Cryalog

Being invisible is the biggest secret on earth

Pause

by Mary Ruefle
published at granta.com/pause on June 1, 2015

I recently came across an old cryalog that I kept during the month of April in 1998. ‘C’ stands for the fact that I cried, the number of C’s represents the number of times I cried, and ‘NC’ indicates that I did not cry on that day.

The saddest thing is, I now find the cryalog very funny, and laugh when I look at it.

But when I kept it, I wanted to die. Literally, to kill myself – with an iron, a steaming hot turned-on iron.

This was not depression, this was menopause.

Reading this, or any other thing ever written about menopause, will not help you in any way, for how you respond to menopause is not up to you, it is up to your body, and though you believe now that you can control your body (such is your strength after all that yoga) you cannot.

Of course, you may be lucky: I know a woman who experienced menopause in no way whatsoever except that one day she realized it had been a couple of years since her last period, which was indeed her last.

You hear a lot about hot flashes, but hot flashes are the least of it, totally inconsequential in every way: you get as hot as a steam iron at odd moments – so what? The media would have you believe that hot flashes are the single most significant symptom toward which you should direct your attention and businesses their products, but when I think of menopause I don’t think of hot flashes; I am not here to talk about hot flashes.

Except to tell you that they do not cease even after you have completely gone through menopause; they become a part of your life the way periods were, they are periodic and, after a while, you stop talking about them.

No, I am here to tell you that one woman, a woman who is the most undepressed, optimistic, upbeat person I know, awoke one morning and walked straight into her kitchen and grabbed a butcher’s knife (she is a world class cook) with the intent of driving it through her heart. That was menopause.

If you take the time to peruse the annals of any nineteenth century asylum, as I have, you will discover that the ‘cause of admittance’ for all women over forty is listed as ‘change of life’.

In other words, you go crazy. When you go crazy, you don’t have the slightest inclination to read anything Foucault ever wrote about culture and madness.

Mary Ruefle Pause Cryalog

It may be that you recall your thirteenth year on earth. Menopause is adolescence all over again, only you are an adult and have to go out into the world every day in ways you did not have to when you were in school, where you were surrounded by other adolescents, safe, or relatively so, in the asylum of junior high.

You are a thirteen-year-old with the experience and daily life of a forty-five-year-old.

You have on some days the desire to fuck a tree, or a dog, whichever is closest.

You have the desire to leave your husband or lover or partner, whatever.

No matter how stable or loving the arrangement, you want out.

You may decide to take up an insane and hopeless cause. You may decide to walk to Canada, or that it is high time you begin to collect old blue china, three thousand pieces of which will leave you bankrupt. Suddenly the solution to all problems lies in selling your grandmother’s gold watch or drinking your body weight in cider vinegar. A kind of wild forest blood runs in your veins.

This, and other behaviors, will horrify you. You will seek medical help because you are intelligent, and none of the help will help.

You will feel as if your life is over and you will be absolutely right about that, it is over.

No matter how attractive or unattractive you are, you have been used to having others look you over when you stood at the bus stop or at the chemist’s to buy tampons. They have looked you over to assess how attractive or unattractive you are, so no matter what the case, you were looked at. Those days are over; now others look straight through you, you are completely invisible to them, you have become a ghost.

You no longer exist.

Because you no longer exist, you will do anything for attention. You may shave your head or dye your hair or wear striped stockings or scream at complete strangers. You’ve seen them, haven’t you, the middle-aged women screaming at the attendant in the convenience store?

You are a depressed adolescent who sweats through their clothing and says terrible things to everyone, especially the people they love.

You begin to lie. You have the urge to shoplift and if you drive an automobile you have the urge to ram your car into the car in front of you.

Nothing can prepare you for this.

The one thing no one will tell you is that these feelings and this behavior will last ten years. That is, a decade of your life. Ask your doctor if this is true and she will deny it.

Then comes a day when you see a ‘woman’ who is buying tampons and you think of her as a girl. And she is; anyone who has periods is a girl. You know this is true and it is very funny to you.

You are a woman, the ten years have passed, you love your children, you love your lover, but there are no longer any persons on earth who can stop you from being yourself, you have put your parents in the earth, you have buried the past. Of course in the meantime you have destroyed your life and it has to be completely remade and there is a great deal of grief and regret and nostalgia and all of that, but even so you are free, free to sit on the bank and throw stones and feel thankful for the few years or one or two decades left to you in which you can be yourself, even if a great many other women ended their lives, even if the reason they ended their lives is reported as having been for reasons having nothing to do with menopause, which is thankfully behind you as you would never want to be a girl again for any reason at all, you have discovered that being invisible is the biggest secret on earth, the most wondrous gift anyone could ever have given you.

If you are young and you are reading this, perhaps you will understand the gleam in the eye of any woman who is sixty, seventy, eight, or ninety: they cannot take you seriously (sorry) for you are just a girl to them, despite your babies and shoes and lovemaking and all of that. You are just a girl playing at life.

You are just a girl on the edge of a great forest. You should be frightened but instead you are eating a lovely meal, or you are cooking one, or you are running to the florist or you are opening a box of flowers that has just arrived at your door, and none of these things are done in the great spirit that they will later be done in.

You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.

Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known.

PAUSE by Mary Ruefle, https://granta.com/pause/

Am I hacked again?

I’m 99% sure that my domain hosting and Twitter account are under attack right now. I can’t access either account and this is almost exactly what happened in 2013 when someone hacked half a dozen of my online accounts so he could get into @ruby thinking he could sell it on a hacker forum. This didn’t go well for him, but it was also an enormous pain in the ass for me.

You can see the whole story starting here: https://lotusmedia.org/tag/hacked/page/5

Casablanca screen capture: "I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here"

Naïve liberals, please get out of the way

I can’t get over all these people who are shocked SHOCKED that right wing talking heads implored Trump to call off the insurrection but then immediately went on TV and blamed “antifa” for storming the Capitol.

No-one believed that garbage then unless they very badly wanted to. It was complete nonsense on its face.

The credulous media have blood on their hands. The vast majority of elected Republicans have been actively working to subvert democracy itself for over a decade. It’s right in front of our faces.

We cannot and MUST NOT consider “both sides” of civil rights and human dignity.If you didn’t know Republicans were trying to steal this country then you have been willfully ignoring the voices of Black people, women, the LGBTQ+ community, poor people, immigrants, and more.

Maybe you think we’re just less credible or respectable than white dudes in suits, but that’s YOUR bias. “Objectivity” is a lie.

Or as I said five years ago: No more innocent liberal surprise.

Casablanca screen capture: "Your winnings, sir." "Oh thank you very much."
musical notes of various colors coming in and out of focus

Music that got me through 2020

Music is basically how I feel things. If I’m not listening to something, then I can’t be entirely sure if I’m really here. Some playlists are great for expressing a feeling, and some great for changing feelings. My personal Don’t Panic playlist comes to mind as one I designed to help me avoid spiraling into anxiety, for example. I usually make playlists for my birthday parties which later turn into wonderful documents of the energy I brought into that year.

2020 was one of the worst years I lived through. It was challenging on both a personal level and a societal one. And of course there was no birthday party for me. But it would have been even worse without great music to help me experience and express my feelings. Here are some of the playlists that helped me make it through last year.


At the very beginning of the year I attended the wonderful Creating Change conference. Creating Change is one of very few places where I have experienced feeling seen as the unique queer person that I am. I started this playlist as I was getting excited to travel to Dallas for the conference, and invited other participants to add tracks as well.

In March, my brilliant friend and comrade Liza Sabater started a Twitter thread of COVID survival songs. I compiled them into a playlist so we could enjoy them on Spotify.

Liza’s playlist (and my continued freaking out at the lack of any necessary action to prevent a genocidal pandemic) inspired me to make my own playlist about what I knew was going to be an extended period of isolation and suffering.

I was inspired by this summer’s uprisings against police brutality and white supremacy. Even though it’s tragic that it seems to require so much suffering for people to wake up, I’m at least heartened by the increasing realization that police and prisons as we know them are only perpetuating cycles of personal, institutional, and societal harm. They can never be a path toward a world with less suffering.

Almost all of my socializing in the past year has happened online, and so it only made sense that a group of friends compiled this playlist for a fabulous, free, and feminist friend’s Zoom birthday party.

And in a year when mental health and stability has been such a challenge for so many of us, we also collaborated on this playlist to facilitate a friend’s healing process.

I wasn’t at all sure that a free and fair election would even be possible, but the period leading up to it was such a nightmare that all I could hope for was to make it to November so that at least the electoral season would end and we could move to the next phase of the struggle for peace and justice.

And after surviving that tense moment I was grateful to one of my favorite authors and thinkers adrienne maree brown for understanding how small and incremental yet important that victory was.


Header image credit: “Music Note Bokeh” by all that improbable blue, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

American policing can’t be reformed

I know all my friends want police violence to stop as much as I do. But we must understand that there are no reforms that can change the values at the very foundation of American policing, and those are white supremacy, patriarchy, and violence. 

We don’t need kinder, gentler slave catching patrols. We don’t need cops that learn to behave better only when we are filming them. We need to starve (defund) the beast while we reinvest in structures designed for community care, restorative justice, and public safety. 

We don’t need to have all the answers to know that the current systems are unacceptable. Let’s educate each other and start having conversations about what comes next.

If you need a place to start, Eight to Abolition and the BREATHE Act offer a way forward.

"you are terrifying and strange and beautiful something not everyone knows how to love."

For women who are “difficult” to love.

For women who are “difficult” to love.
by Warsan Shire

you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
prettier
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do, love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.

adrienne maree brown

some of us are never surprised

Wow, I have so much to say about this tragically historic moment in time that we are living through, starting with we fucking told you so.

But while I try to get my head together to write something more articulate than that, here is a new poem from the brilliant visionary adrienne maree brown.

what is unveiled? the founding wound. (poem/directive)

January 7, 2021

a body is always a body
individual or collective
(whole or in many pieces)
alive or, later, dead
a body is always vulnerable

a wound is always a wound
singular and deep
or many cuts, slowly, blood everywhere
left untreated, unstaunched, denied
a wound will always fester

the first wound happens within
the violence of birth
the expulsion from the illusion of safety
from the idea that someone (else)
will do all the labor

and some of us keep looking everywhere
for placenta, for mothering
for acceptance of our worst choices
to be told we are so special
to be named a favorite child

some of us learn to work
we are given tools, lectures, practices
we are given the blessing of knowing
that work to nourish the collective
is a sacred path for our lives

some are only taught to eat
given the title to land that isn’t ours
judged for the speck of dirt under our nails
set to race against even our own kin
for the neverending victory of more

some of us are black
still nauseous from the boat’s hold
still catching our breath from snapped ropes
still oiling our calloused field hands
and still wounded

some of us are white
still synonymous with impossible purity
still given no songs from the earth
still taught to master nothing but superiority
and still, wounded

some of us are red, yellow, brown
still made to feel tertiary to the plot
still dismissed for all we remember
still claiming we are human, not terrorist
and, still wounded

some of us are never surprised
never apoplectic when the stench hits us
what rots at the core is known, documented
it is tangible, moral, American, spiritual
it is the founding wound

gray only at the surface
brittle black where the injury began
a rainbow of bruising everywhere
green mold making life in dying flesh
but the pus, the pus bursts white

we are well past the age of turning inwards
of seeing the open wounds on our souls
of stepping into our shadows with truth light
of seeing we were shaped, and can change
of believing the wound is who we are

we know the smell of decay on breath
we see the swollen cracking flesh of infection
it is not rude to acknowledge the stink
to wonder if it is viral, venom, survivable
to look for the laceration(s)

things are not getting worse
they are getting uncovered
we must hold each other tight
and continue to pull back the veil
see: we, the body, we are the wounded place

we live on a resilient earth
where change is the only constant
in bodies whose only true whiteness
is the blood cell that fights infection
and the bone that holds the marrow

remove the shrapnel, clean the wound
relinquish inflammation, let the chaos calm
the body knows how to scab like lava stone
eventually leaving the smooth marring scars
of lessons learned:

denial will not disappear a wound

the wound is not the body

a body cannot be divided into multiple living entities (what us will go on breathing?)

the founder’s wound is the myth of supremacy

this is not the first wound, or the last

we are a species before we are a nation, and after

warriors, organizers, storytellers, dreamers – all of us are healers

the healing path is humility, laughter, truth, awareness and choice

a scab is a boundary on territory, between what is within and what is without, when the line has been breached

stop picking at the scab, it slows the healing

until we are dead, and even when we are exhausted and faithless, we fight for life

we are our only relevant hope
we are our only possible medicine

a body is always a body
wounded, festering, healing, healed
we choose each day what body we will shape
with the miraculous material we’re gifted
let us, finally, attend to the wound
let us, finally, name the violence
let us, finally, break the cycle of supremacy
let us, finally, choose ourselves whole
let us, finally, love ourselves
whole.

http://adriennemareebrown.net/2021/01/07/what-is-unveiled-the-founding-wound-poem-directive/

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC

None of us are free until all of us are free

One year ago today, I and eight other lovely humans were arrested by the Graham Police Department as we attempted to walk to the Alamance County Detention Center and hold a Jewish-led ceremony to say #NeverAgain, to mourn the many who have suffered at the hands of ICE, and to protect the ICE detainees currently held by Alamance County’s racist sheriff Terry Johnson.

Half of the group is STILL being charged, but the nine of us are fortunate to have the freedom to not be detained while we await trials. Unfortunately others are not as lucky. With COVID the jail is even more inhumane than ever. Please donate to Down Home North Carolina’s bailout fund to free as many people as possible:

Rest in power, Monica Roberts

Monica Roberts, the original TransGriot, just passed away. She was an absolute titan. In the early blogging days I heard about her pioneering work, telling stories of people that hardly anyone was even thinking about at the time, especially online.

She received a lifetime achievement award at the Creating Change conference that I attended in January this year in her home state of Texas, where she was very well known and respected in politics as well as the queer community. At the conference there was always a flock of people around her. Everyone knew who she was and adored her.

Tragically, there are not enough elders in the trans community, even less Black trans women. She meant so much to so many people. She is absolutely one of the great giants on whose shoulders today’s leaders stand.

This video gives a good introduction to her.

Header photo by me of Monica speaking through a megaphone at a rally for Black trans lives at Creating Change 2020 in Dallas, TX.

NEVER AGAIN Ice Out of Alamance

Graham 9 Update

Here is a personal statement and an update on the Graham 9 – the group arrested at a Never Again Alamance protest last November.

On our first trial date, one member (who was charged with “masking” if you can believe it) received a Prayer for Judgement. The rest of us are charged with failure to disperse. Two had trials and were convicted. Those judgements will be appealed. The rest of us (including me) are now scheduled for trials in November and December.

The Burlington Times News wrote a quick story about the gathering we had before the trial with supporters, who came to walk us to court. They included an excerpt of the comments I made that morning as well as very thoughtful remarks from my co-defendant Xavier Adams.

Here is the full text of my statement:

I grew up next door in Orange County, and I’m here to stand with my neighbors both new and old who have had enough of the childish tantrums, violent threats, and racist intimidation in Alamance County.  Sheriff Johnson must go, and he can take all the city and county officials that coddle racists and arrest racial justice supporters with him.

I am old enough to remember life before ICE. I was 30 when the planes struck the twin towers on September 11. To many of us at the time, the whole idea of a Department of Homeland Security smacked of nationalism and violence. And sure enough it has grown to become a source of xenophobia, violence, and human suffering for nearly 2 decades now. ICE is our gestapo: terrorizing communities, abandoning people in concentration camps, and tearing families apart.

As a Jew and as an American, I have a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of all people, not just those who look or act like me.

As a parent I have an obligation to try to make this world a better place for my son and all the kids he’s growing up with in these unfortunately historic times.

And as the descendant of immigrants who were also demonized and ghettoized and exploited, I know that today’s immigrants are my siblings coming to the United States for a better life just like my ancestors did.

So when I learned last year that Terry Johnson was not only terrorizing women and people of color of Alamance County with his authority but also taking money from ICE to lock up innocent migrants in the Alamance Detention Center, I knew I had to come to Graham and join with others in calling out his racism an in humanity.

This summer in Graham demonstrations have continued for civil rights, Black lives, and freedom. Unfortunately we’ve also seen a lot of ugly white supremacy on display. Many around NC and around the country have looked on in horror as Alamance County officials have not only allowed actual neo-Nazi and neo-Confederates to swarm the streets and intimidate people, but in fact have arrested peaceful demonstrators who had the audacity to simply disagree with racist symbols and policies.