Saturday, January 06, 2007

2006 in Review: Part 2


I spent a lot of time this year wrestling with the concept of identity. How do we form our identity? What influences us? And in the creation of identity, are we inevitably being exclusive? (I am not this, I am not that) Honestly, human beings are such relative entities--we seem only to exist in relation to what's around us. We define ourselves and others only through comparison and contrast. It's innate in our language and in our thought processes. And as Foucault pointed out, whenever you create binaries of identity, there will undoubtedly be "privileged" and "not privileged." How do we create ourselves in a way that is wholly independent? And is that even possible?

I say all this because my identity has been in a flux this year. Who am I socially, economically, politically, and in terms of career? I have a tendency to compare myself to others a lot, which usually winds up with me on the losing/lacking end of the comparison. I admire many people, but with that admiration usually comes self-doubt and wishing I could actually be them, rather than allowing their light to shine and my own, equally. And in such a field as poetry and academia, to which I am applying myself, this can be disastrous. The field is inherently not level--the "old boys" are still alive and strong--and the whole thing is based on who likes your work....which can be as fickle and unpredictable as mood. What I've concluded, and only very recently, is that the bottom line is that it really is a bunch of malarkey, publishing and credentials....not that I shouldn't try, because of course I will, but I mustn't let it rule me or my opinion of myself and my craft. The drive is simply to keep creating, keep revising, keep improving--and the rest will happen naturally, in its own time.

Because if I can say one thing about myself that is true and not related to anyone else--I am always seeking to improve. I set the bar high for myself, and when I reach it, I set it again. The key is not to set the bar in such a way that my ability to reach it is dependent on anyone else's actions or opinions.

In more mundane, less philosophical events, my father got a total knee replacement in February. I do not wish that procedure on anyone. Recovery is so slow and painful....and with his other health issues complicating the matter, it was a difficult time for us all. My mother has been spent to her last drop of endurance dealing with his care, as well as for my grandmother (her mother) who had a fall in her home over the summer and needed to be moved into a senior living apartment complex--only to have a massive stroke in November, which landed her in assisted living. My grandma is as well, if not better, as can be expected, but the toll has been great on my mother's sanity. She's the legal contact for grandma's estate and affairs, and has been mostly in charge of all these operations. Her relationship with her sisters has always been strained, to put it kindly, and this whole series of events really cast that into relief. I got really angry at my extended family at times this year. I wish I knew how to resolve it, even just enough that we can all work together to take some of the strain off my mom. My aunt Joan, the eldest of the three sisters, has been a blessing and relations between she and my mother are actually improving....Joan's reliable and always willing to help, which is really all we need at this point. Even when personalities don't really jive, it's good to know that everyone cares about what's happening and wants to do his or her part.

Throughout all of this, Ryan has been my comfort and my anchor. I feel it's a mark of his character and the strength of our relationship that when everything is falling apart around us, we remain together, on the same page, and turn to each other for support rather than pushing each other away. When two people mutually lean on the other with equal force, no one falls down.

We're hoping, in the coming year, to take some life-steps forward, such as buying a house and maybe, just maybe, turning our little family of two into a family of three. It's exciting to think those things could really happen.


My political convictions grew as strong as ever this year. Michigan faced a gubernatorial race that was fearsome and at times ugly, but we came out on the other side of it, I think, better than we were before. I was beginning to think that Michigan, and this country, was losing its marbles (see my previous blog, "Yay, I Don't Live in Crazy Land") with all the right-wing conservatives blasting their egos like bugles across the political and social landscape. But not only did the incumbent Democrat keep her place as governor, an unprecedented sweep of Republican-ousting took the nation on local, state, and national levels. It was like hoping for a quarter under your pillow from the tooth fairy, and getting twenty bucks instead. Unfortunately we still have Jack Hoogendyk (R-Kalamazoo) as our state rep here, but it was comforting to know that he only won by a margin of just over 400 votes. One more election could finish him off and we could be rid of him for good (his platform, in case you were wondering, was succinctly publicized in a local voter's guide during the primary elections, in which he announced that his plan to balance the state budget would include cutting funds for libraries, places of historic significance such as museums, and the arts--because, and I'm quoting as best as I can from memory, "we shouldn't give state funding to pornography.").

So now we have a swing back towards the center. A response to an ever-escalating, fool's errand of a war? A realization that we need to be compassionate to our fellow human beings, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs, rather than employing the popular "every man for himself, and screw the little guy" technique of social justice? A desire to draw attention back to the problems we face in our own country, in our own states, in our own backyards--rather than displacing our fears and frustrations onto other outside forces? A wake-up call to the fact that our President and his administration are becoming more and more autocratic and less and less democratic? Who knows. I'm just glad it happened.


As usual, I spent time in New England--ahh, Henniker!--for my NEC residencies. I also went up for a long weekend in September to Mackinac Island with Sara. We participated in their annual walk around the island (about 8-9 miles) and sight-saw. It's so beautiful up there. I feel happy every time I see it.

Ryan and I also vacationed briefly in Holland, MI and Chicago. His family has something of a tradition to spent time in Holland in the summers, and afterwards we went to Chicago for a wedding.

I wish we could have gotten around more, but I have plans to go back to Dublin this fall; plus, Stefanie and Laura and I are hoping to do some kind of girly excursion in the near future. Who knows where we'll go?