exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

same as it ever was

by Jen at 11:07 am on 19.11.2011Comments Off
filed under: rant and rage

i’ve been watching the protests spread like a fire across my home country from afar – with cynicism-tinged pride. hoping fervently that the wild optimism of youth stoked by righteous anger is enough to effect real change. knowing in a stone-hardened part of my heart, that it is not.

the diversity of support for the protest by the masses of middle-class disenfranchised is astonishing – that so many who are, by all measures, still doing okay, yet feel the message of the #occupy movement resonates deeply with their growing disenchantment and fears for our future is astonishing. even more astonishing is the intense vitriol for the unemployed/unfortunate by those who want to defensively cling to the last shred of a tattered american dream – who have too much emotional investment in the idea that if you work hard enough in the u.s., you can succeed, to acknowledge the reality of what’s happening in front of their eyes.

but perhaps even more shocking, and more telling, than the attacks by the public, have been the attacks by police. over and over again, we’ve watched peaceful protesters be kettled, hit, pepper-sprayed, arrested. the police, who are meant to protect the public and prevent the breakdown of public order, are instead violently transgressing people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly at the behest of those in power.

it would be even more shocking if only it wasn’t so painfully predictable. because this, after all, is what the plutarchy does. those in power attack those who attack the systems which keep them in power. it’s a pattern as old as the existence of society itself. yet for someone of my generation, who was a decade too late to witness the civil rights struggle, it is amazing to see it acted out in practice in my own country.

amazing and infuriating. because even as my own social justice passions are inflamed by the swelling crowds of the #occupy movement, the cynic in me knows that throughout history, the batons and gas and guns and shields have been all too successful in protecting the oligarchs who command them – whether democratically elected or not. what they cannot put down in spirit, they can easily crush in body.

i was also a generation too late for the vietnam protests – born 18 months after the horrifying, galvanising climax of the kent state massacre, where student protesters were gunned down in cold blood by the official forces in power. and as i watch video after video after video of brutality against the #occupy crowds exacted by armed people in uniform, forcibly trying to uproot a powerful idea that threatens to unseat those at the top, only one thought repeats: i hope to god i never witness anything like that in my lifetime.

but the cynic in me knows that the pattern that’s playing out before us is all too likely to end in bloodshed.

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not the worst thing

by Jen at 9:57 am on 15.11.2011Comments Off
filed under: mundane mayhem

i wrote this last summer when j and i were in paris, but hadn’t published it here until now. j and i are splitting up, and as awful as it is, it is not the worst thing. keeping comments off.

we were in paris, on holiday with the in-laws, when i first said the words, whispering in the dark across to the other uncomfortable sofa where he lay.

“i think we might need to get a divorce.”

he got up without a word, got his pack of cigarettes, went out onto the balcony. i joined him, watched the red glow of the cigarette as we gazed down together at the boulevard below. suddenly the will to stand drained out of my legs, and i collapsed, weeping so hard i felt i might turn inside out. all the disappointment and frustration and anger i’d been storing for months and years, rushing out of me in wracking, violent sobs. and below, people laughing, cars passing. and me thinking, how is it possible the world hasn’t come to a screeching, crashing halt? surely that would be appropriate.

nearly seventy percent of second marriages end in divorce. i think i must’ve read that before, but i never allowed the reality of it to penetrate my consciousness. naïveté. denial.

i don’t know yet, if my husband and i will split. but in the weeks that have passed since that night in paris that ended with the two of us desperately clutching each other on the balcony, trying not to drown in the waves of sorrow, i’ve come to know why that 70% figure is so true.

even a “good divorce”, an amicable divorce for all the right reasons that makes you both better, happier people, as mine was, leaves you scarred. even a “good divorce” is hell. it rips any sense of security out from under you, makes you confront the possibility of being completely and utterly alone, drains every ounce of foolish fairytale right out of your head. a divorce, even a “good divorce”, is the death of your shared dreams for home, family, and future. it’s a death, and you mourn it, and carry guilt and shame over it for a long while.

but as time passes and you begin to emerge from the blast-shadow the explosion left behind, the world begins to right itself. time moves on, and you tuck away the lessons learned, and you stand a little straighter knowing that you have survived the worst that love can throw at you. you think yourself stronger and wiser, as hemingway would say, “strong at the broken places”.

it’s dangerous knowledge.

it is dangerous knowing that divorce is not, in fact, the end of the world. that however painful the experience of a shattered marriage was, that however much it hurt to walk through those shards and pick up the pieces, that *you were okay*. dangerous how that “d” word, that word you thought you could never bring yourself to utter, that word that choked you for so long before you could finally, actually say it (because to say “divorce” out loud was to admit that it was really fucking happening)… it’s dangerous how close that word sits to the tip of your tongue after that.

divorce, which was once the very worst thing that had ever happened to you, is now no longer the worst thing that can happen to you.

more to the point, it’s not the worst thing that can happen to me. even with all the tears, even when to untangle my life from his would feel like flaying off my own skin, i know this much is true: it is not the worst thing that can happen to me. however bad it gets, i’ll be okay.

and somehow, that just makes it worse – the knowledge that the world will keep turning, people will keep laughing on the boulevards below. i will once again face the fears and learn the lessons, adding one more statistical failure to the punchline of life, but emerge and walk on stronger and wiser.

i know what i’m in for, and i know how unthinkably excruciating the dissolution of love can be. i know all this, and still i know it will be a hundred times worse – because i loved him more.

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