My Dad Had A Love Gun.

2016: Day 1

September 21st 7am: The alarm goes off and my partner tells me that he doesn’t have to go into work until a little later. He’s been working a lot so I’m happy to spend time with him.

7:05am the phone rings and I let it go to voicemail: “Casey this is Doug, I need you to call me ASAP”

Doug is my dad’s home manager

7:06 am: Doug answers and tells me that my dad’s heart stopped early this morning and he’s at the hospital. I need to come now.

7:20 am: We’re in the car heading the 3+ hours through a tsumani storm. I can’t stop crying.

1990 (ish)

My dad invents this thing called “The Love Gun.” He makes the symbol for love and shoots us with it before my brother and I go to bed at night.

2016

The hospital calls  as we are en route to say they are putting in a pic line. I don’t know what this means. One of my best friends is a physician. He’s on speed dial for the next few days.

1992

I make fun of someone with alopecia to their face and my dad lectures me on the importance of being a nice person. I can tell that kindness is important to him by the way he’s talking about this.

2016

My in-laws go ahead to the hospital to see if there is anything they can learn before we get there.

1995

My dad does the Carlton dance from Fresh Prince of Bel Air when every single time I have friends over. He thinks this is hilarious. I am mortified.

2016

They ask for family history. I answer that everyone is dead except me and my brother. This is an odd statement to say out loud.

1996

My dad works in the oil fields. He’s in a major explosion and suffers second and third degree burns all over his body. He goes through several surgeries to heal.

2016

We arrive at the hospital and my dad is sedated and intubated. They don’t know why his heart stopped. They say the CPR administered by his home manager saved his life.

1998

My dad gets to volunteer for the Arizona Cardinals and is on the field running films back and forth during the game. His hair is parted to the side. I’ve never seen him happier.

2016

My dad is agitated and they have him in restraints so he doesn’t pull the tubes out. They up the sedation and continue to run tests and scans.

2000

My dad changes jobs and his mental health quickly deteriorates. He’s paranoid. He’s doing crazy and scary things.  My brother and I don’t understand what’s happening.

2016

I sit with my sister next to my dad and just stare at him with the tubes and the wires. I don’t say it out loud but I’m scared out of my mind he’s going to die. I don’t want those words to touch the air.

2003

A man from a hospital in Traverse City calls me to tell me that my dad has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The bottom drops out from under me. I’m a psychology major in college.

2016: Day 2

They lower the sedation but he’s still intubated. Tears are rolling down his cheeks as he mouths “I’m sorry” and “I don’t want to die”

2006

My dad gets moved to Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital and I visit him weekly during visiting hours. We talk about anything and everything. The room is musty and dark.

2016

They remove the tube and my dad mouths with little voice “I love you so much” to me. I can’t breath.

2007

I graduate from Western and my dad gets  a day pass to leave the psychiatric hospital. My grandfather brings him real people clothes and he gets to shave.

2016

The speech guy shows up to help him swallow. He asks my dad about what he does for a living. My dad doesn’t want to tell the man about his life. I change the subject. The man asks about his kids and my dad responds “They’re the best thing I’ve ever done”

2009

A horrible tragedy occurs and my dad literally takes three different modes of transportation to get to my brother and I.

2016 – Day 3

He had a rough night and pulled his pic line out. He bled a lot and he was tired. We still don’t know why his heart stopped.

2011

My dad does whatever he has to do to see my brother when my brother needs him.

2016

He’s stable and they keep saying they’re going to move him out of ICU and into a regular room. He’s joking with my brother and my brother’s girlfriend. My brother always makes him laugh in a special way.

2013

I have to relinquish guardianship of my dad. I live too far away and something bad might happen. I’m devastated to know this is the best solution for all parties. I feel like I’m giving up.

2016 – Day 4

He’s moved into a regular room. They say he’s the healthiest person there. We are still not sure why his heart stopped.

2016…days before

I call him to ask a question about my aunt that has long since died. He talks about her and his other sister that his also died. He says, “I wonder about me sometimes” I change the subject.

2016 – Day 5

They are waiting for his blood thinners to work. Blood clots have been their best guess but they are not certain why or where they came from. He can return home once the medication is where it needs to be.

2016

I still have my love gun.

About Last Night.

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Let me begin by saying that Jimmy Pardo is much funnier than I thought he might be. He made my friend Robbie his best friend during the show, which only served to make the night even more enjoyable. The sound of my husband laughing is one of my favorite sounds in the world. I love nothing more than a great night with wonderful friends.

That being said, our table was in the front and directly behind us was a bachelorette party. I barely noticed them until one of the opening acts came on and started talking about issues related to social justice and disclosed that he was bisexual. It was then, that this group of women started making some of the most vile and offensive comments. I turned back to see what was happening and was met with multiple glares. I turned back but they continued on with their increasingly worse awfulness. I could not hold the space any longer and turned back again. I said “If this is so awful why don’t you just leave” at that point a majority of them did.

But, two did not. These two were saying the worst (racist, homophobic, islamaphobic) things. This is when the manager came to me and said if I don’t stop, I will be asked to leave. These women were free to speak hate but because I was offended I was the one that needed to leave. I asked my husband to trade me seats to distance them from me. He did and the show went on.

However, in the back of my head I thought that asking to trade seats and ignoring these women as they continued to speak hate was making me a hypocrite. I spoke only days before about how as a white person I have social capital that is my privilege. I write about social justice, I talk about social justice, and now in this moment I was moving seats to make myself more comfortable. I could not reconcile this in my head. I needed to keep my integrity in tact.

Breathe and Be brave.

The show ended and I approached this group of women and told them how what they were doing and saying was awful and offensive (I was not very eloquent). Needless to say, this did not go well. I was about to get my ass beat by a group of women. This is when, my sweet, kind, and loving friend, Meagan came out from behind and had my back in a way I’ve never experienced. She stood up with me and for me. She also kept me from getting physically harmed. Most of my friends and family just want me to be quiet because they worry about my safety. This was the not case. She demonstrated beautiful courage and incredible support. 

Her actions reminded me that we cannot fight hate alone. We need people to stand with us and for us in the face of injustice and keep us safe. We need to feel like we are not alone in this fight. I am so grateful to have friends like Meagan and Robbie who will stand up for what they also believe is right. This is what courage looks like. 

So I ask this community: What do you do when you see/hear/experience social injustice? How do you handle these situations? How do you speak truth to power?

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
Albert Einstein

When I Was Transphobic

“But you can only lie about who you are for so long without going crazy.”
Ellen Wittlinger, Parrotfish

I watched Silence of the Lambs when I was eight years old. Perhaps I was a bit too young to watch such a horrifying movie. The part that scared me the most was when Buffalo Bill danced around to the god awful song wearing his human skin suit. Unknowingly, I then associated trans people with scary people and on I went in life.

I started college in 2000 and we were not talking much about trans folks at that time. I studied psychology and at that time it was still pathologized (meaning it was a diagnosable illness). This did not do my brain any favors in terms of developing an understanding or compassion for trans people. I then took a trip to New York City where I saw trans people in real life for the first time. I remember thinking about that scene in Silence of the Lambs and feeling a real fear and confusion around trans women.

This went on until I started seeing clients professionally. I believe that to be a good person and a good clinician we must be willing to learn as much as we can and extend as much love and compassion as we can at all times. This is when I started my journey to move past my transphobia.

How does one move past a phobia? One, they identify and accept that they have the phobia. Two, they expose themselves to the thing they are fearful of and do not understand. I did just that. I talked to trans men and women. I volunteered at a local Pride organization that allowed me exposure. I read and watched as much as I could about trans life and experience.

Then in 2007, I had my first trans client. This changed my outlook entirely and not because of anything this person said or did but because of how the other therapists talked about this person. It made me sick to hear how they talked about them. I was angry that they made fun of this person. This was just a person trying to move through the world as safely as possible and ignorance put them in real danger. I could not stand for this. I could not be a person that contributed to the pain of another person. I would hope that most people would not knowingly create pain for another person. However, that is not the case with trans people.

I’m not sure why people are obsessed with trans people’s bodies. I’m disturbed that it still seems acceptable to make fun of, physically harm, and even murder a person for being trans. It’s not politically correct to treat another human with respect and dignity, it’s the fucking right thing to do as a human. No two ways about it.

There are still a lot of things in the world I don’t understand but they surely do not give me permission to be mean, cruel, or harmful.

Let’s do better.

Love.

Each and every one of us has the capacity to be an oppressor. I want to encourage each and everyone of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and for each other.

I’m So Weird!

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?

[Alice checks Hatter’s temperature]

Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Last night I was talking with someone and the dumbest thing came out of my mouth. It is as if it did not stop to pass go or collect $200 dollars. It just came out and landed on the ground with a plop. At the moment it plopped on the ground my mind gremlins went into full force. The gremlins screamed “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” and “Retreat! Retreat!”

Retreat is exactly what I did. I exited the situation like a vaudeville villain which probably made me look even crazier. I returned back to the group of people I was sharing time with. All the while, the mind gremlins were in full force “I’m so dumb!” and “Why did I say that” and “I’m never going to live this down.” Outwardly, I smiled and carried on like there was not a war happening in my mind. I think I am actually quite good at this.

I’ve come to accept that this is my life. I’m weird. Like, super weird. I say the oddest things sometimes and it’s not until they leave my mouth and hit the air that I realize just how bizarre the words are. I once nicknamed someone kitty litter. This is the type of weirdo we’re talking about. I wonder sometimes if people keep me around just to see what falls out next. I suppose that must be both terrifying and entertaining for the people in my world. It’s really all about balance.

I also talk to myself quite a bit. When I walk my dogs, I’ll catch myself having a conversation, out loud, about something that’s happening in my life. I live in a well populated neighborhood so I can imagine that some people have their opinions. It’s not that I’m intending to have these conversations out loud, it just happens.

When I was first dating my partner, he called me weird and it hurt my feelings and I know he did not intend to be hurtful. Those words don’t bother me anymore. I know I’m weird and I have worked to fully embrace my eccentricities.  Naturally, the mind gremlins aren’t too fond of the weirdness. I mean, I’m human so sometimes it’s hurtful when people call me out on it but not too often.

What gives me the most peace about my weirdness is that I think most people spend a lot of time with their own mind gremlins and aren’t really thinking too much about what I’m saying or doing. They might make the mental observation that I said something weird and then slinked away while looking side to side, thus making them even more confused.

I know that I can’t escape who I am so I will raise my cup off coffee and cheers to the great and powerful Maria Bamford, Amy Sedaris, and Leslie Jones, for it is on their shoulders I stand and embrace my peculiar way of being in the world.

Even if you’re disgusting, and everyone is creeped out by you and thinks you’re gross, you know, keep doing what you love! “- Maria Bamford

Every Person Has Their Thorns.

“When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,
In the spring becomes the rose” – The Rose, Bette Midler

The Curious Rose Meditation

Please rest your eyes and take a few deep and full breaths

Now imagine you are holding a rose in your hands.

Please a few moments to look at and imagine this flower as if you are seeing a rose for the first time.

Sight, what do you see, take your time and examine all aspects of the flower

Sound, what do you hear in the space happening around you

Smell, what do you smell when you focus on the rose

Feel, how does the rose feel physically, how do you feel emotionally about the rose

Taste, we don’t often eat flowers but I suppose you could taste it if you wanted

Notice how naturally and without force the rose goes from a bud to full bloom

Notice how each rose is different and how each individual flower is perfectly imperfect

Notice how we don’t judge the rose for budding, blooming, or being in full bloom

Notice how gently we handle the rose because we don’t want the petals to fall

Notice how we don’t judge the rose for having thorns

Notice how we as people are always at some stage from bud to full bloom

In different aspects of our life we may be buds, we may be growing, and we may be in full bloom

Perhaps in relationships I’m only a bud but at work I am blooming.

Notice how we punish ourselves for not being in full bloom but we don’t punish the rose

Notice how each person is different and now each one of us is perfectly imperfect

Notice how we all have thorns to keep us safe and depending on our life experiences, we may have more thorns than others or bigger thorns. Notice how we judge ourselves for trying to keep ourselves safe.

Notice how harshly we handle ourselves and then get mad when parts of ourselves fall apart

Now please return to focusing on the beauty of the perfectly imperfect rose you are holding in your hand

Now please consider the way you and all people are like the rose you hold in your hand.

Stop and Smell The ROSES 

R: Recognize what you are feeling and what you are thinking

O: Open with curiosity and gentle kindness to what you are feeling and thinking

S: Safety (thorns) do you feel safe is there something you can do to make yourself feel safe

E: Experience what you are feeling and thinking without judgment or harshness

S: Soothe yourself in loving, kind, and compassionate ways

Love.

You’re Not Who I Thought You Were.

“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” ― Maya Angelou

Update: Post-election and post-inauguration. This is only getting harder, sadder, and scarier.

Dr. Maya Angelou is/was one of the most influential teachers in my life. I use her words to chart my course when I feel stuck. I reflect on her talks on love when I feel hopeless. I believe she was a divine human and a gift to the world. However, the above lesson in believing someone the first time has always been the hardest for me. I want to like everyone.

Last night, I was visited by a dear friend. The theme seemed to center around wishing things and people were different. I think I struggle with this a lot. I recently had the painful realization that someone I thought I knew well was not the person I thought they were. It’s been heartbreaking to realize that I don’t think it’s healthy to share time with this person anymore. I don’t know what to do with this feeling of loss and grief.

When I reflect back on the relationship, there were things I looked past and ignored in an effort to maintain the connection. However, as this goes, those things became harder and harder to ignore. I had to deal with the fact that we did not fit together like I thought we did. This has been a painful realization for me.

This is not to say that this person is bad and I am good. It’s simply that what I thought was a healthy connection is no longer healthy. This person does not bring out the best in me and I am certain that I do not bring out the best in them. I could maintain the connection but I would be resentful when this person showed me who they were. That’s not healthy for either of us. It’s also not fair or healthy of me to sit in judgement of this person. We’re all built differently and this allows for all kinds of people in the world.

This is how it goes sometimes. We lose connections that we thought would last forever. We understand ourselves better and learn that some connections no longer fit who we’ve become. So, I’ve been letting go of the connection and it seems to be naturally fading into the distance. This is a deeply painful experience for me. It is a form of grief to lose a connection even if it is the healthiest thing for both people.

I am grateful for the conversation with my dear friend last night. I hope she is able to work through this process, too.

I am reminded of a song that another friend shared with me more than a decade ago:

“I want to be a good woman
And I want for you to be a good man.
This is why I will be leaving
And this is why I can’t see you no more.
I will miss your heart so tender
And I will love this love forever.

I don’t want be a bad woman
And I can’t stand to see you be a bad man.
I will miss your heart so tender
And I will love this love forever.

And this is why I am leaving
And this is why I can’t see you no more.
This is why I am lying when I say
That I don’t love you no more.

Cause I want (to) be a good woman
And I want for you to be a good man.” – Good Woman, Cat Power

I Will Forgive You – Desmond Tutu

I will forgive you

The words are so small

But there is a universe hidden in them

When I forgive you

All those cords of resentment, pain, and sadness that had wrapped themselves around my heart will be gone

When I forgive you

You will no longer define me

You measured me and assessed me and decided you could hurt me

I didn’t count

But I will forgive you

Because I do count

I do matter

I am bigger than the image you have of me

I am stronger

I am more beautiful

And I am infinitely more precious than you thought me

I will forgive you

My forgiveness is not a gift I am giving you

When I forgive you

My forgiveness will be a gift that gives itself to me

Taken from “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Love.

 

 

You Make Me Brave.

“If you need a friend
Don’t look to a stranger
You know in the end, I’ll always be there
But when you’re in doubt
And when you’re in danger
Take a look all around, and I’ll be there” The Promise, When In Rome

I’ve been thinking about writing a post reflecting on a year of blogging. Then yesterday, a woman I adore wrote me the kindest message and I knew exactly what I needed to write about.

I love writing. I always have. It’s my way of making sense of the things swirling around in my head. I have journals and secret journals. I have scratch pads and post-its. My office is filled with stacks of notes and a tac board of ideas and thoughts. However, I was scared of sharing my words publicly. In fact, this blog is actually three years old and went through several “starts” before I actually had the courage to share it like I have this last year.

About courage. I’m not the kind of person that can set out on something like this without at least a handful of people in my corner. I recently rewatched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (say what you will about that show but I’ll watch it until they rip it from my hands). At the end of the episode Christina said to Meredith, “You make me brave.” Needless to say, I started sobbing.

To my husband Bryan and my best friend Josh: You make me brave. You’ve shared every single post I’ve written and some you’ve shared twice. Each time you share a post I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. You both make me brave. This blog is and always was because of you.

Now for those of you that have also shared a post or sent me kind words, please know you make me brave as well. I keep your messages and read them when I feel a little less brave. Your kindness made and continues to make all the difference in my world. I learned that kindness and generosity are so much more powerful than cruelty. When people said to me “Oh no, I don’t read that thing” or “That’s not really my kind of thing” or comments I will not share because they hurt my feelings. People are well within their right to have those thoughts or opinions. But, when they did, I thought of the kindness and generosity and all the badness and fear faded away.

I learned this last year to support the people you love. It’s incredibly powerful to verbalize support and share kindness with the people in your world. The world is not a bad place. I believe that most of us are just fumbling around doing the best we can with what we have. I think that most people are kind and good. I know this because I’ve put myself out in the world in vulnerable ways and the response was so much more kind than it was cruel. Yes, the internet can be a toilet and some people will say things that are hurtful but most people will not. The kindness, love, and gratitude in the world can snuff out out the darkness.

Finally, I can never say thank you enough to those of you that have shared in on this journey with me. I just can’t find words to express how much your kindness means to me. So, in the words of the great and powerful Shonda Rhimes: You make me brave.

Love wins.

“If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time” Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper