Breaking Radio Silence – The Look of Shame

This will eventually end up in the book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ in longer form but here’s a shorter version.

One of the very first things I learned in life was the meaning of the word ‘ugly’ as it applied to me and it was a bad thing because I was fat and clumsy. When I was eight years old, my spine began to curve but everyone thought I was just slouching and lazy. Five years later, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, curvature of the spine but it was too late for non-surgical correction. So since I was eight years old (give or take), my body has been fat, misshapen, and lumpy. Because of my scoliosis, my physical activity has been limited in addition to me having damaged body parts due to being out of alignment. At this point in my life, I honestly don’t give a shit if someone thinks I’m ugly or if they even tell me because I’ve heard every variation of that and I’m still here. But the wound is there, and it always will be.

In the last six years, one of the things I’ve have learned to do is to reject shame and guilt I had no business feeling or taking on in the first place. It has taken me the past six years to understand the shame and guilt I have carried over the way I look and how to let go of it. One thing that has helped me is a memory I will always treasure:

One of my earliest memories is of my mother looking at me with enormous love in her eyes and a beautiful smile on her face as she said to me, “You are a beautiful girl.” I heard that all my life from her and I know she meant it with every fiber of her being. I remember all the times we went shopping together for clothes and how we always had fun together doing that. Because when it was just the two of us, it was all about having fun with no shame or guilt. That ended when my mother had her mastectomy, the first of many surgeries she would have after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition to multiple, horribly-scarring surgeries, first and second-degree radiation burns, chemotherapy treatments, hormonal imbalances that made her gain and lose weight, and hair loss were enormous feelings of shame and guilt over what was happening to her.

And my mother only broke down once with me and cried over it. It was one afternoon when we were alone and she told me how she was so afraid my father might leave her because of her cancer and what was happening to her afterward. All I could do was hold her and comfort her as best as possible. Now that thought never entered my father’s mind though if he had left her my last words to him would have been, “You are dead to me.” But he always tried to comfort her even I did the opposite: I gave her a space to vent, to speak honestly and truthfully, and to say things that would make most people very uncomfortable. I won’t go into any detail past a certain point about those conversations, but I knew how people looked at her, with pity and revulsion, or worse, trying to bullshit their way around the ugly truth she lived with every single day until she died.

In the last decade of my mother’s life, I learned just how terribly she’d been raised. She’d been raised to have no self-confidence, no self-esteem, and worst of all, to believe she was ugly and worthless if she didn’t at least try to conform to some bullshit unattainable beauty standard. My mom spent most of her adult life on a perpetual diet, following exercise fads, and gaining and losing weight. Yet she never, ever forced any of that shit onto me. She always looked at me with love and acceptance, told me I was beautiful, smart, capable, and kind. She gave me the self-confidence and self-esteem she never had despite a lot of assholes in the world trying to take that from me. In her eyes, I always felt like I was good enough, like I was worthy of love and respect. I did my best to try and make her feel that way and I hope she felt that from me.

I would love to tell her I’ve learned to let go of a lot of shame and guilt over how I look and a lot of that is because I remember the way she looked at me. I have made a commitment to do my absolute best to look at people as they are and accept them as they are, and to try and be compassionate and accepting. Now that doesn’t mean I have to take shit from people because people who are mean and cruel, regardless of whether it’s thoughtless or thought out, deserve to be held accountable for the pain they inflict with their cruelty. I know can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. But I can stand up for myself and for others and say this: there is NO shame in how you look. Ever.

Conversations From the Road – Writing Every Day

“Write every day.”

That’s a piece of writing advice I’ve heard since I started writing almost forty years ago. And you know what? It’s good advice. Because writing, like anything else a person wants to get good at, takes practice. For me, I like writing every single day. When I don’t I get depressed and feel like a walking lump of human shit because my mind doesn’t have an outlet. But ever since I started writing, it’s been a battle for me to pursue it every single day (or close to it depending on other things happening in my life). Why? As I’m fond of saying, it’s a long story. So I’ll just give you a basic highlight reel here and tell you I’ll go into this in more detail in my book, ‘Behind the Story’.

After I graduated high school I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life other than write. My parents were okay with me living at home and doing chores and errands and babysitting for pocket money while I wrote. Around that time I read a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. At that time I loved the book for its’ embrace of creativity, ‘artist’s dates’, and ‘morning pages’. What I didn’t understand at that time I remember was that I would need to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to really create to the fullest extent of my abilities. But at that time I hadn’t gone through the worst of what life was about to put me through.

In the past, I’ve always said I couldn’t write during the most stressful times of my life because of stress. But now I know that wasn’t true. I stopped writing during high-stress times simply because I was afraid of dealing with someone mouthing off at me accusing me of neglecting my responsibilities or being a selfish bitch. I NEVER, EVER neglected my responsibilities in order write. Once I took on the responsibilities I did I did my best to put my writing down low on my priority list. I did my best to hide it or minimize it. Yet I always felt that wasn’t enough for some people and that if I crossed a line only they could see, then the shit would truly hit the fan for me. Looking back, I realize if I had continued to write during those high-stress times, and if I had put more into my writing that I might have been able to deal with things better than I did at the time. And also, I think if I had told people to fuck off right to their damn faces and told them they had absolutely NO say in my life and what I did with my own time, I think like most bullies they would have backed down.

What those old bullying voices have evolved into are feelings that I need to be rigid and focused in writing. And every time I’ve tried to fit myself into a rigid format, I grind to a halt. I grind to a halt because I need the freedom to write what I want to, and to let shit out on a daily basis. In ‘The Artist’s Way’, Ms. Cameron talks of ‘Morning Pages’, which is where you write three pages by hand every morning without editing or reading back over them at all. My late father would call that ‘clearing the mechanism’. My version of ‘Morning Pages’ is two pages typed single-spaced on a laptop and posted on the internet. Why? Because I like doing it and I do have people who like reading what I write. And most of all, because no one has had the tits or the balls to come at me and tell me otherwise. If someone did try and put me in my place or shut me down writing-wise, I’d tilt my head to the side and go, “Really?” in the most shocked and sarcastic tone I muster. Then I would straighten my head and say with all the feeling I could muster, “Fuck off.”

I want any writer reading this to know you can say, “Really?” followed by “Fuck off.”, if someone tries to shut you down or just mouth off and be a jerk to you. If your writing is not getting in the way of any responsibilities you have to yourself or to others, then it’s no one’s problem. If someone doesn’t like that you write, that’s on them. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I don’t need to be. I used to think I had to try and please as many people as I could, or appease them if I couldn’t make them happy. To that I say, “Fuck that shit.” Or as the late Rick Nelson sang so well in his song ‘Garden Party’: “You see, you can’t please everyone/So you got to please yourself” (written by Rick Nelson, Universal Music Publishing Group, original release July 1972)

What I also didn’t understand about ‘The Artist’s Way’ when I read it way back when was that writing could be a form of therapy. Almost thirty years later, I understand that concept very well. And maybe there is still some echo of my past thinking someone will come at me because of that. If they do, well, read the above paragraph though I hope I quote Rick Nelson instead of myself.

So going forward, two pages every day of whatever comes to mind. Some excerpts, stories, and more to come.

In Search of Subtitles (for my books)

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Ever since I started my non-fiction book projects, I’ve been in search of a subtitle for each one that fits the book. Why? Because I feel like the subtitle gives the reader an expectation about what they’re going to be reading about. The title is like a summary and the subtitle is like a bit more detail. Today as I got out of the shower, five subtitles came to me and I scribbled them down onto a piece of notebook paper before I updated each page here with the subtitle. Now here’s the story and meaning behind each one:

Breaking Radio Silence: A Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid

In the Fall of 2016 when I first conceived of what would become ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I simply labeled the file ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’. The goal at that time was to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did and to use my own experiences to illustrate anything I learned in the process. The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ wouldn’t come to me till the Spring of 2018 and it fit perfectly from the moment it came to me. But for the last four years this has been a book project in search of a subtitle until today. And as I start writing this book in earnest now, I need all the focus I can get so this is why a subtitle was so important for this project.

Stand or Fall: A Rebellion of Hope

After the US Presidential Election in 2016, I (along with millions of other people) went, “What the hell just happened?” I came up with an idea to use writing to try and figure out how things got so fucked up. Now of course I didn’t know what the next six years would go nor could I have imagined what’s happened even in my worst nightmares. At the time I first came up with this project-idea, I simply labeled the file, ‘Untitled Political Book’ because at that time I knew this book was going to be seen as political. Like, duh but I’m not a scholar so I thought I’d make it personal and tell my own story alongside what’s happened in the last forty years or so in terms of politics and the world in general. I was searching for a subtitle for this book because I kept asking myself what the purpose of writing this if not just for myself? And then the quote from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind, “Rebellions are built on hope.” That’s what I want this book to be, a statement of rebellion and hope.

Behind the Story: How I Write and the Stories Behind My Writing

This book’s origins are a bit murky though I think I came up with this one sometime in 2018, I think around Fall if I remember correctly. Initially I wanted to do a straight how-to book but then I realized for me writing is more than just how-to. There’s a lot to my writing and I think my story in regards to that is worth telling. Now the title of this book was a struggle for me as the title just came to me a couple of months ago but without the subtitle until today.

Uber Tales: Stories and Observations From Behind the Wheel as an Uber Driver

Not long after I started working as an Uber driver in 2017, I began to post on my personal Facebook page stories and observations from the road that I titled ‘Uber Tales’. They took off and people really like hearing my stories and observations so I began to think there was a book in there. As of right now, I don’t have any really crazy or outrageous stories from the road and a lot has happened and changed since I started driving. Also, I’ve read a lot of news articles about Uber driving and I don’t really think a lot of these journalists have talked to a lot of drivers, or any at all. So I want to tell my story and it’s just my story because each driver has their own unique experiences and observations though over the years I’ve talked with other drivers and we do share some common thoughts and experiences.

Dirty Thoughts and Stories: Talking Dirty About Sex and Other Naughty Things and Fiction Inspired By My Dirty Thoughts

This is in its’ earliest stages right now mostly based on my blog here though I think over time I’ll have enough material for a book. This is a mix of non-fiction blog entries that might get expanded into longer essays along with fiction stories. The title is sort of self-explanatory as talking about sex is seen as dirty by a small yet very vocal segment of our population who really just need to learn how to get over their hang-ups and have some fun in life instead of trying to control every aspect of everyone else’s life, especially their sex lives. And naughty fiction is just fun to write and I’m not going to back down on that.

So this is where I’m at on these projects just to give out an update. It feels good to have subtitles I like and that fit well. Now I just need to get my ass to writing, which I will be doing in addition to everything else I need to do (like earn a living, eat, sleep, bathe, take care of my pets, etc.).

Behind the Story – Writing For Attention

My dad once said to me writing was like a kid going up to his mom with a drawing and going, “Mama look it!” (translation: “Mama, look at what I did!”) And he was right because that’s what writing is if you share it with the world. Yet writing, like a child’s drawing, isn’t always received well. I think a lot of writers have a fear of their work being shredded or blown off if they share it so they keep it to themselves. It is an act of bravery and courage to share your writing with the world because you have to be prepared for the best, and the worst.

It’s not a fear of my writing being shredded that held me back for so long. It was a fear of having to deal with people accusing me of being an attention-seeking martyr-whore for putting my writing out into the world, and worse if I was successful, being accused of being a one-trick pony or that I really didn’t deserve my success. It’s why I kept my writing to myself for so long or presented it as a harmless little hobby instead of the grand passion that it’s always been for me.

Fear of success to my mind sounded stupid the first time I thought about it. But as I dug into it I realized it was a real fear. It was real to me because my fear was that any success I ever achieved would be used against me. Yes, I thought success would be used as a weapon to alienate me from people I cared about, such as my parents when they were both alive. I feared people telling my parents that my success would take me away from them forever (which it wouldn’t have at all). Why would people think like this is a question I don’t have an answer to, other than people are stupid as hell sometimes in addition to self-centered assholes who project their own bullshit onto innocent people.

But as I look back on my writing life, I realize I didn’t pursue so many opportunities because I feared any success would be used against me. I only told a few people I once got a short piece published in my local newspaper, and I told no one I could a story published in a national magazine (Playgirl- see story here). I also never talked about my rejection letters with too many people either other than fellow writers who understood what rejection meant.

Now I will admit that a lot of people really don’t understand writing or how it became such a grand passion for me. That’s for me to explain and no one else. Writing isn’t like a drug that I get a hit off of to get high because a lot of times it’s a slog through the muck of words to find the right ones that come together they way I want them to. Praise and compliments on my writing are awesome and always greatly appreciated but it’s not why I write though I’m sure there are people who feel that us writers are out chasing compliments to feed our fragile egos.

It’s not so much fear of success or failure that haunts me and I’m sure a lot of other people, but fear of having to deal with someone’s bullshit and falling for it. I know how vulnerable I was in the past and I know I still have that vulnerability in me though I just try to guard it better now. As my father used to say, assholes are mostly born that way and they usually don’t change either. If someone comes at you with falsehoods about you and your work, try to straighten them out. If that doesn’t work, tell them to take their shit-takes and shove up their asses. And most of all, top all that off with a resounding ‘fuck you’ and walk away.

I don’t think anyone will have the tits or the balls to come at me with shit like that anymore. I think I’ve made it very clear how I will respond to fake shit aimed to hurt me simply because someone is an insensitive asshole. But it’s been a long hard road to reach this point inside me where I can say this out loud in a place like this blog here. It’s not working through the pain and misery and the wounds themselves but working through the how and the why behind my feelings.

I will say this here: if you decide to share your writing with the world, you are seeking attention but on your own terms. I don’t believe most writers seek attention as an ego stroke unless they’re already raging egomaniacs to begin with. Most writers I know write to share their words with others to make a connection like they connected with other writers and their words. If someone doesn’t understand or believe that, that’s on them. It took me a long time to understand exactly why I write and why I want to share it publicly. I’m glad I figured it out and accepted my reasons as valid and worthy.

Luckily for me I haven’t had to deal with a lot of bullshit about my writing in a very long time. Now people tell me how well I write emotions in my work and how I can draw them into a story. That’s exactly what I want to do with my work and I’m so happy it’s well-received like that. My thanks to everyone who shares that connection with me. I’m forever grateful for that.

Stand or Fall: Rebellion of Hope

Rebellions are built on hope.”

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Huffman from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’)

(screenplay by Chris Waltz and Tony Gilroy, Story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, based on characters created by George Lucas)

In 2016 when I came up for the idea of this book, I didn’t know how things were going to turn out in the years since. I feel like we’ve had a lot of worst-case scenarios come to life, most recently with the overturn of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, but I’ve also seen hope for a better future, most notably the Presidential Election of 2020. Now we’ve got the mid-term election coming up and it’s all coming down to the wire yet again. And my thinking has changed now from seeing this as a battle against fascist White Nationalism-Neo Nazism to rebellion not just against that shit, but also against hopelessness, fear, doubt, and people being a bunch of dumb-asses like they always are.

As I thought about the term ‘rebellion’ the line from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind. It’s one of my all-time favorite lines ever because to me it says so much. Because the question isn’t what are you rebelling against, but what are you rebelling for? What do you hope to accomplish with your rebellion?

Deep down inside of myself I’ve always felt like I’ve been rebellion against so many things. I feel like I’ve been rebelling against bullying, for being alienated and ostracized not just for being different, but for doing the right thing and making people project their shame and guilt onto me (which they can take and shove up their asses where it belongs). I feel I’ve been in rebellion against narrow-minded and insensitive hypocrisy with people shooting their mouths off about one thing but doing another, like right-wing pro-life assholes who get abortions for themselves or their daughters, or their mistresses.

I think it’s an act of rebellion to think at times, and to feel emotions, too. I think the appeal of right-wing fascism is that it doesn’t require a person to be original, or to be unique, and it gives them an ability to avoid having to do the difficult things of feeling like shit or feeling pain for those in need. I think it’s also because this right-wing bullshit means that as long as you toe the party line they won’t turn on you. But as someone who has taken shit all my life for things I didn’t do wrong, I saw through this at a very early age. The worst part of this is making things like compassion, empathy, and genuine kindness seem weak and worthless, and try to make people feel like shit for having those feelings and trying to live by them.

That scorn against compassion, empathy, and kindness to those in need is really turned me against right-wing conservatives in this country. The ‘fuck your feelings’ shit I heard in 2016 really exposed the cruelty behind fascism and how easy it was for people to embrace that. And the answer to why that is isn’t one I need an answer to because it’s not my fucking problem.

Instead, what my purpose is to not only live the life I want to in the way I want to, but to fight the rights of others to live freely, openly, and to make their own decisions without anyone else’s interference. At times, I think it’s a lot easier to get someone pissed off and outraged over something than to have them actually leave someone alone to live their own life. I think if right-wing conservatives quit worrying about other people’s lives that have nothing to do with theirs and aren’t hurting anyone else they’d be a lot happier. But it’s not happiness they’re after at all because deep-down the root of conservative ideology is that happiness is wrong unless it’s expressed or lived within very strict confines.

I want people to be happy and healthy. I want to live on a planet that’s healthy and life-sustaining. And I don’t believe suffering is noble but something to be alleviated as much as humanly possible.

My book ‘Stand or Fall’ has been in a constant state of evolution since I started the project six years ago. It’s a hybrid of memoire and history but also commentary on the past and present, too. It’s not just me asking the questions of why things happened, but how we can learn from the past. Because I will tell anyone I can, you don’t have to do the same shit you did before simply because you did it before. You can change the future by making different decisions in the present. And if someone doesn’t like that they can that opinion and shove it up their ass where it belongs.

Eyes on Me

One of the most complicated things I’ve had to work with over the last six years is the feeling that I’ve been under watch by other people just waiting for me to step out of line or do something they don’t want me to do. The origin of this dates back to my twenties when I lived at home while my mom was sick and dying of cancer and my parents took a considerable amount of flack from people because they let me live at home rent-free and pursue my writing. I felt like people were just waiting for me to do something that would have them running to my parents telling them I was going to abandon them. I felt like I couldn’t do ‘normal’ things like go out and have some kind of social life. Looking back I know my parents would have slammed that shit down pretty hard but back then I didn’t want them to have to do any more than what they were doing already so I sacrificed my own life to keep that from happening. The problem was that made me feel like I was constantly being watched when in reality, no one really gave a shit about me doing something unless it kept me from being at someone’s beck-and-call twenty-four-seven.

If that sounds harsh or cold or stupid to anyone reading that, so be it. Back then it was very real to me and it’s taken me a long time to work through this crap because I feel like I’ve been lying in wait for someone to mouth at me for writing or doing anything else. That hasn’t happened and I honestly don’t think it will because I think my response would be, “Really? That’s the best you can do? The same old shit I’ve been dealing with all my life?” A tiny part of me is itching for an opportunity to go off like that but in reality that would be a waste of time. Yet the reason it still gnawed me after all this time was simple: I was afraid of and didn’t want to deal with accompanying bullshit of having negative attention on me.

Back then I didn’t want any attention on me because I was afraid of any negative response. I was afraid to be told I was a martyr, selfish, stupid, or some other bullshit. This in turn led me to feel like I wasn’t worthy of handling any attention on myself or my work. I know when I put my writing and other creative endeavors out into the world that I am seeking attention. But now I realize I’m seeking attention on my own terms for myself. And I can handle whatever I get in return, from silence, to flat-out dumb-ass bullshit, or the good stuff, too.

I don’t put out my words like this or anything else to be seen as a genius, or a martyr, or to feed an ego because I don’t have one of those. I put my words out into the world to connect with people. And narrow-minded selfish assholes will never understand this so I’m not going to think about them anymore. I can’t control how anyone thinks or feels, nor can I pull someone’s head out of their ass for them.

It’s the connection I’m after here. Writing and other creative endeavors are pretty lonely to pursue unless you work in a collaborative medium. I don’t work in a collaborative medium so it’s just me and my laptop here. But I don’t believe like a few narrow-minded assholes in this world do that the only connections people can make are in person. That’s not true at all. I believe connections can be made in an infinite number of ways.

I’ve known some of my online friends for over two decades, most of whom I’ve never met in person. But through our online interactions, I have felt more care and support and friendship in those words online than I have from people I’ve had physically in my life. Words have power and meaning, and they can also transcend any medium to reach people. I’m not anti-social and I actually like interacting with people in person. But I also believe I can connect with people online or through people reading my writing.

So yes I’m seeking attention here but on my terms. I’m defining my interactions here and in real life by how I socialize with people. I’m not going to live my life in fear that someone isn’t going to like what I say or do, or that someone may feel like they have the right to dictate my life and my choices. I’m a grown-ass adult as the younger generation says though in reality I’m just a slightly-pissed off and somewhat tired middle-aged bitch. I’m not perfect but neither is anyone else even if they say otherwise.

Yes, this is me seeking attention. If someone has a problem with it, they’re free to find their tits or balls and come talk to me about it. Just as I’m free to respond in any way I choose to. But I know most narrow-minded assholes don’t have the tits or the balls to come at a me because I’m just going to tell them I’ve heard all their shit before and I’m still here. And no, I don’t need to say living is the best revenge or being happy is the best revenge either.

I want to thank everyone who has been supportive and encouraging to me, and everyone who has ever been kind and supportive of me. I cherish every single bit of those good things and I hope I’ve been good to you in return.

Conversations From the Road – Long Time Coming

Today, June 24, 2022 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The Court’s majority opinion said that abortion was an issue to be left to the individual states to regulate in any way they choose to. Almost half the states have laws in place to outlaw and criminalize abortion and other forms of reproductive care. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that two other Supreme Court decisions, Griswold vs. Connecticut which legalized access to artificial birth control and Obergfell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage need to be ‘reviewed’. ‘Review’ is a thinly-veiled code-word for potential decisions to be overturned.

I’ve known this decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has been coming since the early 1980’s when I came of age under the Reagan administration and saw the rise of the Christian Right. The Christian Right has said since the late 1970’s that their goal was to outlaw abortion, access to artificial contraception, and outlaw all rights for LGBTQ Americans. The Texas Republican Party on their platform in addition to this also called for the overturn of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These people have been telling us what they were going to do and they got just enough voters along with a serious amount of dirty money from here and abroad to put enough Supreme Court Justices into place to over turn Roe vs. Wade and put the other laws in their crosshairs.

For forty years I was told not to make political or social issues personal. I was told I had to learn how to agree to disagree with people and tolerate them even if their beliefs were horrible and evil.

SILENCE IS A TOOL OF THE OPPRESSOR

Oppressors and abusers demand silence from their victims. Oppressors and abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them if they speak out against oppression and abuse.

The Christian Right are the oppressors and the abusers here. They have said for the last forty years they were under attack but that was NOT true. They have been on the attack against the rights of everyone who is not exactly like them: white, heterosexual, and Christian (only in name but not in practice).

Thirty-eight years ago, I began writing. Back when I started writing it was because I was in love with the magic of words. What I didn’t understand back then like I do now is this: I started writing to put my thoughts and feelings into words, to find words that didn’t hurt me like those that were said to me. Back then, I knew I wanted to say so many things yet I knew if I did it would not be taken well. I knew back then if I spoke out against things that hurt me and others the oppressors and abusers in my life would try to silence me. They did silence me by making me feel like I had no words that would break their power over me.

Six years ago, I came up with the idea of using writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. I then added using writing to figure out what the hell was going on in our world and what we could do about it. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with those answers. And I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to ask those questions and deal with the answers. Most of all, I know there are people in this world who don’t want to hear what I have to say. But my words are not for those that don’t want them, but for those that do listen to me.

Six years ago, I didn’t realize that I was going to do was break my silence. Back then, I didn’t realize how much silence I had lived with. I had retreated and hidden in silence in order not to be hurt by the words and actions of others. That’s a survival instinct but not a way to live. Running and hiding didn’t take away the pain inside of me, or the fear that if I came out of hiding that I would be forced back into that hidden place if I spoke out about my thoughts and feelings.

Right now, I know many people are feeling pain and fear at the rights being taken away from so many of us by our lawmakers and court systems. And they are asking what we can do to regain these rights. My first answer is BREAK YOUR SILENCE. Breaking your silence starts in your mind when you put your feelings into words and let those thoughts flow through you.

After you break your silence in your mind you can then find ways to break it in your daily life. It can be as simple as casting a vote that is the opposite of how you are being told to vote. And yes, I think it’s more than okay to lie about that if you have to because I understand the need for self-preservation.

If you can find the strength and courage inside yourself, you can then break your silence out loud. You can speak out against people who speak with hatred, contempt, and tell lies. You do not have to let hate-mongering and lying go unanswered. You can stand up for yourself and stay true to who you are.

I started by breaking my silence in my mind then I moved on to the written word like I am doing here. Now I’m getting ready to move on to the next stage of breaking my silence, which is creating a podcast so my voice can be heard out loud. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and like the other ways I had to learn to break my silence, this one involved a lot of hard work through fear and anxiety that created doubt and uncertainty in my mind.

But I keep thinking one thing: I have nothing left to lose. I have nothing no one can take away from me. I am a broke, middle-aged woman living on next to nothing. Yet I have found peace and happiness like never before in my life. I found that peace and happiness by finding my voice and breaking my silence. And most of all, I found peace and happiness by being on my own, not alienated and ostracized. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know no one else is either even if they profess to be perfect.

As a child, I found word could take me away to places far away from the lonely and painful reality I lived with. Then I found words that provided knowledge and showed me the wonders of the world. I found words that told of pain and suffering, and how to overcome that. I found words that provided comfort when I had no other form of comfort for myself. Most of all, I know my words and the words of others have meaning, and can be used for good, and can provide comfort and strength to those in need.

Today may feel like a dark day even though outside the sun is shining high and blazing with summer heat. And I know this day has been a long time in coming, and that knowledge is what has given me focus today and kept my heart from trying to pound its’ way out of my chest. Because I’ve lived with this knowledge for so long, I realized I have lived with the words inside of me, too. And now I have the ability to share those words and hopefully give hope to others, and to provide a plan of action.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Uber Tales, Advice Given (and not given), Edition

Over my five years as an Uber driver, I have been asked for advice and have been careful in giving it. And in my five years as a driver, I’ve also kept my advice to myself even when I really wanted to give it.

This past Sunday evening, I picked up this young lady from the airport and when she got in the car she proceeded to call someone like a lot of people do (people call family to let them they’re on their way home a lot). I hear her tell someone she’s landed and on her way home then she goes, “I’m not being sassy.” Then she proceeded to argue that she was just calling to tell this person (sounded like an asshole-boyfriend) she was on her way home and no, she had things to do and was going to order in dinner. All I could think was that she didn’t sound ‘sassy’ at all on the phone and why did she have to put up with this shit? I really wanted to tell her to dumb this douche-bag and save herself the hassle of dealing with an idiot who seemed to want an argument. I think douche-bag boyfriends who do this kind of shit, accuse the girl they’re with of stuff she didn’t do are probably fucking around or just trying to be controlling douche-bags.

Another time I picked up this couple from a bar one night and on the radio the song, ‘Baby One More Time’ by Brittney Spears came on. Well the chick began singing along and she had a good voice and in the rearview mirror I could also see her getting down and wanting to do lap-dance on her boyfriend (or husband, I wasn’t exactly sure what his significant-other title was). He was totally ignoring her and making snide comments about my driving just loud enough to where I could hear them (I was taking it a bit easy since the road I was driving down was bumpy as hell). All I could think was his girlfriend-wife was horny and if he played his cards right he could have gotten laid as soon as they got to their place. But because he was mouthing off at me I wanted to tell her to dump this douche-bag’s ass, or at least make sure he didn’t get laid that night.

Then another time I picked up this guy one afternoon and he got on the phone with a friend of his and proceeded to talk some serious shit about this girl they both knew. My douche-bag passenger was saying how he’d lied to this girl and said she was pretty and stuff when in reality he was calling her fat and ugly and all kinds of nasty shit. All I could think was I hope this girl kicked this guy in the nuts the next time she saw him because I was hoping that my mental yelling to her would reach her in some way.

Then another time I went to a convenience store for an early-morning pickup and there is this couple there. Chick is laying into this guy accusing him of cheating and stuff and he’s trying to tell her he’s not. He’s the one that ordered the Uber so he put his stuff in and was trying to get this chick to calm down but she wasn’t having it. Then she grabbed his phone out of his hand and started scrolling through it. At that point, he’d had enough and got in and I let him use my phone to call a buddy of his (his buddy’s apartment was his destination) to let him know he was on his way and that his psycho girlfriend had his phone. I think the chick was pretty drunk but man, she was a crazy-ass drunk. I wanted to tell the dude to cut off his phone plan, report his phone as stolen, and dump this crazy bitch.

In the above three situations, I didn’t say anything because people have to figure things out for themselves. But one time, I was asked for some advice and I carefully weighed and measured it out.

I picked up this young lady one night and as we got going she goes, “Can I ask you a question?” I go, “Sure, what is it?” She asks me if I think long-distance relationships can work. I tell her I think they can if both partners are committed to one another and work at it. Then she asks me if that applies if both people live in the same city. I go, “Huh?” and she must have heard the puzzlement in my voice because she proceeds to lay out her situation. She tells me she and this guy in question had been together off-and-on for about three years or so and had just gotten married a couple of months back. But a few days before this ride, he’d moved out to a place across town but wasn’t telling her why. She then asked me if she should try talking to him. I told her if he was willing to sit down and talk with her to just listen to him without interruption and think through what he said. Then she told me she’d just gotten out of the hospital and found out she was pregnant. Then I told her my personal take was that he might want to have his cake and eat it, too and if so, she was going to have to make some hard decisions. I wished her well but in reality, I wanted to tell her to dump the asshole and that if she kept the baby to get as much child-support as she could from him.

I like to think most people are good people, and they are. But when I encounter a shit-head or someone dealing with one, it’s hard not to lose a little faith each time. My take is why be with someone if they’re just going to shit all over you? I know a lot of these shit-heads tell their victims they can’t make it on their own. I want to tell anyone, male or female, you can do just fine on your own. You’ll be a lot happier without dealing with this kind of hot-and-cold insensitive bullshit. Because the piece of advice I’d really like to give here is this: it’s not your purpose in life to pull someone’s head out of their ass. And as my late mother used to say, people like this very rarely, if ever change so to me, there’s no reason to stay with someone who makes you feel like shit more often than not.

But this is just my advice so you can take or leave it.

Behind the Story – No Need to Prove Myself as a Writer

I used to think I had to prove myself worthy of being seen as a writer. I felt like I had to work my butt off to get respect as a writer. I felt like I wasn’t going to be taken seriously if I didn’t show how much work I was putting into my writing. And yes, for the longest time, I felt like all the work I did meant nothing because to some people I felt like I would never be good enough for them. Now I know that’s not true but it was a long, hard road to get to that realization about myself.

Where did this need to prove myself as a writer come from?

It came from my earliest beginnings as writer. My father began writing when I was about eight years old. He started out writing with pen on yellow legal pads then graduated to an electric typewriter he set up in the bedroom next to mine. I used to fall asleep to the sound of him banging away on that thing which sounds quaint and cute now but in reality it wasn’t. My father could turn anything into an obsession due to his untreated bi-polar depression and writing was probably the biggest obsession I saw him get into (he always said he’d been diagnosed but had refused treatment, something I can’t independently verify but after extensive reading on bi-polar depression… let’s just say my dad checked off all the boxes for it). And that obsession and huge effort into learning something could be so impressive that it it felt like something that towered over me. Back then, I thought it was fascinating watching my dad work and talking with him about it. But there was a dark side to that obsessive behavior or my father’s and it’s taken me many years to come to terms with that.

My dad could be a real asshole about whatever he was pursuing. He wanted unwavering, undying support for whatever he wanted to do, especially from my mother. My mother on the other hand wanted someone who would bring in enough money to pay the bills because her job really didn’t cover everything unless she got extremely creative with juggling money. Because of my dad’s mental health issues, he only stayed with something until he hit a brick wall like a layoff or lost his temper one too many times and quit, or just wrecked his health like he did in later years. He really went after my mother though when he was deep into his writing-phase because he wanted her to be the meek, submissive helpmate like his author-idols had with their wives (such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald). My mom couldn’t go along with that and she didn’t have to in any way, shape, or form. The problem with this was when I started writing: I had to walk a very fine line in order not to alienate myself from either parent.

For my father, I felt like I had to put in a ton of studying and writing in order to earn his respect as a writer like he was. He always talked about how you had to study and work at your craft in order to get good at it. He was right on studying and working at writing but because of my mother, I had to be careful not exhibit the obsessive and obnoxious behavior of my father. I never really talked about my writing with my mother and I was terrified of hurting her over me pursuing my writing. This is why I worked so hard to maintain my responsibilities in doing chores and keeping my writing to myself.

This need to prove myself was entrenched in my mind by the time I reached my twenties and joined my first in-person writers group. I was one of the youngest members and boy did I felt wet behind the ears. A lot of the group members had been writing for over a decade when I met them, some were multi-published and best-selling authors. So to say I was intimidated was putting it mildly. And with that group, I felt like I had to prove myself and show that I was working on my craft and that I was working towards my goals.

The problem with feeling you have to prove yourself to someone else is that you can’t live on that. In the end, you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. You have to trust yourself and your skills and see them through. As a writer, you’ve got to sit down and write, and rewrite, and keep at it until you feel it come together. It has taken me decades to gain the confidence I have in my writing now. It was a long and hard-fought battle to realize I do have what it takes to be a writer because I did put in an enormous amount of time studying and writing. I know I’m a good writer when I get honest feedback from people telling me how my writing connected with them. Because of all this work, I don’t have to stop and think things through with my writing but instead I just keep at it until I feel it’s right. I trust my feelings most of all.

What made me realize I didn’t to prove myself to anyone as a writer is that I do know what I’m doing, that all my years of studying and writing mean something, and most of all, that I  have goals that I can carry out. What stopped me in the past from fulfilling those goals was a fear that if I got anywhere near achieving them, someone would come and destroy me. I had to dismantle that fear piece by piece and destroy those pieces once and for all. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone and success isn’t about winning approval from anyone either. Success is something I will have worked for and something I will allow myself to enjoy and benefit from.

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.

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