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A fresh perspective on the personal and political.

An Open Letter to the People of Gaza June 16, 2011

Filed under: Friends,Friendship,Politics,Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 5:58 pm

To the people of Gaza,

I just got off the phone with one of the passengers that will be on the U.S. boat, the Audacity of Hope, which is part of the 2nd Freedom Flotilla that aims to break the blockade of Gaza later this month. She is one of my best friends and I am afraid for her. Israel has promised to stop the flotilla and authorized the use of all force necessary to do so, and the United States has affirmed Israel’s preparation for the flotilla. I am afraid that she will be arrested, that she will be treated badly in detainment, or worse killed. I am in on the emergency response plans and this has felt both empowering and scary. After a teary good-bye, I hung up the phone and blotted my eyes. I felt worried and grateful, proud of my friend’s bravery and courage to so publicly put her life on the line to bring attention to the illegal, abusive blockade of your home.

And I do realize that, at best, my friend will return to her life, changed by the experience, I am sure, but alive. She will able to come back to a life free of the hardships you face daily. I know that each day, the rights we enjoy as Americans are things most Gazans only dream of. I know that you are subjected to being arrested, treated harshly, and are at risk of being killed, whether by a direct IDF action or by slower murderous weapons like malnutrition and the denial of adequate health care. I know that in so many ways, your lives are always on the line. I know this is why my friend is going on the boat. Because whatever sacrifices she has made so far, and the sacrifices that may be demanded of her as a result of boarding that boat, they are no less significant than the sacrifices Gazans have made for decades.

There will be about 300 people from 22 countries in the Flotilla that departs later this month. Behind every person on the boats, there are entire home communities behind them, supporting them, who believe that the way you have been imprisoned on your own land is illegal, immoral, and indefensible. We, in these home communities pray for your human rights to be honored and protected, we pray for ingenuity, creativity and perseverance for those who will lead the conflict to it’s peaceful resolution, and we even pray for you to experience joy, fellowship, and love, which are things that get any people through harrowing times.

Each and every one of you there in Gaza, are a part of my family. I especially send my love to the children of Gaza, my younger siblings, who I pray will live to see a time when playgrounds are in parks and not amongst rubble, when high quality schooling is available to all, and when their families experience lifetimes of peace and prosperity. My love goes out to the mothers, who care for and nurture future leaders who will help to heal Palestine on it’s journey to independence. To the young adults who are pushing political leaders to unify and engage seriously in peace negotiations, I love you! March on! Stay strong! You WILL affect lasting positive change!

I also see as brothers, those individuals who engage in violent actions (behavior I will always condemn). I think that they are so desperately hopeless about their situation that they cannot conceive of a different, violence-free way. Though I do not support attacks on Israel or the murder of Israelis, I do love these Gazans, too. Such desperation can be healed by allowing civil society in Gaza to have access to healthy food, good health care, and economic opportunities currently denied to them.

I will do all I can to support you, my Gazan family.

I pray for your rights, I pray for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict that holds you in it’s grip, I pray for your healing and your happiness. And, I do pray these same things for your Israeli neighbors, too. In the end, I cannot have love for you that I deny to others; I cannot want for you things I do not want for all.

Insha’Allah, למען השם, may peace fall upon the earth.

All my love,

Mandie Stout

Santa Cruz, California


My Notebook May 24, 2011

Filed under: Friendship,Migraines,Notebook,Sex & Relationships — mandolyn10 @ 12:06 am
Tags: , ,

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A close friend commented on an old photo of me on facebook tonight. In it, I’m with a guy I dated a couple years ago. In some ways, we’d gone public as a couple the night the photo was taken, and we were having a lot of fun. At one point, after all of us had drank a few too many beers, the woman who had introduced us, approached us and looked him straight in the eye. She said something along the lines of, “You need to understand that Mandie is an amazing woman, and if you can’t make this work, you will loose the best woman you’ve ever met.” I laughed it off, but if I could have said it and not felt like an idiot, I would have.

After the party, before we fell into an intoxicated sleep, we made love for the last time. We didn’t know it would be our last opportunity to have sex. If we had, we might have lingered with one another’s bodies more tenderly, less drunkenly careless and giggly. We might have stayed in bed longer the next morning, talking and touching and relishing. But we hadn’t sensed the end creeping up on us, so he got up to go to yoga and I went back to sleep.

We cared for one another a great deal. We’ve managed to salvage a warmth and respect for each other that I feel grateful for. Perhaps, given that I long ago forgave him for not being able to make his heart work right, it’s not fair that all I can think when I see that picture is, “That was taken the night we made love for the last time,” which fills me with a sweet feeling twisted up in sadness.

But memories are funny like that, they come cloaked in the emotion of the time and impervious to reason or forgiveness and even though I am in a great relationship now. Snippets of the past like this, they pull up a chair in my heart and lay out melancholy, regret, happiness or bliss, like cards on a table, forcing my hand. The trick is to just not play too long.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I woke up with the migraine I’d gone to bed with. I hate these days. I took Advil and Tylenol 5 at a time, which didn’t help at all. As the day progressed, the pain intensified until I felt frantic. This is the third one I’ve had in four weeks and the worst. I’ve eliminated chocolate and alcohol for seven weeks, I’ve been sleeping more, I took $400 worth of tests to eliminate possible causes, and I’m taking all kinds of herbs and supplements to try to tamp down rampant inflammation in my body which not only makes me prone to migraines, but heart attacks and strokes, too, apparently.

But still, I get migraines. I feel like a failure, like it’s my fault somehow. The worst part is how disruptive it is to my life: I am less present at work when I can power through and show up, of no use at all when I can’t go in, because then the contrast of black letters and a white background on the computer makes my eyes hurt and provokes aura — little dancing lights in my field of vision — so I can’t even work from home. Since my partner lives in SF, we talk on the phone every night, but last night and tonight, I had to cut our conversation short because talking makes the pressure and pain more intense. I have missed out on family events, parties with friends, and other obligations like choir. And the fact that over the last two years they’ve gotten significantly more frequent and they last longer worries me. Right now, I have surrounded my head with pillows so I don’t have to use my neck to hold it up, and the pain is significantly less intense, but the aura is starting to come. Will I ever be able to reduce the frequency of my migraines? It’s a question that haunts me most of the time. I think now of the word hope, and I can see myself just barely hanging on to the lip of the letter “e.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I woke up this morning, staring at the bottom edge of the letters that make up the word hope. In the night, my brain must have come and flipped my desperate fingers off that ending letter, because the pain in my head was so explosive the only thing I could do was press the left side of my head (where all the pain was radiating) into my pillow as hard as I could and cry.

I called in sick and then called my friend who’s an acupuncturist. Several people have recommended I try acupuncture, but I’ve been hesitant because I don’t get how it works. But I don’t care anymore how it works, I would have paid her $500 to make this pain go away. She couldn’t see me until 4pm, so I faced the day with no small amount of fear and loathing.

I got through it, bored and in pain, alternately in bed or propped up in my pillow cradle on the couch reading about brain surgery for migraines and the effectiveness of various treatments (turns out what I already knew from experience has been pretty well validated by research: medication is not that effective, when you factor in the icky side effects of the prescription drugs). Finally 3:30 arrived, and I drove to her office.

Throughout the session, I talked to my brain: Ok, honey, do you feel that? Those pricks are telling you to return to normal blood flow. No need for constriction or flooding yourself with blood. And: Do you notice how I’m breathing evenly and slowly, that’s what you can do with the blood coming in — let it come in evenly and regularly, no need to throw the flood gates open, just nice and easy. And when the pain seemed unchanged halfway through I pleaded a bit: Please stop making me hurt so bad, brain, please.  Then, when she told me to sit up, I lifted my head and it felt less heavy, and the dull ache was less dug in. I drove away hardly believing that my migraine had loosened it’s grip on the blood vessels in my brain. Two hours later, it’s real. I still have a low level of pain but it’s so much less than before acupuncture.

Praise fucking God.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I’ve heard it said that we are defined by how we react to our obstacles. If a higher administrative person ordering me, at short notice, to be at an after hours meeting at the same time I wanted to be at bootcamp can be considered an obstacle, then I’m not defining myself particularly well.

After I found out I had to be there, I had decided I’d leave work early, go for a run and show up at the meeting smelly and sweaty, I’d apologize that since I had to miss my workout at 5:30, I squeezed it in before. But I couldn’t leave work early and now I can’t think of any passive agressive way to irritate this person.

What, let her know the impact of her demand on me? Not a chance. I’m on duty this week, and though being at after hours meetings is not a duty requirement, I’m sure there’s a “duties as assigned” clause in there somewhere. So, really, passive-agressive actions are really the only way.

Accept my fate with equanimity and grace? Well, shit, that’s so unsatisfying.

Thursday, May 19 , 2011

Another fucking migraine. Not as terrible as the one that ended Tuesday evening, but really? How does one maintain a fighting spirit when the spirit doesn’t know when the next assault will come?

I went back to my acupuncturist. She made it go away again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today, I was reminded of a hike my friend Thomas and I took back in early spring 2008. Back then, I was still learning that he was a safe man to trust. He seemed to attract women to him like bees to honey, and that to me had always been a huge red flag. But he was going through some rough times, and needed a friend. This hike was one of the first times he opened up to me about himself.

We were hiking in Nisene Marks between huge redwoods that sifted the fog until, at ground level, the forest was dreamy and cool. We walked up and up and up, as long as it took for us to come to some new understandings.

As we talked, I felt myself loosening into some sense of clarity about him. He wasn’t only the kind of person I thought he was — of dubious motivations, generous with his time, help, and compliments, gregarious and talkative, sweet on sweet women. He also had a lot of shit to figure out. He wanted more out of life than he was getting. He had made mistakes, said the wrong things, been rejected, just like the rest of us.

By the time we made it back to his house, my doubts about him had vanished and I knew he’d be a forever friend. We’ve been through a lot in the last three years — not the least of which was falling in love a few weeks before he and his son moved into my house, breaking up a few months later, and still living together for another ten months after that. If a friendship survives all that, it’s pretty iron-clad.

Tonight, we took another long hike, talking and laughing and feeling at home in our bond. A few weeks ago he called and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about you and the possibility of you leaving for grad school in the next year or so, and I want you to know that you don’t get to. You have to stay here because I’d miss you too much. So I just thought you should know.”

I didn’t say then that along with my nieces and Inner Light Ministries, he and his son Indigo would round out the top three things I’d miss most about Santa Cruz.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bliss looks like a lot of things, but for me, it’s doing exactly what I want for a whole day. I am certainly unconvinced that I was worthy of such a blissful day as I had today: I worked out, went to the farmer’s market under the first sunny skies we’ve had in weeks, went to a great yoga class, and got an amazing two and a half hour massage. I went home, made a tasty salad, and watched movies for the rest of the evening.

I imagine the ghosts of my former lives looking on me today, thinking, “I hope she knows how many lives and how many good deeds it took to make her worthy of that day…” I do, I do.


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