I’m Brave, But I’m Chickenshit

23 Sep

Title of post comes from an Alanis Morissette song, “Hand In My Pocket.” I’ll be extensively quoting the lyrics (all emphasis mine) in the post. I’ll also be reading things into them that probably weren’t intended when the song was written. A public service announcement before we get started: beware of rampaging run-on sentences.

This song has been running through my head for weeks, since the first time I heard it, driving down a highway in Idaho. A lot of the songs from Jagged Little Pill speak to me, but not in quite as personal a way as “Hand In My Pocket” does. I think it’s the fact that the lyrics are cynical, yet suggest hope for the future. In a lot of ways, the song operates in a similar way to her song “Ironic,” but “Hand…” is more successful for me.

I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby

This summer…damn near broke me. The shit I’ve been avoiding blogging about – my mom selling her house and then moving across the country, while I have to live in the house and act as caretaker for insurance purposes; the thirty-year old house trying to fall apart on me; workload-heavy classes I needed to pass get a degree by the end of this semester; the lack of Internet, which resulted in a loss of social network; no creative outlet, as I couldn’t afford art supplies; the deepening depression and desire to be in physical pain rather than emotional. Wishing I could swap the two, feeling completely without agency, sapped of energy.

What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

For me, high fives are a highly (heh) insincere celebratory gesture. They’re like the “I’m fine” thing I say when people ask how I’ve been. I know they want to hear that. They don’t want to hear the “niema spills her guts all over the internet pavement and fails to clean up the eviscera” version I gave above. It’s not that they don’t care. Really. It’s just, we don’t want to know that shit isn’t “fine fine fine” with people we feel we ought to be closer to and why don’t we see them more often and gee I miss talking to hir but I’m glad zie’s doing alright it was nice talking to you I guess we’ll see each other around but if we don’t it’s not such a big deal good luck with everything bye.

I feel drunk but I’m sober
I’m young and I’m underpaid
I’m tired but I’m working, yeah

Story of my fucking life.

I care but I’m worthless
I’m here but I’m really gone
I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby

That lack of agency thing I mentioned earlier? Yeah, THAT. In so many ways, I’m just floating around in purgatory (I hate using such a deeply religious term, but can’t think how else to put it) waiting for the next thing to happen. A lot of the time I’m not even paying attention, living shallowly. Paycheck to paycheck, day by day, class by class, waiting for that fucking associate’s degree. Sometimes I buy groceries. Sometimes I don’t. I scrape by, but not without getting scratches from the rough concrete walls closing in. And then I apologize to the walls for getting in their way.

What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be quite alright
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is flicking a cigarette

Getting rid of the useless shit. Realizing it’s piling up, like so much cigarette ash. Is there respite?

What it all comes down to
Is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving the peace sign

I can’t figure this shit out yet. How do I take on the responsibilities formerly under the control of a woman almost 3x my age, far more experienced at handling basic household dysfunction? How do I do this relating to people thing?  Maintain my tenuous grip on the events in my life? Fuck if I know, I want PEACE. For myself, for those I care deeply for, for everyone.

Its easy if you try.

It's easy if you try.

I’m free but I’m focused
I’m green but I’m wise
I’m shy but I’m friendly baby
I’m sad but I’m laughing
I’m brave but I’m chicken shit

I’m sick but I’m pretty baby

I’ve taken a lover. My lover knows I blog, but not the URL. I haven’t sent a link. I’m…scared to. And I’m scared to admit that I’m scared to. What is this fear? Coming off as “too feminist?” I mean, we talk about politics and society and religion and I tend to use the word “misogyny” when I talk about that and my lover’s seen me naked and knows what my armpits look like (which, while unshaven hair doesn’t indicate feminism, it usually denotes a conscious decision to deviate from the social norm and is stereotypically applied to feminists). In other words, the feminism doesn’t necessarily need to be spoken, as it’s practically tattooed on my forehead. Am I afraid of being “too sensitive” or “politically correct?” Is that the root? I started this blog with the intention of keeping it away from my “real self” (and if that’s not a loaded concept!) – the part of me known by my government name. I didn’t want to deal with the shit that comes from being openly anti-oppressive, anti-kyriarchical. I wanted the ability to back down if shit got tricky to negotiate, to not have to confront people about the systematic oppression their actions and words enable. I didn’t want to be the humourless feminist unable to enjoy fat jokes or trans jokes or “worse than a woman” jokes; I didn’t want to be the person who ruined the mood for the people who were just being social. I am scared shitless of alienating people I love because I still feel that way, and I feel like a hypocrite for it. As Alanis says, I haven’t got it figured out just yet – if you do, can you help me find the balance?

And what it all boils down to
Is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano


What it all comes down to my friends
Is that everything’s just fine fine fine
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is hailing a taxicab

Is fine. Not gonna be. But “is.” That’s some powerful hope. A hope of escape – taking action to get out of the situation causing the despair and insecurities and self-loathing. A return to agency.


4 Responses to “I’m Brave, But I’m Chickenshit”

  1. eloriane September 23, 2009 at 2:03 am #


    I could’ve written the same emotions, but for such different events. It sucks, and I want to tell you it’s all fine fine fine (since that’s my litany these days too), but I think I’m going to have to substitute a lolcat for optimism.

    Hurray! Lolcats!

  2. eloriane September 23, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    Er, try that again: http://icanhascheezburger.com/2009/05/05/funny-pictures-quick-as-ai-can/

  3. eloriane September 23, 2009 at 2:13 am #



    Honestly, the lols might be more for my benefit than yours, but I hope they bring a smile to your face.

    <3 eloriane

  4. niemaodpowiedzi September 23, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Lols are always for my benefit.

    *hugs back*

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