Sweat Lodge

I was so gratified to meet the woman I wrote about last week. I had failed at Thanksgiving not to respond to the hate-mongering chatter that accompanies every family gathering, and I felt it: Failure.

Meeting hostility with anger is useless and stupid, but what the hell am I supposed to do? I asked politely. I teased. I asked again. I got mad.

This woman explained the difference between suffering in complicit silence, and going within to meet hatred with love. I’ve been trying for 15 minutes to capture the epiphany I had in a 2-minute conversation, but it was almost funny how simple it seemed.

Of course, the practice of it will be a different story, marked by many failings, to be sure, but it moved from theoretical and seemingly-impossible to entirely practical and doable. There’s a huge difference between angrily holding one’s tongue, and actively holding a space of “non-duality,” she called it. The silence of love is not the silence of restraint. That’s a game-changer for me!

I talk about energy all the time. Everyone knows what it is to walk in a room and feel it. The silence she described isn’t passive at all. It’s energized! It’s silly now that it seemed such a unattainable concept, when, really, it’s a straight-forward product of choice and action. It can’t be mistaken for tacit approval.

Suddenly, my need to act as standard bearer seemed silly, too. It’s not as if my family doesn’t know me. If any of my nieces or nephews is different, in any way, they know there’s a safe place for them. I don’t need to do that anymore.

I’m ready to graduate!

It does hurt that I don’t matter in my family. At best, I’m a joke. My point of view is the minority, so it’s dismissed. No one cares that that hurts me. They know. They continue.

And I’m strong enough.

“I will love, even here. How can I love, even here?” I trust Spirit to answer, if I truly commit to trying a new way, and I’m ready.

(Whoa! I just got really scared again!)

I AM READY.
non-duality

****

I brought a new, blank drum inside the lodge, which was borrowed by a leader and praised by her for its tone. That felt great! It was plenty soggy and bleak-sounding by the end of 4 long rounds, but bounced right back in the cold night air.

[I also made a killer leftover-turkey casserole for the pot luck following the lodge. It went like gangbusters! Jax is teaching me how to cook. We take Mormon comfort food – primarily based on Cream of Chicken Soup – and turn it out! This dish contained organic, home-grown tomato puree and chili powder. And cheese. Lots of cheese.]

My personal drum stayed out on the altar by the fire, to soak up and sing with our prayers and come home to bless me when I dance and meditate. So far, it’s attended a Love Rally and this prayer for Standing Rock, for water, the earth, and all of us. I love my drum!

Here’s my most recent. (So much detail is missing in this grainy shot!)drum-5
13″ on wood frame with mallet
$200
Nov. 23, 2016

I have a few more color incarnations to realize before I’m finished with this design, and more drums than I can paint right now (including 2 with rawhide lacing).

****

This was the first lodge that I didn’t really go into a trance-like state. Usually, when the heat starts to rise, I’m transported to the plains in a covered wagon. I don’t know that any of my ancestors came across in a covered wagon, but that imagery is powerful for Mormons, and it would be a no-brainer for my ancestors to get my attention in that way, to signal very clearly who it was I was feeling. The first time it happened was one of the most alarming and powerful visions I’ve ever experienced. I saw the faces of the Native people my ancestors would have encountered, and recognized that they were the brown-skinned ancestors of the the people I was praying with! Then, “Oh my god, they call the stones ‘The Ancestors.’ Our ancestors are here!” It was overwhelming.

I try not to expect repeat performances of my experiences. I try to be in the now, and learn what new thing is available from each event. But it was hard not to hope for that impression again when I went to my second lodge. And they came. Again and again and again. It was the same wagon journey into Spirit at every lodge, except this one.

Abigail, my favorite pioneer ancestor, did pop to mind in the 3rd round. I smiled. I love her. I thanked her for being with me since we “met” when I was ten, and then I had a thought of Sarah, who doesn’t come to me often. I don’t feel her strongly, but I have had a sense of her quiet, and it would make sense for me not to get it. What’s quiet? I truly don’t understand quiet. In fact, quiet people scare me. I think they hate me.

But Sarah did come to mind, and I had the thought to pray around her voice. “Please come as a signal for when it’s appropriate to act differently. Help me discern between the time to speak and the time to turn inward and LOVE, even here. Come in when it’s time for me to honor the place of neither right nor wrong, and just love, fiercely, quietly.”

I’m excited to see if I recognize her as I begin to practice non-duality. I think I might. I have recognized her energy. It’s harder, but she has a distinct feeling, and I’m excited to imagine I might a foster a relationship with her. Especially if it leads to healing. Especially for my mother’s family. Sarah is my mother’s family.

not-the-end

Not The End, by Julie Rogers, depicts my ancestor, Sarah Ann, on one of her 32 crossings of the icy North Platte River to carry Saints to safety.

Tell My Story gives a detailed account of this episode of the Martin Handcart Company’s ill-fated journey to Salt Lake City. I’m really proud of Sarah. Scroll down and enjoy!

Advertisements

One Week of Trump

trumpery

Not surprisingly, I’ve been in mourning.

This is our Watergate. Political cynicism is the norm after Nixon. Before him was Camelot, for heaven’s sake. Similarly, there’s life before Trump and life after. America is not the same. America is an idea as much as it’s a country, and it is fundamentally changed.

This hit me harder than 9/11! Perhaps that seems hyperbolic, but it’s true.

Trump has no interest in governance. He wants glory and HIS WAY. He’s a would-be dictator. Thank god there’s still enough to our democracy to get him out and save ourselves in 4 years.

In the meantime, what I believed would be a post-election Republican postmortem is, instead, occurring within the Democratic party. With Bernie Sanders to lead the way!

Seeing Plan B’s “One Big Union” couldn’t have been more timely, motivating, and healing for me (though a part of me panicked that, 100 years later, the “bosses” are still winning). America has made great strides, and we’ll fight like hell to keep them. We’ll lose ground, no question, but we’ll reclaim it at midterms in 2018. And there will be sweet victories and progress in the meantime.

That being said, I am terrified by Trump’s choice of a climate change denier for his EPA team [and a rag printer of alt-right rhetoric as top aide]. Currently, with what’s happening – unequivocal crimes against individuals and a sovereign nation – Trump’s role in the already marred energy sector frightens me the most. Only the NRA has better-funded lobbyists than the dirty energy industry. We stand to lose what we cannot recover.

So I donate my small amount to Standing Rock. And I pray. I paint my drums. I put the hope and buoyancy that are my nature back into my big picture, and I WATCH.

Everyone is saying right now, “I hope he proves us wrong.” His choices so far show that he, likely, will not. Of course, the grandiose promises he made to deport everyone and ban everyone can’t be kept entirely, and he’s back-tracking already on what he “meant.” On the one hand, thank goodness. On the other, he’s a fraud. You got suckered.

We’ve been Trumped.

He will be more futile than he realized, I think, as the title doesn’t proffer the cart-blanche he anticipated. He’s so clinically narcissistic, he can’t even see that the job he applied for was not Absolute Ruler. But the damage is done.

Immigrants have been murdered this week. Boys chant at football games, “Grab her by the p*ssy!” People across America are vandalizing brown neighborhoods, and taunting immigrants and Latinos about The Wall and their place on the other side of it. The narrative has changed. As much as we were the land of opportunity, the champion of anyone willing to labor, America is now the intolerant paragon of hate. Racism is normalized. Fear-mongers are emboldened. Bigots feel at liberty to terrorize their neighbors, because their President-elect does the same thing.

There’s a prominent socially-conscious woman in Salt Lake named Mary Dickson. She hosts a public television segment, and wrote a play for Plan-B that I saw. I ran into her the other day and introduced myself. When I asked how she was, her eyes welled with tears. She’s been hosting Saudi Arabian students for years, she told me. When one leaves, another moves in. She loves them and their families. They are family. The day after the election, one boy was dressing in his regular Saudi clothing to head out somewhere, when the other student stopped him. “You can’t go out in that! They’ll kill you!”

The fear is real. It hurts!

It’s the first time that terror has touched me by so close a degree of separation. Yes, Trump hates women. Can’t even see us as beings enough to hate us, really. We’re things to possess and conquer, objects to reflect his prowess and power. While Rape Culture is removed to the 60s, at best, it’s still a theoretical shift. I don’t feel any more at risk of rape today than I did yesterday. (The day after the election, I wondered which men filling their tanks had voted for him, and felt markedly isolated.) (And, naturally, women’s health is a terrifying “we’ll see” for now.)

These boys are afraid for their lives! Their mothers want them to come home. This is as much America as anything we’ve told ourselves before. America is an unsafe place to visit or study, or live. This is the reality for so many! And in one big con, it was all made OKAY. Whitewashing xenophobia makes it that much more shameful. I’m ashamed. Might someone look at me and wonder if I support that hatred and chaos?

I weep for my country.

His supporters are keen to say that only a quarter, not the majority, voted for him (Meaning what?) and “most of those aren’t racist.” Perhaps not, but they’re fine with a dangerous criminal running the country. Is that any better?

And this convenient splitting of hairs offends me. That quarter of the populace told the electorate to give him the keys. That’s the majority! That’s how American democracy is set up. They know that. Everyone knows that. But faced with the consequence of aligning themselves with a racist – being considered racist themselves – they claim that a most fundamental principle of the American democratic process, the existence of the Electoral College, negates their responsibility for electing a bigot to office.

It’s not that they don’t understand basic principles that govern our land. It’s that they want those principles to now abdicate them from the blame they share for bigotry that’s newly strengthened in our country, and from the hate crimes that follow. “We voted for a hatemonger, but we’re not to blame for the danger that puts people in.”

One of the more somber social consequences of the Internet Age is online bullying. Trump epitomizes trolling. He legitimizes malcontents who hide behind computer screens. Those ugly people emerge from behind a cloak they needed a decade ago, before hate-flooding became everyday ho hum. That’s an unsavory population to a invite to a discussion that has real-world gravitas. These people play by virtual rules, and have lost the ability to empathize, if they ever had it.

Speaking of vile internet behavior, what must pedophiles be feeling – worse, doing – right now, with a President-elect on trial for raping a 13 year old?

This is real! I still can’t believe it’s real. People are in danger.

The other frightening thing about the internet is that truth has no meaning. Facts have somehow lost almost all value. How can we feel otherwise when a pathological liar is elected to the highest office in the land?

Anyone can say anything. With conviction, it’s taken as truth. All we want is the loudest ape. How can we be so blinded by bluster?

Do they actually think he’s going to save their jobs? The blue-collar contingent that lapped his pablum is the very population that will lose first!

You know, that brings up an interesting aside for me. I used to do that. In high school, I argued things I didn’t believe, just to see if I could win. When I did, I’d laugh at the chump that I’d convinced of utter bombast, of LIES. “You’re an idiot!” I scoffed.

Making others a fool became a power I abused.

That juvenile behavior characterizes Trump. He gets off on tricking people! I know that high. As I matured, so did my morality, and I made choices to be a kinder person. Trump has no internal compass to guide his choices toward good. He’s pure greed. And success doesn’t count if someone else doesn’t lose, or suffer, for your gains. He’s a dangerous, ironically bankrupt man.

And, still, none of this is the point. The point is the message. In the United States, we don’t respect, protect, or treat with civility anyone who isn’t white, male, Christian, straight, wealthy, and healthy. It’s a terrifying day for immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ, the disabled, the poor, the insecure. This is as much what America stands for, now, as anything we’ve claimed and believed about ourselves previously. It’s a strong, clear, horrifying, and heartbreaking message. And the majority chose it.

“Most of the people who voted for Trump aren’t racist” is a bullshit platitude that makes me scream. Permitting bigotry – while disavowing it in oneself – is a comfortable delusion that Trump supporters created so they can live with what his message tells their neighbors, fellow Americans, and the world. Your vote makes it your message.

“I voted for a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, but I’m not a bigot myself” is a pathetic story that no one believes but the people who tell it to themselves. Silence is deference. Anyone who stands idly by while another is marginalized is passively participating in that degradation. So if you vote for it, you are an active adherent of an ideology that tears people down and destroys community.

In other words, actions speak louder than words.

And their actions gave us the most self-serving, cossetted prince to rule America.

trump-and-melania

Has anything reeked of more insecurity and desperation?

“No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things.” -Neal Gabler

All Strong Women Are Called Bitch

nasty-womanI woke up Friday morning, suddenly aware that my belief that election stress hadn’t gotten to me was, in fact, a coping strategy to hide from what now feels very much like trauma! It broke my heart to see how disconnected I’d become from my emotions just to survive this shit. It was alarming, because I try to look honestly at myself and what my feelings are telling me. I was hiding from pain!

Post-election is going to be ugly, too. There will be no ideal reconciliation, or even real workability, but thank god this part is OVER. The longest, most vitriolic election in modern history. I feel like I’ve been beaten.

I ached again for the little girl who grew up in a violent home, who developed that coping mechanism just so she could breathe. I read once that Depression isn’t merely a pervasive low feeling, but the absence of all feeling, eventually the inability to feel. A person crying “the tears of the damned,” I call them, will do anything not to feel them. Not to feel. They stop being able to feel at all, even the good stuff. It’s horrible, and it comes from hiding from pain.

I would have thought that I had a special radar for noticing when that technique was creeping into my life. I didn’t see it at all! You hear the buzz words “election anxiety” everywhere, and I had perched myself above it, in very much the same way I would leave my body during violence that I thought would kill me. When I saw it – her – I ached, and went in again to be the grown-up I needed when I was a terrified little girl.

I decided that I will no longer watch any news or footage of any kind until Wednesday, and I haven’t. Of course, it’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. But I’m not permitting the sound bytes into my life anymore. I’ll know tomorrow what happens tonight.

At one point Friday, I was praying and dancing – with my new beautiful mandala hand drum – and putting peace and healing into the meditation/energy bubble I’ve described before. I had this vision of Hillary Clinton ushering in a reconciliation era. I felt almost elated! I danced and celebrated, and put all of my love into that vision.

The next day, I woke up feeling like such an idiot! I’m so stupid! Hillary won’t be permitted to lead our national recovery. They’re going to eviscerate her! They are going to make her pay so hard! They will never stop trying to SILENCE THE WOMAN. And they want the rest of us to witness what happens when we dare to speak.

I felt like crying. I felt hopeless.

And then I didn’t. Immediately, I thanked her again. She is the only woman who could break this final fucking ceiling. Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, SHE has opened the door at last for women to be taken seriously in U.S. Presidential races.

The United States hates women as much as it hates black people. It’s shameful that it’s taken so long for a woman to break through that insistent wall of fear and desperation. Germany has Angela Merkel. England has Theresa May, and the Iron Lady was taken seriously decades ago. Israel had Golda Meir a lifetime ago! She was born in 1898!

But not here. Never here. Here, they don’t want to hear. SHUT UP, said white male privilege to every woman and every person of color. “It is the existential fear of displacement from a world that has slowly – too slowly, for too long – been chipping away at white male supremacy.” -Rolling Stone

Hillary Clinton was the woman to break through that blockade, not because her place in history is that of a peacekeeper. That woman is a warrior! She’s strong enough to take anything they say and do to her. And only that woman can handle what’s coming after she’s elected. She’s a battering ram! And she’s willing to do it.

So I’m grateful. I don’t love her perfectly. That’s a childish world view. Politics is messy business. No one is 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s dictatorship. But Hillary Clinton is among the most honest politicians (Deal with it), and she’s accomplished things across both sides of the aisle, that make the world a better place. That has been her aim.

Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll see any of that ever again. This bipartisan bullshit is an attempt by the Republican party to bring down everyone if they can’t have their way, exactly as they want  it. It’s so dangerous. It breaks my heart.

And that’s where I come in. I have to learn my limit of exposure, and pray. Ironically enough, I’m a warrior, too. But it’s in this way that I came to my calling, which is to heal. Myself. My friends. My family. My neighbors. My world.

I can’t get bogged down by the futility of it all. I just have to believe in my ridiculous mystical bubble – and I do – and send all of my love into it. I can imagine myself into real visions of peace and cooperation, and when that sight takes the pain from my heart, I pray and pray and pray. “Let the world feel this, NOW. Let everyone who sees this in their heart send the power of their healing into the bubble, too, and make it grow!”

“Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”
-Maya Angelou

drum

Here she is again. I love this drum so much! She is a healer! I love her voice.

Tonight, I will go to a belly dance class, and come home to work on my next mandala. In this way, I’ll hear none of the nonsense that I don’t need. It’s done.

I’ve found that the repetition of each rotation brings on a trance state, where the mind forgets its being-ness, and what’s inside comes up. I’ve caught myself putting hatred and anger into these beautiful lines and curves, but Sacred Truth stops me. I really feel like something else jumps in and says, “Not here! Not this!” So I redirect my thoughts, and pour love, joy, healing, humor, and everything beautiful about my inner nugget into these drums I’ve come to love so much. They contain prayers and magic!

Kumbaya, bitches!

womens-suffrage

Unbearable Pain

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were going to attend the Arts Festival together. He had a wake later that evening for a friend and neighbor, so we were just going to spend a couple of hours enjoying the exhibits, performances, food, and music.

Instead, we got chatting and drinking with the neighbor who’d lost her boyfriend to suicide. His best friend stopped by and shared a few drinks and memories with us, and I felt like I really came to know this person. The girl brought out a book of his poetry, some really good stuff, profound and wicked. He had such a turn of phrase! I said, more than once, that I felt like I’d met him. They painted such a clear image of his particular brand of hard, sardonic living. I had a sense of his voice, his presence: Unmistakable, messy, original, intelligent.

Mostly, I regretted that this woman, whom I’d come to really enjoy and hoped to further a friendship with, had to be the one to find him. I let her know that I wanted to see her again. She was such a bright, interesting, and vivacious girl.

“I don’t mean to insert myself in your grief,” I told her, “but I so enjoy your company. I’d love to hang out again, whatever that looks like. If you need to scream and rage, I’m not afraid of that. If you just want to take a stroll and get out of your thoughts, I’m in.”

She agreed, but you know how that it.

“Whatever you do, just don’t isolate,” I asked her. “And thank you for sharing him with me. I feel like I’ve met him. I’m so sorry for his pain, and yours.”

We skipped the Arts Festival, drinking instead on the court until they left for the wake and I went home with a DVD from this gal. I’ve had it for 2 weeks and wanted to reassure her that I hadn’t forgotten. I messaged my buddy today that I’d love to get together again and pass the time, and I’d bring that movie.

He was sorry to tell me that she’d joined her fiance, the same way.

I can’t believe how I feel. I feel like the wind’s been knocked out of me. I didn’t know him, and I didn’t know her, really, just spent a few hours. But it hurts my heart.

Today, I wish to remind us all to tend very carefully to ourselves. Mental illness is real. It hurts so much, and one is never out of danger. I spent the bulk of my 20s occupied by suicidal ideation, outcries, and 2 dangerous attempts. I think, having gotten to the other side of it, I’d come to believe that it’s a young person’s problem. No. We die at any age, of any illness, and we must care for who we are, as we are. Wow. I’m just really, really sad. I ache for them. I’ve been telling these 2 strangers for the last several hours that I’m glad they’re in that beautiful place of only love, together, relieved of sorrow, and able to continue learning without the burdens and heaviness of Earth life. But I’m just so sad.

To think how much someone has to hurt to do that. I’m sad for unbearable pain.

Life is so precious and fleeting. Be kind to yourself and others.

****

Before I met this woman I’d never heard the term, “in my cups,” when referring to drinking, especially of the drowning variety. It so amused and delighted me, and painted such an amiable, tragic picture of the delicious, deceptive nature of alcoholic seduction, I felt as though I could hear this character’s voice. He was very much a character, a writer and storyteller, too, who performed his stories and even regular conversation, as I do.

I’m currently reading a fiction novel. Well, since this man and woman took their lives, twice the main character in this book has referred to getting “in her cups.” I found it curious, at first, nothing more. Just that phenomenon when you’re introduced to a word or concept for the first time and then find it everywhere. But then I about fell over when I remembered that this main character’s brother was an alcoholic who killed himself. THEN… the brother who died, I realized, had the SAME NAME as this man who committed suicide less than a month ago! So I’m absolutely flipping out when I realized that the main character’s name is the same as the woman’s! I mean, come on! That’s too much!

I feel connected to them. I’m not sure what to make of such massive compounding coincidence. There’s nothing I could have done. I didn’t even know them.

Maybe it’s just them confirming that they are there, and they are safe, and out of pain.
Maybe it’s nothing. (Of course, you know I can’t think that.)
Maybe it’s just gob-smacking WOW.

I’m glad I didn’t die by suicide. I recommit myself to that now, even though it feels unnecessary to publicly declare it. I feel like these strangers are reminding me what a gift life is and to be vigilant about our health and the choices we make. I invite all who suffer in that way to make a similar vow not to die by your own hand. Perhaps start an “other options” list or a log of things to love and live for, so that when you invariably fall back into the pain, as we do, you’ll remember that it will pass. Because it does. Do be gentle. Life is hard, and painful, and precious, and beautiful.

And FUN! And so totally worth it! I love being alive! choose happy

Choose happy. It is a choice. Choose it again and again, every time. When you fail, choose it as soon as you’re back on track and able. If you can’t choose happy in the moment, be patient and know that the time will come that you’ll be glad you trusted yourself and your beautiful determination and strength, and your RIGHT to be joyful, and got yourself to the other side of suffering one more to time to choose happy again.

Forgiveness

One of my favorite bloggers is Amy Keast at amykeast.com. I read her post today about Energy Healing, in which she mentioned forgiveness as a major player in releasing energetic blockages. I felt like blogging my response, because forgiveness is pretty much my life’s theme or mission. In any case, I find myself doing it an awful lot. 🙂

“For me, forgiveness is key. In fact, I started my blog with the statement of belief that I came into this life to forgive. I started blogging to finally get it done. What I’ve learned (and finally accepted) is that forgiveness doesn’t occur and then go away. When an injury forms your perception and/or your very person, the anger and pain will reappear and you have to forgive all over again. I used to resent and fight this. Now I just do it. Some times are easier than others. Most of the time, it feels like failure and it takes a minute to get out of the disappointment/depression before I can even start working on letting it go again. *sigh*”
byron katiejerose

Happy Haunting!

I had the best, almost sacred Halloween! I entertained at my house after a very small group of friends and I enjoyed a haunted Salt Lake City bus tour. I served home-made rum cider and an appetizer of local, organic apples and home-canned plum habañero sauce on a baguette w/ morbier cheese and spring greens. (And Halloween candy.) We spent late evening each telling our ghosts’ stories – I mean the stories of the spirits of our ancestors and lost children and friends and brothers. And laughed our asses off. And really had… just a lovely time together. I’m so blessed.

(“The universe is conspiring to benefit me!”)

(“I’m rich with pocket magic!”)

(Oh, and my Grandpa came by. No, really, he did. Hi, Grandpa! I love you. Thank you.)

Books

I can read again! It took 2 months after my trauma in Spain to crack a book and stay with it. I had stops and starts, but I’m reading again. It’s lovely.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ― James Baldwin