Tag Archives: Politics

Avoiding Awkwardness

Last week when I saw her briefly (she brought me homemade vegan pumpkin cheesecake!), C mentioned wanting me to try internal family systems therapy.  Apparently she’d gone to a seminar about it, or a seminar where it was discussed, or something.  She mentioned she’d met several therapists from my town that do that kind of therapy, but all of them were men.  She’s going to try to find out if they can refer us to any women.

Of course, I don’t know how the hell I’d get there.  My city councilor is still trying to figure out the bus issue for me, but they’re telling him my street never had a stop, which is bullshit.  I’d qualify for paratransit, but it costs two to three times what the regular bus does.  Sorry, but how is that equal accessibility for disabled people.  I literally can’t afford those few extra dollars.   (I’m too embarrassed to tell my city councilor that, though.)

Anyway, yesterday and today, we had two volunteers, husband and wife, come in for some shifts, and the wife mentioned that they’re both therapists.  Because I’m a little bit of a creeper, I Googled them–and he does IFS therapy.  Given that this is a small town, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was one of the ones C met at this seminar.

How fucking awkward would THAT be?  I mean, the guy called me brilliant yesterday.  I really like working on the campaign because it makes me feel competent.  I can be someone other than fucked-up, broken, dysfunctional, crazy Kyra who can’t get her life together at all.  Instead, I’m smart and competent Kyra who can run an office full of volunteers for 14 hours and keep it all together.  I like that role better, even though I know it’s a very time-limited role.  (Not because the election’s almost over, but because I know I can’t sustain it for very long.)

So I can’t let my work life and my dysfunctional life intersect at all.  This campaign is almost over, but in a small town, you run into the same volunteers on campaign after campaign.  It’s a big part of why I blog anonymously–I need to keep these parts of my life separate.  I think I’m going to email C, give her this guy’s name, and ask her not to use my name if she calls this guy to ask for a recommendation for a female IFS therapist.  I’m probably being slightly paranoid, but still….


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Today I got to go to a meet and greet with Elizabeth Warren, Martha Coakley (gov candidate), and Maura Healey (AG candidate).  It was pretty great.  I’ve heard Senator Warren speak before, of course, but never so up close and personal.  I even got to shake her hand.  I wanted to get a picture with her, but there wasn’t a chance because I had to run around and do campaign stuff.

One of the guys they brought in from Boston was freaking out about the event this morning.  We weren’t allowed to push it until this afternoon–the campaign was suspended for a little while following Mayor Menino’s death, and there was a big rally in another city fairly close that we didn’t want to take people away from.  So we couldn’t push people toward our event until 6 hours before it started, and he was afraid nobody would show up.  But this is a very liberal/progressive town, and Elizabeth’s status is like unto God’s.  Say her name around here, and 200 people will show up easy.  Which is what we told him, and that’s exactly what happened.

Two old friends of mine from the Obama campaign were at the event, and I got to hang out with them while my bosses were drinking.  A reporter from the local paper overheard me talking about how I loved Maura because the first event of hers I went to was a house party around disability issues, and she managed to talk about people with disabilities without making me want to throw things, which is exceedingly rare.  Apparently the reporter thought that was a good story and asked if she could interview me.  So maybe I’ll be in the paper, talking about disability stuff, which would be cool.  It did get a little awkward because she asked about my specific disability.  I just said that I have a severe autoimmune disorder that affects multiple systems and sometimes causes mobility impairment.  I put in a plug for invisible illnesses too: “I don’t always need the cane, so my disability is often invisible, which makes it hard to access disability services.”

Then I also got interviewed by the campaign’s videographer.  They’re putting together a video about why it’s important for people to get out and vote, so I talked about that, why I support Martha, and what I’ll be doing on election day.  That’ll probably just go out on the campaign website, Facebook, and maybe Twitter.

After the event, we still had to go back to the office and enter data because the HQ staff are insisting it has to be entered by midnight every night.  That sounds like it’s not that hard, but we knocked around 700 doors today, and each of those results has to be entered.  I was running the whole office for most of the day today, so I got way behind on data.  Every time I’d sit down to enter data, another volunteer would come in or someone would call with a question or I’d have to cut new turf or phone lists.  I barely had time to use the bathroom, let alone enter stacks of data.

Then a field organizer from another part of our region wanted me to enter his data too.  While I was at our meet and greet.  He said, “Well, if I email to to you, can you do it after the event?”  I wanted to be like, “Bitch plz.  I cannot do everything for this region all by myself.”  Instead, I just said, “Not tonight, I’m way behind on my data.  Sorry.”  I’m kind of proud of myself for being able to set a boundary, even though it’s a small one.  It’s really hard for me because I feel like if I refuse to do anything anyone asks of me, I don’t deserve to exist and should just kill myself.  But the regional field director has just been telling all the staff in our area, “If you can’t get to something, just delegate it to Kyra.”  I mean, I appreciate the trust and all, but I’m only one person who can only handle so much.  I could never get the hang of juggling in elementary school PE class.

Best part of the day, after the event, when we were entering data, one of my bosses got a packet from a new volunteer.  She left us detailed notes about basically everything people said to her, which is unnecessary and annoying to data people.

HIM: “God, I fucking hate volunteers.”
ME: “Hi, I’m Kyra, and I’m a volunteer.”
HIM: “Not you.  You’re, like, a staff volunteer.”

That’s basically true.  I work almost as many hours, and I have the same level of Votebuilder access as the field organizers.  Regular volunteers just assume I’m staff, and Martha knows my name.  But it’s kind of nice to know they think of me that way because I constantly feel inferior to them.  I mean, of my three bosses, one works for Elizabeth Warren, one works for a state senator, and the third is on his tenth political campaign.  Next to them, I feel stupid and inexperienced.  Maybe they don’t see me that way, though.  I hope.

Okay.  Time for a long, hot bath, where I’ll reread Game of Thrones, and then bed.  I get to do this all over again tomorrow.


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In which I ramble about my job to distract from my misery

In case you wondered what I do all day:

Actually, lately I can’t do a lot of door-knocking because of my mobility issues, but I train interns and volunteers on how to canvass.  Occasionally I’m able to get out and knock doors for a little while.

I also do a lot of the organizational stuff behind canvassing.  Those clipboards in the video?  Someone has to assemble the packets that go on them.  First, I do what’s called cutting turf.  There are certain people that the campaign wants us to reach out to–they’re called targets.  They vary based on the stage of the campaign, the area, and the goals.  It’s always Democrats and sometimes unaffiliated voters who lean Democrat.  (Massachusetts has the greatest percentage of voters who aren’t affiliated with a party of any state.)  Sometimes we target people who almost always vote, but mostly we target people who vote sporadically so that we can urge them to vote.  (The perfect/excellent/likely voters are probably going to vote even if we don’t talk to them.)  So I get on Votebuilder, the data management system used by pretty much every Democratic campaign, and pull a list of those people.  Often, HQ will give us particular wards or precincts they want us to work on in particular towns, so I narrow my list to just those people.  Then I get a map, and each house is a little dot.  Depending on our goals and the number of canvassers we’re expecting, I have to cut turfs anywhere between 40 and 120 doors.  You want the houses to be close together so it’s easy for the canvassers to walk, and if you can, you want to avoid steep hills and long driveways because they slow people down.  In some places, you also have to beware of sketchy neighborhoods.

I can’t take a screenshot from Votebuilder because it’s got all kinds of private information, so I created a similar image.

This is what it looks like when I first start cutting a turf.  It’s a street map, and all the houses are dots.  (And yes, this is my town, and it really does have a park called Mary Brown’s Dingle.  I have not been able to find out why.  New England is weird, man.)


This is what it looks like to cut a turf, only in Votebuilder, the lines are nice and straight instead of looking like they were drawn by a four-year-old.  I’m not an artist, okay?  Basically, I have to make sure that each turf (one outlined in red, the other in blue) have roughly equal numbers of doors and are reasonably easy to walk.

I spend an absurd amount of time every day doing this.  It’s not difficult, but it’s fiddly and labor-intensive.  And don’t get me started on how labor-intensive it is to get our printer to work.

We also make a lot of phone calls, so I have to cut the lists for those, too.  That’s a similar process but without the maps, so it goes a lot quicker.

After canvasses and phone banks, all that data has to get entered into Votebuilder so all the campaign staff know who we’ve talked to and what they told us.  A lot of that gets done automatically–we try to get canvassers to use a smartphone app called miniVAN (VAN is another name for Votebuilder), which lets them record their results and instantly sync it to our Votebuilder database.  Most of our phone banks are done online, either through Votebuilder’s virtual phone banks or through an awesome predictive dialer called HubDialer, which lets us talk to 5-6 times more voters in the same amount of time.  But we do have canvassers without smartphones and phone bankers without laptops, so I end up with big stacks of data.  The results of each call or door has to be entered manually.  Again, labor-intensive and fiddly, but not difficult.

I also make a lot of recruitment calls (asking people to volunteer) and confirmation calls (calling people who’ve signed up to volunteer to make sure they’re still coming).  I collate data–campaigns are obsessed with metrics, and you have to report in frequently.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they added “milligrams of caffeine consumed” and “cumulative sleep debt” to our metrics–they want to know every single detail, as long as it can be numericized.  (Is that even a word?  Whatevs.)

Plus, because my boss’s boss knows about my hatred of lawn signs, he thought it would be hilarious to make me the “yard sign coordinator” for our entire region.  That means any time someone requests a yard sign, the call or email gets forward to me.  I have to act like yard signs are awesome and say how sorry I am that we just gave away our last one because they’re going like hotcakes.  “But there are lots of other ways you can help our Democratic ticket!” I tell them.  “One really great way is to spend a couple hours knocking on doors.  Would you be able to join us on Election Day?”  Inevitably, they won’t–they just want to “help” the candidates passively.  I swear to you, my boss did this entirely for his own amusement.

So yeah, this is the stuff I spend 14 hours a day doing.  It ain’t like campaigns on The West Wing or anything–not as romantic as some people think it is.  It’s probably not actually interesting to anyone but me, but I needed a distraction tonight.  So you get 1000 words about it.

(When will I ever not find an excuse for a Joe Biden gif?  Never, that’s when.)


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Things Political Organizers Want You to Know

So, most of my first of ten 14-hour days is almost over.  I handled it a lot better than I thought I would, especially considering I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night.  (In that respect, caffeine helps.)  I’m fatigued and shaky now, even though I’ve spent all day sitting down, but that’s okay.  Hopefully I’ll get some better sleep tonight.

So, since I can’t rant at people on the phone, I have a rant about things that drive organizers crazy/things we want you to know.  (And by “organizers” and “we,” I basically mean me, although I know a lot of these things drive other organizers crazy too.)

  • We’re actually not all that excited about knocking on your door or calling you at home.  In fact, a lot of volunteers and even paid organizers have perennial anxiety about it.  I mean, it’s everything most of us are taught not to do in polite society: don’t bother people, don’t talk to strangers, don’t talk about politics.  We do this because we believe it’s important to get people engaged with the electoral process.  In the 2012 election, only 57.5% of registered voters actually voted.  In the 2010 midterms, it was only 42%.  We do this job because we truly believe that our government will work better and represent us more accurately if more people get out and vote.
  • There are also statistical reasons we get up in your business before elections.  We have studies that show people are mostly likely to vote if someone knocks on their door and talks to them face-to-face.  Phone calls also increase the likelihood that someone will get out and vote, although not as much as face-to-face contact.  We also have studies that show that the more times someone is contacted, the more likely they are to vote.  With inconsistent voters (people who vote in some elections but not every one), it takes an average of three contacts to ensure that they vote.  So yes, it’s probably annoying to get a bunch of calls from us, but we do it because it works.  There’s math and science and stuff.
  • But we really are sorry we annoy you.  We don’t mean to.  We just believe in our candidates so much and value your vote so much that we really want to make sure you do go and vote.  Think of it this way: your vote is your voice, and we really want to hear your vote.  When we call you a bunch of times, it’s because you’re important and we value you.
  • Please be nice to us.  Really, we’re nice people.
  • Even if you don’t want to talk to us, you can still be nice.  It’s not that hard, I promise.  I’m basically an asshole, so if I can get cussed out and say, “Okay, well, you have a nice day,” then you can be polite too.  If you don’t want any more calls, all you have to do is say, “Please take me off your list.”  We’ll do it for you, even if you don’t yell or swear.  We have a little checkbox on our computer and everything!  We’ll still think you’re serious and take you off even if you’re polite about it.  (I actually think it’s an FCC regulation, but even if it weren’t, we’d still do it for you.)
  • Also, you don’t have to lie to us if you don’t want to talk to us.  It’s really okay, and we’re not going to force you to listen.  You can just say, “Thanks, but I’m really not interested.”  Don’t say, “Hang on” and then hang up.  Then I’m sitting there for two or three minutes thinking you’re going to get the person I asked for, in which time I could’ve made two or three other calls.  When you’re trying (as a team) to call 25,000 people every night, two or three minutes really does make a difference.
  • If I ask for your spouse and you yell to them, “It’s somebody from Jane Smith’s campaign,” to them, we can hear you.  We can also hear your spouse when they yell, “I don’t want to talk to them.”  So when you come back and tell me, “Oh, s/he’s asleep/in the shower/not home,” I’m going to laugh at you as soon as you hang up.
  • When I say, “Hi, my name is Kyra, and I’m a volunteer for Jane Smith’s campaign,” you can just tell me that you don’t support my candidate.  You don’t need to yell, “Awww, SHIT!” and then hang up the phone, or say, “Joe Smith sucks” and then hang up the phone.  You could just say, “Thanks, but I’m voting for John Jones instead.”  I won’t even be offended, even if I think you’re wrong.  I get calls from candidates I don’t like too, and sometimes I want to tell them what I think of their candidate, which generally involves a lot of swear words.  But you know what?  I don’t.  Callers are people too, and they’re just doing their job.  Most of them don’t even get paid for it; they do it because they genuinely believe in their candidate.  So if I can politely inform them that I won’t vote for their candidate, you can too.
  • If you really like my candidate, tell me!  Canvassers and phone bankers really like to engage with enthusiastic voters.  Generally, we do this because we’re enthusiastic about the candidate too, but sometimes it can get exhausting and demoralizing.  Enthusiastic voters give us a little cheering up.
  • We also like it when you’re kind to us.  Little things make a big difference.  For example, my intro on calls is always, “Hi, my name is Kyra, and I’m a volunteer with Jane Smith’s campaign.  How are you doing tonight?”  I really appreciate it when people also ask how I’m doing.  It’s also nice at the end of the call when people say, “Have a nice night” or thank me for the work I’m doing.  I always make it a point to say these things when other phone bankers call me, even if I don’t agree with their issue or candidate.  Kindness, people.  It makes the world go ’round.
  • We like to hear a little bit of your story about why you’re supporting the candidate (e.g., “I’m a schoolteacher, and I’m supporting her because she wants to guarantee universal preschool”), but I really don’t need your whole life story.  It may sound cold, but I don’t have the time to make a personal connection when I’m canvassing or phone banking.  As I mentioned earlier, we often have huge goals for the number of people to talk to, and we can’t meet those goals if we have heart-to-heart conversations with a lot of voters.
  • Don’t tell us how we should be running the campaign.  Seriously, don’t.  We have a campaign manager for that, and consultants, and a field director.  These are people who have gone to school to study this stuff, and they have a lot of experience on a lot of campaigns.  We have studies and data that tell us what works and what doesn’t.  Also, with the rapid pace of technological advancement, the best ways to reach voters are constantly expanding and changing.  We base the decisions on how to run the campaign on lots and lots and lots of data.  Also, the person who just knocked on your door or called you is probably a volunteer, and we have no say in those decisions.
  • We can’t control the ads that other candidates or PAC’s put out.  I’m really sorry you think our opponent’s ads are too negative and are dragging down the tone of the campaign.  I happen to agree with you.  But what, exactly, do you think I can do about it?
  • I also can’t tell you why any other campaign is running their campaign the way they do.  I don’t have access to their data and internal numbers.  If I’m calling you on Election Day, I don’t know what the results are until they’re officially released.  I am not psychically connected to my campaign manager, any other campaign managers, or voting machines.
  • I won’t tell you anything about our internal numbers.  That data is confidential.  No, I’m not kidding.  If we wanted everybody to have access to those numbers, we’d put them on our website.
  • If you’re worried that the poll numbers are really close, come help out!  The more volunteers we have, the more doors we can knock on and phone calls we can make.  The more voters we contact, the more votes we win.  Do you understand the math here?  Just complaining or worrying about the polls doesn’t help, but working to shift those numbers in our favor really does make you feel better.
  • No, you can’t get a yard sign.  I have a whole rant about yard signs that involves studies and data, but the gist is that yard signs are a ridiculous waste of money.  If you keep asking about or glorifying yard signs, I will shove a stake up your butt and you can be the yard sign.

I think that’s all my rants for tonight, but expect more in the next 9 days.  Apparently ranting is how I cope with basically everything, especially since I have to be nice and not offend anyone in real life.


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Scattered Thoughts

  • I’m not sleeping again.  The past week it’s been pretty bad.  I just don’t feel like there’s any point in trying to fix it.  I’m used to sleep deprivation by now, and I can deal with it.  I’d rather just deal with it than go back on meds that leave me foggy all day long.
  • Don’t pick a chauvinist fight with me on the internet at 2:00 am.  I get pretty punchy.  And if you’re dumb enough to provoke a fight by being a sexist asshole, then don’t think you’re going to win by insulting me and trying to shut me up.  It’s not going to work, and you’ll look like an idiot because I can dance rhetorical circles around you.  And I will laugh about it the whole fucking time.  Especially at your pathetic insults and attempts at intimidation.  I work in politics, and I talk to people much, much scarier than you, Princess Poop-for-Brains.  You’re gonna have to really step it up if you want to scare me.
  • I went to a meet & greet with our Lieutenant Governor candidate and several state senators and representatives.  I went with a friend who lives in the same ward as I do, and the city councilor from our ward was there.  He came over and said hi, and he said, “You’re the only normal people here.”  Um, thanks?  I don’t often get called normal.  Ten minutes later he called me a unicorn, after I said I was one of those rare voters who is persuaded by facts and hard data rather than abstractions and fuzzy-wuzzy feelings about a candidate.  (We’ll leave my huge Platonic crush on Joe Biden out of this.)  So apparently I’m a normal unicorn.
  • My gastroenterologist’s office called and said my labs all came back normal.  Uh, then why can I still not stand up for more than two minutes?  I just want a definitive answer about what the hell is going on with my body.  Even if it can’t be treated, even if it’s going to get worse, I want to know.  If I know what’s going on and what I can expect in the future, then I can accept it.  But how can you accept something when you don’t know what it even is?  How can I make plans and learn how to deal with it if I don’t know what’s happening?  It’s just so frustrating.
  • My new case manager is somewhat better than the last one, but she never asks how I’m feeling or how I’m coping.  I can’t find it in me to bring up on my own how much I’m struggling, and I can’t ask for more help on my own.  But if she would just ask, then I could tell her.  But she doesn’t, so I can’t.  I hate how powerless that makes me sound.  Hell, I hate how powerless it makes me feel.  But for now, that’s the reality of the situation.


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“Just a little easier.”

I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son’s in public school. It’s no good. I mean, there’s 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can’t pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s-that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier. ‘Cause in that difference is… everything.

–The West Wing, “20 Hours in America”

Tonight/last night (it gets fuzzy; I’m not sleeping again) was good.  We had a Get Out the Vote (GOTV) summit for the coordinated campaign, and I finally feel like I’m back in the loop again.  It turns out that I was right–I basically got lost in the shuffle when things got rearranged for the coordinated campaign.  The field organizer I’d been working with got shifted out toward central Mass, and they pulled the field organizer from that part of central mass out here to western Mass.  (Don’t ask what the logic is there.  I have no idea.  Welcome to campaign life.)  But we have a dry run this weekend, and I’m all signed up for that.

Plus, I snagged some rally signs for my Halloween costume.  I’m going to be a yard sign, and on my back it’s going to say, “I’m a yard sign.  I can’t vote, so go knock some doors.”  I haaaaate yard signs, and the old guard organizers in my area are obsessed with them.  They started in on it tonight, and I wanted to stand up in a chair and yell, “LET ME TELL YOU A THING.  Yard signs do not work in anything bigger than small-town school board elections.  I don’t care that you think they work because I can cite four peer-reviewed studies that say you’re just WRONG, so please, for the love of the old gods and the new, can we SHUT UP about yard signs?”  I didn’t, of course.  I just covered my mouth and laughed silently until they shut up.  And then some guy started in on, “When I was in Bangkok, they advertised on the ice cream trucks that would drive around all the neighborhoods.”  At that point I had to excuse myself to the bathroom because ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS I CAN’T EVEN.  Just because you’ve been working on campaigns for the last 60 years doesn’t mean you actually know what you’re doing.  The demographics have shifted, the technology has shifted, and we have lots of studies proving that the things we’re asking you to do work and the things you want us to let you do don’t work.

Political organizing has taught me many things, but patience is probably not one of them.  I mean, I can tolerate it, but not especially well.  And at some point, something snarky would slip out of my mouth because sometimes I just can’t contain it.  Like, “Hey, this is not Bangkok in 1955,” or “If you mention yard signs one more time, I will impale you on one and you can be the yard sign.”  This is also why I’d never get elected to public office.  Remember Joe Biden in the 2012 Veep Debate?  Multiply that by ten and add a bunch of words they’d have to bleep out, and that would be me.  I’d probably be all composed and smart for half of it, and then my opponent would say something really provocative, and I’d slip.  It would be hilarious, but it would make me unelectable.

biden_malarkyJoe Biden is my snarky Platonic soul mate.  But if you think he’s a loose cannon, I promise you, I’d be like a loose…I don’t know, ballistic missile launcher or something.

(I swear I’m not actually a serial killer or anything.  I wouldn’t actually impale anyone.  I just get really sick of people who have no idea what they’re talking about hijacking meetings run by people who do know what they’re talking about.)

Anyway, it was cool because somebody I’d worked with on the Obama campaign in 2012 showed up.  She was our neighborhood team leader, and she became a bit of a surrogate mother figure to me.  We’ve been in touch sporadically–she now runs a pro-choice group–but our paths haven’t crossed in months.  It was really cool to catch up with her.  And she invited me to a meet and greet tomorrow night.  It’s our lieutenant governor candidate, our state senator and representative, and some other state senators and reps.  I’ve met most of them before, at least the ones from my district, but meet and greets are always kind of fun.  But the location is this diner where nobody under 70 goes ordinarily, and they play Fox News.  Interesting choice of venue for a Democratic party event.  *shrugs*

Then, because I was feeling pretty good, I decided I was going to go online and apply to the state university near me to go back and finish my undergrad degree.  They use a common application, so I went to that site and started doing it.  First of all, they want a $75 application fee.  I can’t even pay to heat my house, and that’s almost two weeks’ worth of food.  You can apply for a fee waiver–but your high school guidance counselor has to verify your financial need for a waiver.  I graduated in 2004, for fuck’s sake.  I don’t have a high school guidance counselor.

Then they want your parents’ entire life history.  Well, okay, their educational history.  Which meant I had to Google my father’s resume.  The father who sexually abused, raped, and tortured me for 16 years.  The father who was a cop.  The father who’s now the chair of the criminal justice department at a Midwestern college.  I thought I was going to die from a heart attack–I don’t even want to know how high my heart rate jumped up–but I managed that.

But the final straw was standardized test scores.  You can’t submit the application without test scores, but you can only enter test scores going back to 2009.  I took the SAT and ACT in 2003.  I remember what my scores were, but I don’t have the proof anymore.  And it won’t let me enter them because the dates are invalid.  Oh, and you can’t submit it without contact info for your high school guidance counselor, which, as previously mentioned, I don’t have.

The whole thing is clearly meant for high school kids.  I know I cannot possibly be the only nontraditional student trying to apply to college, but they’ve made the application literally impossible.  I probably shouldn’t have even bothered trying–I’ve been in such a bad place, and I know my sanity is very fragile right now.  But I tried because I’m an idiot, and now I feel totally hopeless.  I feel like the whole world wants me to fail, like they don’t want me to be able to get a degree so I can never get a job that will let me escape poverty.  I feel like they want me to kill myself because I’m a worthless burden on society.  I know that’s crazy, bordering on paranoid, and yet…I can’t convince myself out of believing it.

I hate my brain.  I really, really hate it.

I don’t expect things to be easy.  Like the quote at the top, I think things should be hard.  But not like this.  My life right now is too hard.  It’s impossible for me to succeed.  It’s the Kobayashi Maru, only it’s not a simulation and it doesn’t end once I accept that I can’t fix the impossible situation.  Making my life work should be hard, but it should be just a little easier.  But I don’t have the advantage of running into any White House staffers in a bar who can craft policy inspired by my difficulties.  I barely have a voice, and nobody who has power to change things really notices me, not enough to see how hard things are.


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Check Your Privilege: Financial Stress Edition

There may be be a day when I write a post that isn’t rage dressed up like sociopolitical commentary…


I think at this point rage and stubbornness may be the only things actually keeping my body going.

Disclaimer: I know a few people who know me outside this blog also read here, but this post is not about you.  It’s not about any one person–more about an amalgamation of people or an archetype, something like that.  So if you think this is about you, it’s not.

Okay, on to the rant.

I’m really sick of people with the privilege of economic security telling me I need to stop worrying about money.  There are different varieties of it: God Will Provide, You Attract What You Put Out Into the Universe, We’re All Stressed Out About Money, If You Would Just, and It Can’t Really Be As Bad As All That.  There are probably other variations, but these are the ones I keep running into.

God Will Provide
I’ve written a whole other rant about American religion and its relationship to poverty, complete with historical references from John Calvin to Calvin Coolidge.  (Okay, I don’t think I actually mentioned either of them by name in that post, but c’mon, it’s great symmetry.)  At best, this kind of response is a polite way of saying, “Don’t make me notice things that create cognitive dissonance with my belief system.”  At worst, it’s victim-blaming: if God doesn’t provide for your needs, it must be because you’re a bad person/because he’s judging you/because you don’t believe the right way.  I think most people fall into the first category–they don’t know how to respond to the reality of poverty, so they fall back on what’s most comfortable to them.  Still, it’s dismissive, and it’s disrespectful to those who may not share your particular religious beliefs.

You Attract What You Put Out Into the Universe
Again, victim-blaming, which is probably the most common reaction to poverty.  The reality is that positive thinking can’t fix everything.  Meditating on my checking account balance will never actually make the numbers go up.  If positive thinking makes you happier, makes your problems more manageable, awesome!  I’m happy for you, truly.  But there is no scientific evidence that positive thinking has lifted anyone out of poverty.  And again, this is a spiritual belief that the poor person you’re talking to may not share.

We’re All Stressed Out About Finances
This is probably true of 99% of people, so no argument from me on the basic facts here.  But the implication of this kind of statement is that all financial worries are created equal, and that simply is not true.  Let me tell you a thing about a guy named Maslow.  He came up with this hierarchy of needs that’s a well-known sociological model.  The basic gist of it is that until you get your basic physical needs met, you can’t worry about anything else.  Here’s a handy visual aid, mostly because oil pastels are a good conduit for my rage.  (It’s a crappy photo.  Sorry.)

2014-10-09 00.03.30

Basically, if you can’t reliably meet needs like food, shelter, and bodily safety, nothing else matters.  You can live without the top third of the pyramid.  It may not be happy or fun, but it’s safe and secure.  It doesn’t mean the higher needs aren’t real or valid or important, though.  What it means is that when I’m trying to build the foundation of my pyramid, it’s hard for me to empathize with your struggle to meet needs higher on the pyramid.  I get that you want to have another baby, but you and your partner want to buy a house instead of renting so your kids have a yard and you don’t have to keep paying rent.  I get that it’s stressful to figure out all of that.  But your need is not the same as my need to have reliable housing so I’m not homeless in the middle of a New England winter.  When you put them on the same level, you’re dismissing the fact that my need is a matter or life and death.  Your need is still real and valid and important, and your worry about not being able to meet it is still real and valid and important.  But it is not the same as my need and my worry.

If You Would Just…
This one may be the one that makes me craziest, probably because it’s the one I encounter the most.  Occasionally, it’s thinly veiled judgment: “Well, you wouldn’t be poor if you didn’t spend your money on that iPhone” or “Stop shopping at Whole Foods all the time and you’ll have more money.”  Those ones are pretty easy to spot–there’s that signature body language and tone of voice we all recognize.

But usually I think it comes from a place of wanting to help.  I think most people genuinely want other people to be happy.  It’s hard to see someone suffer and acknowledge that we can’t fix it, so to soothe our own feelings of helplessness, we jump in with lots of helpful suggestions.  “Apply for food stamps,” “Get on the waiting list for section 8,” “Have you looked at the food bank?” and so on.  It’s nice that you want to help.  Thank you for that.  But please, stop before you start.

Offering unsolicited advice assumes incompetence.  I’m a smart, resourceful person.  Most poor people are incredibly resourceful–it’s how we survive.  We probably already know about the resources available to us, and you’re probably the fifth person to suggest the same things to us this week.  I try to be gracious about it, but it gets increasingly frustrating and I eventually want to stand on a chair and yell, “I am not stupid!  If there were an obvious answer, I would’ve found it by now!”  Generally, when I’m talking to someone in a peer capacity (i.e., I have not come into your office with questions about specific resources), I don’t want you to try to fix it for me.  I just want you to listen and hear me and be present with me in what I’m struggling with.  It can be hard at first to circumvent the hardwired imperative to fix people, but I’ve found that once I learned how to just sit with someone, it actually became easier for me emotionally, and it allowed me to connect with the other person much more deeply.

It Can’t Really Be That Bad
I don’t actually have that much to say about that beyond a resounding FUCK YOU.  Of all the things I could say for attention, of all the things I could make up or exaggerate, why would I tell you something laced with so much personal and societal shame?  If I want attention, I’ll tell you about the time I taught a college class the parts of the ear when I was three years old or the two times I’ve gotten to shake President Obama’s hand.  If I want pity or I’m trying to make excuses, well, I don’t have to try very hard to find that.  I have a disease that makes me shit myself because my entire large intestine turns into one giant, bleeding, excruciatingly painful ulcer.  Most days I have to use a cane if I’m going to be vertical for more than 30 seconds at a time.  It wouldn’t be hard to find sympathy if that’s what I were looking for.

But if I’m telling you about my experience of poverty, it’s not because I want pity or attention.  It’s because I want you to understand.  I want you to realize that even though I walk, talk, and look like a middle-class white girl, I’m not.  I want you to realize that poverty has a lot of different faces, not just the guy at the corner asking for change.  For some of us, poverty is less visible, better camouflaged.  In many ways that’s an advantage–we get wider social acceptance, it’s easier for us to find jobs, we face less obvious prejudice and hatred and fear.  But it also means that the few anti-poverty programs we have don’t always address our particular needs.  It means politicians don’t talk about people like us when they try to address poverty.  Nobody wants to be invisible, so when I tell you about my situation, it’s because I’m giving you the chance to see more of you than most people will.  Please don’t make me regret that.


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Both of my candidates won tonight!

The media kept saying there would be low turnout and widespread apathy among voters, but my gubernatorial candidate’s campaign knocked on doors and called more than 100,000 voters in the last three days to remind them to get out and vote. That’s not apathy.

Hell, I spent the morning at urgent care with a fever of 101 and a raging sinus infection, but I convinced the PA I saw to go vote for my candidate during her lunch break. I might feel like I’m dying, but I got a vote in person and then went and made hours of phone calls. That’s not apathy.

As soon as her acceptance speech is over, I’m gonna take some antibiotics and some NyQuil and get some well-deserved sleep.


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Depression takes over

Why can’t I just ask for help?  Why can’t I tell anyone that I need a therapist?  That I’m falling apart and need far more help than I’m getting?

Things are bad.  I’ve been kind of in denial, hoping that if I didn’t name it, it would go away.  But instead of going away, it’s getting worse.  Depression.

Right now, I can’t make myself care about anything, even the things I was most passionate about.  My sister, who I love more than anything in the world, is getting married, and I don’t care.  I’m seeing my sisters for the first time in 5 years, and I don’t care.  I want to care.  I act like I care.  I go through the motions, but the truth is I don’t care.

Same with work.  I love politics.  I love feeling like I have a voice and I’m doing something that matters.  Except now I don’t care.  I don’t want to fight.  It all feels totally pointless.  I feel like I can’t really change anything, and no one cares what I have to say because I’m sick and crippled and poor and useless.  Whatever is going to happen is going to happen regardless of my involvement.  I feel like I have no power and no purpose.

There was a phone bank last night, and I slept through it.  On purpose.  I knew it was happening, but I just didn’t care.  I couldn’t force myself to cold-call 200 people who just want to get me off the phone as fast as possible.  It all felt pointless, and I couldn’t bear to pretend it meant anything.  So I ignored the calls and texts and Facebook messages.  I just laid there in bed, half asleep, sweating under my comforter.  It’s the only place I feel okay at all, curled up and covered up, wrapped up safe from the world.

It feels like the world is just too much to deal with right now.  All I want to do is hide and sleep, but since I can’t sleep, I watch trashy TV shows on Netflix for 12 hours a day.  That’s what my life is.  That’s all my life is.  I haven’t done any work.  I don’t have any friends to go out with.  Nobody checks to make sure I’m actually okay.  I haven’t looked for new roommates.  Things are falling apart, and I just can’t care because it’s all just more than I can handle.  The world outside my bedroom is more than I can handle, and no one in my life even notices anything is at all wrong with me.

I wish I could just die.  I don’t want to kill myself; I just want to be not alive anymore.


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When the Weirdos Come Out: Campaign Edition 1/?

Since I don’t seem to have anything of substance to say, have some funny campaign stories instead.


A few weeks ago, I was out canvassing for my gubernatorial candidate (MC) with a new intern I was training.  I think I’ve mentioned before that recently I’ve started using a cane because it’s hard for me to be on my feet for more than a few moment.  Mostly people are polite about it or don’t mention it at all.

But this particular voter interrupted my spiel.  “Hi, my name is Hope, this is J, and we’re with–“

“What’s wrong with you?”

He sounded curious, not hostile, but I was still taken aback.  “Pardon?”

He pointed at my cane.  “That.  What’s wrong with you?  Were you in the war?  Lose a leg?”

I’m wearing a knee-length skirt, so it’s pretty clear I have both legs.  I’m also not even sure which war he’s referring to.  “Uh…no.  I have an autoimmune disorder that sometimes makes it hard for me to walk.”

He then launched into a rambly story about his service in the war (from what I could gather, I think he meant Vietnam).  He started to tell us about one of his friends, and then he interrupted himself mid-sentence.  “Who are you?”

“My name is Hope, and this is J.  We’re with MC’s campaign for governor.”

“Oh.  What’s she running for?”


“And she’s making you come out here in this hot sun when you can’t even walk?”

“No, sir, I volunteer my time, so I chose to come out here today and talk to voters about her message of fairness, equality, and opportunity.”  I was desperately trying to unsink a sinking ship.  “Can she count of your vote in the primary?”

“Well, who else is running?”

I gave him a brief run-down of her two challengers in the Democratic primary and mentioned the Republican and Independent candidates who are also running.

“I might vote for that…what’s his name?  Scott Brown.”

(For those of you not familiar with New England politics, Scott Brown is a Republican who beat my candidate for a US Senate seat in 2010 after Ed Kennedy died.  In 2012, Elizabeth Warren beat him, and Brown is now carpetbagging in New Hampshire but so far trailing Jeanne Shaheen in the polls.)

“He’s not running in Massachusetts this time.”

“He’s not?  Well, I’ll vote for the Democrats.  I always vote for the Democrats.  Been voting for ’em for 40 years.”

“That’s great.  So can MC count on your vote in the Democratic primary?”

“Tell you what, I’ll vote for her ’cause you’re out here in this hot sun with your walker.  But I might vote for Scott Brown in November.”

“All right, sir, well, thank you for you time.  Have a good afternoon!”

As we were walking away, my intern looked at me and asked, “So…is that normal?”

I had to reassure him that no, that was not a typical voter contact conversation, and that this far from the election, most voters are still going to be undecided, assuming they’re even home to open the door.


I’ve also been doing a farmers’ market table for my AG candidate (MH) on Saturday mornings.  My town is heavily Democratic, tends to be a younger age bracket because there are five colleges in the area, and is the lesbian capital of the country.  So overall, we tend to have mostly open-minded, respectful people.  But not all of them….

The first weirdo I got yesterday walked over to my table.

“Hi!  Would you like some information about MH?”

“Who’s that?”

Bear in mind, he’s walked over to my table that has four large “MH for Attorney General” signs taped to it, and I’m wearing two MH buttons and handing out palm cards.

“She’s a candidate for attorney general.”  I gave him a brief spiel about what she’s already accomplished working under our current AG (who also happens to be my gubernatorial candidate).  “Are there any particular issues you’re interested in this election?”

“What’s that thing in your nose?”

It’s allergy season, so my first thought was that I might have a huge booger, but all I can feel is my nose ring.  “What, my nose ring?  Just jewelry.”

“Does she know about that?” he asked sternly.

“Um…maybe?  She’s met me a number of times, but I don’t know for sure because she’s never commented on my jewelry.”  I tried to hand him a palm card.  “So can she count on your vote in the primary?”

“I’m from Connecticut.”  And then he just walked off.


The second weirdo came up to the table and pointed at the signs.  “Who’s that?”

“MH?  She’s running for attorney general.  Are you familiar with her at all?”


I gave him the same spiel I give everybody–fought big banks, kept Massachusetts homeowners in their homes, defeated DOMA, advocated for people with disabilities, fought for women’s rights.

“Well, why do we need a woman?”

“Why not?” I said.  “A woman can do just as good a job.”

“No, they’re always too worried about their kids.”

“Well, MH doesn’t have any kids.”

“They make lousy lawyers, too.”

“Are you aware that our current attorney general is a woman?”

He looked at me like I was trying to pull something over on him.  “You sure?”

“Yes, sir.  Her name’s MC, and she’s been our attorney general for the last 7 years.  MH has been working under her.”

“But she’s quitting the job?”

“Right, she won’t be the attorney general after this year.”

“Good.  Shouldn’t have a woman in a man’s job.”

I grinned.  “She won’t be attorney general anymore because she’s running for governor, and she’s way ahead in all the polls.”

He went off grumbling something about “goddamn women.”


Mostly, though, the people I deal with are very nice and not like these people.  And these ones weren’t even mean, just…they make you shake your head as they walk away and mumble, “Ooooookay then” because, really, what else can you say?


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