Ta Da!

We talk so much of resolutions and goals, but what are you proud of about 2019? What’s on your Ta Da List?

I’ve written about mine extensively. It’s the work of my life, the reason I started this blog, but it wasn’t until 2019 that I really saw results. I saw improvement, but I hadn’t yet managed to sustain it, or found a way out of my pattern: crisis/recovery/crisis/recovery.  It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s how my family relates.

I see it now, the shift. I believe in it. I’m so encouraged and excited by that! Time and again, I’ve met with resistance, rejection, assault, attack, or heartache and upset, and I’ve responded with strength and calm.

My biggest success is the biggest loss, but it was my biggest trigger – my mom – and I DID IT! Poorly, but I did it. That was a toddling argument, full of mistakes and regret. Falling everywhere, bumping, crying, anger, re-centering and starting again, in one stilted conversation. If given the opportunity, I could build mutual trust with her. We could get better at discussions of thorny or painful issues. I could build a real relationship between us, with depth and substance. I understand, too, that it’s not available. She won’t.

Acceptance was the huge Ta Da for me in 2019. I can’t force it. I love us both enough not to ask again. The sorrow, of course, is that I feel hollow and unsatisfied by such a superficial connection, and it’s the only other option to shunning. The sole interaction they permit feels uneasy to me, inauthentic, like being loved with an asterisk.

But love it is. Just as Mom doesn’t have the right erase my origin story, I can’t pretend that love isn’t love when it doesn’t behave exactly like I want it to. For now, I can appreciate that. I accept her limits for our relationship, but meaningful acceptance of this quasi-“love” from my family is beyond my skill set for now. It makes me mad. I want to open my heart to it, but I’m not there yet. Layers…

Perhaps I’ll always feel second-class. It’s still love, the only way they know how. Today, it’s insulting. “Isn’t it a shame?” they condescend. “If only she’d stop causing so much trouble, we could welcome her.” I just won’t receive their embrace. Tsk, tsk.

As for their religious estimation of me, “pearls before swine” sums it up, but I don’t mind them seeing me as Esau, tossing my birthright for sin. We both feel superior in that regard, which is sad, really, and antithetical to love, but I can only handle so much. It’s unfathomable to me how they refuse to examine their thoughts. It’s positively willful, but they don’t see the action verb in their behavior. They’re so used to believing without thinking that they’re blind to the blinders they wear.

There’s a song in Book of Mormon Musical, in which the missionaries dance to a wonderfully irreverent tune about those dreaded, creeping questions. Before allowing themselves to complete any thought, the chorus interrupts: “TURN IT OFF!”

I know plenty of Mormons who think for themselves. I know plenty of courageous, intellectually curious individuals who explore truth on their terms and land in their own place on the spectrum of orthodoxy, but my family is culty. Gross.

Look down on me, then. We share that.

Our problems are behavioral, not theological, but I can see how that refusal to look deeply at an issue came from our religious culture. I believe, too, in genetic memory. Studies show that trauma alters genes, which are then transmitted to subsequent generations. When we feel history in our bones, we really do!

I’ve found a lot of understanding and healing in that notion, and when I sit in it, I feel my ancestors. They’re in my blood, pumping and alive. Whether they’re angelic or not (They are), they’re now.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -William Faulker

I don’t think we’re doomed by genetic memory. In the context of ancestry, we’re all the perpetrator and the victim, and I believe we can heal our spirits and bodies in real time. For me, it’s overwhelming and so fulfilling to consider recovery in a larger framework, one that challenges my understanding of time. The cosmos itself offers too much discovery to bend my mind to, that tells me time isn’t linear. Time is both real and unreal. Can I heal the past? Yes. I’m healing me, and the past is never dead.
healing hurts

Headlong into Hindsight 2020!

It’s here! It’s here! It’s actually happening!

Did anyone else do that? Set an intention for Hindsight 2020, when they’d have all their shit figured out? Well, I did, and I marked it a long time ago. Like, 20 years or more.

The confluence of midlife and that symbolic cliché struck me long before I knew what a bitch this shift would really be. I mean, I knew it would be. My early life was painful. I knew it would be the work of my life to process all that.

I planned to have it done by next month, haha! The weird thing is, I do.

2019 was the first successful hard year I’ve had. It was productive. There were so many opportunities to state feelings of upset, anger, and fear without freaking out, and I did.

The thing I have that I didn’t before is confidence. I trust myself for the first time.

The sexual violence I experienced during festival season, culminating in Burning Man, was a trauma I only just released… last week. I didn’t realize how much of it I was still carrying around until I wasn’t.

I’ll never allow predators to remain again. I know it, because I don’t apologize anymore for my limit. I don’t question anymore if I’m worth walking away from people who don’t honor my boundaries. My safety’s not negotiable.

It’s not asking too much. Refusing another chance – when your needs have been stated and ignored, multiple times – is normal. It’s called Healthy Boundaries.

“Actions speak louder than words.” Listen, dummy!

(It takes time to learn a foreign language, and quite literally, boundaries are not my native tongue. It is what it is. I got it now. I probably have an accent that gives away my place of origin, but that’s fine.)

“Fool me once, shame on you… twice, shame on me” is too reactionary. The benefit of the doubt might enrich us both. Show me it was a slip-up, not the norm. Or don’t, but that tells me about you, not me. I’m not shamed by that.

I legit did not know that. I couldn’t connect it to emotional truth, that I really am allowed to call disrespect by its name, and walk away.

believe them

I’ll give one chance more. Fix it or confirm it. Your choice.

“Disregard those who disregard.” That’s my MO. No guilt or guess-work.

Y’all, I know my boundaries for the first time. Take that in. It’s life-altering.

Kids who grow up with abuse have to love the person(s) hurting them. Boundaries don’t form there. I forgive myself for being a perfect target, because I didn’t create the circumstances that made me a victim.

It’s weird that it took me so long. I knew what I knew what I knew… but not really. I knew what I didn’t want. I had an idea what I did. But real boundaries? I just didn’t have any. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what they were. I was ruled by fear of what I didn’t want to repeat, and terror of being found out: I can’t do better. (I’m not worthy of better!)

Well, I am. Let’s build something!

Now, the only thing keeping me from the future of my dreams is inertia. And that’s a big one for me. I’m lazy. I could blame my luxurious, indolent Taurus. I could blame a life of vigilant anxiety. (You hunker down and dip your toe in, never swimming freely.) Yeah, sure, all the things. I could blame. But I’m staring down 50. It’s now. Holy shit!

I’ve joked for decades, “My epitaph will read, ‘Lovingly gave half her life to sleep.'” If I don’t get up now, I will die never having truly committed to any life. I’m sitting, waiting for it, watching. Get UP and make it!

I feel myself very clearly looking behind me at a wild, manic, amazing first half. I see me – oh, wow – aching for that girl, understanding her, cringing and regretting her, LOVING her. I’m so strong! I survived! I fought like hell not to stick my head in the sand that shields my family from reality. I’d rather kill myself than hide from the truth. I LOVE THAT ABOUT ME. I stared down death to live honestly.

What I see now is courage. I had strength without the tools to voice it in meaningful ways. I was screaming for my very life, and that’s how it felt. What I see now is power expressing itself weakly, and it will again, but not as often, and not blindly.

I’m not as afraid as I was, even two years ago. I think that’s about where the shift took place in space and time. The last two years. In other words, now.

I see myself pivoting, with intention, 180 degrees, to look out on a tabula rasa. Its blankness doesn’t scare me. I don’t have to control right this second what might happen out there. I’m going to make what I make, and I’m excited! I want to start walking, now.

A sad truth of this change has been the adjustment of several relationships. Unfortunately, young Christie’s friends aren’t used to this middle-aged lady’s insight. I built those friendships when I was sick, and those patterns of interaction don’t work for me anymore. I’m not operating from weakness, and I’m not apologizing.

I had to leave a decades-old friendship last year. I sent a card six months later for her birthday, a love letter, really. She called. I answered, glad to put it to rest and move on, only to have her start up with justifications and explanations, and a complete lack of awareness. She was still in a fight that didn’t matter anymore. I tried to work through it – I believe in working through it – but we were talking in circles. At the end of the day she confirmed what I saw for the first time six months prior: a woman who will not share responsibility for misunderstandings. I owned my shit and wouldn’t let her off the hook for hers. I deserve friends who apologize when they’re wrong, of their own volition. I do.

She can’t. She’s not sorry. She’s comfortable in a world where I blame myself for the behavior of others. “I’m fucked up. What do I know?”

Not anymore. Level up.

I had no idea she needed to be “the healthy one” until I got better. In 22 years, we had two fights. After the first, I acquiesced (apologizing without reciprocation) because I needed her and didn’t know my worth, so I couldn’t recognize that she didn’t either. After last year’s argument, I couldn’t stay in a friendship that won’t grow with me.

I love her so much, and I know she’s out there with no clue why our friendship is over. She actually thinks it’s because we had a fight. She needs me weak, and if given the opportunity, she’d go over the minutia again, to prove her point under the guise of resolving things, when it’s long-since moot.

That friend is the keeper of my youth and beauty, of joyful exuberance, freedom, and fun! I’m still fun, can’t help it, but it’s different. I’m fun, with edge. And I love my edge! It’s wicked and sharp, still silly and laughing at my own expense, but not… young anymore. Anyway, the pictures in my mind of this sweet friend and me are footloose and fancy free, if anything ever was. We pranced through mountains singing, and swam in glacial lakes – head underwater three times or it doesn’t count – not a care in the world. She’s a hallmark of an unpolluted era. She holds my innocence, and I love her forever.

Moose Falls

Some badass chick I used to know ~ 1995

kayaking Hoback

Adventure Duo! ~ 1995

I wrote about the friendship that changed after Burning Man, the couple I introduced who got married out there and then hung out on Zafod’s art car after he assaulted me. It doesn’t hurt anymore to accept them at their level. They were friends of long standing that I thought of as intimates, but I see now a childish eagerness to make family of peripheral community. They’re friends. Their values are different from mine. Okay.

I like them. I enjoy them. I’ll seek them out at every gathering. I invest nothing more.

One more important friendship is in 2019’s crucible, on the verge of moving from sister to drinking buddy. We’re in process, and I think we’ll be okay, but my new boundaries are being met with a resistance familiar to me now. The equalizing of power imbalances doesn’t feel as hopeful and thrilling to others as it does me, it seems.

“I’m changing,” I told her. “Keep up or don’t.”

I have no delusions that my patterns and problems will go away, but I’m a different person. EMDR is hard. I hate/love it. I’m hoping to love/hate it soon, but one year in, I still can’t sleep soundly the night of a session. It’s disruptive to a brain!

I have gods-honest panic attacks now, not just the white-knuckle, jaw-clenching stranglehold I’ve had on the day-to-day. On one hand, I prefer it. It feels more honest, less monster under the bed. “Okay, you’re real. Let’s face this down and really talk to it.” On the other hand, panic attacks fucking suck.

I asked my therapist if I’m having fits now because growing new neuro-pathways has basically turned me into a toddler. He said yes, haha! It feels like it. It eases my mind a little to think of them as the tantrums of helpless child because, well, it amuses me, and because a phase is less menacing than a condition.

I don’t have a panic disorder. I have control issues, sure, but I inherited those from a scary childhood. I expect it to settle, because I also feel, for the first time, like a mature adult who can handle her shit without losing it.

I DARED, and I’m so glad I did. I see real results from intense therapy.

(Sometimes, when my practitioner passes over the hand buzzers, I still see them coming at me in slow motion. It’s the craziest thing, like I can watch how I used to “pop out,” but I stay in my body now. It makes me feel faint, and I sense my whole body, the fluttering in my gut, the tingling and numbness in my limbs of staying put instead of running away.) (At this point, as a kid, I just started screaming god-knows-what stream of consciousness, and by age 7-8, I was being mocked for how “smart” I was. I couldn’t stop the violence, but I could get in your head.)

I’m not afraid of that screaming thing in me anymore. It kept me alive. It’s the same warrior that made me willing to stare this down, and put it to rest. Real strength is nascent in me yet, but I trust it. I believe it. I can do it. I am.

It’s not my fault what happened to me, but it’s my responsibility now.
go bravelyLooking forward, the only thing I have to confront (that has nothing to do with cPTSD) is that lazy streak. I have to muster up some self-discipline! I got no time left. If I keep sitting, I will actually die waiting for my life to happen.

So, to that end, here are my plans:

Get my ESL certification in preparation for moving to Bolivia to teach English.

Finish my recovery. (Unlike Donald Trump, my bone spurs were real. You don’t get out of Vietnam. You get surgery.)

gross foot

It was so swollen under the bandages, I have to slough that skin entirely. The peeling!

Keep up Afro-Brazilian drum lessons until I can…

Return to yoga and dance!

Audition for Samba Fogo drum corps.

Restring my guitar and start online lessons.

Participate in SLC’s 3rd annual Rock Camp for Womyn.

Build the E11 Temple again (Hindsight 2020 theme!) and join an art installation crew.

Tarot… Actually learn the deck, and do readings at E11.

Cook something healthy at least once a week, for the love! (I’m skinny fat.)

Oh. BULLET JOURNAL! Why have I never done that? Oh, yeah. I’m not busy enough to need a planner. But I love lists, and I love pretty things. Boom, done. Bullet journal.

Write short blog posts. 😆

The end.

Cured!

gentle power

I didn’t believe quiet strength was available to me until 2019.

(P.S. Two fights in 22 years? [222!] … Ignoring my experience and intuition is my Achilles heel. “I’m tripping myself up” repeating old patterns of unhealthy relationships. Foot metaphors? [I fixed my toe, and relationships are changing.] I love synchronicities, and that’s too coincidental not to notice. *hi, angels*)
repeat repair

Mirror

stress

The same can be said of self, and it’s sobering. I’ve felt in recent years – this summer, particularly – like I’m incapable of beating back those demons. I tried. Admit defeat, and stop hoping for better. You can’t be devastated every time you fail if you don’t believe. And you stop hurting others! At this point, inflicting yourself on any intimate partner – family, lover, friend – is immoral.

Years ago, I had the insight that failure thus far was due, in part, to the verbage I applied to the battle. See? It’s a war. This is your responsibility, Christie, your fight.

I made a conscious choice to use empowering words – like toolkit in place of armor. It fit other efforts: Formerly a nonsmoker, I was now smoke free. Words have power. Words were used against the little girl, to much more disastrous effect than blows.

And now they’re her weapon. My shame, regret, and heartache. I can’t keep doing this to myself and others. Isn’t it time to say, “I tried. It’s okay to quit”? Peace can come down a different path and still be peace. Just don’t allow yourself opportunities for the stress that can trigger abuse, and you can love yourself! Solid, lasting, joyful self love.

The problem is that when I get there, I have so much love to give. I want to spill it out on everything. When I’m happy, you can see and feel the love in my home. Everything around me is cared for and pretty. (Every friend that visited after Jax and I started dating commented on how much better his house looked since my arrival. Every visitor, every time. Yeah, yeah, the touch of a woman, sure, but it was after the love was added that our home blossomed. Then he retreated to his headphones and body odor, and I grumbled and resented him, but blamed myself and tried to be different.) What would it take to put a partner in there, too, to trust him to partner me through my ugliness, and finally rise above it? Not never to face it, but to live!

There’s nothing like Christie, inspired. What does safety feel like when I believe it?

I’m not worried about that today. I really don’t think I’m going to try for that anymore. I really don’t think I have the right. Really. Wrong is wrong. This has gone on for decades. I know what I know. Is that acceptance or more draconian childishness?

Whatever.

Today, I’m just worried about tomorrow. It’s clear they consider me served. Nevermind  the paperwork and links that prove they require the signature of a district court judge. Nevermind that officers told them twice they cannot lawfully evict me or violate my person or property. They either consider themselves superior to guidelines that govern everyone else, or they don’t grasp basic instructions.

I know what’s in each box (Moving Bible), and I’m videotaping my property every day. I have to work and rehearse. I can’t babysit. If they destroy me, I have renter’s insurance. After that, I have the law.

They think they’re selling that house? I’ll own it if they mess with me.

Pray for my cats. He would leave my cats, scared but uninjured, and text me to arrange pick up. He would not put them outside!

People can fuck themselves, but animals are pure. It’s true I don’t know what Jax is capable of anymore, but I know we still match there.

Beyond that, I’m released. I was left carrying the bag. Sick notwithstanding, I abused a man who left a relationship that wasn’t working. I was aware that the long dark night of the soul was coming for me, as soon as my show closes. I was prepared to hate myself, cry, and mourn for months, years. I’m not new to this guilt and failure.

In the end, he didn’t abandon me when the worst happened. He got right in and filthy dirty. I’m not alone in that. I’m not absolved. Serious work remains, but guilt will not crush me, after all. By turning the knife, he agreed to bear half of it.

I got abusive when I got sick; He got abusive to get even. And we are equal in our crimes against each another. It’s horrible to face, but bearable now somehow, shared. Thanks, Jax. Weirdly, I mean that. Ugh, this is just so gross.

Pray pray pray pray pray.

I’m still ashamed, but I’m resolved. Fix this, Christie. You can. You’re still alive. You’re determined, and you’re strong. Get up. Get right. Anything less isn’t good enough for you.

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!

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 has accomplished things across both sides of the aisle, that make the world a better place. Deal with it.

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.

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!”

It goes in the bin with the other shit hippie chicks say, but it can’t hurt.

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

drum

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 I catch myself and stop. That’s huge. I’m developing the ability to watch my thoughts!

I want to 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

Confronting My Molester

I don’t know if it was necessary. I don’t know if it did anything for me.

I’m still overwhelmed by the coincidence that brought me to the moment I felt it was time to accuse him. I felt like… well, hell, I’ve always nominated myself the one to speak for any disenfranchised “us” I’ve decided I belong to.

I started dating a guy a month ago who immediately read my blog. He got to the part where I mentioned having been molested by the neighbor, and knew him by name! I got sick. I haven’t said that name in 30 years. “How do you know?!” I learned that I had not been a fluke, as I believed. I thought that I just happened to get caught up in it because, as the best friend of the sister he was sexually abusing, I was in the home.

No. He targeted the entire neighborhood. In fact, he raped some of the young girls, including the ex-wife of this guy. She had been a childhood playmate of mine.

I was outraged. The first thing I did was call my sister and make sure she had not been victimized, as well. No, thank God, but not for lack of trying.

Then I wondered, why have I never sought him out? Everyone’s on Facebook. Sure enough, there he was, with his schmuck smiling face, boasting of his son’s military service. I typed a rapid-fire message and sent it before I could chicken out. Normally, I try to withhold words at a time of intense emotion, but he deserves no such sparing and I deserve to accuse my attacker. Panicked at the moment I hit “Enter,” I scrolled back to read what I could not suck back from the ether… to learn that he had contacted me 4 years earlier in a breezy message that went to a junk inbox I never noticed. He was casually wondering if I could put him in touch with my brother, as though nothing ever happened! I FLIPPED and wrote again, then blocked him.

I don’t feel any different. Was it necessary? It feels so strange to come from the trauma with Christine in Spain, wrestling with why I didn’t leave sooner and grieving because I know the answer: I was perfectly groomed not to. I went into a place of survival, where the little girl in precisely that circumstance couldn’t leave. I feel as though I’m recovering from my childhood all over again.

And now here’s my molester. I can’t face it all at once! How do other people process their foundational injuries and move on, meaningfully and successfully? I try so hard. I mean to rise above it every goddamn day. I just keep falling back into it, as though it’s happening now. If others are visited from time to time by the shaky beginning that formed them, it’s the exception in functional, happy lives. For me, it’s the exception to be well. It never lasts.

I’m so tired. I’m so confused. I want so desperately to believe that this confluence of early-life traumas is a poetic, timely event designed to help me at last to put my past to bed. I’m sad to know that it’s really all just random. It happened. It’s done.

And then Sunday came. I’m reeling anew.

Since Jeffrey’s death in 2011 I’ve been wrestling with shame and guilt for verbally abusing him during the lowest days of the heroin addiction that killed him. We were roommates. It was awful. I’ve made peace with the fact that I was fully triggered, and even a healthy person might lose it. Not at the level I did.

Words are weapons, and he got my worst. I abused his parents, too. They came into my home, in what felt very much like an ambush, to accuse me of stealing from Jeff through the utilities. (How do you figure? Half is half.) It’s amazing how addicts can convince themselves of anything to get the money they need for a fix. It was more amazing, and beyond insulting, that his parents believed him and challenged me to prove my innocence, which I refused to do (though I kept meticulous records and made copies for Jeffrey that I explained, and he agreed to, EVERY MONTH). Basically, I told them to go to hell. Actually, I told them they were enabling him to death.

And then he died.

Sunday, his brother and I were headed to the drum circle when his folks pulled up to deliver fresh garden veggies. I haven’t seen them since that day 4 years ago. They couldn’t see me in the car, but I was moved to act and terrified to do so. I had to apologize. I knew through the grapevine that his mother had forgiven me. I’m not surprised. Jeffrey was the most forgiving person I’ve ever known; it came from someplace. But I needed to ask for it, and simply to tell her how very sorry I am for contributing to his suffering and theirs. So I did.

She hugged me. I … feel terrible.

Why EVERYTHING? Why all at once? I suppose I will put this behind me. Even if we don’t consciously put the past behind us, that’s where it goes. But I feel like I’m drowning in regret and failure, while yet knowing I’m doing better than I ever have before. Why don’t I feel good about it?

I’ve had a headache for weeks. I’m exhausted, though neither sleep-deprived nor sleeping too much. I can’t sit with a book. My food addiction is out of control. My eyelashes are getting more and more sparse. (How can it be psychological when they hurt?) I’m irritable and weepy. I’m not coping well.

Thank god for drumming. It’s my happy place right now. Thank you, angels.

***

TO THE SEXUAL PREDATOR OF MY YOUTH:

July 14, 2014

“I just found out I’m not the only girl in the neighborhood you molested. You made the rounds victimizing everyone! You are a sick, violent pervert who traumatized precious young girls. You fundamentally changed us. You robbed us of our innocence. You raped us. All my life, I thought it was a fluke, that you got out of control with your sister and I just happened to be injured because she was my best friend and I was in your house. But you sought us out. You went out of your way to pursue us, to degrade and mock us, and force us to gratify your twisted sexual appetites. In truth, you know as well as I do that the rage it took to perpetrate your crimes was born of your own impotence and weakness. You’re a disgusting loser who has to act out on children in order to feel empowered. That hasn’t changed. Til you die, you’ll be a child molester and rapist. I don’t know how you live with yourself, and I don’t care. I’ve long-since been rid of you, but I found out just hours ago that I wasn’t the only one. You can never make up for what you did to us. You can never restore what you took. I finally decided to reach out and identify you to your face. I see you. I know who you are. You’re a fraud and a liar. You’re a rapist and pedophile. When you take the Sacrament, you are spitting in the face of God, who made me and all of your victims. Shame on you.”

and then…

“oh my god! are you insane? i just saw that you contacted me years ago asking after my brother, as though nothing ever happened! how are you not HUMILIATED? how do you look in the mirror? how do you not kill yourself? i couldn’t live with the burden of being the monster you are. you’re sick. don’t contact me again. I have the right to speak. you do not.”

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

I’m working through it, presently.

Drawing on Strength

I’m in it, struggling through very painful days. I’m hurting, crying so hard, so much, for so long, that I’m almost angry knowing I will, as always, recover again. I don’t want to. I want to curl up. I want to be done with it. I’m over it! I’m in it.

I was encouraged to find a quote today by Albert Camus, another sojourner suffering in the ebb and flow of getting back up.

“In the midst of hate, I found there was within me an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was within me an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was within me an invincible calm. I realized through it all that in the middle of winter, I finally found that within me there lies an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus

Fine as I know I will be, I’m not now. My best friend has been asking me to get trauma counseling. I keep hoping I don’t need it. What can they say that I haven’t learned, read, or tried? What can they advise that I’m not doing? I’m sitting honestly with discomfort, feeling it, looking at it, and getting up. I’m taking time for myself, but not isolating. I’m feeling joy, too, which is something I’ve not been able to do during other depressions.

Nevertheless, troubling self-destructive behaviors have taken firm hold. I’m smoking again. I’m bingeing. I’m back to my baseline: feeling not just worthless, but wholly unworthy. And last night, trichotillomania made its return to the stage, or my eyelashes, as the case may be. Luckily, I stopped myself before pulling my eyes completely bald, as I did – including brows! – in March 1997, before my most earnest suicide attempt on April Fool’s Day. I’m not suicidal now, but I’m not handling my shit. Nothing a little eyeliner can’t mask. But it’s time to call in reinforcements.

I start bi-weekly therapy next week. I’m also in Music Therapy, of course. This djembe workshop was inspired. I’m so glad I threw financial caution to the wind in time to pound some of this out each week.

Yesterday was particularly difficult. I cried for most of it. Wailing, sobbing tears on and off all day. I didn’t want to go to class, but I spent $120 on this thing! I’m not throwing that away! So get on my bike, I did, and whadya know but I found myself laughing and communing laughing again that this really is therapy.

Qinn, seeing me make a mistake and carry on, said – midbeat, without a blunder – “You know the difference between a professional and an amateur?”

I raised my eyebrows, missing another beat and continuing with the next.

“Recovery time.”

Yeah. I can do this. I am doing this. progress

Embrace the Unknown

I found this awesome quote that speaks to my life’s journey: walking into the unknown.

Growing up, I was required to KNOW what my family, friends and community knew, and to say so publicly. I never did, because I never knew. I tried to know. I studied. I prayed. I cried. I begged. Still, I didn’t know. I felt inferior, ugly, evil, angry, guilty, unworthy.

One day, I let it go. I turned around and walked into an abyss of no answers, no knowing, no script on how to live, no idea what to expect of my future. I took a lot of wrong turns. Ultimately, I found myself dancing in the question mark. I like not knowing.

“… Uncertainty is a great liberating gift to the psyche and the spirit. It’s walking the razor’s edge of the sacred moment where you don’t know, you can’t count on, and comfort yourself with any sure hope. All you can know is your allegiance to life and your intention to serve it in this moment that we are given. In that sense, this radical uncertainty liberates your creativity and courage.” -Joanna Macy