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.

 

 

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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.

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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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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.

Eat, Pray, Kalamazoo.

I drive a lot for work. I wander between podcasts, audio books, and music. I pick my poison when I start on my way. This week I’ve been listening to excerpts from one of my all-time favorite memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love. Call me cliche, say what you will about this book but the first time I read that book, I found parts of myself that were hiding. It was one big permission slip.

The first time I read the book, I was at a job and a university I hated. I knew in my bones that I needed to leave but I did not have the courage to quit this thing I dedicated my young life to. It’s weird to think how rigid my thinking was then. I laugh when I think that anything will ever go as planned. The first time I read the book, this quote brought me to my knees:

“I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”

Today, on the road, I burst out into gasping sobs when I heard this piece:

“My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree.

Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well—the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.

I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me—I mean, this happy and balanced me, who is now dozing on the deck of this small Indonesian fishing boat—who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years.

The younger me was the acorn full of potential, but it was the older me, the already-existent oak, who was saying the whole time: “Yes—grow! Change! Evolve! Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholeness and maturity! I need you to grow into me!”

And maybe it was this present and fully actualized me who was hovering four years ago over that young married sobbing girl on the bathroom floor, and maybe it was this me who whispered lovingly into that desperate girl’s ear, “Go back to bed, Liz…” Knowing already that everything would be OK, that everything would eventually bring us together here.

Right here, right to this moment. Where I was always waiting in peace and contentment, always waiting for her to arrive and join me.”

It took the air from my lungs because it is my truth. The truth is we believe that there is a finite amount of love, joy, and happiness in the world. We believe that your happiness steals from my happiness, It is ludicrous. There is enough of all these things for all of us. We each have our own paths, My happiness was never for you and your happiness was never for me. But, it is hard for people to celebrate one another without reflecting on their own deficits.

I wonder what your future self is pulling you towards? I wonder what you are growing into? I wonder where this world will take me. I wonder and trust and hope and fear. Trust yourself, trust the wise inner voice, trust the divinity inside of you. Don’t let other people quiet that divine voice pulling you into a beautiful future. It’s not their path. It’s mine.

Love.

But, Can You Love This Much?

I think a lot about spirituality, physics, and religion. I have wonderings (a new word I picked up) about divinity and love. When asked to distill my faith down into a simple sentence it goes like this: But, can you love this much?

When I’m faced with a person living counter to my values in such a way I feel enraged, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

When I’m faced with a horrific story and feel compelled to run away or shut down, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

When I look a homeless man in the eyes and feel a sadness that could fill the universe, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

Love, like Mister Rogers puts it, “Is a verb.” Love is the unconditional acceptance of common humanity. It is the thread that ties us all together. It is my prayer, my challenge, and my purpose.

Some days with some people, I literally have to say out loud to myself: But, can you love this much? I wish I could say it always works and I always find the best in what I believe to be the worst places but I don’t.

That’s when I ask myself: Sissy, even with your faults, even with your mistakes and scars and losses and fears: Can you love yourself this much?

Love.

When My Neighbor Died.

We bought our dream house four years ago. This is not to brag but rather quite an accomplishment from our previous digs only a few years before. You see, in 2010, when my life imploded, we lived in, well, a house broken into different apartments. At one point, Homeland Security raided the house. At another point, the man in the apartment under ours died and no one discovered the body for a week. My husband got a staph infection. Our friend Shelby was the only friend that would come in and hang out. It was preferred that we meet other people at their place.

Then, as life does, our life came together beautifully and we found a 120+ year historic home with a zen garden (that required a lot of work to become a zen garden). I love this house.

When we moved in we were greeted by a gruff looking kind man. He brought over a case of Miller High Life, which to him, was an act of kindness similar to a pie. He welcomed us to the neighborhood. He was full of life, jokes, and adventure.

Then the dogs and the fence.

Our neighbor had a dog when we moved in. His name was Earl and when people say owners look like their dogs, they really nailed this relationship. I believe Earl was our neighbor’s spirit animal. Then Earl died. This was devastating.

A few months later, they rescued two new dogs. One, Lucy, a terrier type with a hook nose, made our dogs crazy. They would have destructive fights at the fence. I would end up in tears. We tried every different way to stop these fights. It was frustrating and I grew to hate those dogs. I would side eye Lucy when she’d sneak that hook nose through our front fence to say hello. Her bark, it was like razor blades.

Then, a few months ago, I came home for lunch and the police were parked outside our neighbor’s house. They wouldn’t tell me what was happening but I was not leaving until I found out. Eventually, a family member came out crying. I asked what was happening and she tearfully stated that our neighbor had died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was only 50 years old.

I shared this news with my husband. We coped by blaring Bob Seger on our turntable and attended the funeral. We learned at the funeral how close he was to his grandchildren. This answered the always puzzling question about why he wore a baby monitor on his belt.

His wife is moving this weekend. They close today. A new, younger couple, is moving in. They don’t have dogs but they want dogs. The fence will probably still be a problem.

But, now that I have the longview, the fence was never that big of a deal. I would love to look at that hook nosed dog and have fights at the fence if that meant we could still have our handy, kind, funny, neighbor.

During the frustrating fence wars, I forgot the one truth of life, it all goes away. The only truth is change and loss. Damn.

Love