Life by Extension

When somebody dies, they may or may not have decided to donate their organs in hope of saving someone still kicking on in the current life. Some people have a card in their wallets saying they’re up for it, others write it in their will, others let a family member know. And what’s important about this was that they gave permission. They put a tick in the box, and said yes, clearly and loudly, and even in death, even while their consciousness is shut down, even after they had no thoughts left at all, their choices over how their body is dealt with is respected.

So without their permission it doesn’t matter if an eight year old girl is in desperate need of a heart just down the hall, even for someone fully formed, with thoughts and opinions, and parents and people who love her, a heart will not be given, and that right will not be violated.

This is how we treat our dead.

But it may not be how we treat our living.

In many ways I can sympathize with the ‘pro-life’ activists. After all, I was unborn thing at one point, and they seem to be fighting for the thing that I once was. And I haven’t had an abortion, so I don’t have any experience I can draw on. They appear to be earnest and well-intentioned, but the issue is, I really love my mum. Really. I do.

She feeds me, and takes care of me, and tries her best to make me happy even when she can’t, and at one point she and I were one and the same, and no matter how much I like to be me, I wasn’t me when I was her. I was just another piece of the way she was. I wasn’t a life, I was an extension of hers, and inevitably, I would fight for the thoughts I have now with all I have left, but that life wasn’t mine, back when I was her.

I was a part of her, a part of her body, and I don’t care whether a woman gets an abortion or not, that is her business, what she does with her body, and the reasons for such. But if we can hold our dead, our useless, expired, flesh vehicles that carry our brains around, to a higher respect than you can a living breathing woman then obviously something is up.

And those activists, those people with their signs and their arguments and their benevolent god, they don’t seem to understand that to be ‘pro-life’, in this sense at least, you also have to be pro a lot of other things as well. You have to be pro-fear, and pro-disrespect, and pro-illegal medical procedures that put vulnerable women in dangerous situations. And while the intentions are pure, they are not enough to outweigh that burden on the conscience.

And I’m not cool with that.

I like my mum too much for this.

And I like my sisters too much.

And I like humans too much, because people deserve to be treated with respect, whether they are biologically able to involuntarily carry a human fetus or otherwise.

And more importantly, you don’t get to decide which lives you get to dominate.

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The Endless Something

We humans, we humans are sitting in the dark, staring out at the darkness; breathing. We build up fires to light the way, but beyond the light we make, there is only more darkness and void. Some of us walk through it, unafraid and willing, curious and interested at what might be out there. Apathetic to what might not want to be discovered, giving in to the cold caress of 2am. While others sit and stare into the black, the weight of flickering shadows resting heavily on their shoulders and their hearts. Afraid, and creative, stories, excuses, reasons to substitute for the truth they cannot yet discover sit within their heads.

They panic at the darkness and the endless superior void, so scared of what we cannot yet see clearly or comprehend the way that we would like that they create a curtain from there imaginations and the possibility of the darkness beyond. Something to shield their eyes, something simple and complete. Nothing half formed or unfathomable. A perfect god. A reason. A sin. An invisible voice telling you, rewarding you, speaking scripted words that everything is going to be okay. Those who do wrong will be punished the way they thought they ought to be punished, and you will be rewarded the way that they thought you ought to be rewarded and everything is going to be alright. It will be fine, says the benevolent god, you will be forgiven.

And in the darkness there are the people. Some peer behind the curtains and into the endless something. And some do not. And they scowl at each other from across the space they share, but still hope for unification in their largely similar humanity.

The darkness remains dark, all deep and impossible and indifferent, dwelling in the possibility of something else. Something bigger, something braver, the perfect god, the imperfect man, the articulation of the fear, the curtain, the window, unable to be undressed by a single word or soul.

And all the people sit in their darkness, being different and unique and scared. With their children and their friends and families, and their hopes and dreams and opinions and thoughts. And the humans hold each other and push each other away in fear and distress and anger and a thousand more incomprehensible reasons, than neither make sense, nor should.

Some scream into the endless silence, some whisper barely a word, each noise echoing into what we haven’t found yet, marking the universe in a thousand different, silent ways, shaping it, changing it, making it better, making it worse.

Children of the universe in motion.

The Good People

My school is filled with good people.

It’s filled with people who want to do good, and want to help, and want to go home at the end of the day thinking something positive about themselves. There are anti-homophobic posters on the walls, and there are people in offices that want to talk it out and warn you of things and everyone has their feet cemented to the floor and they do not kick.

The cement does not crack, and we all remain standing, frozen, never changing, never moving, just smiling.

Every position is filled, every space or necessity, the good people are there, the good people with their rose tinged glasses and their singsong voices. And they are not going anywhere. And I am angry with them, I am furious. It is not their fault, I am not in the position I am because they put me here, those good people; I am here because they do not kick at their cement boots. I am here because along the way we started thinking that better by comparison means the best we’re ever going to get.

There are children in India desperately learning under a bridge, there are children who do not learn at all, and I go to a middle class school, with middle class education, and I am miserable, and I am not grateful, and I am not willing to let this one slide. I exist with in a system that has a very hard time telling the different between manipulation and education, I exist within a system where it does not matter what I do, no matter how dramatic, things will not change, because voices do not matter. My voice doesn’t matter, the good people’s voices don’t matter, it doesn’t matter how right I am, I can be right all I like, I can be coherent and sensible and thoughtful and right, I will not have anymore control over my own body and where it goes than a fly has control over the sun.

I am a prisoner in my luxury and I drown in the mistakes of my peers.

And everyone is telling me that the system works, that I am a blip, a misinterpretation, that I am this rare thing that everyone is just a little too surprised to see and nobody changes an entire system for just one miserable girl. And that is how I know that something is wrong. Systems should not have to change for so little; they just need to budge just a little bit.

But you need permission for everything and nothing is negotiable.

So I am stuck because people do not run the system that I exist within. The good people with their cement boots and hopeful smiles and the students with their resentful glares and bored glances, and all I have ever wanted is for someone in power to speak to me like I have half a brain cell, because I’m either depressed just because I am for no other reason or I’m an attention seeker.

And the good people do not act like good people.

Laws are put in for two reasons; the first is to keep people safe, and the second is to oppress. And the good people, the good people in my school, believe that they are gospel. And they are not. And I am choosing not to be certain because I’m not sure, I’m not sure that this is a reality I want to be in, I’m not sure that this was a good idea, I’m not sure that the system that has promised to take care of me for 900 more days is on my side.

Have you every felt like someone is trying to wrangle you even when you’re standing perfectly still? That’s how I feel. The educational system is snake wrangler set on a bunch of teenagers, and the teenagers are trying to fight back, because something is attacking them even though when they’re left alone for fifteen minutes and spoken to like they have a few IQ points to rub together they’re as sensible as everyone else.

If you treat anyone like an idiot their probably gonna get pissed and I’m pissed because every time I try to argue, nobody argues back.

Nobody will even argue with me, I am not even worth an argument, how sad is that? And I want someone to get angry, I want to be put in detention and suspended and all because if I’m not fighting, if I’m not being right as loud as I possibly can, I’m just sitting here, being sad.

And I am angry, and bored, and resentful, and repressed, and bored, and whatever is going on it sucks no matter how better it is than something else.

I want to study externally, and I want to be better, and speak like a real person, and I want to be able to get a tattoo, because this is my body and it cases my thoughts and my motives, and I am not faceless.

I am not faceless.

It is not your Fault

In writing, the medical industry is a very cold place to be.

It’s just not very nice.

It’s filled with numbers and terms that only your doctor can understand, or even pronounce and you’re really a little to shy to ask. It’s filled with frantically filing things in the back of your mind to Google later because you have no idea what it means, but you think it might be important. The numbers and the probabilities and the averages do not care for you. They don’t mind if you’re stressed, if your appointment is messing with your schedule and your head. The numbers are completely indifferent to your son’s first day of school or your partner’s birthday. The numbers do not care about you. But you care about them; you’ll be caring about them until you’re dead because those numbers are trying to predict your future, and your kid’s future and your partner’s future and the future of your friends. And you care about them.

In writing, the medical industry is not a very good place to be.

But then, there’s a photo on your doctor’s desk of his kids, and there are drawings in grubby crayons on the back of his door and as soon as you walk in he’s analyzing you, he’s trying to figure out what’s wrong, he wants to help, because that’s his job and he loves his kids as much as you love yours and even if he doesn’t know it, he wants you to be able to make that meeting and get that promotion and he wants you to get better.

And to get what he wants, he needs to hurry you along.

When mum first got cancer, or at least the first that I heard of it and acknowledged it as a thing that was going to have to be in my life, I didn’t go to the hospital much, I only went to chemo once and I never went to any of the appointments. I never even really met my mother’s oncologist or any of her other doctors. I distanced myself from the medical industry, partially because there was not nearly as much food involved as I had once thought and I did not like to be there when a blow was inflicted, with me or anyone else. I don’t like blows.

I was only good with recovery.

When mum was going through chemo she would sleep a lot, during the day, during the evening and morning. Her body was so decayed that her legs could barely lift her and her face was more weathered with age than I have ever seen before. And during this time, it was my part to play; I just had to be there. Confused and hungry, but present all the same. Dora, my older sister, wasn’t home a lot, she liked to be a person out in the world, but she was there when the blows were inflicted, she took care of mum when she first felt the effect. Her tough, but gentle love was no good for recovery, and Harper, my younger sister, was too loud, and too anxious, and when I wasn’t there, my dad was.

I never did much, in these moments of recovery. I would emerge like a fog from my room and waft about, with half open eyes and holding my laptop or a book. The truth is, the only reasons that I ever come out of my room were three reasons: I’m hungry, I’m cold, or my dad tells me to. Usually when I came out, mum would be asleep, curled under blankets and letting herself be small and poisoned, and I would sit down beside her until she woke up and solved my problems. So when she woke up; I would be there, and I would abstain from asking for money or food because there were circles under her eyes and I loved her and she loved me. All I was good at was just being there.

I never had anything against hospitals or people in hospitals or the poison that they were injecting into mum’s veins, or at least I understood that they were all necessary. I researched all of them; I Googled poisons at two thirty in the morning and tried to figure out what the hell was going on and why. I did, in many ways. My mum found it comforting to read about other people’s experiences, to adopt their practices and find solace in their scrawlings.

I didn’t.

I thought they were nice, I mean they were heartwarming, but I found no comfort in their imprecision. I wanted facts, cold, hard and uncaring, they would give me no sympathy, they would not pat my head or ask me how home was, they would just tell me the truth.

I had no need for anything else.

Humans are imprecise things, in general. We make exaggerations and manipulations and narratives, we make it too big or we make it too small, and we use words that make no sense and have no reason to be in the sentence. The large majority of our languages are based on what sounds good, not what’s true. We delight in rhythm, rather than accuracy. And a doctor with a photo of his kids on his desk can’t give you that any more than you can give him all of the specifics of your life.

Both of you, in this attemptedly precise relationship, make vague generalizations and shrug.

The human half of the medical industry is almost entirely shrugs, good intentions and guesses.

And that isn’t your fault.

Think.

People are so complicated.

And it’s so easy to see this world as the suburban little idea it would really quite like to be, its so easy to look around and see the teenage girls and middle aged men and doubt whether their thoughts are borrowed or their own, it’s so easy to say to yourself that you’re the only person in the whole wide world who thinks.

And sometimes someone comes along to fuel your delusion. Someone who looks and acts like everyone you detest because you’re the only one who thinks and you start to talk because look at this little human in their little mind with their borrowed thoughts and copied ideas and why not? And for a little while you think that this person is exactly like everyone else; either too concerned with something or not concerned enough. But after a little while you begin to notice the abnormalities, these brief, fleeting fragments that you haven’t heard before and before you know it you’ve realized that you’ve found a person who can think; another tiny droplet of color in this newspaper world. And you never for a single moment wonder that if you just got to know everybody the way that you got to know this person that you might discover that they have their own thoughts and feelings and opinions, they’re just choosing not to share them with you.

People like to think that everyone other than them has no thought, just the people to conform to society, just the people to fall silently into their categories, because we all need people to scoff at us. We need people to say we can’t, if we didn’t we would never get anything done. And sometimes we fabricate our own enemies with the faces of the harmless. We look at people we don’t know and don’t understand and tell ourselves over and over again that they think that we can’t. And they look back at us and think exactly the same thing, because despite being social creatures we are so impersonal.

We need girls who were make up to impress boys, and we need evil jocks, we need dorky teenagers because if everyone is different how do we know that we aren’t the same. We force ourselves not to think about their backstories, we never ask them why. People never think about the fact that just maybe there can be all different types of different.

Sexism in High School

High school, as far as I have seen at least, is one of the largest social hubs that educates kids about sexism. If you think that I mean teaching as in teachers with lesson pans and slideshows telling boys to keep it in their pants and respect women the way that they are perfectly capable of doing, then I have not come across clear enough.

There are no lesson plans for what I have witnessed. I am in year 9, all classes that could have had something to do with the teaching of kind and respectful behavior to kids have passed by with no more than a vague mention of too short skirts and stranger danger.

The way that sexism is taught in high school is taught like it has been since schools were first created and girls were allowed to attend. The little things, the dresses, the change rooms, the hushed whispers, the rumors and the gossip teach it. The way that sexism is taught is by not teaching it at all, by not talking about it because it’s inappropriate. It is inappropriate to do the things that we’re meant to be talking about, but nobody ever stands up and says to everyone who is still figuring out to function not to do it.

I have never, in my entire educational life, had an in-class discussion about catcalls and about how it sucks and it makes young girls feel scared and hunted. And I have never had a conversation about wage gaps, or sexual harassment in the work place, or date rape drugs.

Heck, they don’t even tell us that these things even happen in real life.

Because it’s inappropriate.

We don’t learn about police brutality or Internet scams, we don’t talk about racism in the present, we don’t learn about sexism in the military or the shaming of women in the tech industry. We learn algebra, and then we learn algebra harder, and algebra again and again. We learn to wear shorts under your skirt or you’re a slut, we learn that breasts and thighs are either the most erotic or the most dangerous weapons at your disposal. We learn that our jobs, as young women, are to avoid, not to feel safe. We are taught how to avoid the situations we are briefly told about, but nobody ever tells students how to treat other humans with respect.

I overheard, as you do, a senior in my school have a startling epiphany. He was sitting a few feet away from me in the library and I heard him say with wide eyes and a surprised look “you know, girls are just lying to us when they wear makeup!”

I know you must all be shocked but I have a few thoughts on this.

1) First of all, it was the all to innocent assumption that it was he who was being lied to. Sometimes, in this great big world of judgment and rage it’s nice to just entertain your own lie, for your own satisfaction, uncaring of everyone else’s concern.

2) Also, it’s hardly her fault if you can’t grasp the fact that someone’s eyelid isn’t green.

3) Self-fucking-expression darling.

4) Makeup is war paint and, my dear, that is our supply to your demand.

The ways that sexism is taught is not for the student; it’s just making someone else feel better, it’s someone telling themselves that it’s okay because we told this one class this one sentence an now I don’t have to feel bad about covering it up.

Women and girls have not been made for male consumption, we are not hear to entertain or please and men who think that maybe, just maybe, that statement isn’t insane are not gay or just trying to get laid, they are just thinking about their mothers!

I need feminism… because a man in a room filled with women is ecstatic, but a woman in a room filled with men is fucking terrified.

I need feminism… because, I like playing video games and nobody should to judge me.

I need feminism… because getting catcalled everyday on your way home from school is not fucking flattery.

I need feminism… because people are still asking what the victim was wearing.

I need feminism… because little girls are still being told that a boy hitting or teasing her means “he likes you.”

Dodgeball and the Competitive Boys

They stand winding their fingers together waiting for something to happen, for a ball to be thrown at them so that they can go up and play with the competitive boys. Only, as soon as a ball comes their way it is taken from them by the competitive boys they want so much to play with. They mutter to themselves, still dedicated to not caring. They stand where they don’t want to be, waiting, waiting for something to happen, to be given the opportunity to play with the competitive boys.

The competitive boys grin, and laugh, and joke, and they play. As the game continues it becomes apparent that the competitive boys are not competitive at all. They play the way that lions do, wrestling, not to win, but to socialise. They do not talk, but they communicate. They gesture wildly at one another and throw the balls to others to show friendship, they embrace each other lightly when victory is achieved, but the other side does the same even in loss.

They begin equal, the two teams, but the numbers of one diminish and diminish again until the competitive boys are standing, jostled, against the wall and the insecure girls are left with the opportunity they have been waiting for. They do not take it. They remain the same, huddling like penguins and looking hopefully at the competitive boys who stand at the wall, roughly urging them on. The insecure girls don’t do anything, they hug the back wall and the other team finishes the game.

The competitive boys on the wall watch the balls go back and forth, yelling and demanding and instructing and when they are done they stand, grinning and excited, waiting for the game to begin again. They jump up at the basketball hoop, showing that they can.

The teacher blows his whistle and the games begin again. He sees the insecure girls in their upset little huddles, but he doesn’t comment. They’d be horrified if he did. He wants to play with the competitive boys, but instead he blows his whistle and yells things.

When the games are done the competitive boys file sadly into the change rooms and the girls wait for them to come back.

We will all be back here tomorrow.