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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Labels

Photo: www.sharenator.com
Some days I sign into Facebook, and my first impulse is to sign back out again. I probably should, anyway. It's a procrastination tool more than anything else sometimes, and Lord knows I don't need any more challenges to my focus. But I use it for marketing and to keep in touch with so many people that I don't really want to let it go. I LOVE seeing what my friends are doing, seeing their families and being at least a peripheral part of my friends' lives. I love my friends, and they are a kooky, interesting and diverse blend of awesome most of the time.

Sometimes though, Facebook can provide insight into people that is a little disheartening. It's okay though, I mean, we are all on our own journey, at different places in our lives and in our minds. It's part of the human experience. Some of my friends (quite a few, actually) are younger than me and in places I used to be. Sometimes, that's the hardest thing to observe from the sidelines. Suddenly, people my age with my beliefs are this, that and the other thing. If I believe this, I most assuredly must believe that as well. Blah, blah blah. If one were to believe the propaganda, most people are doing everything wrong and need to be flogged. The rest (and the righteous) are going to start a gosh-darned revolution. Gee, I've never heard THAT before. Nope.

I've been there. I've been young and passionate about everything. I know what it's like to feel a deep-seated rage at the way things are, to feel a need to clarify who I am and what I'm about (though admittedly, and in hindsight, that was as much for my own clarity and understanding as for anybody else). I'm still passionate and angry in my own way, but I've come to understand that identity is fluid and growth is inevitable. I don't limit myself with labels anymore, and I won't accept those of anybody else, either. F*** your labels. They are meaningless. And they can make us insta-stupid. I will use Bernie Sanders as an example (calm down, just an example! Though I do support him). Some folks are all "Ohmagawd! He's a socialist!" and others are all "Ohmagawd! he's not even a real socialist!"  and then all manner of articles and whatnot are written about the myriad of ways that Mr. Sanders is/isn't a socialist (Oooh! Shiney!) while everybody completely misses the actual, relevant points (You know, what he's done, what he's doing, his record. Sigh.) It's exactly what we do to each other; we label and make assumptions, we get hung up on the most irrelevant things. In doing so we become blind to the meaningful, relevant reality. One of the joys of getting older and seeing a few things is the liberating acknowledgement that all of us are flawed, and the journey we are responsible for is our own. We don't get to impose our labels on other people, either with sweeping (and wildly inaccurate) generalities, or misunderstanding.

And here's the real kicker: The more labels we use to define ourselves and others, the more we create a divide. Labels are used to differentiate one thing from another; counterproductive when the point is unity. The point IS unity, right? I look at you and I see a human being, I see a face, eyes, a soul. Why is anything else relevant? Can we just be human? Can we just connect with each other on that level? Now THAT would be a revolution. Eliminating labels eliminates barriers, boundaries and blame. But then where would we direct our rage? Who would we blame for our unhappiness? Our feelings of being disenfranchised? I feel it sometimes. Less so now, but I understand. There is still plenty in this world that needs fixing and plenty to be angry about. But what's the goal? Is it to piss off allies and alienate people? Does anybody KNOW the goal? Aside from rage and blame, what exactly, is being done to reach the goal? (FYI: rage and blame are not a plan. They are a catalyst, a valid way to get attention so that a plan may be implemented. You DO have a plan, right?). I know that you all have to do what you've got to do. Though the enthusiasm and passion of youth isn't always productively aimed, it usually manages to  get something done in spite of itself. It would be a pretty crappy world if nobody cared about injustice, and in that regard I applaud your enthusiasm.

Just don't label me, and don't you dare make assumptions about people, just because their journey doesn't look like yours. Isn't that doing to others what you are angry about people doing to you? People care and act in different ways and that's for a damned good reason. Sometimes, you have to meet things where they are to implement change; you have to begin a dialog, listen as well as speak. But hey, I wouldn't have listened either. Just don't judge me (or do, I really don't care) for not doing things your way.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rainy Day

Photo: newtopwallpapers.com
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain pounding against my bedroom window. I love that sound, even if it means I'll have to walk my dog in the rain. Since living here in town, I've been buffeted by the relentless sounds of traffic. An endless auditory assault. I've learned to always sleep with a fan on to minimize the impact, but it still drives me crazy. I miss falling asleep to the late-night serenade of crickets and frogs, taking turns as the season dictates. Sometimes a coy-dog or two would lend their voice to the concert, an impromptu solo, wistful and lonely. But these are the sounds I am used to, and they were a comfort.

The rain reminds me of that comfort. It belongs. It has always been here, and will be here long after I am gone. Elemental, necessary and right. It is part of what is supposed to be and what has always been. It makes me feel centered and calm, and quiets my mind. I know some who find it depressing, but I resonate with the vibration of the rain.

I put on my clothes to walk my dog, a sun-faded gimme-cap and a hoodie. I put on my sunglasses in spite of the rain, and pretend they render me invisible. I look a bit like the uni-bomber with my hat, glasses and hood, if he were ever to walk a large Doberman clad in a bright yellow raincoat. Dobermans hate the rain.

I like that my mind is able to function on days like this. The soothing, rhythmic sound speaks to my soul and dampens the anxiety. Water beads up on the leaves and grass and imbues them with a bright, inviting succulence. I remember hours spent laying in the grass as a child, studying each blade, and watching ants and rosebugs doing their thing. Sometimes I would catch a toad or a grasshopper and carry it around with me for awhile before releasing it back into it's grassy world. Today, earthworms lay across the sidewalk in my path for me to tiptoe around. I remember days and nights spent digging for worms. Coffee cans filled with dirt and worms, bait for fishing. I miss the world, my world. I miss having something to do on a sunny day, that feeling of ending the day dirty and exhausted and a little bit sunburned. I miss the well-earned golden streaks in my hair that came directly from the sun.

Someday. But for now, I have the rain. An old friend that stays with me no matter the circumstance, and surprises me with "hello" on mornings like this.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nosebleed



Rhiannon riding in Arberth. From The Mabinogion
I woke up this morning and had a nosebleed. That's never a good sign. It usually means my blood pressure is high and so is my anxiety. Not a good start to the day, generally speaking, but not all anxiety is bad. We're moving forward, and doing so in a way I had hoped and thought that we would. Just because it isn't happening fast enough for me doesn't mean it isn't happening. That's something.

I woke up around 4:00 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. It doesn't happen often. Sleep is one of those physical functions that I can usually count on, and I am ever so grateful for that. But sometimes, like this morning, I wake up early and I can't shut my head off. This hasn't always been so pleasant. Sometimes I lay in the darkness, freaking out about the places I haven't been and the things I haven't done. I feel old and a little panicked. I hear the clock on my life ticking, I worry about years wasted not doing the things that I want to do. It's a helpless feeling, because it isn't about desire, imagination or motivation, but about resources. At times I have felt that I would spend the rest of my life struggling without ever really having the opportunity to live. But things are moving forward.

Once upon a time I felt like a cautionary tale to all the other good little Catholic boys and girls. "This is what happens when you don't do what you're told, don't do what you are supposed to do." You grow up, go to college, get a job that you hate and work long hours at it. Complaining is mandatory, and the more you have to complain about the better. Maybe you get married and have children. If you're a woman, you give up your own ambitions in favor of supporting those of your husband. Worse, it's expected of you. If you're lucky, there might be something in it for you. Maybe at the end of your life, when you've been worked to death and your mind is tired (or if you're a married woman, you've sublimated your own desires for so long you no longer remember what they were), if you've been very very good and squirreled away your nuts, you might get to do something you enjoy. From the time I was very young, none of that sounded at all appealing to me. NONE of it. In fact, when I was in Kindergarten and the teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "retired". I didn't know it wasn't a thing I could be. I just knew that my grandparents did it, and though they were always busy, they seemed to really enjoy their lives. The other part of that was that my grandparents didn't have to go to school. As a child my greatest wish ever was that I would never have to go to school again, so even on that level, "retired" sounded like a pretty good deal.

And then you grow up. I tried to do things the 'right' way, I really did. It was awful. I didn't fit. I didn't fit in anything I did. Sure, I know how to toe a line, but it's exceptionally unnatural for me. It made me physically sick. I know how to be polite, how to sit calmly at a table with my napkin in my lap. I know how to sit up straight, and which utensils to use when. I can beat around the bush with the best of them too. Manners are cool. Everybody should learn some. But sometimes subtlety doesn't work. I didn't get that for awhile. For a long time I felt like the only thing I got right at all was having my daughter. If my only legacy is the decent human being I brought into the world then hey, that's something. Very nearly enough, really. But you know, I never got married, so judge away if you must.

Somewhere along the way I learned to be direct. Unladylike, perhaps (and at times VERY unladylike), but more me and more effective. It was the first inkling I had that maybe, just maybe, there was more than one way to get from A to B.

Have you ever dreamed that you were flying?  From the time I was little I used to have a recurring dream about flying. It was kind of funny, really. Everybody around me was flapping their arms and flying around successfully and happily. I would flap like crazy and never get more than a couple of feet off the ground. It never changed. Even as an adult, flap, flap, flap, nothing. Until a couple of years ago. It was the same dream, but this time I instinctively just raised my hands above my head like Superman, and off I went like a rocket. I know it was just a dream, but the message wasn't lost on me. The thing that had held me back was my belief that I had to do it like everybody else. It was just a stupid dream, but it changed everything.

I'm human. I care what people think. I don't care enough though, to change my priorities. I didn't get married. It wasn't because I failed, it was because I didn't want to. I work for myself. It isn't because I'm unemployable (in fact, I work happily with other open-minded, artistic folks with a shared goal), but because it's preferable to me. I've learned that sometimes, life is ugly and messy, and it's okay. It's okay to look at the mess and talk about the mess. The mess has far less power over you when you aren't trying to shove it aside like it never existed.  Sometimes, the mess is the lesson you need to learn before you are allowed to move on. You can't move on if you aren't willing to embrace all the things, messy, not messy.

These are the sorts of things I think about now when I wake up at 4:00 AM and can't get back to sleep. I look back on lessons instead of mistakes. My life hasn't been about rebellion and wrong turns, it been about moving in the right direction for me. I got something valuable from every experience in my life, even those that were the most difficult. There are things I never would have learned about human nature, or even my own nature (and capability and strength) without those experiences. All of it a means to an end. I may not be where I want to be yet, but I'm most definitely on my way. Knowing that makes for a much better 4:00 AM experience.




Monday, July 6, 2015

Perception

Photo: vdyhnovenie.kutiika.net
I've been in a really weird space lately. It has been my hope that I would simply snap out of it, but since that doesn't appear to be happening I'll try and use it to my advantage. Sometimes distance can create space for objectivity, and I guess there really isn't any bad there. I've got plenty to do, and plenty to think about when I'm not doing it, and for now, that has to be enough, I suppose. Sometimes, with introspection comes awareness, and that's a good too.

Folks, including myself, have lots of opinions. Opinions about religion, politics, each other and a myriad of other things. I think what we forget, though, is that there are reasons we feel the way we do about certain things. Sometimes it's about how we were brought up (and I suspect this is most often the case), about our life experiences, sometimes we share the opinions of those we admire, just because we admire them, and so on. It would seem though, that oftentimes the way we perceive others says far more about who we are and how we feel about ourselves, than about that person. For example: If I feel hostile and judgmental toward somebody, it may be less about them deserving it and more about me being a hostile and judgmental person (and I have my moments). We see it all the time in others, but are we willing to look at that aspect of ourselves?

I've met some really cool, very self-aware people. The thing that distinguishes them in my mind is that they are very secure and generally very non-judgmental of others. They know how to take care of themselves, and it makes them great at taking care of others. They are really great at holding their own energy in that they don't need to take it from (or throw it at) others. They are easy to be around, easy to talk to and just pleasant people in general. I would like to be that way someday. The 'security' part is indicative of another layer of perception: Insecure folks tend to live their lives based on how they want to be perceived. I'm not there, thank goodness, but I know what it looks like. They wonder constantly what others think of their appearance, their choices, what they have, etc. They inadvertently live their lives for others, but here's the kicker: Other people don't care that much. They really don't. And if they do, it's only their perception. Having said that, we really have no control of how others perceive us, because it's about THEM, not US. So being insecure and trying to 'people-please' is a complete waste of time. Am I making any sense?

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be conscious of the effect our 'being-ness' has on others. We absolutely should. More important though (as much for myself as anyone) is that we need to understand that our perception of others is just that~our perception~and not necessarily based in reality. It's a tough one. Especially since we are humans, and somewhat prone to 'group-think', and there can be a lot of pressure to conform to certain ways of being and thinking.

I've never been good at that. Even though I'm super-aware of it, it doesn't seem to make me feel differently. Growing up, that was a real chore. I'm okay with it now. Is my perception strange? It certainly may be, but it is what it is.  I try to think of what it all means, but being human I always come up short. Sometimes I try very hard to understand people that I can't wrap my brain around. I'm sure I'm one of those people for others. It's not bad, we're all just different. But it means we need to think twice before we judge. It also means that we have every right to define those things that are important to us, and to live according to those desires that we have for ourselves and to not let others make those decisions for us. And I think we have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable, to not project our crap on other people and to keep learning until we are able to be in the world, holding our own energy and not expecting others to take responsibility for it. Having said that, we also need to understand that though we are individuals, we are not alone in this world. We have a responsibility to care for each other in moments of weakness and to do so without judgement or projecting our own beliefs and expectations on them. It's a tough balancing act, and I love watching those who are good at it do their thing. I'm not one them, but it doesn't mean I can't be or that I won't be someday.

There are no limits to what we choose to do or be. But our own understanding of the world, and subsequently, our perception of it, can be what keeps our lives small and our thinking limited. I forget that, a lot. I'm filled with "Yeah, but..." sometimes, and it's unproductive. The limits are real enough, but they don't have to be permanent. Anything can happen, at any time. Sometimes, wonderful things come out of the blue and surprise us. Expect it.




Thursday, July 2, 2015

Paranormal

Photo: www.queeky.com
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
-Shakespeare (from Hamlet)

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
Nikola Tesla



I've had a lot of opportunities lately, to think about the paranormal. I'm going to assume that if you're reading this post that you've thought about it a bit yourself (and if you don't believe in the paranormal 1. You might want to stop reading and 2. I don't care, so you might as well go try to invalidate somebody else's trauma).

YIKES but that was snippy! While the mature, polite woman trapped inside me wants to be all apologetic for that last remark, most of me has more or less had it with being called names, and having people who weren't there tell me how lucky we were to live in a haunted house, and how THEY would have done it so much better than we did (and maybe they would have. So what). I really have no problem at all with folks who are genuinely skeptical though. I used to be too, so I totally get it. To be fair, I think most people fall into the 'skeptical' category. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little envious of those who could hold an objective fascination and excitement around all things spooky, without remembering the fear that we felt. I think some people are so much better at it than others though. It's like, some folks can study big cats of the Serengeti and learn tons about them, get great photos and have exciting stories to tell, and others would go and get eaten by a lion. The unprepared and uninitiated (like we were) would likely fall into the second camp (especially since we never planned on going to the Serengeti, never wanted to go to the Serengeti, and weren't even fully aware that the Serengeti is where we had ended up).

While my interest in the subject has gone on long enough for me to understand the fascination and excitement experienced by others and the desire researchers have to learn more (I share that desire!), the experience was incredibly traumatic for us. I watch shows about it on television (in fact, our story will be on TV at the end of the year) and it either seems as though the goings-on are very dramatic and in your face, or tiny things (that are really open to interpretation) are attributed to paranormal forces. It always seems as though the people involved know just what to do, how to handle it, who to call. The reality was so different for us. I think it was a time/location thing (NOBODY talked much about that stuff  back then). Even today, most paranormal discussions have an element of the tongue in cheek, and while interesting, one rarely hears about what the impact might be on the human psyche.

My sister (a psychologist) who was there in the house with me, compares what happened to us with being in a psychologically abusive relationship. I don't care that we were were rarely touched (well, rarely, not never. Dawn and my daughter were scratched and bruised). To say we were unable to think clearly was the understatement of the century. We were always afraid; afraid to talk, afraid to make things worse. I don't care how many people say "Oh, it's harmless", we knew, KNEW it wasn't. We knew it on a cellular, visceral level. It's as harmless as any form of psychological abuse could be. And hey, I'm not minimizing abuse by saying so. I have been physically assaulted too, and what happened to us in the house was worse. Not only were we tormented, but we had no way to manage and understand what was happening to us. I can't begin to tell you what it's like to not even have full use of your own thoughts, and to live at that level of fear for six months. And we aren't alone.

One of the most touching things about coming forward with our story was the number of people who contacted me via my fan page to tell me their stories. It touched me because, in many cases, these were people who had had really traumatic things happen to them and I was the first person (a total stranger, no less) they felt comfortable talking to about it. I'm so, SO glad that they reached out, and I understand how hard it is to keep a secret like that. If I could have hugged each one of them personally, I would have. Having to keep the secret makes everything so much worse. But not keeping it can lead to ridicule, which I'm all too aware of. And that can feel like being traumatized all over again. Over this past year or so, I've more or less learned to take the 'Taylor Swift/Shake it Off' route, but it was something I had to learn and I needed a lot of help to do so. I still have tough days. The saddest thing though, is knowing there are still people out there who are suffering in silence. I'm planning to do something about that, hopefully by the end of the year. Not sure what yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Having said all that (and in spite of my previous, snippy comment), I have been really grateful for ALL the folks who have shown their support. The people who get excited about haunting and want to buy and live in haunted houses inspire ME to keep digging! I still want it all to make sense. My logical mind fully expects that we will understand paranormal phenomena someday, and it's the brave folks who get excited about it all that may be the first ones to sort it out. It's an unusual journey, for sure, but one I'm not done taking just yet.





Friday, May 22, 2015

Silver Lining

Photo: www.wallpapersonweb.com
I've had an awful week. There are different degrees of awful; sometimes it means annoying or hurtful, and other times it can mean SO much more. Some weeks seem to be specifically designed to tick all the stress-boxes, and this has been one of them. I don't like to talk about being disabled because I don't like that to be the focal point of my life. Weeks like this force me to stare long and hard at that  'monster' though, and now I'm mad as hell. One of the most difficult parts of being disabled is how vulnerable you are to the foibles and decisions of other people. It doesn't matter how conscientious and careful I am if somebody else's wrecking ball (accidental or intentional...same effect) can still trash my situation. And that's terrifying, because it's MY family that has to live with the mess. I've had a horrid week. It should be over by now, it really, really should, but it isn't. It's that last part that I can't live with.

Okay, I'm done whining. I won't lie and say I didn't call my mommy and cry to her like a freaking baby. I won't lie about the repeat performance I treated my daughter and my bestie to, either. I don't do 'helpless' well, and patience isn't a virtue I have (and in a situation like this it shouldn't be a virtue I NEED). But the emotional piece is now on a slow, rolling boil that I can live with (or make some tea from) and I have the grey matter reengaged.

What have I learned from this? Isn't that the point? What is the silver lining? Well, I've learned that I have options. Had I not been backed into a corner, I wouldn't have had the conversations that led me to that awareness. There's real value in that. Those conversations led to connections. More value. Sometimes the best new ideas are born from the lowest moments.  Well, DUH! Isn't In Stone the best lemonade I ever made (so far!)? I know how to make constructive use of adversity; it's like some magical kind of alchemy we all have access to. Sometimes being forced to consider one's options is the best thing that can ever happen to a person. I was also made aware of what I DO have, and that is a fabulous network of supportive people. It's easy to take those folks for granted, but times like these remind me that I am loved. There is nothing more valuable than that!

One of my friends likes to talk about how the world isn't fair and you have to take what you can get, but I don't accept that. Frankly, that's just pessimistic BS. But once upon a time I subscribed to that. And I tried to be polite and fair to my own detriment. It has lead to a lot of hardship for me. My mother always said that I was the only one who could change it, but I was always so afraid of being unfair or mean. While I believe that no matter what others do, it is our own behavior we are responsible for, I have learned that it's perfectly okay to advocate for yourself. I want EVERYBODY to win, to be happy, to be successful, secure, etc. But I also want those things for myself. I deserve those things. If I don't make decisions that honor that, or if I'm always saying "oh, well that's good enough" so as not to offend, I fail to make myself a priority. Certainly nobody else is, so if not me, then who? Something to think about. Life can't always be about settling and getting by. You know? I'm sure some of you do.  But if you accept that, then that's all there will ever be.

I'll get through this. I guess that is my point. People survive terrible things. I hail from the sunflower tribe, so I won't be kept down long. Sometimes bad things happen, even we do everything right. What do we take from it? What do we learn? Oh so preachy today! Even so, I hope you all are having a great week, and at the very least, are proficient at making lemonade :-)




Saturday, March 21, 2015

People Who Do

Coggio Upholstery
I haven't written anything here for awhile. As I'm trying to get some real  work done, I've spent less time here and on social media. Don't get me wrong; online schmoozing is important in terms of marketing, but sometimes a person has to put some emphasis on having something to market. This is one of those times that I fantasize about having someone else available to do marketing for me (it's not exactly my forte), but then there's the whole 'reality' thing. Anyhoo, I'm back :-)

In my brief perusal of social media in the last few months, and in my research for one of the books I'm working on, I have noticed an alarming trend. Okay, it's not something I've JUST noticed (ergo my upcoming book about homelessness), but it's something I'm finding more deeply affecting the more I look into it: How little Americans in general value themselves and the work that they do. It's like there's some strange martyrdom attached to needless suffering; like you aren't doing anything important unless it's damned near killing you. That's twisted. The flip side of it is that the American worker is seriously undervalued by employers. There's this idea that folks should be so grateful to have a job at all, that they should be willing to take what they can get. Um...HELLO!

Once upon a time, folks actually felt somewhat responsible for the people who helped them to achieve success. A job was long term, people mattered, and folks could live on what they were paid. A friend of mine apprenticed for 14 years, learned a trade and learned it well. He now has his own business that he put everything into and he does all the skilled labor himself. His work is meticulous and beautiful, but he STILL has to argue about his labor costs (which are quite reasonable in his industry). It makes me CRAZY. Recently, someone close to me was lectured by her employer about how hard that employer worked for their homes and cars. Meanwhile, the employees (who are ACTUALLY the ones who's labor supports the employers homes and cars) are struggling to support their families and driving junkers or riding the bus to work. It's like, the worse the job is to do, the lower the pay-scale. There is something very wrong with all of that. The reality is, it's the people who DO who are the most necessary and valuable. If you don't believe that, try running your business without them.

Every once in a while I think "what if?" about random situations. As people are systematically being taught to survive with less and less income, it seems almost inevitable that the trend will ultimately make money obsolete (shh...just go with me here, lol). If it came to that, who would survive? People who move money around and tell others what to do? Not so much. In a world where money is meaningless, they're screwed. The people who do though, well, they'll just keep doing, but for themselves. The builders will build, the farmers will farm and the barter system will be alive and well. It already is. It's been around for a long time, and I've noticed a definite uptick in barter activity since the economy went south several years ago. Hell, even I helped clean stalls for fresh eggs not so long ago. I've done a lot of bartering over the years. The money folks will be waving around meaningless pieces of paper, and any power that may have given them at one time will have disappeared. The only thing I don't understand is why folks can't awaken to their own value NOW.

Okay, maybe I DO understand it. The propaganda is strong. But imagine a world where the value of a human being is actually recognized. What if? What if the hard working and skilled folks were running the country? Imagine the country run by farriers, folks who made or repaired quality items by hand, artists (who wear their souls on the outside of their bodies), storytellers, farmers, carpenters, and the people willing and able to assist and promote the value of others in a symbiotic and fair way that recognizes the value of all. What if?

Okay, reality time. I had my John Lennon moment, my dream of a utopia where a few people with money don't determine the fate of everybody else. It was a fun thought, and a blessed escape from a reality where people are asleep and believe all the bull-sh** that others feed them, even if the briefest moment of thought would enlighten them to the reality that it's to their own detriment. Okay...maybe I need to set the sad book aside for a bit and focus on the novel? It's scary and twisty, but is proving to be much more fun and lively than reality.

I believe in the power of the human spirit. I believe in compassion, kindness and love. I believe these things can overcome hatred, prejudice and unkindness. I need to focus on looking at what's positive for awhile so I can find my optimism again.