This was written a few weeks ago, but I wanted to make sure I got it in for September.
September 3, 2011
Pregnancy has taken over. My body his a mind of its own. Sensation, thought, upside down. Everything in the yard is pale and I find it bothersome. I find most things bothersome. And yet this vat of pregnancy hormones has made it difficult to be motivated and do something about all this, the yard, the dog hair, the dirty bathrooms. I covet my failures and blip above the surface every now and again to see how life goes. The successes are small. Even this pregnancy, a major success, has somehow become small. Why is this? Because it is all so abstract. The baby (or babies, dear God) are cells now, the cumulated size of a pea. If you're going to love something, you've got to love that pea, which is somewhat of a leap. (You could love the idea, but that too, is a reach.) So what I notice is the immediate, the heavy, drugged vat of pregnancy keeping me from living life they way I want to. It's selfish. It's short-sighted.
So I look for answers, skim the pages of prose by the Buddhist monk Pema Chodrin:
Whatever arises, no matter how bad it feels, can be used to extend our kinship to others who suffer the same kind of aggression or craving- who, just like us, get hooked by hope and fear. This is how we come to appreciate that everyone's in the same boat. We all desperately need more insight into what leads to happiness and what leads to pain...
It's easy to continue, even after years of practice, to harden into a position of anger and indignation...In the moment we choose to abide with the energy instead of acting it out or repressing it, we are training in equanimity, in thinking bigger than right and wrong. This is how all the four limitless qualities- love, compassion, joy, and equanimity- evolve from limited to limitless: we practice catching our mind hardening into fixed views and do our best to soften. Through softening, the barriers come down.
I watched Dateline's Somebody's Daughter (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/#VpFlash) last night, a story regarding the remains of eleven women found in the West Mesa desert outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. These were fallen women, “crack whores”, who left their families to sell their bodies on the streets of Albuquerque for drug money. I was first struck by the title because I had used the term “somebody's daughter” myself in a scene in one of my novels where the protagonist, a respectable woman of the nineteenth century meets one not so respectable:
The harlot rose, clicked her fan shut and pushed a stool underneath me, “You should take a load off your feet, those boots can’t be comfortable to toes all smashed inside like that,” she said.
Her gesture, while appearing to be kind, was indeed terrifying; I had no intentions of spending my evening here. I finished my water and was ready to dismiss myself when the barkeep came 'round from his bar and sat close to the girl, fixing his eyes on me. I had noticed at his belt, the polished barrel of a revolver. He grunted to clear his throat, as if to say something. I rose to my feet in haste and gathered myself, having received what I needed and ready to rid myself of them. “Sure you don't want to stay 'while? I'm certain we kin find a room fur you here, and Molly kin shew you round the place,” the barkeep said. He spied one more look at me, his eye roving around my dress and turned to the harlot, touching her chin ever so delicately and lovingly, “You need a woman friend these days Molly?” He was a man approximately father's age, the hair about his arms thick, speckled with gray, his bald head gleaming with perspiration. He raised a thin, bony finger and gently ran it down her bare shoulder.
The words left my lips before I could catch them, “If I may declare sir, this young woman is someone’s daughter.”
He continued to pet her and said, “This here’s Molly Miller and she ain't got no one to call 'er daughter. 'Sides me o' course.”
The story of one of the women, a Michelle Valdez, was a videography taped by her father and was very effective in portraying the transformation of a girl with “a future as bright as the New Mexico sun” to a drug-hazed prostitute arrested on the streets of Albuquerque. You see the girl Michelle dressed in Halloween costumes, blowing out candles, opening presents, excited about life. Then, an immediate transformation with the onslaught of the teenage years; Michelle is more reticent and withdrawn. You see Michelle, pregnant at the age of 13, holding her baby and your heart breaks because the despondency in this girl's face is too much to bear. At 41 I feel the limitations on my life already in my fifth week; I have only a glimpse of what it must be like to have the rest of your childhood erased.
Michelle's child was eventually taken away from her and raised by her grandmother and you see Valdez's videos of his granddaughter opening her birthday gifts without her mother around. Sure that's heartbreaking too. But it doesn't make me feel animosity toward Michelle. I feel animosity toward life and how incredibly unfair it can be; I could easily spiral down into indignation. It's right there; it's accessible. But instead of doing that and falling victim to emotion, I can name it and step away from it. I can also recognize the compassion in the situation, Dan Valdez's love for his daughter, Ida Lopez's determination to find the “sinister force snatching women off the streets”.
Bravo for Ida Lopez, a detective who kept track of the missing woman, who asked questions, who brought it all to the light because she believed prostitutes had souls too. Somebody different would have just tsk tsked and filed away the reports because these women weren't “valued” by society. And that's the thing that infuriates me the most. If you go online and type in crack whore, you will see all sorts of derogatory jokes, videos, and whatnot. Here's one that's especially noteworthy: http://efukt.com/1642_Crackwhores_Gone_Wild.html. It's not the drug dealer or the killer who is the lowest of the low; it's the crack whore. Society seems to have the least sympathy for them. What's the psychology behind this? I can't help but think it's patriarchal in nature, this primordial male exploitation of the “weaker sex” at its most pitiful. And I don't mean pitiful as in pitied, no; I mean pitiful as in worthless. It would take another woman to find justice for these forgotten women, a woman whose mind wouldn't harden by society's fixed views.