The Mountain, The Magpie and the Road
Dreamed 3/26/2013 by Rustling Leaves
I am on a trip to some kind of resort-mountain -- a big earthwork structure the size of a mountain, with all sorts of facilities and domiciles carved into its exterior and deep interior. It's lushly planted, although the flora is low-maintenance indigenous stuff rather than an exactingly-kept garden. It might almost be mistaken for a natural formation! I seem to be here with my partners, and we've broken off to go do stuff on our own for the day.
Not just current partners, either. An ex of mine wants to have sex with me, and has arranged for a room for the two of us to spend some private time together. A luxury room, private and well-furnished... and romantic. Ze [intersexual pronoun; neither he nor she is appropriate] is very insistent, and clearly very driven to seek this encounter. I can't bring myself to say I think ze really wants me, though. I'm not sure why; but knowing zer I get the sense it's never so straightforward as just a desire for romantic and sexual entanglement. We've hurt each other plenty before and I'm cautious, trying to find a way out of this. Ze is alternately persuasive and urgent, though, and when my other partners leave us alone I find it hard to refuse loudly and clearly. I feel like it's rape. I know ze won't agree; ze specifically abides by a "police your own boundaries around me" rule and refuses liability for zer actions. I don't know what to do.
I leave the room sometime after. I don't know how it ended. That's not just a fade-to-black -- I literally can't remember what transpired betweeen us after that point...
There's an Australian magpie hopping around the place; he looks and acts for all the world like a visitor to the mountain, not a wild animal. He carries a messenger bag on a strap, and although we don't say much to each other, I soon grow used to the sight of him in passing. It doesn't seem unusual -- half of the visitors are other sorts of animals anyway. As I explore the interior catacombs of the shopping centers nestled inside the mountain, I start looking for someone, a practitioner of whatever magical, medical, surgical or dietary art who'll promise to make me thin. Thin-ner, I hastily correct myself. I am seeking compromises -- just this much off! Just that much trimmer and smaller! Please! It's okay if it's not thin-thin, right? I'll give up thin-thin for a little off.
Nobody will help. Not for lack of practitioners -- they simply turn me away when I ask. Dejected, I leave.
My spouse and I have gotten a suite together near the upper section of the mountain. She's decided it would be fun to subscribe to a multiplayer, reality-bending "hold down the fort" shooter game with our room. As a result, weird alien mecha-zombie things keep trying to storm our suite! At least when the game's on. I turn it off periodically, but keep waking up to find her absent, the start menu active, the game running, and horrible monsters about to break in and devour me. It turns out she's playing even during downtime, when I'm asleep. I realize she doesn't understand that if she "pauses" while on multiplayer mode, the game won't actually stop...
It's night now. Down in the city at the base of the mountain, alone. I've left my partners on the mountain, I guess. Can't function there. Trying to catch a ride on the wickedly-confusing highway system, which seems to have driverless public transport you can summon. I'm not sure where I'm trying to go, though. There are no signs, and I don't know much of anything about this town or its layout, or what's in the exurbs which the high-traffic lanes (where I'm standing) are meant to serve. Feeling lost, alone and tired, I give up and pick something at random, knowing it probably won't go wherever it was I wanted to be...
I live in the Midwest now, but come from a place with many large mountains. I miss them! For me, mountains are places to gain perspective -- both literally (the view's great) and in the sense of personal or spiritual understanding. It needn't be the mountains of my birthplace either; I have fond memories of Australia's Blue Mountains and the perspective they granted...
I often think that humans, left to our own devices, might well wind up adapting the densified, high-rise city thing into something a little more eco-friendly. Assuming we live that long! In my head, I see...well, artificial mountains, or the human equivalent of termite mounds. Whole, single freestanding structures that function as economies and ecologies unto themselves, integrated with and yet distinct from the natural surroundings. Arcologies without the tech-fetish flavoring. Human hives! I've been trying to work this image into a story for a while now; it's interesting that it showed up here. The use of local indigenous materials for building and local plants to provide food access makes sense -- sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature. Why work harder than you have to?
The ex in question is still connected to my relationship network; just not to me directly. I've stopped speaking to zer. Word has made its way up the grapevine recently that ze misses my presence and influence on zer life. I've no doubt this is genuine, but communication (and everything else) with zer is dangerous to me emotionally. Ze knows that ze has a bit of a sociopathic streak, tries to avoid doing real harm with it. Unfortunately, ze's ultimately more concerned with liability for said harm... if nobody can blame zer dead to rights for what ze's done, and by zer own standards, then it's their problem! Lately ze has been advocating for some causes I find unsavory. Attitudes towards rape and harassment, and their reporting, are definitely relevant here...
Beyond that, I'm a sexual abuse survivor, suffering from repressed memories and flashbacks of late. The missing time makes a very uncomfortable sort of sense in context...
This one's easy!
I'm fat, plain and simple. Have been most of my life -- perhaps not all of it, but so long it's difficult to remember a time when it wasn't this way. Lately things have gotten worse; I seem to be gaining weight uncontrollably. There's an eating disorder involved; I binge easily when stressed, and I've spent most of my life stressed. Problem is, I've got body dysmorphia issues. It's not just that I've internalized the awful, bullying, fatphobic attitudes of society around me. Even on a good day, when my acceptance of this stuff is not limited to other people (somehow I have no trouble with seeing other fat folks as just folks with bodies, beautiful and real), this body doesn't feel like mine. It's the wrong shape; it's the wrong size! It might be wonderful on someone else, but it's not the body I sense and experience, proprioceptively. So even when things are good, there's a fundamental block.
My other spouse recently mentioned they actually really like their body, that they're happy with it and enjoy it. The intense spike of bitter envy I experienced was scary -- so much deep sick self-loathing coming to the surface all at once.
I was in Australia visiting said spouse, last year. It's got its own rising obesity rate, but folks still seem to be thinner on average there. I got harassed a fair bit for it. Someone even made it into a racist slur -- they asked, sarcastically, if I was Aboriginal.
Funny thing about that. Weeks later, I was riding the train into Sydney. An Aboriginal man was refusing to pay the fare, and I stuck up for him to the transit guards, until he got off to avoid an arrest (and after). Not aggressively -- I had no desire to be arrested and deported -- but in a calculated manner. Using social awkwardness as a weapon to make normal people suddenly find somewhere ese to want to be.
As soon as they were gone, he turned up behind me. Experienced train-hopper! I was impressed. He looked like he wanted to start a conversation, so we talked. The first thing he said to me: "Y'know, I know you get a lot of hell for it, but in traditional culture we see fat as something good." He wasn't flirting, though -- he was guessing about the shit I might have to go through and trying to reach me on that level. So we talked. He's an Eora guy -- Magpie clan. We discussed indigenous culture and how it's adapted to colonial influences on two different continents. Not just the effects of the introduced diet, though -- body image stuff. Although I find it tricky to negotiate identity issues in Native American social spaces, I vastly prefer the prevailing attitude towards bodies and norms there, and it's one that is mirrored in Aboriginal society.
It's not all we talked about -- and I did more listening than talking, frankly. But that particular element has stuck in my mind. There's a whole world of cultural norms and mores outside the ones I had forced on me as a child, and in many of those places I wouldn't be considered ugly at all. Would I still encounter dysmorphic issues, had I been raised with that influence as first and foremost in my mind? I can't know -- but whenever I think of Australian mapgies, I remember that conversation, and I remember that this hatred is someone else's value judgement.
It's hard to accept. For so many reasons, being fat has made my life difficult. But most of that is ultimately about other people's attitudes -- capitalism figures it's enough to serve the needs of just enough of the population, just well enough, just enough of the time. It doesn't have any use for edge cases like me; clothes are a struggle to find and harassment is rife. The poly-kinky-queer culture I wish to be more fluent in has some really problematic body image stuff, and while you can get away with being fat or transgender or disabled, try doing them all at once and suddenly you may as well be untouchable. Surgeons who might help with the trans condition are biased against larger folks too. I'd have to lose a lot of weight to qualify for surgery. The system is set up in every respect to suggest that this is something wrong with me. As if having this kind of body were a moral failing! It's hard not to get tunnel vision, to focus on getting thin when that would be basically unprecedented in my life. Magpie reminds me that there's more -- taking another perspective on this is hard, but it may ultimately be more productive, given the things I have control over. And possibly less dangerous! Even if I do someday manage to get thin, it will hardly be because I bullied myself into suddenly comprehending that fat = bad and morally degenerate. That's colonizer logic!
Feels a lot like Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode. Only with a real-life interface. I think the symbolism is pretty mundane though -- I find waking up on my own difficult, and vastly benefit from my spouse's presence when attempting to do so. But she works an early job schedule, so she's gone just before it happens. For some reason, this is very stressful to my waking self -- under other conditions I'll simply feel frustrated. When I'm closer to dream-states though, it manifests as weird stuff like this.
The highway's symbol is is pretty clear, and grim. The road symbolizes death, and rebirth as another, quite different self. The nighttime cityscape, foreboding and unknown to me, feels like a place I can't stay. The world as I know it, a place I've often longed to escape from. A place I've tried to escape from. Suicide risk runs in my family; it may always be with me.
Recently I have been very depressed -- and regretful. I feel as though I'm cut off from my family, my kinship network. Where possible I've tried to substitute chosen family, kinship of another sort -- but it doesn't benefit from the same sort of generational gradients, of wealth and experience and investment. A friend of mine brought her younger sister to class last night, pretty much to show her off -- a quick learner and evidently a star pupil at her school. My classmate was very justifiably the proud big sister.
I've never been that close with blood family. I'm not comfortable spending long periods of time around the ones I speak to; most of them I don't speak to at all. My chosen family is obviously much closer, but we're all going through our own problems, ones we lack perspective and resources to help each other with much. I feel regret. I feel isolation. I feel cut off from my kinship network and my roots. I feel like I've failed in this area. Family's immensely important to me but I'll never understand it, never experience it on that level. There's a touch of envy here too.
Lots of people have trouble with their families. It's nothing new. But
when this angst teams up with suicide, apparently I start thinking
about rolling the dice and trying again.
It's funny. I don't profess to believe in rebirth; don't believe in a soul in the sense most people would recognize, don't consider it a path to survival, even metaphysically. But on some level I just instinctively feel like I'm here now, having this perspective, as a result of perspective being had elsewhere and elsewhen. It seems intuitive I can pass that basic core along, give someone else a shot at being, and being better than I was. Uncomfortable when paired with suicidal tendencies...
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