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A Privilege to be Apart

I wonder if there could be scientific research done that could come up with a way to measure how much privilege an individual possesses and then create a scale that tells us that this amount of privilege will lead to this amount of life.

Presuming that more privilege equals more life.

And visa versa, I suppose.

By all accounts I should be dead: leukemia in 2009, a year later a lung disease as a result of the bone marrow transplant and of which was to knock me off within five years, heart failure in 2014 as a result of my prophylactic chemo pills, forever more a decimated immune system as a result of all the above, and most recently this summer, also as a result of all the above, pneumonia, of which my oncologist said if I ever contracted it would be game over.

But the game continues…

I guess I’m kind of like a cockroach that there ain’t no gettin’ rid of.

Who knows for sure why I’m still here.

But my guess is that my off the chart privilege score has a heck of a lot to do with it.

Some of the points you can add up by site: white, male, tall, all my limbs and digits intact.

Some points can only be determined by knowing a bit about me.

For instance, by knowing that my ultimate privilege has to be that there never has been a moment in my life that I have not felt loved. That’s got to be worth beaucoup points, oui?

Or that there has never been a moment in my life that I have been without good health insurance.

Good medical coverage + lotsa love as medicine = one long-living cockroach.

And another big privilege of mine is that for the most part I could walk into just about any room of my choosing and feel accepted, or at least unthreatened.

Even without understanding that the ability to do something like that is a privilege, it’s gotta be good for one’s well-being, no?

Yeah…

But it goes the other way, too.

I’ve also had the privilege of self-induced estrangement without having to worried about being labeled as strange… or as a threat.

I used to love being in a foreign country, especially in Asia where I look completely different from most, and riding a bus or a train by myself and not understanding a single word being said around me. Everything just hummed in the background and I could be surrounded by masses of people crammed into the subway car with me and yet be completely apart from them… at peace, without fear.

It was almost spiritual.

A privileged feeling like that’s gotta be worth a few points.

I wonder how many of those from other parts of the world coming to my country today, the less than United States, can ride alone in a crowded subway car not understanding what’s being said around them and feel at peace and without fear.

There is a beautiful piece in the New York Times by Elisa Gonzalez titled How Alienation Became My Superpower…

In 2016, I moved to Poland to study and write poetry on a Fulbright arts fellowship. Doing so required stripping myself of fluency and the cloak of native understanding. With each failure of action or speech, I squelched around in touristic self-pity. “I live on Smutna Street,” I told someone, momentarily forgetting “Smolna” was my street’s actual name; her laughter reminded me that smutna means “sad.” I was often sad during that first, dark autumn, dealing with a disintegrating marriage and the parched loneliness of the unlanguaged.

Fortunately, later in the piece we learn that Ms. Gonzalez was eventually able to find peace with her alienation.

But I don’t suppose everyone who feels alienated and alone because they look different, or speak different, or love different, can find such peace.

But I wish they could.

My work in progress is a story about alienation and estrangement. The main character, white, male, old, kind of like yours truly, gets so fed up with the state of humanity that he decides to no longer identify as a human and disassociates himself completely from society.

But instead of becoming estranged from humanity, he, or it as it prefers to be referred to, creates a kind of a cult around itself in the process.

Go figure.

Privilege is a powerful thing and its worth can never be accurately tallied I suppose.

But we know, or at least I do, that it is so powerful it can fulfill and extend lives.

Now that’s not just power, that is a true superpower…

One that, unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege to enjoy.

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Ain’t That America…

Reporting live from the world famous Eddie’s Grill at Geneva On The Lake, Ohio

#ifenoughisgoodthanmorethanenoughisbetter
#hometownlovin
#daytrippin

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Ain’t that America…

Reporting live from the shores of the Great Lake Erie in Ashtabula, Ohio

#daytrippin’
#hometownlovin’
#lakeeffectbaby
#nofilter

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Unprogrammable Me

I began writing The Good Kill in July of 2017 and worked on it just about every day in some capacity until March 31 when I completed the manuscript at last and in a rush rushed right out to the UPS Store (I am not sponsored by or own stock in the UPS Store, it’s just that it’s like twenty minutes closer than Staples, of which I am not sponsored by or own stock in) to get three copies of the masterly work of art (as regarded solely by yours truly at this point) printed out in a rush and then rushed two of them out to my editors who are AKA my worldly-wise and well-read and spirited sister and her dashing husband – yeah, dashing as in he’s pretty studly, but mostly dashing as in he’s continually dashing off after my worldly-wise and well-read and spirited sister as she leads them on yet another global adventure — and then rushed right back home where I sat and admired and stroked lovingly for hours and hours the third copy of the manuscript.

Continue reading Unprogrammable Me

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PARIS | A Relating to Humans Women’s Issues Feature

PARIS
by elizabeth stokkebye

Seventeen and in Paris on my own.

It was my first encounter with the city of love and I was fortunate to stay with an aunt and uncle, who both being workaholics, left me with oceans of time to explore. I hurried out the door to experience the vast world of Paris with its majestic architecture, its towering cathedrals, its world-renowned art collections, its peaceful parks, and its crowds of people.

The air was spring like, mild and sunny, although I was spending my Christmas holiday away from my home in Denmark. Traveling by myself in a foreign world filled me with a sensation of pure freedom. I remember how my breathing felt different: effortless and silent but steady and consistent. It was breathing devoid of depression and anxiety. I breathed without past or future and let the air be present.

Walking along grand boulevards beneath a blue sky sporting white clouds I felt my loving heart circulate blood through my veins.

On my way past one of the many cafés lining the wide sidewalk, my sway caught the attention of a street performer playing his violin. As I danced by him he let go of his instrument and started to sing Ne me quitte pas. I stopped, turned around, and listened to his chanson. Was he performing especially for me?

My youthful disposition was romantic and I was attracted to him. At the same time, I could hear my mother’s voice: “I’m so proud to have brought up a good girl!” I didn’t move. When he was done with the song, he waved me over. I blushed but followed his hand. He grabbed mine and kissed it. I felt the touch of his soft lips. My skin everywhere reacted by turning prickly and my breathing intensified.

“Ma Cherie,” he whispered.

All of a sudden my body felt heavy and I pulled away. Caught between wanting to leave and wanting to stay, I sat down on a bistro chair.

“Please, I need a minute,” I uttered.

“Bien sûr!” he smiled.

He put his violin to his neck once again and with closed eyes, he played the sweetest melody riding through the air and penetrating the toughest disposition.

Paralyzed, I tried to think. Should I leave or should I stay? My sense of freedom had slowly vanished which made the decision so much harder. The guy was cute, romantic and talented.

A waiter came over and I asked for a café au lait. As more people gathered around to listen to the soft music, I started to relax. He didn’t sing again which made me feel special.

Immersed in the music, I let go of time. Slowly, the morning faded, noon hour came around, and with his violin case full of money, he sang out:

“La dernière chanson!”

From his slender body came Que je t’aime and I didn’t know where to look. My gaze fell on a young woman advancing hurriedly towards us and embodying a sense of pure joy. She stepped right up to my singer and kissed him on the mouth.
 

elizabethstokkebye.com


 

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?

 
 

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The Bliss of Ignorance

One nice thing about visiting or living in a foreign country: not understanding the language.

When visiting or living in a foreign country where I don’t understand the language, public chatter becomes white noise that I can very easily tune out whenever I want. The beauty of that is, unlike when living in the States or visiting other English-speaking countries, I don’t have to listen to all of the stupid, idiotic, moronic, and embarrassing BS that people think it is necessary to say in public.

Ignorance truly can be a blissfully beautiful thing, indeed.

And why does it seems that those who do feel it necessary to say such stupid, idiotic, moronic, and embarrassing BS in public also seem to feel it necessary to do so in such an excessively loud and abrasive way?

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My Donor and Me

So, in a little over a month I am scheduled to have my bone marrow transplanted. It sounds daunting but according to my nurse practitioner it will be rather anti-climactic. Apparently, I will receive the bone marrow harvested from my donor in the same manner I would receive a blood transfusion: hang the bags, hook them up to the pump, plug the line out of the pump into my Hickman Line, and then lie back and relax. I expect it might not be quite as easy to relax during the transplant as a typical transfusion but still, my job during this transaction between my donor and me is relatively easy. My donor, on the other hand, has a much more difficult task.

It amazes me that there is someone out there somewhere in the world who is not just a perfect match for me, but who is also willing to follow through with the donation. I have no idea where my donor lives or how far he or she has to travel for the procedure–he or she could live halfway around the world for all I know. Fortunately for the both of us, my hospital will cover the travel expenses and my insurance will cover the costs of the medical procedures; but still, what a disruption to life he or she is willing to make on my behalf, especially since my donor knows nothing about me, other than my life depends on his or her marrow. Likewise, I know nothing about my donor, other than he or she is truly generous and caring.

I am told that a year or so after my procedure I will be allowed to make contact with my donor, provided my donor wants to make contact with me. I will have to make that decision when the time comes. Right now I appreciate the anonymity of the process. It enables me to focus on preparing myself prior to the procedure and healing myself afterward without having to feel obligated to establishing and maintaining a relationship with my donor at the same time. Even to me this seems completely selfish, but it is how I feel.

Besides, how does one thank someone for such grand generosity anyway? Right now the only way I can think of is by simply saying thank you and trying to live the best life after the transplant as possible. We will have to wait and see if I feel differently a year from now.