To my Fellow Reluctant Activists: we were made for this

 

Lately, I find myself reading news articles, checking source validity, fact-checking video interviews, researching world history, and engaging in political discussions. Over the past few months, I’ve written letters, signed petitions, made phone calls, attended rallies, and marched at our nation’s capitol. My morning routine now consists of at least three phone calls to my representatives and one additional call to “the office of the issue of the day” followed by a tweet and a post that hopefully, in some way, informs others of what I am learning.

None of this comes naturally to me. I’m an introvert. I’m the person who loves snow days because it means I can enjoy quiet time without feeling guilty that I should be engaging with anyone other than “my people.” I’ve yet to reach that point people talk about when they’ve had too many days without human contact and they start to go stir crazy. On the contrary, more than a few hours actively engaged with strangers and I’m in need of isolation to recharge myself. I love sitting in silence and have no need to make conversation to feel connected. I love reading and writing, crocheting and yoga, Hallmark movies and The Andy Griffith Show. I have no desire for suspense or intrigue. I like happy endings…predictable happy endings. At 52 years old and after a lifetime of denial, I was finally comfortable knowing these things about myself and had no desire to change. However, the universe has recently conspired to keep me living in a state of discomfort.

Often, engaged in debate, I find my palms are sweaty and my voice is shaking. I ask myself, “Who is this person who is speaking so passionately about a subject she barely understands?” Politics has never been my area of expertise. Without Ms. Ellis’s Law & Justice lectures and the catchy songs from Schoolhouse Rock, I would be completely clueless as to how our government functions. But what I’m beginning to understand is that passions arise from unexpected places and often it isn’t until we take a step back that we are able to see the interconnectedness of life events.

Molestation and assault may silence a voice but they don’t kill the message. We go through life trying to communicate, stumbling, falling, longing to be heard. We shout. We cry. We whisper. We are ignored, talked-over, dismissed, misunderstood. For a period of time, it may seem as if we have given up. We go through the motions and conform because we’re tired from the struggle. This has, in our history, shown up as generations of women whose voices were lost amidst the noise of the times. Across the globe today, nations of women oppressed, abused, enslaved, and forgotten. Voices are muffled but the message remains, simmering beneath the surface, waiting. Waiting for the day when the pressure is so intense that the fear of speaking pales in comparison to the fear of remaining silent.

Although on the surface it appears to be sudden, the awakening happens slowly. Whispers begin. Thoughts are shared. Words are overheard that strike a cord in people who previously thought they were alone. One by one communities are formed. Voices joined together create volume and people begin to listen. For those who aren’t accustomed to being heard, the feeling is one of power, validation, and respect. Fears are pushed aside and passion takes over. From quivering voices the message begins to seep out into the universe, starting as a rumble and growing to a roar.

This is where I find myself today, empowered by the strength of other women, no longer sitting quietly by while injustice occurs. We may stumble. We may fall. We might be dismissed, talked-over, and misunderstood but we’ve been here before. We have lived in that space of fear and it has shaped us. Like pressure to coal, we’ve emerged stronger and more brilliant, built for this time.

This time, we will not be ignored. We will cry cleansing tears. We will whisper truth to our babies and shout justice into this troubled world. We will reach deep inside our hearts and feel compassion for those who need it most and having seen the darkness, we will bring the light. We will march, and write, and sing, and we will be heard.

And though we may be reluctant activists, we were made for this. img_4331

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/02/to-my-fellow-reluctant-activists-we-were-made-for-this/

Civic Ignorance

Just when we think it can’t get any crazier, when there can’t possibly be another trigger point for him to hit, BAM! There he goes again, even lower than before. This time it’s babies being ripped from a mother’s womb. A ghastly description of what could only be a scene from a low budget horror movie. Facts be damned. He’s gonna say whatever the hell he wants to and, lord help us all, there are people who believe him. People who will take his repeated false statements as fact and repeat them over and over on social media sites, adding graphics, creating memes, and misconstruing the issue to a point that no one knows where the truth lies anymore.

As a country, we’re battle weary. We’ve fought against racism, sexism, xenophobia, misogyny, and bullying. Many of us have stood in disbelief as we watched neighbors and friends step out of the darkness to reveal things about themselves that most of us would prefer not to know. A part of us wanted to stay inside our happy bubble singing LaLaLa and seeing only the good in everyone, normally, focusing on the positive and tuning out the negative. Sadly, “normally” hasn’t been around for a while.

For the past year, we’ve had to speak up for immigrants, gays, Muslims, and refugees. We’ve been called to re-evaluate our views on practically every social issue imaginable: Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Criminal Justice, Gun Control, Abortion…

To explain why it’s wrong for a country founded by immigrants to discriminate against immigrants felt ludicrous, but we did it. Using words like freedom, opportunity, justice, and inclusion, we reminded folks of what it means to be an American. We attempted to calm the paranoid and bring sanity and compassion back to the conversation. We’ve talked of religious freedom and equal rights. We’ve been reminded to “Love thy neighbor as thy self,” that “Black lives matter,” and that “Love is Love.” We’ve defended religions that were not our own in hopes that the sentiment would be reciprocated and mutual acceptance achieved.

We’ve fought against the language of rape culture. We’ve heard audiotape boasting of sexual assault defended by men and women as “guy talk”, “locker room antics”, and “typical boy behavior”. We’ve been told to get over ourselves and stop pretending to be offended by vulgar words. For days, we fought to be heard. It’s NOT the word “pussy” that upsets us! It’s the act of grabbing a woman ANYWHERE without her consent. Many spoke out, no longer allowing the normalization of unacceptable behavior.

Week after week, issue after issue, we’ve armed ourselves with facts and resolved to do our part to discuss and debate respectfully and thoughtfully. We’ve listened, responded, and when necessary, agreed to disagree. This is how democracy works. But lately, like a toddler whose tantrums have not resulted in the attention he was seeking, the outbursts have reached the level of deplorable and I, for one, have no more patience.

We now have a presidential candidate, civically ignorant, spouting lies and spreading unfounded fear. Using innuendo and rumor as if it were fact, to distort records and manipulate the citizenry. Taking quotes out of context to paint false pictures. And as upset as we should be with this behavior, we should be even more upset with the behavior of those who have allowed this to fester. Those who have laid back and been spoon fed by the media and by the church, taking whatever is offered as the gospel, not questioning or inquiring. Allowing those in power to manipulate emotions and thoughts because it’s easier than thinking for our selves.

“I don’t understand, “ is not an excuse. If an issue is important, seek to understand. Reach out to people who have experience and ask questions. Approach things with an open mind and a caring heart, willing to learn and brave enough to allow a paradigm to shift.

If you read a quote that bothers you, research it. And if you discover the quote was taken out of context, imagine how it might feel to be misquoted yourself. Be grateful you aren’t publicly scrutinized and have compassion for those who are.

If you don’t understand the effects of sexual assault because you’ve never experienced it, don’t judge those who have. Refrain from questioning their motive or behavior. Express gratitude for your fortune and compassion for their struggle.

If you don’t understand the how and the why of abortion because you’ve never known someone who faced that decision, don’t condemn what you don’t know. Express gratitude for your innocence and compassion for their pain.

If you don’t understand why it’s important to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter because you aren’t black, don’t condemn those who are angry and frustrated. Express gratitude for your privilege and compassion for their story.

If you don’t understand why some of us are weary and no longer have patience for the conversation, then you aren’t paying attention and that is the reason for our frustration.

For whatever reason, be it laziness, busyness, or ignorance, if you choose not to do a little research and educate yourself on the issues, please refrain from the conversation. You are only serving to lower the overall competence and intelligence of an already shaky population. Our democracy is in danger and civic ignorance is the cause.

#LoveHarder – dashcam video reaction

#LoveHarder – dashcam video reaction

This morning I watched the dashcam video released by the Charlotte, NC police department. I saw it posted on facebook last night but I didn’t watch then. I was afraid, afraid of what I would see and what it would mean. Safe inside this white skin, I needed the video to show justice. The good guys would be good and the bad guys would be bad. That’s how the world is supposed to operate. Those sworn to serve and protect are trustworthy. If they kill, it’s because they have no choice. If the bad guys would “just do as they are told, no one would die.” I needed that video to show the bad guy aiming a gun and refusing to cooperate. I needed to see the good guys in danger, having no choice but to take the life of a very bad person. I needed the video to support the narrative that would keep my world spinning on its axis in the right direction. In the absence of video footage, there was still hope.

This morning I opened facebook and quickly scrolled past postings of the video, instinctually protecting the veil of ignorance that has covered this fragile heart for 50+ years. With a warm mug of coffee and my sweet little Sadie, I sat for hours on our backporch surrounded by sounds of birds fussing at squirrels and the first dried leaves floating softly to the ground. I posted inspirational quotes about love, boastful quotes about my children, and funny videos of toddlers and puppies. For a few short hours, the world spun and all was well with my soul. If only I could have stayed in that space. As a white woman, I could have. I could have watched the video and ignored what I saw. I could have repeated the mantra I’ve heard so many times, “something happened that the video doesn’t show”. Repeated enough times, I could begin to believe it. My soul is desperate to believe it. I’m certain in the coming hours and days, I will read justifications posted by those who also need to protect the veil. Many are not equipped to see the reality or to ponder what it all means in the greater scheme of things. If our basic understandings of “right vs wrong” and “good vs bad” are proven false, where do we go from here? Nothing in my sheltered life has prepared me for the reality that this video reveals.

And just as I will read postings that attempt to justify and explain, I will read postings of anger and frustration. Frustration from those who aren’t privilege to the veil white skin affords. Frustration from those whose eyes have not only watched video but have seen firsthand the realty of injustice. Frustration from some I know and love dearly who have felt discrimination, experienced prejudice, and by the grace of God, have lived to talk about it. Frustration from those who have known the truth and have little patience anymore for those of us who are too afraid to see. And so I watched the video. I watched it. I watched it over and over and over. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I watched it. I paused it. And I watched it again.

peace-on-earthHands down.
Walking backwards.

Gun shots.

I felt the world stop.

There is no justification. There are no excuses. None.

Video footage of a man shot down ripped a gaping hole in my veil. I can no longer pretend the world spins in the direction I yearn for it to. It’s no longer enough to believe that “I’m not prejudice. I don’t see color. We are all alike.” It’s no longer okay to justify, explain, argue, or ignore. It’s no longer enough to tend only to my own heart. I have to open my heart to the pain and raise my voice for those who are weary of raising theirs. I will continue to love harder but I will also love louder. I will no longer let my fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from saying anything at all. I won’t pretend that I can fully understand what it’s like to be Black, but I won’t pretend that my heart isn’t hurting too.

Today I’m going to look for the helpers. I’m going to make sure my children know I love them. I’m going to hold my husband a little closer and hug my friends a little tighter. I’m going to be mindful of my blessings and consider ways to share these blessings with others. I’ll google opportunities to volunteer, to support, and to learn. I’ll take a deep breath, step out of my comfort zone, and find my footing once again. The world is spinning in a different direction now. Perhaps this will be the right direction for all of us.

– Namaste ❤

Love trumps Fear

Across the globe a plane crashes, families mourn, leaders speak. Questions swirl as answers come in slowly. Countries are angered. Accusations are leveled. Once again our humanity is highlighted as our hearts go out to those we will never know and yet somehow feel akin to.

Across the nation, the climate is contentious as leaders from both political parties ramp up the rhetoric in efforts to energize their base, hoping to garner more support in the days to come. Chosen topics are those that divide us, the extreme on either side becoming the loudest voices and thus, the most likely to be heard.

A presidential candidate stirs up fear with predictions of “the worst depression of our time” and “more terrorist bombings to come. ”The news media circles like buzzards, zoning in on the ugliest, amplifying the effect and serving only to widen the chasm. A state convention filled with passionate citizens is reported as violent and suddenly the face of an entire group is painted as hate filled and ignorant. Idealists pledge commitment to a movement, refusing acceptance of the status quo, and are demonized and disrespected. Votes that have yet to be cast are dismissed as irrelevant by candidates who declare victory before the process is completed. Arrogance in place of humility widens the chasm.

Frustrated, individuals seek those who share their concerns, a sympathetic ear willing to commiserate, to feel even in the slightest way that they are not alone. Emotions intensify and voices are drowned out. Thoughtful arguments are passed over for the more sensational and ridiculous. Soundbytes replace facts. And the chasm widens.

Bombarded by the ugliness and inundated with negativity, a feeling of helplessness begins to seep into the collective consciousness and with it, fear. Groups of people organize in efforts to affect change. Speaking out for the less fortunate, the marginalized, and the minority, hopeful that the power of numbers will create a voice loud enough to be heard over the buzz of mass media and fear mongering politicians. Private businesses boycott against discrimination and citizens protest in larger numbers. Facebook profiles fill with colors representing the country of a downed airliner as individuals seek ways to show solidarity across continents. Airline security lines lengthen and for a day or two, everyone is patient.

Beyond the hysteria of the media and the passion-filled rhetoric of the political arena is where our collective humanity lies. When the veil of difference that divides us is lifted, what remains can serve to bring us together.

Closer to home, a box of doughnuts carried through an airport elicits smiles and spontaneous conversation amongst strangers. Laughter fills the air carried on the aroma of the freshly baked pastries and no one asks for party affiliation or religious beliefs. Jokingly a security guard insists payment in the form of one original glazed before passage is granted. Once onboard, fellow passengers express playful gratitude that someone brought “snacks for everyone.” It matters little if or when the person in the adjoining seat last attended church. No one seems to care how their neighbor is planning to vote or even if they are registered. In this moment at least, any concern about terror attacks, disenfranchised voters, or discriminatory laws are out of mind. The veil that separates has been lifted if only briefly and only love remains. And where there is love, fear cannot dwell.

krispy-kreme-photoPerhaps what the world needs is more doughnuts.

Breathe in Gratitude.

Cat

Hurricane Joaquin is making it’s way up the coastline and rain has been falling steadily on North Carolina for so many days that I’ve lost count. Mushrooms sprouted up over night in the front yard and Sadie is refusing to walk out on the soggy grass for potty time. With temperatures dipping into the 50’s, I’m content to curl up in my fuzzy socks and sip coffee today. I’m grateful it’s not sunny outside. I would feel pressure to get out and do something and I’m just not feeling it.

My Cat is missing.

Today I need comfort. I need to give and to receive big, warm, all-encompassing hugs. I need heart connection, soul protection, and a feeling of peace.

Another mass murder. Fleeing refugees. Hate-filled words. Ignorance. Judgment. Lack of compassion. Narrow-minded views with no attempt at understanding. Parents with Alzheimer’s. Drug addicted children. Corrupt politicians. Overcrowded prisons. Autistic children. Mentally ill with no health coverage. Government red tape. Greed. Depression. Parents dying. Friends suffering.

And my Cat is missing.

On every level, (universal, national, local, friend, family, personal) events unfold to show contrast and to remind me of all I have to be grateful for.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful to have been born in this country where I wake up each morning with a roof over my head and knowledge that my children are safe, none of us forced to flee our homes, fear for our lives, wonder where our next meal will come from or if we will live to see the next day.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful to have been raised in a community with an opportunity for personal growth, privileged not to struggle financially, not to face discrimination or persecution based on my religion, my culture, or my DNA.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful for this open mind, willing to learn and desperate to understand. Not needing to agree in order to accept. Believing we are more alike than we are unalike and holding fast to the belief that the Divine unites us all.

Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

Grateful for this sadness that sits with me today. Knowing it is this heart that allows me to feel so intensely. This same heart that now loves without condition or limit is open to pleasure and likewise to pain.

So today I’ll nurture this sadness that has come to visit me. I’ll curl myself up in a patchwork afghan lovingly made by a kindred spirit. I’ll sip my coffee and count my blessings. I’ll gather light and I’ll send it out into this suffering world through my open heart. This is all I know to do right now.

And I’ll keep the porch door propped open so Cat can come home.

Acceptance is messy

Focus on what you have. Stop wishing for what you don’t. Be grateful for friends to laugh with, children to be proud of, and a partner to love. Accentuate the positive. Breathe in gratitude. Breathe out compassion.

IMG_0192Accept what IS. Release all expectations.

But today is grey. Today is heavy. Today is a wool sock, and sweatpants wrapped in an old quilt kind of day.

Today is sixty-four degrees and cloudy. Today I don’t have the energy to be a happy person, grateful and optimistic. Today my glass feels half empty and the trees are obscuring my view of the forest.

I’ve made my share of lemonade from life’s lemons and I mastered turning my frowns upside down at an early age. I was taught to dry my eyes, fix my make-up and show up with a smile.

I know how to look past stiff hugs, cold shoulders, dismissive comments, criticism disguised as humor, and long periods of silence. I can make excuses for others and believe the best even when their worst smacks me square in the face.

But I don’t know how to do hopeless. Hopeless is the toughest place to be for an optimist. I don’t do ‘give up’ very well.

For me, hopeless is Hell, a spiritual realm of suffering, allowing someone else’s action or lack of action to affect your wellbeing and peace. This is wanting desperately for someone to love you the way you want to be loved but knowing they never will. This is realizing that family is not synonymous with unconditional love, but loving them anyway. This is facing the fact that some people are okay without you in their lives and nothing you do or say will change that but showing up anyway. It’s finally learning that you can’t love enough for both sides no matter how hard you try but trying anyway. This is someone misunderstanding your heart but opening it wider anyway. It’s realizing that this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Resisting the feeling of hopelessness gives power to the feeling. What you resist will persist. Sometimes sinking into it, allowing the heart to grieve, the Soul to cry, and the body to curl up for a day is necessary to move through the Hell to the other side.

Perhaps peace comes not only from accepting the situation as it IS, but from also acknowledging that acceptance doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes acceptance hurts. Forgiveness can be lonely and peace can feel empty.

Acceptance is walking through the Hell authentically and it can look unshowered, unshaven, and messy. Acceptance isn’t always pretty and strong, but you are God’s highest form of creation and you are okay.

Happiness is letting go

HappinessSounds easy enough, but what does it mean?

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like & celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Most of us have an idea of what our lives are supposed to look like, based on outside influences, culture, family history, media, societal norms, etc. Most of our lives are spent in pursuit of the ideal life defined for us by experiences as we are growing up.

We set personal goals that include things like:

  • attend University, trade school, travel abroad
  • have a prestigious career and rise to executive rank
  • live in the city, suburbs, country
  • buy a house, boat, car
  • be a stay at home mom/dad
  • be an entrepreneur
  • live alone
  • have children
  • get married
  • write a novel, play, poem, blog, song
  • travel the world
  • fall in love

Rarely, if ever, do our goals include things like:

  • raise an autistic child
  • bury a loved one
  • be the primary caregiver of an aging parent
  • declare bankruptcy
  • love an addict
  • live with bi-polar disorder
  • put a violent child/family member out of your home
  • get into an abusive relationship
  • close a failed business
  • get a divorce
  • get laid off
  • have a miscarriage
  • suffer from depression

Yet, despite our best efforts and admirable attempts at the ideal, at some point we will face life situations that are not what we imagined for ourselves.  When this happens, we have two choices.  We can look at the situation and label it as sad, hard, screwed up, sucky, miserable, burdensome, hopeless, dismal, overwhelming, isolating. We can sit in a state of constant pity for ourselves, wallowing in the misery of our situation, believing no one’s life is harder than our own. Focusing on what we see as ‘wrong’ dulls what we think is ‘right’.  In reality, there is no wrong or right, there is only what IS.

The second choice we are given is one of acceptance. Accepting our life as it IS in this moment is the pathway to happiness. Our monkey minds spin around labeling each experience hard/easy, good/bad, lucky/unlucky, success/failure. Accepting that every experience is exactly the experience that we need and every experience comes to us exactly when we need it, liberates us to find gratitude for our life as it IS.

Watching Alzeheimer’s slowly take my grandmother away, there were many days that I wanted to stay home and wallow in self-pity rather than sit with her. Most days she didn’t know my name, she rambled on about her childhood boyfriends and people I never knew. Finding gratitude in those moments saved me. I’m one of the lucky ones who was given the opportunity to know her grandmother as a child, carefree and silly. I became her girlfriend and we chatted about trips she had taken and men she had known. I learned to accept her in the moment, let go of expectation, and be grateful for what I had, not resentful for what I’d lost.

My father died of brain cancer. His illness gave me the chance to reconcile a difficult relationship.

My step-father died of colon cancer. Our conversations deepened and we left nothing unspoken.

My grandfather died suddenly when I was hundreds of miles away.  I didn’t get to say good-bye but I never saw him sick.

The practice of acceptance is done moment by moment, day by day. Some days are easier than others. I look at empty relationships and feel sadness, desiring a deeper connection, but in that moment I remind myself to feel gratitude for the lesson, to accept what the relationships are and to release any expectations I have.

All sorrow is a result of our wanting things to be different than they are – the resistance to what IS. Releasing expectations does not mean that we give up hope. Hope is what remains when we surrender to what IS and celebrate all that we have.