Laura’s Nth Cat-Call

Remember back in the day, back when I had never been cat-called? Ah, simpler times.

It’s been about a year since then, and now I’ve stopped keeping count. From the simple, “Hey there, beautiful” to the more complex “pulls-car-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-to-yell-that-he-‘wants-to-get-to-know-me'” there is an infinite variety to the cat-call. A subtle nuance to the ways in which I am reminded that my existence is not mine, that my body is not mine, that I am always and forever under threat.

If you’re a woman, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’re male, you might think I am overreacting.

As a way to think about this, and all forms of microaggression, I have decided to buy an air-horn and blow it every time someone cat calls me.

Because that is what it’s like.

The first time someone air-horned you in the face, you could probably laugh it off, tell the story to your friends, let it go as just another ridiculous part of living in the city.

The second time, you might be slightly annoyed.

The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh times you’d probably start looking for ways to avoid this intrusion. Maybe you notice you get more air-horn blasts when you’re wearing certain things, or that more people with air-horns hang around certain corners. So maybe you change your behavior, but you still get honked at no matter what you do. You get honked at for smiling, you get honked at for not smiling. You get honked at when you say nothing, you get honked at when you try to tell them why their honking is unwanted. There is nothing you can do to make the honking go away.

Because the honking is not your doing. It is the system that gave these people the air-horns in the first place. It is the system that decided some people would have air-horns and some people would not. It is the people who have the air-horns who are choosing to use them.

And it doesn’t matter if they think the air-horn is a way of greeting, or a compliment, in the end, it is still an obnoxious and unwanted noise interrupting my otherwise pleasant day.

And perhaps if it were only ever air-horn blasts, we could let it go. But often these air-horns are simply the beginning. When people say things like “smile, beautiful”, I wonder what will happen when I don’t. Will I be hit by a car? Assaulted in broad daylight? Followed home? Or worse?

I’m tired of trying and failing to keep myself safe by toeing the line. I’m tired of the anger that’s made its home in my chest. I’m tired of the weight of silence, that oppressive voice telling me to smile, smile, smile.

So, I plan on purchasing an air-horn of my own. And honking back.

I Am 23 Going on 24

Sung to the tune of “The Sound of Music”, of course.

I know I just wrote a post, and now I’m posting again, but that’s kind of what I do. And maybe someday someone will pay me to do it if I come up with a fancy job title.

Laura A. Freymiller: Psychiatrist for the Human Condition.

We’ll see.

Anyway, my birthday is on Saturday.

If you couldn’t tell, I love my birthday, and I love making a really big deal about it. Maybe it comes from being a middle child. Most days I was satisfied with taking the backseat, literally and figuratively, but when March 11 rolled around… man that was my day.

The first birthday I remember, we had just moved to Indiana. I woke up from a nap and there were a bunch of strangers in the house. I was cranky at first (as anyone who has made the mistake of waking me from a nap can attest) but then people started giving me presents. So I decided it was okay.

Since then I’ve had a lot of great birthdays: from the lamb-shaped funfetti cakes of yore to the free beer and balloon courtesy of that one birthday club in Madison (can’t remember the name…).

The past few years have been a bit rocky to say the least. I graduated, I went through the worlds longest and stupidest break up (DON’T DATE PEOPLE WHO ARE TWENTY-TWO AND IDIOTS), and moved from state to state and job to job with the intention and tenacity of a Laura-shaped pinball.

But, you know, for all that I’m really happy.

I’m in a job that I enjoy with people that I love. I have time and space to read and write as much as I want. I get to explore the greatest city in the world (COME AT ME, BRUH) and tomorrow I’m going to jump into the Pacific Ocean.

It started, as most things in my adult life did, in Australia. I was about to turn twenty-one and felt the need to do something momentous. (Come to think of it, I was going through a break-up back then, too…) So, with the encouragement and accompaniment of a friend, I went to the hotel’s pool and jumped in fully-clothed at midnight.

And it became a tradition. My senior year, I jumped into the good old Cannon River (with a piece of human trash, but we’re all young once). Last year I went alone to a pond not far from our apartment in Fitchburg. It was cold and I forgot to wear socks.

I felt at the time, trapped: in my life, in an emotionally abusive friendship, in the Midwest, and I made the promise to myself: this year a pond, next year the Pacific Ocean.

My life thus far, for all of its precious inane twenty-four years, has been a series of disasters and miracles, monsters and saints, and on the whole I cannot help but feel lucky.

I am lucky that I met a kid four years ago, and lucky that I fell in love, lucky that he broke my heart and my sense of self so that now I can begin again the process of creating myself.

I am lucky that one day as a child I picked up The Lord of the Rings, lucky that I read it during some of the worst times of my childhood, lucky that its words inspired me to become a writer.

I am lucky that I have depression. Not because having depression makes me special or deep or any of the romanticizing and misunderstanding that goes into our conception of mental health, but lucky because my experience with it has made me grateful for every second that I am still alive.

I make such a big deal about my birthday, because I feel every day is a gift, and every year that passes is another success story for me. However much a mess it has been, I am still alive.

I am alive to pursue my goals, whether as small as jumping into the Pacific Ocean or as all-consuming as making the world a better place. And I am lucky.

Thank you for being in my life. As always, I am sending my love.

Be Like Water

I’m about to turn twenty-four. Which is just something that happens, I suppose.

In my twenty-four years of living, I’ve thought about a lot of things and done a number of things and come to a very, very few conclusions.

One thing that has always been important to me, though, is water. Not only from a survival, but on a spiritual and psychological level as well. Whether it was the shores of Lake Maxincuckee, the majestic Mississippi, or now the roaring Pacific Ocean, I have always found myself drawn to the constant change of water.

In thinking about water, as a scientist and a human, I’ve distilled (ha) a few key life-lessons from that most miraculous of molecules. Read and enjoy.

1.) Love yourself.

Water is hydrophilic, because of the nature of its polarity, water molecules are attracted to one another. This makes the capillary effect possible and allows trees to grow to such great heights. Way to go water! It is also an important lesson for us as people.

If there is anything that we as a species need more of (and there isn’t much I can tell you) it is love. And I believe that love, like, peace or forgiveness, must in fact start within.

Love, by my definition, is caring deeply about the well-being and growth of someone, and it must start with the self.

As someone who struggles with depression, chronic self-doubt, and occasional self-harm, this is not a lesson easily learned. But self-love makes survival and meaning possible.

Self-love begins with self-understanding and self-understanding begins with self-reflection. I am one who spends a lot of time thinking about why I do what I do, so this hasn’t been much of a problem for me. But for many, especially people who have experienced trauma in their lives, self-reflection is not an easy or enjoyable experience. But I believe it to be a necessary one.

Water, in a sense, understands itself. It orients in such a way that the slightly negative end, the oxygen atom, is in line with the slightly positive end, the hydrogen atoms. In just such a way we must orient ourselves in a way that makes sense: extending our sense of compassion, pursuing what brings us joy, and valuing what is best in ourselves. We may bring this proverbial hydrogen atoms to view with understanding what we see as negative in ourselves: our frustrations, our regrets, our mistakes and cruelties. But always seeing that all our aspects of ourselves are necessary.

We may alleviate guilt at past mistakes, forgive those who have traumatized us, and release fears and anxieties by viewing these aspects as part of our beautiful and necessary polarity. We do not need to remain trapped by our negative traits or emotions, but neither can we always be the positive glowing stars if we are to exist as full humans. Through self-understanding we may achieve self-love and orient ourselves in a way that may allow for sustained and incredible growth, reaching the height of redwoods.

Be like water, begin the process of self-love.

2.) Sustain life.

With this incredible beginning of humanophilia, we may continue our emulation of water by committing to sustaining of life.

It is not an exaggeration to say that water made life on Earth possible. It was in the primordial oceans that the first nucleic acids began to form our fundamental blueprints. From the water the first plants begin their stretch to land. And water continues to be the key ingredient to continuing life.

I’m not saying you have to start creating new life forms all on your, I’m saying we should aspire to such levels of support and catalysis. It is my hope, if I have any life dreams, that I will be remembered as a kind human. I have failed in this in many regards, at times needing to cut people out of my life, at other times finding myself rejected for decisions I make.

But I still endeavor to be a fertile soil for people to express their concerns, to air their emotions, and to discuss their dreams. I hope to be a supportive lattice, a network of fluid affirmation to nourish the yearning desert of so many human hearts.

Yet as I seek to be a part of the gentle spring rain, I also hope to partake in the roaring flood that rewrites the landscape. Social justice is to me not only a matter of politics, but a matter of personal integrity. If I love myself, I am able to see myself in the faces and struggles of the people around me. And when I see suffering caused by systematic injustice, I know that it is not without me, but also within me. It is necessary to sustain life, to fight for justice for all people. I cannot fully love myself, I cannot pursue what brings me joy if I am not fighting for the full humanity of all my siblings.

Water flows to shape the face of the Earth, and I, though a single molecule, have a role in this universal etching.

Be like water, sustain life.

3.) Cycle.

And so we return to perhaps our first scientific introduction to water: the water cycle.

As a child growing up in a Westernized civilization, so much of what I was taught was linear. My plan for my life for example was single-mindedly direct: get good grades in school, go to college, write. There was no going backwards, no looking around, no moving in alternate directions.

But water does not move in straight lines. Water trickles, drops, dives, leaps, falls, and rises. Water moves through stages, now gas, now liquid, now solid, shifting and transforming into a vast array. Even still water is in the process of cycling, evaporating to rejoin its dancing sisters in the sky.

So, too, must I constantly be in a state of changing uniformity, forever myself and forever statically moving. Through research, meditation, conversation, and deep reflection, I am slowly beginning to realize that life will not be a straight line, nor should it be. I learn things and forget them, meet people and lose them, move across the country and stay in the same place. It, like time, is a cycle and flat. It reminds me to live in the present moment, the only moment that truly exists.

Be like water, cycle.

Water has always been sacred to me, life, power, beauty, understanding inside the drops of rain, transformed to trees, grass, and flowers, or beating through the veins of every human I’ve ever known. I will continue my thinking about water, and hope that its lessons will continue to lead me along.