Earlier today a gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and murdered eighteen children and three adults. I will not say the gunman’s name nor ever write it out here, and I will not speculate as to what his motive was. Instead, I will try to address a question so many people asked yesterday: what can we do to stop this from happening again in the future?
The following are based on my own observations, research, and beliefs that I am trying to put into action.
1) Take a stand. By this I mean take a position and stand on it. You don’t have to go public with it like I am. All I ask is that you make your position known in the voting booth. Your vote is now literally a matter of life and death. Choose wisely, and choose well.
2) Vote for candidates for any public office who have solid plans to address gun violence in our country. And if they are rated by the NRA (National Rifle Association), make sure their grade is F for this means they support sensible gun legislation and they don’t take any money from the NRA or other gun lobby groups, groups that are nothing but greedy butchers. The NRA and other groups like them have only stoked fear and outrage to enrich themselves. These groups have no conscience, no empathy, and no compassion for anyone.
3) If you want to give financial support, support organizations that are working for sensible gun control legislation. Two groups I recommend are Everytown for Gun Safety and former Congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Gifford’s group. These organizations have been campaigning tirelessly for years to save lives so if you have the means to support them, please do so.
4) In the coming days, weeks, months, and even years, crackpot conspiracy-theorists like QAnon adherents will accuse the families in Uvalde of being ‘crisis actors’ and that the murders didn’t happen. The families of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School have been battling these monsters for years, so much that some of these crackpots are in prison for threatening the families. If anyone speaks to you like this, shut them down as hard as you can, so badly it hurts. There is no compromise or tolerance for these views.
5) If you are a gun owner, be a responsible gun owner. Know how to safely handle and store your weapon. Keep it away from children and other people at all times. And hope and pray you never have to use it because if you boast that you could shoot someone, know that if you do you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Don’t ever speak of being a gun owner in a cavalier way or be irresponsible in any way.
Most of all, be there for those who are grieving now. You don’t need to find words to comfort someone. To comfort someone all you need to do is be there and listen with an open heart and an open mind. Cry and share emotions such as sadness, pain, and grief. But also share emotions such as joy, and remember their loved ones, their hopes and dreams, and the lives they lived, even those lost at such a young age such as the children in Uvalde today.
This evening President Biden addressed the nation and talked of turning grief into action. Before President Biden has talked about turning grief into purpose but we already have purpose in our lives, and that is to live well, love well, and do no harm. Now we have to take that purpose and turn it into action.
I will tell you here that if you take a stand against gun violence there may people in your life who will not agree with you on this. You will have to agree to disagree though in my experience that is not really done. I have been told that if I don’t back down there will be no peace because I have to be silent in order to keep the peace. I say to that: there is no peace in silence. I have also been told if I am too outspoken that people will not want to be around me, or like me, or love me. I have been told if I am outspoken I will come off as hard and cold when I am anything but. To those who would seek to isolate me for my beliefs and my actions I will say this: I am alone here in front of you now, and if I have to live my life alone I will. But I don’t believe that being outspoken will isolate me like I have feared for so long. Because most of all, I still have hope for a better world, and a belief that our world is worth saving.
Turning grief into action will not be easy. Doing this may have you accused of being a troublemaker, of making trouble where there shouldn’t be, and that now is not the time to take action. To that I will respond with a quote from the late Congressman John Lewis:
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
I was driving along yesterday and got to thinking this: being mean or cruel to someone doesn’t make them stronger. My late father in his manic phases, and especially after he had his stroke and part of his brain got fried, said things to me that I won’t repeat to anyone. The gist of his tirades against me was that I wasn’t ‘strong enough’ or ‘mean enough’ to deal with what life was going to throw at me or had thrown at me. At the time, I just sat and took his shit because I didn’t want to escalate his temper any worse than it already was. And sometimes he apologized for what he said and I wrote a lot of it off to fried brain-circuitry. But hearing from him that I was weak, stupid, and not strong enough to deal with the world like a so-called ‘normal’ person hurt like hell.
This got me thinking about all the shit people have spewed at me simply because I’ve spent my life being as quiet as I can be, trying to be a good person, trying to be kind and encouraging, and most of all, trying to keep my emotions under the tightest control possible. Being treated like shit for being ‘different’, for being clumsy and awkward, fat and ugly, didn’t make me stronger. If someone thinks that silently taking shit is someone who is strong I want to tell you right here and now that’s not true. In reality, words of hate and cruelty create wounds that will never fully heal.
My mother never spoke to me like this. My mother and I were very similar in that we were both quiet and shy, awkward, and got treated like shit because of it. My mother grew up being told she was ugly and stupid and would never amount to anything. She decided to raise me differently and I’m forever grateful for that. One of the very first things I ever remember hearing from her was this, “You are a very pretty girl.” She would also compliment me on doing things well, would listen to me talk, and always wanted to spend time with me. My mother wasn’t one to say ‘I love you’ very often and she wasn’t very affectionate but I understood she wasn’t raised to say to those words or to be affectionate. But she spoke the truth so when she complimented me or spoke to me with encouragement, I knew she meant every word. Even though it’s been twenty years since she died, I miss more than ever sometimes. I miss her because she knew strength didn’t come from cruelty, but from love even if she wasn’t one to say the word ‘love’ very often.
No one really wanted to be around my mother when she got sick with cancer. No one wanted to deal with the ugly reality she lived with every single freaking day of the last seven years of her life. I tried my best to be there for her in every way I could. I doctored second-degree radiation burns. I cut her hair when it started falling out. I let her talk about how awful cancer was. And I sat beside her in a darkened bedroom willing her to stay alive as she battled the depression that was trying to kill her. And I did my best to support her when she sought help for that depression. So when the tumor in her brain robbed her of her ability to speak at the end of her life, my heart broke in a way that will never fully heal.
If I had told my mother to stay strong, to think positively at all times, and to fight no matter what, I would have destroyed my relationship with her. I would have hurt her in horrible ways and truly isolated her. Instead, I worked to create an environment where she could let her guard down, talk shit when she needed to, and just know that I would be there for her no matter how bad it got.
And my mother wasn’t perfect and neither am I, and both of us (if she were alive she’d be saying this right along with me here) would be the first to tell you we weren’t perfect. And we didn’t try to be. We tried to just keep our emotional shit together and not be a burden on anyone. We tried to do what needed to be done and be there for people when we could. Yet we both felt like that was never good enough and we dealt with that in our own silent way.
My mother broke her silence when she sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. And I’m breaking my silence by telling her story alongside my own. One big part of that is this: talking to someone in way that’s cruel, insensitive, and ugly doesn’t make someone stronger. It just drives them into silence more often than not and makes them feel like they’ll never be good enough for anyone. My mother never made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for her, or that I couldn’t do anything right at all. I hope that she knew I felt the same way about her.
If someone ever tried to talk cruel to me in order to ‘strengthen’ me I’d say one thing to them: “Go fuck yourself.” Then I’d walk away and leave them stewing in their own shit. And if anyone reading this has ever talked shit to someone thinking that’s going to toughen then up, stop doing that and ask yourself why you feel justified in doing that. You might not like the answers, but they’re yours to deal with, not mine. I’ve always found my strength without cruelty.
As you’ll read in ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, the first part of the book is a series of realizations as I call them. These realizations are thoughts that helped me see things in ways I needed to in addition to lifting weights of shame and guilt I had no business carrying around in the first place. But to my surprise, it seems I still have realizations coming to me.
My newest realization came from a memory that surfaced when I was dropping off some passengers about a week ago at a hotel across from a restaurant that was the scene of a memory that surfaced as I looked right at the site (the restaurant where my memory happened was razed to the ground and a new restaurant is being built on the site). I’m not going into any detail about what happened but the conclusion I came to as I worked through the emotions of that memory was this:
My purpose in life is NOT to help someone pull their head out of their ass, nor is that the purpose of anyone else in life. If someone has their head jammed up their ass, it’s their responsibility to pull it out.
For the vast majority of my life, I felt one of my biggest reasons for existing was to manage people’s moods around me. I felt like I had to do everything in my power not to piss people off, or burden them with my bullshit, and worse, not let my control slip to where I came off as an opinionated selfish, know-it-all bitch. That was quite a burden I placed on myself though a lot of that was placed on me by being a middle-child because most middle children become ‘managers’ pretty early on in life. It’s like the expectation of middle children is that we’re the responsible ones who won’t cause trouble for anyone. For me, I felt like I couldn’t be ‘normal’, that I couldn’t be goofy, or do stupid shit, or worse, get into a bit of trouble. I had to deal with people coming to me wringing their hands telling me I shouldn’t do this or that because I was too damn fragile or some bullshit like that.
I know I’m not fragile, and anyone who comes at me wringing their hands and telling me not to do something is wrong. And if someone is in a shitty mood and unwilling to work through it, or put it aside for a while until they can work on it later, I don’t need to walk on eggshells around them. And I sure as hell don’t need to feel like shit about myself if I’m not in a shitty mood when someone else is.
Because I have spent so damn much of my life trying to contain my moods both good and bad. Yes, I’ve held back good moods because I’ve been in too many situations where that made me stand out like a bloody wounded thumb. I felt like I had to try and manage someone out of their shitty mood and now I realize that’s not my damn responsibility. One of the biggest things I’ve been working on for the last few years is trying my best to work through my feelings and personal shit. I have not always succeeded but NO ONE does this perfectly. And I will NOT let anyone make me feel like I have to do anything perfectly when perfection is only something that happens for a brief moment in time.
On that day I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, everyone with me was mired in their own shit and unwilling to put it aside for me. For the longest time, I thought I was wrong to think they should have put their personal shit aside for me and that I wasn’t good enough for anyone to do that for me. Or at least I used to think that but now I don’t. If someone doesn’t want to be around me all they have to do is find their tits or balls and come right out and tell me. Trust me, I won’t make any fuss over it. I’ll just say okay and walk away and be alone. I can be on my own just fine and be happy in the process. But here’s a revelation for you: I like being around people. I actually like talking with people and being in social situations. I just don’t like it when people are projecting their shit onto me and other people and expecting me and other people to just suck it up and deal with it.
And if I had said anything about being miserable on that day years ago, it wouldn’t have gone well. The situation would have blown up in my face and I would been raged at or guilt-tripped into thinking my timing sucked. In my experience, when people get called out on their shit they dig in. I don’t regret staying silent back then but now… I’ll stand by my realization: I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass. And if someone doesn’t want to be around me, all they have to do is say so. And if anyone reading this has dug in instead of listening to someone calling them out on their shit, ask yourself why.
For most of my life, a big thing in my life was being told not to speak ill of the dead. When I was a kid I thought that was because if you talked smack about dead people they’d come back and haunt you. As an adult, I realize that if the dead have a problem with how I talk about them now, they know where I’m at.
I wonder if that belief in not talking ill of the dead is because the dead can’t defend themselves. I don’t buy that argument because I wasn’t aware every discussion about the dead was supposed to be a group debate session. Now I realize this argument is just to shut people up in talking about things they have every right to talk about.
I’m going to hang myself out here with an opinion that might not be very popular: the dead don’t need their legacy preserved without honesty. A lot of people keep things to themselves because they don’t want to hurt people’s perceptions of their long-gone loved ones. I will respect anyone’s decision whether or not to talk about someone who’s dead but I don’t feel you have to venerate the dead for the rest of eternity either.
As I begin to write my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I will be talking about the dead and some of what I write might not be ‘nice’. When it comes to my parents they would be the first people to tell you they weren’t perfect. They never claimed to be and even after they’d gotten pissed off and raged hard, they were able to apologize when they’d been wrong and said and done things they shouldn’t have. NO ONE IS PERFECT (I put that in all-caps here to make a point) so I don’t see any need to treat people as perfect just because they’re dead and gone.
My mother has been gone for twenty years so I’ve had twenty years to live without her. I’ve had to learn to live with memories and memory is a tricky thing because you want to remember good things but you also get the bad stuff with that. My father once said he chose to remember the good because the bad was always there. And he was right on the mark with that so that’s why I will talk about the bad stuff, the painful stuff, the stuff that’s taken me years to put into words. And if this makes someone uncomfortable, that’s on them and not me.
Many years ago, I heard people say that I was too comfortable with death. No, I wasn’t ‘comfortable’ at all. I just had to learn how to talk about it because I was watching it slowly advance on my mother first, then my father. And in death there’s a fair amount of paperwork involved so there’s that to deal with and if talking about that makes people uncomfortable then that’s on them.
Not long after my mother got her cancer diagnosis, my parents asked me to sit and talk with them about what to do when my mom died. I got up and walked out of the room. The thought of death slammed into me I couldn’t think or speak at that moment, but I eventually bucked up and started having those conversations with my mother and father. There was no comfort in those talks at all. They were just about working out the details that were going to need to be taken care of. And again, if anyone has a problem with that now, I’ll say to them like I should have said back then: go fuck yourself. My parents trusted me to take care of things for them because they knew how good I was at keeping my shit together and that I’d found the guts to face those damn details and get things done the way they wanted to. I’m not talking about this with pride, but I will not talk about it with shame or guilt either.
I know it might be hard for people to understand grief and pain when they haven’t experienced it themselves. It’s not an experience I wish on anyone though I know most people will have to go through it at some point in their lifetimes. If you haven’t gone through it, don’t judge people who have. If you have to, just walk out of the room until you can deal with it. My parents didn’t hold that walk-out against me in any way. They told me they’d understood why I had done that and knew that I would come and talk to them when I was ready. I talked to them because I knew that’s what they wanted me to do, and that they believed in me to shoulder the responsibility they were giving me.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in the process of working this book project here is feeling shame and guilt for things that I didn’t do wrong. I took on too much bullshit and insecurity from people I never should have. Every single person deals with things in their own way and anyone who insists on conformity in dealing with shit is an asshole. For in the end, there really isn’t any control over things. You just deal with them as they come and work through the fallout in the years after.
“You are not required to carry the pain of your mother.” ~unknown
I saw this online a few days ago and the explanation is that you don’t have to carry the pain of your mother as she projected it onto you. This is about people who project their crap onto others without dealing with it. My mother did her best not to do that and I’m forever grateful for that. But if I could have taken away any of her pain and carried with me for the rest of my life, I would have done so without a second’s hesitation.
It will be twenty years ago this October since my mother died and not a day has gone by since that I haven’t thought of her in some way. Recently, I have begun to feel like I’m having a conversation with my mom as I begin to write my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ and other things I’m writing, too. I feel like she would understand better than anyone why I’m writing and what it means to me. And I like to think she’d have a bit of fun with me looking back on the good times we had together.
My mom was raised in an extremely conservative old-school Catholic home with a violent alcoholic father and a religious fanatic mother. I think my grandmother clung so tightly to religion to deal with being married and dependent on an alcoholic but it wasn’t the right way to raise children. My mother grew up thinking she was ugly and stupid and was going to Hell no matter what she did or didn’t do. My mother wasn’t ugly, and she wasn’t stupid, and she definitely wasn’t going to Hell because my mom did the right thing more often than not. Sometimes she paid one hell of a price for her decisions, but she knew how to persevere and survive.
My mother used to talk about the possibility of not living to a ripe old age. Looking back, I wonder if she had some type of premonition that she wasn’t going to make it, especially after her breast cancer diagnosis. If so, that was a hell of a burden to live with and one I suspect she did. It’s hell to think about, and much more difficult than anyone can imagine, to talk about being a given a glimpse of a future cut short.
In fact, one morning not long after my mom got her cancer diagnosis I was sitting outside on the back patio while she fussed with her plants. She asked me why I was outside with her when I could be doing anything else. I said this in reply, “Do I have to tell you exactly why I’m out here?” And she said no and let it drop. Because if she asked for an answer it would have been this, “I think you and I know you’re living on borrowed time and I want to make the most of the time I have with you.” That is a decision I have never, ever regretted despite the painful memories I carry because of it.
Previously I talked about my mother’s ‘rebellion’ back in the 1980’s and how she brought me along for the ride. It was then that we began to really talk to each other about anything we could. But what that time did was lay a foundation for the last seven years of her life when I could give her a space to talk freely. Because when she was first diagnosed with cancer so many people told her to be strong and think positive and she’d be cured. That is complete and total fucking bullshit. It’s hard as hell to fight when you’re exhausted all the damn time and to be positive when Death is staring you in the face. I realized this early-on so when we were alone, I made it totally clear to her she could let it rip and bitch and complain all she wanted to. It was a pain I willingly took on as best as I could though she I don’t think she thought of it that way.
I know if she had lived my life would have taken a very different path. I might not have been the silent and broken-down person afraid of her own shadow but I also might have had a lot of other shit to deal with. I might have gotten into something that would eventually have gone to Hell like a shitty marriage for example. Instead, I persevered through my silence like she did but have broken my silence in my own way as she did, too. Grief never ends. It ebbs and flows, and sometimes it goes off inside you like a ‘grief bomb’ as my father called it. For me, grief over the years has given me an ability to see things in new and different ways and be able to put those things into words. This is where the conversation with my mother has come from and when I write about my mother, I feel like I’m talking to her again. Her responses are memories, thoughts, and feelings I’ll never forget. And because of that, my conversation with my mom will never end.
Earlier this week, a draft of an upcoming United States Supreme Court decision was leaked to the press outlining the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The identity and motive of the person who leaked this document is unknown at this time though I’m glad it was leaked so the battle lines are now clearly drawn.
The decision to me is poorly written and based on what I don’t see are valid arguments set by legal precedent and the Constitution of the United States. Instead, the decision is based on ‘deeply rooted history’. If you understand the history of this country and its’ founding, you need to understand our country was founded by a group of white men who only mentioned one other group in the Constitution, and that was slaves who were considered three-fifths of a white person. There was no mention of women, Native Americans, or any other group in our country’s founding. The authors of the Constitution created the amendment process because they knew as time went on things would change and the Constitution could not be set in stone and unchanged.
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in the Roe vs. Wade case that a woman had a right to an abortion because the Court said abortion was a private decision between a woman and her doctor (though I recently read the decision was really about protecting doctors from being prosecuted for performing abortions and not so much about granting women the right to make their own healthcare decisions).
In the early 1970’s, abortion became an issue for the right-wing conservative movement in America because their previous big issue had been maintaining racial segregation which had been overturned by the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The right-wing needed an issue to galvanize their rapidly-retreating base of voters and they found it. They framed abortion as mass murder of unborn children and in the forty-nine years since the movement has become so extreme there are now laws being passed in state legislatures outlawing all forms of artificial birth control (the case of Griswold vs. Connecticut which upheld the right to use artificial birth control was cited in the draft decision leaked this week as ‘not being deeply rooted in history’ and possibly subject to being overturned after Roe vs. Wade), artificial means of conception such as IVF treatments (because these treatments result in the destruction of non-viable embryos). criminalizing miscarriages including ectopic pregnancies, and no exceptions made for rape or incest.
In plain English, these right-wing bastards want to control every aspect of a woman’s health from the cradle to the grave and decide when she can have children and if she is to die from complications such as an ectopic pregnancy or untreated miscarriage.
At this point, if you identify as pro-life you may be feeling like you’re backed against a wall and have to defend yourself. You may be thinking this extremism isn’t true at all or just exaggeration. You may be thinking there is no need to restrict the use of birth control and artificial means of conception. You may be thinking abortion is acceptable in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or in cases of rape and incest. You may be feeling overwhelmed but also scared. Not scared as to what’s happening but scared because you feel your mind wanting to question the deeply-held belief you have had in regards to the issue of abortion.
I’m sorry if you’re hurting right now questioning the insanity and horror of the extreme right-wing conservative movement. I’m sorry you’re feeling what is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’, which is when a deeply-held belief is challenged by overwhelming evidence contrary to that belief. I’m sorry you’re feeling hurt by what’s happening because your mind is trying to question and possibly change your way of thinking and feeling.
But your pain is nowhere near the fear those of us feel as our right to privacy, freedom of choice, and to exist is under direct attack. As a woman, I am very scared of these bastards even as I stand and fight here with my words against them. I know how deeply they hold their beliefs and what they’re willing to do for them. These are the same bastards that stormed the United States Congress on January 6, 2021 and damn near overthrew a democratically-elected government. These are the same bastards who have inspired extremists to murder doctors, bomb clinics, and threaten and harass women seeking medical care. They are the jack-booted thugs who throw up Nazi salutes and call for the imprisonment of any group of people not exactly like them. For this decision that was leaked this week isn’t just an attack on abortion rights. It’s an attack on the freedom of people to live and love whoever they choose to (the decision of Obergefell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage and the decision of Loving vs. Virginia which legalized interracial marriage were mentioned in the leaked decision as ‘not deeply rooted in history’).
Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for abortion and the freedom of women to make their own reproductive decisions in private with no outside interference from any government or religious institution. Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for the right of people to access birth control and to conceive children through artificial means without any outside interference or restriction from government or other institutions. And poll after poll shows overwhelming support for people to marry whomever they chose regardless of the color of their skin or their gender. I want to believe the majority will prevail, but I also know a good number of people have very little to no faith in standing up to a terrible minority who seek to control the majority through any means necessary. These are the people who will not even make an effort to vote at all nor speak out and take a stand.
The time for silence and inaction is over. For it was silence and inaction that led to the rise of Nazi Germany, and the murder of six million Jews. Silence and inaction led to the deaths of thousands of women from inadequate medical care and back-alley abortions. Silence and inaction led to the storming of the US Congress on January 6, 2021 by people who refused to speak out against the lies and hatred of the Republican Party and right-wing extremists.
For many years, women and other groups have been called hysterical and crazy for saying freedom for all people except white, Christian, and heterosexual men was under attack. Women were told the Supreme Court would never overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision. Three Supreme Court justices said they would not overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision in their confirmation hearings. Yet there is a leaked draft decision that has been confirmed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as authentic stating otherwise.
I have always been Pro-Choice when it comes to abortion. I grew up on stories of back-alley butchery, of young women being sent away from home when they pregnant and forced to give up the children they had. I grew up thinking a woman had every right to make her own healthcare decisions, including whether or not to have children and how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Yet all my life that right has been under direct attack by those who feel they have the right to decide how women live and die.
In my early thirties, after a lengthy discussion with my doctor, I decided not to get pregnant and have children. I made this decision because my doctor advised me if I got pregnant it would be a very high-risk pregnancy due to some health issues I have. I did not have the financial means at that time to manage those potential risks to my health or the health of any child I did conceive as a high-risk pregnancy not only affects the mother but can also affect the child. It was a painful decision for me as I wanted to have children even though I was not married (and never have been). And I decided not to pursue fostering or adoption because of the lack of financial means to do so which was a painful decision that I had to work through.
I know women who have had abortions and in some cases I was told why they made that decision. I will always keep these decisions in strict confidence. And I did not judge these women in any way and I never will judge any woman for making the decision to abort. They are the ones who will live with this decision, not the right-wing monsters who vilify them for a decision they had no part in at all to begin with.
I’m writing this here to get all these thoughts out of my head and out into the world. I ask anyone reading this here to think about your own beliefs and your positions on any issue today. I ask anyone reading this here to ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do, and to keep asking questions until you find all the answers you can. But I will warn you, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later, you will have to deal with them.
I’ve thought through my beliefs and positions and have asked as many questions as I can and continue to ask. In my answers I have found one of my core beliefs is that although pain and suffering are a part of life, we all have a responsibility to alleviate pain and suffering in any way we can. Another of my core beliefs is that people have the freedom to make their own choices in life as long as they don’t cause harm. And my strongest and most deeply-held belief is that all people should be free to live and love whoever they choose and however they chose to. For in love, comfort and joy are found, along with an embrace of those in pain and suffering. Although I have felt the white-hot fires of anger and rage at the attacks on my rights and the rights of others, those fires die down to feelings of pain, sadness, and love unfulfilled.
“Well, I’m a little hot wired, but I’m feeling OK And I got a little lost down along the way
Well, I’m just around the corner ’til the light of day, yeah”
‘Light of Day’
(written by Bruce Springsteen and performed by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)
Six years this month I quit my last call-center job. At the time, I was in a world of shit pain-wise as I had two disks in my lower back that were either bulging or compressing (I didn’t have the time or money to get them looked at because I had such shitty insurance with this job, which was ironic considering this was a health insurance company). And I honestly don’t think they would have made any accommodations to help me (like springing for an ergonomic work set up because I worked at home) because they were very good at saying ‘no’ more than ‘yes’.
On my last day, which was just driving my computer equipment back to the office and out-processing, I blasted the song ‘Light of Day’ by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on the way in and on the way out. And it was a very cloudy and rainy day so that song was more wishful thinking on my part. But the lyrics were so true though I had no idea just how much until now.
In the first month after I left that job, I just focused on healing and getting my pain down to a level that didn’t make me want to scream. Then I got a gig delivering food and I discovered I liked gig work. Looking back, I know I could have researched gig work better and handled things better but in EXPLANATION AND NOT DEFENSE (I put that in all caps to make my point here), I had no confidence in myself to change my life as radically as I wanted to.
Why? Because I felt like if I did something I liked someone would come along and shit all over it and try to bury me in their shit. Back then, I was that fucked up and it’s taken me six years to repair the damage of that line of thinking. I have kept so much of my life to myself because I don’t want to hear someone pontificating about something they haven’t done. I like to think if someone comes at me like that now I’ll either be nice and walk away or tell them to fuck off with their ignorant toxic-waste bullshit.
One thing I’ve gained in the last six years is something no one can take from me: inner peace. I define ‘inner peace’ as accepting I’m as flawed as every single person on this planet, that I have the right to pursue things I love to do, and that I have to the right to my thoughts and feelings no matter what they are. Once I began to accept these things as truth, things got better for me. I’m still busted down to almost nothing but I can see where I can move forward.
‘Things can’t worse so they gotta get better’ (from ‘Light of Day’)
This line is so true. My anxiety-fueled mind likes to tell me all the bad things that can happen so I have to counter that with plans to deal with those things if they happen. I think you can only plan for so much because as my father used to say, you can’t live your life as if you always listening for the elephant to come charging up behind you to stomp you into a puddle of shit. I think a lot of people spend too much time thinking like that because of high-stress situations and people riding other people for no damn good reason other than be walking, talking assholes.
All my life I’d been told I was weak and unable to do anything really hard. That was a complete lie because when the shit came down, every single person whoever told me that cut and ran and left me to deal with all the shit. And I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself because I honestly thought no one gave a shit about them. But I give a shit about them, and I give a shit about other people who have felt all alone in this world like I have. My life and my writing are not an act of revenge. They’re about healing.
This line of thinking from that ‘Light of Day’ day six years ago has led to the point I’m at now. I’m writing the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ book, section by section, chapter by chapter. And none of it has been deleted in a fit of rage and sadness like previous attempts. I have finally hit the point in my life where I can write about it.
And this is what I was driving to six years ago though I didn’t’ know I just had to get a little lost along the way.
I know last week’s blog entry promised more content but words and other things got in the way. Or better put: just because I have the words doesn’t mean I can write them down.
Being a writer means you’re a bit crazy in the head. Writers have running monologues about all kinds of stuff, stories and characters running around in their heads in search of a story to be put into, and then there’s all the other practical stuff in life that has to be taken care of at the same time.
The day before I wrote that blog entry I’d had a pretty intense weekend trying to put into words something that’s been eating at me for a long time. Once I found the words for this I felt better even as I’ve dancing around the thought of whether or not to talk about it publicly. I’ve decided to start talking about it because it’s definitely not a one-shot, one-post kind of thought.
The thought is this: what if my writing is a barrier that keeps people away from me?
Now why would I think that, you ask.
Looking back over my life as much I have over the last six years has made me see where I think my pursuit of writing created problems for me. Even though I have worked my ass off since I was ten years old not to be in anyone’s face about my writing like my late father was, that wasn’t good enough for some people in my life at times.
In my twenties, when I was living at home helping to take care of my mom as she was dying of cancer, my parents came right out and told me not to say anything to anyone who was giving them shit for letting me live at home rent-free and write. In those years, my parents paid my writing group dues and conference and workshop fees in addition to making sure I had time to write. I think the issue back then was if I was off doing something writing-related or God-forbid writing instead of being at everyone else’s beck-and-call, then I was a freeloading stuck-up bitch. I wasn’t doing anything else in my free time like going out and partying or dating. Back then, I thought I could keep my writing on the down-low but I knew it wasn’t popular with some people (and no, I’m not going to name-and-shame because this isn’t about anyone else here but me).
My parents never, ever made any demand on me to stay and help them out. Just the opposite really- they thanked me for everything I did and made sure I took time for myself. If I had wanted to leave and strike out on my own they would have done everything they could to support me and told me they would handle things on their own. I have never forgotten that and I’m forever grateful for that. But as I look back I have come to realize one thing about the shit-talkers as I now refer to them: they honestly didn’t give a genuine shit about me or my own life and goals. They had no intention of following through on the fear I had that my relationship with my parents would be destroyed by people telling them I was only staying and helping out as much as I did just to be seen as a martyr. That was the farthest thing from the truth and I honestly tried not to come off that way but in some people’s eyes I failed spectacularly at that.
But if my writing is a barrier to people not wanting to have any kind of relationship with me that’s on them. It’s taken me a long time to realize I can’t do someone’s thinking or feeling for them, nor am I the person to pull their head out of their asses when they’re in the wrong. Most of all, if someone sees something I have devoted my life to because I love it as a problem, then that’s their problem and not mine.
I can’t turn off the words inside my head, or slow my brain down, or be anything other than my funky, weird-ass self and I don’t need to. Yes, I’m fucked up and different as all get-out. And I’m just as prone to making mistakes and screwing up as anyone else. But deep down I know I’m not a bad person because of that. And I certainly don’t deserve feeling like I would never be good enough or that I was damned if I do/damned if I didn’t no matter what I did.
My writing and my words are not a barrier I have put up to the world. Actually, I feel like they’re an opening into who I really am. If you want to get to know me, you can start by reading my writing. Because with my writing, and unlike in real-life, I don’t hold myself back.
So where are my words?
Right here for all the world to see. Do what you will with them as I’ll do what I will with them in return.
If I had to tell anyone how anything gets written I would say little by little. This was something I needed to remind myself of yet again in my life as I got knocked off track by monster fatigue which in turn shot my concentration to pieces. This in turn ramped up my anxiety and that bitch loves to run her mouth and lie her ass off to me whenever she gets an opportunity.
The big thought I had to work through was feeling like I couldn’t write at all, that I had to be doing something else though exactly what that was wasn’t clearly defined to me at all. This is an old thought I’ve dealt with all my adult life and frankly I’m sick of it. Its’ origins are in my past when I was trying to find time to write in the midst of a shit-ton of responsibilities. Back then I felt like a huge thief whenever I sat down to write and I felt even worse whenever I went to my writers’ group meetings or conferences and workshops though not from my parents (who paid my writers’ group dues, conference and workshop fees so I go to those events).
But my parents have been dead and there are no demands on my time other than my need to earn money to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly along with taking care of my dog and my cat. So why do I still feel this way? I blame imprinting on my brain that I’m having to remove like a tattoo. And that’s not easy because the imprinting is pretty deep, but also because I also have to remove a thought that taking time for what I want to do makes me a selfish bitch.
No, it doesn’t though for me writing has seen as something that is selfish and self-serving. And the worst part of that is then being told how to write by people who don’t write to begin with. How people find the confidence to spout off on stuff they have absolutely no real knowledge of is a mystery I don’t want to solve because the people who do this will never admit they have a problem in the first place.
This isn’t about talking shit back to the assholes in life past and present. This is to people who are writing or pursuing something they want to do. It’s about telling yourself often enough to imprint this on your brain that things get done little by little. Nothing comes out fully-formed and perfect. It takes a lot of work to get something to come together and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit.
I have had days where I wrote thousands of words and days where I wrote none (or deleted them all). On a good day I can average a thousand or more. The thing is, each writing project presents its’ own challenges and you have to work through those challenges in order to get things written.
For example, one big challenge with ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ is how emotionally-charged it is for me. I tried working on it over the weekend and it was like walking through a minefield. Emotions were going off hard inside me and I had to really work through them to figure out the root cause. Once I did I felt better and today I got another chapter started and another piece written outside of that chapter. All in all a good writing day in addition to this.
All my life people have told me what to do saying they know what’s best for me and that I don’t know what’s good for me. I think it was because they saw how overprotective my father was of me and also because I am a complete and utter klutz. But just because I’m a klutz doesn’t mean I’m an idiot or a weak-ass wimp. Because when the shit came down with my parents, I was the last one left standing shouldering all the responsibility. Once I realized this about myself I also realized I’m not an idiot and that my years of experience count. That experience counts more than someone’s dumb-ass bullshit to me.
I’ve never attempted or written a full-length book of non-fiction before but that doesn’t mean I can’t now. It’s not going to be easy but trust me, I know writing isn’t easy. And I don’t need anyone to sugar-coat that for me or get all over-protective and shit about it either. Most of all, I don’t need anyone storming off in a huff saying I’m rejecting their help. Unless you’ve got professional editing skills I can use later, I don’t need your help writing this.
One last thought I had over the weekend was this: I am a grown-ass middle-aged woman with nothing to lose and no need to hide any shit from the world. You’ll see this on Friday with a new blog feature I’m working on.
I know this won’t go over well with some people but my purpose in life is not to be quiet and please people with my silence. Read my words at your own peril and know this: my silence is broken.
Today I officially started writing Part One of this book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’. I’ve got a rough draft of the introduction and an outline but to get into the actual book is an accomplishment for me. Why?
First, it’s not going to be an easy book to write. The past six years were hard because of the initial work and the fact I didn’t know what I was getting into. This is why all previous attempts to write this book didn’t pan out. I had to do that work first in order to get to the stage I’m at now. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy because every time I open up this file, a lot of stuff comes up all at once.
So the lesson I’m learning here as I write this is how to navigate that massive up-flow of stuff. In the past it would almost overwhelm me and I would spend a lot of time trying to get it under control. Now that I see it for what it is I can work to get it under control and write what I need to.
And whoever said writing was easy has never written anything in their lives, or at least anything substantial or lengthy. I have never been able to figure out why someone would say writing is easy unless they’re a complete idiot, or an asshole looking to tear someone done. I think people who say writing fall into one of those two categories.
Another thing that makes writing this book hard for me is preparing to deal with the inevitable voices telling me to just get over my shit and get on with my life, no one gives a shit about my feelings in general, and that I’m looking for sympathy.
First, you don’t just get over shit. The old ways of just bottling crap up inside you and just ‘coping’ with it are ending. I tried that and it didn’t get me jack-shit in this world. Bottling my crap up just warped me worse than a galaxy being warped by the fabric of space-time itself. No one has to listen to me or read my writing. But in turn no one gets to tell me not to write or speak out.
Second, I give a shit about my own feelings. If someone else does that’s great but if I’m all alone in feeling this way I’ll survive. Personally, I think there are people that truly do care about my feelings and I’ve kept them from really showing that. That’s something I’m working through now and hope to one day be able to do with people (let them in).
Third, as my late father used to say: you can find ‘sympathy’ in the dictionary between ‘shit’ and ‘syphilis’. I’m not looking to be seen as a martyr like I’ve been accused of in the past. I’m not looking to have some absolve me of my shame and guilt because that’s no one’s responsibility.
I’m not just doing this for myself. And I’m not doing this an act of revenge. I’m doing it to try and reach people who have thought and felt like I have, and who have been through things like I have and may be trying to work through the damage and find a measure of healing. But this is my story and no one else’s.
I was out driving this weekend when I realized those old voices telling me no one cares about my feelings or wants to hear my bullshit have no impact on me anymore because of one simple response: I’ve heard all that shit before and I’m still here. Those words didn’t destroy me and they never will. They were uttered by people who honestly didn’t care about me, and I’m through wasting feelings on them. I don’t hate anyone and I never will. But I’m not going to give power to people who never knew they had it to begin with, and who never deserved it.
Please know not all of ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ will be depressing and hard to read. There will be a lot of moments in the book where I learned things that helped me heal, and lifted huge weights of shame and guilt off my shoulders that should never have been there in the first place. It’s those moments of healing that I know will ease the pain of the updraft of emotion that will probably come every time I sit down to write this book.