YOU CANNOT STOP ME

You may scowl at

my lack of pretty words

and silky thin thighs

But You Cannot Stop Me.

You may shudder and

wish for my reality

to stop being shoved in

your face,

But I Won’t Stop.

Press hard onto my mouth

and shove me into your

box of screaming silence

Tell me lies like

‘this is just the way things are’

and hover like

an Angry Dog.

Swat at my breasts

while I’m grabbing for

seats of POWER.

Continue to inform

and define my lack

of humanity.

But You Won’t Stop Me.

Scare me into submission

with your red faces and

screaming penis’s

And perhaps, for a moment

it will work.

But only long enough for

my teeth to grind

and bite off what

was OURS all along.

The farther, father, you unfurl

Your Patriarchy,

The less shit I take.

So point your penis boys,

show us the way you will

attempt to stomp out

my light

And I will show you how

in a single collective breath,

we will take our world back.

Because It never belonged to just you.

You call the woman, the lesbian,

the disabled, the brown person,

the immigrant,

Your Slave.

But we can see from our

once cornered and silenced

low places,

You are simply weak.

So Mr. Penis Directors,

Times Up.

you. Cannot Stop ME.

Every word I speak, every single

placement of my foot

will be my pursual of a checkmate.

Each move will take us closer to

your END.

Because you cannot STOP ME.

Screen House Rules

On the eve of our kiddo’s thirteenth birthday, we collectively decided she was ready for the wild and sometimes emotionally dangerous road of the SMART PHONE (insert the ‘Duh-duh-DUHHH’ sound bite). We had spoken over time about the pitfalls and responsibility that comes with allowing something so potentially pervasive in her life. This took place as needed over the past year and concluded with her reading a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen that discusses the problematic invasion of pornography on the internet and the larger issue around how much of what we use on our phone is purposefully wired to make us addicted. Collectively, we agreed on ground rules that would, in general, apply to everyone in the house to ensure we did not allow our devices to take away from the most important aspect of us as a family- our ability to connect. I share our credo as a way to consider and explore your relationship with devices as well as how we can work at both recognizing and engaging with technology in a more responsible way.

Screen House Rules

As a family, we agree that our smart phones and other digital screens can distract us from real connection. With that, we mutually agree on guidelines to maintain healthy use of our digital devices.

  1. We agree to stop looking at our screen (phone or Ipad) when another person is talking to us and make eye contact. If we need to complete some task we are doing, we will ask for a pause so we are not attempting to listen and write/read at the same time.
  2. If someone is sharing a story/interacting with you, we will not text or pick up our phone until the interaction is done.
  1. We agree that if you are under 18, no screens will be used in private areas to protect from others who may intend to infiltrate your life inappropriately. This also helps reduce unhealthy behaviors like needing to repeatedly check the phone, even in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking.
  1. We agree that if at anytime another person is harassing, sending inappropriate photos or experiencing any pressure or bullying; we will share it without any consequences. We will support each other in keeping the internet as safe as possible.
  1. We agree that all our social media will be mutually agreed upon and the ability to see what each other post will remain open to each other. If anyone disagrees with a post, it will be discussed and potentially removed. This could include any photos or information that make another person uncomfortable.
  1. We agree mutually to have reasonable limits on our social media screen time and will consider an App limiting our time to ensure we do not overuse distraction. In general, we will actively work to remain below averages.
  2. We will stop all screens when we each move towards ending our day and getting ready for bed. That time may vary, but will be accountable to ourselves and each other.
  1. It is understood that privacy is important and each will respect privacy overall. However, to ensure healthy and appropriate online behavior is sustained, parents will occasionally check the child’s phone.
  1. With #8 in place, no history or text streams can be deleted to ensure proper and appropriate use of smart phones and other digital devices.

When Father Comes Around, Part II

He’s Alive. And despite the permanency of death, it may have allowed me to finish the grieving process and move on. In that moment, I am afraid I regret he still exists. And for those who may have believed my brain has only room for compassion, be prepared for a major disappointment. I wasn’t prepared to invite him back into my life. I was prepared to send a card and tell him I was out there and happy, thank you very much-Bye (add vigorously waiving emoji here). I was NOT ready to open the door to relationship.

Get ready. There are lots of screaming capital letters and cussing.

Walk away now if you want pleasant.

I once AGAIN had to come to terms with the fact that my family history is so fucking complicated. I couldn’t be sure if I wanted yet another layer to it! REALLY!!! Really GOD, GODDESS, UNIVERSE, WTF!!!?? Now I have to talk to him. Oh wait. Can he even talk? I dunno. This was a call from a head trauma ICU after all. I am a complete asshole and I don’t care. This shit is a protruding fucked-up mess.

I paced around the house before remembering to breathe and then dialed the number. I quickly understand the alternative of just not knowing would leave so many things lost and dangly. How many thousands of children would give anything to just see their missing parent? I’m certain my hesitation makes me a little selfish, but then perhaps if I had a father who decided to fucking grow up and show up, maybe the years of sexual abuse I endured would not be the most prominent lens in my life. AND…and…and IF I invite this NOW sick person into my life, it would mean I have to give something I may not be willing to do. Hell- I may NOT want to and then who is the runaway asshole now?

You see; it gets thorny fast. I warned you. Now ya in and stuck with me.

Esther shared with me (once we passed through the HIPPAA keyhole) he had a stroke and was currently paralyzed on his entire left side. There were attempts at rehabilitation but he had been lying in a hospital bed for months. The Board & Care home kicked him out for being too sick, dumping him at the hospital. Now who wants to take in an angry paralyzed convicted felon? I am not even sure if I emotionally want to.

So we speak for the first time and he cries. He’s depressed and lonely and now the only human who will consider showing up for him is me and guess what—I AIN’T SO Sure! What kind of fuckery is this? Like seriously, who in the hell dealt these cards? Damn it. FUCK IT.

It’s my job to show up in this life even if I decide to kick God off my team.

Not REALLY, but DAMN.

Jason was homeless for many years in Northern California. I learned quickly how incredibly smart he is sharing how he created a way to power his television (in his tent) using solar power and how he showered everyday (in the woods) with his own hot water system. He even built a custom deck to keep his house-tent dry. Of course, this came along with regular methamphetamine use in between years of prison. I swear, I cannot make this shit up…even though it sounds like I did, even to myself.

Once the police caught him squatting deep in the Red Woods, he eventually got out of jail (again), got clean and sober for several years before the fateful day. Now biking 20 plus miles a day and living with a roof overhead, he had a massive stroke while biking and was subsequently hit by a car.

Yeah. I don’t know whether to be like ‘Hand over my mouth’ or ‘Holy shit. Karma.’ I cried touching my deep sense of compassion and wonder if anyone deserves this outcome? Permanently paralyzed and has burned every bridge from here to Egypt. That quickly dissipates returning to ‘What in the FUCK have I gotten myself into?’ I have reunited with the messy Jason-Father I knew I always had. The question lingered, what do I do and can I even see him if it is possible?

As I shared this unfolding story, my Mother shared how he was never without a paperback shoved into his back pocket. She was deeply saddened to hear of his physical demise but recalled knowing how awful his family was and the drug use that ensued even while he was an adolescent. Nothing surprised her more when I asked her to go visit him. She cried and was flooded with the sadness of our past. Jason was abusive and mostly unavailable to my mother, just a teenager herself. Unfortunately, I did not know when I would return home again since I was just there and I wanted someone I could trust to lay eyes on him and tell me how he REALLY was doing. Funny how I could be suspicious of even hospital persons. My lack of honesty with this man runs deep.

After some consideration and an honest ‘You CAN say No’ from me, she went. And my grandmother. AND MY DAD. And I revel in knowing that when all is said and true about the wild crazy that is my family, here is the heart of who they are………

Each one of them showed up, spent time and brought him chocolate cake. My Dad and I were texting while he was just outside Jason’s door, informing me that my Mom was there and he would not go inside the room. But he did. And in a most powerful moment I can only witness in my mind, my Dad stood in front of my Jason-Father’s bed and told him what he missed out on. PURE GOLD.

My mother was genuinely so sad about the state of what had become of his life that she wanted to know what he needed. She wanted to send reading glasses and books and has from since that time kept tabs on how he is doing. She even told me she was proud of me when he got pissed off when I didn’t call him on Father’s Day later that year and my response was “What am I going to say Jason? Happy Father’s Day?” I stood my ground in that he had met my DAD. I finally opened myself up to a relationship, but there were certainly limits.

It’s funny how courage is born;

Sometimes born out of the composted love we have buried

in roots way underground while others,

appear in the cracks of an aimless sidewalk.

This change opened me up to love my parents and grandmother more than ever. And as for Jason, we are friends and although so many more stories to tell, we have reconnected on my terms and will do my best to see the rest of his life through. What vibrates sweetly in my ear is the unexpected moment of gratitude from my family. I asked them to show up for me.

And they did.

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Drowning in Denial

I stood on top of a tall lumpy rock overlooking the Benicia Bay while my baby sister climbed down and went for the sand. She was barely seven while I had already left childhood long ago. Reaching into adolescence and ready to die.

The ocean is majestic. Drinking in the salty waves and noticing the sweet breeze run along your cheeks takes most of us to smiling places. But perhaps its enormous mystery felt equivalent to my damaged heart while my mind regularly wandered away for its own safety. I would often burn things including myself. I was finding tiny ways to inflict pain; attempting to bring my body forward to finally greet my mind. I desired to be home, but it was a deep hole with an endless sea of shame so only visiting on special holidays was allowed.

On that day, at the precipice of adolescence, I was done. My second family had fallen apart and my first stepfather was greeted by another man in my so called home soon after. My stepfather had retreated to his family and we were left with mounds of spoiling leftovers to stare at. My sister began her career at eating the pain while I dug in, literally, until I could take no more.

So, THERE. There I was swallowed up, desperately wanting it to all be taken back, swish over this broken and damaged body. Let someone or something else be accountable to this life as I just could not do it any more.

It’s cold since the Pacific Ocean is rarely for lounging in the sun and the lumpy rock looked like a good place to lay this tired body to rest. I watch my sister edge to the water, feet wet, staring back at me, making sure someone was not far away. Yet…..I had been a million miles from a grounded place since she was born. Do I leave her? Would it matter? I just don’t know. I am not even able to touch my own emotions to understand what hers must have been like. She separates farther from me, like one of those wobbly watery force fields and to see her clearly I have to poke at the space between her and I.

I was ALONE. Not a soul had gotten close to this dangerous and treacherous heart. Not even myself. I wanted desperately to belong, but to what? I did not have a family. What once was family now brought trauma and shame into my life. I was so frightened of what may come next. What if this was not the end of the horror? How much more could I take?

I stood a little longer on that lumpy brown rock and edged just a little closer to the end. My heart did not race. I felt at ease and perhaps was breathing normally for once. I could end this madness and stop flirting with pain like it really offered me more than a mere 50 cents of release. I had become someone’s play toy so why not throw the used up rag doll down this rock and into the ocean?

The sea spray picked up and my sweet sister laughed and ran away from the waves playing tag with the bubbly water. She took her tiny fingers and dug them in the wet sand drawing her name…..and then mine. I don’t even know her. My baby sister was trying to craft a life in this moment out of the brokenness that she must have felt. This was her father and her family. I was just along for the bodily ride.

Then, my body must have startled in the wind. Did I hear my name and the warbled water divide and disappear in the sea?

I don’t know. But I took a broken-winded breath from my chest and sat down on that lumpy rock. For today dying was over. Perhaps I would be brave enough to take my own life and spare myself the lifetime of agony that I foresaw ahead. Today, I felt like a coward. I couldn’t speak my pain and I couldn’t stop it. I would continue to be forced to swallow it for many years to come.

Inside that deep darkness, suicide seems logical and brave. It appears to the mind as the one way to have some control over what has puked havoc over your life. The chaos of trauma is like carrying a soaked wool blanket over your entire body. One might think this was a cute trick or a funny attempt to play Halloween ghosts; instead it makes your body and mind unrelated, unknown and separated from yourself. And despite the confabulation of bravery in suicide, it was not a story I took off the table until adulthood.

I had to learn how to die internally so that I may rise again and fly.

This way is not easy or simple like a crash onto lumpy rocks in the Benicia Bay. I was so long away from understanding how courage worked, but as I reflect back, I thank my sister for remembering how to live in the moment. All the while I am attempting to die, she played, calling the waves to dance with her, scribbling her name in the sand with those stubby cute fingers. She carried such loss in that moment too, but perhaps had not yet lost the ability to remember to RISE.

 

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Feeling Helpless in the Idolatry of Whiteness

I just had to watch. Normally, I NEVER watch. Not even pictures. Sometimes I have to wait to see much of anything beyond the radio reports. But this time I had to watch because I was just there.

A dear friend began to clearly and purposefully make their way farther north in an attempt to escape some of the hatred that has been petrified in our culture. We agreed it may have not been far enough. Now, white supremacists are radically showing their faces in an attempt to take back areas that have grown progressive. It’s appalling and strange for a community to be punished for seeking something beyond blind acceptance of a mono culture.

So I had to watch what unfolded in Charlottesville, VA. Unfortunately, this is unlikely the end. I foresee the rise of the unspoken beliefs of hatred and racism (along with other divisive belief systems) bubble back to the top and it become trendy to carry tiki torches screeching about blood and “the many sides”.

And the helplessness continues to settle in. I am often named as a strong woman, often outspoken; but this continues to rock me to the core. I feel naked and unstable as I waiver watching the idol of whiteness make its way through scores of people. To be clear, I am not surprised. I live in a southern white strong hold where it is clear that the ‘other’ will be placed in tiny houses without access to resources and your only ticket out of that state is to enter it with money from your inception. I am so undeniably aware of the #usandthem phenomena that I mostly feel internally isolated and unable to share who I actually am. I am aware that if I am silent, I can hide.

I am a white upper middle class female who on some days can just blend in, but I don’t want to be associated with, not even by a single stray hair, with such hatred and bigotry. But it gets complicated very quickly.

The United States, a country I am grateful to be a part of, was built upon the backs of bloodied slaves. This horrifying system was put into place as a result of the sin of whiteness. We seem to collectively forget we will continue to pay for idolizing whiteness as an equivalent to greatness without change. And, without a doubt, I know I have benefited from this system as a white person. I feel desperate and clingy as I imagine myself being dragged forcibly by hands and feet at the back of the tiki torch line. I want to disentangle myself with a kind of force and rage I have rarely felt in my life.

And yet as I watch, I am so frightened I cannot undo what I do not fully understand. I still remain a gifted one while this idolatry parades itself around in both private and public arenas. I find every crevice I can, but I suppose in many ways, I cannot be released fully until collective salvation and justice occur in communion. I suppose strands of my hair and a few fingers will have to remain attached to this collective sin. For that I am heartbroken.

Because we created and love our country as we do, we ALL become a necessary part of the change. We cannot use the bullshit lines, ‘my ancestors didn’t have slaves’ or ‘that was a long time ago’ or my very favorite line, ‘I’m not a racist.’ I hope you can see my hazel eyes rolling DEEPLY in the back of my head. My fear and helplessness settle in as I look around and worry that the complacency of some white people is born out of the silent agreement with the collective sin as to not upset their pretty lives.

I don’t EVEN know what all that is and I still say, ‘BRING IT! I NEED EVERYONE TO HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE!’ Because I feel so little power in following the best path, I get stopped. I gasp for air, try to breathe and stall out in a stand still. I am a parked car on the Highway 5 at 5pm. And so here I am, doing the only thing I know. Say it. Write it. Let it be known that the helplessness is rising and although I am fearful, I know I am not alone.

I just keep waiting for our collective salvation. I am in it and hopeful. We desperately need to grow as a people. We are responsible for learning and transforming the past. I ask my clients to wake to it every day.

So can we? Together? RISE.

Therapist Days Hidden in A Treasure Box

At times, this therapist’s work can be lonely. And it’s a rare occasion to experience the kind of positive or negative feedback even a formal performance review may offer. We are instead stuck with the ever constant looming audit from insurance companies and oversight boards. We fret as the “not good-enough” barfs on us sometimes.Tiny letters carry threats to return “their” money in an act of shame for our lack of paperwork perfection. Time and again I want to call my my faceless-nameless overlords and demand they spend time with me and my people before they lay down their box checking judgement.

Yet- the alternative is to become pretentious and only see those who can afford to care for their mental health out of pocket. And for that reason alone- I refuse. As a therapist, I am responsible for serving my community- ALL OF IT. So, (per usual) I own my giant rebellious size 11 personality and do my best work and say, ‘Just Bring It.’

We are good at what we do. But the outcomes are elusive. Did I truly have an impact and participate in my client’s meaningful change? Did I have anything to do with that lifting of depression and anger? Did the examination of profound loss lessen after being carried for years?

What’s even more tricky is that if done well- the work MUST ALWAYS be theirs. And so the gratitude that may show up cannot be gobbled up like you’re some damn super star! My people must revel in their own pride because they are the ones in it for the long haul.

I tell my people that the goal is to no longer be needed. Those are sad days for me. Good! Wonderful! But still sad melting right over the top. It’s not my job to see ‘til the end of the story- but I still wonder. I sometimes still want to hold their hand when the moment is rough shot with pain- but I shouldn’t. And I won’t.

No matter our presence, sometimes dark days will turn bleak and then to death. We have lost many in what would be a seemingly short career, but we are all too fully aware that if we genuinely sit with the shame of abuse, deprivation, rape, domestic violence and not just the exaggeration of life taking but the real fear of being killed; there isn’t always a simple answer out. These are breath taking days, ones where even this avid yogi forgets to breathe. I want just one more chance to tell them that they mattered to me and in my less enlightened moments, believe that somehow my words would count to create a change and the darkness might share a moment with the light.

On many of those dark days when I ache and I am certain the imposter police are coming for my precious credentials and perhaps my whole career, I turn to my treasure box. As many of my people have grown—taken in sweet deep breaths of happiness and moved on, many have given me small gifts and cards. In full disclosure, one did give me a pair of shoes (which is beyond hilarity) and I still wear them when I need to be brave with this often alone world.

I will find a quiet moment, open my treasure box and read my cards and am reminded that although I may feel lonely, I am not alone. Perhaps in that moment I have forgotten that I can do good work or even that my work matters. Reading love notes of kindness allows me to come back home again to myself, taking deep belly breaths.

Even more elusive is this space- my writing. I could just jot my wild thoughts in a journal and leave it just for me. But I have just kept figuring that if I can and do feel alone – Can I possibly be the only one? I cannot be the only human that worries that their work will just not matter? I don’t care if you are the up and coming Mother Teresa or local hired hit man, we all want to believe the work we put out into the world matters! So I write. I write to the masses of crickets chirping but I mostly write – and love – and be my own therapist. The entirely altruistic act fades quickly on me. I am well aware of the deep interconnectedness we experience and just the chance for good will trickle down towards my daughter who I love more than anyone.

My performance reviews are found in watching someone emotionally wake up to their lives and from time to time in a card found in my treasure box.

In those notes I cherish, I will return to my breath and rediscover my way. But like my brave face shoes, there have been a few things that won’t fit snugly in my treasure box. I cherish not the thing or even the card, but the words and sentiment in the giving. If I cared for things, I would have been a banker and fretted over my money rather than people.

Those words are reminders that just perhaps we matter. Perhaps the daily grind does have a purpose. Perhaps I am not alone and I have and can continue to use my transformation in the service of this one little world we inhabit together.

In my previous armored up and angry Mean Self life, it was easier to be confrontational than it was to offer gratitude. It can still be difficult today. So when I receive it or give it in my own words, I relish the bright red glitter magic it brings.

Absolute – PURE – MAGIC.

And for that, I am Grateful.

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When Father Comes Around,Part I

I last saw my birth father in 1994 at the age of 19 when I was getting ready to leave for college. Somehow my grandmother got in touch with him, mostly a mystery as to how, and invited him to come see me before I left. Memories of him for the most part are iconic, as if I quickly painted a portrait crystallizing the moment because I knew there would be so few.

He sat in my Gram’s rocking chair out on the enclosed porch of her Kendallwood house. It was one of my favorite homes and we shared it for eight months before I shipped off to Alabama for a southern style college life. He always wore one of those grey fidora hats with a fancy feather in the side to cover his bald head and this time a pair of boot leg jeans with his blaring red beard. He always said my mother was the cause of his baldness from the early days of beauty school, but I know better. We drove around in his gold dated Honda and he showed me how his police detector worked, illegal in California, but that was always part of his problem. He played Pink Floyd from the CD player and when he learned my appreciation for the old school, quickly gave it to me. It is the one and only possession he ever gave to me. He told me how proud he was of me and wanted to know all my big plans. He always spoke of his big changes, plans of stability, frequent phone calls and relationship.

It was AWKWARD. All awkward. My relationship with my mother was strained, yet as we drove by her neighborhood in town, I felt like I was betraying her and my Dad. My step-Dad–DAD- the person who had shown up for me during the worst of the unconsolable adolescent years. And I knew, despite wishing for real wishes and magic, this would be the end. The only thing that frequently changed in my father’s life was his address.

The years rock by along with years of therapy. During the end of my first round in college I recall my therapist suggesting seeking out my brothers who were last known to live in Texas. I suppose I was not ready and only did many years later. For us siblings, we are a reminder of him, our one and only vague link to each other and understandably, not the brightest of subjects to discuss. With a little energy, I found them and once again- the father.

You might imagine I attempted to find him through various ‘where are my people’ searches, but instead, I knew where to look. Arrest and conviction records often tell a succinct story and one can always hope that the gaps are the bright spots where he fell off the radars of law enforcement. The luck of living in a small town affords me the ability to ask for a first look help. But how do we openly invite that kind of shame into our lives? No one would fault me for a convicted felon father, but they would also just know. And just wonder. Hell, I couldn’t blame them, I certainly wonder how a man with an active drug addict and felony conviction a mile long (probably not much exaggeration there) have any part in the life of a successful therapist; much less partnered for 19 years with happy kid and no arrest record to speak of??!!!

I recall lining myself up along the pew of the jail. Literally, and I hope you can see the irony in the church pew as your place to sit as you await your fate at the jail. It was a visiting day and people came from all around to love their orange jump suited people through the heavy glass. There were creases in every inch of the officers uniform, but the people were sloppy and disheveled having honest reason to loose track of themselves while the orange people blared ugly in their lives. My blue sear sucker suit and red sude heels stood out. Clearly, I was not them and yet had my life been about chasing orange uniforms, me and the thick glass would have been best friends.

Apparently the officer supporting my ‘let’s conquer the daddy issues’ had read one too many of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books and as he began considering fishing around in the dregs of my life, he asked me what my purpose was. The dragon tattoo girl sought out her father to kill him. I think I was past that stage, but did have to giggle that my life could reflect a fiction thriller. And so the online pursuit began and eventually he popped up in jail….and then prison. Again. A petty theft led to more probation time and I very shamefully write that his love affair with the police was very short tempered and he allowed a dog to attack an officer. He went off to prison for that bullshit to complete his time and when I arrived at this knowledge, he had been released with no further probation and a last address.

I sent a card. I wanted him to know he may be lost, but I was not.

He had a successful daughter and grandchild. I couldn’t want anything from him.

But it was returned, floating between here and there for weeks.

And many more years collected dust on the relationship table of me and him.

Then, just this year during the cold dark days of January, the phone call came from a nurse named Esther. A little biblical and breath taking. I assumed she was Jesus’s messenger and delivering the news that he was gone and I was the only connection left, the glue that held what was left of my Gregory family. I was panicked and alone. My namesake, one that I have kept unchanged, was potentially further broken down while I waived in the wind of the Gregory name.

As I picked up the phone to call back, my hands shook in fear and anticipatory sadness. Was it just easier to keep him the iconic memory and could I withstand the change that was about to plop like wet poop into my lap? I just didn’t know……But my silent sister Glennon Melton (that gurl NEVER calls me) tells me that we can do hard things and I say that if the next step makes you squirm and uncomfortable- its likely the next right one.

So I called to hear the voice of Esther and learn of the news she had to share. Either way, the dust would rise and make noisy floating specks in the suns rays on our relationship table…………

An Ode to The Wind…and My Husband

Do you know what my husband said to me recently? Like seriously, he had to be all Zen Master on me and had the NERVE to say that maybe (just MAYBE) I needed to sit and be quiet sometimes.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT????? I mean really, for the love of all things like Christmas and Halloween and just plain ‘ole noisy shit…..ME?? I need to remember to get quiet? And sit. And breathe. Just a little.

Well, okay. He (eyes rolling) has a point.

A few weeks ago I was lamenting about our decision to stay closer to home to save for a big trip to Japan next year. I was half whining about the emotional sacrifice (oh yes-poor me and my first world problem) because staying at home like a stay-cation is uh, NO. NOT an option. I couldn’t stop looking at all the dust kitties collecting and multiplying my cats. Talk about a total vacay-buzz kill. I decided long ago that I am a steward to my sanctuary and it may just fall to pieces if I just sat there. I know it’s totally silly- but #truestory. I am not so good at lounging around for long periods of time in my own house. You could say, ‘You can give a girl some yoga pants, but nothing will wash away the high strung behaviors’.

I am WAY better than I used to be. My own anxiety would make my anxiety anxious. And sometimes I still work myself into a windex and laundry frenzy. So- I listened, reluctantly and definitely rebeliously and went outside. I sat down. I just watched. My husband commented on how in the Zen practice we do the laundry when we do the laundry. We cook when we cook. But we also stop and notice…..and just stop and notice. For the Zen practitioner- it may be all day!! How ludicrious. Turn it all off, ALL DAY! I might die early from being in my head that much.

We spoke of how we would pass those folks on their porch just watching the day pass by. Sometimes we will see them on the way to and from where we are rushing off to. Southerners definitely have some lessons to teach us.

So I watched the sky and imagined myself picking at it, making shapes and listened to the breeze. A hummingbird passed, whooshing over my head. Something I would miss if I were moving. Of course I noticed cobwebs and the bushes overgrown- but I left them. I sat and breathed in the day. And before long, I felt better. It was like a took a whole vacation right there on my own front porch. I am reminded that home is ME and peace is found in the simple things.

If you have just ten minues- sit outside. Watch the world go by. Learn the way of the southern rocking chair and Zen masters. Gratitude and peace are waiting for you.

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Tiny Atrocities

#theupsidedown

Ever been in such a strong life rhythm that you have somehow muted the swirling static brewing underneath? Welp, that’s me and this thing- this kind of depression I am emerging from.

I am calling it a Facebook Depression. Everything is so seemingly normal on the outside but on the inside, my brain was eating Facebook Cheetos every day, numbing out on the junk food of social media. There are many constants I have constructed- all of which would give anybody the idea, nothing but happy lives here. I traditionally call these the “non-negotiables”; eating well, sleeping enough, getting regular exercise, and practicing self-care. Got all those in place and it would seem that it’s all being done well, maybe even great. Somehow, I lost sight of the deep down darkness and rather than keeping it close, it slipped shut to the underneath.

Perhaps that sounds lovely- to live within the light. However, that naiveté sounds more like being emotionally asleep at the wheel. For the emotionally awake human, that should petrify us more than dipping into our own upside down. And yet, I had successfully placed a wad of sweet cotton candy between me and my darkness. I tricked myself into thinking my life was a daily success when in fact I was sucking down the social media nitrous.

I genuinely cannot place the Why? And it could be simply a lack of neurotransmitters executing the appropriate happy party in my brain. It has all been so sneaky and undercutting, I have to say I am half fascinated with how devious the mind can be. And although the why is elusive, I am beginning to understand what has been missing. Given these revelations, it would seem careless on my part to not write down and share those tiny atrocities that created the cotton candy barrier of numbness.

I won’t lay blame solely at the feet of Marc Zuckerberg, he may not be very happy about that. But really, when social media takes over our brains we don’t have to face the fact that focusing becomes lost on us. I felt like my social media turned into a modern version of the body snatchers! For realz- my brain after hours was just pure mush. It also becomes the presiding excuse as to why so many other things are not occurring.

I stopped enjoying and doing many of my regular things- like reading and writing. When we set down our passions and grab handfuls of Cheetos, we are in trouble. I was “reading” stuff on Facebook, but not the pile of books growing like kudzu in my room. I wasn’t even writing about the fun stuff, much less examining my upsidedown.

I stopped crying. I get that for many the crying would become the problem, but I am a feeling person in a suck it up world. Losses in my life have passed me by without a tear. Another close friend was sucked away by a better town and job because sustainability in a small town is so difficult. I witnessed another divorce massacre and many were lost in the process. Through it all- not a tear.

I stopped dancing. It is a common phenomenon to dance in the kitchen, the bathroom and certainly in the car! Just a few days ago I discovered a new artist, Ben Rector and flung myself around my bathroom floor, doing a jig like I had new legs! Before- Nada. No matter how loud or poppy the music, that spark just did not ignite me, instead I was drool and unimaginative as I got ready for the office each morning.

I made myself believe a different future stopped on its axis. Perhaps for some, happiness is sought in the regularity of life’s rhythms, but for many the consequences are great. I am left without freedom of choice. I can wish for nothing and dreaming starts to become a distant pastime. Worse yet, I convinced myself that the consistent drumming without the variation of change was a good thing.

I was constantly worn out at the end of the day, at the end of the week. This gets sticky with the number of medical issues I have that straight F.U.C.K. with my ability to master the difference between interacting physical and emotional difficulties. Keeping up with the physical ailments are a necessity, but when physically I am ‘all clear’ and still carrying around invisible sand bags- there’s a definite problem. Perhaps the larger discussion is around doing what Shauna Niequist calls “fake-resting” in her book, Present Over Perfect. I may be at home in my pajamas being comfy and having the appearance of lazy, but I’m cooking, cleaning and tidying up all day. Noticing the spots of dust and clutter and “gravitating towards this inside movement” that really turns out to be nothing less than work.

I spent more time feeling like intimacy was unpaid labor rather than a fun night at the private disco. This part of life is always tricky because for us trauma survivors, many other things are wrapped up in intimacy and I recognize no matter how hard I work at this part of my relationship, it will always remain work.

We all have a completed shadow self that resides right below the brightness we share with others. When we stop taking the time to reflect and notice, the pain can slip away into the depths of our deep down darkness. It’s worth our while to see both and be both. It seems an important part of ourselves is lost when we attempt to live in either for too long; the sun will give me cancer and hanging out too long in the dark upsidedown will be like being force fed forgetting.

You may look at these and think, “Uh, lady-I never did dance, how could my lack of coordination be a depression problem?” Of course, these are just my little depressions. What we actually need in our lives goes beyond getting sleep and exercise and dancing just may not be your thing. There is value in going beyond the non-negotiables and seeking out those telling signs that inform us about our health- mind, body and spirit. These tiny atrocities occur when we fail to embed the simple soul work. Do you relish in the last trickles of warm water running down your face as you turn off the shower water cleansing you? How often do you take the time to notice the created atmosphere while your kiddo dances wildly to music, you sing with broken abandon and all the while the smells of homemade food bubble in the back drop? Perhaps you may find just the right dance steps flowing between the dark and light of your life, relishing in the many reasons for our own created happiness.

The Genetics of Sexism

 For #AudrieandDaisy

In a culture that continues to lack the ability to rise to the occasion to view both males and females as equal participants in society, it is going to take all of us in of our communities to make meaningful changes in the genetics of sexism.

I am continually baffled by the notion that my culpability for being female needs to be the only thing questioned when a crime has been committed. However, I am left with the recognition that we are losing in our ability to raise our boys. We lack the courage to even recognize that the derogatory and covert remarks against women continue to be at the heart of why males will blur the lines between a comment or gesture and criminal behavior. If a female is supposed to just tolerate whatever is said or how she is touched, no matter how subtle or direct, then what are we actually saying to half of our society?

Let me answer that question for you: We continue to inform our boys that girls are just a commodity, no different than my messy nightstand. And if you are not clear about how your behavior is not potentially translated into the blur that becomes rape, let me provide just a few examples of what this looks like from the perspective of a woman.

  1. Sexist behavior is when your first inclination in evaluating a female person in the public is to judge what she is wearing and whether she behaved appropriately.
  2. Sexist behavior is when a male orders their partner to do something for them without consideration of her needs much less her existence.
  3. Sexist behavior is when you grab at a female in public expecting her to follow your expectations or assume your gesture is simply a form of play.
  4. Sexist behavior is assuming that another female will give you attention simply because you asked for it and if she does not respond in a ‘nice manner’, you become self-righteous in an attempt to knock her humanness off its block.
  5. Sexist behavior is assuming that when a female speaks up about the horrible thing that happened to them, you say, ‘they just want attention’.
  6. Sexist behavior is hearing others making derogatory remarks about a female and remaining silent.
  7. Sexist behavior is calling a woman who has sex a whore while the males are champions making notches on bed posts.
  8. Sexist behavior is downgrading a woman’s success, basing it upon luck or what other people gave her.
  9. Sexist behavior is having an even higher standard for women, expecting her chastity and accomplishment to be pristine in order to be worthy.
  10. Sexist behavior is assuming that a girl or woman is a “bitch” because she speaks her mind and has an opinion, especially if it does not suit you.
  11. Sexist behavior is being told that ‘you should know your place’ when as a woman you state a clear opinion that does not favor men’s behavior.
  12. Sexist behavior is continuing to overlook one’s unacceptable behavior in the name of some false higher good labeled as politics or position.

 

I wish I could say the concept of rape culture was not real or true. And if it’s not clear what rape culture is, refer back to my examples and make the connection. I would hand over limbs in an effort to wake up our culture to the fact that our subtle acceptance of sexist jokes and seemingly little things is at the heart of why young boys and men continue to rape and why we continue to tolerate it. And each time we are either a participant or witness, another sexual assault is built upon the sexist comment tower we created. I know it is a difficult challenge to swallow the notion that our process addiction to daily sexist behaviors creates this monster, but it does.

This is exactly why when a sexual assault occurs in our neighborhoods- we want to separate ourselves and lay no claim to the possibility that a crime could have occurred. We would all have to admit that we played our part in the acceptance of the process that leads men to believe that women are things and not humans. It is why in watching the documentary Audrie and Daisy, Daisy stood zero chance at a fair opportunity for justice. Wanna know what rape culture looks like? Watch this movie and hear the words, REALLY hear the words of several of the officials. One just couldn’t believe that their beautiful golf course wasn’t the more important topic in their town than a young girl who was sexually assaulted.

We are called to something better than this. We should demand a concentrated effort on recognizing our own biases and ask ourselves, for once, honest questions about our own internal struggle and what we accept on a daily basis that creates the monster of rape. Monsters are not born, as written in the documentary, they are made. And if we are the tower’s architects, then it could take very little to obtain the permit to burn that shit down. We would not condone words or actions built on the misogyny of sexism. This does not have to be our DNA- we can shut off this belief that somehow the presence of a vagina automatically implies less than. Perhaps one day, a young woman like Audrie will not take her own life in an attempt to escape the rape culture she lived in.

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