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.

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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.

 

 

Then He Died And I Told The Truth

“I wish I had lived a life true to myself and not the life other’s expected of me” From Bonnie Ware’s research on Regrets of the Dying.

I worked at a cancer center during a particularly challenging time in my life. I’ve written and talked about this experience a lot because it had such a profound impact on my life. I was twenty-eight, a young professional woman, and I thought I knew what I wanted.

I didn’t and my patients could smell the deceit on my breath.

“Are you really happy?” they asked.

“I’m here to ask you that question” I replied

“Are you really happy” they responded

“Of course, I am” I replied

“You’re lying. I know you’re lying because I was lying, too. I was lying until I came here. I was lying to myself until death showed up and made me tell the truth. Don’t wait for death, kid. She’s a brutal motherfucker” they responded.

I smiled and sat with them during their transfusions. Some made it through. Some didn’t. Some will haunt my heart forever.

One man, etched his story on my soul. He showed up today and brought be back to the page to write about him. I told him I would never forget him and this is the proof. Maybe he’ll back off once this is published.

He was only a few years older than I am now when he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He called me pretty and said “fuck the rules” he said “fuck boundaries”

He was so angry.

I would call my brother and talk about this case (protecting confidentiality) because this man got under my skin. He was money rich, he was handsome, and he couldn’t buy one more minute on this earth to tell the truth about his life. He raged against the end like no patient I met before or since.

He bought into the capitalist bullshit of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and “More and better shit will make me happy” and “Vulnerability is for dumbasses” He was tricked and he knew it. He threw items at the televisions at the infusion stations. “They’re fucking lying”

“IT’S A FUCKING WASTE OF TIME” he would scream (literally scream)

I gave him a David Sedaris audiobook to try and make him laugh. He said he liked it but I don’t think he ever listened to it and I never got it back. Because despite the rage, he died. He died on a Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the infusion machines continued pumping toxic cancer cures into other patients. I went on to sit with those patients.

He was right about everything. I wasn’t happy. I left my bullshit PhD program during my dissertation. I walked away from a soul crushing academic program. I got married in a courthouse wearing a dress from a head shop. I moved to Paris for a month with the money we saved by not getting “married”

We moved to a crap shack apartment on the corner of hell city and drug street in Kalamazoo. It all worked out more beautifully than I could have dreamed because I started telling the truth.

If he’s haunting me, I need to stop writing and figure out where the bullshit is hiding. That bastard always knows when I’m full of shit and I will love him forever for teaching me how to spot it.

I mean, he’s right, there’s no time for bullshit and death is a brutal motherfucker.

Tell the truth. You know what it is.

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.

.

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

.

Love Loudly – Nathan Miller

Love Loudly

The phones are ringing, but nobody could answer. The other line crying and pleading to hear an answer, a whisper. Souls walking along where other souls once were, silence organized with constant ringtones and text tones echoing in ears, nobody could answer. Nobody was there any more. Names like paper, torn and shredded and somewhat pulpy, needing sorted and pieced together with trembling hands through watering eyes.

Beautiful, beautiful faces of our family, our friends, our lovers past or future, are silent now. No more of flushed damp faces glowing of colors in the lights. No more smiles while eyes closed, moving free to that internal happy memory or place of contentment in pulsing symphonic mindfulness.

Our faces, our hands, drenched dripping in the blood of apathy and propagated hate. Walking we leave a path, breadcrumbs to our pain. A militarized people is a terrorized people, and a terrorized people are a fearful people. To have hope is to have endured hurt, but in order to heal fully voices of those must be heard. How loud can voices be that can no longer speak? Must life conflict with liberty so? Must liberty conflict pursuits of our happiness?

Like endangered species and birds, we’re confined to our sanctuaries. Threatening violence pounding on our doors, clenched fists, knives and ammunition penetrating rattling our wired weak cages. Penetrating rattling our weak bodies.

To my lover, Orlando, I can see you still. I still hear your whispers. I still feel your breath on my neck. May my love for you elevate you. May our love, and ability to love, wrap us all, and begin to heal from this hurt. You may not be able to speak anymore, I will speak for you, with you. We all will speak for and with you, concerted to end your insufferable sorrow, our insufferable sorrow. Love cannot be contained, caged anymore. We need to love loudly. We must love so loud it will deafen hate. We will love so loudly, all will know you, all will be with you, and all will remember you.

Female Cannibalism

IMG_9285.JPG“I am not a pretty girl,
That is not what I do.
I ain’t no damsel in distress,
And I don’t need to be rescued” – Ani  Difranco

When I was twelve or thirteen, I ran with a squad of girls around the lake where I grew up. There was one girl, from out of town, (she’s not on my friend list so I’m not talking about any of you) but she wasn’t very nice. If we talked to boys, she would call me conceited or that I thought too much of myself. I distinctly remember learning the cardinal rule of female cannibalism: Shut up, you’re not as great as you think you are!. I really didn’t like her but I think the other girls did. She wasn’t very nice and she made me feel awful anytime I said anything. I tolerated this relationship for much of my childhood.

The truth is, woman are socialized to cut each other down. We are taught that there are limited resources when it comes to happiness, success, and love. This is bullshit. My success does not take away from your success. My looks do not diminish your looks. My happiness does not take away from yours. My love does not cut into anyone else’s love. In reality, there are no limits to success, happiness, joy, attractiveness, and LOVE. All we need to do is stop eating each other alive and cutting each other down. We can work on supporting each other. I can stop being jealous of something I don’t even want. We all know the twinge of jealousy when someone gets hundreds of likes on a post.

WHY AM I JEALOUS OF YOUR PREGNANCY WHEN I DON’T WANT CHILDREN!!!!

I am jealous because I was taught that your happiness and joy take away from mine. It doesn’t and I am so happy you are happy (or at least you appear happy on social media).

Always remember, you are definitely as great as you think you are. Actually you are so much more incredible than you think you are and that doesn’t take away from my greatness one bit.

Love.

(thank you Shelby for being the best writing partner and calling me out. I love you)

Dancing With A Limp.

I’m out of words. I write then I read and read and read and read and then I write. I’m preparing for a silent retreat so it makes sense that I’m running on empty with words. But, here are other people’s words. When I read poetry, books, or quotes that resonate with me or validate me on a visceral level it’s as if the person crawled through the pages an offered a warm hug. We can always use a warm hug and a “me too”

Hugs.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

–Anne Lamott

Wild Geese – Mary Oliver

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

Death With Dignity – Sufjan Stevens

Spirit of my silence I can hear you
But I’m afraid to be near you

And I don’t know where to begin
And I don’t know where to begin

Somewhere in the desert there’s a forest
And an acre before us
But I don’t know where to begin
But I don’t know where to begin

Again I’ve lost my strength completely, oh be near me
Tired old mare with the wind in your hair

Amethyst and flowers on the table, is it real or a fable?
Well I suppose a friend is a friend
And we all know how this will end

Chimney swift that finds me, be my keeper
Silhouette of the cedar
What is that song you sing for the dead?
What is that song you sing for the dead?

I see the signal searchlight strike me in the window of my room
Well I got nothing to prove
Well I got nothing to prove

Image from: Her heart tied to a red balloon. herheartonhersleeve-blog.tumblr.com

Love.