In the Silence With My Mom

My mother has been dead for almost eighteen years yet I still think about her all the time. But how I think and feel about her has changed because in death, I feel like I’ve gained more of an understanding of her life and how she lived.

Growing up, especially after I began writing, I felt like I was more like my dad. Why? Because I was creative and inquisitive like him. Yet as I look back, I realize I was more like my mother than I ever realized. I was shy and quiet like she was, reserved until she felt comfortable enough to let her guard down.

My dad always said my mother had grace under pressure and how he loved that about her. I’m going to say that grace under pressure isn’t always a good thing. For her, it was the way she learned to be from very early in her childhood in how to deal with things. She never told me a lot about growing up but what I did learn made me understand why she was one to fight like hell to keep it together. It was why when she got sick I made it clear to her that when it was just the two of us she could let down her guard and bitch, rant, and rave about her illness and the shit that came with it.

My mother would be one to say she had no real imagination or creativity. That wasn’t the case because although she didn’t write or do anything creative like that she had imagination in her own way. She loved to read, watch movies, and listen to music. And she loved art and beauty and nature, too. But she was not encouraged at all growing up to be imaginative and curious. In fact, she once said to me about her childhood: “God forbid you had an original thought in your head.”

To rise up from that and not turn inward as hard as her mother did (my grandmother was an extremely conservative woman), was a gift my mother gave to the world. My mother’s opinions were more practical than anything, something I have a great respect for. For example, she didn’t object to two people living together per se, but just felt that marriage gave people more rights if a situation like that went down the toilet. She also used to say, if they’ve done it to someone else what makes you think they won’t do it to you? She’d follow that with, because people like that very rarely, if ever, change. Also, when I started working she told me two things: the walls have ears, and don’t go fishing in the company pond.

In the early 1980’s, my mom went through what she termed her ‘rebellious period’. It was mild by any means of comparison: going to a movie by herself, going out drinking with co-workers, listening to Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ album (which I traded her for with an Air Supply tape- though she’d come and borrow the Prince album all the time), reading books about gay people (she grew up super-conservative Catholic so she told me this was seriously-forbidden territory to her). Looking back, I wonder just how much shit she got for this. Probably a ton but I was glad she took me along for the ride because we began to talk one-on-one very honestly about a lot of issues. It was good preparation for what was to come later.

But as I write about breaking my own silence, I think about my mother’s silence. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, all she ever heard was that she had to be strong and fight the damn disease twenty-four/seven. But what no one told her was there would be motherfucking assholes who would say some seriously fucked-up insensitive shit that she would have to suffer in silence with because of her job or something else being on the line. It was why I was so damned determined to give her a space to vent and rip it all to hell. And trust me, we ripped it all to hell together on many, many occasions. I told her the day that we couldn’t talk like this was the day we would be at the end. Three days before my mother died, a tumor in her brain took away her ability to speak.

As I get into my story of breaking my silence, I’m beginning to realize how much of a part she has in it. How much her own story mirrors mine in many ways. And it’s a good feeling. Because despite all these years without her, this is proof she’s still with me. It’s proof that we never forget those who go before us. This is what I will tell anyone who has lost loved ones, or who may ask how you would deal with that loss if it hasn’t happened to them yet.

Grief isn’t silent. And no matter how much time passes, the stories are still there, just waiting to be told.

To My Younger Self

In my mind, I see myself as an ten-year old child in her room. She sits on the floor with posters all over her walls, books stuffed into bookshelves, papers and pencils on the floor. She sits in front of a stereo with records stacked in front of it, cassettes in a box, and a radio set to her favorite radio station. I go and sit down in front of her and she looks up at me.

“Who are you?” She asks.

“I’m you. As a grown-up, older than mom and dad are now.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because there are some things I’m going to tell you, things you won’t remember as words, but as feelings.”

Younger me sets aside her paper and pencils and looks right up at me. I can feel how hard that is for her to do, how shy and scared she is. She wants to be brave, but she feels weak and fragile.

“The first thing I’m going to tell you is you’re not weak and fragile. Physically, in about three years, you’re going to find out why you’re awkward and clumsy. The good thing is it’ll get you out of most of the stuff in gym class you already hate.”

Younger me smiles at that but she says nothing so I continue.

“You’ll start writing a lot more in the next few years. You’ll get good at it, in fact it’ll keep you passing classes when you forget to do your homework.”

“Why would I forget to do that?” She asks.

“Because you’d rather write and live in your imaginary world than the real one.”

She nods to that and I continue to the hard part of this story.

“Twenty years from now, your whole world will come crashing down on you. One day all of the decisions that have to be made will be made by you. You’ll be strong, but inside you’ll be terrified that you’re going to shatter into a million pieces. And you’ll be alone through this time. Because no one is going to get close enough to you, and hold you, and tell you everything is going to be alright. Because you know it won’t be. But you’ll survive.”

She feels my remembered pain and anguish from those years and I focus on giving her strength instead. “Like I said, you won’t remember these words, just the feelings. And nine years later, it’ll happen again but this time you’ll be better prepared.”

“But alone?”

I just nod to that.

“Why?” She asks me.

“That’s a question I’m still trying to find an answer to. I’m working on writing a book about it. It’s about you, and me.”

Younger me smiles at this. “Does it have a happy ending?”

“It has a hopeful one. My future is still waiting to happen. And I still have hope that maybe some day someone will come into my life, and be patient with me.”

We look at each other for a moment then she crosses the small space of time between us and I hug her tightly to me. She doesn’t cry and neither do I. I hold her for as long as I can then as I let her go I tell her one last thing:

“In the future, where I’m at now, you’ll have a dog and cat.”

She giggles at that then she fades back into time and I return to my present. I know she won’t remember my words, but she’ll remember the feelings I want her to have the most: wonder, and hope.

Most of all she’ll have hope, like I do now.

Self-Worth From the Driver’s Seat of an Uber

WARNING: MAJOR RANT AND RAGE HERE. ALSO, VERY BAD LANGUAGE HERE SO READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Last night I picked up three drunk bros for a short ride to another bar. It was the first time since the bars closed back in March that I’ve picked up a group of drunk bros and I have to say it still sucks. I honestly wish there was a way for Uber to let drivers know they were picking up potential assholes and offer some additional financial compensation. But that hasn’t happened though a feature like that in an app would be worth a billion dollars.

Why did I think they were assholes? Let me count the ways.

Whining about the mask requirement. Don’t whine about wearing a mask in a vehicle with other people. That shit is so fucking unattractive it makes me want to projectile vomit over anyone who whines and bitches about wearing a mask in the middle of a raging pandemic.

Making racist comments (they were all white dudes) even if one of them followed that fucking-bullshit comment with telling me he was an asshole over and over again. Like really, dude? If you know you’re an asshole quit being one.

But the last turd in this toilet-bowl of a ride was when the most obnoxious of the three dudes asked me at the end of the ride if I would date him. My reply, “No.” Then when he just sat in my vehicle I had to turn around and tell him one thing, “Out.” Needless to say, I wished him a lifetime case of jock-itch and limp-dick.

Yet it got me thinking I certainly didn’t miss anything by not doing the bar scene in my twenties and thirties like I thought I had a couple of days ago. I’m going to write that moment off as a misfire of bullshit in my mind because if that is what’s out there then I dodged a whole case of turds there.

The self-worth part of this comes from knowing damn good and well I don’t have to take shit like this even if the assholes of this world see me as ugly. And please don’t tell me I’m not ugly because I know my appearance won’t get me an Instagram influencer gig. I’m off-balance (thanks, scoliosis!), fat, and have a lovely double-chin. But even I know I don’t have to take shit for that. I don’t have to take crumbs of pity and tell myself that someone is just an asshole and I have to accept that.

No, you DON’T have to accept that someone is an asshole. You can call them out on that then walk away. You don’t owe anyone like that jack-fucking-shit. Yet so many people think they have to put up with it.

No, you DON’T. If you’re not shitting all over people in any way, if you’re just trying to do your own thing and take care of yourself, and most of all, if you’re doing your dead-level best to be kind to other people and not be an asshole, you’re doing just fine. And don’t let assholes take this from you, and don’t let them gaslight your ass into thinking you’re the worthless sack of shit because you care about other people and the world we live in and don’t want to turn it into a huge dung-heap.

I think a lot of what’s happening now in our world is more and more people are starting to say ‘Enough!’. They’re starting to say, ‘No, you’re a fucking asshole and I’m not going to have anything to do with you because of it.’ People are realizing their purpose on Earth is not to take a crowbar to someone’s backside to get their head out from there.

Growing up I was raised with this belief I had to just accept some people in this world were jerks and they weren’t going to change. I was told not to stand up to them or call them out because they weren’t going to change. That in turn led to this belief that I just had to suffer in silence. Well, I’m breaking that silence and calling it out. I’m saying being an asshole is the most unattractive quality in a person, someone who is thoughtless, mean, and totally selfish, and worst of all, someone who scorns kindness and compassion and says those emotions are weak.

I used to think I was a weak-ass piece of shit for valuing kindness and compassion and I’ve had people say I need to harden up and just shut all my emotions down.

No. I refuse to feel bad for busting my ass to be kind and compassionate. And most of all, I refuse to shut my emotions down all together because someone doesn’t like how I think and feel.

So my message to anyone reading this here is don’t base your self-worth on someone who really doesn’t care about you. If they say mean and cruel shit, they mean it. It’s not the booze or drugs or whatever. And you have the right to walk away from it and stand up for yourself. And yes, you have the right to wish a never-ending case of jock-itch and limp-dick on any asshole because of that.

A Question Without a Single Answer

Over the last few years, a question has been asked a lot: are people born without empathy and compassion, or are they raised that way?

Science has proven that diagnosed psychopaths and sociopaths have brain abnormalities that show the parts of their brains that govern empathy and compassion are non-functioning (link here). But for those without brain abnormalities, how are they without compassion or empathy?

My answer is I think it’s a personal choice. And I’m going to tell my mother’s story here to explain my answer.

My mother once said if she could summarize her childhood in one sentence it would be this: “God forbid you had an original thought in your head.” Nothing about empathy, compassion, or anything she was really taught to value or believe in other than rote Catholic dogma. She was to obey with total silence and submission the way she was being raised. And she was raised in what I would call a hellish environment- her father was an alcoholic and her mother was an extremely-conservative religious fanatic. My mother once told me one of her earliest memories was being thrown the stairs of the basement when she was four years old by her father in a drunken rage. (I didn’t ask for any more details or other times like that because I didn’t want to hear anymore, and she didn’t say anymore either though I have a feeling there were more stories like that.)

My mother would be the first to admit she was far from perfect. But not because she was humble, but because she had no self-confidence and no real self-esteem. Yet she didn’t raise me that way. She never put me down by telling me I was ugly, stupid, or going to hell just because I was female. In fact, when I was about eight years old we were at my grandmother’s house having lunch when my grandmother started in on me being overweight. For the first time in my life, I saw my mother completely lose her temper. She lit into my grandmother so hard my grandmother sat down and cried as she apologized over and over to me and my mother. I remember my mother saying, “You’re not going to do to my daughter what you did to me.” Because growing up my mother was told she was fat, ugly, and stupid though she wasn’t in any way, shape, or form.

My mother wasn’t very affectionate or very expressive emotionally with words. It was just something I accepted because that’s what I first remember. But I always felt like she believed in me and wanted me to be happy. I hated the fact when I started writing I put a bit of wedge between us because of that (that’s a story for another time). But she never stopped me from writing and though I never really showed her a lot of what I wrote, I wish I had.

I don’t believe my mother was raised to believe in, understand, or have compassion and empathy for herself or for others unless they fit an extremely rigid criteria for acceptance. I think she spent her adult life trying to overcome that and knew it was something she should try to overcome. When she did open up with people, they could be really awesome to her, or they could be total fucking shit-heads, too. Her trust issues and closed-off emotions have mirrored my own life and over the last few years I’ve gained a considerable understanding of her. Her silence has mirrored my own and it comes from similar places.

I believe she chose to do things differently as an adult. To try and overcome the rigid, horribly conservative ideology she was raised with, and to try and be a much-better mother than the one she had. I think she did a damn good job considering how much she had to overcome and deal with. I believe she had to fight a shit-ton of fear and conditioning to do things differently with me. I’m fucked up in a lot of respects but I’ve never dwelled too much on my looks or lost faith in myself. Like my mother, I stayed silent and took a lot of shit because I didn’t want to lose my shit and rage all over people.

So yes, I do believe empathy and compassion can be a choice people make. As to how and why they make that decision, that’s up to each person. But if you believe empathy and compassion are to be severely rationed, or barely felt, or only for those deserving few, may God have mercy on your soul because I sure as hell don’t. Disagreeing with someone over something simple like mayonnaise on a hamburger is one thing, disagreeing with them on something that involves compassion and empathy for someone suffering needlessly… there’s no need to attach love to hate because to me, hate is a lack of empathy and compassion towards suffering.

Though my mother never told me she loved me very often, her other words and actions said it for her. Her love didn’t hurt, her words never hurt, and I still miss her terribly almost eighteen years after her death. And I still love her, admire her, and respect more than anyone I’ve ever known because of the choices she made, and how damn hard she worked to overcome the way she was raised.

Reclaiming Happiness for Healing

When the movie ‘Flashdance’ came out in 1983, I along with millions of young girls wanted to be a dancer and have it all. We all had the soundtrack album, the leg warmers, and the ripped sweatshirt. In 1983, I was nine years old and definitely not dancer-material, or physically coordinated at all. And in that year, that was painfully driven home every single day in P.E. (physical education) class when we did our exercises to the song ‘Flashdance (What a Feeling)’ by Irene Cara. By the end of that year of P.E. hell, I learned how to hate that song and for close to thirty-five years, I couldn’t listen to it without those awful memories of being picked last for any team, laughed at when I fell on my ass, and glared at daily by the P.E. teachers I had.

But in 2018, I reclaimed my love for that song.

It started on a Uber ride one morning when I was in very heavy traffic and unable to take my hands off the steering wheel to change the radio station. So I had to listen to the song, and when I did as a forty-four year-old woman, I heard these lines:

All alone I have cried

Silent tears full of pride

In a world made of steel

Made of stone

(Lyrics by Irene Cara and Keith Forsey, Music by Giorgio Mororder)

When I heard those lyrics, I shocked and amazed that I had forgotten them. Then I got back to my place and put the song on my phone and put my headphones on to listen to it again while I made breakfast. But when I heard those lines again, I bawled my brains out over a plate of breakfast tacos. Luckily no one was around to see that and my pets kept their distance from me.

I’m glad I bawled my brains out over those lyrics because after that, I began listening to the song and not thinking about being bullied and teased as a little girl. I began thinking of myself as a woman who had survived all that shit and was on the road to becoming the person I have always wanted to be. And that person is one who can smile and sing along (quite badly, I will admit) to this song and yes, even move around to it. It was like I was telling myself it was okay to cry those tears in silence alone in a shitty world because if you listen to the rest of the song, you’ll understand why this is so liberating.

For many years, I glossed over a lot of those memories of my childhood and adolescence, unwilling and unable to talk about the shittier aspects of it. But because I had stayed silent about those shit-times, I had buried the good times, too. Because despite being bullied and hated as a young child, I had an imagination and through that imagination I had hope. Hope that I could live in a world where maybe I wouldn’t sing and dance, but where I would find my dreams and make them happen. I’m working towards that now and realizing I’m so much stronger than the lies all the shit-bag assholes of this world ever told me.

And being stronger than you think is also a message of the movie ‘Flashdance’ as Alex (played by the awesome Jennifer Beales) learns in the movie, too. That year in that P.E. class took that away from me, too but I’ve gotten that message back. So I want to say here to anyone reading this: you can reclaim the good and learn how to put the bad away in boxes and store them. You’ll never forget those bad memories but when you box them up, you take away their power and you remove their sharp talons from your heart and soul.

I recently found the word for this reclaiming process: healing. Healing is when you find joy and happiness that you’d lost, or had taken from you. Healing is when you find the good behind the bad. Healing is taking a deep breath, wiping away your tears, then smiling and singing along with the old songs that made you want to dance.

I don’t think I can stress the importance of healing now. For me, when this word came to my mind it was like a punch to my stomach. It knocked the wind out of me and pissed me off like pain does. But know this: healing is not rebellious and radical. And if someone sees healing as rebellious and radical, they can take that and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. We all have wounds we need to heal from. It’s not an easy process but one that’s well worth it.

Healing is what gives me the ability to write now and bring three very important projects together. It’s slow-going at times but that’s alright. The shit-heads of this world are wanting to burn it down and not nuke us like they wanted to back in the 80’s so there’s time to write.

Most of all, there is time to heal.

Define Yourself

The day before yesterday, news came that the actor Chadwick Boseman had died at the age of forty-three after a four-year battle with colon cancer. No one other than his family knew of his cancer diagnosis and in the last four years of his life, he made eight films, including the highest-grossing superhero film, ‘Black Panther’. Knowing he was battling cancer while making movies makes me think of him as a real-life superhero, and not just because of his strength and determination to perform so well, but not to let his illness define him. Because if he had gone public with his diagnosis, he probably wouldn’t have worked at all.

Now of course there are idiots in this world who are saying he should have been able to work and be public with his illness. We don’t live in a perfect world where people with illnesses are allowed to live a life while battling their illness. We have a seriously-misguided and totally fucked-up idea that someone who is ill is supposed to be defined by that and devote all their attention to it. This is why people keep their illnesses quiet and continue to live until the end. Chadwick Boseman was one of these people, and there have been others – David Bowie and Raul Julia are two people who come to mind as both worked through their illnesses until they passed away.

Twenty-plus years ago I was with my mother throughout her seven-year battle with cancer. I saw the horror of the surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, and it was why I tried to not let her live by that alone. One time I was outside on the back patio with her as she fussed with her plants and she asked me why I was outside with her instead of off doing something on my own. I in turn asked her, “Do I have to tell you why I’m out here with you?” She said no and we went back to our conversation and her plants. There was no need to for me to say I was spending time with her because I knew I wouldn’t have the time I wanted to with her, but also I wanted to treat her as she was, not defined by her damned illness.

This morning I’m thinking of how it feels to be defined by one thing when each and every one of us is so much more. I feel like we’re put into a box and told to stay there and that if we leave that box we’re either too fragile to be outside or that we’re breaking some rule that’s not a law.

To that I say: fuck that shit.

If you define people in this world by one thing and try to box them up, I don’t give a flying-fuck how good your intentions are. Take those good intentions and go to Hell and get roasted by Satan for an eternity.

We all have our good and bad days, some more than others. But that’s called life and we don’t have to be all or one way all the damn time. I don’t have to define myself as one thing, or to act a certain way all the time. And most of all, I’m allowed to fuck up, slip up, and even crack up once in a while. This feeling that you have to be one thing all the damn time is fucking hell, and totally fucking wrong. Yet this is what drives people into silence, and trust me, keeping shit to yourself isn’t easy. Because when you do, you take a lot of shit from people who are either just thoughtless assholes or casually cruel. Yet in order not to capsize your boat and go under, you stay silent and take their shit.

Most people don’t want to talk about the hard shit in life such as mortality and realizing to the core of your soul that your time on Earth is limited. You have to deal with huge waves of regret and guilt, most of which are total bullshit.

Chadwick Boseman knew he was on borrowed time, and he also knew the huge risks he was taking in working like he did because his illness could have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Yet he made the most of the time he was given, shared his gifts with the world, and will be remembered for those performances and for the life he led. He didn’t let one thing define him, and he sure as hell didn’t let anyone put him in a box. He shined, and always will even as he is with the Ancestors now.

Don’t define yourself by one thing, and don’t let anyone put you in a box and keep you there. Stay silent if you choose to, but know this: we are all so much stronger than some motherfucking assholes may say. Don’t listen to anyone who says you are weak and fragile, and don’t let that define you.

Don’t let anyone define your or your life. Live your life to the fullest no matter how much time you have on this Earth. Be strong.

#WakandaForever

Writing Through Grief

Many years ago, before my mother died, I heard I was too comfortable talking about death.

I wasn’t comfortable at all. I just learned to talk about it because I knew it was going to happen. There was no comfort in talking about it or what would have to be done when it came. In fact, the first time my mother and father sat down with me to talk about their deaths and what would need to be done… I got up and walked out of the room. They never held that against me but for many years, I felt enormous shame and guilt that I had done that. I was maybe twenty-one or twenty-two years old (I’m a bit hazy on the exact time frame), just a scared kid really and they knew that. But I knew I was being asked to put my fears aside and prepare for what was coming and I had to learn how to control my emotions and focus on the tasks at hand.

But there was no comfort in that and hearing that hurt me deeply. I tried to write it off as thoughtless bullshit or casual cruelty. But there is no justification for either one. Whether you’re thrust into the grieving process by sudden death or slowly pulled into it by a long, slow march to death, there is never any comfort in death. Yes, death takes away suffering from the person who died, but it leaves those behind with pain that only eases over time.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be writing about my grief. In October of this year it will be eighteen years since my mother died, and it’s been nine years since my father died. Both died after long and protracted illnesses I was there for every step of the way. Yet I was not given the opportunity to talk about my feelings while they were alive as I felt like people couldn’t handle what I was going through, or didn’t want to deal with me and my feelings. So I boxed those feelings up and put them away. Over the last couple of years, I opened those boxes and went through everything I put into them.

Writing about my grief is my grief-into-purpose moment. So many of us are grieving right now: for our loved ones who’ve gone before us, for those we’re watching on that final journey, for those we know who share our pain, and for a world that is changing, and for the fear and violence in our world now.

I have heard accusations in the past that I was trying to be a martyr for talking about my feelings, or that I was being a martyr for not talking about them at all. It was like if I tried to say something, I was only doing it for martyrdom. But if I said nothing I was also doing that for martyrdom.

I have never, ever, been comfortable with attention on myself. I experienced a lot of humiliation and pain whenever I did seek attention when I was young, so much so that I tried to run and hide and only step onto a stage in my imagination. Again, maybe it was just thoughtless bullshit and casual cruelty but there is no justification for either one. I want to say this to anyone who thinks a quiet person breaks their silence for attention or worse, some sort of martyrdom: no, that’s not what’s it about at all.

I think it’s good to see and hear people talking about grief and loss. It’s good to see it move past funerals and graveside services. It’s good that people are saying I understand your pain because I have felt pain, too. And most of all, I’m glad there is a man who is inspiring people to work for a better world by saying we have to turn grief into purpose (Joe Biden, 2020).

Cruelty to me is an absence of emotion, and not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. I will not absolve it, and my way of forgiveness for it is to describe it like this: forgiveness is when I remove razor-sharp talons from my heart and soul, wash the blood off, clean and stitch my wound close, then put a bandage over it. In time, I will learn to let go of the pain, and to know that I don’t have to let myself be hurt like that again.

Grief is not a razor-sharp talon in my flesh. It’s a shock to the heart, a body-blow that knocks the wind out of you. But you can recover from that, stand up straight, and breathe through the pain. And you learn to breathe again by feeling your emotions, and putting them into words. You don’t really breathe, or live in silence. Grief does not need to be silent, not in your mind, your heart, or your soul. Words and memories will always be there, even if you box them up and put them away.

When you’re ready, you’ll open those boxes and go through everything. And you’ll find the words for your feelings. And you’ll have a shield against cruelty, against those who would harm you for speaking your truth, and your feelings. I choose to write about my grief, and to break my silence over it.

Writing For Therapy, Knowledge, and Healing

Four years ago, I set out to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. This is what I call writing as therapy because I was working through mental and emotional shit to gain knowledge. I thought therapy and knowledge would be enough until this thought came into my mind: I need to heal.

Following that thought was this one:

Since when did the thought of healing become a radical and rebellious idea?

Right after I typed that out yesterday, I got up and stalked around my room with a serious urge to rant and rage. Why? Because healing meant I would be letting myself feel happy and letting go of pain and misery once and for all. That’s a radical and rebellious idea for me because all my life I have felt like I had no right to be happy, and especially no right to express my feelings of happiness.

Writing on the non-fiction triumvirate as I call it now is not easy at times. But I do gain satisfaction with myself for my writing even though it’s a lot of hard work. And that satisfaction does make me feel happy. It’s not shout-in-the-streets joy but a deep-seated feeling of happiness from doing what I want to do. Yet why does writing the word ‘happy’ itself and thinking about feeling it hurt so much?

The answer to that last question is a long and complicated story with a lot of chapters. But now that I know the end of that story, I can write it. Because to heal is to let go of what’s hurt you and held you back. My fear behind this is that someone won’t like that I’m moving on, feeling the way I do, and most of all, expressing those feelings. My first instinct used to be to retreat, and my newer instinct is to rant and rage on the page here. Now I know I don’t have to retreat, or rant and rage. I just need to write, to heal, and be happy.

But yesterday I also wrote this: I’m not responsible for someone else’s feelings, especially if I’m not doing anything wrong. I will tell myself this now: just because someone has come at me in the past with either raging bullshit or passive-aggressive good-intentions doesn’t mean I have to take that shit any more. Or be scared that I can’t deal with it.

Healing is telling myself I can do something, and that I’m a lot stronger than I have ever realized before in my life. And that writing, Uber driving, sleeping, watching stuff on my laptop, listening to music, or maybe someday having some sort of social life is not out of the realm of possibility for me. That old fears are not my present anymore. I know I can work through the times where I want to rant and rage, or run and hide. Working through those rant-and-rage or run-and-hide moments is what led to this piece now, which I am forever grateful for.

Four years ago, I had no idea what my journey would lead to. But then no one else would have known either. I’m glad I have reached the point I’m at now where I can begin to embrace healing. Healing is not a radical and rebellious idea to me now. It’s not just a need, but something I want to do.

I know we live in some seriously fucked-up times right now. But I also know this: the future isn’t written. We write it in the present. As a writer myself, I write it every time I sit down and put words onto a page. That’s a hard realization because looking at a blank slate and thinking what could go wrong is scary as hell. And it’s not easy to think of what can go right either because of the unknown. Hope to me is accepting that things can work out not just by thinking about it, but by doing something about it.

My ‘doing something about it’ is writing. And publishing here to start with.

And most of all, I want every reader here to know the most important thing I’ve learned over the last four years:

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 whatever way you choose to.

And in my case, that includes writing about them.