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Friday, February 27, 2015

Thanks for the Waffles*, Pawnee (*and by Waffles I Mean Wisdom)

Unless you live under a terrible rock, you probably know that the Parks and Recreation series finale was this week. 

One of the most beautiful things about this show, and a true indicator of the creative talent involved, is its subtlety. Parks and Rec was always about something, but it didn't throw it in your face. It was layered beneath the brilliant jokes, the sly social commentary, and the slow yet steady development of its characters. And then suddenly you were like, "Oh, shit. I feel something." Those sneaky bastards.

Once this show found its voice after a rocky first season, it had oh-so-much to say. It had things to say that I think are pretty groundbreaking. I truly believe the world would be a better place if it were a little more like Pawnee, Indiana. Here's why:

1. Different people can work together and make progress. Ron Swanson: Government Employee. Libertarian. Lover of meat and woodworking.  Even though Parks and Rec often hilariously and flawlessly mocks American politics and movements, I don't believe Ron Swanson was really meant to be satire. Actual conservatives loved him and no one is laughing that they're not getting the joke. So... how did he and bleeding-heart optimist Leslie become such good friends (and then enemies. And then friends again [spoiler alert])? WELL. They acted like adults, aka the polar opposite of our actual public servants and lawmakers, that's how. And they got shit done. My mind just literally exploded at the thought of that happening in real life. I am now dead.

2. Women are people. Women (especially women of color) are inexcusably underrepresented in Hollywood. When they are represented, they tend to be portrayed as stereotypes without any real personalities of their own. An alarming number of popular movies and TV shows fail to pass the almost comically low standards of the Bechdel Test. The women in Parks, though, exhibit authority, have fleshed-out characters that don't ascribe to stereotypes, and everyone in the world of Pawnee, most notably the men in their lives, have zero problem with this. None of them are sidekicks. None of them want to compete with each other. None of their lives revolve around finding a man or getting married. It's almost like women are complex humans and can actually be portrayed as such on popular entertainment.

3. Leslie owns her awesomeness. A lot of "strong female characters," and women in general, tend to define themselves by their flaws for various reasons: comedic relief, to relate to others, to avoid being criticized. Leslie does not. Leslie had flaws, of course, and they were often exhausting for her friends and family. But she was unapologetically confident in her abilities as a public servant and her absolute certainty in her bright future. Leslie made the city of Pawnee angry. In the real world, Leslie's refusal to play down her passion, her drive, and her confidence are what get women labeled as "bossy," "bitchy." and whatever new horrible names the Internet likes to make up when it feels threatened. The real world is terrified of confident women like Leslie. But we all love it when women view themselves as loserly frauds who don't really believe they can ever do any good, that their success is just a facade. They feel the need remind people that "Don't worry, I'm not too awesome. You don't have to be intimidated!" Well Leslie says "fuck that," (implicitly, this is network TV) and, by extension, has given every other woman permission to do the same. Women are allowed to own their talent, drive, passion, and contributions without a disclaimer.  But it is important to remember that you might be recalled. Even in Pawnee, people are threatened by just about everything.

4. Friendship is most important. Parks and Rec is about relationships. ("Find your team." Excuse me while I sob forever.) Pretty much every main character started out begrudgingly tolerating Leslie's admirable - though at times overbearing - commitment to her friendships. But they eventually opened themselves to her and others - even though that's a really hard thing to do - and were always better for it. The characters may fight, question each other's life choices, or pretend not to care, but they ultimately support each other through some rough, real life shit: losing a job, getting married, moving to another state, having kids, starting new businesses, running for office. Leslie made up a freakin' holiday to celebrate her lady friends! She's a friendship maverick and if everyone tried to match her love for her friends - well, we'd all have a lot more throw pillows with our faces stitched onto them, which is never a bad thing... right?

On Tuesday night, I spent the evening watching the series finale with my friend family, eating bacon and waffles, and celebrating the beautiful ending to a show that means a lot to all of us. Watching the beloved cast of Parks and Rec saying goodbye and leaving Pawnee made me reflect on the changes in our lives - over the past few years and those in our future - and it made me feel a little better. Change is scary. I suck at it. Even losing a favorite show makes me feel a little empty. But if Leslie Knope is ready, so am I.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Emotions (Abridged) 2

This week, I felt_______because...

SENTIMENTAL: My mom is in the process of moving from the house I lived in throughout middle/high school. Though haven't technically lived there for almost 9 years since I moved away to college, this impending change still has me kinda bummed. I know my heavy emotions are mostly about my late father, not the house or the town, but it will be strange to no longer return to such familiar places on a regular basis. Despite the sadness, I have kind of enjoyed going through all my old shit and reminiscing the awkward days of yore. You know, as opposed to the awkward days of now. 


SCHMEXHAUSTED: This is a new word I invented to describe my unprecedented levels of sleepiness. I've never exactly been a morning person, but this week my body discovered a fun, new way to remind me that I am definitely in my late 20s, going on 60. Back in the day, I could easily run on 6-7 hours of sleep. But this week it seemed that unless I got 9 hours or more, I could not function without turning into a cranky toddler in need of a nappie wappie. It literally hit me just this week. So, I guess life is different now. The aging process is a controlling bitch. 

Not yore.

PREPARED: Well, preparing. I've been feeling lost in the wilderness of freelance writing and questioning every single action I take in the course of my work week. It's getting better, but I need to crush this week. I actually have a vision and a plan, and I almost kind of feel like I could maybe possibly in the near future know what the fuck I'm doing ever. So, progress! 

FOX / pandawhale

Read my previous Emotions (Abridged) post here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Should All Over Yourself

In DBT this past summer, one of the helpful quips often used during sessions was, “Don’t should all over yourself.”

You may have heard this phrase before. It isn’t new, though it was new to me at the time and kinda blew my mind. Just to clarify if you don’t follow or English isn’t your first language or whatever, this is called a “pun.” A pun is a form of wordplay that suggests two or more meanings of similar-sounding words for an intended humorous effect. In this case, “should” sounds a lot like “shit” when spoken in the context of the sentence. Don’t should or shit all over yourself. Both are bad. JUST SO WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE.

Literally everyone does this. I’ve noticed it a lot more with women. We’re taught from a young age to always be nice, obedient, accommodating, to follow rules. I think that leads to a lot of profoundly dangerous long-term effects, but that’s another rant for another day.

So, what might shoulding yourself lead to? I've seen it lead to being involved in projects you don’t care about or don’t have time for because you feel like you “should.” People stay in jobs they hate for years because they “should” be responsible. They go to colleges they don’t want to go to. They major in things they don’t care about. They stay in marriages or friendships that aren't fulfilling. They have children because society tells them they “should.” They live lives of unnecessary misery because they heard somewhere that this is what you “should” do and if you don’t do it you’re wrong.

I'm guilty of this as much as anyone, and I really think it’s about time we all fucking stop. Everyone has only one measly little life, and we’re here for a tiny fraction of a blip of time in the grand scheme of the Universe. Don’t spend it shoulding all over yourself! It’s pointless and it’s gross. Do what you want. You know, unless what you want is to stab kittens or something. Then do not do that and please seek help immediately. (Contact me for a list a reputable therapists in the west Michigan area)

I’m not saying you need to dismiss all responsibility and live on the fringes of society. There are some things you actually have to do, like, in order to not die or get arrested. Do those, please. Everyone has little things they should be doing but they choose to do other stuff instead. On a micro level, maybe you should be doing your taxes instead of marathoning Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. That’s not what I'm talking about. That’s procrastination and it is a real bummer, I know. Unfortunately it’s also - at least partially - human nature (though you can fight it! I believe in you!).

But the word “should” when applied to a human life is a myth. It implies that there is one right way to do an existence, and that’s just not fucking true. This deprivation of an enjoyable life because you feel like you owe it to society, to your parents, to whomever, that you do your life the way you were taught to do it… that’s not nature. That’s nurture. That’s society. That’s brainwashing. And it must be stopped. Or at the very least, given a giant F U.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Emotions (Abridged): 1

Happy Galentine's Day, you beautiful, unstoppable freight trains.

This week, I felt ________ because...

ANXIOUS: I'm trying to build a new business as a freelance writer. I have a shiton of things to do and learn, I feel frazzled and overwhelmed on the daily, and every day I seem to be disappointed with myself over not getting as much done as I think I should have. This blog has unwillingly been thrown onto to the backburner because apparently starting a freelance business is really fucking hard and time consuming. Who knew? (Everyone knew.)

LONESOME: Working from home is a new adventure that will take some getting used to. I'm an introvert who genuinely loves alone time and needs it on a regular basis. But Joel works long days and 12+ hours a day all alone in a small apartment without speaking real words to an actual human person (dog-persons don't count; sorry, Ranger) is starting to take its toll on my mental health. I'm trying to combat it the best I can - going to the gym a few times a week, going someplace else to work for awhile, making friends with the ghosts in my house - but it's cold out and I hate talking to strangers and sometimes the ghosts just want to be left alone with their unfinished business!! I find myself whining to Joel most days about how I miss him. But the truth is, I miss everyone.

GRATEFUL: Despite my anxiety and intermittent loneliness, I can't imagine doing anything else. There are times when I want to give up and go back to finding a soul-crushing, dead-end job with a steady paycheck like a real American, but then I remember what that was like. Office life does not suit me. This is where I'm supposed to be. This new life is the flavor of shit sandwich I can stomach, if you will. Not everyone has the opportunity to live the life they enjoy, and I'm so thankful I have the privilege of building a business while not having to worry about making rent (thanks, Joel! ♥♥♥). Everything sucks sometimes, even your dream job or your vacation or your marital bliss. Most days I believe the work will pay off in the end, and if I do forget, I have an amazing support system of people who remind me to snap out of it and keep on truckin'. 

COLORFUL: I did this to my hair:

I missed the Manic Panic phase in high school, so now I'm late to the game and it's time to go all out. Really though, this is all just a part of my futile attempts to become a magical rainbow unicorn.

Cartoon Network / Via http://truepokemonchampion.tumblr.com/

This is the first post in a new series inspired by Stephanie.