Wednesday, August 11, 2010
When I got to class today, one person was lying on the floor groaning about how the dorm bed was hurting her back, which sent another into her own tale of dorm-bed woes. My bed is fine, but I can't find a comfortable chair in this entire town. Even using my ergonomic backrest and combining furniture pillows into various configurations, I can't get comfortable in the chairs in my room. The chairs in the classroom are even worse, real torture devices. I can't find a restaurant with comfortable seating, although I've had excellent food, and my hope of settling into a nice couch at the local coffeehouse after dinner was dashed when the coffeehouse was closed. At seven.
What kind of college-town cafe closes at seven in the evening?
Plus, I can't find bright lighting here -- I'm currently working in my room, directly under a ceiling light, with a tabletop lamp shining right on my computer, and I still feel half-blind -- and I think the sun's only been out about ten minutes the entire time I've been here. At least I'm warm enough at the moment, although that's been rare this week too.
In short, I wasn't in a good physical space today, and also wasn't in a good emotional space, because some of the class material had brought up renewed grief about Mom. All of that resulted in my losing it during class. I can't be too specific here for confidentiality reasons, but in brief: someone in the room was dominating the discussion, and -- in my view -- was being permitted to do so (in fact, invited to do so) because of minority status. This person has dominated the discussion for several days. Actually, "discussion's" a misnomer. From my point of view, we've all been listening to monologues. Today I sat and listened to a monologue I felt like I'd heard before, and I wanted to hear the voices of the other people in the room.
So I said all of that, although none too coherently and with lots of personal spillage mixed in. Most of the other people in the room (including, most notably, the person I was addressing) praised my "vulnerability," "authenticity," and "courage." "Wow," someone said. "Nobody at PSR is ever that honest!" I think most of them, including and especially the originally offending party, actually meant the generous things they said to me. (Someone else acted very annoyed and left the room whenever I spoke after that: hey, whatever. Voting with your feet works.) I have a long history of being the Sore Thumb, and if I can't speak up in this setting, what's the point of being here? And it's not like I have anything to lose, since I'm not in a degree program. And after "The Conversation," as it was quickly dubbed, the dynamics of the room indeed became more balanced and egalitarian, and I do think I'm now on better terms with the person who was pushing my buttons. We've figured out -- and I don't for a minute think this is coincidence -- that we have many of the same issues.
Still, the whole thing was exhausting, with tears on both sides, and I really, really could have used a comfortable chair afterwards. And I couldn't find one, although I did have a nice dinner.
(Note to Gary, who fears that recovery from the dominant culture means giving up comfortable chairs and central AC: it doesn't mean that, honest. I asked. The instructor, laughing, said, "No, no, this isn't about asceticism!")
Also, today I've been getting panicky e-mails from several of my UNR students about issues I need to address and can't easily address from here, although I'm doing the best I can. Need I add that I haven't been able to get done the work I brought with me, blithely assuming I'd have the time, energy and light to complete it around the class schedule?
Aaaargh. I've always had a good time during my weeks in Berkeley. This week is quickly toppling into the "Not Fun" category. I'm lonely; I can't see; I'm behind on crucial course prep; my back hurts. But tomorrow's class topic is Hope, so I can only hope that it will leave me feeling more hopeful.
And hey, at least I'm not numb anymore!