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?