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Pocket of Joy: Wearing Purple

Being human is crazy, full stop. It's a blessing to be able to transcend the drama, rise above trends, and get to a place where you can just start wearing purple.

My daughter is a pretty normal kid who had a pretty normal childhood up until the pandemic, compared to how her parents grew up. We are beyond proud and happy that her first decade of life has contained far less drama and trauma than either of ours did. And yet, there is no escaping the broad insanity that is human life, for everyone, everywhere, in every generation. Fortunately, our daughter has somehow inherited our creativity and wicked sense of humor without being forced to develop those traits as coping mechanisms. What fun!

She loves campy horror and the cheesy occult. Her style is a little edgy without any true angst behind it. At the moment, her favorite colors are black and purple. And I feel like, somehow, some way, all of this has helped her to take the pandemic in stride. She has a firm grasp on fantasy versus reality and a solid immunity against toxic positivity. She can't be scared by any of our culture's current political or social bogeymen. Oh no, critical race theory! Learning hurts! Durrr!

At the same time, she respects taking precautions against real dangers, like plagues and dumpster-fiery conspiracy believers who have chosen to cling to their cultish delusion at the expense of human lives and viable relationships. Over the past couple of years, she has been 100% behind her parents and grateful for our decisions to stay safe and stay away from people who aren't being careful or who have revealed themselves as hateful or cognitively impaired in ways that make them dangerous to children. Over the past two years, we've all stayed safe and sane while the world around us has seemed to go wildly off the rails. 

There is something truly yet painfully privileged about being "insanely" rational while the world around you crumbles under fragility and stupidity. My husband and I, and our daughter, and our closest friends, are what we call "wolf people" as opposed to "dog people." While domestic dogs have evolved to perceive and follow social cues above all other mental faculties (which, granted, is a kind of intelligence that normally has evolutionary value), wolves are more purely logical and won't trust social cues over the evidence in front of their own noses. It is easier to trick a dog than a wolf in a logic test. Yet wolves have a harder time than dogs at figuring out the whimsical feelings and thought processes of irrational but super-social humans who will literally follow an internet conspiracy hole to their death--even if they know it's not true, just to please a hard-headed family member or friend who truly believes.

One of my best friends is a colorful, witchy, creative, artsy Wolf Person. She's highly social and has many friends, and yet, like Salvador Dali in his own time, she often bristles at being called "crazy" just because she's more critically thoughtful, imaginative, and insightful than the masses around her and isn't afraid to speak up. Just before the pandemic hit, Michigan experienced an epic winter storm that shut down much of our infrastructure in unprecedented ways. My friend worked at a financial institution that worked quickly to set up emergency work-from-home systems to keep key workers running essential operations while most employees were unable to access the office. As soon as the storm ended, the institution worked just as quickly to undo all of those systems and return to business as usual. 

My friend had recently returned to the United States from Mexico, where she had worked for six years in offices there that had been similarly affected by the H1N1 flu epidemic, which hit Mexico harder than the U.S. My friend put together what she learned from these experiences and suggested to her U.S. employer than instead of undoing and discarding all the emergency work-from-home systems they had designed to get through the winter storm, they invest in expanding upon them to plan for future work-from-home transitions, considering that climate change and pandemics were only going to get worse in the near future. 

She was given a hefty dose of the side-eye. Recently one of her coworkers admitted, "Everyone thought you were crazy when you said that." Now, too late, they all realize that she was the only sensible voice in the room, and the company probably would have saved tens of thousands of dollars and maybe even some lives if they had listened to her reasoning and had the capacity to appreciate it. 

Frustrating as it is to feel like the village Cassandra all the damn time, there are real benefits to not dumbing ourselves down to whatever dull notions are socially acceptable at the moment. For example, my friend was able to convince her parents and some of her other loved ones to get vaccinated far sooner than others in their wider communities, and her pressure on those loved ones to do more than the common minimum has surely saved some lives and spared her family and friends untold preventable suffering. She couldn't save her workplace from its own mediocrity, but it's likely she saved her parents.

Are you struggling to hold healthy pandemic boundaries while everyone around you seems to be slipping up and trying to take you down with them? Cleveland Clinic offers this pep talk for those of us who are tired but not ready to give up.

My extended family is looking forward to celebrating a four-generation, 100% vaccinated (and boosted for all eligible adults) Christmas with everyone still alive and healthy. How many families can do that this year? How many families did whatever the hell they wanted last year, and this year they're so traumatized they are just now starting to panic? My daughter fully understands and appreciates the sacrifices and adjustments we've made over the past couple of years so that we can enjoy the rest of our potentially long and healthy lives for many decades to come.

My husband and I, and our fellow Wolf People, are delighted that our daughter came into the world howling our melody--but we also worried about her at first. Would she be doomed to suffer in all the ways that we have? Would people roll their eyes and shun her like they've often done to us, for saying things they don't want to hear or can't comprehend?

To our surprise, our daughter has not suffered the same fate. She's well-liked, has many friends, and has not yet experienced a single antagonistic relationship with a threatened-ego teacher. I think the kids these days, and the education system, are generally more progressive and open-minded than they were in my generation. And somehow, our daughter has better doggy skills than I do, even though she's confidently Team Wolf. Somehow, she accepts and embraces her Wolf nature and also accepts and embraces the fact that most other people in the community have Dog natures, and she loves them as they are while loving herself as she is.

She's a well-adjusted, cheerful, kind, brave, witty kid who is rocking school with straight As and coming home every day to help cook and clean and take excellent care of her beloved kitty pet and participate in interesting conversations with her family. She's great company, a most excellent roommate, a boundary-pushing budding artist, and a walking daily reminder for me that there is still hope for humanity.

In some ways, she is remarkably different than I ever was, unencumbered by my lifelong anxiety disorder or my debilitating neuroticism. And in other ways, she reminds me of the brightness and wild, silly humor that I embodied in my youth, when I was so energetic and filled with the sense of possibility and discovery that I treated every roadblock like a ramp to hit at full speed so I could pop into the air and try out a new trick. Before full adult life tired me out, I welcomed setbacks as adventures and as opportunities for learning and growing. My daughter is reminding me of that and calling me back to the best of my former self even as she shows me that there are better ways of being human in the future that we are co-creating.

Back in my child-free 20s, I wrote the blog post below, about the joys of surfing the waves of chaos in life, dressed in purple, of course. Now my daughter reminds me that when life gives us madness, instead of drowning in it, we are called to...

Start Wearing Purple

Friends, I am currently recovering from a serious breakdown. A computer breakdown, that is! My social justice job AND my NaNoWriMo progress were completely derailed last week. First, Mr. G's crusty old drunken laptop finally succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver. It had ingested one too many beers through the keyboard and just couldn't hang on any longer. A few days later, like an elderly widow, my six-year-old laptop died of a broken heart. Or motherboard, to be more precise. Fortunately, unlike dead people, dead laptops can have their memories extracted onto a flash drive. I plan on getting that done today and recovering my NaNoWriMo draft. (Yeah, I should have backed it up more often than once a week, I know.)

Over the weekend, there was nothing I could do about the tech crisis except shop for a new computer. Mr. G and I discovered, to our delight, that laptops which are WAY COOLER than our elderly models are also super cheap now. Like, less than $400 with a two-year warranty cheap. And they come with everything we need pre-loaded, plus tons of garbage we never imagined we could want. To be honest, this computer is kind of a slutty temptress. It's almost as if this new computer doesn't really want me to get any work or writing accomplished. It doubles as a digital TV that can record my favorite shows! It provides years-worth of gaming entertainment! Also, it came infected with a very bad case of Windows Media Player, which makes any media playing and file searching as slow and frustrating as possible. Not to worry, though--like herpes, we couldn't remove the infection. But we have been able to control its symptoms successfully with a healthy dose of WinAmp.

Mr. G has always embraced the crazy like it was his religion. He comes in handy at times like these.

Anyway. I am now seriously behind in my NaNo word count AND in my day-job duties. But I did have a fun break from routine over the past few days. Sometimes you just have to embrace the chaos. If you can't beat the insanity, join it. Give it a hug, pinch its butt, even. Start wearing purple.

What did I do without a computer? Well, I cooked dinner for once this month. I washed dishes. I scrubbed the bathroom clean. I read The Cider House Rules by John Irving. I went old-school roller skating. I wore purple. I belly danced in the living room to Rammstein and Gogol Bordello. I even picked up a pen and wrote out bits of my NaNovel on PAPER. It was nuts! (Is it just me, or does everyone get their best plot ideas while washing their hair? I've taken to keeping a notepad in the bathroom.)

We dressed in these silly getups for fun, not knowing that this style of attire was completely appropriate for Adult Skate. Ironically, the only thing that made us stand out as originals at this event was our awkward and rhythmless skating.

I learned that there is a whole subculture of people, aged 35-45, who roller skate to '70s funk and soul music every Sunday night in Holt. They're like bowling people, except more athletic and attractive, and with equally insane, yet more stylish outfits (with themed roller skates to match!). There was Studded Leather Guy, Local Superman, Furry Boots, the Sweatsuit Figure Skater, and many more ultra-stylized and extremely limber characters. Forget riding the bus--you need character inspiration? Hit up a roller rink on Adults-Only night. Amazing.

Best wishes to all my NaNoveling partners, and try to embrace the crazy when it strikes! Deposit all the hardship and weirdness into your storytelling bank, and try to have fun riding riding the ups and downs of this insane month.

May the purple be with you!

Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World.


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