Stand or Fall – Tolerance Doesn’t Equal Silence

From as far back as I can remember, I heard that you had to tolerate people and their bullshit which meant that you just had to sit and listen it without calling them out on it. I was taught that you can’t change people and that you have to let them be who they are. And for myself and way too many other people, we thought it meant we couldn’t speak out against their bullshit and actively campaign against their reign of terror.

We were wrong. Tolerance failed and officially died on January 6, 2021 in the halls of the United States Capitol Building when a mob of right-wing monsters tried to overthrow the duly elected government of the United States.

In the past, I’m sure someone would be calling me out on the above paragraph telling me not to get overwrought or that I’m exaggerating things. Fuck that shit. And fuck those assholes no matter how well meaning they might think they are, or were back then. They were wrong then just like they are wrong now.

I know I can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them, but I can sure as hell call them out on it. I used to think I didn’t have it in me to call someone out on their bullshit but I know I do now. Because I have taken the time not just in the last few years, but all my life really, to think things through as best as I can and try to do the right thing. And to be shit on for doing the right thing caused me some serious wounds but wounds do heal over and you can put up shields to keep people from hurting you again.

I recently saw a quote from the late rapper Tupac Shakur: “Just because you lost me as a friend doesn’t mean you gained me as an enemy. I’m bigger than that. I still want to see you eat, just not at my table.”

So in staying with Tupac’s statement here, I can say tolerance doesn’t mean letting someone sit at your table and give you and your guests shit simply because they’re different and not doing anything wrong by being different. If you want to sit at my table, you don’t talk shit to people to their face or behind their back, or with thinly-veiled well-meaning bullshit either.

I used to think I had to sit and take people’s shit simply because if I pushed back on it then I was the bad guy. That’s gaslighting because it’s like saying I’m the one doing something wrong when that’s not the case. It hurt like hell to be accused of being a hopeless idiot for believing in the good of this world and in good people instead of those who were hurting people left and right.

I can be a cynic with the best of them but practicing tolerance with silence gave shit-headed people an opportunity to try and use that against me. They tried to use that against me by amplifying cynicism instead of combating it. Being cynical is a human reaction to massive amounts of bullshit and pain but it’s not the way to live. It’s wrong to say all people are shit-heads and that everyone will eventually shit all over you, except of course the person telling you this who has shit on you yet tells you to be grateful in taking their shit.

Sorry for the excessive use of the word ‘shit’ here in all its’ forms but the word fits because that’s what lies and manipulation are. And as the great Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you what they’re truly like, believe them.”

People know what they’re truly like even if they don’t want to completely admit it and take responsibility for themselves. And only an individual person can change themselves, no one else can do it for them. Or as I like to say now, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them.

Are we deadlocked here then? Never able to find a common ground? My answer to those questions is that the ball is not in your court, but in their court. I know where I want to go in life and what I want to do. I want to leave this world better than it was when I came into it. I want to lift people up from sadness and despair. I want to give people hope when they feel helpless and weak. And I want to be a defender. I want to stand in front of those who hurt others and say to them, “I’m not afraid of you anymore.” And yes, I am prepared to take their blows no matter how hard they hit, or how much of my own blood I might taste. But in reality most people who hurt or destroy are cowards, weak and scared. They’ve just taken that weakness and fear and turned it inside out-mean as my father used to say.

Tolerance doesn’t have to be silent. Tolerance means standing up for what’s right, and true, and to make the world a better place by standing up for others and defending and comforting those in need.

Breaking Radio Silence – The Silence of Unspoken Conversations

We weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now.

This phrase came to my mind a few years ago and it was in response to any questions about why write about things from the past. It’s also my response to the silence of the past, too.

When my parents were growing up, there was NO talk about what was going on other than what was considered ‘acceptable’. There was no talk of the violent alcoholic behavior of my mother’s father, or the rigid expectations in my father’s household. Thoughts and feelings weren’t talked about at all, and in my mother’s case, weren’t to be had at all because any thought or feeling that deviated from the fanatical Catholic norm would get you sent to Hell. And for my dad, men did NOT talk about their feelings at all.

For my generation, we did talk about some things but the expectation was that even if we did talk about them, things weren’t really going to change. Or better put, if you told someone they were being an asshole to you, it wouldn’t change them. But our generation was silent, too about the turmoil so many of us grew up with. Divorced or battling parents, bullies, expectations, pressure to fit in, etc. But if we kept our shit together and didn’t commit suicide, we were told we had good coping skills.

I’m glad young people today are more open to talking about their thoughts and feelings, and that more people are seeking mental health treatment. But not everyone is on this bandwagon and too many suffer in silence thinking nothing will change if they deal with their mental and emotional well-being.

To that I want to say this: you will change when you find answers to why you think and feel the way you do. And in turn, you can change the course of your life and your future. You can learn how to do things differently and do them better. I will tell you it won’t be a popular decision with some people in your life. There will be people who will not like the fact that you’re trying to change yourself. But your purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. Each person has to figure out how to do that for themselves.

For the longest time, I felt like the world wanted me to be silent, to be hidden away and not have to deal with me at all. Then one day I asked: why? Why would people want me to be silent? Is it because my mere existence challenges their fragile bullshit-leaden egos? Their suck-ass version of reality? Makes them feel shame and guilt for the shit they did? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’ that’s on them, not me.

I used to think that line of thinking in the above paragraph made me a cold-hearted bitch. It doesn’t. I have stayed silent and out of people’s lives because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my bullshit. I didn’t want anyone to think they had to take on my problems and try to solve them. This is what I have felt for a long time and I’m trying to figure out how to change this pattern of thinking. I’m also working on the fact that by writing and publishing my story of how I found answers to my questions that may not be welcome in some circles. I have to tell myself that’s not for me to determine and that all I can do is tell my story.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m doing it to help other people who have been through things similar to what I have and have the emotional wreckage to work through. My work is not about trying to figure out why shitty things happened to me or why people treated me like shit when they shouldn’t have. I spent way too many years trying to figure out why people reacted to me the way they did. I know why I acted the way I did and the image I projected so I will take responsibility for that.

As I begin to write this book, a lot of things come back up. And although I’ve been through these waves before it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them. But I have found one thing that does help me work through these shit-storms: talking about them. So I’m picking up the conversations again and pushing forth.

I’m having the conversations that should have been had before but can be had now and in the future.

Behind the Story – A Book In Search of a Title

Around Fall/Winter 2018 if my memory is correct, I came up with the idea of doing a ‘writing book’. At the time I thought it would be a mix of writing instruction and advice with maybe a few stories of my writing time over the years. Then this thought came to me: my relationship with writing is complicated. I thought that would be the hook to make this book stand out but in reality, that’s been a huge wall I’ve had to figure out how to get through. One way I’ve had to figure out how to work through that wall is finding a title for this project. It’s gone through at least two or three titles but ‘Behind the Story’ feels like the fit that I want for it.

But in order to get a handle on this project, I needed a title I could write to. I need titles to write to so when I’m struggling with a title then I struggle with the project itself. So the first thing you can see about writing for me is that my brain is works in weird and mysterious ways. Putting that crazy thought process into words is a challenge to say the least but it’s one I want to do.

For me, writing is largely instinctive now. I just start out with an idea in my head then sit down and start writing. I trust myself to know when something is working and when it’s not. Like this blog entry here for example has been in the works for a couple of days now with several attempts scrapped. I’m not doing this project to discourage people from writing, or showing off, but instead I’m trying to put into words a process that I don’t really think through before I dive into it.

In my teens and twenties, and even into my thirties, I devoured everything I could about writing. I read a ton of articles and books, attended workshops and conferences and studied constantly. Back then I felt like I had to earn my chops by working my ass off studying and writing. I’m glad I did that but it wasn’t a popular decision with some people in my life. In those years I felt like my writing was seen a weapon to be used against me, something to be held against me, something I felt wrong in doing sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to realize that people were wrong to think that about my writing as I NEVER let it get in the way of any responsibilities I had taken on. In those years, I was just told to keep my mouth shut and keep writing.

To anyone who has a problem with my writing, or ever did I’m going to say what I should have said a long time ago: fuck off. Take your stupid bullshit and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I fought with everything I had to keep my passion to myself and for no damn good reason other than placate someone’s dumb-ass ego.

Like my other writing projects, I’m not writing this book as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. In addition to trying to illuminate the creative process to help people understand it, I’m also doing it for other creative people like me who’ve taken way too much shit for being creative. I don’t believe every single person has it in them to be creative and curious. In fact, I think there are a good number of people in this world who are the total opposite of that and who sure as hell aren’t shy in expressing that to the rest of the world.

For the longest time, I used to say I just let my imagination run wild and that it was not a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. But that’s not true and it never was, and that’s another thing I’m trying to put into words with this project. And that I believe is also another reason some people may have had problems with my writing because they somehow thought it was about them. It’s not and it never was. But that barrier had to fall in my mind for me to get to the point I’m at now with my writing, this mix of instinct and the ability to put those instincts into words.

Stand or Fall – Preaching to the Choir

One question I’ve asked myself with this project is who is this book being written for? I’ve said to left-leaning folks like me it’ll probably be like preaching to the choir and to right-leaning folks it could create some serious cognitive dissonance. But now I’m beginning to think that cognitive dissonance could also happen to my left-leaning readers and that’s because I don’t think my left-leaning readers are going to like me telling them they fucked up and fell down on the job.

I think the biggest failure of us Lefties is our stupid default setting of giving up and quitting when things get really loud and shitty. I hate hearing people talk about not voting anymore, or not voting because of one thing, and I really hate people talking about packing up their shit and leaving some place like the idiots who talked about quitting when Elon ‘Dickhead’ Musk announced he wanted to buy Twitter (the deal is on shaky ground as of this blog post). I want to say if you do this, you’re a fucking idiot and I’ll put a verbal foot up your ass and boot you out of the room if you don’t want to be in the room where it happens (with acknowledgement to the great Lin-Manuel Miranda and the ‘Hamilton’ team).  

There’s an old saying, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.’ And that is so freaking true. And if you don’t want to be in the kitchen simply because things aren’t going your way or because you don’t get to run the show, then get the fuck out. Being a spoiled brat is being an absolute asshole no matter what side these brats lean to politically. Left-leaning ones will step out of the kitchen while right-leaning ones will stay in the kitchen mouthing off. Either way, both are wrong and both either need to get the fuck out of the way so others can do what needs to be done, or shut the fuck up, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

It’s taken me a long time to really believe I can be in the room where it happens and that I have just as much right to be there as anyone else. Most of my life, I used to go silent whenever someone would get loud or get right up in my face. Now I know that’s just a tactic assholes use to intimidate someone into silence because that person is just trying to call them out on their bullshit. It’s why I’m working to teach myself not to back down or go silent in the face of someone getting up in my face.

No one is perfect and to insist on perfection in people is total bullshit. In 1992, I voted in my first Presidential election. I got swept up in the idealism and rock ‘n’ roll of that campaign and by the end of the decade I watched it crash and burn. I recovered some of that idealism in 2008 but watched it go down in flames in 2016. By 2020, I turned that idealism into pure dragon’s fire. Because as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have the luxury of idealism anymore. The clock’s running down fast and no one is sure if we’ve hit the point of negative return (that’s when a spacecraft launches and at a certain point they have to make orbit because cutting the engines and trying to return will get them barbequed in the atmosphere). I don’t think we’ve hit negative return yet but I think we’re close.

So to my left-leaning choir here I want to say this: don’t back down. If someone gets in your face tell them to back off and shut the fuck up. And yes, they won’t like that. They also won’t like it when you tell them not to change the subject because that’s a common tactic the average loud-mouth asshole likes to use when they know they don’t have jack-shit to stand on.

Lately, I’ve thought about just not engaging with loud-mouth assholes at all but instead, I’ll take the tactic of challenging them to listen to me like they force the world to listen to their bullshit. Most of these loud-mouth assholes don’t have the tits or balls to face someone directly or take a stand on their own (they’re real good at being good little cult members and parroting talking points handed to them). I read from a college professor online that when he asks a conservative student why they hold certain views they start off by saying, ‘well, in my family-.” And he stops them right there and goes, “No, what do YOU think?”

That’s what I want to do with my ‘Stand or Fall’ book: I want to make people think when reading it and after they’re done reading it. And honestly I don’t care what side of the political aisle my readers are on because if you can’t think for yourself and determine your own path, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. Because I believe if you can think for yourself, then you can find the right path to go on.

I believe the appeal of authoritarianism is that it gives people the ability to let someone else do their thinking for them. It makes them feel like they’re a part of something though they don’t realize acceptance comes at a very steep price, and that price is a person’s mind, heart, and soul belonging to someone else. I’m an outsider and I always have been, and I always will be so I’ve never seen the appeal of right-wing authoritarianism because I know I wouldn’t be accepted by that side simply because I’m different and have a brain that never shuts down. I think I’d be like Captain Kirk in the movie ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ when he asked, “Why does God need a starship?”

So let’s start asking questions until we get all the answers we can.

Breaking Radio Silence – Writing As Therapy

The topic of writing as therapy has always been a difficult one for me to address and I’ve had six years to think about it. Why? Because there is still a ton of opposition to people seeking therapy any way they can. Despite all the conversations we seem to be having about therapy and mental health along with self-care and self-help, it still takes a lot for people to pursue therapy.

I think the opposition to people pursuing therapy is two-fold: that it will reveal secrets that people don’t want spoken out loud even if they’re spoken in confidence to a therapist, and two, that people in therapy will learn how to stand up for themselves. In my experience, people who hurt others whether through insensitivity or worse, cruelty and refuse to take responsibility for their actions will do everything to keep someone silent and submissive. I know I used to believe that if I was just silent and hidden that people wouldn’t treat me like shit, or that maybe they would accept me if I was quiet and submissive to their bullshit. Neither one of those is true and no, I’m not being mean right now.

So why pursue therapy? Why work through your pain and shit when you can just bury it and become just like the people who hurt you? Because most people aren’t built like that. The vast majority of people in this world care about their fellow human beings and don’t seek to hurt them and if they do hurt someone they take responsibility for their actions and apologize and try to make amends. The people who refuse to do that are the loud-mouthed shit-heads who will cry like whiny little wimps when someone calls them out on their heartless cruelty. But like I said in a previous blog post here, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. And the thing is, that’s not what therapy is about. Therapy is trying to figure out why you think and feel the way you do and learning how to do better and try to find some healing for your wounds.

Healing isn’t just about easing pain. I think it’s also about breaking free of living in pain and fear and that’s not a popular thing with the heartless assholes in this world. The constant outrage some people seem to live on creates more pain and suffering and no matter how often you call them out on that, unless they let go of that constant outrage they’re not going to change. But one thing I’ve learned in my therapy journey is that I don’t have to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety in return. I used to think if I lived like that people would leave me alone but the heartless assholes of this world don’t give a shit how you think and feel or why.

Another thing is that therapy is seen as ‘weak’. No, it takes real strength and courage to doctor your wounds and build up armor-plated scar tissue to keep from getting hurt again. And yes, this is deeply personal for me because all my life I’ve been told I’m weak and can’t handle anything ‘normal’ or ‘painful’ when in reality I was left all alone to deal with enormous responsibility and pain. So one part of my therapy was learning that I’m not weak and I’m sure that pissed someone off. But if I piss someone off for proving them wrong then that’s on them.

I always said the most courageous thing I’ve seen in my life was when my mother sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. My mother had so much bottled up she could have filled up an Amazon-sized warehouse with her stuff. Instead, she worked through as much as she could before she died. I like to think I’m taking my therapy further than she did because I have the opportunity that she didn’t get.

If a secret is kept simply to keep someone from facing the consequences of their actions and the pain they caused, then it doesn’t deserve to be kept a secret to help them. Breaking my silence over things I’ve kept to myself is very difficult because I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m breaking my silence in order to bleed the poison of that secret out of me and heal the wound caused by that poison, and to show other people how that’s done.

I believe you can choose how you pursue therapy, whether or not you speak about it out loud, and how you deal with any opposition. My way of pursuing therapy is writing about it, speaking out about it here, and as for any opposition that’s dealt with a simple, ‘go to hell because this isn’t about anyone else’.

I’ve called ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ my ‘therapy’ book and that’s because as I went back through my life I learned how things shaped me in how I dealt with them. And most of all, I learned that just because I dealt with someone one way didn’t mean it was the only way, or the best way. And yes, someone might not like that but like I just said, this isn’t about someone else. Therapy is about yourself and no one else.

The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis

Yesterday I cross-posted a short story I wrote for the Facebook group I am a group administrator for, Writers Unite!. First, I want to thank everyone who read it and shared their kind words about the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Now I want to take you into the writing of the story to try and illustrate a creative process for me that’s something I don’t really think about in words too often.

The story ‘Maybe It Was Memphis’ came from a prompt. A story prompt can be anything, such as a picture, a topic, or anything chosen. In this case, the prompt was a picture of a front porch swing.

Now with prompts there’s usually other requirements to work within, mainly the length of the story. This is to help writers focus their storytelling skills in order to tell a story that doesn’t wander all over the place or doesn’t go nowhere at all. For me, this front porch swing got me thinking about a song I’d heard years ago, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. The song mentions a front porch swing and is about a young woman meeting a young man sitting on the front porch swing of her mother’s house as the song goes. This first meeting gave me the starting point of the song.

Most of the time, coming up with the beginning of a story isn’t hard for me. Occasionally I have a hard time finding where to start the story but in this case, the opening scene you read came to me pretty quickly and I ran with it. And as you can see, I don’t write out a plot or an outline with my fiction. My writer’s brain does not work from outlines and such because that part of my brain thinks that if I outline a story then I’ve written it and that’s it. So I start from ideas and bits and pieces of scenes and lines of dialogue then go from there.

With a short story, one big thing that kept me from writing them for many years was the issue of plot. Then I realized in a short story the plot line has to be linear. By linear I mean the plot has to function as a straight line with no off-shoots, or sub-plots as they’re also known. With this story, my plot line became how do I get these two characters together in the end when one of them is going off to war? Five years pass by in a thousand words or so and I’ve never written anything like that before.

The original mid-section actually got deleted and completely rewritten because in my first draft I had Carolyn’s brother killed in combat and John coming home and he and Carolyn bonding over that. But then I thought that’s been done before and it’s much more complicated to do therefore I deleted it and started over. Then two things brought me to the ending of the story: John realizing he saw no future for himself after the war was over, and Bryce (Carolyn’s brother) talking about a woman who referred to herself and him as ‘The River and the Highway’. Because in a way, John and Carolyn were a river and a highway in that they had their own lives halfway around the world from each other but they felt a connection with each other and Carolyn had promised to wait for John no matter what. So with that, I had the ending in place: that connection even in an uncertain future.

Another thought that came to me with the ending of this story was how soldiers have a tremendous amount of difficulty adjusting to life at home after being away at war for so long. In my story, when it came to the end of war, John just didn’t see a future other than hopefully with Carolyn. Now Carolyn understood that John would need time to adjust and figure out his path in life. Carolyn’s way of thinking is to just take things one day at a time and figure out as you go along, which is how I feel about life in general. That patience and understanding are what bring John and Carolyn together in the end.

To add here: since I didn’t kill off Carolyn’s brother Bryce I will be writing his story for this month’s prompt with my group Writer’s Unite!. It will be how he learns to understand what his lady Christie means when she describes their relationship as the river and the highway. So far all I can tell you is their story is a road-trip with an overnight stay. It’s about two people together with nothing else to do but talk things out. That’s the basic idea anyway. Now all I’ve got to do is just write it and figure out what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it, and work things out.

The Debate Is Over

ABC World News Tonight has a feature each Friday called ‘Person of the Week’ about someone who had done good or made a difference in the world that week. One week in 1989  it was called ‘Persons of the Week’ in honor of the people of Pulaski, Tennessee. Shortly after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was founded there and every year on the anniversary of the founding the KKK and other Neo-Nazis descended on the town to spew their filth and hatred to the people that lived there (and who were nothing like those monsters). That year in 1989 the townspeople did something very different: they closed their businesses and went into their homes and closed their doors to these bastards parading through their town. They gave these monsters their freedom of speech and assembly, but in return they gave themselves the freedom not to listen to this filth or see the Nazi salutes and other symbols of hatred. It was a powerful image to see a bunch of Nazi’s and KKK-limp dicked assholes parade around to nothing but silence.

I tell this story because it wasn’t just a powerful example of non-violent counter-protest. It was also a way of showing the world there is no debate with people who put their own hate-filled lives above all others.

When I saw the debate is over it’s not just stopping debate with right-wing neo-Nazis and their filth. It’s also stopping debate over policies, or lack of policies that have been proven not to work. Arguing with someone who refuses to accept the truth of their failures or of their support of failed policies and positions is pointless. But worst of all, someone who refuses to acknowledge or accept that something doesn’t work won’t budge from that position. Instead, they’ll keep you coming at them until you wear yourself out, get tired, and back down instead of standing back then turning and walking away.

Now at this point I’m sure some reader here will be wanting to ask me: am I saying to give up on people?

Yes.

By yes I mean I’m not going to argue with someone who won’t admit to failure, or someone who holds a position or belief that causes harm to others, or lets harm to come others without working to stop that in some way. I’m not going to let anyone like that batter me into submission because I have in the past and all I have to show for it are a lot of scarred-over wounds.

But this doesn’t mean I’m retreating into silence and running and hiding, far from it. It means that I am going to continue speaking out in truth, but also asking questions out loud and working to find the answers and share them. Because as I’ve said before here, my purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass, nor is it anyone else’s purpose in life either.

Instead, I’m going to talk about problems and solutions, ask questions and find answers. And I’m going to work on providing a happy and pleasurable respite from the pain and darkness of this world. It’s been said the Universe likes balance so I think we need to start working on bringing that balance to life.

I’m not going to back down from sharing my thoughts and feelings, and I’m not going to back down from sharing other things like facts and figures, too. And I will keep telling readers here to ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can though I will warn readers they may not like the answers they find and that they will have to deal with them sooner or later. And I’m not going to stop telling people they are so much stronger than they will ever realize, either. But if someone just comes at me like a battering ram, I’m not going to let them batter me into submission ever again. I will resist and fight with every ounce of strength I have in me against that battering. And I will not tolerate nor listen to any attempt to manipulate me or gaslight into doubting myself, and most of all, I will not let anyone heap shame and guilt onto me for things I haven’t done wrong.

I will not ‘debate’ someone over things that clearly cause harm or don’t work. If someone wants to listen to me I’ll listen to them in turn. But if I don’t agree with them and they can’t accept that and try to batter me into submission, I will walk away in silence.

I’ve lost more arguments than I’ve won simply because I gave in rather than hold my position. I won’t do that anymore. But life is not an argument to be won or lost. Life is about living, and not just living in fear and pain. Fear and pain will always be a part of life but it is no way to live, and neither is living in fear and outrage. I’ve felt a lot of anger and rage in this past week and I’ve had to let it run its’ course. But I’m working to focus instead on action that will result in change for the better. I’m not going to stand around and debate with someone when there are things that can be done to make things better for the future.

Now let’s get to work.

Grief Into Action, Part Two – BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Silence is the tool of the oppressor.

This is a thought I had some years ago as I dug through the wreckage of my heart and soul and that was because the people who hurt and oppressed me demanded my silence more than anything. They lied to me and said if I was silent they would stop hurting me, and that if I was silent I wouldn’t be hurt anymore. But the damage was done and they didn’t care to repair the damage they caused. They were the ones who walked away from me and left me to deal with everything up to and including death and the grief that followed it alone.

During the last few years, I realized how much shame and guilt I felt for things I didn’t do wrong. But that shame and guilt kept from doing the things I should have done so one set of shame and guilt has been replaced by another. Now some may say I shouldn’t feel shame and guilt over being driven into silence by fear and grief and pain, but I feel shame and guilt for my silence. I know how deep a hole inside yourself shame and guilt can dig so I remember what my late father always used to tell me, “The easiest way to get out of a hole is to quit digging and start climbing.”

Digging yourself out of a hole is not going to be a popular decision with some people, whether they be stranger or someone you know. Having you out of sight and silent keeps them from dealing with their own feelings of contempt, cruelty, and lack of compassion. Being silent keeps people from facing their own failures and accepting responsibility for them. But their feelings are not yours to deal with. And another thought I had in regard to this recently was this: no one is responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass for them. If someone has their head jammed up their ass and is refusing to take it out, just walk away from them.

If anyone reading this feels like I’m backing them up against a wall, or is feeling uncomfortable, or maybe even feeling pricks of guilt, shame, or remorse, those are your feelings to deal with, no one else’s. Your discomfort means NOTHING in the face of so many people grieving in pain. My feelings of shame and guilt mean nothing in the face of those grieving in pain but I will not drive anyone into silence simply because I’m feeling things that are painful, such as shame and guilt. Instead, I will try and turn my feelings into a plan of action to try and save lives and keep other people from going through the absolute hell twenty-one families in Uvalde, Texas along with thousands of other families in this country whose grief has roared back to life with a terrible vengeance.

To those of you reading this who have felt helpless and full of fear and anxiety over speaking out against the oppressors of this world both near and far from you, I understand your feeling and where they come from. I want to tell you what my father used to tell me: you are so much stronger than you will ever realize. I want to say that you have the courage and strength to break your silence and stand and fight for what’s right and true in this world. I want to say your compassion, empathy, kindness, and love for others are your greatest strengths.

When I first started blogging again recently and became active on social media I had a fear to work through: the fear that I would have to deal with someone coming at me and trying to silence me. But as I continue to break my silence and work through the thoughts and feelings that come with that, my fear had begun to recede. And it continues to recede every single day I write and live my life. Breaking my silence is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. And I know the day will come when someone will try to come at me over something I say here or elsewhere. But I know I can choose how to respond, from a simple ‘agree to disagree’ to a blunt ‘fuck off’, or silence and block, the choice is mine. And the choice is yours, too.

To all of us feeling shame and guilt over the decades of active-shooter drills for our children and teachers, let’s tell the truth about what these do and don’t do. Break the silence around this horror and let’s work our asses off to end the need for these types of drills and give future generations of children a safe environment to live and learn in. Let’s break our silence on gun control legislation and speak out about it even if someone tells not to. Keep talking, and don’t stop talking. And let’s turn grief into action once and for all.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Stand or Fall – Shattered Glass Ceilings

In 2021, I read a book called ‘Ashley’s War’ (by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon) about Lieutenant Ashley White, US Army Reserve who was a member of the first Cultural Support Team (CST). Lt. White was killed in Afghanistan, the first CST to die in the line of duty but her story will always be remembered. This book changed me simply because it made me realize that as long as I don’t give up on myself and focus on my goals in life, I can succeed like Lt. White and all her fellow CST’s did. Because what she and her fellow CST’s did was shatter one of the biggest glass ceilings there ever was in this country for women- the ban on women in combat which was lifted in 2013.

Early on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military realized they were losing out on valuable intelligence because male soldiers could not interact in any way with women in Iraq or Afghanistan. These countries are Muslim and in strict Muslim society, women are not allowed to interact in any way much less speak to men who are not related to them by blood or marriage. Now women in these countries will talk to other women regardless of their nationality so the US military began pulling female soldiers, most of them in non-combat support roles, to interrogate and gather intelligence from women in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, US Special Operations Command began to formulate a plan to create all-female units to embed with combat units specifically to gather intelligence from the women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they had to take their time doing this because of the ban on women in combat positions. But in 2011, they put out the call for the Cultural Support Teams and thousands of women in the US military responded and answered the call.

The argument against women in combat roles was always this: the American public would not be able to handle the sight of female soldiers coming home in flag-draped coffins.

One-hundred and fifty-two female American soldiers have died in the War on Terror since September 11, 2001.

And you know what the reaction of the American people was:

ABSOLUTEY NOTHING!!!

I put that in all-caps to make a point. There were no protests at the sight of female soldiers coming home in flag-draped coffins. There was no outcry to stop women from being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, I will venture to guess that some readers of this piece will not even know how many female soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that the ban on women in combat was lifted almost ten years ago.

The reason I’m writing this here is because I see a right-wing conservative Republican movement that will not just replace the glass ceiling the CST’s shattered, but they will create a steel-walled prison for all women. I believe the goal of these motherfuckers is to take away all the rights of every woman in this country, and for them to determine the life-path of every single woman in this country. And for those that defy that, I believe these motherfuckers would torture those women who resist in ways that I don’t want to think about.

I’m sure some readers here may think I’m going off the deep end to even speculate about the future these motherfuckers may want to make a reality. In 1945, the world learned just what the Nazi’s were fully capable of and did, so much so that a new word had to be created to describe the mass-murder of millions of people: genocide. Do I think these right-wing bastards would commit genocide to achieve their goal of total world domination? Yes. And I believe they would start with subjugating women and imprisoning them in strictly-defined roles with a few women selected as evil overseers.

In my forty-eight years I’ve seen a lot of glass ceilings broken and shattered. I’ve seen a lot of battles for women’s rights fought and won. But what I’m seeing now is not just an attack, but a full-out battle being planned to take away all of those accomplishments. It isn’t just a race-war these monsters want, but war against anyone who isn’t white, male, heterosexual, and ‘Christian’ (I put the term ‘Christian’ in quotation marks because none of these monsters are true Christians).

In the book, ‘Ashley’s War’, the women of the Cultural Support Teams constantly wondered if they were good enough for what they were being asked to do. They worried they would fail, not just their fellow soldiers but that if they failed they would destroy any opportunities for other women in the military. So they never gave up, never gave in to those fears and doubts. And in my own small tribute to them, I have vowed to do the same with myself.

To any woman reading this who has ever been told she can’t do something simply because she’s a woman, I will tell you this: do it. And if you want to say anything to these motherfuckers you can say this: “Watch me.” Then go out and take names and kick ass as hard as you can and never quit on yourself, or your sisters-in-arms.

Breaking Radio Silence – Strength Isn’t Cruelty

I was driving along yesterday and got to thinking this: being mean or cruel to someone doesn’t make them stronger. My late father in his manic phases, and especially after he had his stroke and part of his brain got fried, said things to me that I won’t repeat to anyone. The gist of his tirades against me was that I wasn’t ‘strong enough’ or ‘mean enough’ to deal with what life was going to throw at me or had thrown at me. At the time, I just sat and took his shit because I didn’t want to escalate his temper any worse than it already was. And sometimes he apologized for what he said and I wrote a lot of it off to fried brain-circuitry. But hearing from him that I was weak, stupid, and not strong enough to deal with the world like a so-called ‘normal’ person hurt like hell.

This got me thinking about all the shit people have spewed at me simply because I’ve spent my life being as quiet as I can be, trying to be a good person, trying to be kind and encouraging, and most of all, trying to keep my emotions under the tightest control possible. Being treated like shit for being ‘different’, for being clumsy and awkward, fat and ugly, didn’t make me stronger. If someone thinks that silently taking shit is someone who is strong I want to tell you right here and now that’s not true. In reality, words of hate and cruelty create wounds that will never fully heal.

My mother never spoke to me like this. My mother and I were very similar in that we were both quiet and shy, awkward, and got treated like shit because of it. My mother grew up being told she was ugly and stupid and would never amount to anything. She decided to raise me differently and I’m forever grateful for that. One of the very first things I ever remember hearing from her was this, “You are a very pretty girl.” She would also compliment me on doing things well, would listen to me talk, and always wanted to spend time with me. My mother wasn’t one to say ‘I love you’ very often and she wasn’t very affectionate but I understood she wasn’t raised to say to those words or to be affectionate. But she spoke the truth so when she complimented me or spoke to me with encouragement, I knew she meant every word. Even though it’s been twenty years since she died, I miss more than ever sometimes. I miss her because she knew strength didn’t come from cruelty, but from love even if she wasn’t one to say the word ‘love’ very often.

No one really wanted to be around my mother when she got sick with cancer. No one wanted to deal with the ugly reality she lived with every single freaking day of the last seven years of her life. I tried my best to be there for her in every way I could. I doctored second-degree radiation burns. I cut her hair when it started falling out. I let her talk about how awful cancer was. And I sat beside her in a darkened bedroom willing her to stay alive as she battled the depression that was trying to kill her. And I did my best to support her when she sought help for that depression. So when the tumor in her brain robbed her of her ability to speak at the end of her life, my heart broke in a way that will never fully heal.

If I had told my mother to stay strong, to think positively at all times, and to fight no matter what, I would have destroyed my relationship with her. I would have hurt her in horrible ways and truly isolated her. Instead, I worked to create an environment where she could let her guard down, talk shit when she needed to, and just know that I would be there for her no matter how bad it got.

And my mother wasn’t perfect and neither am I, and both of us (if she were alive she’d be saying this right along with me here) would be the first to tell you we weren’t perfect. And we didn’t try to be. We tried to just keep our emotional shit together and not be a burden on anyone. We tried to do what needed to be done and be there for people when we could. Yet we both felt like that was never good enough and we dealt with that in our own silent way.

My mother broke her silence when she sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. And I’m breaking my silence by telling her story alongside my own. One big part of that is this: talking to someone in way that’s cruel, insensitive, and ugly doesn’t make someone stronger. It just drives them into silence more often than not and makes them feel like they’ll never be good enough for anyone. My mother never made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for her, or that I couldn’t do anything right at all. I hope that she knew I felt the same way about her.

If someone ever tried to talk cruel to me in order to ‘strengthen’ me I’d say one thing to them: “Go fuck yourself.” Then I’d walk away and leave them stewing in their own shit. And if anyone reading this has ever talked shit to someone thinking that’s going to toughen then up, stop doing that and ask yourself why you feel justified in doing that. You might not like the answers, but they’re yours to deal with, not mine. I’ve always found my strength without cruelty.

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