Stand or Fall: How I Stayed True to My Values

Over the last six years or so, I’ve asked myself repeatedly why I never, ever considered changing my values from liberal to conservative. How have I stayed true to liberal values of kindness, compassion, empathy, and conscience? Simple: because for the last forty years, conservatives have demonized those values and turned them into weaknesses when in reality, they are the greatest strengths a person can ever have. But how can anyone reject those values and justify hatred, cruelty, and malice? This last question has taken me quite a while to find an answer to, but one has come to me: if someone asks, ‘how does this benefit me?’ before making a decision to help anyone, or to debating whether or not to treat someone with kindness instead of shitting all over them, that’s why they can demonize the value of kindness and most of all, love.

The origin of my values goes back to when I was twenty-one years old and made the decision to become my mother’s caregiver as she battled cancer. At the time and in years since, I was told I was making a tremendous sacrifice and I was doing the right thing. Behind my back and to my face even, I was also told I was nothing but a self-serving martyr and a cold, emotionless bitch for keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself. But I don’t see that decision as a sacrifice now, and I didn’t back then either. Back then I saw it as a decision I made without any hesitation or any consideration of what it would do to me. And I sure as hell didn’t ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’.

(And I want to add here it wasn’t just because my mother would have done the same for me, because she would have. She wouldn’t have done it because she was my mom and out of some sense of duty or obligation or some bullshit like that. She would have done with NO expectation of anything in return. That’s how she lived her life, but she wasn’t one to talk about that like I am now, In the last twenty years since she’s been gone, I realize just how much she and I were alike though that’s a story for another time and place.)

Last week, in two different states, the values of kindness and hatred for children were clear to see. In Minnesota, the governor signed legislation into law giving every school child in the state free breakfast and lunch regardless of income level. In Arkansas, the governor there signed legislation loosening up restrictions on child labor that would permit children as young as twelve or thirteen to work in such dangerous places like slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants with no protections under law for health and safety. Arkansas’ governor is a conservative Republican and Minnesota’s governor is a Democrat. The values of both parties are clearly on display here and if you think children should work in dangerous jobs instead of being in school and eating, ask yourself why. Though as always, I will warn you if you ask yourself why you want people, and children to suffer, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later, you will have to deal with them.

Most of all, I believe conservative ideology is rooted in the belief that suffering is justified, and even glorious as my late maternal grandmother used to say. I have always rejected that simply because suffering will always be a part of the human existence, but people don’t suffer in glory and revel in it. Poverty, hunger, and pain are not glorious or justified in any way. Jesus Christ preached a gospel of alleviating suffering with love and compassion, and action. He sure as hell didn’t place terms and conditions on who he helped or told us to help. And he sure didn’t ask for anything in return for himself.

And I’ve heard people say they learned how to be compassionate and loving ONLY after suffering themselves. If that’s the way you are, that you have to suffer before you will believe in another person’s suffering and try to alleviate it, you are seriously fucked up and need to do some serious work on yourself. That to me is the epitome of self-centered personal entitlement and definitely someone who will always ask, “What’s in it for me?”

It wasn’t easy for me to learn the origins of my values and why I’ve held on to them as strongly as I have. But my answers are good ones and my decision to do my best to live by my liberal, progressive, democrat beliefs is one I will never abandon. Nothing in this world is perfect but I believe we have to try to do the best we can with what we have to work with. Personally, I don’t want to see this world die and I don’t want people to suffer. So, if my tiny bit of support here can make a difference, then I’ll do my best.

Breaking Radio Silence – People Appeasing

In self-help/therapy circles, the term ‘people pleasing’ is a common topic of discussion. ‘People pleasing’ is when a person adopts a persona of always being  agreeable, calm, and stable on the surface, and always putting others before themselves. It’s like they want to please people but in reality, they’re just trying to appease people so those people won’t hurt them more than they already have or will if given the opportunity to.

When the term ‘people appeasing’ came to me recently I went, “Whoa, that’s seriously hard-hitting stuff.” Because appeasing, root word ‘appeasement’, is not a good thing. It doesn’t accomplish anything and it sure as hell doesn’t change anyone who needs to pull their head out of their ass and not be an asshole to other people. So why engage in appeasement and not stand up for yourself? For me, it started as a survival tactic: try to do everything possible to keep people from treating me like shit. I kept my mouth shut and my thoughts and feelings to myself because I was told to my face that no one wanted to hear what I had to say or deal with my feelings. Yes, I got told in a polite way to ‘fuck my feelings’.

Then I began to put up walls around myself, to hide my true thoughts and feelings and that didn’t go over well either because then I was told I was a cold, unemotional bitch. So I couldn’t win for losing as the old saying goes. But the worst thing about this was I believed that lying shit so much that I silenced my own thoughts and feelings inside myself. For so many years, I honestly thought I had NO right to think my thoughts or feel my feelings much less express them out loud. I thought if I did people would land on me and try to destroy me and any life I built for myself.

In the Summer of 2018, during my ‘dark night of the soul’ as I call it, I was screaming in my mind every single day all day long, “I am sorry for my entire fucking existence!” I felt like I couldn’t do anything right or that if I tried that it would never be good enough. Finally, during a moment of calm, another thought came to my mind:

“You have every right to your thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with them in any way you choose.”

I believe this for every person regardless of what they’ve said or done, good, bad, or ugly. Now my job in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass because everyone has to figure things out for themselves. But I believe everyone has a responsibility to deal with their own shit and respect other’s right to do the same for themselves.

Another way I tried to appease people was a living a life I thought everyone else wanted me to live. I thought in my thirties if I just lived a certain way everything would work out for me and that I wouldn’t have to deal with the trauma from my twenties. But after forty that façade began to crumble, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to live for myself ever since.

Appeasement doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because no matter what you do, it will never be enough for a person who won’t accept you as the person you are and not force to be someone you’re not or live in a certain way of their choice and not yours. Most people who are ‘appeased’ don’t even know that’s what people are trying to do to them. It’s like they may sense something is off but refuse to question why that is.

My father once told me, “Don’t let people inside your head, and don’t let them live there rent-free.” He was right (as he often was) and I will add that NO ONE can take away knowledge from you. No one can get inside your head and fuck you up unless you let them.

As I work on my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project, I realize that I will be saying things that not necessarily go against the grain, but are just my interpretation of common topics of discussion, such as ‘people pleasing’. It’s not that I don’t care about people’s feelings or wanting to make people happy. It’s doing that out of my own free will and not in the fear that if I don’t bury my own thoughts and feelings people will hurt me more than they already have.

Finally, if anyone reading this is feeling their back come up and thinking that I must want people to walk around on eggshells around me, or that they can’t talk freely in front of me, that’s bullshit and you damn well know it. If someone says your words and actions are hurtful or cruel, listen to them and think about what you’ve said and done. I’ve said and done things I’m not proud of and I take full responsibility for that. But I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to live in a very narrow, very strictly-defined way. I’m much more open and accepting and I believe everyone has to figure things out for themselves. And as long as someone is living in a way that’s not hurtful, cruel, thoughtless, or insensitive, they’re fine.

Appeasement doesn’t work. Living your own truth does.

Breaking Radio Silence – Three Healing Steps

Being a cycle breaker is realizing you’re not getting an apology for the hurt done to you, & instead of passing on that hurt, you heal it. It’s giving voice to the parts of you who have been forced into silence. It’s no longer apologizing for your desire to be set free.– Nate Postlewait (@nate_postlethwt) on Twitter, March 13, 2023

This tweet today really got to me today and I want to break down each of the three sentences as to why:

First, all my life my father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” It was something he got from his father, my grandfather, and frankly for the longest time I thought they were both just being a couple of major hard-asses. But I’ve thought that statement through and my take on it is this: an apology doesn’t erase the wound being apologized for. An apology doesn’t put something firmly in the past and keep it from coming up ever again. An apology is an admission of wrongdoing and for me, it’s been a way of confirming I hadn’t done something wrong. So, I’m not asking for an apology though I will accept one if freely given.

Second: “& instead of passing on that hurt, you heal.” We all make mistakes but for the longest time, I thought I’d made so many because of the shit I got for doing the right thing. It’s taken me a long time to realize people who heaped shit on me when I wasn’t doing anything wrong were just projecting their own bullshit onto me without thinking it through it first, and it was NOT my responsibility to figure that out for them nor excuse it or minimize it. Once I realized I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass is when I began to heal. I began to heal because I focused on myself and not someone else and I didn’t put other people’s opinions or cruel and insensitive words above my own truth.

Third, “It’s giving voice to the parts of you who have been forced into silence.” Breaking your silence does two things: it breaks the hold fear and pain have over you, and it is knowledge that can’t be taken from you. Putting fear and pain into words helps you understand cause and effect and in turn, how to repair the damage. This is why I believe there is still a huge bias and stigma around mental and emotional therapy because therapy breaks the hold and changes you for the better.

Fourth, “It’s no longer apologizing for your desire to be set free.” Years ago, during the darkest time of my self-help/therapy journey, there was a time when I wanted to go outside and scream at the top of my lungs, “I apologize for my entire fucking existence!” I came to that moment because I was beginning to realize I had apologized way too many times for things I didn’t need to apologize for. I did that in a horribly misguided attempt at appeasing people and getting them off my ass. The only reason they got off my ass was I beat the shit out myself and saved them the effort though that wasn’t their goal at all. This primal scream of pain began to ease when I realized people that shit on me never really thought it through and probably forgot what they’d done five minutes after walking away from me. So, I don’t owe them an apology, especially for wanting to be free of their bullshit.

This blog entry today took several attempts to get down because I kept hitting a brick wall that sent a thought through my mind, “I’m not ready to reveal this or talk about it just yet.” I’ve said that to myself so many times and today I asked myself in return, “When will I be ready? Now? Or never?”

There is NO absolutely perfect time to say something, reveal something, or do something. There is NO guarantee that something will work out perfectly. There is always potential for shit to happen as my late father would probably say in response to this. It’s not being pessimistic or negative, just being realistic because there’s always a possibility someone somewhere isn’t going to like what you’re going to say or do. This is something I’ve had to battle against as it’s a huge thing that’s held me back. Finding the strength to stand up to that and move forward is a challenge, some days more than others.

By the way, this is NOT an explanation to any critic or in response as to why I haven’t done something until now. I don’t owe that kind of explanation to anyone because asking someone why they haven’t done something until now comes off like that person should have known better to begin with. It was my response to that ‘should have known better’ shit almost eight years ago that put me on my self-help/journey: Everyone is just as full of shit as I am sometimes but that doesn’t make me a bad person.

I’ve said a lot of this before in other ways but the human mind learns by repetition and imprinting. And this is for myself, and for anyone else on a self-help/healing journey like I’m still on, and will be for the rest of my life. There are steps to healing and today I got yet another reminder of them, and that I’ve taken them and will continue to take them despite what anyone might think of me.

Healing is possible.

Stand or Fall – Don’t Give Up On Texas

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

The Texas Legislature is having its’ biannual meeting of idiots (aka it’s regular bi-annual legislative session) and yet another idiot has put forth a bill for Texas to secede from the United States of America.

First, none of these bills have ever gotten very far because the smart ones in the ‘Lege (as the late great writer Molly Ivins called it) point out the flaws in this and show the world these idiots don’t ever think anything through.

Second, this state is a lot more Democrat or Blue than anyone outside of the state realizes. The Republican Party gerrymandered the state to get control of the legislature but that hold is getting slippery because of all the bullshit they’re spewing and people are starting to fight back against.

I’m a native Texan, born and raised though first-generation. And like so many, I knew I was raised on a lot of tall tales as they were called when I was a kid, or a massive ton of bullshit and lies like I’ll call it now. The history of this state is varied, colorful, and yes, painful as hell to confront, too. But one thing I want everyone reading to know is this: we’re also a state full of people willing to fight for what’s right and true, and good.

Two of the biggest United States Supreme Court cases originated here in Texas:

Roe vs. Wade in 1973 which legalized abortion and Obergefell vs. Hodges in 2015 which legalized gay marriage. And now there are other cases winding their way through Texas courts that could end up at the Supreme Court and make history like those two cases did. There are some very sharp legal eagles here in this state who are not afraid to fight it out in court so when they say, “We’ll see you in court.”, look out.

In 2020, like in many major American cities, protests began over police brutality and oppression and one day during a major protest in downtown San Antonio, I was jammed in traffic by protestors, riot police, and right-wing gun-toting assholes. It was the gun-toting assholes that I feared the most and was pissed off as hell to see getting a police escort out of Alamo Plaza… until the next day when word came that Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar ran those bastards off (after arresting a few on outstanding warrants). Then he, along with Mayor Ron Nierenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolfe went out to the protestors and said, “Let’s take a walk. You talk and we’ll listen.” And Mayor Ron said, “This is your city. Tell us how to make it better.”

(And if anyone doesn’t like the fact I was scared and pissed off at right-wing neo-Nazi gun-toting motherfuckers in downtown San Antonio, fuck all the way off. Unless you there, you have no right to talk to me like that or anyone else who was there on those days when those gutless cowards were parading around like the dick-less shit-heads they are.)

For the longest time, my hometown of San Antonio tended to skew older. Young people grew up here but mostly left and didn’t come back until they were ready to either raise families of their own or retire. But now this city is skewing younger and younger every year and more diverse than ever before. And most of all, these young people are embracing the heritage of their elders who fought battles to make this city a better place long before they were born. This is a city that is getting more progressive every day with issues like economic disparity, educational opportunities, affordable housing, and discrimination being the top issues and not maintaining a bullshit-status quo that only benefited a few.

And it’s not just the major cities that are skewing young and liberal but a lot of small towns, too. People in those small towns are beginning to see through Republican lies and bullshit as their towns are starving economically and socially. They’re beginning to see it’s not drag queens that are the enemy, but so-called God-fearing Christians (who don’t seem to fear anything but getting caught for their crimes against humanity, especially children).

So, to anyone living outside of Texas, don’t give up on us. Because we’re sure as hell not giving up on ourselves. And I think before long, the rest of the country, and the world for that matter, are going to see just how many ass-kickers we have in this state. Carpet-bagging assholes like podcaster Joe Rogan and tech-bro asshole Elon Musk and all their little shit-sycophants are going to start looking for an island in the middle of nowhere (or possibly Russia) because it’s not just Texans that are pissed off at shit-heads like them coming in and shitting all over the floor. And I know we’ll be a light in the darkness for other ‘red’ states like Florida and show them how to take names and kick ass.

When we say ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ we’re not just talking about not littering, but about how we’ll throw your shit in a garbage can and shit-can your politics and right-wing bullshit yet again.

Breaking Radio Silence – Why Write This Book?

Why am I writing this book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I first conceived of this project. My first answer was that I wanted to share my story to reach out to people who had been through things like I had, or who were going through things like I had to show them they could get through it and heal from the pain and damage. But another reason has come to me just recently, and that is I want to put my story out there in my own words for the record.

I’ve said before my writing is not an act of revenge, or about winning an argument, proving a point, or anything like that. It’s not about ‘setting the record straight’ either. It’s about telling my story in the hope of connecting with other people like other stories have connected with me. And it’s not about ‘controlling the narrative’ either because no one has any real control of a person’s narrative, including their own. Also, it’s not about just speaking the truth because there are shit-heads out there who will never believe you, or who will do their best to twist your words to suit their sick shit, or just spew shit at you so they don’t have to face their own truth because they live a lie.

I’m not really seeing a lot of discussion about what I call ‘silence’, which is encasing your true thoughts and feelings behind huge walls of silence. There is talk of ‘freezing’ or ‘fawning’, which is either shutting down or going into extreme people-pleasing mode. There is also talk of ‘disassociation’, which is being present but mentally and emotionally shut down. I’ve done all three but for me, it was being silent about how I truly thought and felt, and yes, holding back from telling people off when they truly deserved it. But that ‘telling off’ is not the end-goal with this book.

I will freely admit when I first conceived this project I really didn’t think there was a lot in it for me. I figured I’d write it all out, find some answers and learn some new and better ways to deal with things. I didn’t realize I would need to learn how to heal my own wounds. Yet here’s the thing: I’m not a degreed expert. So, my writing won’t be neat and pretty but what I’m hoping is that my much-less than formal writing will connect in ways that other more-formal writing might not connect as well for people.

I’m not knocking people who are a heck of a lot smarter than I am and have done a lot more work on this than I have. Just the opposite- I have the upmost respect and admiration for all their work and I’ve learned a ton of things from them. But my way of explaining things is more blunt because I tried to dance around it and dear readers, I can’t dance for shit.

I don’t see a lot of discussion from writers (or maybe I just haven’t found a lot of it) about why they’re compelled to write like they do, especially memoire-type of writing like ‘Breaking..’ will be. But this question as to why I’m doing this has been going through my mind a lot lately and I’m trying to figure out why.

Now one reason I know why it’s going through is an old way of dealing with people asking me questions. Most of the time, I think a lot of the questions were of genuine curiosity but I know a lot of them were trying to nail me down for some transgression that I wasn’t guilty of (and sometimes never even knew what it was). I know that talking about my experiences, especially since they differ greatly from a lot of peoples won’t be easy and may not be received well. But I believe these are conversations that need to be had because we sure as hell weren’t having conversations in the past like we are now.

For me, there has been a huge release of shame and guilt when I write things out because writing is my main way of talking out loud. And I’ll say this yet again: putting words onto thoughts and feelings, and memories makes them easier to deal with. I feel like putting those things into words breaks their hold on me and gives me a way to work through them. I know I’ll  always have questions but I also know I can find the answers, too.

Being powerfully compelled to do something is not very common in my observations of the world and life I’ve lived. Beyond creative people or highly-determined people, being powerfully compelled to do something isn’t something a lot of people will ever really know. I think that’s why a lot of people are genuinely puzzled by people who are powerfully compelled to do something and yes, react to that in a way that’s not good. Personally, I think these people are lucky not go through this because this powerful compulsion is a major pain in the ass, and it can also be a at times a tremendous emotional drain.

As I take the first steps to writing this book, I know I’ll re-open some wounds and find others I didn’t know were there. But I’m not backing away from it like I have in the past because I know I’m the only one who can write my story.

Van Life Dream – Running From, and Running To

One thing that has always held me back is someone asking me why I want to do something. I understand a lot of it is just plain curiosity with no underlying nasty-ass motive, though for me there has been a fair amount of questioning that did have nasty and cruel undertones and motives. But those motives aren’t mine to deal with and if someone is butt-hurt over that, that’s on them and not me.

The question here is: am I running from something, or to something?

The answer is both.

The call of the road is running from pain, trauma, and past humiliating bullshit. It’s trying to get away from the memories and old voices I know I will never completely silence. It’s running from mistakes, missed opportunities, and lack of confidence and care for myself. It’s running from expectations that were never mine to live up to, or fail at.

On the road I know I’m running to calm, healing, and happiness. Because on the road I won’t need much to live on so that huge sword of scraping out a living won’t be there for me to live under like it is now. No one will know me or my story unless I choose to tell it so there are no expectations on the table set out for me. And I’ll be seeing new places and meeting new people with no preconceived notions or again, expectations.

I’ve read three very different stories by three very different women in different time periods who chunked it all and hit the road in their own way. Each story resonate strongly within me and I understand why each woman did what she did. So here’s a little recommended reading if you’re truly puzzled as to why I want to hit the road on my own:

(Book titles highlighted in blue are links to if you want to read any of them, and all three have been made into movies that are very good adaptations)

‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. Probably the best-known of the three books though ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed was a big best-seller, too. It’s Elizabeth’s story of traveling the world on a $250,000 book advance she got after her long and drawn-out divorce. First, she traveled to Italy and learned to be good to herself and to embrace pleasure in yes, food (trust me, I’d eat my way through Italy too if I ever went there). Then she went to India and there had her ‘dak night of the soul’ and finally, she ended up in Bali finding love (though her marriage later tanked- which sort of bummed me out). Her divorce brought out the fact she didn’t want to be a nice little suburban housewife giving it all up for her husband’s career (and probably getting dumped later in life like a lot of these women eventually do).

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed hit closer to home for me because it’s Chery’s story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother died when she was twenty-two years old, and she descended into heroin addiction. On the trail, Cheryl worked through grief and trauma and faced her fears in order to figure out how she wanted to live her life. I’ve done a lot of that on my own though I know there is more of that for me to work through (which I know I’ll do when I get hot-and-heavy on writing my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’).

‘Tracks’ by Robyn Davidson. This is the least-known of the three books as it was written in the late 1970’s. It’s Robyn’s story of setting out on a trek through the Western Australian desert with four camels when she was around nineteen or so. In her book she tells of expectations for young women in Australia to just settle down and marry and not speak out against anything of matter. Robyn wanted to travel and explore and challenge herself, which she did on her trek and has since become a well-known travel writer. For me, her story was about challenging yourself and doing things you want to and in a way, giving the middle-finger to conventional living.

Now for me I haven’t felt that many expectations set on me but then I threw everyone for a major loop when was twenty-one and decided to become a full-time caregiver to my mother. But then I don’t think anyone really thought I was cut out to be anything ‘normal’ whatever the fuck that is. I tried to establish some semblance of an ‘acceptable’ life in my thirties of the quaint single woman which crashed and burned because it was nothing but a flimsy façade. There were times when I wanted to settle down and have kids in my late twenties/early thirties but then I thought, who the hell would have me?

I’m okay with who I am now, and the fact I know I will never have all the answers. I have answers, and a lot of theories I can’t prove. And if anyone is dumb enough to try and tell me what to do… they’re just going to get a slight head-tilt followed by one word, “Really?”

But I do know one thing: I know what I’m running away from, and what I’m running to. And that is what the road is calling me for.

And here’s my GoFundMe link if you want to chip in on this little adventure.

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