Introversion and the Blues

My silence is indicative of my battle with the blues and my aversion to making it public. Isn’t it odd, I have known for years I battle this insidious and all-encompassing emotional sea. This time, I let the waves take me further out, nearly sinking me. This time, I gave free rein to my nature and thus failed to notice as the blues silenced me and built my walls higher and stronger than they had been in years. This time, I looked out of my already well-built bubble of introspection and introversion, shrugged my shoulders and said, ‘fuck it, I am fine, I am good; I can’t care’.

My silence is indicative of the hurt of the past few years. For far too long I have cared too much for to many only to be told it isn’t enough. It has broken me emotionally, financially and worse it broke my trust in others, long nurtured is finally broken as well. I always believed if I was good to others, it would be returned; I was wrong. Time and again, I was wrong.

My silence is indicative of fear. You might ask me what do I have to be afraid of, but that would show you only know my name and not who I really am. I don’t blame you for this, it is who we are as a people, who we have become. Uncaring, unjust and focused entirely on ourselves, unconcerned with anyone outside of a small circle of ‘just like us’. Unwilling to hear anyone who speaks critically, asks questions, or offers any other voice but what is inside the echo chamber of our own narrow thinking and vision. Willing to lash out at friends and allies of years, name them as enemies and call others to do the same when they question the echo.

My silence is indicative of fatigue, both personal and social. This year-long season of the American Horror Story has worn my patience and my hope thin. There is no critical analysis that can be done in the political arena of today, no justification for what the American public is offered as options for President. We argue over who is worse, not who is best. We have become a laughingstock 20ab55a5576cffe1dce94c2fc4b236b0on the world stage when we aren’t a diplomatic nightmare. Our politics and our politicians belittle the dream of America and turn us into a Reality TV show for the amusement of the world. We have lost our way, our demons are on the stage and we must select which one will lead us into perdition.

My silence is indicative of my despair. Yes, I said it; despair. Despair for all of us that we are falling down a hole of ugly we will not be able to recover from. That we are drawing lines we will not be able to erase for decades. That we are allowing the fringe to speak for all of us, rather than standing up speaking up and screaming ‘Shut the fuck up’ when the extreme ratchets up violence, animosity and nativism without a single voice of dissent. When the extreme causes friends and neighbors to call into question the loyalty of decades and shed those alliances and friendships simply to appear more ‘correct’. Where once reasonable people on all sides joined together across political, gender and racial lines to form alliances for good, now those same people are using the language of the extremes and burning down the houses, without care demanding a return to what once was without understanding the consequence of their demand.

My silence then is the only response I have, the only response I am able to offer in this time of terrible turmoil. My silence and my tears as friends of long standing turn on me and call out for others to do the same because I question within the echo chamber. My silence and my tears, as I come to realize how terribly used I was in my time of weakness and sorrow. My silence and my tears, as I watch the nation burn itself down. My silence and my tears, as I watch the extremes on both sides grab the disenfranchised by the throat and shake mightily until out of the pile of brokenness walks the fury that is seen protesting senseless deaths on the streets of our cities or the Trump supporters screaming ‘Make America Great Again’ as they ignore his casual ignorance, racism, sexism and all other ‘isms.

Will my silence continue? I hope not. I hope I can begin to write again. I hope I can start taking an active role in my own life again, become part of the world again. I hope, honestly, I can start interacting with the world again without simply wishing to curl up and crawl into myself. Each time I have tried lately, it has not been an overwhelming success. This world, well it dumbfounds me. I love it less and less. I pay for my interactions within it on more levels then I am happy with. Nevertheless, I am part of it and should not give in to my overwhelming desire to simply retreat, it is far too easy.

black-and-white-girl-nature-photography-favim-com-356563My silence is indicative of the blues. I understand it is easy when you combine a natural introvert with the blues it is easy to do what I have done. So now, I will try to knock the wall back down. So much of the time I feel so very much alone, so very much as if I have to do this on my own. This I think, this reluctance to open the door and let others in, let others help me, let myself be disappointed again; this is another part of the blues.

I hope you are all well and I will be trying to visit.

Things I Know

Sleeping BeautyI know we have an infinite well of compassion, empathy and love at our disposal. We are bottomless, we are never tapped out. Not ever in our lifetimes do we run out of ‘good’.

We might retreat.

We might close the spigot.

The truth is though, we remain full up no matter how much we give. Truth be told, I suspect the more we give the more we have within us to give.

I know we learn throughout our lives. We learn every single day and through every relationship. Sometimes we learn how to become better people, other times we learn to love in better ways. Sometimes we learn our capacity for love, other times we learn our capacity for pain.

With experience we change, our world view changes. Who we are changes as our understanding of self and our place within the world grows. As we learn we find our footing, we determine where we are comfortable, what makes us tick, what makes us sing, what makes us dance. We emerge as our true selves, like butterflies from our chrysalises.

I know we all have the innate ability to forgive, ourselves and others. Not the forgiveness many of us are taught in our churches, but something much deeper and more intimate. As children we are quick to let go of hurt, fast to return to those we love. It is only as adults we hang on to our anger, plot revenge or simply wrap ourselves in painful reminders building shields to protect ourselves in the future.

We forget, anger and hate are active emotions requiring our participation. Forgiveness does not mean you give someone, not even yourself, a free pass. It does not mean you have said to anyone they are free to do harm again. Forgiveness doesn’t come easily to most of us, it is a hard fought battle of letting go. Sometimes, even as we forgive we also must say ‘no more’. There are times when we must see our only choice is letting go, lovingly and with great compassion, simply letting go.

I know each of us is unique and wonderfully made. We are, each of us, flawed and perfect at once. We are forged within the furnace of our family and later by the fires of society; whether tragic or magnificent, usually both, we are formed. As we walk through our lives both alone and with others we are formed into something distinctive and entirely individual.

So many of us these days try to fit in, try to hide our light in anonymity primarily because there is a certain safety in numbers and shades of beige and gray. We fall into the common thought that ‘fitting in’ will gain us acceptance, get us further in life or even provide us a more comfortable living. Maybe this is all true, perhaps if we work hard to strip ourselves of what makes us distinctively us we will have an easier time in the world, but then we will also have to wake every single day and force our spirit into boxes of conformity that may not fit as well as we like, that may squeeze every bit of life from us and leave us gasping for breath.

I know we are meant to dance in the rain with abandon and joy.

I know we are designed for pleasure and it is not a thing to be ashamed of or to shame others out of.

I know we are infused with the spirit compassion and forgiveness.

I know we are intended to give and receive love without stinting or judgement.

I know the world has corrupted our vision of ourselves as human and humane, who we are and what we should be. We have too often substituted joy for shame, compassion for weakness and love for sex in our pursuit of anything to fill a hole in our spirit and our heart. Far too many of us look toward others to define a reality that isn’t our own and then we judge ourselves as failures for not living up to impossible standards.

All of these things I know in my heart. As I continue to work through what I need, how to free myself and where to go from here, all these things I know.

14-April-2016

14-April-2016

Stop Saying That

imagesJust how stupid can you be? Obviously intended as a rhetorical question, clearly all of us agree there is no need for an answer. Right? Yet every single time I ask this specific question I feel as if I have set myself up and then I want to hit my own self in the head with a brick, or a hammer or any handy heavy item.

Truly, I feel as if every single blessed time I ask this specific question I have raised the bar on Stupid, as if it isn’t at all rhetorical but instead as if I am issuing a challenge. What is it that causes people to give me that blank fish eyed stare just before they respond with, “Did I fail the test? Give me another chance, I can do better I can be much stupider.”

I am flabbergasted by the level of stupid alive and well throughout society today. It amazes me every day what people will do and say thoughtlessly. People tend to live in bubbles of entitled ‘me’, heedless of their power to aggravate, annoy, hurt and even at times do great harm to others. Many of us, yes I will admit to my fair share, walk through life with blinders of how our words, actions and even lack of action affect those around us.

Just how stupid can you be?

It is sometimes truly impossible to judge how our actions affect others until after fire rains down on our heads. It might not be our intention to do harm, to hurt but by our inattention to the details we do so nonetheless. Other times, well we simply walk through life with our heads so far up in the clouds, our hearts so encased in the ice of our history we fail to consider the consequences of our words or actions. This is the ‘stupid’ of smart people. We have huge numbers of stupid smart people in the world today, people with intellectual intelligence who utterly fail the emotional ‘smart’ test, for a variety of reasons. albert-einstein-quotes-sayings-wise-stupidity-genius

Then there are the truly stupid, those who simply wake up every day and say to themselves, ‘Val posed the question, issued the challenge and I am going to greet the world with my version of STUPID and then up the ante’. These are the people I truly don’t understand, the people I wonder about. These are the people I drive by on the side of the Texas freeways piled up into each other, the people who during the winter months slam on their brakes across the icy bridges of the Dallas freeways thinking, ‘I have four wheel drive’.

These are the dumb-asses who blow up my phone with, ‘I have a job for you’ but haven’t got a clue what I do, haven’t read my resume and want to pay me $25 an hour less than the market rate for my skills, why you ask? Well because according to them, ‘they can bring someone from (name the country) who would be willing to work for that rate. Yes, I really have had these conversations. Yes, they really do say that to me. Yes, it is insulting. It is especially insulting because this has been going on for years and our rates have already been cut by at least 50% in the past decade for just that reason. download

Then there are those genius asshats who are simply STUPID because they can’t help themselves, they aren’t socially competent enough to exist in the same world as you or I, but they do. These are the people you scratch your head at. I said the other day I am selling my house. I am selling it for a reasonable market price, not expecting a windfall and recognizing there are things that will need to be done by the next owner, because I have lived here for more than a decade. On the other hand, I have also done many upgrades to this house so it is a trade-off. Guess what boys and girls, I am not paying for your desire to ‘upgrade’ or ‘redecorate’.

Don’t be stupid and please don’t insult me. Really I don’t care if you have small children, don’t care if you think you should have ‘better’ carpet than what my offered allowance will pay for, or if you think the fact that I smoke in my office is ‘bad’. The truth is, it is my house, I pay the mortgage here today. I recognize what is required and have offered a significant amount of cash at closing so you can do the necessary painting and carpet replacement, but don’t insult me with an offer of $25K less than the asking price and then give me a sob story and ask for more than double the allowance. images (1)

My answer? Go look at houses in your price range and STFU. Entitled are we? No I would say, ‘Just how stupid can you possibly be?’ Truly, I could go on and on. I could start in on our political landscape and I just might, but not today. I could trip lightly across our ‘reality’ television (oh that might be close to the same thing), but maybe another day. My problem though? Every single time I ask the question, I feel as if I am raising the bar and there are far too many people who want to take up the challenge. What the hell is wrong with people today? Why is it we aren’t celebrating brilliance, reveling in clever? Can anyone tell me why we are tripping wildly down the path of dismal and abject intellectual poverty, please help me understand.

quote-education-that-which-reveals-to-the-wise-and-conceals-from-the-stupid-the-vast-limits-of-their-mark-twain-287825

Alterations

This has been a year of ups, downs, exploration, joy, pain, choices, decisions and change. I have seen my share of sad, okay let me say it outright, my share of down on my knees on the floor and begging for mercy depression. I have spent far too much of my time isolating myself, allowing my introvert free reign, while the rest of my life suffered the consequences. I have spent far too much time, trying to catch up with myself, in too many ways and spent too much of the past year afraid.

 

Afraid of losing all I have fought for.

Afraid of being alone.

Afraid of being hurt.

Afraid of …. Well afraid of far too many things to list.

The funny thing about being afraid, fear absolutely paralyzes you. Fear prevents you from making choices, whether good or bad, fear stops your ability to choose.

I have known for a very long time I needed to make some life altering choices. There were things in my world weighing me down. The first and likely the largest was my house. I don’t know why I have hung onto this monstrosity for so long after my marriage ended. I have spent thirteen years here, longer than anywhere else in my adult life. I do not love it, some days I hate it. It hasn’t been a home in years, if ever. It has been a menace to my health and well-being for at least five of the thirteen years I have been here. It is far too big for one person, by about 2,000 sq. ft., well maybe not quite that much but it is far too big for just me.

So I had to make decisions, for my health mental and otherwise:

Decision #1: My house went on the market 10 days ago.

Decision #2: I am not going to buy right away. Instead I am going to put what I decide to keep in storage and rent for 6 months while I find a new home that pleases me. This will be the first time in my adult life I buy a home with just me in mind, where only my desires, my likes, my wants are taken into account. I am going to take my time.

Decision #3: I am not only going to significantly downsize my home, I am going to downsize my ‘stuff’. This includes letting go of books, CD’s, clothes and other ‘stuff’ I have carried across town, across the state, across the nation and across continents. I will keep what I love, what is meaningful, what belongs in the life I intend to create.

Decision #4: I am paying off 80% of debt (assumes a close to full price offer on house) which will allow me to make different decisions about work and contracts. Only thing that will remain will be 12509264_1549410212015766_3412091072243008118_ncar and student loans (woe is me I will pay these till I die).

So here I sit, in my very clean house. It has been shown a few times since it went on the market. There have been four open houses too. Every morning I wake up and run around like a mad woman, making certain everything is in its place, nothing is hanging out of a drawer and all the animals are in their kennels before I leave the house. Every single day, I hope the odds are with me and someone will like all the upgrades I have made and they will say, ‘Yes, this is the one I want’.

In the meantime, the contract I have been working since last May is hanging by a thread. I am still working but not enough hours. I am looking for the next one and hoping hard it comes soon. I am hoping all the stars align and the house sells, the next contract is one that I have been talking to for a couple of weeks now and will give me a great opportunity to do something really different in a new / old city for 18 months at a great rate. If not this one, well there are a couple of others that might be great also, right here in town. I am hoping all the stars align and maybe one would lead to a full time job where I could maybe, just maybe end my career without any more contracts. Wouldn’t that be better than what I have been doing for far too many years?

So, as I make life altering choices my focus shifts. Some of it hurts. Some of it is simply scary. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and think to myself, ‘what the hell, what are you doing, are you stupid or simply crazy?’ I think all of that, then I simply shrug my shoulders and think, ‘Well, it won’t be the first time you have had to start over’.

Gratitude in the Blues

Yesterday I read a post from Deb of The Monster in Your Closet, Sixty Things o’ Grateful. This post got me thinking, surely despite my rather long period of blues this year I have much to be grateful for. That my gratitude didn’t just belong in this year but truly extended. I determined I would play by the rules, if I couldn’t come up with at least fifty things to be grateful for, happy about in the allotted time I would sit back and meditate my reasoning, otherwise I would post.

What I found? I have much that I am truly grateful for, much I am consistently happy about, many small things that are a part of my life right now that are making me grow and become more me. Some things are simply a part of my world, I need to remind myself how much these things mean, how much they are of value and how very much they make me happy. Other things, well they are new and vital to my being. I recognize how much I need to tell people I love them, value them and appreciate their presence in my life. How important they are and how much they make my life better simply by being there. I don’t do this often enough.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the Blue Frog at Tales From The Motherland. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; help us flood the blogosphere with both!

Without further ado, my list of fiftish things I am grateful for in 2015 and more. After I made the list and put it up I added pictures and in some cases an explanation.

  1. Finding love, repeatedly in odd and unexpected places, creating new friendships where I never expected.
  2. A contract that has kept me busy, paid the bills and where the client isn’t entirely crazy as is so often the case with my clients. I expect there is an element with contracting, we always see the worst.
  3. My sons, their wives and children. I am so fortunate to share their lives, things could have turned out so differently when their father and I divorced. But instead, my step-sons and their mother (wife-in-law) have remained a central part of my life.
  4. My latest sister and getting to know her. She appeared out of nowhere, another one of my biological father’s children. Born just after me, also put up for adoption but now we found each other and are getting to know each other, I am both grateful and happy. Makes me wonder how many more there are out there.
  5. Remaining mostly without pain all year.
  6. Letting myself enjoy my introversion without guilt, I think this is the first year since I was a teenager I have simply sunk in and allowed myself this freedom.
  7. Learning to say no without guilt.
  8. Traveling to my nieces wedding in Seattle.One Brother
  9. Seeing my brother more than once this year!
  10. Learning to sleep further in the middle of the bed, as if I own it. Three years of singledom and still I slept on ‘my side’ of the bed, finally I almost sleep in the middle.
  11. Getting rid of fat clothes as if I won’t grow back into them. It isn’t that I am dieting, it is simply I have been doing better about eating healthy and taking better care of myself.
  12. Letting my poetry be read again, without embarrassment.
  13. My friends, reconnecting.
  14. Sunrises on the lake.
  15. Rain, though usually I hate it all the lakes have refilled now.
  16. Gap insurance. Having had a bad car accident this year where my car was totaled, Gap Insurance saved me!
  17. Christmas gift bags, what a great solution. All the Christmas gifts would have been delivered unwrapped this year without Gift Bags, I simply ran out of time!
  18. Extended families and the oddities of hundreds. With somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-three siblings, their families and now third generations; yes, it extends to over one hundred. It is hard but wonderful to watch all the oddballs, geniuses and lovers make their way through this world.
  19. Victim Impact and extending my participation this year to new avenues that have forced me to face my own demons even while allowing me to let them go.
  20. Only one seizure all year.
  21. My tattoo artist James!
  22. My wife-in-law and our friendship of thirty plus years. The mother of my sons has been a member of my tribe for longer than damned near anyone else, she is friend, family and partner in raising our Sons.
  23. Coming home every night from work. After more than twenty years on the road, this is one of the greatest blessing ever.
  24. Dinner with friends during the week.
  25. Fresh flowers on the dining room table. I buy them for myself and they make me happy every single day.
  26. Peace, I finally understand how critical peace in my home is.
  27. My blogging family who have sometimes kept me sane.
  28. Long drives with no destination at all.
  29. Quiet, true and simple quiet when I want it.
  30. Books, stacked to read without interruption.
  31. Growing my hair without anyone telling me they hate it.
  32. Made beds, clean sheets.
  33. Lavender bushes filling the air from early spring to late fall with rich scents.DSC_0152
  34. Kind strangers.
  35. Naps on Saturday because I can. Because I am not traveling Saturday is now a day of rest if I wish it.
  36. Taking myself on a date.
  37. Going on a real date with someone other than myself.
  38. Hugs, just that hugs.
  39. Long hot baths without interruptions.
  40. Criminal Minds marathons.
  41. Butterfly gardens.
  42. The dog warming my feet.
  43. The cats fighting for a place on my lap.
  44. New jeans in a smaller size and feeling good about it.
  45. Having my hair brushed by my grandson.
  46. Hearing ‘I Love You’ and knowing it is true.
  47. Removing drama from my world, even when it hurts.
  48. Becoming more me, finding my center.
  49. Laughter, the big huge from the heart kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes and causes hiccups.
  50. Good deeds from the spirit, done from genuine love.
  51. Messes, because it is fine if things aren’t perfect all the time.
  52. Finishing a project, any project and knowing it is off my plate; permanently.
  53. Letting go of some of the old hurts.
  54. Sometimes, to clear the heart just a good cry is what is needed. I no longer try to hold back.
  55. Raising my arms above my head to brush my own hair! Years ago I couldn’t do this and I cut all my hair off. Now I can, I am growing it back.
  56. Letting my personal demons dance without interruption or fear.RayL
  57. Choosing life. I am grateful I no longer feel dead inside, just walking through the world with nothing to offer, nothing to give and no hope. I am hopeful.

Both The Houses

Linda1I have been stunningly without many words lately. It is not that I have nothing to say, it is that my brain, my heart and my fingers do not seem to have the desire to make the connection. I have been silenced by what I can only call the utter and complete decimation of what was once good, fair and right in this nation. Now mind you, it was not completely good, entirely fair and always right; no it wasn’t that. But there was enough good, fair and right that many of us believed it was worth fighting for and working toward better. Hell there was enough good, fair and right millions of people from all over the world immigrated here for a ‘better way of life’.

Now? Those who come, they come because their own nations are torn by war, whether religious, drug or other, generally if you peel back the layers far enough we are in there somewhere stirring the pot. Or they are coming because despite the terrible xenophobia of this nation, the poverty is so terrible in their own they can only hope here will offer a chance to feed their families. Then of course, there is the alternative to these scenarios, there are those who are invited in to displace Americans in their jobs. They come here come to rape the nation of what few jobs remain to us in IT, Engineering and other high tech careers, leaving the dregs, the contracts at low rates and no benefits. They come with the help of Congress, with no complaint from anyone on either side. They come because ‘good liberals’ with deep pockets along with ‘bad conservatives’ are constantly storming the gates demanding broader expansions of this insidious program, because according to them, there are just too few Americans to fill all those waiting positions. This is the nation today, this is the vision of the future and there doesn’t seem to be a bright silver lining.

I have listened intently to what all the candidates for President have had to say. The Republicans with their petty bickering and attempts to out ugly each other. The Democrats with their attempts at calm and civility. The lines drawn in the sand today are brilliant if you stay at the superficial level of the arguments, if you don’t ask the hard questions or truly dig under the surface of unsustainable policy dreams, bright promises of better futures or ‘Winning’.

Is it me or is it truly worse? Is the ugly truly uglier? I think it isn’t worse, not really worse. I think what it is today is more public in some cases. I think there has been, over the past decade a move toward a sustained and unrestrained malice with the culmination being this election season. I think we have seen xenophobia, racism, nationalism and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny stirred into a stew rich in ugly emotions, fired up by looming fears of the failure to thrive.

Dreams of our fathers indeed. Dreams we were created equal in this land of immense wealth and promised opportunity. We know this isn’t true though, we know it wasn’t ever truly designed for all of us, not for most of us even. If we are honest and we should be, we know those pesky words about equality and opportunity were meant only for the few, the chosen who were of the right social class, the right economic class, the right gender (outie not innie please) and let’s face it, the right color or race, though throughout our history we have hated more than just those with obvious differences. Truthfully, xenophobia is one of our favorite pastimes. Want to stir the pot? Point to the influx of immigrants, German, Italian or Irish all free game at one time, though eventually they were absorbed to swell the ranks of ‘just like us’ when the rampart was weakening.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The truth of the matter is, this nation is nothing at all without an enemy, or two or three. Some group to focus our hate, our ire and of course our military might on. The bedrock of this nation is war, the heart of our economy violence. We make war to keep the money moving. Those at the top of the food chain, beat the drums patriotism at every opportunity keeping the mighty war machine well-greased and the war-mongers well paid while the rest of us, we either fall in line or are labeled as anti-American, unpatriotic or other even less flattering things that most who shout them do not have even a fundamental understanding of their meanings. Without violence, without an enemy, without war we are nothing it seems; we love to declare war.

War on Drugs

War on Poverty

War on Terrorism

But in the declarations of war, who really is the enemy? In the declarations of war, who are we really focused on? Who has really benefited from these Wars?

Dreams of our Fathers, indeed.

I find I am tired. Worn out already with the idiocy and nonsense of the early Presidential season. With the bombastic bullshit from the Right and the pretense of civility from the Left. I find I am weary with the do-nothing Congress who does less and less with each passing session. I am exhausted by a citizenry that bitches, whines and moans but refuses to go to the polls when given the opportunity to do so. But more than anything, I am shattered by how far we have fallen as a nation and a people, by the sheer nastiness of our public speech that is not only accepted but defended.

I am sure I will find my will soon. But right now, I find I am simply crushed and silenced by a nation and a people that refuse to seek greatness in favor of the lowest common denominator.

Exotic

Exotic Exotic_sml1 introduced from another country :  not native to the place where found <exotic plants> 2 archaic :  foreignalien 3 :  strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual <exotic flavors> 4 :  of or relating to striptease <exotic dancing> ____________________________________________________________________________________ Red Ants aka Fire Ants are Exotic. I base this on the fact they are not indigenous to this nation, rather they were brought here by some genius farmers to kill a pest. Now they are here to stay. You cannot kill them easily; they have no natural enemies here. Thus, based on the above Fire Ants are Exotic.

Having read the above are you thinking to yourself, what in the hell is she talking about now? I don’t blame you; I have thinking about beauty lately. How we as a society define beauty, what is beautiful to our eye versus what we are taught about beauty. These are more often than not very different, whether we are discussing art, nature or the beauty of a person. What doesn’t fit into narrow definitions we find other terms to describe, Exotic is one of those terms. There are others of course; some are not as kind or puzzling.

There are many things we have splashed the label Exotic on, things like Cars:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Or Flowers:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And animals too:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

However, the thing that most intrigues me, is people. We name people who don’t look like us, who don’t fit into our box of standardized and normative ‘beauty’ as Exotic. We do this when we find ourselves unable to define their beauty or our attraction to their beauty.  The truth is, if those others who were not like us, those others who were from other lands, other cultures were not in their own right beautiful we would not now be talking about new labels of beauty or new definitions for who we are. Were it not for our attraction to the Exotic, we would not now be trying to stretch our understanding beyond the westernized symmetry of what makes a man or woman attractive to be more inclusive of all the other standards of beauty.

My best-loved mother of my heart said to me many years ago, I was exotic. She said this trying to be kind, trying to lift my heart as we talked early one morning over coffee. You see I didn’t understand why my adoptive mother rejected me so out of hand, why my cousins-sibling-sisters were so very standoffish, why I never really had girlfriends growing up. She said this trying to explain why I felt not just like a black sheep within my adoptive family, but within my peer group as well. She wasn’t trying to be cruel, instead she was trying to explain what she believed was a very real and simple concept.

Everything about me, my features, the tone of my skin, the deep color of my eyes, my natural hair color, my body shape, even my intellect; everything about me was slightly off and thus slightly off-putting. I didn’t fit within my adoptive family or later within my extended family, within my social peer group. I was Exotic I was different. People didn’t know quite what to make of me; they didn’t know how to label me. I could be almost anything, except what people were comfortable with, no one at the time considered this of course they simply knew I made them uncomfortable and acted accordingly.

I have over the years given a great deal of thought to this long ago conversation. I have realized many of my actions, everything from using ace bandages to strap my breasts closer to my chests, to trying to starve my body into submission, to coloring my hair blond and staying out of the sun to keep myself as pale as possible. Each of these were either conscious or sub-conscious acts to fit into a beauty standard defined by a society that had already labeled me ‘different’ or Exotic. My smaller rebellions, ear piercings and tattoo’s, these were me trying to exert power over my personal space and self, especially when I felt denied.

This brings me to our social standards of beauty and the exotic. America, the melting pot; isn’t that what we call ourselves? Over the centuries, our love of the exotic has resulted in a true blending of cultures and people. Our history of intermixing, whether with willing or unwilling partners, has resulted in a people who may wish to lay claim to purity of bloodlines dating back to the landing at Plymouth Rock, but how likely would most of them find more than one interesting skeleton in their closet should they choose to look. So what is beauty? Are we really so very narrow that we will allow the few to define a standard that adheres only to the European regularity, forgetting the beauty of all else. Surely, we have come further than this after so long.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Don’t Be An Asshole

OpEdI have been thinking a great deal, about what is wrong with the world, specifically what is wrong with these United States of America. The list grows longer every single day, doesn’t it? Really, look around you and there simply aren’t enough minutes in the day to list everything that is wrong, just here, just in this nation so it is utterly impossible to look across the globe and start listing out what is wrong in the world. The strange thing is, when you start unraveling what is wrong with the world much of what unwinds ends up on a spool right here, right back in this little tiny country we call ‘USA’. Strange how that works, isn’t it?

We are rich, even in natural resources we are rich. Yet, it seems we are not rich enough we want more, we want what everyone else has too. We will murder and pillage, we will send our young to die just so we can steal what others have. Our leaders have absolutely no problem lying to us, time and again, sending us to war for the sole purpose of stealing what others have. It seems we never have enough.

We are mostly healthy, though we don’t care for our health very well. Yet, we want everyone to be less healthy than us and to pay more for their health than we do. Damn them if they pay less, we will find something wrong, we will apply the dreaded ‘Socialism’ word to their system and turn up our noses at their successful solutions. We are more than happy when we see plagues in other poor nations; this pleases us to no end. We can feel greater, pointing our fingers and sending some advice along with our condolences. We will spend millions keeping our own people sick, poor and without access to healthcare, medicine and proper nutrition. I suppose I must revise my original statement, we are truthfully a sick nation.

We are a nation of immigrants; our history is one of immigration, waves of immigration from all over the world, both voluntary and involuntary. Our entire history is steeped in bloody battles Murrieta-Immigration-Proetestof migration, whether willing or unwilling each surge of new feet on the ground in this land brought with them culture, language, knowledge and strength. Each wave brought new blood, new worldviews, new cultural norms to merge into what was already here. Each new surge also brought a new focus of hatred, though some have stayed with us while others over time have assimilated into the ‘White’ standard of ‘like us’ and thus ‘good’.

We are a nation that prides ourselves on our decency, our democracy, our record of civil rights, our education system, our freedom and even our diversity. Now there is a list that should make you throw up in your mouth just a little bit. As a nation we have spawned more hate groups and homegrown terrorists than I can count with both hands and feet, we have government representatives working hard every day to strip from our citizens the right to vote, agencies infringing on the freedoms of citizens to live without fear and practice the faith. Our education systems are failing, from pre-K straight through our university, which only the wealthy can afford. Civil Rights, I am surprised we know what these are anymore, with our prisons full and private industries taking them over for profit and diversity is something we talk about, not something we practice.

I am glossing over the deep sickness in this nation. We have a cancer, one that is grown and is frankly malignant. The GOP presidential candidates are the embodiment of what is wrong with this nation. They are not an embarrassment; they are an indictment of us all. That we allowed any of them to survive, let alone thrive, rising to the top condemns us all.

150418102020-gop-field-2016-candidates-large-169

Here is my cure, don’t be an asshole.

It is that simple and starts with each of us.

Don’t be an asshole and don’t let your friends or neighbors be assholes. Don’t turn away, don’t stay silent, start speaking up and demanding better.

When you see someone acting like an asshole in the store, say something. If you don’t, you are contributing to the problem.

When your city council plans on doing something that will destroy green spaces, go to the meeting, speak up. If you don’t you are contributing to the problem.

When your school board is going to do something that will harm the children of your community, even if you don’t have children, speak up. If you don’t you are contributing to the problem.

When you state representative says something that is insulting, racist, sexist or otherwise egregious; speak up don’t let him / her get away with it. If you don’t you are contributing to the problem.

The list goes on, whether it is local or not, don’t be an asshole. Say something. Engage in the community. The only way we change the course of the nation is we become active members of the community large and small. The only way we stop the crazy is if we demand better of ourselves and those around us.

So that is my new motto, even when it is hard to do otherwise, DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. Even when circumstances may call for it, I am going to try hard to not be an asshole.Kickm

This does not mean you can’t meet idiocy and ignorance head-on. It doesn’t mean you can’t meet prejudice, foolishness and stupidity with intellectual force, which in some cases may appear to be assholishness. All it means, this ‘don’t be an asshole’ movement I am attempting to start, is don’t add to the terrible in the world by being one without warrant or cause.

I hope you will join me, maybe if enough of us decide to speak up when we see bad and work to do good, maybe we can turn this descent into utter chaos around.

I Am

I AM.

Such simple and stark words, I AM. So often we are cautioned to remove ‘I’ from our thinking, from our language, from our definitions of self even. Yet how do we speak to who we are what we are without ‘I AM’. The truth is, until we define who we are as individuals, what we stand for, what we believe it is difficult to move through the world in a meaningful way. We can move like zombies, brainless, dumb to the world around us; but to what purpose? How do we serve even ourselves if we have no ‘self’, no ‘I AM’.

I AM.

Through life’s tumbles and stumbles I believe there is a distinct possibility I know 85% of the conundrum of ‘I AM’. We all ask this question, of who we are and what we are. It is a question we start asking at an early age and continue to ask throughout most of our life. Many of us change our ‘I AM’, sometimes through our life experience and sometimes simply as we search for what fits us best. My ‘I AM’ is a combination of everything, how I was born, what was done to me, what I have done and the choices I have made along the way.

This is my ‘I AM’.

I am human, first and maybe most importantly. No better, no different from any other human I run across in my daily life. What separates me from other humans is nothing but the surface stuff but certainly not our shared humanity.

I am a woman, always. This more than many other things defines me, defines my thinking and how I move through the world.  Vintage_photo_nude_woman_1

I am White of mostly Southern European extraction, though according to the DNA testing we had done some time ago there is a bit of other things thrown in there. It is my understanding some of my heritage is rooted in the Southern European Romany, however this is family lore only.

I am a feminist, not a man-hater but instead a believer in women and their innate power, strength, ability and capability.

I am a political progressive. Not a Democrat, not a Liberal but instead an Independent Progressive. I make no bones or apologies about my leanings; there are certainly some Socialist elements to my political stances. There are components in my thinking that lean outward, toward social good rather than inward toward personal enrichment (Capitalism). My tendency toward compassion, toward helping those of less fortune than I is ingrained a part of my core being, not learned but rather a ‘born this way’ feature of my personality.

I am a person of great spiritual faith and depth. I believe there is something greater than me; I simply do not believe that thing is an Old White Man on a Cloud in the Sky. I am not Christian; I am angry-godwithout a religious affiliation. I was raised in a mixed Christian household, depending on whom you asked, we were Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or other. I have read the Bible, cover to cover more than once. I have read other holy books, thinking there must be a reason people are willing to kill and die for their ‘God’, their faith or their religion. The one thing I have come away with, there is nothing religion can offer me, not one damned thing man can offer me through religion.

I am pro-life. Yes, this is a true statement but it might confuse you. I am a staunch supporter of women’s absolute right to decide whether to end a pregnancy. This is true whether it is the morning after, early in the pregnancy or late in the pregnancy due to unforeseen and tragic circumstances. My stance goes much deeper. I am pro-life, I support any program that enriches, encourages and enables the lives of human beings already born, already living on this earth, we share. I believe strongly we should work to reduce abortion through making contraception readily accessible to all women, make childcare programs available, make sex education appropriate, factual and early enough to count. I believe we value life by ensuring healthcare for all, encouraging education and providing it to all members of society equally. We value life by removing weapons from our streets, making it more difficult to purchase and maintain arsenals, dismantling Stand Your Ground Laws and the Castle Doctrine in our states and shutting down the internet sellers of bullets by the thousands. I believe we value life by raising the minimum wage thus providing at least a ‘living wage’ for families with born children. We value life by insuring our elderly are cared for and their retirement funds are paid through Social Security. We value life by ending the Death Penalty. This is the short list, this is what makes me Pro-Life, anything less is anti-life.

I am a humanist. Yes, I think this is the best description of me. I believe in Human Rights first. I believe it is impossible for us to achieve a civil society without Human Rights taking a step forward. For far too long we have allowed a small cadre of selfish men to march this nation slowly into perdition. We have allowed the Human Rights of many of our citizens be trampled under the heels of kochbrotherthose who simply wished power and riches at the expense of all of us. We were comfortable with the social hierarchy as long as we weren’t on the bottom, so long as we could stand on the shoulder of someone else and point to their disadvantage we were fine thinking maybe we weren’t so bad off. The truth is, we are all the same, the only thing that separates us is the color of our American Express, the size of our bank accounts.

I am a person with a vast capacity too love and a desire to love and be loved. This is perhaps one of my greatest strengths and greatest weakness’. This desire to see the best in people, to believe others want what is best for me allows me to see the world through rose-colored glasses and never question motives, to retain a level of naivety despite my experiences and history; this desire and capacity to love allows me to retain an innocence, but it also breaks my heart.

For all my faults, for all my failures, for all that I am still seeking about myself there are some things I am certain of, these are some of them and oddly they haven’t changed in forty years. I have grown in my understanding, but my core values haven’t changed since I was seventeen years old.

Combinination

Grace and Truth

ORIG_15003_022_use_1Language has always been powerful, words from a young age the panacea for skinned knees or the bludgeon worse than leather belts or closed fists. We see the world through words, soft words, hard words, correct words and changed words. The words of a world that defines us and confines us, a world that wishes us to be different than we are or more accepting of our position within it. Our world expands or contracts based upon how we are defined, how we define ourselves within the narrow confines of a language that may not be our own, yet is the only one we know.

Over time, words change and with those changes, our view of the world may be moved. The things we once believed, thought were written in concrete become mud and we are left wondering if all our preconceived notions of the world must be reexamined in light of our new understanding. These changes of course, this reexamination requires first a heart and mind willing to consider new ideas. It also requires the intellect to see through the barriers of history and how society uses language and symbols to create new meanings, divisions and sometimes-even reconciliation.

Occasionally, we are thrown out of our comfort zones by language. Other times we co-op language to make others uncomfortable, or perhaps simply to force a change in perception. We tend to combine language and symbols, making connections with those we might otherwise have nothing in common with or who we might otherwise choose never to associate with. The only thing drawing us together, our common language and adherence to the symbols we claim as defining us as a group, as our stake in heritage and pride, whether national or otherwise.

Whether these symbols and the language surrounding them are flags, guns, uniforms, a badge or some other mark of distinction; they set us apart. In many cases what once were used to define boundaries and defy a world finally are being exposed for the symbols of ignorance, subjugation and violence they always were, without the whitewashed language that has surrounded them for fifty plus years. The language, the words to describe this symbol of horror were many, most were lies yet we all turned away allowing the lies to stand until finally they could stand under the glare of historical truth no more.

Battle Flag of the Confederacy

Battle Flag of the Confederacy

Of course, these truths were always there, always right before our eyes we simply allowed the lies to stand. We, as a nation allowed a small minority to change the truth, to rewrite history and fly their symbols of hate, bigotry, fear and slavery over public buildings and within state flags without saying a single word to expose the truth. We, the people of this nation turned away from the truth without a word, we shook our heads and allowed a lie to stand for nearly sixty years even knowing the insidious nature of the lie, we allowed it to stand to infect another generation and become accepted as a truth. That is the nature of language, of words and of allowing the defeated to rewrite history.

I grieve at our willingness to continue the lie generation to generation. The language we use to hide the truth of our terrible history and its continued impact today. I am dismayed at the hubris of so many who believe they can rewrite our terrible history, deny its truth and the ongoing truth of racism, hate, intolerance this nation continues to support. Words, language how we use them tend to ultimately define us, ultimately show who we are. This is true even when we attempt to change the meaning of things, the meaning of symbols and the words surrounding them.

We have watched this play out over the past weeks with the Confederate Battle Flag. We have watched the defenders using language of “Heritage not Hate” and “States Rights”. We have seen the Memes slide across social media about the secession of the southern states not being about protecting their right to own human beings. Those of us who understand the truth of that flag, the history of that flag tried to educate, tried to refute these lies and some of us lost friends. Many who revered the Confederate Battle Flag they didn’t know this wasn’t anything more than a Battle Flag, they didn’t know it was only unfurled in 1961 in protest of Civil Rights. They didn’t know the true history that this battle flag was unfurled in protest of the undoing of Jim Crow laws in the South, of not being able to subjugate, abuse and lynch the former slaves their ancestors had turned traitor to keep enslaved.

I mourn this nation, we buy pabulum fed to us without challenge and despite the evidence to the contrary allow lies to stand as truth.

Grace, something we need heaped upon us. The President spoke of Grace when he sent State Sen. Clementa Pinckney home with a powerful eulogy. On the floor of the South Carolina House as they debated the removal of the Battle Flag, this was the most compelling fifteen minutes I heard, I hope you will listen.

Grace, we need it. We need to find the language to heal this nation. We need to find the words to lift ourselves up from the mire of the lies we have told ourselves. We need to start pulling the threads of truth from the great ball of bullshit we have rolled up and allowed to stand in our proverbial town square as truth. We must knock down the memorials to traitors and begin to lift up the true heroes of our nation, begin to tell the true stories of our nation, begin to learn from them and progress toward a future that lifts all of us up.

Grace, we have little of it right now though what we do have comes far too often from those with the least reason to show it, to give it. It is time we begin to open the doors and windows and give it back, starting with an acknowledgement of truth.

%d bloggers like this: