Godless Liberal

The other day I was called a “Godless Liberal”, not for the first time, during a political debate; I pondered this for a few minutes before I responded. I understood my opponent was angry with me, furious if truth were told. If we had been speaking face-to-face, I suspect the ‘Godless Liberal’ would have been accompanied with finger pointing and looked something like this:Anger

GODLESS LIBERAL

Before I go on, by the way my response was “Yes, but you will never understand the nuance.”

Perhaps the words I used were too big, maybe he didn’t understand them. Whatever the case was, the discussion went downhill from there, the content of his argument went from senseless fiction regarding the state of police violence to comments regarding my gender and my relationship to canines (Fucking Bitch was one of the least offensive but most frequently used).

The entire exchange got me thinking about the state of our national conversation, not from a political standpoint, not from what we see in media but, from how we speak to one another. It got me thinking; outside the usually polite boundaries we maintain in professional settings, we have none anywhere else. We are perfectly comfortable with name-calling, crossing any previously established boundary to disparage our opponent and we have not the least amount of shame in our behavior. What made this complete faceless stranger feel comfortable denigrating me in the most sexist terms?

Just to keep this all in perspective, he continued to pound me and everyone else with his moral superiority based on his Christianity, which apparently also magically infused him with intellectual superiority as well. I was frankly astounded.

Right-wing-Christian-hall-of-shame

Of course we only have this group of truly wonderful examples to compare him with.

 

That said and his point made, he viewed me as ‘outside’ and unworthy of anything approaching civil discourse. I did not surmise this, he told me he was under no obligation to treat me with respect as I was a ‘non-believer’ and bound for Hell.

Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples, Integrity

Do these words have real meanings anymore? Can we say with certainty all societies have something akin to moral structures members willingly agree with and abide by? When my little friend called me a Godless Liberal, what did he really mean? Did he fully understand or was he just parroting mindlessly what he heard from others. Was this his only answer when he was no longer able to debate the issue at hand?

The question of Godliness and Godlessness, religious affiliation, worship both what and how, whether we recognize them or not, have been taking center stage in our public life for decades now. Though we are enjoined from doing so by our laws, even by our Constitution and by implication by our Bill of Rights, we judge each other by a set of Principles. Whether we subscribe to a ‘religion’ or not, we nonetheless subscribe to a common set of Principles, though some may be more porous, more flexible within the context of our day-to-day lives.

I have been thinking about this all week. This is what I have ultimately come up with, tell me what you think, am I right or wrong?

Morals: Primarily derived from religious thinking, all societies have basic frameworks that seem to be consistent though some are more deranged than others in their application of the rules.

  • Don’t be dishonest (Lie, Cheat, Steal)
  • Don’t be promiscuous and be faithful in your marriage (don’t covet either)
  • Don’t murder (killing might be okay though for the right reason)
  • Be compassionate to those weaker than yourself (feed the hungry, care for the sick and aged)

Ethics: Primarily defined for businesses to operate in the marketplace, organizations establish these to clarify the rules and ensure everyone knows them. Personally, I think in many cases Business Ethics are the organizations smoke screen but that is just me. I have seen these few from past employers they have rarely been adhered to.

  • Don’t pay bribes (Influence peddling)
  • Respect for individuals (Civil and Human Rights)
  • Respect for local culture
  • Respect for environment
  • Deliver profit to shareholders

Principles, Values, Scruples & Integrity: I have combined these because they are all personal in my mind. We develop personal and interpersonal relationships within society and with individuals, how we interact is based on our own evolution. Despite what some would have us believe we are not born Principled or with Integrity. When we come into the world, we are nothing more than empty vessels waiting to be filled.

I essentially filtered the 10 Commandments down to three (similar to George Carlin) and then added one of my own. Most religions agree with these as foundational notwithstanding the simpler language I used. I find myself in a quandary as I consider the issue of Morals, Ethics, Principles, Values, Scruples and Integrity –

OpEdStarting at the reading of my four Commandments, I walk the walk every day. Thus, I have Morals.

If I read my Ethics, as a businessperson who has worked in a variety of roles for Fortune 100 companies and as an Independent Business Owner, I walk the walk and talk the talk. In fact, I have been in trouble for doing so in the past. With this answer in mind, I am also a person of Ethics.

Continuing with my reading through the last group of definitions, I know my answers and believe I am a person of Integrity, a Principled person.

Godless, perhaps if I apply the definition as society does it this is true; I am not religious only spiritual. I do not subscribe to any religion created by man to control society, engineer preferred outcomes or oppress entire segments of society by gender, class or in some cases race. In fact I don’t just not subscribe, I reject.

Liberal, indeed I have been an agitator, a protestor and at times an ‘in your face’ type of Godless Liberal. I am now and have been since I was old enough to understand the difference a Progressive Left of Center Liberal.

Being a Godless Liberal wasn’t an illegal or immoral political stance last I heard, in fact some of the greatest men and women of history were staunch Liberals, including our own Founding Fathers. It seems we have lost our way. Stoning, burning at the stake, dunking have all been outlawed in the US of A for many years now; with Godless Liberal and public Slut Walking making a comeback, I have to wonder what is next?

Blues, Funk and Aniversaries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I was blue, truly and honestly blue. I couldn’t put my finger on it, couldn’t identify the source but yesterday I was blue.

Yesterday, my energy levels were low and I was inspired to do nothing. Absolutely nothing inspired me, with the exception of finding a cave, crawling into it and pulling a rock over the entrance.

I could not find a reason for my ennui; thinking it was just the past three hard weeks at work. The long drive back and forth from Dallas to Houston was wearing me down. The twelve hour days resulting only in, ‘not good enough, not what I want’ feedback from leadership that seemed to have a constantly shifting agenda. Still through all of this, yesterday I was blue and I could not focus on the cause.

7-February-1992

It came to me, this morning, as I was checking the date or simply looking at a calendar for some reason or maybe trying to prove it was past now. Yesterday was a red-letter day and I ignored it, did not give yesterday its due. Ignored the date, did not sit down and allow my heart to wash over me with all the feelings I was having, instead I attempted to pretend there was nothing special and I was simply blue.

The truth is, yesterday wasn’t special, not in the way, most of us think of ‘special’. Yesterday did mark for me a day of transition, change or transformation. Yesterday did mark the anniversary of the day that set my feet on a different path and made changes to my body, my spirit even my brain there would be no turning back from, no matter how I might wish this to be different.

Yesterday I was blue and rather than acknowledge why I blamed it on everything, including:

  • My current job, client and bosses
  • The fact my house is a mess
  • My finances after a six month hiatus from work, but which are not as bad as they were or as I think they are or as bad as some people who are truly suffering
  • My loneliness, that is somewhat self-imposed
  • The lack of physical touch in my life, that I find I miss a great deal but which has also been self-imposed

Yesterday I was blue and what I didn’t blame it on was the date, the anniversary, the three bullets and the three young men that changed me forever and sent my life on a different and unlooked for trajectory. Yesterday, I was in a deep funk with tears settled right on the edge waiting to spill at slightest hint I would allow blue to turn into a crying jag (I didn’t) and I wouldn’t look at a calendar because instinctively I knew what day it was and simply didn’t want to say it out loud.download

So, I distracted myself with walks in the park, which honestly I needed anyway. I distracted myself with talking to people who love me, but I didn’t tell them I was hurting and why. Then when the sun was down and the house was dark again, with sitting quietly staring at a blank page in my journal unable to pick up my pen, because I was blue and I was in a deep funk. When the bedroom was dimly lit with the nightlight I never turn off,  I rocked myself to sleep finally because I was lonely and I miss physical touch, I was hurting and I simply refused to acknowledge it was an anniversary of sorts, one that had changed me in fundamental ways and at my core.

Now, today, this morning I acknowledge I was blue because it is hard not to remember, it is impossible not to be triggered no matter how hard I try to avoid calendars and other reminders. It is hard not to remember and be angry. It is hard not to remember and be sad. It is hard not to remember and then wonder sometimes, what would life be like if I hadn’t have stopped for gas, if I hadn’t have stopped for cigarettes. What would life be like if I had just been five minutes earlier or later, just five minutes that is all. Sometimes I can’t help myself, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if I hadn’t survived, hadn’t have been quite so strong. It isn’t that I am not happy to be alive 97% of the time, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes if it wouldn’t have been better, when I am blue like yesterday or when I am hurting or when I have a seizure.

Yesterday I was blue, I know why. Yesterday was the twenty-third anniversary of my carjacking / kidnapping and shooting; where I nearly lost my life and most certainly lost my belief I was invincible.

There, I said it.

Today, I start the first day of my personal new year. I am determined to get back in the swing of things.

Stepping into Who I Am

Linda1My dear friend over at Single Working Mom inspired me to write about how we, as women, seem to lose ourselves in our effort to ‘fit’. Visit her post, which inspired this one here.

Stepping into who I am, I think that is what I have been trying to do for more than a year maybe even more than a decade. I simply didn’t know this is what I was doing. All the small acts of rebellion, the tiny bits and pieces I kept trying to reclaim, that was me saying to the world and those who wished me to be otherwise; really, just leave me be to find me in a world I never truly fit or that never fit me perfectly.

I fail to understand why it is so difficult for women especially to claim ourselves completely, to step into the space we occupy without apology. It seems though, there are very few of us who are not in some way apologizing for who or what we are on a daily basis. We bow to the whims of those who dictate to us the terms of beauty and desirability allowing our self-worth to be undermined by how others define it and thus what we see in the mirror is far too often unacceptable, unbeautiful and unworthy of love.

Far too many of us, reshape ourselves to be what others want of us and accept harsh judgment as truth when we fail to meet standards which are either impossible, not our choice, even sometimes ridiculous. We shrink to take up less space, we speak softly or not at all so as not offend, we apologize for our opinions and our needs and do so without thinking in doing so we are apologizing for ourselves, for our very being. We accept harsh words as truth and demands to change ourselves, make ourselves different so we might fit another person’s fantasy, simply so they will touch us in the night, with the light off.

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When I read For Me and For Her it got me thinking about all the things I had done over the course of my nearly 15 year marriage that I resented and how I have slowly begun to shed them. It also got me thinking about the shell I have slowly started to crack open around me, about as I said how I am beginning to step into myself into who I am, perhaps who I was meant to be. I am certain I have a very long way to go before I am fully in the moment with myself, nevertheless it is a starting point and one I believe I should own with pride. I think it is difficult when we are in the middle of hurting to realize how much we give up, so someone will love us. Sometimes how much we lose of ourselves so the person we promised to love will continue to love us.

I am finding I don’t want to be loved if it isn’t for the me that is real; hardheaded, opinionated, pragmatic, softhearted, introverted and creative; someone who has lived life fully and been down a few dark alleys. I don’t want to be touched if it isn’t touching me with the lights on, seeing all of me; scars, dimpled flesh, imperfections, tattoos all of me. I don’t want to be made over. I don’t want to be hidden.

These words hurt me, still hurt me on some level and I am still fighting to breathe through them and find me behind them.

“You are more beautiful as a blonde that as how I met you and that is how you should stay.”

“You are too pale, I think you are more beautiful with a tan. You look too White without one.”

“I hate when you let your hair grow. You look better when it is short and I am not as attracted to you when it is long.”

“If you get a tattoo I will divorce you.”

DSC_0122

Here is the thing about all of those, they all represented ‘things’ that were not me.

  1. I am a natural brunette. My natural color is damned near black, though now days it has a great deal of grey.
  2. I have pale olive toned skin. I love my complexion, though I tan easily for years I have protected my skin. Further, tanning is dangerous this didn’t seem to matter so long as I wasn’t too White. What the hell did this mean anyway?
  3. The first time I cut my hair it was down to the middle of my back. I cut it because I couldn’t brush it, I cut it because I was recovering from gunshots and I needed to make life easier for myself. I never intended to keep it short and certainly not that short. Yes, it was funky and fun, especially the pale blonde, but it was hard to maintain. I never felt like me.
  4. When we met I had Tattoo’s, it wasn’t a secret I didn’t hide them. I also made no secret I want more. Why did I ever allow myself to be bullied into a corner?

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Worse, yes even worse than being bullied into a corner. Why did I allow myself to feel unlovable, undesirable and without value simply because of cruel words and the lack of touch. Now, a year later I am beginning to figure some of it out, some of the hurt is falling away and letting me see what is beneath. I don’t love what I see, but I do love that I am able to reach into the hurt and find me.

It is these slow and careful steps we take, these questions we ask that allow us to walk into the world fully owning the space we inhabit, not asking for forgiveness or how we can mold ourselves to fit another person’s desires. I want to be desired, loved and wanted for me, just me. I want to be chased around the room and thrown on the bed, because I am me not someone else but me. I want my words to enflame passion, my heart to sooth, my body to excite and my soul to provide a resting place. I want all of that to be just me, without a demand for change.

So I will continue to step into who I am and tell those who think I should be otherwise to take a flying leap.

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.

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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.

Inspiration

OpEdThe other day I was strolling through the blog world, trying to catch up with my reading; it seems I am always behind these days. I haven’t been up to my usual self frankly; things have been weighing on my heart and mind, keeping me from my normal enthusiasm, my desire for social interaction and visits with friends flung far and wide. I miss you all; I truly do yet can’t seem to concentrate, to focus on what is needful to maintain the important relationships we have built through our shared words in this strange and wonderful blog world we all visit and make a piece of our homes.

Then I saw this: What Inspires You, by Penny

I have been thinking about this one for days, truly off and on I have been thinking about what inspires me for days. I have also been thinking about why I am feeling a bit uninspired, why it is hard for me to get up off my azz and write, dance, visit or anything else I normally do. So, in response and as a challenge to myself, I have spent the past couple of days writing down what inspires me.

Life inspires me. Yes, just life, the idea we have a limited number of days on this earth and how we choose to live them, what we do with them is a concept so few of us grasp completely. Some of us, we spend our life in frivolous, sometimes ignorant pursuits. Others are amazing what they are able to accomplish, so yes life inspires me.roseglasses

Hope inspires me, so much seems terrible and tragic these days and yet so many still face the world with hope. I know there are those who look at me and think I see the world through rose colored glasses, who believe I am a bit naïve. Honestly though, I am not naïve. I know there are monsters in the world; I have met many of them. I simply choose which I will dance with and continue to rest in the lavender in a lounge chair of green wearing tarnished rose colored glasses. I am inspired by hope, all around me I am inspired by others, who despite the terrible and the tragic continue to rise up out of the muck and the mire, face adversity and hope for more and better.

Malala

Malala

Fearlessness inspires me. Not stupidity, not bungee jumping types of fearlessness, but fearlessness in the face of great odds. I am at times stunned by just how truly fearless human beings can be when it is needful and meaningful.

Joy inspires me. There is nothing more I can say about this. Great joy, pass it on.

Selflessness inspires me. Those men and women of our past who gave the gift of their blood, sweat, tears and lives to gain us so much; they inspire me to do more and better. I forget sometimes how much they gave, I think we all do.

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Love inspires me. Yes, love in all its manifestations love inspires me. It is so easy to say, “I love you”. It is really hard to live, “I love you”, every single day, every single night. Love is hard, perhaps it was meant to be so we would have to work for it. We are, I think by nature, selfish and self-centered creatures. Love is, by its very nature, selfless. For any of us to love, we have to set ourselves aside and choose to not be selfish, even if only for the minute it takes to not think about what 1img-thingwe get out of it.

That is what inspires me, it isn’t all that inspires me but it is enough for now. There are people who inspire me. There are things, great works of art, great pieces of music; but for now, this will do. Many of you inspire me quite often. If I don’t visit often right now, it is because I am having a difficult time keeping up, working through personal things that will sort themselves out as they should.

I hope you will visit Penny, who inspired this one. Maybe you will be inspired as I was.

Imprinted for Life, Attractions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe power of attraction, what attracts us to another person is personal and fundamental. There are all sorts of ‘professional’ studies about this, do a search on Google and you will find everything from pheromone studies to Plato’s original Affinity theories. In more recent times social scientist who have proposed first the ‘Law of Attraction’ where Like attracts Like based on Plato’s theory, even more recently the Opposites Attract theory and everything in-between. Of course, lest we forget there is the ‘you will like what I told you to like’ and the ‘I will like exactly what you told me not to like’ theories, generally though these apply only to teenagers. Finally, there is that oft told and all too often snickered about mother or father fixations, better known as the Oedipus Complex.

The truth is I don’t believe any of us know what heats us up, gets our blood to boil and our panties in a twist. Not a single one of us knows what causes us to follow with our eyes down the street that man or woman we find particularly appealing;  none of us I think knows why return time and again to the neighborhood coffee shop to drool over the uncommonly beautiful barista. It is unlikely any of us could point to the place in time when our desires were set down for us, when we became fixated on a certain type and this became ‘our type’ forever and ever, amen.

We all have a type; don’t lie all of us have one. Even if you didn’t always date your type, hell even if you didn’t marry your ‘type’, you have one, I have one we all have one. That particular type of human we find we want to wrap ourselves around, that type of face that draws us, that type of body that excites us, that tone of voice that beckons us, yes even the personality that calls to our inner desires and needs. Put all of what we want into one single package and we are done, we are right there heart throbbing and knees weak. But first, we see with our eyes what somewhere in our mind we have defined as our ‘type’.

I have a type; I suspect I even know the genesis of my type. My type runs counter to social norms and has my entire life. My type has gotten me into trouble back in the 1970’s when following my personal choices wasn’t as accepted as it is interracialtoday. In retrospect, considering my relationship history I believe it is important that we understand what it is we want, that we own our desires and our choices. I think it is vital we never settle for just who wants us but for whom we want and what we want.

Do our desires change? I think they do, change is inevitable. I think as we mature our understanding of what makes us happy and what we need from relationships changes. I also think we grow less reluctant to ask for what we need. What perhaps doesn’t change is our ability to easily verbalize our needs, desires and boundaries. We are the amalgamation of all that has come before; we are our history without pretty packaging and brilliant ribbons for the unwrapping. For some of us and I certainly fall into this category, fear is a constant companion when attempting to ask for what we need or want.

I said I had a type and that I suspected I knew how mine was imprinted; I was quite young when I met Winston. Living in Germany I attended an Army base school part of the week but was not an Army Brat, this made me different from the other students and subject to bullying. I was also younger and smaller than other children in my class, another source of great amusement for my classmates and one they took great advantage of at every opportunity. I hated that school, I hated them and I hated the teachers for not protecting me. I spent a great deal of time alone during recess, book in hand finding dark corners so none of those little bastards could hurt me. Sometimes I would climb a tree, which is where Winston found me one day.

Winston was a year older, a grade ahead tall and gangly. His father was a Sargent in the Army and Winston already was a leader in his class and on the playground, much like his father. He had a brilliant smile, tight curly hair shaved close to his head and his skin was like chocolate milk. The day I met him he climbed the tree I was in and asked why I was up there alone all the time. When I told him, he frowned and climbed back down and wandered away. From that day until we moved back to the US, Winston became my protector. I ate lunch with him and his cadre of friends, if I wanted to read I did it in full sight of others and no one bothered me, ever. I was invited to birthday parties and other childhood functions. Winston never told me what he did, I guess it was a boy thing but from that day on, he became my ‘type’.images

So what is my type? Need you ask?

Tall

Milk Chocolate Skin

Strong

Take Charge

A protector

Okay, let’s just say it shall we. I like Black Men better than I like White Men. I fundamentally find Black Men more attractive. This isn’t to say I have never found a White Man attractive; it is simply that I find Black Men more attractive, physically that is my ‘Type’. Did Winston imprint me when I was eight years old? I suspect he did, I suspect his kindness in light of all the bullying had a profound effect on my psych, but it is unlikely this is the only reason.

I was raped at eleven by White Boys, they did grave harm to me. My first real boyfriend, the first person who showed me real kindness after that rape was Black at fourteen. I was a runaway, most of the horror stories from the streets during my time there was by those of my own race. By the time I got off the streets, I was imprinted with fear of men of my own race.

I say all this for a reason, I like men, I did not become Lesbian it is not something you become you either are or not Gay. On the other hand, what you find attractive, what your ‘type’ is within the context of your sexual orientation, this is an entirely different issue. Though my ‘type’ is certainly not always socially acceptable it is nonetheless mine, my choice in partners is mine alone. Were it not for the landmark 1967 anti-miscegenation case of Loving vs. State of Virginia, my choice would still be illegal. My question then, how is my ‘type’ different than sexual orientation of others and why are we still discussing their Civil / Marriage Rights. Doesn’t it make sense that all members of society should have the same rights?

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I am just curious about this mind you but your thoughts are most welcome.

Reciprocity

OpEdI believe strongly in the idea of nature and nurture that we are products of both but that we also ultimately choose how we will interact with the people we meet throughout our lives. We choose whom we will love and how we will love them. We choose what we will give of ourselves, of our time, of our resources, our heart and yes even our secrets in each relationship we engage, whether friendship or love.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens we choose how we will react and thus, how we will act. Each of us makes a conscious choice how we will face adversity and whether we will live our lives with joy or something else, something less, whether less is apathy, guilt or true regret. What I know, deep in my soul is we do have choices, no matter what, we have choices.

What else I know is human beings are taught to be evil through nurture and despite our nurture, we can overcome our training and choose to be better human beings. Parents have enormous influence on their children; they bring blank slates into the world and write evil onto their hearts turning them into horrifying, selfish, racist, misogynist shits. Children are sponges; they walk through their young lives watching their parents, their neighbors and other influential people, sucking it all up into their hearts and spirits.

If you are a racist shit, it is nearly a guarantee your child will carry on your terrible legacy of race-based hate. Beat your wife, some lucky girl will likely be the recipient of your son’s future fury or your daughter will lay down and accept some man’s fist as her due. These are some examples of the horror stories of what happens; the legacy children are gifted by ignorant parents. There are more, abused children are likely to abuse, children of alcoholics are likely to become alcoholics. Children are blank canvases; we paint upon them what we want the world to know about us.

Despite history, despite learning at the hard knee of a parent we still have a choice not to carry forward a legacy of hate, racism, of violence. We are all gifted with free choice, whether you are Christian or otherwise, all of us share one core value: Free Choice.

I do not believe in angels and devils as a birth ‘defect’. I believe we choose how we will interact with the world and those within it. I believe we choose how we will interact with communities or individuals, it is true whether we are talking about friends, family, lovers or a broader community. I choose how I love, where I love and whom I love, without asking for or excepting the judgment of others, I choose.

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My nature is not formed by my history, or perhaps it is but not in the way planned or expected by those who tried hard to warp it. My nurture did not corrupt me, those who would have twisted my heart into unrecognizable forms failed to change my core. Yes, there are days, even weeks when I question, when I pull into myself and build walls; those times do not last. Yes, I know my nature opens me up to the potential of being hurt more easily, even of being taken advantage of at times. I also know there are those who think I am blind to their faults, that I live in a world where there is only sunshine and rainbows without a darkside. I do not live in that world, I have seen the worst in people, I have lived on the darkest side of the world and within the shadows. I made a conscious decision not to be corrupted, not to be bent, not to be twisted, not to hate others or myself by the hurt others did to me or I did to myself. I made a conscious choice to choose joy, to choose hope.

Choosing joy doesn’t mean I don’t grow despondent at times. Choosing hope doesn’t mean I don’t feel hopeless at times. Truthfully, there are days I feel despondent and hopeless, unloved and unworthy of love. Choosing joy, choosing hope LindaHead_2doesn’t mean I don’t see the possibility others are not kind, it simply means I don’t base my willingness to love on reciprocity. My giving doesn’t require an even return, love is not an investment rather it is simply a choice we make. For me, it is a choice I make every single day.

Why I Hate It

Cowgirls have To-Do Lists

Cowgirls have To-Do Lists

Why I hate to travel, all the time and every single time I do it. After nearly a year of not traveling, I had forgotten just how much I truly hate to travel. I spent more than twenty years as a road warrior, every week on the road, Sunday night out and usually, if I was fortunate Thursday night back home with Fridays spent catching up on expense reports, conference calls and all the rest of business activities necessary to keep my life in order. This was my life for over twenty years. I wanted out, I made a conscious decision to get out, that did not quite work. Now I am reminded why I wanted out.

All the reasons why I Hate Travel, in no particular order.

There is the schedule itself usually dictated by clients leaving you with approximately 16 waking hours unless previously scheduled on Friday to see; doctors, hair stylists, manicurists, dentists, friends and family. Of course, did I fail to mention during this short time home there are also things screaming for your attention such as house cleaning, laundry and shopping because frankly whether or not there is a spouse or family one still must have at least some food in the house and in my experience, no one but me is ever going to put it there.

Why do I Hate Travel? Because this is absolutely no way for a normal person to live, it is not romantic, it is not exciting and it surely does not make me at all happy.

Let’s talk about hotels, just for a brief moment. When you travel for business you are not staying in Five Star hotels, no most of the time you are staying in chains, sometimes they are fallen stars. If you are like me, you only have a few 170380_13053106480012593076_STDrequirements some these days are harder to meet than others. I don’t want to leave my room in the middle of the night for a cigarette, don’t hate me I smoke and believe I should be able to do so in the privacy of the room I am paying for. But let’s talk about the rest, shall we? Starting with closets without enough hangers and those f’ng hangers that do not come off the rack, I am constantly fighting them. Then there are the mattresses, has anyone ever slept in a hotel and gotten a good night’s sleep, I toss and turn all night and wake every morning feeling like I have run an Iron Man. As a coffee drinker, I ask only one thing please, leave me more than one small packet of real coffee; I have learned to ask for more on check-in and every single night when I arrive back. Then there are the dangerous as all hell shower/baths, why in all that is holy don’t hotels simply install showers stalls rather than these tubs with showerheads? Narrow tubs, no traction and add to this flimsy curtains that stick to your skin actually climbing into your crevices when you are trying to bath, gad I hate bathing in hotels.

Finally, why do I Hate Travel so completely and entirely?

Airports and flights, it is getting worse and worse. No matter where I travel, I notice the ‘cost cutting’ measures first, the lack of human interaction when checking in. If you need assistance, you had better plan on a long wait. Then there is Lines form at the security line at Denver International Airport at as the TSA works to clear passengers for their flights.TSA and the security process, come on boys and girls, you have anywhere from 3-5 lines you could open up and you have a line of people waiting to get through security, tell me again why is only one of the lines open? By the way, please explain to me why I have to take my computers out, my shoes off, my coat off, my sweater off; damn do you want me naked? By the way when it comes to TSA, could we please have a line for seasoned travelers and another for those who are on vacation with families, I know very elitist of me but really the next time I am behind a family of four struggling with children, strollers and too much carry-on luggage I think I will scream, loudly.

Finally, we get to the airlines and the flights themselves. They are in another round of cost cutting and they are idiotic in their methodology. I can only talk about the one I fly the most often, bet you can guess given I live in the Dallas area. Now I have flown this airline for most of my career, I am a Million Miler on them, retain my Gold status for life even if I never fly again. In truth I have flown more than 1.5 million miles on this airline alone, this doesn’t count other airlines, all together between the four primary airlines I fly I have well over 2 million air miles, this means miles I have flown not all the additional miles I collect in other ways. The benefit of being an ‘Elite’ member of the club is upgrades when they are available, when they aren’t the flights are even more miserable. These days though even First Class flights are fairly low class, there is no service unless you ring your bell repeatedly and demand attention from the apathetic attendant’s, there is no meal service for any flight under 2.5 hours, even if that flight is during the dinner hour, if you are lucky they will throw you a bag of peanuts. Drinks are served in plastic cups, coffee in paper.

Don’t get me started on Coach where you are kicked in the back, stuffed together as if you are an anchovy and must keep your elbows so close to your ribs you can’t breathe for an entire flight. Service? Forget about it.

So far, no flight has left on time and thus no flight has landed on time!

Now I remember I hate travel; truly, I do. I want a real life. I want to be home after a day at work. I want to write and read, sleep in my own bed. I want the opportunity to have dinner with friends, family or someone I love. Hell, I want to enjoy travel because I am going someplace romantic to get away from it all.

Just a slice of life!

Oddities and Grandma’s Wisdom

LVal_2010The world is burning and Nero fiddles from the balcony and we, the peasants are dancing in the streets to a song we barely know and have long since forgotten the steps to. Now and then though something occurs to us, something leaps out and bites us on the ankle, perhaps a memory of days past when things were simple and life didn’t break our hearts. For me, despite some folks in my family were crazy as hell and honestly didn’t have the sense the Good Lord gave a gnat, some of that time was time spent with one of my grandmothers in South Texas.

Valentines Liquor Store 6903 - 3-69-45

My Granddad’s Liquor store

I didn’t see a great deal of her, didn’t spend much time with her because my father and grandfather didn’t see eye-to-eye, this is mildly put. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch, he was a bigot and a card-carrying member of Racist-R-Us, if he didn’t have white sheets hanging in his closet I would be shocked. Because of my olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes my grandfather regularly called me a spic, papoose and even nigger; frequently asked my father why they didn’t return me where they got me since I was obviously not White and they never should have adopted me. My grandfather gave me my first drink of whiskey and my first cigarette when I was eleven years old, said he could prove I was an ‘injun’ if I got crazy with firewater. He and my father got into a fistfight on that visit, though it wasn’t just over this it was part of it.

Back to my grandmother, she was mostly a good South Texas Lady. How she ever tolerated my lying, cheating polecat of a grandfather for more than fifty years is beyond me, but she did. When I was seventeen I spent two weeks with her while she was recovering from surgery, it was the most time I had ever spent at one time. During that time she imparted her lifetime of wisdom, she made me laugh hysterically and often, she made me question her and my own sanity. All of this while we sat at the dining room table over coffee and cigarettes, my grandmother by the way smoked like a chimney until the day she died in her 80’s.

Here is the wisdom of my very Southern Grandmother and some of my thoughts about that wisdom.

    1. Never go out without lipstick.
      1. I try to remember this one, sad to say though I carry at least two tubes I rarely remember to smear it on my lips.
    2. Never go out without your hair done properly and don’t ever leave the house with curlers in your hair.
      1. Well, yeah now that I am growing my hair out my stylist has taught me how to wield a blow dryer and a brush, I am getting pretty good at it actually. Five days out of seven I do in fact actually somewhat successfully do something with my hair. Previously not so much, but I think my grandmother would be proud. There was a time I followed her rules much more closely and was a good Texas girl with the mantra of ‘the bigger the hair the closer to God’.
    3. Always wear a hat, this protects you from the sun prevents freckles and in your case dear stops you from turning so damned dark.
      1. Yeah, well thankfully we have sunscreen for this now. I own hats and wear them now and then, but this is for show not to protect me from the sun.
    4. Don’t wear pants in public, unless you are gardening they simply aren’t attractive and those jeans the girls are wearing now are terrible. Wear skirts or dresses, women should look like women.
      1. Okay, I don’t know what to say to this one, does anyone? Pants are my go to wardrobe choice most days.
    5. Always wear foundations, honey you need to wear a bra.
      1. Is there anything sexy about the foundations she was talking about and still wearing when we had this conversation?
    6. Wear high-heels, your legs look better in high-heels.
      1. This is the one I entirely agree with, wear them, collect them, even sometimes salivate over them.

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    7. Wear stockings, only floozies go out bare legged.
      1. Come on, I live in Texas where it is sometimes +105 for days at a time. Suffering for beauty is one thing but this takes things just a little too far.
    8. Do not ever get drunk in public, it is fine to have a drink at home but never get drunk in public.
      1. This is one we should all agree with. Nothing more to add.
    9. Marry where you love. Don’t let other people stop you not even your Daddy.
      1. Great advice from a woman who married “down” and was disowned by her parents for her choice in spouse, I often wonder if she ever regretted it.
    10. Be kind to others, kindness will always get you further than ugly.
      1. I have always tried to follow this.
    11. Don’t move with the crowd, they will push you over the cliff when you get to the edge.
      1. Isn’t this the damned truth.
    12. Honey, don’t compete with men they don’t appreciate a woman that can beat them at their own games and don’t need their noses rubbed in it all the time.
      1. Well, this is the truth and yet sometimes there is no choice is there?
    13. Don’t raise your voice in anger. Speak softly, force them to listen to you.
      1. It took me years to understand this one.
    14. Stop marking your body up, those tattoos are for bad girls and sailors.
      1. My grandmother hated my tattoos. I wonder if she would have changed her mind. At the time she said this too me I had two small ones on my back, now I have eighteen and many are sizable.
    15. Don’t let your past hurts color your world, live. You are young and your life is ahead of you.
      1. I try to live by this one. I knew what she was telling me at the time and we had many long talks about forgiveness and letting go at that table over those two weeks. It took me a very long time to absorb this lesson. I am grateful to her for it.

Those were the truths of my grandmother. It has been a very long time since I have thought of her or those conversations. Someone who is special to me and brings me a great deal of happiness reminded me today of these conversations, of wearing skirts instead of pants, of girdles and oddly of what it means to be feminine without losing who I am as a woman. I am grateful for the reminders and for being able to step outside of the world for a minute.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my grandmother and her wisdom, I surely enjoyed the memory.

Because we should all have memories that bring us back around this is dedicated to someone I love.

Dragging Baggage

18f8d6bbabeadaf291971b7c3a5dd3edIt is all too often true we carry all our baggage with us everywhere we go, dragging it behind on wheels run down and bare from all the use they have seen.  If we reach any age at all, with any experience at all we have baggage it is impossible for any of us too get through life without it. What we do with all that luggage though, how we handle it that is an entirely different issue.

Fundamentally, I am a good person. I am kind, generous and loving to my family and friends.

That is how I would like to think of myself most of the time. My life hasn’t always been simple, nor has it always been easy. It has left me a bit banged up, physically and emotionally. I have a just a few scars; some of them are very visible, left on my body so every single time I look in the mirror I see them. When I see those scars, when I look at them in the mirror, my first reaction is to close my eyes, turn away as I think others would do when first gazing on them. Other scars, they aren’t so visible left on my heart and soul, though sometimes I think when I look in the mirror I see them too.

My reality is I am frequently less than secure about both my physical appearance and how lovable or deserving of love I am.

Recently I had to confront some of my baggage. One of the problems I have is acknowledging that anyone would be interested in what is on my mind, what might be truly bothering me and why anyone would care. For so long, for most of my life, my needs and concerns have taken a backseat to everyone else’s and I have been the caretaker. I have taken care of everyone else, I have been the breadwinner, the responsible one the person who had to be ‘strong’, even when I was the one injured I had to be strong for everyone around me. I got use to never asking for help. It became ingrained in me too not show weakness, not give in to fear and not talk about my feelings or ask for what I needed.

I learned I did not matter. I think what I learned is ‘I’ did not exist except to make other people’s lives easier.060410-travel1-kristen

That is a terrible lesson; it is a very hard truth to drag behind you on wobbly wheels with a bent frame. This is especially true when as a human being the natural instinct is to reject that lesson, to fight the loss of ‘I’, to want to be seen and heard, even when we might not know how to raise our hand or our voice. My instinct when something is wrong? To retreat into my head, if asked give half answers or no answer at all safe in the knowledge no one is interested, instead, they are asking just to be polite. Until very recently, this has been mostly the case. Conversations, even with friends and family have tilted toward one of two types. Either competitive ‘my pain is worse than yours’ where no matter what I said it always ended up about them, their pain, their sadness, their hardships. The other style is always the fixer, the person who listens to half of what I say and tells me how to fix it, in the process blames me for the problem. In both cases of course, they don’t really hear me aren’t really listening and clearly don’t really give two tinkers damn about how I feel, thus over the years I have learned it is far easier to simply live inside my head.

When we love, we offer our whole selves even the baggage. What we hope for is we can explain why it exists and that someone will help us drag it along behind us.

What is unexpected is, someone who loves us back and enough to say drop the baggage I am not your past or your bellhop; forcing us to confront our history and examine our behaviors in new light.

Our luggage often includes insecurities, bad behaviors and false fronts. If we are forced to lay down our baggage, open it up and throw out all the old ratty stuff we have packed away it can be a painful experience, even while we are lightening our load. We are not our insecurities, though they may have made up the extra weight they are not who we are at the core, they are simply what was added over the years by others. This was one of my hard lessons recently, I don’t know that it is entirely learned I am still insecure. I am still me, my history still lives firmly in my head and the voices still whisper, ‘not worthy, not lovable’. Nevertheless, I am learning slowly those voices are my history not my present and they are liars. I am learning also it is okay to be afraid, to show some weakness and to say I am both I am learning I don’t have to always be strong, I think this one is even harder to learn for me. I have spent so many years guarded, so many years not crossing emotional lines; I am still finding my way through this one.

dance

When I started this blog, I did so to give myself a release valve, for my thinking, my feelings, my history even. What I found was so much more, including the potential of love. Now I just have to learn to let my history go, let myself be loved and let my demons dance the way they deserve without the impediment of baggage.

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