Conversations From the Road – Weekly Wrap-Up

This past week I blogged about the following:

Dirty Thoughts and Stories – Romance Is NOT Porn

Two days ago, a news story surfaced from the murky dreck that is the state of Florida head-lining the continued banning of books there. This past week eight novels by BEST-SELLING Romance novelist Nora Roberts were removed from a high school library from a complaint made by ONE member of the Republican Bitch Squad, also known as the hate group Moms for Liberty.

First, here’s a couple of key definitions:

Pornography is strictly about sexual titillation and sexual arousal, no plot or character development at all.

Romance novels are about people (people of all genders and races) falling in love and navigating relationships to a healthy and hopeful conclusion (the happily ever after or happy for now)

For thirty-plus years I’ve been reading and writing romance and yes, I’ve heard all the shit slung at it including the ‘it’s all porn’ label. Yes, there are romance novels that do depict sex in graphic terms, though what’s graphic or not is a matter of opinion. Nora Roberts is not considered graphic or pornographic except to this stupid-ass bitch in Florida who has definitely made a huge mistake in going after the Mother of Dragons because Nora is what I call the Warrior Queen of Romance.

Since 2016, Romancelandia has broken its’ silence and we won’t take shit like this anymore. Before 2016, romance authors and readers would let shit like this slide because we believed we didn’t have the right to speak out against this shit and put these Republican Bitch Squads in their place. After 2016, when the Republican Bitch Squad and their billionaire donors put their puppet in the White House then spent the next four years fucking things up, Romancelandia saw the truth and decided to join the ass-kickers of this world and stand up to these twenty-first century Nazis.

Now if you’re thinking I’m making too much out of this and no, this Republican Bitch Squad isn’t going to get away with this: what the fuck makes you think you’re so damn special these bitches won’t come after you if you step out line with them? Because if you think they have the right to dictate everyone else’s life and you want to do the same, find your tits or balls and come right out and say it. And when people like me push back as hard we can against you, don’t act all shocked and shit and clutch your fucking pearls. Instead, how about trying to pull your head out of your ass once and for all and leave people alone?

And yes, this is personal for me as I know there is a possibility that if my writing ever really takes off I’ll have these Bitch Squads coming for me. But I’m not going to back down in the face of their bullshit. I will stand up to them and I will not give one single fuck as to their fake-ass hurt feelings when I tell them to take their shit and shove it up their ass. I know they won’t stop until myself and others put them back in their fucked-up little shithole where they belong. There is NO need for anyone to dictate terms of existence for the rest of us who are just minding our own business and doing our own thing and yes, trying to make the world a better place for all people.

No, I don’t enjoy engaging in ass-kicking sessions like I’m doing here. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time, but I won’t be silent in the face of Republican Bitch Squad shit. I won’t be silent because if anyone reading this is leaning towards the Bitch Squad’s slick-ass sales tactics I’m here to tell you not to fall for their conformist, hate-driven, over-inflated sense of entitlement and ego, unless you’re already like them and if so, I’m not backing down in opposition to that shit. Because in the end, they’ve taken the fear they were raised on and turned it into hatred for others not exactly like them.

The worst thing about conservative ideology is that it has an extremely rigid definition of what it means to be happy and if you’re just a tad too happy, the shit comes down sending you to Hell. That’s the thing I’ve always hated about conservatives- they really can’t stand to see people happy because deep-down, they don’t feel like they have the right to be happy and for others to be happy, too. They worry way too damn much about what other people think of them. That is NOT a way to live at all and that is the most personal reason I will stand and fight these bastards in every non-violent way I can.

Because in the end, I believe in Love, not hate. And I’ve learned so much about love from my beloved romance novels. From my beloved romance novels, I’ve learned about how love can bring joy and happiness, and healing. That is the real defiant message of romance novels: love, joy, happiness, and healing.

Love will win. Always.

Uber Tales – Working for an Algorithm, Edition

Over the last six years, I’ve worked for an algorithm. Prior to that, I worked for humans for seventeen years (give or take). And I’ll take the algorithm over the humans because as one of my passengers said to me recently when we got to talking about human vs. algorithms: with the algorithm it’s nothing personal.

Over the last six years or so since I’ve done gig work as it’s called, I’ve read a fair number of articles about working for an algorithm vs. working for humans. In my definitely not-so-humble opinion, most of these articles weren’t written by people with the level of experience I have working for both humans and algorithms. So, with that being said, I’ll talk about working for an algorithm vs. working for humans and yes, I will point out both the pros and cons of each.

First, are algorithms biased or flawed? Hell yes because they’re designed and programmed by humans. Anyone expecting perfection from an algorithm is an idiot, so this argument is bullshit in my opinion. Because to me, if an algorithm can be programmed with biases, it can also be programmed without those biases and go strictly by the data it’s fed. In my experience, algorithms mostly go by data and honestly, I don’t see how they factor in my age and gender for example. I’ve busted my ass to have the stats I have and in corporate America, that didn’t always translate into success.

Second, do algorithms change? All the time and sometimes I can see it and sometimes it’s subtle I can’t. Is there anything I can do about it? No, and that’s because computer programming and algorithms are way above my pay grade so I won’t claim any knowledge or expertise on how they work or anything like that (unlike some people on this planet unfortunately).

For me, the algorithm just wants me to do my job. And my job as an Uber driver isn’t that hard to be honest. I drive safely, get my passengers where they need to go, and be nice to them. I also do reserve rides and I go online when the app tells me to, get to my pickup early, wait patiently, and get my passengers where they need to go. The more I do this, the more opportunities I get. Also, I don’t turn down every other ride or cancel every other ride. I’m online to do a job and if I don’t want to do it, then I need to go offline. One big problem I’ve seen with some people is they want to dictate the schedule and the work and that’s not how it works at all. When you work for wages as my daddy once told me, you do what the boss tells you to.

How about the money, you may ask. There has been speculation that the algorithm adjusts rates in many ways, but I have no knowledge of this at all as again, that kind of thing is way above my pay grade. Also, there has been speculation of disparities in rates in cities and yes, even among drivers. Again, way above my pay grade so no speculation on that from me here. But I will say this: there were pay  disparities were in corporate America, and I knew that for certain. Those disparities are why employers erroneously tell their employees not to discuss pay rates with each other. Trust me, it pissed me off back in my corporate chicken-shit salad days to find out someone with less experience and tenure got paid more than I did simply because the company chose to hire them at a higher pay rate than me.

Now about equal pay for equal work: is there such a thing as equal work? By this I mean what if you have someone who meets or exceeds set metrics for their job, who shows a commitment to quality work, and who shows up on time and doesn’t create extra work and messes for other people to clean up? Shouldn’t they be compensated accordingly? Is it fair to pay them the exact same wage as someone who doesn’t really do the job well and at times makes things difficult for everyone else? I worked with people who did the bare minimum and as long as they didn’t cause too much trouble or act like an asshole too often, I left them alone. But for the most part, that’s not the case.

I’m not saying everyone who gets canned or de-activated from an app is a slacker or has an attitude problem. Apps and algorithms are flawed because of the humans that design and program them. In the event something goes wrong, there are humans behind the app you can reach out to. I will admit I’ve had very few issues with the apps I’ve worked for, and they’ve all been resolved fairly and in my favor. Back in my corporate days, that wasn’t always the case.

For me, the best thing I like about working for the algorithm is the fact it’s not riding my ass every five minutes like some humans I worked for. It’s not petty or stupid like some of the humans I worked for. I like the fact that unless I take on a reserve ride, the algorithm doesn’t care when I work or how long I work. So, if I’m just not feeling it, I can log off and go home. Now I know not all jobs are like mine here but trust me, I don’t need to be told when to work or how long. I’m an adult and yes, I can manage my time.

Finally, the financial hardships I’ve had with this job are due to the nature of the business and it’s not just gig-work this happens in. A lot of jobs are ebb and flow, and you just have to ride those tides out as best as you can. But if anyone thinks things are perfectly stable, they obviously didn’t live though 2020, or if they did, they’re in a serious case of denial.

In the end if you ask me what I prefer, I prefer the algorithm because it lets me do my job without having to deal with the whims, politics, and the mental and emotional hemorrhoids of some humans.

Behind the Story – My Writing Is Not a Problem

A few days ago, in a PMS-induced mood swing to hard anger, a thought blasted into my mind:

My writing is not a problem.

When I started writing in my very early teens, my father was pursuing a writing career and being ‘difficult’ about it. I won’t go into any detail here about his behavior at that time because it’s a story for another time and place. But I will say this: he made my mother’s life a living hell at times with her ‘lack of support’ (his words, not mine). When I started writing I could clearly sense my mother was very worried I would become like my father about my writing: demanding and ‘difficult’. So, I worked my ass off not to be anything like my father when it came to my writing. I worked my ass off to keep it between him and me if I wanted to talk about it, and to not let it get in the way of responsibilities I had. Eventually, my mother came to support my writing in her own way. She had every right to feel the way she did, and I have absolutely no regrets about keeping it from her and keeping my feelings about my writing from her.

In my twenties, my parents wanted me to keep writing and they supported that by making time for me to write and also financially supporting it, too. Yet it wasn’t a popular decision and my parents told me to just keep doing what I was doing, and they would take any shit given to them on my behalf. It hurt like hell knowing they were taking shit for me, and I understood why they wanted me to stay silent but at times I felt like they took away my right to confront people and yes, tell them off and to not dictate my life to their fucking whims. I sacrificed a lot to keep writing because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents but at the same time, I was also trying not to create more problems for them. This in turn severely fucked me up and it’s taken the last seven years to work through that shit and begin to heal.

Yet this is not a hit piece on the past or anyone who felt like my writing was a problem for them. My writing was NEVER a problem for anyone nor was it anyone’s business, nor was it anyone’s right to dictate what I could or couldn’t do with my own time to begin with.

This piece is for every writer who has felt like they were a ‘bother’ or being ‘selfish’ for pursuing their writing. This is for every writer who has ever taken shit and had people shit on them and tried to tear them down for their own bullshit reasons, none of which matter here. Whether or not writing is worth pursuing is up to each individual writer. Whether or not a person will be successful at writing is always unknown until it happens, or it doesn’t. No one knows what the future will bring and anyone who says they do is full of shit and can just fuck all the way off from here.

How do I know I’m any good at writing? Well, if I want to be a smart-ass, you’re here reading this, right? 😊 Actually, it’s about engagement, and how people have engaged with my writing.

When I first started writing, my dad told me if he didn’t think I had talent he would have just given me a pat on the head and sent me on my way. He would not have engaged with me and treated me like a fellow writer. And though I’ve had rejections, most of them weren’t form rejections. They were opportunities to learn as a writer and I’m glad I could see that. Now with this blog and other venues, I can see what pieces of mine are getting read and by how many people. Occasionally I even get comments which I GREATLY appreciate. Also, in the thirty-five years I’ve been writing, the writing landscape has changed considerably and there are many avenues to write and even earn money from that weren’t there before. For me, the opportunities are just waiting for me to go after them.

So, I will say this again: my writing is not a problem, and it never was. And anyone who thinks about making it their problem or any bullshit like that will be told to fuck all the way off. If you’re not neglecting your responsibilities, or lashing out at people over your writing, then it’s not a problem for anyone. If you feel like your writing is a problem when it isn’t, you can remove that talon from yourself. It will be painful but well worth it. When you do, burn it to ash, sweep the ash away, then go write.

Most writers battle the insecurity of thinking whether or not their writing is good enough. For me, my insecurity has always been whether or not my writing will be a problem for someone. You won’t know if your writing is good enough, or if will bring success unless you put it out there, and unless you give it everything you’ve got. That’s something my dad spent a lot of years trying to teach me.

But as my dad knew, sometimes it takes me a long time to figure things out.

Stand or Fall – How I Kept My Father From Being Taken Hostage By Fox News

In 2006, my father moved into the last apartment he would live in and since I was starting to make decent money from my job at that time, I paid for cable tv for him. But I told him right away that if I caught him spouting Fox News bullshit I’d take his tv away and super-glue his radio to one radio station. Because I was NOT going to lose my Nixon-hating father to Fox News and right-wing Republican Nazis without one hell of a fight. It was one of the few times I put my foot down with him and he knew I was dead-nut serious in what I said.

He reassured me he would not watch Fox News because he liked the women on CNN better because they were much smarter and prettier than the Fox News bimbos. (and yes, he really did say this.) I said a silent ‘thank you’ to the women of CNN but also I knew my dad was firmly against Fox News and their bullshit-hosts because he would rage anytime he heard some Republican asshole-politician talk about abolishing Social Security and Medicare, his only source of income and health insurance. Every time he heard that shit he’d go, “What the fuck am I supposed to do? Die? I’m already doing that.”

My dad was my first teacher in history and politics. He was a huge consumer of news and history, and he shared it with me from a very early age. He told me stories of meeting people with numbers tattooed on their arms- Holocaust survivors. He told me stories about Abilene, Texas 1958 where he saw water fountains side-by-side with signs over each one saying, ‘Whites Only’ and ‘Colored Only’, an ugly picture of segregated America. He told me the story of the Berlin Wall going up and how Russian snipers shot people trying to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin, and about President Kennedy’s speech there in 1962.

My dad taught me about the 1960’s and Vietnam, then the 70’s and his deeply-avowed hatred of Richard Nixon (which he was totally right about). Then he told me how he fucked up in 1980 and voted for Regan and came to regret it pretty fast when Regan busted the unions, allowed massive off-shoring of manufacturing and all the other shit he did. He said he’d never make that mistake again and he never went Republican again. He was on the Clinton-Gore bandwagon in 1992 and loved it when James Carville, the Clinton-Gore campaign manager said, “It’s about the economy, stupid.”, and when Bill and Al would go, “It’s time for them to go.” And in 2008, he told me about watching a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama and how he liked him, and said Mr. Obama was a good man, a family man.

In 2006, there was a potential skirmish between us when he said to me one day that maybe the data about climate change wasn’t that solid. I bit my tongue and the next time I saw him I gave him a DVD of the documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and told him to watch it. Then I told him when I saw him the following weekend we’d talk about it. The following weekend came and I asked him if he’d watched it and he said yes and apologized for ever doubting the real facts of climate change. I was loaded up and ready to go after him about denying climate change because he’s the one who taught me about DDT poisoning in the 60’s, how the Cuyahoga River burned in 1969 because it was so damned polluted, and how we both watched footage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1986. Instead, he told me we needed to work our asses off to try and save this little planet of ours, and how we may need to terraform our own planet first before we do it to other places like Mars (my dad was a hardcore sci-fi junkie, too).

My dad had the ability to surprise me sometimes like when he said the United States needed to stop trying to be the world’s policeman. This was after a few years in Afghanistan and Iraq and how bad things were being fucked up there. It surprised me because he always pretty gung-ho about our soldiers going in and doing the right thing but in those two places, it wasn’t about doing the right thing but about making a small number of people a shit-ton of money despite the body counts and wounded and dead soldiers (fuck Dick Cheney and Haliburton and all those contractor-bastards).

My dad died in 2011 and I miss him terribly after all this time. Yet a part of me is sort of glad he didn’t live to see what’s happened since 2011. I think I would have spent a lot of time talking him down out of a tree and I might have had to wage more battles to keep him away from the fascism of Fox News and all the right-wing bullshit artists out there. But I miss talking with him. I miss being able to ask him about things he’d lived through and his thoughts on then and now. As I work on this ‘Stand or Fall’ project, I have to work from memory when it comes to wanting his knowledge and experience.

At a very early age, my dad taught me the old Hebrew proverb, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” He used to wonder how many times we could fuck things up before we blew ourselves to Kingdom Come once and for all, or how many times could we pull it back from the edge. And every time he said that he would say he hoped we didn’t find out. He believed we could do better, but he also knew the human capacity for destruction.

From my father I learned that fascism, Nazism, or any other bullshit-right-wing conservative -ism just consumes everything in its’ path. It’s just consumes until there is nothing left. It is devoid of conscience, empathy, and compassion. It is about extreme conformity without any dissent or question at all.

To anyone reading this who has lost loved ones to the right-wing Fox News hatred-and-outrage machine, I’m so sorry you lost the battle I won in the past. But as my father would tell you, don’t ever lose hope and don’t give up on anyone. Because despite a deeply cynical and pessimistic nature at times, deep down my father believed in the good and the potential of humanity. He believed in a ‘Star Trek’ future and not a post-apocalyptic or dystopian-Orwellian one (a la ‘1984’).

In the end, my dad knew when I did put my foot down, I meant business. I didn’t do it at the nuclear-level like my mother did when she snapped and slammed her foot down, but my dad knew I had that potential. And I would have gone nuclear-level if I had to save him from becoming something he raised me not to be. Because despite being a class-A hard-ass at times, he truly cared, and that was most important thing he taught me.

Breaking Radio Silence – Introverted Silence

This morning on Twitter I responded to a post from a dude asking if he was an asshole for sending his wife away alone to the empty house her parents had left her (she lives in London, England and her parents had just moved to Australia to be closer to her brothers). The reason her husband sent her away is he thought she needed time alone because she was ‘starting arguments’ (his words) and he didn’t want to deal with her because he was dealing with an enormous amount of stress from his job. In the week she was gone she only texted him a couple of times then at the end of the week he found out she’d been off work sick with jaundice and hadn’t told him because she ‘didn’t want to bother him’ (her words). Now that she’s home (and by the way, she’s pregnant, too), she’s not very talkative around him. So he asked if he was the asshole despite apologizing to her.

My comment-reply to this that’s getting a lot of ‘likes’:

To anyone reading this: if you are in a relationship where you are afraid to ‘bother anyone’ with anything, leave them now. People like that are selfish, useless, s**ts and won’t change at all. I hope she dumps his sorry a**.

(Here’s a link to the exact post for details)

In his asshole-posting, he said she was ‘introverted’ which got me thinking:

How many ‘introverted’ people keep so much shit to themselves, try to take care of themselves, and soldier through pain and shit simply because they don’t want to ‘bother’ anyone?

How many ‘introverted’ people feel like they’re never good enough for anyone, that they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t?

And all because us ‘introverts’ are ‘different’? Because we’re too ‘sensitive’, too ‘emotional’, too ‘independent’ until we have to reach out in some way, or we try to reach out in some way and because of that, we catch people off guard.

How many of us ‘introverts’ feel like we’re something to be ‘figured out’, or to be taken apart and put together in a way that fits in with everyone else but doesn’t consider our thoughts and feelings?

To any ‘introvert’ reading this:

You’re not a burden.

You’re not bothering anyone just by being yourself.

And you’re not just a problem to be solved.

You’re a human being with thoughts and feelings that you have every right to regardless of what they are- good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with those feelings in any way you choose to, even in silence.

When I read that post I also had this thought: if I had married in my twenties or thirties, I would have been that young woman. I would have taken scraps of kindness and affection that dude-assholes like that young woman’s husband doled out to her and then had them all taken away when the shit came down. I’m glad I listened to the part of me that told me back then I didn’t have what it took to be a wife and mother but in reality, was about self-preservation. I mean, at least I don’t have an ex-husband-asshole to deal with nor am I raising kids on my own (though trust me, I wanted to have kids of my own).

My father used to say there weren’t that many genuine assholes in this world and to not let them get to you because of that. If he were alive now I’d say this: “These assholes may be few and far between, but they do leave behind a shit-ton of wreckage for the rest of us to deal with.” And if you’re reading this and maybe feeling your back come up at what I’m saying here: go deal with your own fucking shit and quit projectile-vomiting it onto the rest of us.

And my advice to that young woman stands because I’d also like to say your goal in life is NOT to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. But asking for help, or wanting comfort is not being a burden on anyone. If you feel someone asking for help or wanting comfort is a burden to you, find your tits or balls and come right out and say that so the rest of us can avoid you like a venereal disease.

Because in the end, I think us ‘introverts’ are much more emotionally aware of ourselves and have worked through our own shit more than we realize. We’re not perfect, but we’re not totally fucked up beyond all recognition either. We’re not delicate or hard-as-nails. We’re survivors, yet we still care.

This is why I found the courage to write like this and will continue to do so.

Stand or Fall – Rage Against the Guns

I’ve hesitated to write this piece for a very long time simply because I didn’t want anyone to come at me and say I’m making something personal when I shouldn’t. Now I know if someone says that to me it’s because they don’t want to deal with what I’m about to tell them, specifically the fear that I live with along with many other people. If you read this and feel ‘discomfort’, that’s for you to deal with, not me. Because your discomfort doesn’t mean jack-shit in the face of someone’s pain and fear they live with every day.

In the last week, there have been two terrible incidents where innocent individuals were shot. The first was in Kansas City when a sixteen-year-old black teenager was shot when he came to the door of a house looking for his siblings. This young man was shot twice but survived and is now at home recovering. This past weekend, a group of young women driving at night got lost and drove up to a house in a rural part of New York state. As they were turning around, the homeowner fired two shots at their car, hitting one of young women, The young women had to drive several miles to get cellphone reception and call paramedics but one young woman in the car was hit by a bullet and died.

Where it gets personal is this: every time I see this happen I think, ‘That could be me.’ Because I have gone up to people’s doors hoping I’m at the right one when I was delivering food and packages. And as an Uber driver, I never go up into a driveway, especially out in the country where the driveways are long. I will not go up a driveway in the country unless my pickup has called or texted me to let me know I’m good to drive up. I know the level of fear, paranoia, and anger that has been stoked by right-wing news media such as Fox News, the NRA (National Rifle Association), and the Republican Party along with right-wing neo-Nazi groups like the Proud Boys or the sovereign citizens movement all backed by the gun lobby and gun manufacturers for one purpose: money. Yes, these bastards have stoked fear and paranoia in order to take as much money from people and flood our country and countries south of the border with guns.

This is going to piss off someone reading this but I’m going to say it now for the first time here:

The conservative right-wing Republican establishment and gun lobby don’t care about anyone but themselves. They don’t care whether or not you, me, or your children live or die. Because if you or your children are killed by gun violence, they’re just going to send thoughts and prayers then ask your surviving family members for more money or try to get them to buy more guns and bullets.

Because for the last twenty years, this conservative establishment from Hell has been dismantling every piece of gun control legislation in order to flood our streets with guns and blood and line their pockets with millions of dollars in addition to the dirty Russian-mafia backed money that has fueled their media outrage machine. They created the problem, and they have no incentive whatsoever to fix it.

In 1992, I voted in my first Presidential election and two pieces of legislation were one of many reasons I voted Democrat. Those two pieces of legislation were both passed in 1993 and they were the Assault Weapons Ban and the Brady Bill which instituted a seven-day waiting period and universal background check program for handgun purchases. In the ten years these two laws were in effect, gun violence was three-hundred percent lower than it is now. Once those two laws lapsed, gun violence increased to the bloodbath that it is now.

So, how can we fix this problem?

First, pass the Assault Weapons Ban. There is NO reason at all for any civilian to own a military-grade assault weapon. These are weapons of mass destruction and don’t belong in the hands of civilians.

Two, Universal Background Checks and mandatory waiting periods. Background checks could have prevented several mass shootings along with the waiting periods needed to do a full and complete background check to begin with.

Three, Red Flag Laws. These laws are to keep guns away from people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others by family members, mental health professionals, and law enforcement. Again, something that could have prevented several mass shootings.

Four, banning convicted felons, those convicted of assault-and-battery, and most of all, those convicted of domestic violence from ever owning a gun. These people have proven they are more than capable of violence, and they will use guns to kill those they’ve hurt before like domestic partners and sadly, their own children.

Five, laws requiring gun owners to be certified and trained in how to handle and store their guns properly. I know plenty of responsible gun owners and they know how to handle and store their guns safely. I have no problem whatsoever with a gun owner who goes target shooting or hunting as they are some of the most responsible people I know, and they are people who support common-sense gun control laws.

Six, repeal open-carry and concealed-carry laws. There is no need for a civilian to carry a gun openly in public or concealed. The few times civilians were able to stop a mass shooter were because those civilians had some kind of military or law enforcement training or experience, something the average civilian doesn’t have.

Seven, go after the gun lobby and gun manufacturers to try and keep them from flooding not just our country, but other countries around the world with guns. Go after their dirty-money and their media allies who push disinformation and propaganda campaigns of fear and paranoia and stoke anger and outrage. And go after the conspiracy theorists who peddle false information and harass survivors.

Now if you’re still pissed off with me after reading this and want to push back at me with the following, here are my responses to save you some time and effort:

“All these laws won’t stop all mass shootings and save every life.”

My response to that is to quote an old Hebrew proverb with my phrasing:

“He who saves one life it is as if he has saved the life of the entire world.”

This means that we can and have a responsibility to save one life at a time. These laws and measures will save hundreds, if not thousands of lives. And they may help ease the pain of survivors, and families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, people who work tirelessly every day to turn their pain into purpose to try and save other families from going through what they live with every day.

“Well, if someone breaks into my house I’ll just shoot them.”

No one knows what they’ll do until they’re faced with it, and if you do pull the trigger you’ll have to live with it for the rest of your life. It’s called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and there is NO cure for it. You just learn how to manage it, but you’ll always live with the nightmares and the pain. So don’t come at me or anyone else all big and bad-ass and shit because if you think you can pull a trigger and not suffer the consequences even if they’re justified, go fuck yourself.

Finally, the big one: have I ever owned a gun or handled one?

No. And I have my reasons as to why I’ve made that choice but that’s a story for another time. And if you want to come at me and call me a hypocritical bitch for not telling that story right here and now: fuck off. I will NOT tell anyone when, how, or if they should tell their story and I will NOT tolerate anyone doing the same to me. That is pure fucking deflection and instead of doing that stupid-ass shit, sit down and have a very serious conversation with yourself as to why you think and feel the way you do, and dig deep and dig hard. But I will give you a warning: you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them.

To those of you reading this who agree with me on these gun control laws and policies we desperately need to pass, but who may have grown disillusioned or feel their hope for the future slipping, the fight is still here and has been all along. And to quote from one of my favorite movies, ‘Casablanca’: “Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”

Finally, I want to end with MTV’s slogan for the 1992 Presidential Campaign:

Choose or Lose.

Breaking Radio Silence – Breaking Chains

For a very long time, I’ve been trying to work out a structure with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ book. I know I want it in three parts but drilling down past that has been hard as hell at times. Yet a break was made in the enormous hard rock of my brain over the last couple of days when a Thought came into my mind, sat down in a chair, and said to me, “I’ve got something important to tell you.” When a Thought takes up residence like that, I’ve learned to sit down across from that Thought and go, “I’m listening.” And I listen with my entire being and think through what I’m being told in my mind.

What I needed to hear was an answer to a very persistent question I’ve had for the last few years since I started this crazy-ass journey of mine. The question was:

How in the hell do I break free of all the hateful, hurtful, cruel, and ignorant bullshit I’ve heard way too many times in life?

The Thought sitting down across from me replied:

Break them one chain at a time. Break the hold they’ve had on you once and for all with a sledgehammer and a spike.

The Thought followed with this: You know your purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them or deal with their butthurt bullshit over you breaking your silence and breaking the chain they probably didn’t even know they had around your neck. Most of all, you know there are people like you who are breaking their silence and trying to break the chains but are still searching for answers that you have found, answers that could help them.

Over the last six years since I conceived the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project I’ve struggled with how to put it all together. I don’t need all the details, but I have needed some structure to work with. The first part of the book I know is how I broke my silence and what thoughts and feelings and events in my life did that. The second part has been a bit hard to pin down because it’s the tricky part. It’s tricky because of the truly sticky, ugly shit that will come up. Now I realize this means I’ll have to bring up the chains of hurtful, hateful, cruel, and ignorant thoughts I have heard way too many times yet internalized when I shouldn’t have. Those chains have to be broken and they can only be broken one at a time.

Then I asked that Thought (or my subconscious or wherever that Thought came from):

What do I do after these chains are broken?

The Thought replied:

Forge the connections you have always wanted to have in your life, and you can start doing that by sharing your words with others.

This Thought as I will call it, comes from what I call the best part of me, the part of me that has refused to give up, or let me quit altogether, and the part of me that believes in the good of this world. The good in this world and myself is unconditional love, empathy, compassion, and conscience. It’s the part of me that tells me I can work through my shit and my pain and heal my wounds to where I can live the life I want to. It’s also the part of me that tells me I’m so much stronger than I’ll ever truly know, and that I have the strength and the courage to stand up to hate, hurt, cruelty, injustice, and ignorance. And most of all, that I’m not alone in this world, I’m not a worthless piece of shit, and my thoughts and feelings do matter.

Breaking the chains means taking every hurtful, hateful, cruel, and ignorant thought and breaking the hold by speaking the truth in reply to that shit. Forging connections will take time and is something I need to figure out as it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to because of the chains. I think once the chains are broken to the best of my ability, I can begin to learn how to forge the connections I want to have in my life.

As Admiral James T. Kirk said to Lieutenant Saavik in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’: “We learn by doing.”

And I’ve learned that if you do something long enough, work at something long enough, you’ll figure out what you need to do and get where you need to go, and where you want to go.

Conversations From the Road – Strength and Choices

On Twitter, my reply to a post from a woman whose husband said he would leave her if she went through a medical workup to try and diagnose a potentially serious and possibly life-threatening health issue has gotten a lot of ‘likes’. Here’s my exact reply:

I’d tell her to leave him now because he’s shown her exactly what he’s like- an insensitive, cruel, gutless coward who has no intention of keeping his wedding vows. I’d take him to the cleaners in a divorce and use the settlement for medical treatment.

I then followed with this:

Every time I see read like this, my blood boils because my mom broke down after her mastectomy thinking my dad would leave her (which he never thought about doing). But ever since I rage for the women whose partners do leave them when they get sick.

My father used to say you never know what you can deal with until you’re faced with it. There is an exception to that: any life-threatening illness or something you can’t run or hide from.

In August 1995, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer after a golf ball-sized tumor was removed from her left breast followed by a mastectomy to remove her left breast. My mother had to face her own mortality, face the fact that something inside her body was trying to kill her and there was a high probability it would. Cancer is something you can’t run or hide from in any way so there is no choice other than to face it and deal with the best you can.

My mother grew up the daughter of a violent alcoholic father and an uptight religious-fanatic mother. She didn’t talk about her childhood very often but when I reached my twenties in the last seven years of her life, she opened up a little. Growing up, I just accepted she was reserved, not too affectionate and that she didn’t say ‘I love you’ too often. But she NEVER talked to me in a way that was hurtful, cruel, insensitive, or in a way that made me feel like I would never be good enough. She always told me she was proud of me, that she loved talking with me, and that I was a pretty girl, things I’m sure she never heard from her mother. But I also saw her keep her shit together when my dad would rage at her, and then she’d get up with little to no sleep and go to work the next day. And like me, I’m sure she heard shit behind her back and to her face that she was cold and unemotional when she was anything but.

But not long after her mastectomy, we were alone in the house just talking when she said out loud, “What if your father leaves me?” Like the foolish kid I was, I immediately reassured her he wouldn’t. But she wasn’t so sure about that. She began to break down and for the first time in my life, I watched her lose it. She broke down and cried in my arms. Her fear and pain were like nothing I’d ever seen before or since. And I want to say this: my father never, ever talked about leaving her but if he had, I would have gotten her away from him and my last words to him would have been, “You are dead to me.”

My father was far from perfect, but he was there for my mom from the beginning to the end. But he and I were able to make a choice and I think we both knew my mother couldn’t, that she just had to deal with dying very slowly and painfully.

To anyone reading this who has said out loud, “I couldn’t deal with watching someone go through the hell of a terminal illness or anything like that.” Go to Hell where you belong. Shut the fuck up, walk away, and stay away. And don’t talk about not wanting to deal with the pain because those of us who stay with those who don’t have a choice will tell you your pain is nothing like the pain of the person who can’t run or hide from it.

Those of us who stay till the end will spend the rest of our lives grieving, and will only find healing in time, sometimes a long time. This is why I rage for women like my mother, and for daughters like me and husbands like my father who kept our shit together in the face of death itself. True strength and courage are facing pain and suffering head-on then working through the aftermath.

Breaking Radio Silence – Apologies and Small Steps

I posted this tweet as a reply to a comment about trauma survivors apologizing all over themselves every five minutes, and how us survivors have to learn how to stop doing that:

One of the biggest things I’ve had to work through was not wanting to scream at the world, “I’m sorry for my entire f**king existence!” To anyone who has felt this way I say this, “You are good enough. And you sure as heck don’t need to apologize for that.” (Twitter, 4/8/2023, @MicheleKS

I know that tweet-reply sounds big and bold but in reality, it was just a tiny baby step I needed to take to get through the storm I was in several years ago. Five years ago this summer, I went into a huge storm of emotion and memory. Some days it was so bad I could barely get out of bed but when I reached the point where I didn’t want to walk outside and scream, “I’m sorry for my entire fucking existence!” I knew I was getting somewhere. But why do trauma survivors want to apologize so much?

For me, apologizing was for two reasons. One was the hope that it would get people off my ass and two, I truly believed I was a fucked-up piece of shit human being who would never be good enough for anyone. This is why in my tweet-reply above I ended with, “You are good enough. And you sure as heck don’t need to apologize for that.” What that means is that you don’t need to apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place.

I’m a good ways past this point now but every so often I think about this. And by the fair number of ‘likes’ on my above tweet-reply, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about.

If you walked outside and screamed your apology about your existence and people were around, you’d probably get hauled off to the nearest loony bin. But if you said it to someone giving you shit about something that you’re not doing wrong, nine out of ten times you probably would shut them up in total shock. Because I want to say this right here and now: most people who give you shit when you’re not doing anything wrong are just projecting their own bullshit onto you and honestly aren’t thinking about you and your feelings at all. So, when you apologize, you’re not apologizing for what you haven’t done, but for what they’re doing to you.

How do you stop apologizing to this kind of intense bullshit when you’re vulnerable and trying to recover and heal?

I stopped apologizing when I walked away from people and started working through my own shit. When you work through your own shit, you learn how to treat your wounds and heal them yourself. And then you realize apologizing doesn’t appease anyone or change anyone either. You can’t change anyone but yourself and you start changing yourself for the better when you stop apologizing for shit you don’t have to apologize for.

My father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” For many years, I rebelled against that saying in my mind but in the last few years, I’ve begun to see where he was coming from with that (and he actually got it from his dad, my grandfather). Now I would word it like this, “Sorry doesn’t get it done. Apologies don’t heal. Healing comes from doctoring your own wounds and protecting yourself.” Healing means learning how to do things better, in this case how to take care of yourself and not hurt yourself in the totally fucked-up belief that if you beat the shit out of yourself then someone else won’t do it to you.

You want to stop someone beating the shit of you? First, don’t do it to yourself. Second, find a way to stand up to someone doing that then walk away from them. Trust me, if you walk away from someone who hurts you, you’re not hurting their feelings even if they say that to you. They need to work on their own shit and if they do come and offer an apology, do what you will with it. I will accept an apology but I’m not going to back down from the stance I take to protect myself. Also, if I’m not doing anything wrong I’m sure not going to apologize for that.

So, if you find yourself wanting to apologize when you don’t have to, tell yourself this, “Fuck that shit. I’m good enough as I am.” And if you’re trying to heal yourself by working on doing things better in your life, then you are telling yourself the truth when you say you are good enough. Because if someone can’t accept your best even if it’s not absolutely irrefutably perfect, that’s on them, not you. Do the best you can with what you have to work with and know that sometimes you’ve got to carry around a bucket of shit for awhile as my late father used to say. That’s just life, as the old man would say. But he also used to tell me not to be so damn hard on myself.

Small steps add up after a while, more so than big steps sometimes.

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