Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Reaction

It is post-Christmas and I've been feeling anxious lately. Though I was able to accomplish a lot yesterday, I still ended up getting into a fight (verbal) at the end of the night, just thankfully not in public. I felt like the conversation was going well and I was holding my own without being too prickly of a person, but I wasn't too sure since I had gotten three shots to update my immunizations records and one was a polio adult booster - the number one side effect is, naturally, irritability. So I was double checking my personal assessment of the situation with a friend and a somewhat unrelated fight broke out over other topics. I guess the movie we saw had me a little bit sensitive and reactive: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And I know there is a book, and I really ought to read it, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
Anyway, overheard someone say of Lisbeth's rape scene that she would break the bed rather than endure the rape. Now I know it's nice to imagine that, but it just doesn't appeal to me as an observational comment.  When I looked at my reaction to the comment, I was perplexed and had to try to think why it bothered me.  After some thought, I guess it was the subtle way she put herself above the character's reaction. Rather than say, "I'm sure she wished she could have broken the bed rather than been raped, that scene was so strong and uncomfortable." the comment was rather one that she would have done the impossible to avoid the rape.

But comments and why those comments stood out in my mind aside, the scene makes me think of how living unconventionally makes you vulnerable to being taken advantage of in ways that aren't immediately apparent. Maybe being conventional and sweet and submissive and effeminate without apparent strength puts you at the mercy of strong men, but you could live your whole life in this fashion and be "alright." You could believe that if everyone followed the rules that we'd all be okay and taken care of.  Yet if you're wild and need independence for whatever reason - whether past trauma or betrayal - it can be held against you.  You don't conform to society and whether you are a man or woman, you suffer for it.  Yet the wayfaring woman has so much more to fear than the man.

The closing scene of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also hit me hard.  It's the sort of scene that makes me sad because when someone who finds it difficult to become romantically involved finds someone they care about, it is painful to find out that the other doesn't feel the same way - or at least believing this.  That you were a phase in their life, and that they are going back to what is familiar and easier.  Finding someone who makes you feel even dryly witty and attractive, only to find out you barely made an impression is one of the biggest let downs you can feel in your life.

I know I am projecting, because obviously there is a book and I should probably read that for more insight into Lisbeth's point of view.  But on the movie, if you - man or woman - are strong enough like the protagonist to be "alright" and take care of yourself, it is still one of life's tragedies to see a hardened person begin to soften only to get hurt and feel as though the offending person has proven their lowest estimations of humanity are right from time to time.  It's enough to stay cynical.  Strong movie.  Very thought provoking, I have got to read the books now...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Edition

It is actually making an effort to snow in the Southwest.  The smattering of flakes won't stick for long though, in fact most of it has melted, but it makes it feel a little more like Christmas in the desert.  I got a nice picture of the snow while it lasted.

It's nice that many service men and women get to go home for the holidays, but America keeps in mind the many who are not home at this time of the year.  The United States is a pretty generous country, and there are many public announces reminding the general populace that we can always help others.  It is refreshing that in spite of the economic woes and political strife of this era, our Christmas isn't overrun with selfish and useless fighting, and maybe this speaks to the ever hopeful - if sometimes naive - USA.

During the holidays when many commanders are on leave, except for the skeleton crew holding down the fort (literally), questions arise over what is the best way to conduct military correspondence.  With text messages and email, there must be a new regulation in the works about how to text message while conveying respect for the rules and traditions of the armed forces.  I mean, should one sign off text messages with an official title of Army-related business, or include a Sir or Ma'am when addressing superiors?  I'm sure there is someone in the IT department who is probably authoring this manual as I post this blog.

So I guess this blog will just be as is, somewhat positive, in the name of the Christmas Spirit!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

East vs West Ideology in a Western Military

What is the balance between setting goals to work towards and being at peace with your position in the world?

Looking at the military through the lenses of Western vs Eastern values brings out some interesting points.  I'm speaking of the way that Western beliefs tend to emphasize the conflict between good and evil.  In the Western way we decide that there is good to strive towards and evil we should combat.  In the Eastern way there is less of this western sense of justice and instead more acceptance.  More specifically I am thinking of the Buddhist belief that good and evil balance each other out and more emphasis is placed on the individual improving him or herself over imposing personal judgement and justice on the world around them.

The military is a paradox.  On one hand it is the armed hand of a nation ready to "deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies" of said country, and on the other hand it is a brotherhood, a family of sorts, that places emphasis on the personal well-being of its employees like no other organization of similar size and stature.

At the large scale it is this difference, and on the individual scale it is a similar battle for me.  On one hand, I want to strive for a good level, and this is aligned with the western beliefs that are instilled in me.  On the other hand, this sort of thinking can lead to self-sabatoging and anxiety over minute details.  I know that the point of eastern 'acceptance' isn't to do nothing.  It is not as though monks become fat slobs who care nothing about anything, there is a lot of self-restraint and self-discipline associated with a monk's lifestyle so I know that isn't the point.  Yet I don't even believe that seclusion or withdrawal is the answer. My personality and wildness couldn't handle that, it's just trying to reach a level of comfort and take that forward towards goals.  It's setting high goals, continuing to strive for them, and using the failure to reach those goals (if failure occurs) as healthy motivation to continue to work hard.  It's maintaining positive and relaxed thought that I find difficult and am working towards every day.  Anxiety is a natural reaction and has obviously helped me get through a lot, but it has grown to a level that sometimes interferes with personal interactions.  It's nothing job-wrecking, it's a normal level of distortion in an otherwise normal life, like so many people have, but it's wanting to change this that is difficult to do.  Looking ourselves in the eyes and accepting what we must change and making the painful adjustments in our lives to change is a heart-wrenchingly painful experience for most of us.  It would be much easier, I have to add, to start to care less, or to convince myself that my weaknesses are strengths, or just pick a personal hour or two to wallow in misery and not work on changing anything at all.

So, balance.  It all comes back to balance.  Master resiliency training anyone?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trying to Date in the Military

In the military it can be difficult for a woman looking for a man.  She is most likely going to have a successful relationship with a peer in the military.  I cannot imagine for the life of me meeting a guy - a civilian - in a bar in Richmond and if things work out marrying him and bringing him with me to my next duty station and telling him to go ahead and take care of the apartment and the dog and if he can find a job, good for him but my paycheck has got us covered.  If I found a guy who told me he would follow me all while finding work where he could and raising our kids, I don't think under normal circumstances I would want to be with him.  And that might be my unwillingness to be more progressive in this particular topic, but there are so many men who do this in the military to their wives.  And that is perfectly fine, but it does make one feel a little bit, I guess, the right word would be jealous.  I am jealous it is more difficult for me to find a civilian either established enough or high enough in his job to follow me as I change from duty station to duty station, or patient enough to wait for me while I continue my military career.

I haven't had a relationship I saw going anywhere serious for a while.  I fell hard for a civilian a year ago and that ended up degenerating into me banging my head against a brick wall and being distraught that the brick wall won.  He was already tied up in other life goals, and he couldn't handle that I was in a job that potentially risked my life.  He would ask if I could get out of the military.  Even if I could, I didn't want to.

Other than him, I've generally dated other military personnel... and this has had it's ups and downs.  I can't help but feel a streak of competition which clashes with my desire to look to my beaus for help and support.

In all of these pursuits for romance the relationships have ended, or not been serious enough to warrant ending, and while I am okay and possibly the better for it, I am in constant pursuit of affirmation that I'm worth it.  Don't so many of us feel like this?  Those of us who haven't been welcomed into other families with open if cheesy arms.  Those of us who haven't had the warm touch of gold on our ring fingers, or that exciting moment when you officially bind your life with someone else's.  We're sort of perched on solitary relationship chairs trying to convince ourselves that we're special, that the someone out there for us is just a little difficult to find, and struggling with the haunting fear that we might be alone when it's not what we want.  It's okay to come to accept that being alone is either what we want, or what is best for us, but it is totally different if you find yourself happy with a partner in your life and can't seem to hold on to a relationship past a significant life change.

And I know that it will come when you least expect it, and la-di-da, but forgive me for expressing the inevitable feelings of single women, especially in the military.  And I know there's people on the other side of the fence who may feel worse for having had serious relationships that fell through at the worst moments, but from the occasionally bitter single side, at least you have the security that you could secure the facsimile of a relationship.  Here I've got the tatters of attempts that I threw away when they couldn't satisfy me.  Is it me destroying the chances, or is it me realizing the chance wasn't there?

I am fine at the moment, I'm neither piningly lonely nor am I in a screwed up relationship.  I've got plenty of time to fall in love with someone.  Whichever way the wind blows me, there's one thing for sure:  my military career is going to play a gargantuan role in my romantic life.  I can't keep the two from overlapping.  I don't even think I have the capability to leave the military and be someone's kept wife... I couldn't stand the boredom of listening to him regale me on military subjects that I know, a military life I would constantly feel resentment for because I left it for a man - and always wonder if I could have done it better than him.

Even further, I cannot be some particularly effeminate woman in the military who may understand her partner's lifestyle but chooses to do some sort of more historically acceptable job for women such as medical service or maybe adjutant general or finance.  I respect those jobs and positions, and more importantly the men and women who do those jobs, but one thing is certain:  that women are still barred from Ranger School and certain jobs based on gender alone still angers me.  It makes my heart race, and motivates me to think about and work towards a solution to this problem.  Which is why I still consider the law and legal work in my future, or some sort of international work because it seems gender is less an issue in some other countries.

There are other women in the military like this, who are neither classic sweethearts with cheerleader smiles and soft voices, nor overtly masculine business-only tomboys who never so much as donned a skirt before the Army Service Uniform.  Both of these types of people contribute, and that's great, but there's a growing percentage of women who are somewhere between these stereotypes.  It's part of society changing and unshackling gender roles for the better, those women were already there, but it will hopefully become more and more apparent.  I know who I am:  a tough, gritty, wrestling, combative woman with a wry sense of humor who doesn't really know where this gets her right now in life.  It's fine and great, but I don't even have the height and strength and solid technical knowledge to be a stoic badass.  And since I cannot be a stoic badass yet, I will have to accept and capitalize on when my antics and attempts to be a professional in the military are amusing to others.  After you are done chuckling, will you help me out?

Monday, November 28, 2011

But I do Believe Sadness is a Beautiful Color

I am on a journey to be more accepting and thus hopefully live this life more fully.  I'm looking for healthy outlets, and I definitely have things to occupy my time.  And though I do find myself feeling sadness, it is in a rich way.  I think blue is the most beautiful color.  I think sad songs are wonderful... there's something about the emotion that can keep us still, riveted for a split second in a world that is moving so fast.

Happiness is fantastic but wild, and over so soon.  Sadness can be preserved, saved, kept in our hearts much more easily than joy... and sadness can be sweet.  There's a concept in Portuguese of saudade the feeling of missing someone or something.  It's typically invoked in Fado songs which are sad songs about the past in some fashion or form.  They embrace the sadness and the feeling becomes more:  it becomes art.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not So Bad...

I've been finding out that doing regular things sort of fills the time in a pleasant way.  I started watching the first season of "The Walking Dead" on Netflix and quite enjoyed it, though I guess I watched all the episodes too fast.  Now I have to wait for season 2 to come out on DVD!

I also bought a couple books to distract myself, and they are light and not about singular female heroins.  They are cute and realistic:  Social Q's by Philip Galanes and F**k it by John C. Parkin.  And no, the second one is not some angry person cursing the world, but a funny take on the eastern religious way of letting go, it gets a little monk-ish about letting go of everything to find peace and enlightenment.  Of course with um... western profanity.  Anyway, that has been fun along with a couple little things sprucing up my apartment.  Though it's barely any cleaner, I did buy a holiday-themed kleenex box and re-organize the bathroom sink.

Lastly, in the last exercise of leadership I got a lot of compliments and votes of confidence from peers when I led.  My experience and knowledge as a Transportation Officer are still being - erm - developed at the moment... but apparently I've conveyed my will and ability to learn.  Sounds like a valuable skill.  And now that the tiring exercise is over, I would like to just sit back and appreciate those compliments and let their true meaning sink in.  After all, shouldn't I pay attention to what my strengths are, and use that to determine what my weaknesses are?

That's only for a couple more hours, I admit that I have been quite tense and now... I ought to relax a little.  Not worry about self-improvement, tensions, stresses, worry, boys, boys who think they are men, men who indulge in acting like boys, job, finance, travel, etc. Obviously my life will never be peachy keen with absolutely no problems or worries in it... so every now and then I gotta let go of it all and just breathe.  Whew!  But really, don't want to talk about the holiday for which I am getting this time off, not until I get to my destination and my current uncertainty is quelled by a wholly enjoyable time.  Logically I know I will have a good time, it's only emotionally that I am at all bothered at the moment.  Ah, and I know I have these damn annoying emotions.  Suppose I'll write again after Thursday

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why I am Bad at Trivia

So in the wake of all these revelations and epiphanies that others have great tips for me to self-improve...

...I am also realizing the value of true self-confidence and self-comfort.  Though it is great to have gotten a lot of insight from friends, and it is important to continue to do so, there comes a time when a young woman must be able to make a decision - a poor one even - and take a deep breath and consult no one and think to herself that was the correct thing to do in spite of repercussions.  And unless this decision violates state or federal law, I think that it is important to embrace these slipshod decisions when they are made with deliberation and consideration.

I am not going to be able to do everything perfectly, and I realized today I over-apologize.  Often I am apologizing for not knowing things I've never been taught to do.  Occasionally, I'm just embarrassed to not know or not have paid attention to some random fact or skill.  This is why most of the time I'm horrible at trivia, I love big ideas or Pictionary, but ask me to repeat a simple fact and I am terrible.  I do know a bit more nature trivia than the average individual but it seems everything else - especially history and pop culture - eludes me.

So today I made a poor decision, but it was after a lot of deliberation and an ignorance to the alternatives.  I brought up an awkward subject, and fumbled a lot with it, and wandered and became vague and meandering.  I really do hate that about myself.  When I am being proud and just trying to not look like a fool in a class exercise I generally pull it together and perform just fine.  When I am trying to ask a close friend something personal and potentially sensitive I seem to lose all common sense, fire, and confidence.  Who am I to ask such a deeply personal question?  Haven't I overstepped the bounds of the relationship to dare to ask about this?  And it's this hesitation in the doorway that really sabotages myself.  I really have improved on not blowing up in my personal relationships since... exactly one year ago... but I haven't gotten quite used to discussing a whole range of things with someone I'm close to.  I tend to want to stick with the good and when the bad comes around I think that I've done something wrong as opposed to accept that everything can't be great all the time.  And then there's my impatience to want to fix it... sigh... gotta just learn to let go sometimes.  It's not worth holding on to all the tension!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Caught Between Being One of the Guys and a Woman

It is difficult for me to figure out where I belong, I have a lot of artistic desires and qualities.  And by artistic I don't mean my drawing which is only average for the time being, and I'm not a trained anything really, but I have tendencies and desires.  Anyway, the point being, I'm not in an artistic community, I'm in the military community.  And I don't want to be one of the guys, but I'd like to be the kind of person who can go out with the guys.  Yet... as I get older (so slowly, I know!) I feel like it's difficult to go out with the guys and not be considered one of them.  It's as though when they realize you are a woman all of sudden it's a complicated mess that reeks of the When Harry Met Sally argument that men and women can't be friends.  So I've been staying in and just sort of rolling these thoughts around.  My situation of course is - and will probably always be - unique, at least in the military.  It doesn't help that I'm trying to figure out who I am, and in addition to being strong-willed, I'm a little wild and a little sensitive.  I don't have a lot of girlfriends, and that's just thanks to past events.  I'm not saying I've been a victim, but I've been in situations I didn't fully understand just what I did to contribute to them, and so it's a bit of a process to make new friends who are women.  Yet men are not exactly the most trustworthy of creatures... and in a man's world it is important to be able to maintain an arm's distance without being perceived as cold and standoffish.  It is a difficult lesson for me, and I feel like I'm getting so many lessons in social environs at the moment it's almost a headache.  I think it's stressful to just be comprehending this for me.  Yet I persist and I know I will find out how to improve my interactions with colleagues and friends alike.  It's not that in the last few years I haven't built some strong relationships with women, but they are further and farther apart, sometimes a half a world away - literally.  I turn to them electronically, but I am trying to better decipher these relationships as they present themselves to me wherever I am.

So, onward... ever onward.  On a quiet evening in, singing made up lyrics to real songs and trying to sew.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Momentary Motivation was Wonderful, now Confusion Ensues

If I could rest these weary arms from holding up these weapons, don't you think I would?

Some poetic words to describe my tired and confused feelings.  I am trying my very hardest to not sound whiny.  It is near impossible, but half of this battle is lowering my general self-consciousness.  The thing that calms me is that none of my faults and worries, anxieties or concerns, are so detrimental to my performance as to interfere with my ability to perform at a damn near excellent level professionally.

I am not the kind of person to freeze in front of a crowd and it's not like I'm a total social hermit.  I just have a different point of view on certain things.  And I'm intense, yes, and I should work on a couple things, and yes, blah blah blah.  Got it.  Tracking.  Roger.

Moving on?

I'm not trying to be in denial or dismiss what I'd like to work on more actively, but I'm also in no mood to be scolded.  Enough is enough.  Alright, you got someone to admit a very real flaw about themselves.  Awesome, and I'll have thick enough skin to develop myself from the honest third-party point of view.  Period.  I'm not done visiting the subject for myself, but I am not going to dismiss all my successes because I have this very real weakness.  And I know that's not what peers are trying to say.  If anything, nearly all of them say nothing, because it's rare to be close enough to me to even try to broach the subject.  And that in itself is frustrating about regular social interactions.  But with a couple new lenses with which to study life itself, maybe I can get past that... it's part of the process.  This confusing altogether overwhelming process that I hear goes on your entire life.  Ai dios mio...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Steep Learning Curves

It's never dull around here, we've completed a lot of the high graded events for Transportation BOLC (TBOLC) and the largest point allocation is somewhat a group project.  I'm trying to get my mind right for this, it will be a great learning experience regardless.

The next two weekends are going to be joyful, and I really mean it.  It's exciting to see my sister get married this weekend, I can't believe it's already here.  She's been really considerate with my time and schedule, and I'm glad to be able to be there for her!

After that a friend is inviting me to her home for Thanksgiving.  And it might be a little cheesy and cliché but there's a lot I'm grateful for including having a place to go for Thanksgiving when El Paso is so far away and it's difficult to travel so soon after my sister's wedding in Boston.  I'll be home for Christmas though..., and if I can quit being so corny, I can continue to say that I'm here.  I'm in the present.  I've been internally battling for a long time with parts of me, and it's not a fight that will ever be over, but I know what I want to be in life.  Not exactly my profession and future, I don't know if I'll be traditional or eclectic, but I know I want friends and family in my life.  I don't want to drive people I care about away from me.

Am I young?  Yeah, so young.  And sometimes it catches up to me, usually when I think I'm totally above it, my age and maturity like to trip me up.  As long as that's what I'm doing, falling forward.  One more cliché:  I gotta get back on the wagon, the horse, whatever, I need some upward and forward mobility and I need it now.  I don't wanna be sad so close to so much wonderfulness, so I'm closing my eyes and letting my mind ease up a little bit.  I need a loldog... gonna go hang out with a puppy now and hope the little judgment-free bundle of fur will make me feel better.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is It Possible?

Sometimes I feel gripped with a madness and futility.  I don' know what plunges me into these feelings, but I don't have much to do much wait for them to pass.  I start thinking crazy, like that patience and charity would be the correct ways to deal with life.  I wish I had the patience to be a boring woman who sat and worked endlessly toward chillingly empty goals.  I wish I had a desire to do good work in a convent.  I am having urges to start adopting cats from the animal shelter.  I could get a pair of bookish glasses, because I'm not really interested in what my exterior looks are.  It's unrelated to furthering my education and blindly carrying on this life without much passion or feeling.

But I look at my messy apartment, I search inwardly and find feelings flaring and meeting and crashing.  There's music in my soul, and the music is richer for the mistakes and risks.  It's as though each foolhardy decision I make is a rising crescendo in a sultry and endless sequence that is both catchy and a cacophony.  It's beautiful how broken my reasoning is.  I feel like a cyclone dancing in a rhythm no one can hear across a flat and endless plain.  An empty desert, a chill wind like a foreign touch in such a typically hot clime, large desert storm building on the horizon.  Each dizzy turn brings my emotions reeling from dizzily happy, from certain to desperate to depressed.  And back to content somewhere in the eye of the storm.  But on the outside forever oscillating between the extremes of my emotions.  I wonder sometimes if there is no end to this?  What would it matter if this was life?  Or do I view it as a volatile part of my life that one day will be behind me.  A distance memory or a blurry photograph.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giving the Best of Me

Things have been looking up, today I managed - through the motivation of people I consider friends and peers - to run just about seven miles in 55 minutes.

And now I'm watching Old School for the first time ever.  It's sort of depressing to be honest... I don't know how I'm supposed to feel watching a silly comedy but it's got these dark undertones.  I just don't see how any of these men in this movie are the 'good guy' and some of the humor is just downright annoying.  The overall plot at least is amusing, but it just brings up my confused feelings about 'regular' college life.  And it's an inward conundrum that leaves me wondering what exactly to do about grad school.  I'm going to take some time in germany and consider my options, and find out if or when I'm going to deploy.

Now I know, as conflicted as I feel about some of the humor - life is messy and I guess it would be better to laugh a little at all the stupid mistakes... I still think some mistakes are pretty unforgivable.  But that's because I'm still working on my capacity to forgive.

As I was running today, and waiting for the moment when I was going to be run into the ground (which happened on the last hill on the last mile) I was listening to the Gambler and it all goes back to balance...  What a life... balance... riiight.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Emotional, yes, but Honest

I cannot say honestly that I'm a good person, but I can say that I don't want to demean others.  I don't get pleasure from belittling people.  When I have criticism, it's usually because I see no one correct a behavior I consider inappropriate.  When I'm standoffish or seem cruel it's usually because I'm self-conscious and wary of being backstabbed as has happened in the past.

Yet the real question is where does this tendency to doubt myself so much come from?  Why do I feel responsible for the failures of my peers?  Why do I feel like a failure for my inability to successfully inspire others to better themselves?  Why don't I have a hands off approach that some of my peers seem to?  Why do I take criticism and failure so deeply personal?  I will always struggle with this in my career.  It is not a problem on the surface and does not interfere with my professional lifestyle except insomuch as it prevents me from seizing the most of my potential.

In the romantic department it keeps me from happiness.  Romantically I am a wreck.  I sway back and forth between wanting to be single and wanting a soul mate and settling for a someone.  Sometimes I feel like I have no support system in my life and I crave another human being I can be forthright and honest with.  In this world there's so little that's honest left.  A lot of what is out there is in denial and shallow and petty and scares me to death.  What's wrong with this world?

And when it comes to the path I've chosen, there is really nothing in this world I could do with a completely clear conscience.  Every single benefit comes at a price whether in time, in character, in money, or in blood.  Even in a relationship I wonder should I sacrifice stability for the highs and lows of wild romance?  Or should I stolidly force myself to love someone who would be a stable partner?  It sounds so boring and so cold.

There's only one life, I want to give it my all.  I cannot continually be wrapped around the axle about every mistake I make along the way.  Victory does not come easily to any of us.  Everyone has their Achilles Heel.  But this doesn't answer my question of love.

It isn't that I think there aren't multiple chances for love in this life, or rather the right chance will come along and a choice will be laid out.  I believe lasting love requires sacrifice it's just that women are generally better at and better suited to making this sacrifice.  I haven't sacrificed anything I couldn't get back for a man yet, and thankfully those men I've not ended up with have been not the right one.  Yet I wonder if there will come a time when that sacrifice will be asked of me, and I wonder if I will be willing to make such a sacrifice.  If I continue to guard myself, I might never let anyone in.  My tendency to get hurt tells me there is still feeling under the scar tissue of my heart.  It is not a dead muscle yet, and I know it's easy to say at the young age of twenty-one there are eons for me to find "the One."

Life comes at you fast though, and in only two months I will be twenty-two, and then in Germany and then... who knows?  Career, deployment perhaps; acclimating to a culture immersion.  The list goes on and on.  Love might not have a place in my life at this time, but if it's not something I am clear to myself I want someday, than I will never make room in my life for love.  If I really was heartless than I would be satisfied with this outcome and put myself peacefully to work towards my other goals and dreams.  But I am feverish with the desire to find a someone to spend the rest of my life with.  I do not seek someone to complete me, but someone who understands me in a way that even my family does not understand me, and who learns to love me with all my flaws in the most obnoxious joy the most wretched anger and the deepest despair.  And I know that no one can do that if I'm sitting here occupied with insecurity.  I know it's only a small - though strong - part of me that wants to hide.  But hiding is over, it's time to be open again to the shrapnel of this emotion.

Whether brief or with a surprising longevity, I'm setting my foundation of confidence.  It will not be a simple project, there's a lot of debris here.  It's like an abandoned outpost, overgrown and isolated.  There's work to be done and I'm set to doing this work.  It's no easy task.  It's just no easy task.

Monday, October 24, 2011

As a Lobsterman's Wife

Today I am whimsical and cheerful.  My running is improving.  I've got plans to take care of some tasks today and will report on that... my mood is better, and I think it was getting away for the weekend.  Oh when the water is blue and the people are new... haha... it's true.  It was like another life for one night.  It never stops.  Gotta keep moving forward.  Making friends is important, but keeping your chin up is more important than worrying about what everyone else is thinking.  So today I am going to be cheerful and see what happens.  Okay, well this post had to the short so I can get to work... but I promise to add more later!  Tchau!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seriously... Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I also wish my life was more organized.  I have to take care of some things for this TBOLC and I just don't know when I'll have the time... which isn't entirely true, but it's in between socializing that I'll have to do these things.  I'm just frustrated and tired and trying to tolerate idiotic behavior from otherwise decent people.  And I'm trying to learn from and exemplify the maturity to know when to let go of a fight not worth fighting.  It's definitely important to learn to hold a neutral expression while dealing with someone you hold in contempt, and I value that lesson because it's my weakness.

But my strength is in my stupid will to fight, and fight, and keep fighting no matter how impossible the goal seems.  It's in my inability to be close and socialize much with people I cannot truly respect.  When circumstance deems necessary, I can bite the bullet and make it through the evening, but I don't consider it a weakness to be alone when the alternative makes me want to scream.  I know I've been talking a lot about wanting to scream, but I don't mind because I know my limits. I won't break, when worse comes to worse, I'll just shake a little.  Too much is at stake, namely my pride and my reputation.  I've got to have enough humility to maintain that pride, and I've got to hold my tongue to keep a reputation of being only intense as opposed to overly emotional and unreliable.

I know that and while here it has not been a major problem, I know in my heart how my past is not far behind enough yet for me to drop my guard (and probably never will be).  Tomorrow we've got another exam, and I have to study, but not before I get out some venting, and some pointless, meaningless expression to calm my anger and steady my hand.  Sometimes it seems like everything is peachy-keen until the un-f***ing-thinkable just blindsides you and you're reeling in your head while outwardly you just laugh awkwardly and try to think how to deflect such a sucker punch.  Folks open themselves to injury and it's in their insecurity they strike out against everyone.  So much insecurity and posturing makes me tense and defensive.  Whatever.  Just... whatever.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Socializing Should be Easier

So today I got to go on a zip line adventure... it was great! A little work out - nothing too strenuous - and a chance to feel a little tough. I want to get into rock climbing also. As there are places to be taught the skill, I could start there and move on once I found a group around my skill level, and it would be motivation to stay in shape and get out every once and a while.

I also got my hiking boots in a package recently and that's also calling me... the weather still isn't bad but even when it starts to get chilly I've got a nice fleece and a good jacket... I'm ready enough and there are people around here who are in better shape than I am. They would be great people to go hiking with!

…which brings me to my next point sometimes I am not a people person. It's just frustrating for me to be around a large group of people a handful of who are loud and obnoxiously so. It doesn't really matter how many of them are loud and obnoxious, it just makes me wonder whose parents didn't teach them volume control when they were younger. And I mean when I am repeating myself three or four times in a row to relay one sentence of a story I start to lose interest in telling the story at all. Except that whoever you're talking to will - after they've loudly shouted over your sentence - look at you with innocent expectancy, as though they really want to hear what you've got to say. And it's not even that important of a story and it doesn't really matter and I don't really feel like talking at all anymore. Then I look like the snippy person in the corner, which isn't my intent and I just want to retreat and get away from the whole situation.

It doesn't help to be watching train wrecks in progress. It's great and all to socialize, but sometimes I feel like it should be easier. Like if some people didn't get too loud it would be all the more pleasant. I'm not one to 'shush' a crowd, in fact I think that's rude, but I can't help but wince and roll my eyes at someone who feels like what they have to say is so important they have to talk louder than everyone else in the room; or someone who says subtly demeaning things to or about others to make himself look better. I just wanna kick a person like that in the chest especially when others start mimicking the scapegoat-ery of such a subtly scummy person. Not that either of those sheep are that intimidating either, just shooting them a look after they try to jump on a bandwagon like that and they usually have a fleeting look of guilt or embarrassment. And catching that fleeting look makes me feel a little bit better. It's just the guy shows no sign of knowing he’s doing anything wrong. He may not be bad at heart, but he just injects the room with a vibe I don't really like. And maybe I'm coming from a conservative background in this category, and maybe it's a mood brought on by Benadryl wearing off on an evening where I've got to do some work, but either way I hope I haven't offended anyone - too badly anyway. Burning bridges is something too easy for me to do as my past only shows.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Makes No Sense

So today this is word for word what occurred.  We have a large classroom at the ALU, and there are more boys than women in class, so the boys stayed in the classroom and changed.  Not a bad decision, I have no issue with that, and I even believe that makes perfect sense.

However, after the inspection I was in that same classroom to get my stuff.  I was not trying to change or prohibit anyone from changing.  A peer of mine was complaining that the guys got the classroom to change in.  I can see how it's annoying, but personally it's not a battle worth fighting.  It is not these gentlemen's fault the layout or composition of our class and building...

...I do not, however, appreciate dumb comments.  To be honest, I may just have less patience than others when it comes to toleration of the stupid, but that didn't make this next part any less irritating to me.  And yes a lack of sleep didn't help, but still.  One man insisted on announcing - as he removed his shirt - that he was going to change and the women who didn't want to see better leave!  First of all, of all the men I could have died peacefully having never seen even half-naked, he was in the top ten percent.  Second of all, it was not a locker room!  I could see his point as valid if the room was at the very least sealed off, but the doors have little windows!  Now while his argument held some validity when spoken so brazenly to his peers, would it have held if a civilian had walked into the room to ask about travel vouchers?  Would it have held if someone's daughter or wife had walked by and seen a group of men half-clad in ASUs and ACUs?  No, the plain and simply - and maybe unfortunate - answer is that his argument would have fallen on deaf ears.  It's just not wise to get half-nekkid in a room with a window that no one was bothering to cover up.  It may have been allowed and nothing may have happened but the chance was there.  Personally, I picked up my belongings as quickly as I could and left, but not before this man tried to reference me as being on his side.

I made it clear he should just shut up.  And I'm sorry, but I just don't agree with him on a personal level.  I am not deeply offended, merely slightly annoyed.  Additionally he started to ask if anyone hadn't had sex before, or if anyone in the room was a virgin.  As though having seen a naked person qualifies one to see all naked people, or having seen one naked person suddenly I have no qualms seeing anyone naked.  There are plenty of people who I think would benefit from wearing a burqa.  Anyway, catty comments aside, I merely expressed my distaste which I wouldn't have done if no one had tried to say I was "cool" and I left the room with a bad taste in my mouth for the whole thing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pode Ser

Portuguese for literally: To be able to be.  Usually it's said when you don't want to say yes, and you don't want to hold back enough to say maybe.  You say, "[It] can be."

Currently, struggling to stay focused enough to succeed in TBOLC.  Next week we have the Terminal Exam (about boats and those sorts of terminals... not terminal illness).  We also have to turn in our Battle Analysis... a paper which is an absolute steaming pile of crap with a strange format and confusing instructions.  I think it is possible to complete it successfully, but it's a cross between an outline and a paper.  It's supposed to be about three or four typed pages and with maps a good several.  It's got to have Chicago style footnotes, but it's split up into these wonky sections that make no sense.  A sentence introduction.  A second paragraph that is a monster that you still divide with the good ol' bullet format as follows:

I. Paragraph Dois
  1. Sub-Subject of Paragraph Dois - Um
          a. Sub-Sub-Subject of the Sub-Subject - omfg

But we've got use full sentences like college graduates.  But it's still just... confusing and way outta left field, even for the Army, even for TRADOC in the Army.

By the way to all you non-Army types: TRADOC is Training Doctrine.  It's basically the less realistic, obsessive compulsive, nerdy little brother of the sort of stuff you apply in Combat.  It's very details oriented and can drive a person with common sense mad.  It's a good test of your ability to adapt and overcome though... just in a very different arena than that of down range.

Anyway, shortly after this is the informal memo.  Now I should already have that done, and I'll get on it... soon.  But there seemed to be an awful lot of complaints about that assignment and I don't really understand.  There's one format, the instructions are a little confusing sometimes... but really it's just one document with one standard.  The application of that standard may be more or less strict depending how much help we enlist as a class, but in reality there is really only one standard and there cannot be that many points deducted for the style of our memorandum.  If it's clear, to the point, and obeys the rules of grammar - basically the opposite of what you're reading now - than the grade should be okay.  And if they're graded to a strict standard... well everyone will be held to that standard so there shouldn't be any feelings of resentment on this one.  That's how I feel now anyway, I'm sure when I get my grubby little informal memo back I'll cry foul play if I think I was slighted.  Still, I'll try to go into this one not quite so frustrated as I am with the Battle Analysis.

Only 10-ish more weeks of this.  Oh TBOLC... can we make this work?  Pode ser.  Pode ser.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Walking Paradox

I'm frustrated and happy at the same time.  While TBOLC has been a good experience so far, and there's so many people to learn to get along with... it's also just simply coinciding with the next level of my self-development.  I want to do the right thing, but also play to my strengths.  I want to learn people better, but also increase my tolerance for traits I generally find annoying.

I think dealing with others is still difficult, and that maybe I should talk about that less.  I need my outlets... artistic expression isn't always enough when the feelings are bigger than a sheet of paper and too complex for words.  And when I have this nagging feeling I cannot put a finger on... I cannot help but be agitated and worried.  What am I forgetting?  What am I missing?

And sometimes - as in my last post - I want to scream, and sometimes I want to retreat like a little hermit crab.  But I've held my ground thus far, and so I'll keep on... but it feels awfully lonely in spite of my relatively strong network of support.  I feel supported by, but not necessarily close to, anyone.  And I wonder if these feelings are like that of any individual human being who in his or her private moments wonders why no one is there.  Is this why faith exists?  Because there is not exactly a single human consciousness, so in that unique moment where you are feeling absolutely singular you can turn to some greater power whether real or imaginary and draw strength.  Or I guess, as I usually do, just wait a little and the feeling passes.  Still, a trifle to one man is a tragedy to another.

I say wait... but wait is the wrong word.  It's merely holding on until the feeling passes.  Time for us, as far as we can perceive, only goes one way.  In the sense of time, you aren't really waiting only always moving forward.  We can only time travel in our minds' eyes and those are faulty tools.  A friend explained to me that abstract art, the big blocks of color that at first glance seem incomprehensible, are actually more true to how we perceive the world around us than pictures in great detail.

This makes so much sense when you think of how you look at the world.  Rarely do you stop and really take in a whole scene.  It's well impossible anyway because you don't look at the world with blinders on.  So besides when you are focused on some small section and taking in minor details - like the tiny flourishes on Times New Roman - you generally see the world in similar blocks and random shapes that your brain automatically finishes in your mind to give you an idea of your surroundings.  Even your peripheral vision is being automatically completed.  This explains so much, for instance why IMAX movies can still make you dizzy when you think that you whip your head much faster than the camera is panning, but you're not in sharp focus the whole time.  Or why witnesses get so many details wrong.

So right now my emotional life is that abstract.  I see the shapes, and I am getting a feeling, but the reason eludes me at the moment.  I guess gotta get back to class.  Lates.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So Frustrating You Want to Scream!

I know what I'm about to say is unoriginal, but the umpteenth time a question is addressed to a group of people says something to the inefficiency of the system being used to keep track of whether the question is being answered.  I do not need to waste another 5 minutes of my time - every time - we're in a group setting.  Because with formation before class, class at 0815, then questions after lunch, and right before we leave, we're losing at least 20 minutes... to one - ONLY one - of the stupid repetitive questions being posed before us.  Having no stake in the questions being asked for the thousandth time, I am more than frustrated up to here - insert violent hand gesture around neck area - with these time wasters of topics of discussion.

In addition to asking people with important relatives to fess up already, I think I've been asked a million times if I'm still getting paid, if I understand Travel Vouchers, if I am really sure I've signed up to take TBOLC.  The information is regurgitated and chewed and regurgitated again... slowly and steadily losing all semblance of taste or import.  I don't care Treasurer/Finance guy if you have an announcement!  I don't care News and Weather team if you want to have your 5 minutes of attention focused on you!  Just get to the point and let us go... my patience is thin and my fuse is short today.  All I need is my zero-balance lease for my Travel Voucher and God grant me the patience to get through the day without assaulting anyone... if I lay hands on anyone today I will burn bridges and create a lifelong enemy.  Hopefully this entry was therapeutic and I won't be responsible for hurting limbs or feelings later...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Strong Poetry

(!Caution ~ explicit!)

It's Called Humor and Sometimes we use it in our Conversations

I want a parakeet

And I want a violin

I love all the sparrows

And I love your strong chin

I long for the ocean

Vast ocean of sand

I can hear waves crash

And hold my grandmother’s hand

I’ll make the menudo

With patience and care

And cry only a little

For she used to be here

But my tears will be salty

And mixed with some lime

And a shot of tequila

My heart will be fine.

It’s not all the heartache

Of living this life

It’s the hung over mistakes

And laughing ‘til you cry.

I’ll always feel the same

As I did in the past

That I was in the rough

Until you gave me a blast

And the water did wash

And the sand pushed past

And the facets were shiny

A diamond at last.

My eternal jewel, my sonnet, my soul

All given a purpose, a meaning, a goal.

I’m sorry to have hurt both outward and in,

I’m sorry I fail and my confidence is thin,

But I’ll grab on the rail and stagger up a few more

Though fragile and frail, I’m not on the floor.

I screw things up quick and more than I should

But you cannot just quit when the going’s no good.

So tear-worn and tired, I’ll vaguely press on

Insulted, admired, engaged until gone.

This life it’s worth living, it’s worth dying for,

It’s reward it’s regret it’s a menial chore

It’s great when it’s good

Or by the skin of your teeth,

Some have all the luck

And some fall beneath

Pick up your burden and toss all the rest

Man or a woman, get it all off your chest.

The truth! Oh the truth, the truth is all I desire!

I want to leave this world with the truth on my lips.

I want it so bad even if it sinks ships.

Because the truth is the truth no matter how hard

You try to conceal or camouflage or discard,

It comes backs relentless, infinitesimally still,

It comes with a vengeance, it comes sometimes to kill.

But the death would be sweet at the hands of the truth,

Bitter and beautiful, like a bit of vermouth.

It would sink in your skin, like a passionate lover,

And trail it’s fingers and possibly linger,

Like the glazed death expression of a man who’s just gone

Or a man in a whore house, considering what he’s done.

The truth is quite easy and the Truth is quite clear,

It’s just all our fuck ups that make things a bit queer.

It’s our societal shackles, it’s our instinct to blame,

It’s fighting our urges and hiding our shame.

It’s the clothes on our backs, and the ones on the floor.

It’s the sickening secret that we have in the Core.

So give me a parakeet,

Give me a gun.

I’ll play the violin

And have me some fun.

The rifle will crack

The shot will go awry

The wine will be good

Though just a bit dry.

But pour out a bit

For the boys ‘over there’

And maybe their wives

And their girlfriends mon chere…

But don’t spill a drop

For the women who fight

They simply won’t stop

And find it a bit trite

They fight for their sons

They fight for their men

They fight for a privilege

With a voice with a pen

We constantly struggle,

We try to walk a line

Called bitches and yatches

Oh to you it’s just fine

Well if the roles were reversed

And you were confined

I might be a sexist

I might be inclined.

To keep all my power, my say and my wealth,

To keep it and choose ethics over your health.

If you were a machine that made babies it’s true,

I wouldn’t give a fuck what you wanted to do.

I’d preach and I’d ramble,

I’d kindly opine,

What you ought to do,

As though you were mine.

As though you had no thoughts or dreams of your own

Like you wanted to be pedestaled up on your throne

And chained up in gild and surrounded by things,

It’s the Truth who knows why the caged bird sings…

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Raise a Concern

Terribly confused at the moment.  This is the annoying part of trying to do an unpopular thing that you believe is right.  It reminds me of Rihanna's song 'Cheers (drink to that)' when she says people gonna talk whether you're doing bad or good.  As my father has reminded me, when you voice your opinion you must expect opposing views.  And I do expect those, but it doesn't help when people make the exact assumption you don't want them to make.  How do you stop people from jumping to conclusions?

It's a common problem, when you feel like someone is overstepping the boundaries of what is appropriate to say and what is not appropriate to say, you're caught in the middle of this awkward situation.  How can you raise your concern without offending this person?  And is offending them only going to make it worse?  And this isn't isolated to gender issues, because it's the same with any potentially non-P.C. topic nowadays whether that topic is sexual orientation, gender, race, or class.  While the song, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q is funny and makes light of the subtle prejudices we tend to hold even if not spoken out loud, there comes many a point and time where you feel awkward around people you consider friends as they flirt dangerously with the edge of a topic in a way that makes you uncomfortable.

The right thing to do can leave you feeling strangely lonely.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MOOTW - Why Modular Units Excite Me

In the Army the overhaul of the organization of units from the old style of armies and divisions is exciting because it acknowledges the assymmetrical nature of modern warfare.  In fact the Army is seems to be constantly engaged in MOOTW:  often small-conflict and sustainment operations.  I just learned today how the Army is moving away from labeling the Front Line and instead referring to a 'Non-Contiguous Battlefield'.  The fact that support and maneuver units are more closely resembling each other in risk is also indicative of the whole Army approaching the moment when gender barriers can be lowered and eventually -hopefully - dropped.  On top of being the absolute right thing to do, the new structure is part of improving the entire organization.  Loosening the restrictions on what positions women may have serves to expand our society's ideas of gender roles in a way which allows both male and female employees to be more productive.  Diverse organizations are more successful organizations.  Success is more and more dependent on drive and innovation than gender.

Second, I was not the only little girl who loved G.I. Jane.  I am not the only motivated young woman in the Army.  And I'm certainly not the most qualified when I think of the high-speed I know who have been to SAPPER or who express an interest in EOD.  The problem is it really takes the wind out of your sails if you know you don't have to try as hard because you aren't allowed to pursue all the different avenues of advancement in the Army.  And on top of that, RANGER school is a Leadership School.  A leadership school, and why do guys go?  Is it because it's an all-male environment?  Is it because men love that sort of thing?  No, it's because they want the challenge.  Well, some women want that challenge too.  A friend told me that people are afraid standards will drop because of false charges of sexism.  They should be afraid at all times that standards will drop for all sorts of reasons, whether based on gender or the national level of fitness.  Obesity is a real and rising problem in the United States, but you can change your level of fitness through training.  You can't change your gender no matter how many pushups you do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is the Battle Really Won?

I stress it is not a Battle against the opposite gender, as some would like to believe.  It is a war on Sexism and Racism and all existing prejudice in the world.  An older white man I recently spoke with would have me believe there is no more work to be done, that only time is needed to see progress.  I see this as laziness, an easy laziness to slip into for either side, the victim or the unknowing antagonist.  I am not friends with anyone who is directly sexist.  No one I am close to would ever hit a woman or keep a woman against her will from succeeding or trying to succeed in this world, but I am sorry to say that doesn't mean everything is hunky-dory and we're all gonna be holding hands and singing Kumbaya in Corporate Boardrooms and other male-dominated fields any time soon.

The problem is partly that many women exist peacefully within their roles, so making up 51% of the population means less when many of those women don't feel like they are at a disadvantage.  No offense to anyone's life choices, but if I was choosing a traditional role and had gone to college to get my "Mrs." than it would be easy for me to say that we have progressed quite well into gender equality.  Women have the vote now.  We can drive too right?  Wow, well, we must be well on our way in that case.

It makes me feel good that women are making up more voters, but not all have forward-thinking ideas in mind.  Some would - in the words of an old mentor of mine - "put the women's movement back twenty years!!!"  The other day I was reading an article in a 2010 issue of "Black Enterprise" about minorities in the military and my eye was caught by a line that said minorities and women "tend not to choose" branches like Infantry that lead to more career-Soldiers.  I wanted to call the editor and the author and give them a stern, "Choose your words more carefully" lecture because the issue matters so much to me, not because I think they were trying to be misleading.  Women "tend not to" because they are not allowed to be in Infantry or Armor which makes up the majority of the highest ranking Generals.  And the fact that we haven't overcome this hurdle is reason enough to make me want to take a copy of the stupid law and nail it to the desk of the guy who told me that gender equality has been reached in his eyes.  He even went on to tell me that the government "shoves equal rights" down the throats of businesses today.  He went on to say the only way the poor man who owns a business can be successful with the government is to either register his company in his wife's name or go private.  Honestly, in a world where men still earn more for every dollar to the woman, and make up 89% of CEO's in the Fortune500, how can you believe that gender equality has been reached?  I strongly encourage men like this to seriously watch the youtube of Daniel Craig cross-dressing for women's interest across the world.  It's seriously a great introduction to the man who believes he's being discriminated against by laws intended to bridge a gap that continues to exist in spite of all the time it's had to shrink more drastically.  Here, I'll include the link, please, educate yourself:

"So are we equals?  Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Women's Issues are Important Today

Related issues bombard the news: issues of the LGBT and other minority communities all continue to be contentious political issues as politicians interested in appealing to the widest range of people try to delicately wade through this politically charged modern world.  This makes me optimistic for pressing for further sexual equality, but while we can imagine a world of racial equality, it is a world of gender equality and without restrictive gender roles that remains a mystery to us.

I tried to picture such a world, I couldn't help but imagine same-sex couples interspersed with heterosexual couples, the burden of traditional gender roles shattered.  Men and women in all variety of fashion and clothes, from dresses to suits to togas to nude maybe.  I sort of imagined an African woman reading from a Nook sitting on some steps while a woman of Asian descent spoke with wild hand gestures on her Blackberry.  An effeminate looking man in a suit swept the floor, and an Arabic man in jeans and a T-shirt painted a wild design on the public wall.  Meanwhile a Scandinavian woman in business garb held open the door for a man of uncertain background who had floor plans in both his arms.  I guess that's a bit too far-fetched and bizarre, but really what does a world of gender equality look like?

Indeed, a lot of people hold onto a traditional idea of gender roles. They believe that such roles exist to strengthen society, or that gender equality already exists.  Else they've been stung by reverse sexism. The problem with reverse sexism is that being resentful of it does nothing for either side. Perhaps affirmative action has gotten a bad rap, but the fact of the matter is that women are not equally represented today, and are even still repressed. It is just that sexism even when it doesn't overtly bear that title, still exists.

Women as existing persons are not a minority, they make up a little over half the population. Why aren't we in a larger percentage of leadership positions everywhere? There have been theories on the percentage to reach in order to no longer be seen as a minority, somewhere around 30% before one is seen as a worker before being a token.

The stunning question is what if not enough women want that sort of life?  How can women achieve these numbers?  Is it possible to achieve these numbers?  Many women choose to be stay-at-home moms, or else take lower paying jobs because they don't need to be the primary bread-winners.  I believe that in freedom of choice they should do this, but I also believe that freedom of choice implies I should not have to work twice as hard to earn half as much respect.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Woman President - Is the United States ready for a woman as the Commander in Chief?

On March 7, 2011 this is was the question that Eva Cepeda (spelling?) of El Salvador asked at the Q&A session of the 100 Women Initiative seminar, and while it has been reported that the question left the three women moderators speechless, the answers they give have not been put under a microscope.  This was the last question of the seminar and had the most telling reaction on top of answer.  The women responding questions were the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, Assistant Secretary of Education Ann Stock and Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills...

...And their answers were roundabout, wandering, but essentially, "Not quite." They seemed not to want to admit that the United States as a whole was not ready in 2008 to see a woman as president.  Today they could readdress the question and maybe reference the Straw Poll of Iowa, but up until then no woman has come as close as now Secretary Clinton.  Now some might say there hasn't been any woman qualified for the job, but I beg to differ.  What I see is an unwillingness to acknowledge an actual problem in our own backyard.  While women in Latin America have made those strides, and the very woman who asked this question referenced the President of Costa Rica, President Rousseff of Brasil, Chile, and the former President of Panama, the United States lags in this area.  I believe part of that is the strong identification America has with "Traditionalism." While traditional values have their place and their strength, there should be room for growth and especially the growth of the position and power of women in this country.

Additionally, because women enjoy actual representation in the United States and have actually been getting out to vote more than men, and since more are completing college presently than men, there's a tendency to pretend there is no problem.  Cheryl Mills ended her answer saying the Latin America is a model of the "opportunities that we have to do the same thing." As though we are perfectly capable but luck hasn't panned out for us yet.  I may believe that after 2012, but up until this election women have not had as great of chance.  In a struggling economy it is difficult to say where women's progress towards equality in fields of pay and work will go.  It has been the trend that when the Military downsizes, the restrictions imposed based on gender are heightened. That cannot happen this time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Benazir Bhutto

Experts on Middle Eastern studies would consider this a narrow entry, barely scratching the surface of the complex topic that is political history in Pakistan, but I must address part of the story of Benazir Bhutto.  Many countries in the world have had women PMs or Presidents or Chancellors, but not the United States.

Anyway, Benazir Bhutto has a convoluted and interesting history.  This woman was prime minister in Pakistan twice, and head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), besides holding other positions in government.  Her father, who founded the PPP, was a former prime minister in Pakistan but he was executed in 1979 after a military coup.

Thus she was outside of Pakistan when she became chairwoman of the PPP, and after returning to Pakistan won her first term as prime minister.  Now whether good or bad, she was removed on charges of corruption after serving only 20 months.  She was the prime minister again from 1993-1996 and was removed again on similar charges.  She was assassinated when she returned to Pakistan after a self-imposed exile to Dubai.  Her assassination was in the city of Rawalpindi in December 2007.  Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is the current President of Pakistan.

There are many women leaders in today's world, from the first woman Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard to the current Presidente of Brasil, Dilma Rousseff.  I hope I have shed some light on this one woman who, regardless of her performance, good or bad, reflected on the progress of women in their ability to hold positions of power in the modern world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fired Up: The Lonely Soldier

The Lonely Soldier
In The Lonely Soldier, Benedict tells the stories of five women who fought in Iraq between 2003 and 2006.
This is a great novel, in addition to a book like this there is a need for another "War Novel," based on non fiction that demonstrates a single woman's perspective or continuous perspective of women in a unit that has seen combat.
The reason I was spurred into action was an article that popped up on Twitter from a magazine called On the Issues.  While I was a Cadet at West Point we had a Book Club for books on leadership in combat and under stress. While the books were those like "Black Hearts" or "War" by Sebastian Junger or "Matterhorn" none of them had a woman officer or NCO I could relate to. All of them made me feel frustrated and inadequate for being a woman and not being able to be the embodiment of what the Army considers the best of the best or the absolute: Infantry.

I own Lonely Soldiers and I asked the Commandant if we could read something like that in the book club as well and his response was politely that he didn't think that book or any other existing book written by a woman or featuring women fit the description he was looking for in a "leadership" book. He said they were too much like "memoirs."
Yes, I thought a war story told from the perspective of those in a unit was sort of like a memoir also... but now I want to know what book could be recommended and how can we get the whole Corps to read it, to understand that women leaders are an important part of today's Army?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This One's For the... Women?

I'm feeling motivated.  From where, you might ask, is this new found inspiration of mine?  Well, the answer lies in a recent conversation with people who have a higher rank than I do.  This will have to be reported gingerly, as people who don't know they are being listened to say things they might not fully mean.  At any rate, I have gotten into the habit of explaining to people that the use of the term "women" has become taboo in the military in places it should not be taboo.  Also, the word "female" is overused and a very sterile term used when it is either unnecessary to identify gender or in order to avoid non-PC terms like "chick", "babe", "girls", or any number of unsavory and demeaning terms for "women."  It was explained to me like this:  when it is appropriate to differentiate by gender and you would have to use the term "male" than it is okay and encouraged to use the term "female," however when you would say "Soldier", "Officer", or "Men" than it is appropriate to use "women" or "ladies."  Besides the terms "male/female" are used outside of the military when you describe animals not people.  How many times have you referred to a group of guys or girls and said, "The males are going to the bachelor party while the females go to the bridal shower."  Um... probably never.

So I now educate small groups of people on this difference whenever an opportunity comes along, usually when having to wait an extraordinary time for something and someone says "female" unnecessarily.  I don't bring it up if there's a time crunch... but anyway someone above me overheard my spiel and he made a point to tease me about it. Which was funny the first couple of times... but after the third day began the same way I brought it up with him and asked politely if he found the concept really so amusing.  Considering he worked in the psychology dept. I was a bit surprised he was making so much fun when it really was an Army-wide habit that I was still guilty of from time to time in spite of self-correcting whenever possible.

I have been batting around "fem-servations" lately on the position of women in the world.  I want to see even more progress.  I can't let the lack of progress frustrate my performance... but I can certainly move towards the goal of forwarding women's interests either with this blog or with articles or some other outlet for this.  Or a combination of those things.  So with this blog, I address the "female" vs "ladies" question.  I've also neatly separated the unrelated and emotional preface from the actual 'meat' of this article.  And I hope this helps with future blogs as well.  This is one of a list of issues I plan on addressing this week.  So more to follow - and soon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I Hate EZPass and other Truths

The reason I hate EZPass is that it would be so easy for me to put on my emergency lights and step out and pay the toll the lane over when I've been boxed by New Jersey's traffic into the EZ Pass lane.  Also when I tried to argue my first violation, their online system and answering machine wouldn't put me in connect with a real person... that is unless I was willing to sign up for their stupid system which would have cost me about 75% of the "ticket" and necessitated a week long wait or more.  Stupid really.  I could risk a traffic accident by crossing lanes of busy traffic in rush hour, or they could just have a real person available for these petty mistakes they call violations.

The next truth is pretty little rich boys are terrible people.  I was recently in a petty game of chicken with one.  We were having a brief summer romance without any real feeling, but honestly nobody was going to win that game.  He was so absolutely vapid I had to stop talking about intellectual topics, or politics, or religion in order to have a pleasant conversation.  This is the same boy who actually believed that the capability for sexy dancing was a redeeming quality, and not in the ironic sense.  The same boy who called my upbringing sheltered because my folks aren't the kind who jumpstart businesses into corporate success. Because my folks never owned a 50-ft boat, and my folks never took us on road trips in cars with TV Screens in the backs of the front seats.  So I guess being part of middle-class America makes me "sheltered."  What a shame, I really wish I could have the expanded outlook on life that this kid does.  This kid who can't even get his academic act together enough to get a free weekend during summer school.  Summer school is supposed to be a joke, I remember taking a class to get ahead in my double-major days.  He was at risk for failing in the summer.  And I'm sure he had some dumb excuse, perhaps it was the weather or his brother rebelling against his parents who sound like wonderful people (the kind who double-park their fancy cars, btw if you see such a car in Colorado or California maybe it's them and if you took a jalopy and took a side mirror off an asshole double-parker I'd be mighty grateful).  This is the same brilliant lad who decided to mess around with his math tutor his freshman year... and then epically failed math.  Yes, so maybe I lowered my standards because he was pretty.  But I really didn't think I'd be the one who lost this game of chicken.  Silly me, I truly overestimated the value of my wit and humor to this kid.  It's not really a loss, merely an annoyance.  This guy was honestly offended when I told him - as a joke - to work on his abs.  When I self-deprecatingly made fun of myself he didn't thank me or correct me, he only sulked a little more and frowned at his abs.  This 'golden' boy really defines narcissism.  You wouldn't be able to miss him even if you wanted to... but if you ever have a small doubt in your mind just look around the guy giving off the shallow vibe.  He'll have a strong jaw and blue eyes, but there will be next to no guy friends in sight.  There may be one slightly overweight guy who is hoping hopelessly to benefit from the castaways of his better-looking friend, but that will be all.  The rest will be girls and I guarantee you they are part of his imaginary harem.  Not that he is not capable of wrangling one made up of many a girl he's seduced with his charm... but it's just you would think no girl with half a brain could tolerate him longer than six months.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Slightly Different Tune: Helping

I continue to draw and talk and hum.  I am moving towards my goals slowly and surely.  I checked out apartments near Fort Lee.  Since Transportation OBC is sort of longer, I am definitely on the look out for a place I can really focus at.  I finally get my dream:  a room to myself, a glass of wine, and my laptop on a desk in a peaceful, private setting.  I mean that's all I need, all else will follow.  I've been looking at career opportunities and realizing all the things I've done that actually translate into experience:  my travels, my thesis work, my constant analysis of the world around me.  I welcome challenge and try to learn from people I've identified as intellectual giants in my life.

Today I identified a sharp new cadet girl.  She was quick, and asking great questions.  She was a much faster learner than her squad leader was a teacher.  I felt frustrated for her, but I hope she keeps up that enthusiasm.  She also just had the genuine and honest sound, not the stuck up pride of a new cadet who thinks they are the shit, and not the upwoundedness of a new cadet freaking out because of all the dumb pressure, and not the lackadaisical attitude of a prepster who just doesn't care.  I got her contact information and told her I would shoot her an email from my AKO account.  If she's as I perceived her to be, than I hope to be some sort of intermediate mentor.  She'll still get guidance from all the same Majors and Colonels who are at West Point, and still from the coaches and seniors of whatever sport she does, but I can hope too help with my current experience living the officer life from 2011.  I just felt the urge to be available to this girl.  It was the only way I could think of to counteract the frustratingly inadequate leadership of her squad leader.  No offense to him, poor thing, but he just wasn't enough and she was particularly bright.

Continuing my own pursuit of self-improvement I launched into Rosetta Stone Level 3 for German and was pleased to understand quite a bit.  It's been a great supplemental tool to all the practicing I do but am too shy to put into practice with my german-speaking friends.  I also tried some of the individual lessons for Rosetta Stone Farsi and was grudgingly able to admit they were decent review pieces.  I still wish I had time to write notes, which I guess I do except then Rosetta Stone likes to think I'm particularly dumb for taking so long on the pronunciation portion.  I know all this language work will pay off eventually.  I guess since I've gotten away from learning all the languages of Europe, that I'm headed towards the Strategic side of things.

I am still happy to have gone the military route, and still trying to figure out how West Point changed things.  A friend doing an internship in D.C. told me he was happy with West Point because what other institution would pay you to travel the world and just learn?  I guess he's right, but at the same time I cannot forget all the shit I went through at West Point.  The good far outweighs the bad, but the bad was frustrating many times.  Many of the individuals who go through West Point do so with the expectation that the world somehow owes them.  It don't owe you a thing... I have come to respect my Senior ROTC officer graduates who may have enjoyed a regular college life more often but who proceed with the intention of doing the best at their level having less control over where they go.

Of course whether West Point or ROTC, I prefer the company of individuals based on them caring about their job or - outside military matters - caring about something.  Basically not just plowing through friends and running straight for the stars whilst pushing over and back stabbing their peers for promotion and prestige.  I think the best thing for human beings to do with their lives if they can with even a fraction of their energy it is to make the world a better place for the oppressed.  It is not the same as simply bettering the world, any Capitalist could explain the economics of how his personal wealth improves the quality of the world, and while that person may be correct, it is the principle of the matter.  How have or can you help the bereft?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Music Art Life

In respect to my artistic goals I guess there's more to admit, I also want to learn to play the guitar. Mumford and Sons songs inspired me. I love the feeling in the music. Sometimes I'm not totally on board with their lyrics, but it's the guitar that's got me going.

Musically speaking, in the Netherlands, a friend had some music out and when I asked why she told me about her violin. She said she's not great, but she likes it none the less. She recommended I go to the Czech Republic if I'm looking for a cheap violin while I'm in Germany. I'd love to pick it up again. I believe this means I should look for an apartment that doesn't have restrictive noise measures in place.
My friend who is already in Bamberg, she lives in a great apartment but it's a little out of the way. I'd rather be closer to downtown and public transportation. I can't wait to really start my life. I know it seems like I keep looking forward as though what I have in front of and around me isn't really life. Yet, I feel like I do not waste what is around me, I just get impatient with it. Why can't this bit be over? Living only barely outside of Thayer Gate, why can't I really be free of West Point?

So I drew a new picture and am publishing it now.  I decided to make this a separate blog entry because I felt it detracted from the overall different tone and theme of the previous blog.  So this one may be a little bit of what you already read, if I do have any readers.  Also for those of you new, I have my Twitter account on the sidebar as well now.  If you enjoy any of these posts, or any of the art, please subscribe.  And if you want any particular topics feel free to comment or message.

Today was a particularly creative day at work.  First listened to a small lecture on keeping the Cadets from using the roads.  It's an ambitious goal.  Keeping Cadets off roads is difficult because the land navigation sites are just too big and it's too impractical to monitor all the roads.  In reality, the very existence of so many roads makes it almost a moot point.  If the roads weren't there, the Cadets couldn't use them.  The roads are there... I do empathize with some of the frustration, if it's there why not use it?  Because we're trying to teach them the basic blocks of skills they will need on land navigation courses that are more flat and not so easy to terrain associate with.  I've been thinking of another way to relate to Cadets (having been one so recently) the importance of true land nav as opposed to trail-walking.  I think it boils down to this:  when I tell my civilian hiking counterparts how our land nav course has trails, they laugh out loud at the thought of having to teach Soldiers how to read a map with trails.  I think we should aspire in our training to be able to do more than walk a trail.  We should come away from our training able to tell our civilian counterparts that we can wander terrain without trails, we should be able to say things like "Well on a linear feature you could resection to figure out where you were on a map, but man you better have a good map."

To be fair, I think when civilians envision land nav for the military they think of huge open woods or the heart of some tropical nowhere in the middle of the night, a Ranger silently wading in waist high water, rifle trained ahead of him and making silent hand gestures to keep his squad in line until the moment is right... then BAM! Bullets start flying, and our heroes have taken the enemy by surprise having navigated to this point with nothing but a gut feeling and impeccable sense of direction.

The reality of land nav tests is you have your map, which you are trying to keep dry because if it is not raining you are incredibly sweaty.  You have your plastic protracter, with maybe a string tied to the center to more quickly calculate grid azimuth.  You have your military grade magnetic compass with degrees and mils on it.  You have at least two kilometers to cover on an easy course.  You don't take off running, and you're not on a Sunday stroll.  You're somewhere between, power walking and trying to maintain your course.  You're looking around and trying to make sense of what you see around you with the lines of elevation on the map.  Like most things in life, it's been highly romanticized.  But I would like to impress on these Cadets they should not come out of this training with skills that would make an amateur hiker laugh at them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

and Pause

The committee I'm working for this summer is the land nav committee, and as far as work goes, it's really not bad and I even appreciate how relevant it is as skill.  It has been a rewarding experience thus far, even considering recent sad events.  A new cadet died on one of the courses.  The cause of death is unknown.  I don't know anything about it since it was the evening I got off work with a day off to look forward to, but today there was talk.  There are already a handful of theories being rumored through the Corps.  Whatever the theory, it's being layered with the heat wave going through the North East.  According to the news, the heat has accounted for 22 deaths in this region of the country this summer.  I don't really know, it's possible, but I'd much rather wait for a news update rather than jump to conclusions.  There are three land navigation sites.  I'm at site one.  The occurrence was at site three, so the long course day.  We have been in the upper heat categories, tonight there will be a Taps Vigil at West Point.

Similar to when a Soldier passes away, the Corps (most of those who are in Garrison in the summer anyway) will gather on the 'Apron' which is the area in front of the main buildings (Ike Barracks, Washington Hall, and Mac Long Barracks) and the deceased Cadet's name will be called three times.  It's symbolic and sad.

A brief scan of news showed the last time a young cadet died from a training-related activity was actually as recently as 2003.  The circumstances were a little different, and in the 2003 case the cadet was trying out for the marathon team.  I have not been able to pinpoint the last time a New Cadet died in Basic Training or Beast Barracks.  As I said I have no idea the cause, but the New Cadet was on the individual long course when he was found.  Rather than wait for the result to be determined there were those in the media who immediately investigated if abuse was a factor.  That is, thankfully, not part of training anymore.  Beast barracks is still a challenge, but Cadets who try to haze their New Cadets in a way that could harm them are punished, sometimes failed militarily and forced to re-do their summer leadership details after extensive retraining.

Today there was pause, but training must continue.  The big Army machine cannot stop, but tonight at TAPS it will pause.

In addition, and not to add to the doom or gloom, and certainly not to make light of the situation, but Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home.  She was only 27.  It just makes one stop and wonder for a moment.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My New Dream

My new dream (folly? pastime?) is to write intriguing, challenging articles until I can get my J.D. and then can write academic articles or be better qualified to get the kind of job I'm interested in.  I don't know where or how to start.  It sounds both simple and ridiculously hard.  I mean, I haven't got a degree in this sort of thing.  It sounds intimidating and fraught with failure.  But I told my friend about my fear of rejection and ridicule from editors or worse just being plain ignored... and he said that the ridicule and criticism could be good things.  People who aren't trying to spare your feelings are maybe the best way to make progress.  So now I'll start working on a couple articles on important issues to me.  Then see what, how, and where I can peddle these sorts of wares.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This is Not Over

Today felt old stirrings.  A captain was enthusiastically telling us about a leadership book.  Obviously the book made little difference to me, since I cannot remember the title.  Apparently it's all the rage with commanders.  Anyway... reading Obama's Wars offers such a complex variety of insights, I am appalled we didn't have to read this at the Academy.  It offers so much more breadth and depth on the decision making of this country, that would have helped fuel and foster good conversation in our officership class as opposed to the pointless thinking exercises with incomplete information.  For example the GEN McChrystal case... reading this book is making me reexamine my original evaluation.  I think overall my evaluation has not changed, but I have so much more food for thought on the broad and complicated problem that faces our nation and military forces today.

The other familiar old feeling came when this same captain was referring to Gates of Fire and how it's the ultimate leadership book, blah blah blah, he made all his Lieutenants read it.  It's about the Battle of Thermopylae and the men who fought in it.  While I'm sure it's a great book, just like Black Hearts, which the captain also mentioned, I wanted to point out that we needed a modern book that highlighted the women leaders who are participating in battle right now.  Or we need a historical fiction book about the Arabian Battle Queens, or Joan of Arc.  He talked about how impressive the training was, how it just beat you down and getting back up the description he said was inspiring.  Well, sir, how would you like the same feeling with societal convention?  Want to feel like your a fish out of water?  Like what you're doing is unusual for your gender?  Like you get hit with or have to hear a stereotype describe your peers?  It may not be the physical brutality that you're so in awe with, but women face a challenge and an unregulated indoctrination process as harrowing as that which you've described.  Also, with all the book's accuracy how come you don't know a damn thing about Spartan women and the training they had to undergo or the rights that they had (though few) or the cultural nuances that affected women.  Why do you men give me a blank stare if I ask you, what about the women?  I guess the unspoken question in your minds which saddens me is, "What about them?"

Monday, July 18, 2011

And the Tired Just Hit Me

Today I got to work just on time, and was a little nervous.  I pulled up and all the other cars were there.  I couldn't help nervously thinking,
Thankfully my arrival was right on time.  The Officer in Charge just greeted me with a good morning Lieutenant and gave me some instructions.  Ironically enough I was given charge of the compass confidence course which I haven't done myself.  So I was briefing the freshman hopefuls - known as New Cadets - how to do something I myself haven't done in at least two years, possibly four.  It's a simple course though, and the brief isn't too hard.

When I was done at half past three, I went back just as the rain started and I took a much-needed shower before crashing into my sleeping bag.  It's on a sleeping pad, so not so uncomfortable.  I ended up falling into a deep sleep until eight at night.  A lightning storm was the evening's entertainment after a fast food dinner.

During work earlier though, I walked with one group to hear their questions and get a feel for how well the squad leaders had grasped the land navigation as we taught them in their four-day training, I was observing how the New Cadets acted.

Sometimes they were as docile and desperate to be led as to be sheep, and sometimes they were as proud as a former small town "All-Star" can be, with all the contempt for West Point for not recognizing them as the little Ceasars or Tsarinas they were in their hometowns.  I kept thinking Beast is the most bizarre combination of bruised and battered egos.  They are simultaneously beaten down, yet expected at times to perform and demonstrate mature, level-headed problem-solving skills.  They aren't treated as human beings, having to raise a close fist which they must refer to as their "paw" to say something, yet we expect them to be human beings after this trial by fire, and even during this summer hazing trial, they are supposed to learn basic military skills such as marksmanship, land nav, and field craft.  So, when I am watching them try to learn land nav... I wonder if it's okay that they only sort of get it.  A few of them have the cockiness as to believe they know land nav.  Really, they know how to "beat the terrain into submission" but that doesn't mean they know the nuances and technical skills of land nav.  They are even more blind to this than the cadre, having never been on these courses many New Cadets gripe and moan when they go around a hill to attack a less steep side.  In their minds, they have wasted time and energy to go around when their nerves and competitive instincts tell them to go straight up the sheer cliffs of Blackcap Mountain to get their points.  So many Alpha males and females.  I was one of the most motivated New Cadets back in my day...

...and somehow being that motivated only made me hated by some peers who didn't understand how very human I was.  I almost feel like self-sabotage was necessary to pass as a human being that could be friends with others.  I don't really know anymore, but looking at Beast from this perspective from four years away, I can see how much potential there is in these young men and women... but I also see all the folly and pride that will be washed and worn away if not this summer than by four hard years at West Point.  I think the most difficult part of West Point is the social side of it.  There is no grade, but there is certainly a lot to learn from yourself when you are in that environment...

Again, I've sabotaged my sleep and have to be awake at six so I can get to work a little earlier tomorrow.  I don't need that much thankfully and the time passes pretty fast since the cadets arrive at about 0800 and I'm working from 0830-1200, break for lunch, then either walking the course or keeping track of groups signing in and out.  Walking the course is nice in that it's freedom from sitting around trying to look a little busy.

Favorite quote today:  "El Paso is pretty flat, except for the mountains."