The Big If

What in the actual fuck am I do with my existence and time on this planet?? Do you know what you’re doing with yours? If you died today would you be happy?

This query was posed by a friend on Facebook.  Because it was Facebook I gave a quick one paragraph response.  Below is that paragraph expanded out.

The biggest problem with worrying about our existence and time on this earth is that we have no clue how long our ride will last. Therefore worrying about it takes some of that very finite time away from actually living it.  We all, well most of us, want to be someone grand, want to be a known quantity. We want to know we have a purpose in life.  My purpose in life is easy…

Don't just survive life, live it.
Don’t just survive life, live it.
 

I believe if I simply live my life to the best of my ability each day, everything else falls into place.

Within the past ten or so years I have rediscovered ME.  The me I am when I’m not being a semi-professional on the job, when I’m not being a mother to now two grown men, when I’m not being a potential someone’s significant other. I have rediscovered the me I am when I take away all the things I have to do and am left with only the things I must to do to make my soul happy. I had no clue as to how just badly I was lost, until I slowly started to find me. I am still learning, challenging and discovering myself, and it has been one heck of an exploration.

I may never be the next Poe or Renoir or Piaf. Especially Piaf,  because this Raivenne who ironically loves karaoke, can’t sing for shit.  Yet on a very small-scale my name is now somewhat known in many countries across this globe. I could never have imagined that ten plus years ago. That is not to say that, with hard work, ten years from now if my name is well on its way to being as recognized as say Angelou or  Chihuly or Adele (again, please see my caveat re: singing above), I will not complain; really I won’t. A few ago I posted in my blog how my life has done a complete 180 degree turn regarding the arts in my life- from it dearth in my youth to its depth now. My love of writing, music, painting, poetry, theatre – it is all so ingrained into me now I cannot imagine breathing without it. I have rediscovered not just my love for the art of others, but to also appreciate and love, nurture my own arts as well.

I have accomplished some things I could not conceive of doing 30, 20, 10 years ago. Imagined?-yes. Hoped and prayed?-yes. Actually thought I would get to do?-no. But I have done and it has been a marvel. I have so many wonderful people in my life, and I include some of those whom I have yet to meet face-to-face. Had you asked me years if I ever truly thought I would know get to know just people globally, outside of my best friend, that if I should ever step foot in their country and did not make a sincere effort to meet with them that I would be royally cussed out, I would have laughed heartily in your face. Heartily. Yet, I am slowly marking not just countries, but continents of my lists; this is where I am now.

I look in the mirror each morning and I’m glad to say the majority of the time I smile at what I see. (Queue Mary J. Blige’s Fine here.) Not just physically, but emotionally as well. I have my raw days, we all do, however I can honestly say I have never been so full of life, enjoying life, thriving in the art of simply living life as I am right now.

So, if I have to make that final exit today, I can say I would be happy.  Still, for as much as I have already accomplished, have I crossed-off even a third of my ever-expanding Want-To-Do list?-Nope. So forgive me if  I’m hoping for at least a few more decades to work on those, before I leave you guys, okay? Because I’m Happy!
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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 14

52essays2017

A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

Power in the Blood

Human Art by Grace Mateo Used tampons on canvas. 20 x 16 inch. www.gracemateo.com

You Don’t Understand (Do You Now?). 2014.
by Grace Mateo
Used tampons on canvas. 20 x 16 inch.
http://www.gracemateo.com

 

The above image will make a lot of you uncomfortable? Why? If you are one of those souls who genuinely get physically sick at the site of blood, I am sorry to have made you feel ill, but I do not  apologize.

I’ll admit that I did the rapidly blinking eye thing as I registered exactly what it was I viewed. After all, I am woman who has made it the half-century mark  in life. To put this in a historical  timeline perspective, I am old enough to remember/have used a menstrual belt, but by the time I was living with my partner in the mid-80’s they were already a thing of the distant past, so I have an itsy bit of personal knowledge in the subject. After all this isn’t anything I haven’t seen virtually every month for the past thirty plus years of it, so big deal. Even as I thought the words, I was already countering thinking, but so many other will think it’s just that, a big deal, and I’m forced to ask myself why? Why is this a big deal?

In the artist’s own words…

This is Human Art. The female body is not something to be afraid of, and it is definitely not disgusting. There are things we don’t speak about, that are traditionally held to be private, but silence only leads to fear and death. So, if you don’t like the things I say or make then you do not have to engage in it. This is not shock art. If you find a woman’s period to be shocking then you, my friend, are most definitely living a sheltered life and need to be better informed about your fellow humans.

I’m not here to further roast the old chestnut of What Is Art?. This is more of a query into this particular human behavior. What is it about the female menstrual cycle that makes people, male and fellow females so uncomfortable?

It takes everything I have to not let my eyes roll in the back of my head whenever I hear a grown woman say “I can’t stand the sight of blood”. The older she is and the more emphatic she is in her repulsion the harder the temptation to do so.  Years ago I was handling a stack of manila folders at work and gave my self a nasty paper cut. One that required my stopping everything to tend to it. As I rinsed my finger at the sink and prepared to bandage it, a co-worker went into mini theatrics about the sight of blood and how I was upsetting her. Trust me when I tell you she was no shrinking violet so that was one time I did roll my eyes in annoyance without hesitation. I asked if she menstruates each month, to which she naturally responded in the positive as I expected. I then queried if she had assistance when removing and disposing of her used feminine hygiene products at that time. Naturally,she naturally responded in the negative, as expected. I concluded with if she can stand processing her bloody bodily functions several times a day, for a few days each damn month, then my manila cut on a finger for a minute was nothing and she needed to shut the fuck up, but I digress and return to my original query.

Why is the female menstrual cycle clouded in this veil of mystery? What is with the menstrual taboo that allows commercials to use the proper terminology for erectile dysfunction and incontinence with almost no filter, but when it comes to female our cycles it’s almost always hidden some form of pseudonymThe Gift, That Time of the Month, the ever classic Aunt Flo and of course the only one that actually makes any sense Period. Basically any and everything that will avoid using the word blood and any iteration of  menses. The only time you hear the word menstrual used regularly is in the phrase “premenstrual syndrome”, but even that is usually shortened to the gentler acronym of PMS. Because we can talk circles about the mental and emotional aspects about menstruation, but the actually physically bloody part of it is always hush-hush. And speaking of bloody – unless advertisers believe every single woman who menstruates also turns into a  Vulcan during her period, what is with the mysterious blue stuff they use to demonstrate Product Y’s absorbancy anyway? Because goodness gracious should they use red food coloring so that it might resemble what it is. I am not even going to touch that nonsense of women wearing white anything below the waist when Mother Nature comes to visit. Trust me when I tell you for a majority of us women, the first few days are not anything near as sanitized as it looks in the above art work, yet only other women and our respective doctors will readily understand this.

Nearly all girls are brought up that they should not talk about menstruation with boys, nor was it appropriate to discuss menstruation with their fathers. Most of the single fathers I know learned that their daughters were not quite so little girls anymore via a female friend or relative because of this. Young heterosexual women are almost always embarrassed the first time they misjudge their monthly supply amount and have to ask their significant others to run to the store for their feminine hygiene product/s of choice.  Tip for any men reading this: Please, please pay attention to what brand your woman uses/tells you to get. You do not want to get into that argument – really you just don’t.

Historically, a menstruating woman was considered sacred and powerful. Yet like so many things and stories that extolled the feminine power, it was wrapped up in mythology and dismissed or outright just dismissed, especially in the patriarchy of many religions that view a menstruating woman as “unclean”. The menstrual taboo is more prevalent in most movies and television shows when a woman’s menses is generally mentioned in relation to the thankfulness of unwanted or regret for lack of  pregnancy. Otherwise periods are generally portrayed as something traumatic, embarrassing, offensive, gross and/or for cheap comedic premenstrual syndrome (PMS) makes us evil laughs.  Outside of the rare portrayals of menarche, when a girl experiences her first period, there are very few portrayals of the completely natural act of female nature that it is.

Granted, things are slowly getting better. There are a hilarious couple of commercials by Always, with the “The Gift before The Gift” tagline.  New Moon Party and The Camp Gyno. The HelloFlo campaign takes wonderful pock shots at their behaviors when it comes to menarche. In these commercials not only are the products free of the packaging, all allusions to blood are not done in blue! Parents of prepubescent girls, if you have not already seen these commercials you should. I wish these care packages were around when my mother was explaining it to me. Designed for young girls, the commercial and the ensuing products are made to help demystify the period for those near the onset of puberty. Take the secrecy out of such items from the beginning, it does not turn into such a taboo later.

I am not saying a detailed analysis of whether Kotex is better than Always is discussion to be had at the family dinner.   If your family is that progressive that you can, I saw “Bravo!”, more power to you. Women can talk about the various stages of their pregnancies good and bad without a problem. Parents can show videos of the up close and personal views of the birth of their children without batting an eye. Some will watch such videos voluntarily on PBS type stations in all its bloody glory and it’s just fine. Yet let a woman place a package of feminine hygiene products on the conveyor belt where a young boy is packing, or at the top of her bag where a grown man has to inspect it and watch what happens. The mere thought of a woman’s menstrual cycle is so disturbing to some, that most males will give pause before touching the item and the younger the male, the more likely the revulsion.

Because it is still the presumed norm that menstruation should remain hidden.  And while whether or not  the above image is art is debatable, the subject matter depicted as a discussion point should not be.

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Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers

 

Slice of Life Writing challenge | Two Writing Teachers

This Chic In Paris – Part III

In Part I of my post on Paris I spoke a little about the people, Part Deux covered food, I would be remiss if I did not cover …

L’Art (The Sites) –

Myth busting: All of Paris is not old brick, marble, cobblestone streets and fancy ironwork. Granted all of that beautifully exists and there are several sections which strive to maintain, as much of that old world look feel as possible. The Les Halles section where I stayed on the East Bank and the Latin Quarter on the West Bank of the Seine River are excellent examples of such. After all, that is part and parcel of the Paris charm, no? However, I promise you, smooth paved asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks are nicely intermixed, especially along the main traffic drags and shopping areas, thank you. North of the city, but very much a part of Paris proper, is where things become very modern. Take a cruise along the Seine and you will see this easily enough. Classic or nouveau in style, the architecture of the museums/monument/sites is as fantastic and varied the art housed within.

I should warn you, I am not critiquing specific works in this entry. In fact, I won’t discuss much art at all. This is just a written snap shot of a few of the places I chose to visit this go around.

L’Musées and Monuments and Sites

Musée Du Lourve

Musée Du Lourve

Let’s get it out the way – Musée Du Louvre. I do not care how many times you are told the museum is huge, if you have not seen it with your own eyes, you are not prepared for the expanse of it. Those who have been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will understand what I am about to say here. Take every square foot of the MMA, triple it and you will FEEL like you still only have perhaps one-third of the Louvre. (Edited to say FEEL as a commenter below and a couple of other friends were nice enough to point out that the MMA in fact id 3x larger than the publicly accessible parts of the Musée Du Louvre.)
And yes, that harlot Mona Lisa gets the bulk of the initial attention. Do yourself a favor, get in, follow the signs to go see her, attempt to get your obligatory photo with it and get out of the area as soon as possible. You can say you’ve seen her, were surprised by the size of the painting like the rest of us and move on to the other attention seekers of the place. Speaking of attention whores – next, do a run by the other famous strumpet of the museum, the gorgeous Venus De Milo. When you see the beauty of it up close and personal, you can understand why so many replicas exist in the homes of many wannabe art collectors and most half-naked woman enthusiasts.

A word of advice to first-timers: do yourself a favor, get a schedule for the “Highlights” tours and let a guide take you around to all the presumed good stuff first in the Louvre. Then return on your own and explore the sections that captured your fancy at your leisure. Let’s face it, unless you work there, you may never see everything in the Louvre; not to mention the exhibits that change on a regular basis. Believe me, even if you had a month to do nothing but walk the Louvre every day, you would likely still miss something. Seriously, the place is that freaking HUGE!

Other favorite places of my trip:

Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay– more into the modern than the classic arts? This is your museum. Housed in what was once a train station building, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Degas and so much more find a home here. I also discovered a couple of new artists whose work captured my attention enough to write the information down, so I can look up their names and see what else they may have done.

Musée Rodin – The art is housed in Rodin’s former home and gardens. If the only thing you know of Rodin is The Thinker you are so in for a surprise as to the extent of his works. Let’s just say, Mr. Alighiere–Rodin did ya proud with The Gates of Hell, dude.

Versailles - Hall of Mirrors

Versailles – Hall of Mirrors

The Château de Versailles. This is a day trip on its own to make the most of it. The grandeur of the King and Queens Apartments, the majesty of the Gardens and splendor The Hall of Mirrors had me in awe for the sheer beauty of it. What was once a simple hunting lodge gradually transformed into a palace where king and queens displayed their power in ostentatious fashion until the French Revolution. And truth be told, I can understand why the impoverished populace wanted off with the heads of their monarchy after seeing it. Don’t forget to include a visit to Marie Antoinette’s little farm near Versailles, when she wanted to get away from burdens of wearing the crown.

Notre Dame – Flying buttresses and the rose window – enough said. The lines can be long, but they move quickly. Go for the bell tower tour. It’s the only way to really see the beauty of the flying buttresses the church is famous for.

Sainte-Chapelle – If the lines of Notre Dame, however fast-moving still galls you, across the courtyard is Sainte-Chapelle’s Church. A beauty in its own right with its famed glass windows this church is worth a visit.

Note: Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and several other churches worth visiting still function as houses of worship. You will not likely to be able to tour most of them during services, especially Sunday services.

Eiffel Tower

Tour Eiffel / Eiffel Tower

Honorable mention of course to the most recognized and famed tourist attraction of all of Paris – L’Tour Eiffel (that’s the Eiffel Tower for you English speakers). Visit there in the day time to see wonderful views of the city from up high. Visit it at night to enjoy the loveliness of the Tower itself all lit up. Especially after sundown, where every hour on the hour it sparkles like sunlight on ocean waves reminding you of why Paris is called the City of Lights.

There is so much more I saw that I loved, but I have to draw a line somewhere so I stop here.

Next up – Is That All?