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

Friends, Lovers et. al.

It has been a strange, trying and even sometimes miraculous few years. My world turned inside out, upside down and sideways. I lost myself, struggled to find the way through to a new normal and all too frequently wondered just what in the hell normal really was.

I find, my new normal isn’t normal at all. In fact, I find my new normal is constantly shifting under foot and I am frequently reevaluating to test theories. Just when I think I have it down, when I think I am settled on the answer for what ‘normal’ needs to be I prove myself wrong or slightly off center and must try again. So what is it, is it me? Is it my expectations? Is it the world we live in? Really, what is it? I surely wish someone would let me in on the secret, this constant shifting of the sand under my feet, it is making me dizzy as hell and I am tired.

The past week has proven to me I am not who I believe myself to be, at all. Most days I think I have a larger portion of bitch than most, you know tough girl bitch. Been there, done that and come out the other side, bitch. Not mean girl bitch, simply not going to take your shit, bitch. Then something comes along to prove me wrong, someone meanders through my day and I am pulled up short, set back on my heels and sent searching my soul and asking my monsters, ‘hey, wtf, where the hell did you hide my bitch!’

It isn’t that I pride myself on bitchiness. It is simply life has taught me I need some of this to protect me from harm, from the hurt the world and other people will do if I don’t surround myself with12341638_10208005258989848_2508813082028178841_n a hardened exterior. But I am weak, I am soft. I am figuring this out also. I forgive easily and I don’t like hurting other people. I have a difficult time turning my back on those I love or have loved even when they have broken me, even when they have consistently placed themselves and their desires ahead of me. Still, I have a very difficult time saying, ‘get the fuck away from me’. I don’t do ‘No more’, easily. I don’t draw boundaries easily, I don’t like to feel as if I am the source of other people’s pain.

Now, just how truly stupid is that? Really, how truly stupid can I be that I fail to place boundaries and walls that will protect me from future hurt. Even when those I am trying to prevent from hurting have proven they do not, will not and have not in the past shown the same consideration, the same concern.

Well the other side of this failure, I own my heart and forgiveness often leads to unexpected releases of held pain, even pain I did not know I still held. Despite my natural tendency toward isolation and introversion I reach outside of myself, leaving doors and windows open for people both old and new to sneak inside, around edges and corners leading to friendships unlooked for. Doors swing wide where I thought I had slammed them shut, where I had turned my back and wept my tears of hurt, frustration and pain. At the slightest breeze, the quietest knock I open the door and allow myself to be drawn back, without hesitation or trepidation even knowing how much pain the last encounter caused.

11210400_10207936403708509_5830202822718948331_nAm I an idiot? Perhaps, certainly I open myself to more pain. Surely I open myself to being hurt again. These relationships, these friendships are not always healthy and often difficult to sort out. This is especially true where the relationship wasn’t a friendship but a lover or a spouse. It is hard as hell to change the boundary, draw new lines in the sand and not rehash old hurts. It is difficult not to ask, ‘Why the fuck did you do this to me, do you know how badly you broke me?’

Yes, it is likely the other person knows. It is likely, both of you know the content of the ending. Whether short or long-term, whether lover or spouse one of you left, one of you ended the relationship. It is never mutual, no matter how you might portray it to the public. One of you was ready for it to end and the other was left in pain and wondering what happened and why you are alone and in pain.

Do you wonder what in Hades I am babbling on about today?

I have had a strange week. I am trying to sort relationships. Trying to not hurt those I care for. Trying to regain balance, take back my life and make healthy choices for myself. I recognized many things about myself over the past year, things I needed to understand about what I needed from relationships and from myself. I also realized just how easily I sometimes allow myself to be manipulated, not because I am weak but because I am by nature kind, beyond my kindness though is a history of not standing up for myself within ‘love’ relationships. This history goes back 40 years, is grounded in brutality, fear and force. I realized over the past year I haven’t shed some of my history, it remains rooted inside of me, a dark part of my make-up easily called up and easily taken advantage of; one of my personal monsters I clearly haven’t danced with in the light.

As I have struggled toward enlightenment, toward taking back all of me and all of who I want to be I have also fought to let go of hurt. Perhaps it is simply providence, this shedding of anger and 12507215_10208294405378327_4514737177470774775_nhurt this not holding on that out of the blue as I come more to peace with myself, the one person who had so deeply hurt me reached out to talk. Yes, my ex-husband sent a friend request on Facebook and we talked about God and being better people than we were before. We did not talk about why we failed, I don’t think for either of us it was relevant.

That, that one forty-five minute chat allowed me to finally let go.

So despite I ask my monsters to stop hiding my Bitch, maybe it is fine they leave holes in the wall for people to sneak through. Maybe, just maybe this is how I find myself and find peace. There is no going back, no true second chances. There are though opportunities to learn, to forgive and to forge links in the chains that bind us to the world and our own humanity.

Stuck in Bad Blues

blueWomanMy absence, my inattention, my sporadic visits to your and even my own blog to read or write have been growing lately. It seems I am unable to keep up with life these days. What is it they say? Oh, right it isn’t you it is me. This is has been all too true lately, it is me. My inner demons along with my real live get the hell over here and be quite introvert, they have been playing havoc with my world. On the one hand, I have allowed everyone to dance to the music without interruption, I suspect it is what I have needed. On the other hand, well I think I may have done myself a disservice, now I am finding it hard to reenter life, any life at all.

Don’t misunderstand, it isn’t I don’t have anything to say. No, I have plenty of thoughts running through my head, plenty of emotions dripping through my heart. The world is a terrible place and it makes my soul scream on some days. There are days frankly I simply do not have the heart to pay attention to all the terrible things happening around me, days when I have to turn the world off simply so I can find peace. Add to this bowl of misery, this miasma of wretchedness; well, somedays I fight to get out of bed and be productive at any normal level.

It is a terrible thing, this feeling of dejection, of simply not having the energy or hopefulness to want to do more than make it through another day. This though is how I have felt. I know some of it is very personal, very internalized. I know this is how I have handled the shit storm of my personal relationships, ignoring many of what was so close to the surface even stuffing it into boxes marked ‘Do not fucking open under any circumstances’. I understand I allowed myself to be dragged into the undertow of pretending I didn’t feel disconsolate and rejected by a bad divorce. That I didn’t feel horrified and afraid by ‘alone’. That I wasn’t petrified as my savings dwindled and my bills mounted. As I always did, I put on a brave face pretended none of it hurt, none of it mattered.

It all mattered and two years later it still matters because I am still paying the price.

I want to stop, I want off the whirl-a-gig that is the price paid for other people’s choices and my own unwillingness to say ‘no’. My nature, beaten into me from an early age to always defer, to stay spinning-carnival-rides-at-the-kansas-joel-sartoresilent in the face of other people’s needs and desires has taken its toll. My innate generosity, my desire to help and insure that others have what they need, what they want even when I cannot afford the giving leaves me without, leaves me paying the price. Ultimately, leaves me alone, lonely and hurt by the trust I have placed that is nearly always broken.

Thus, I retreat to lick my wounds and salve my pride.

I wander my huge home, the one I am incapable of maintaining on my own. The one I wish every single day I could rid myself of. The one I once thought of as a place that would hold love, memories, friends and dreams. I wander this monstrosity and weep, there are days I cannot do the simplest tasks. My body betrays me, my heart betrays me and I live with messes I cannot clean; I dread some days even coming home.

So I retreat even further into my journals and into my head.

It isn’t that I don’t want to live, I mean fully live within the world and all that this means. It isn’t that I don’t want to repair the damage to my heart that I don’t want to fix all the bad that fell out of divorce and financial ruin. Believe me, I truly do and I am working on it, at least I am trying it is simply that over the past two years, I was vulnerable to my own demons first and to those who saw me as easy prey. I wanted so much, so much of everything really. I wanted to be seen as complete and whole. I wanted to be seen as strong and capable. I wanted to be seen as undamaged, as worthy and of value. I didn’t want anyone to see the chinks, hell the great huge dents in the armor I had so carefully forged and wore with such certainty I was protected from everything. I wasn’t though, I was vulnerable and easy.

I was blinded by the need to be loved, to be seen. I was vulnerable to anyone who would pretend for a minute I mattered and pay attention. I was starved. I didn’t know it. I didn’t know my years of famine would leave me so needy. I had been without emotional sustenance for so long my ultimate retreat into myself felt natural. Finally, there was no one else but me, yet the minute anyone came along with a story to tell I fell head long and with an open heart.  I recognize the problem of course, I only understood one way of loving, one way of being loved and that was if someone needed me or needed from me.

I had taken care of everyone else for so long I did not know any other way. When I figured out it hurt, that I wasn’t getting anything back, nothing in return I poured my words into my journal as I struggled to breathe and find peace. I poured myself into myself, into my isolation which became more closely guarded every single day as each person who spoke love felt like a liar and hurt my soul, driving me further into myself and further away from the world.

Now, I don’t know how to move. Each day feels like something to fear, what new hammer will fall? What new lie be uncovered? I feel so petty in the face of it all, thus my voice screams in my head stop whining you twit. Still, I find it nearly impossible sometimes to even get out of bed and face another day. I know, this too shall pass. This ennui, this case of the blues. This too shall move out of my way as it always does. But for now, forgive me if I don’t visit as frequently, I haven’t the energy to face the day sometimes and it is all I can do to face the world. I will get there, I will. Somewhere in my soul, hope resides and is likely dancing in the glen with the monsters I manage to keep contained most days.

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.

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

Crawling Back

Linda1I crawled inside myself this year. Allowed myself the luxury of being, simply being without considering the affect my actions have on others. I have stretched my arms, touched the four walls and claimed them, mine, just mine. This time of my own has been healing, soul and spirit healing.

Most people who don’t know me well don’t realize I am by nature an introvert. Most people see the public side of me, the side that stands up and speaks to large crowds, that leads large teams, that hustles for work, hell that writes two blogs and interacts in social media forums daily and thinks that is the ‘real’ me.

Lately I have allowed the introvert control and it has been freeing. I have lived inside of my head, explored the landscape more intimately; it has been hard but liberating. I realized just how much over most of my adult life I have spent making others happy, doing for others, pleasing others, and taking care of others; all too often at my expense. Most of my adult life I suppressed my own needs, wants and desires so everyone around me got what they needed first, if there was something left that was what I got. Oddly, this was ground into me, as ‘natural’ and thus I never realized it was part of my unhappiness.

Living alone and inside of my head has let me see the entirety of my life to now without external inputs, without distractions.

Personality Type

There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to take care of others. Caring for others can be a source of pleasure, great joy even. A lack of selfishness can be a wonderful trait. I think I have both of these, I believe I am an unselfish person who naturally wishes to care for both those I love and my community. What I have come to realize though, is these traits can also be a source of pain and resentment where there is no balance, a fair exchange of power is critical though most of us do not think of power where our relationships are concerned.

The truth is power is at the core of our relationships whether love, family or friendship. Where we are not evenly yoked, balanced in our exchanges ultimately we fail to thrive. I suspect most of us don’t think of our relationships in these terms, we have all heard the term ‘evenly yoked’ when it comes to our marriages or love partnerships, but the truth all of our relationships are power based. I realized through this time of introspection how I failed within each of my relationships, whether parent, spouse or friend to balance power and allowed myself to grow in resentment or anger. I realized how I failed by not asking for what I needed.http://www.parsonsrocks.com/the-art-of-rock-balancing-with-photos/

Yes, the relationship might still have failed even had I asked. The truth is many of my relationships were toxic and were not going to change simply because I asked for something different, for something better than what existed at the time. The truth is, sometimes people are drawn to those they can hurt, drawn to those who are vulnerable. Sometimes relationships are established at birth, without early intervention they will not change and these have lasting effect. Friendships and love relationships though, these are different animals and we have different standards for them, at their core we are either balanced in our exchanges or miserable in our choices, I don’t think there is a middle ground.

For me, this has been a truth without realizing it.

I let myself settle into simply being me for most of this year, truly all of this year. I got through last year, through the divorce, through being scared spitless financially after nearly 6 months of unemployment and through a bad job choice and miserable work environment. Now even though I am still scared, barely recovering financially, struggling with pain issues and waking up some days to, ‘oh shit, what have I done’, when I think about the career move I have made, I realize I am beginning to find peace. By allowing myself the freedom to finally, for once in my entire adult life, put myself first I am finding peace.

Peace to choose what is needful, including fair and balanced exchanges of power with those who are in my life. Peace to ask for what I need from those who claim to love me, truthfully it is more than peace it is acknowledging I have a value that is sometimes greater than what I can give, that I am inherently of value. Recognizing I am perfectly good just as I am. My personal space, both externally and internally works for me and is built on strong foundations I do not have to modify it for the comfort of others unless I choose to do so.

alexander yakovlev, Dancer Portraits

alexander yakovlev, Dancer Portraits

I am also finding peace in acknowledging there is strength in asking for help. By crawling inside of my head and my heart, I have finally recognized strength and weakness. I have spent twenty-three years refusing to accept how damaged my body is, how many things I truly cannot or should not do. Living alone has seen me struggle with physical limitations, battle with what a ‘normal’ person might consider simple. I finally have had to accept there are things I shouldn’t or can’t do alone and have had to ask for help. It was hard at first, my pride was injured, ultimately I asked and no one turned me down. I was lifted up by their generosity of spirit.

So I crawled inside of myself, my natural introvert took over. I suspect I am going to allow my nature more time in control of my world in the future, I find I am happier this way. I have missed my interactions in the blogging world, but found I needed the time to find my footing again, find my voice and my spirit. Hopefully, now that I am finding a foundation of who I am I will begin more regular visits to you all once again and a more regular voice as well.

The Mirror

There are times in all our lives each of us wonder, what does the world see when they see me. When I look in the mirror, I see all of my flaws, real and perceived I count them off one by one. Staring in the eyes of my harshest critic, I see each year stamped across my face telling a story I might rather forget, or wish was never written at all. So I stare, I run fingers through hair sprinkled with silver, I count the furrows across my brow, the lines surrounding my mouth and eyes; then I wonder where the time escaped to and what others see.

Does the world see my flaws in the same way I see them? Can a stranger read my pain, my triumphs, my  history as if it was a roadmap written on my face, across my skin and over the angles, plains and curves of my body, or do they only see slight imperfections where I see something altogether different, something damaged, unworthy of a second glance, unlovable in the harsh light of day.

Cool wind dances across heated skin

Leaving memory of other breath

Fingers trace the water’s edge

Sending ripples across a reflection

Unrecognized in the moonlit glow

Coalesced I come together, softer

In the silence memories pull nearer

The ethereal me beckons, closer

Remember, beauty under stars

Shredded without thought, nor care

For youth, innocence or hope

Lost in a scream for mercy

Tracing the water’s edge once more

Reflection lost to harder currents

Merged again, harder and more true

In the moonlit garden of memory

Does the world see my flaws? Does the world see the scars of my history? I don’t know, some of them are obvious, they are badges of honor I can’t help but wear them on my skin every single OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAblessed day of my life. I wish this were not the case, but it is the skin I live in the only skin I have so it is the skin I will have to walk this world in and the skin I will leave this world in. My problem? Truly, my problem is so many people over the years have left their calling card, announced their presence and left me something to remember them by; I can’t seem to step away far enough to start over again without carrying them along with me.

So, when I look in the mirror, I see my history. Some days I see myself victorious, but other days I see myself vulnerable and hurt, stupid for all the times I have laid myself open. When I look in the mirror, what I see is someone unloved and unlovable, someone who is not worthy of honest straightforward love, who must pay for any affection with something, either straightforward with my money or something else of value, including pain, because this is how it has always been.

Every single day I work toward changing my vision and work toward demanding more. But some days like today, this is what I feel.

I Quit with Much Rejoicing

Linda1I may have hinted I was unhappy, in reality absolutely and utterly miserable in my current employment. Nailing down the why’s hasn’t been easy. Truthfully, I knew some of the reasons but not all from the very beginning. The honest to goodness, oh my gawd, get me out of this madness fact was I was miserable nearly from the day I walked in the door and it only got worse. Exponentially worse each and every single day, it also got easier to identify the reasons why. Finally, this month I had enough of all of it, with great trepidation, I made a decision that I may well come to regret but is nonetheless the right decision for me.

I QUIT.

Yes, you read that correctly. I had enough, I reached my limit my wits end and I wrote my letter of resignation and pushed the send button. I had been contemplating this move for months, seriously contemplating for weeks but then it hit me and I hit the wall of ‘done’ and pushed send. Thinking to myself as that letter went out, ‘shit, can I take it back’.

Last year was very difficult for me, emotionally and financially. I was out of work for nearly six months, ran through my savings and was down to my last month of emergency funds when I accepted the position with my current employer. I had high hopes. I had made the decision to go from being self-employed to returning to the corporate world, to what I thought would be my last istock_000008650446small_custom-6ce6bb326422c9899f3e1b667f9bcae2444a689c-s6-c30job before retirement. I had researched this company, had spoken to more than twelve (12) people within the organization up and down the food chain. I was impressed with what I had seen and heard, I was happy with the salary and benefits, I was happy with the role I was taking. I was excited!

I wanted this to be wonderful.

Then reality hit, it hit hard and fast; it hit like a freight train and rolled over me, squashing me into the ground within the first two weeks. Honestly, I was left questioning my sanity, competency and value. I did not know where to turn, did not know whom to ask and did not have any direction. My boss was incommunicado, his boss simply said, ‘be patient’. The entire environment was toxic and I was miserable, I kept thinking it would get better; it didn’t.

Now less than a year later, I QUIT.

Scary as hell really, with bills to pay and a mortgage I am returning to independence. I am returning to contract work. I am going back to having some control over the environments I work within and those I work for and with every day. Is there risk? Yes, absolutely there is huge risk. Especially since I haven’t had time to rebuild my emergency fund. Nevertheless, misery is a far greater problem than the alternative, the possibility I might not stay busy and paid.

toxic-stress-response-pageIs it really I don’t have the patience to work within a corporate environment where the answer to many questions of inefficiency is, ‘this is the way it is always done’. Or is it that in my industry, consulting and IT, the culture is so toxic today I simply am incapable of surviving. I suspect it might be a mix of the two. Where the only concern is the bottom line, quality and human beings take a backseat. There is of course one other problem that everyone is afraid to mention, afraid to say aloud and that is cultural misalignment that has taken place within most large IT Consulting firms in the last decade.

Our industry, like so many others has been first outsourced then in-sourced through the H1B program, American workers replaced by primarily Indian workers. In the case of my employer, many  of management was Indian (2:1), most at my level were Indian (3:1), those one level below me (5:1) were Indian. Senior leadership of course were primarily American, this is the C-level those who were the face of the company but in all honesty they didn’t affect the lives of those of us who had to function with clients, or with each other day in and day out.

I am all for diversity in the workforce, however when it begins to create a toxic work environment I believe there needs to be something done. The fact of the matter is, when cultures collide especially in work environments all of us need to ask why and what we can do to fix the problem. We shouldn’t avoid the problem; we shouldn’t ignore what is causing the problem. We have an obligation to address the issues and create solutions, for our employees, our clients and our shareholders.

The H1B program was designed to bring qualified resources into the US, employers then sponsor those employees into Green Cards and even onwards towards their Citizenship. This provides large employers such as IBM, HP, Microsoft a source of educated IT professionals at a very low cost. Since the late ‘90’s when the program was expanded the program has brought millions of resources into the US and in turn sent millions of American professionals into the shadow economy of contracting versus full-time employment. One of the reasons for this is cost but as I think I have found out the cost is offset by the loss of organizational culture, the change in workplace culture is incompatible with our psyche and professional expectations, especially if we are women.

I QUIT.10402430_10205015207440428_9211021343351180985_n

Yes, I did that. Today is officially my last day. Yesterday I handed over all my gear, my computer, my phone, my badge. Today if they need something they can call my personal phone, I don’t expect they will though. My resignation caused some angst, though I suspect also it caused some small rejoicing, as I was a thorn in the side of some. I do not regret my decision to accept the position, I do regret allowing myself to stay longer than I should have hoping that it would get better.

So onward and upward, the lesson I learned is to not allow others to treat me badly while making excuses for their bad behavior. Culture is not an excuse.

I QUIT and now I start something new.

You Lived

OpEdWhat do we gain if we hang on to anger? That is a question I am asked frequently when I speak in Victim Impact and other venues. Why do I withhold ‘forgiveness’ rather than offer it freely, without limitations or a requirement for acts / signs of true remorse. Why do I believe forgiveness is a gift to the repentant, rather than a gift to ourselves. These are questions I have been pondering lately with a different frame of mind than in the past.

Last year was a year of turmoil and upheaval, not just for me personally but for the nation. Oddly, though what happened in the nation is very different from my own experiences, I can’t help but draw parallels and then my heart cracks. Even while I feel paralyzed and unqualified to speak, I am and have been drawn, sometimes simply as a witness to the terrible and other times to lend my voice, to demand change and justice. Even when my voice is unwelcome in the cacophony that has greater right, greater knowledge, greater principle still I felt the need to try to make sense and add my voice.

No, it isn’t about me or about me being heard, it is simply to raise a voice to demand change in what is so horribly wrong, what is intolerably unjust. It is a voice raised not because it has weight, but instead because silence is no longer an option. What does any one of us bring as our voices are raised, our pens put to paper, our feet to concrete but the entirety of our life experiences, no it isn’t about me. It is simply one more voice demanding change.

My worldview is based solely upon my personal experiences, what has formed me as a human being and a woman, this is all I have, it is all any of us have from which we can view the world around us and form opinions. Our experiences, they are what each of us carry into the world to form judgment, to balance compassion, to create empathy, to allow love to flow freely or to dam it behind walls of fear and mistrust. What we learn at the knee of our parents, in our homes, our schools and sometimes more importantly through our adult experience; this is all we have to form us as complete adults. My life experience is the only thing I have from which I am able to measure ‘right vs. wrong’ and ‘good vs. evil’, my perspective may be from a different place but it is all I have, the only prism I can see through.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is impossible for any one of us to compare our individual experiences to another person and say with certainly, ‘I understand, I know how you feel’. We don’t, we never will. We might have compassion for what they are feeling, empathy for what they are experiencing; we do not know what or how they are feeling. We cannot know, we are not them and thus it is impossible for us to know. When you layer on all the differences including personal experiences, culture, education, generation and yes, even religion and race it becomes nearly impossible for us to put ourselves in the place of another. At best we can be compassionate in the face of terrible loss and to show solidarity in the face of gross injustice.

Why is it so important, that any of us speak out, that we evaluate our premise and speak from our hearts whether we have the ability to walk in the shoes of those wronged, we nonetheless must have empathy and compassion, if we don’t have these, we are not fully human. What has brought me to this brooding walk through a philosophical position on forgiveness (I will get back there), compassion and empathy? December was a month of heated discussions, unfocused wretchedness and soul searching.

Demonstrator, Boston Commons Reuters/Brian Snyder

Demonstrator, Boston Commons
Reuters/Brian Snyder

“Not about you”, “You lived”, and “You are still White” were all said, they are also all true.

Just prior to the discussion that generated those statements I received a letter from the State of Texas Board of Parole, one of the three men who shot me, leaving me for dead because they, ‘Wanted to kill White People’, is again up for parole. He has been back in prison for just over two years having been paroled once before. That letter is sitting on my dining room table; it stares up at me every morning with my first cup of coffee, sometimes I run my fingers over the words. On 7-Feb -2015 it will be twenty-three (23) years since that near fatal night. The night three young men changed my life and their own forever, simply because they hated the color of my skin. They didn’t hate me, they didn’t know me; they simply hated what I stood for, what I represented.

For twenty-three years, I have lived with the consequences of their actions, so have they. Last month my seizures started escalating again; my epilepsy is one of the gifts that keep giving from the shooting, one of the consequences. Now that I live alone my seizures scare the hell out of me. Yet I stare at that letter and I wonder, do I really need to respond, do I truly need to demand my pound of flesh in the remorse that will never be forthcoming from someone who had all the reasons in the world to ‘hate white people’.

FCI Fort Worth, Enterance

FCI Fort Worth, Enterance

I got the first letter eighteen years ago, I responded with a demand they hold him to serve a greater part of his thirty-year sentence. I questioned how they could consider parole where there was not a shred of remorse for his actions against any of his victims. Then, I cried for days. For the next eighteen years, every single time I received one of these letters I responded the same way and I cried for days after, like clockwork every two years. I didn’t cry when he was paroled, I cried though when he was returned to prison.

I do not forgive him or his partners, I think I might have too many reminders. I watch the grace of those who have lost their loved ones to violence, I wonder is it that I do not have grace or that I am simply vindictive and mean spirited. I do not know the answer, I know I am not angry at them but I am angry at the system, the society that created them. I am angry at all of us, who let them fall through the cracks, who didn’t save them and all the other young men just like them who lost hope before they had a chance to live.

So yes, I lived and no it isn’t about me; I hope though I can find a way to lift my voice, put pen to paper and make it matter, make it count. I hope I have enough compassion to fill in the cracks, that I live long enough to see a change and that in some small way I can be part of that change.

%d bloggers like this: