buyer’s Club is transphobic. I insisted that it’s exploitative (and not a good representation) of the LGBT community. She thought that Jared Leto’s character was beautiful and moving.

Hilarity ensued.

Were that this were the only instance. I’ve felt at odds with just about everyone lately.

Today, I decided to do a couple of Tarot spreads (one with my Rider-Waite-Coleman deck, and another with my gay Tarot deck) to try to mine at what’s going on with these dark feelings. I’ve recently been neglecting this aspect of self-care, and it rather feels as if I’ve been putting off housekeeping for a while and now my house is untidy.

Here’s what came up:

Rider-Waite

  1. Page of Wands
  2. Six of Swords, reversed
  3. Strength
  4. Nine of Pentacles, reversed
  5. Page of Pentacles
  6. Five of Swords
  7. Empress, reversed
  8. Knight of Cup, reversed
  9. Death
  10. The Fool

Bursten/Platano

  1. The World
  2. The Protector (→ Empress), reversed
  3. Sage (→ King) of Swords
  4. Ten of Coins
  5. Three of Wands
  6. Hermit, reversed
  7. Strength, reversed
  8. Man (→ Knight) of Cups
  9. Ace of Swords, reversed
  10. Five of Swords, reversed

I’ve written a little about my explorations into Tarot and my applications of Jungian psychology as a replacement for divinatory interpretation. Each card is only a token for exploration.

Psychological Tarot Spread (Cross)The most interesting cards to come up out of the twelve were The World, the King of Swords, and the reversed Hermit.

Usually, The World is a commentary on accomplishment, integration, and feeling complete. These days, I’m feeling anything but those things. It feels as if I’m constantly carrying the world on my shoulders, the weight pushing my mind and emotions down into despondency. The reversed Six of Swords is a continuation on this, the feeling that the past is always with me.

The reversed Hermit in the “future application” position says to me that isolating myself isn’t having the positive net effect it could have. The hyper-judgmental King of Swords residing in my “id” sounds more like Starbuck’s mom in Battlestar Galactica than a helpful mentor.

… why is it so hard to love one’s self?

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163. alexipharmic

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teeth_beachMy dislike of horror films goes back to an aversion to lack of control. I can still recall having the bejeezus scared out of me in that scene in The Princess Bride where Fezzik throws a rock at Westley’s head. The Fire Swamp and the ROUS were no problem, but for the first couple dozen times, though I knew what was coming and when, I’d still look away or leave the room until it was over.

Even today I watch scary movies by focusing on the lower left-hand corner. I found this advice a long time ago, that nothing ever happens there. It’s the combination of the visuals and the sound that cause my primitive lizard-primate amygdala to kick into high gear.

Friends of mine who love horror films, and even commentaries I’ve read on this, all talk about how the allure of the genre is that it makes you feel alive. In witnessing the (albeit simulated) gruesome ends of other human beings that, with the adrenaline rush and flood of other hormones, the viewer appreciates the fact that they’re not being devoured by zombies or vivisected by a crazy man with a chainsaw. It’s the relief of knowing the other monkey got eaten by the tiger and that you’ve lived to peel another banana. And, on some level, it speaks to the Marquis de Sade lurking in all of us.

It’s not that I’m squeamish. One of my favorite shows is Showtime’s Dexter, where a serial killer conscientiously (and creatively) dispatches other killers who slip through the cracks in the criminal justice system. It’s a show that has brought “kill room” into the cultural lexicon. It’s more that horror films have a way of haunting and lingering in my already overactive imagination.

This past weekend I discovered a new way of staying clear of horror movie dread. My boyfriend and his family enjoy scary movies, and the other day we were watching a 2007 German film called Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story, a 2003 movie inspired by the Armin Meiwes cannibal murder. If you can’t recall this story, it’s the one in which a German man (Meiwes) wrote an advert seeking a male volunteer who wanted to be killed and eaten. His lamb (or pig, I suppose, since human flesh allegedly tastes like pork) came in the person of Bernd Jürgen Brandes. In the film the names are changed, but the events mirror reality, as summarized by the Wikipedia page on Meiwes:

As is known from a videotape the two made when they met on 9 March 2001 in Meiwes’s home in the small town of Rotenburg, Meiwes amputated Brandes’ penis and the two men attempted to eat the penis together before Brandes was killed. Brandes had insisted that Meiwes attempt to bite his penis off. This did not work and ultimately, Meiwes used a knife to remove Brandes’ penis. Brandes apparently tried to eat some of his own penis raw, but could not because it was too tough and, as he put it, “chewy”. Meiwes then fried the penis in a pan with salt, pepper, wine and garlic; he then fried it with some of Brandes’ fat but by then it was too burned to be consumed. He then chopped it up into chunks and fed it to his dog.

In a post-Saw and –Hostel movie market, it’s perversely refreshing to find a film based on actual events instead of merely the sick and twisted things that people dream up. Hostel, according to the filmmakers, is supposedly based on “actual events” – in this case, rumors of $10,000 Thai “murder vacations.” This is not entirely far-fetched, for as writer David Sedaris writes in his book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames:

Tell someone the police picked you up in Bangkok, and they reasonably assume that, after having sex with the eight-year-old, you turned her inside out and roasted her over hot coals, this last part, the cooking without a permit, being illegal under Thai law.

Jason and I were watching Butterfly in his bedroom one evening a few hours before bed – you know, to unwind. He recently inherited an armchair from his grandmother, and it now rests adjacent to the television. It’s positioned so that it’s possible to lean comfortably (and safely) over to see what’s happening on screen. So while he was on the bed watching the movie, I was in the armchair with my trusty 760-page Jon Meacham biography of Thomas Jefferson (which is an absolute marvel of nonfiction and highly recommended, in my opinion).

Occasionally something would happen or Jason would make a comment about the movie, and I’d look up from my biography to peer over. My take on the movie is that it tries to put a desperate sympathetic spin on some very sick and twisted people. In the film, Meiwes becomes Oliver Hartwin, a gay man whose crazy, possessive mother drowned, leaving him riddled with guilt over her death. Brandes becomes Simon Grombeck. Keri Russell plays a criminal psychology student who’s obsessed with the case.

Throughout the movie I kept waiting for the Sassy Gay Friend to swoosh in to scold everyone, yelling, “What are you doing? What, what, what are you doing?” It’s a story of people making extremely poor life decisions; of looking a gift lion in the mouth and doing a triple salchow into its gaping maw.

No, that’s not a half-digested gazelle carcass in the lion’s stomach. It’s your own butchered and mangled corpse sizzling in a frying pan!

It wouldn’t have been so horrific had this not been a true story: that a grown man let another man try to bite his penis off. Most people watch this and wonder what could happen to bring two people to the edge of that cliff: a cannibal writes an ad, an equally crazy victim answers it, and then both of them jump off into the unthinkable.

I watch it knowing how close we probably are to becoming our own horror stories.