It’s You I Like.

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mistake
I’m not like anyone else I know
When I’m asleep or even awake
Sometimes I get to dreaming that I’m just a fake
I’m not like anyone else”

I’ve been running myself a little ragged the last few months. This probably left me in a vulnerable place as it relates to watching the Mister Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

I’m a super fan when it comes to Mister Rogers. I recently visited his museum in Pittsburgh and sobbed the minute I saw parts of his living room set from the television show. As a young highly empathic kiddo that felt all the feelings, Mister Rogers was a Godsend. Everyday, I sat in front of the television and he told me it was okay to feel all my feelings and I believed him. He saved me in this way. He saved a lot of people in this way.

What struck me about the documentary was the connection they made between Mister Rogers and the puppet Daniel Striped Tiger. His wife reported that she believed that Mister Rogers identified and expressed himself the most through this puppet. For those of you who are not familiar with the works of Mister Rogers, Daniel Striped Tiger was the most vulnerable puppet and when he was on the screen we were tackling the big emotions. As a kid, I loved Daniel, I related with his fears and anxieties. I wanted to be seen as a complicated human and not rejected for my insecurities just like Daniel.

I watched the film with my husband who is also a sensitive feelings human (I think all humans are sensitive feelings humans but my husband is brave in his openness about his feels). As a child, I didn’t realize the permission Mister Rogers was giving to men to release the binds of toxic masculinity and feel their feels as whole humans. As I sat next to my husband, both of us crying, I felt so grateful for the permission he gave to the young boys to feel all their feelings. We need more of that. Way more.

As Bryan (my husband) said on the way home, I’m glad we were alive when Mister Rogers was here. In these times of desperation and separation and isolation, I really wish we had someone brave enough to take the reins and pull us back towards love and connection and to remind us that love is what really matters. Maybe that’s our job now?

I think most adults are scared of Mister Rogers because he represents the true needs and vulnerabilities we all share. We all need love and connection and we are all scared that we don’t deserve it because we aren’t good enough. No one is immune from this truth of the human condition and he said it out loud. He saved us in this way.

“But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like”

Love.

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My Brother: The Wind Beneath My Wings.

“Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings” – Bette Midler

Yesterday, I shared a beautiful day on a beautiful lake with beautiful people. The good life, as they say and they aren’t wrong.

Someone made a comment about how I helped someone with something and my brother said “Casey inspires another person” Interesting.

I thought about that statement the rest of the day and the whole ride home. I thought, maybe he doesn’t see himself very clearly. I won’t go into the details here, but my brother has faced adversity. Like serious, serious adversity AND he still loves. He loves it all despite it all.

He literally calls me once a week with shock in his voice and says “they just don’t care!!!” Like, he is literally shocked every time he interacts with (sometimes the same person over and over) and he realizes that they don’t care. It is inconceivable to him that they don’t care about what another person is experiencing. I don’t think he knows how much I love those calls. It is a reminder of the of the loving humanity in this sometimes dark world.

He also identifies with the underdog in everyone’s story. No matter the story, he feels compelled to defend and understand the person that other people might be making jokes about. He cares about people he doesn’t even know and it makes him really uncomfortable when anyone is being criticized, even if they aren’t around to hear the words. I don’t know if he knows that I notice this. But, I do and others do too.

He once tried to break a world record. On his spare time. And he almost did. He likes to focus on the fact that he didn’t and when he’s around I let him do that. But, when he’s not around I like to tell people about how he tried because it is the trying that matters when it comes to anything in life. The success is not in the breaking of any record but the trying and trying and trying and my brother is fearless in his trying.

I know that my brother tries to be a good man but he doesn’t have to try that hard. He is a good man and he inspires me. In fact, he is the best thing my parents ever did for me.

In my darkest moments, I think if he can do it so can I and so I do.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Love.

Waiting To Inhale

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My Shero, Brene Brown posted some pictures of a vacation in Greece and she called it her “Inhale”

And it hit me, I need a good, long, and deep inhale right now.

Exhale: Talking, solving, fixing, addressing, designing, doing, going, striving, accomplishing, running, dieting, fasting, starving, ing, ing, ing.

It’s so hard not to buy into the idea that a person must be striving or going or doing or busy or on the edge of death to have worth as a human. In a capitalist society a person’s value is contingent on how much shit they produce and how much shit they consume. I’m bloated on both.

It seems every conversation is a competition to the death around who is more strung out and wrung out.

How are you “Busy and stressed and you?”

“More busy and more stressed than you” and so on and so on.

Well, I’m taking a deep inhale. I’ve exhaled myself too much lately.

To inhale: To think, to wonder, to contemplate, to consider, to just think about things or to eat saltine crackers while looking out the window and wonder what kind of bird that it is that I’m looking at.

Deep inhale.

Love.

I Can’t Give You What You Need.

Not everyone knows what to do or what to say when life is hard or when life is great.

I saw this happen a lot as a therapist. I would sit with people as they told me about how people vanished during their darkest and brightest hours. I couldn’t understand how someone could leave a person that they love.

Then, my life got hard, and then it got harder, and then it got impossible. While I was in the darkness, I could not understand why and how people could vanish when I needed them the most. I was angry and hurt and mostly sad and scared.

Then life leveled out and I worked through a lot of pain. This work allowed me to see my experience from a different vantage point.

It’s not that most people want to ghost or vanish in situations where they really love the other person. It’s that a lot of people have no idea what to do or what to say when life gets really hard for someone they love. So, they say and do nothing.

I think it’s important to recognize if you are asking the people in your life for things they are incapable of providing you. We’re all built differently. Not everyone knows how or is able to hold the darkness and weight of trauma and pain. But, some people are able and some people will sit with you in the dark pits of hell (e.g., hospitals, court houses, and prisons).

Not everyone knows how to celebrate your success. Some people get to insecure or jealous or uncomfortable when a person owns their light or experiences great joy.

This year I set an intention to forgive myself and forgive others. I don’t know that we can truly forgive ourselves without forgiving others. We’re all so intertwined in this divine mess of things.

Some people will get you, some people will see you, like really really see you. Some people cannot or will not or something like that.

I wish we had permission to say:

“I can’t give you what you need. I don’t know how. Or, I just can’t be there right now. My life is too full. I don’t understand you. I’m scared of how your pain/joy makes me feel.”

But we don’t.

You can’t base your self worth on either. Ultimately, you have to see you. You have to believe you. The rest is frosting on the cake.

Love.

P.S. I’m trying to turn this blog into a book but that’s a lot harder than I thought so we’ll see how it all works out.

 

Let Myself Be Beautiful Today.

On my walk to work today, I was listening to Oprah interview Amy Schumer. They talked some about Amy’s new movie I Feel Pretty. I was struck by the part of the conversation where they talked about how we culturally feel like we have permission to comment on other people’s bodies.

I am grateful for the opportunity to age and have more time on this planet with the people I love. With this, I notice that my body doesn’t respond to weight loss efforts or exercise with the same ease. I feel shame when my clothes don’t fit right or fit at all.

This morning I thought, what if when those thoughts come up I just say to myself “I’m going to let myself feel beautiful today” and move on. Like when I pass a storefront and I see my thighs I can say “I’m going to let myself feel beautiful today” and so on.

Maybe, I’ll try to do this tomorrow too. And, maybe I’ll try to do this the next day. Maybe, if I’m super brave, I can adopt this phrase from here on out. Maybe.

The poem accompanying this post A Love Note To My Body is by the brilliant and amazing Cleo Wade she has a book Heart Talk and you should read it and watch her TED talk.

Love.

Yes, I Pray.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve prayed. I was not raised Christian so it was never really taught to me. I just always felt in conversation with something greater than myself. I pray first thing in the morning. I pray throughout the day. I pray before I sleep at night. I pause before I start a presentation or training and offer up a prayer for support. I actively set intentions before I enter spaces and places.

I write about this now because it seems surprising to some that I engage in this behavior. A person does not have to be wedded to a structure, a book, a temple, a church, or a deity to pray or have a strong faith or belief in something greater than myself. This is not up for discussion or debate. I am not going to be swayed away from my practice or my belief because you believe your belief is better. It’s not better, it just fits you and I can respect that.

I find the Divine everywhere and in everyone. I believe we are all worthy of love as we are now. Nothing needs to change for me or you to love or be loved. It’s that simple and that complicated.

If you come to my mind, I pray for you to have love. If you come to my mind and I find you particularly bothersome, I pray for us both to have love.

Who am I praying to? I don’t know and I don’t think that matters.

Why do I pray? I don’t know, I just always have and I always will.

Why do I continue to pray? Because in the darkest hours of my life when I was sobbing on a bathroom floor, when I was hopeless and helpless, when I felt like there were no answers and no solutions, and when I felt like all was lost – prayer always made me feel less alone.

Am I suggesting you give it a try? No.

This is about me.

But, I probably pray for you.

I wish you love. I wish you so much love.

Talk soon.

With A Mouth Like That No One Will Love You.

“The attempt to escape from pain, is what creates more pain” – Gabor Mate, MD

I stayed up past my strict 10pm bedtime to watch Oprah accept the Cecile B. Demille award. Her acceptance speech was (looking for adjective please hold…) phenomenal. If you haven’t watched her speech, you should.

Why am I talking about this? I saw so many comments from women about how Oprah or other celebrities need to shut their mouth and just entertain us. What? Like these humans are circus animals? All they are worth is entertainment. All of us have a story and all of us are entitled (and obligated) to speak our truth. I don’t care how you make a living: Speak your truth.

As a woman, this comes with significant social consequences. For as long as I can remember, people have been commenting on my “mouth” or my laugh. Both of which are loud. The comments would range from passive aggressive to explicitly telling me to “shut my mouth” or “no man will put up with that shit” or “I warned them about you”

Instead of arguing with these people, I think the best response is just to keep speaking your truth. The reality is that I’m lucky. My husband won’t slap me if I speak out of line. My friends won’t stop talking to me or loving me. My non-existent church family will not reject me for my opinions. Unfortunately, I know that some people may feel a certain way about something but they would risk social connections (Love) if they spoke out about how they felt. This is how the power structure is maintained.

As a professional secret keeper (therapist) for most of my career, I know that people crave truth, they want to tell others how they really feel. This movement, if it continues, has the power to open that door.

One of the reasons Oprah has been so successful is that she created a platform where people could whisper “Me too” to the television for 25+ years. She created a sacred space where people talked about sexual assault, domestic violence, LGBT issues, and so many other hushed topics. People admire her (or hate her) because she elevated real people who told real stories about their real lives. This is still revolutionary. Oprah and others like her remind us that we are not alone in our experiences. We all need to know we’re not alone in the same ways we need food and water. Humans are built for connection. Without love and connection we die.

I was born telling the truth. In many ways, this has saved me from the shame of keeping all the pain of a lived life inside. That shame literally kills people.

Find a safe person (maybe a therapist) or a pad of paper or a computer and get that truth out of you. Let those words hit the air, be brave and share your truth with someone you love and trust. Let a person love the truth out of you.

“The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off” – Gloria Steinem

I Was A Coward: When I Loved Her

Tell the truth.

I started a new position and it includes a substantial amount of training related to diversity, inclusion, racism, sexism, and all  the isms really.

I want to live and breath the resistance. I need my my feet to match my heart.

I attended an emotionally eviscerating training last week that I’ll be trying to get a handle on for months to come.

But, if I’m going to show up and do this work, I need to tell the truth. Now, to those people who know me, this will not be a revelation.

In my early twenties I fell madly in love with a woman (I don’t think they use those pronouns anymore but I’m not sure)

The relationship was real. My love was real. My courage to be honest about our relationship was not.

I was a coward. I was such a coward.

I was a coward and I really hurt people I loved with that cowardice. I’m not asking for absolution, forgiveness, or understanding.

I’m telling the truth.

If we want to change the world we need to start inside and work our way out. That’s what I’m doing here.

This person, that relationship, that love: it changed my life in so many incredible ways. I needed these words to touch the air.

At the end of the day, it’s just a love story.

Start inside and work your way out. Tell the truth. Admit when you were a coward and try harder to be brave. That’s what this life business is about.

Love.

 

 

Do Something!

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

I’ve kind of abandoned the blog. I started a new job and then started another new job and those roles have been consuming me in wonderful ways.

Anyway, I was just listening to an episode of NPR’s Embedded podcast, titled, Trump Stories: The Apprentice.

I will let you listen to the show if you want to learn how NBC shaped a molded a persona that made what we have today possible. It’s both fascinating and horrifying.

What struck me and why I dusted this platform off was when a producer on the show was asked why he did not confront Trump when he made explicitly racist comments. Comments reportedly so vile they made this producer sick to his stomach and required “soul searching” He stated that he did not say anything because it was not his place.

I disagree. He could of done something. He could have done anything to disrupt these conversations.

This is what this post is about. The very least you can do to stop bad from happening.

It is my place to call out cruelty as it happens. It is my place to intervene. It is my place to protect vulnerable people.

It is my place and it is your place, too.

I cannot think of one reason why this post would be partisan, political, or controversial. If you see someone saying something hurtful to another person or worse, doing something hurtful, the very least you can do is redirect the conversation or the actions. Sheesh, you can scream “spider” and jump up and down to stop the interaction. Or, say fake an injury. Just do something to stop what’s happening.

I believe there is so much more you and I can do in those moments but I understand the fear of “getting involved” I don’t agree with the fear. I think we (this means you, too) are far more brave than we realize. I believe we are strong enough to say “this is not okay” but at the very least make it stop in that moment.

We owe each other safety. We owe each other so much more. We owe each other contentment.

It is your place.

Now, for my social justice friends that might be upset about me even suggesting that someone scream spider or fake an injury to redirect hate. Listen, I wholeheartedly agree with you. We are capable of more and better. But, I work with real people that do not know what you know. They just don’t. We need to give people tools without shaming their unknowingness and we are not doing a great job at this.

I literally had to google cisgender a few years ago because I did not know what it meant and I wanted to know as soon as possible. I went to a social justice talk last night and had a list of concepts to ask people about when I left. We are all learning.

I believe most people want to be good people. I believe that most people want to stop bad things from happening. I believe that most people don’t know what to do and they don’t want to lose their jobs or face retaliation. I believe this because I know these people. It’s my job to educate these people. They want to learn.

If you have the capability of pulling someone aside after the event and saying “Hey, that was not okay for ______”

Let’s help them. But while we do that, scream “spider” pretend to be in pain. Just make the bad stop until we can give you more tools and create a safe space where you won’t lose your job for doing the right thing. It is my job to jump in front of you in any possible way that I can to protect you.

There is a precedent for this behavior. Social justice warriors have a long history of using coded language to stay safe.

(I wrote this primarily on my phone. The following examples are from reputable internet sources that I can’t figure out how to cite)

United States Slavery

Supporters of the Underground Railroad used words railroad conductors employed every day to create their own code as secret language in order to help slaves escape. Railroad language was chosen because the railroad was an emerging form of transportation and its communication language was not widespread. Code words would be used in letters to “agents” so that if they were intercepted they could not be caught. Underground Railroad code was also used in songs sung by slaves to communicate among each other without their masters being aware.

Nazi Holocaust

Parents, children, and rescuers faced daunting challenges once the decision was made to go into hiding. Some children could pass as non-Jews and live openly. Those who could not had to live clandestinely, often in attics or cellars. Children posing as Christians had to carefully conceal their Jewish identity from inquisitive neighbors, classmates, informers, blackmailers, and the police. Even a momentary lapse in language or behavior could expose the child, and the rescuer, to danger.

Love.

Mercy And Me

Some of you have texted me about the lack of posts. True story, hate got my tongue. The goal of this blog is to infuse love and compassion into the world. I’m working in the trenches so don’t think I’ve abandoned my ideals. Today’s post is a gift from one of my best friends/family/loves, Una Henry.

Please, let her words permeate your brain, she has made me better with every breath.

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Malachi 6:9

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I’m currently sitting in a workshop where someone mentioned that Pope Francis declared that 2017 be a Jubilee Year of Mercy. I have to be honest, I have not noticed a lot of mercy this past year. I found myself wondering why. Why is it so difficult for people to show mercy to one another? This led me to a lot of other questions.

Can there be mercy without justice? What is the definition of justice? What is the definition of mercy? My father used to say that mercy is simply not getting what you deserve. I suppose by that definition, I believe justice to be getting what you deserve. If that is the case, whenever people do wrong to others and there is no justice, who is supposed to show mercy? At what point do those who are wronged receive justice or mercy?

With this in mind, where should mercy begin? Should we begin with mercy or should we begin with justice? Justice has to come from the top down, but where does mercy stem from? Does it start at the top or can anyone show mercy? I feel like it’s also important not to confuse mercy with grace. My dad used to say that if mercy is not getting what you deserve that grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve.

Grace and mercy are supposedly hallmarks of the Christian faith, but I would argue that you cannot have grace or mercy without justice. If there is no justice, how can we show mercy? How do we give grace when there is no place for mercy? Why does the Church constantly preach grace and mercy but never speak about justice? Is there just an assumption that there is justice? How do we help those who ignore the lack of justice to see its importance? I believe justice must come first. And just to be clear, at no point is silence a reflection of justice. When you are silent, you are not acting justly.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement stems from a lack of justice and a cry for mercy. What was the response to this movement? To call it a hate group, to call nonviolent protests riots, to label the movement itself as racist. Do you think this is justice? Do you think it is mercy? Do you think it is grace?

Just because you do not like to feel bad about how your opinions impact others does not mean that your opinions are right. In fact, if you are not willing to examine the ways in which your opinions might be harmful to others you are failing to show mercy. And when you demand that those who are hurting take the time to examine your feelings, you are not acting justly, you are not showing mercy, you are not giving grace.

Doing nothing is easy. Justice, grace, and mercy are work. Are you doing the work?

 

Love.

“Justice is love in public” – Cornell West

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