Stand or Fall – It Starts With the Books

#FreetheBooks

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, one of the first things they did was start banning and burning books.

Ninety years later, the state of Florida is banning and removing books from classrooms and school libraries until they can be vetted by state-sponsored censors.

In other parts of the United States, there are laws being proposed in state legislatures like Florida’s and movements by right-wing Nazis here in this country all of whom vote Republican and all the legislation is sponsored by the Republican party. Therefore to me, the Republican Party is the American Nazi Party.

When I was a kid going to school in the 70’s/80’s/90’s the biggest things books were targeted for:

Bad language: I think this was the ultimate irony that reading curse words would corrupt us when we knew all the bad words by the time we started kindergarten thanks to parents who swore like crazy and the R-rated movies we watched.

Sex: Holy shit! If there was any hint of sexual relations and we read it we were all going to die!!!

Homosexuality: Any hint of that and we would all turn gay. Yes, this was the argument back then and there was no discussion of transgender issues (the word ‘transgender’ wasn’t in the lexicon back then).

Back then, if you were a white kid (like me) and you read books on Black history or the history and culture of other races and ethnicities, you were told that you were trying to be black (or insert other race/ethnicity here).

I look back at those days and think, how quaint. Because back then we just cranked up our headphones and listened to heavy metal, gangster rap, and read whatever the hell we wanted to. We knew the adults in power really didn’t give a shit about us past a certain point and courtesy of Rage Against the Machine, we knew the police were the bulls on parade and would do nothing to protect us.

Today books are banned for the following reasons:

Homosexuality and Transgender experiences: the bullshit-argument is that kids reading books with these topics are being ‘groomed’ by pedophiles. No, the pedophiles are the Christian ministers and police officers being arrested daily for being the pedophiles and groomers they rail against.

Black History and Other History and Stories that Aren’t White-Nazism: The bullshit-argument is that white kids will feel enormous shame and guilt reading about slavery and other oppression. I’ve actually had this told to my face and to that I say this: BULLSHIT! If you are a white person and reading about oppression and the true history of races and ethnicities other than yours makes you feel shame and guilt, you need to sit down, shut the fuck up, and ask yourself why.

I’ve read that many young people today (those being under 25) feel like the powers-that-be don’t really give a shit about them. They feel like these motherfuckers will ban their ban their books but flood the streets with guns and ammunition through mass production and permit-less gun ownership. They know law enforcement will stand outside their schools and let them be shot to death like they did in Uvalde and Parkland, Florida (Florida just passed a permit-less gun law this week). And they’re right about the American Nazi Party, aka the Republican Party. So yes, they vote Democrat and organize against the American Nazi Party and that’s really freaking these Nazis out which is why they’re banning books and putting more guns on the street.

At this point, if you’re reading this and have voted Republican and are probably really pissed off at me for calling Republicans Nazis, ask yourself why you can justify guns over books. Ask yourself you have to live in a state of perpetual anger and fear while these motherfuckers get richer every day and you get poorer every day? Because in the end, it’s all about the grift as lefties like me say. And these grifters will use any ideological-bullshit argument to maintain their power and wealth and they will destroy everyone and everything if they have to before they let that go.

At this point, if you think I’m being way too over-the-top here, let’s go back ninety years to Nazi Germany. Their book banning-burning led to mass murder that created a new word for the world: genocide. And if the Nazis had developed the nuclear bomb, they would have bombed the world into oblivion as they had the means to deliver those deadly payloads courtesy of the V1-V2 rockets and long-range bomber they have developed. Today, the threat of nuclear war is still around courtesy of Russian President Vladimir Putin (a really big donor to the Republican Party) but the real threat is the embrace of Nazi ideals of racial purity and hatred for anything other than white, heterosexual, and Christian beliefs here in this country.

I’m going to close out with an excerpt from an article that is definitely worth a read as it contains this quote which sums up the American Nazi Party intentions without the profanity I’m fond of:

But there’s an even deeper reason that book bans are such a mainstay of authoritarian politics, even as the ideas being suppressed shift from regime to regime. Authoritarians hate reading for the same reason they hate sex, or any private behavior that allows people to experience thoughts and feelings outside of the authoritarian’s control. Learning to sit quietly and read by yourself is, for most people, the first step towards being able to sit with your own thoughts. It’s crucial for learning to think for yourself. There’s a reason most teachers like to have a wide array of books on hand, giving kids the freedom to read on their own. It’s how kids develop other skills, like critical thinking and creativity. (link here for the complete article)

Breaking Radio Silence – My Different Experience

Recently, I said out loud that I had a different experience at the same time as someone else. In the past, I would have immediately tried to walk that back, or downplay it, or worse, spin it until I turned it into a lie instead of told the truth of I’d really done. Now there was no discussion as to why this was and I didn’t push for it but the fact that I said it out loud and didn’t walk it back meant a lot to me. It made me feel like I’m ready yet again to write my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’.

Ever since I started this project, I’ve known I have had different experiences from most people, vastly different experiences at times. It’s taken me a long time to accept that and not hate myself for it, or be resentful and hateful towards other people for their experiences that were different than mine. But I want to say this right here and now:

I’m not sharing my experiences as some sort of act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m not doing it to shame or guilt-trip anyone who has different experiences from mine. And I’m not doing it to be an attention-seeking martyr. If someone ever tells me that I’m just an attention-seeking martyr, I’ll tell them to fuck off before the ‘ask yourself why’ bit I’m fond of and that’s because the attention-seeking martyr bit is a complete and total lie that is designed just to hurt and silence people. If you have difficulty accepting someone’s experiences are different than your own and you lash out, shut your mouth and ask yourself why you feel that way. Because lashing out or trying to shame or guilt-trip someone or turn the conversation to you and kick the other person’s side to the curb is not right. This happened to me a lot and therefore I was silent more often than not. Not anymore…

All my life I’ve been told I’m different, and the message behind that wasn’t always the best. In fact, I’d say it was pretty shitty at times. I will freely admit here there have been times in my life when I’ve been angry at people and resentful of their experiences that I wanted to experience, too, and yes, I have felt hatred at people who were judgmental and critical of me when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But I know anger, resentment, and hatred are poisons of the mind, heart, and soul, and if you let those poisons seep in deep enough they could kill the things that truly matter: compassion, empathy, and conscience. I have spent a lot of time in the past few years learning to work through dark feelings like anger, hatred, and resentment and instead, embrace compassion, empathy, and conscience. Anger is something I’ll always feel but I know that it has to be controlled and managed.

For a long time, I thought my experiences, no matter if they were different or not, didn’t matter. I had no confidence in my knowledge and because of that, I had no confidence in myself and my abilities. This was horribly taken advantage of eleven years ago this month when I returned to a company I worked for previously and had only been away from for just a little over one year. I knew there had been changes in the year I’d been away, but the basic systems and protocols hadn’t. In training class, I tried to help my classmates who were all totally new to this. One day, my instructor took me aside for a one-on-one meeting and basically raked my ass over the coals and told me to keep my mouth shut. I was shocked, hurt, and I said nothing other than I would do what she told me to, which was just keep my mouth shut. A little while later, one of my classmates asked me why I was so silent in class and not sharing my knowledge to help and I told him I’d been told by our instructor not to do that. I asked him to stay silent about that and I apologized for not being helpful to him.

At that time, like I’d always done before and after that, I felt enormous shame and guilt because I felt like I had done the wrong thing in sharing my knowledge and experience. Even though my intentions were always good ones, to just help people, I’d say eight of ten times it inevitably didn’t go well. Now I realize that people like my instructor, were just very insecure and lacked confidence in themselves and their abilities and had turned into well-meaning (not a good thing) egocentric asshole. s

Now there is a silver-lining to the story I just shared because in 2013 I left that job and my first instructor at the new job was someone I had a good feeling about. But I stayed quiet and kept to myself until she took me aside one day and asked me why I was silent. I told her of my previous experience of being raked over and ripped up by my previous instructor at my previous job and she was floored. The first thing she told me was that she didn’t feel that way at all about me. She did admit that she was a bit worried about me when she saw my resume and experience, that I’d be egocentric but when she saw I wasn’t, she asked me to help her. Later on, she become one of the best managers I ever worked with and though I’ve lost contact with her, if she ever reached out to me for a favor, she’s got one coming. Because of her, a seed was planted inside my mind (though I didn’t realize at the time), that my knowledge and experience mattered, something I’m forever grateful for.

So the takeaway here is this: your experience and knowledge matter even if they’re different from someone else’s, which will always be the case 99.9% of the time. Also, don’t feel anger and resentment towards other people whose experiences were different than yours, like if they were having the time of their lives and you weren’t. Most of all, don’t project your shame or guilt over your experiences to someone else. Deal with that shame and guilt on your own.

Ask Yourself Why

If you’re a regular reader of mine, or if you’re here for the first time, I want to explain why I say this quite often:

Ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers you can, though I will warn you, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later you will have to deal with them.

I usually say this when I’m talking about bad human behavior, like people who are cruel, hateful, or insensitive, people who rationalize alienation and ostracization when that’s not needed but simply because they can. I came up with this saying ‘Ask yourself why…’ to stop myself from ranting and raving and saying things I would regret. Because nothing is accomplished from ranting at someone and calling them names and such, even in the heat of anger. I know it sure as hell didn’t work on me other than making me feel like shit about myself when I didn’t do anything wrong.

But I also tell myself ‘ask yourself why…’ a lot, too. In fact, it started with me asking myself why I thought and felt the way I did. I started doing that in order to learn why I thought and felt the way I did in order to learn how to make better decisions in the future. Yes, it’s turned me upside-down and inside-out, but it was worth it. It helps me rein in anger and rage and also control pain and responses that don’t work well.

Most of all, it reminds me and anyone else reading my words that I can’t change anyone’s mind or way of thinking and feeling. Or as I also say, I can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. Yet this also brings me to a thought I’ve been dancing around for some time, one that’s still a bit hard to deal with: I’m not responsible for someone’s reaction to me telling them my experience of a certain time was different from theirs and not a good one at that. That’s not harsh or mean because I am working my ass off not to engage in blaming other people for making me feel bad when I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I’m working my ass off to understand why I reacted and still react the way I do to things that have been said, or are said now. This is why I tell myself the ‘ask yourself why…’ bit almost on a daily basis.

Another thought that comes into my mind every so often is this: maybe it would have been easier to stay silent, to stay the way I was: agreeable, appeasing, willing to try and ease and just bury my own feelings. But I can’t go back to that, and I don’t want to because being silent and appeasing did not stop people from projecting their own negative feelings onto me or lashing out at me. And this is because I have come to realize and accept I’m not responsible for someone else’s feelings past a certain point. I’m responsible for my words and actions, and I’m responsible for taking responsibility for my mistakes and doing everything I can to repair the damage and learn from them. Most of all, I have learned that when I put words onto emotions and give voice to my thoughts then I can work through those thoughts and feelings and heal.

At this point, I’m sure there may be a reader here who wants to ask me: what if someone told me they had a different experience of a time we both lived through and their experience wasn’t a good one? I would say to that person I understand and accept their experience was different from mine and would offer a space for them to talk about it. This is in turn leads to another question I have been wrestling with for quite some time: would I be willing to listen to someone tell me why they lashed out at me and said cruel and hurtful things to me, or tried to alienate me from others and ostracize me for things that weren’t wrong?

When I first heard that question in my mind my answer was no because I didn’t feel like any explanation would change what I went through and have worked through since. But now I understand it would give me insight into why I reacted the way I did and also show me where I made mistakes back then. But I would only listen if someone didn’t speak in the way they did back then, with malice and hatred, or if they tried to gaslight me into questioning or denying the truth of my experience and feelings. Or as I like to put it, if someone has done the work and wants to talk about that then I would listen if given the opportunity. Because I do believe I do believe I have a right to say that something is hurtful or cruel and without truth and to stand on that.

I felt like simply saying out loud my experience was different and not good was a huge break in my silence. Even though I didn’t elaborate on it any further, I didn’t walk it back either. And now I realize I’m ready to talk about it and listen to others talk about their experiences.

In the time of the twelfth Doctor on the television show, ‘Doctor Who’, there was a line that was said many times: “Silence will fall when the question is answered.” (written by Stephen Moffat).

For me, I would say silence is broken when many questions are answered.  

MLK Day 2023 – The Time Is Now

I remember when the holiday commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was created in the 1980’s and I will tell you right here and now, there was considerable opposition to it. The state of Arizona was the last holdout on the holiday and there were boycotts by artists and protests. Why? Because Dr. King was not popular in his lifetime. And not so much because of his advocacy for civil rights and fighting racism, but because he wouldn’t back down.

In his letter from the Birmingham jail, Dr. King wrote of being told to wait for the right time and Dr. King said, in essence, the time is now. Anyone who says to wait when there is a need for change needs to ask themselves why. And to anyone who says that to me directly I will ask: when will the time be right?

There is no ‘right’ time, or ‘perfect’ time for change. If things were right and just, then there wouldn’t be a need for change. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was born from decades of segregation, and of pain and blood. It was born from a people denied their basic fundamental human rights and Dr. King led a movement based on non-violent resistance as advocated by Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others. And despite what watered-down textbooks and other sources will say, it was not a popular movement. People were beaten and murdered, including women and children.

In this year of our Lord 2023, there is a movement by right-wing Republicans to bury this history and not teach simply because they say it will make white people uncomfortable.

To that I will say: your discomfort in response to pain and oppression means NOTHING.

No one is blaming white people, or individuals for past hatred and oppression. But each and every person in this country has been exposed to and taught attitudes of hatred and racism. In the last few years, I’ve begun to examine what I was taught and exposed to and yes, it’s painful as hell to know I was silent in the face of most of that. But I’m breaking my silence over that like so many others are now and like Dr. King and all the other Civil Rights activists did back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Another reason Dr. King was not popular in his lifetime was his opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1964, Dr. King began a friendship with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich Nhat Hahn had been exiled from his home country of Vietnam for speaking out and advocating non-violent resistance against the South Vietnamese government’s brutal oppression and violence. I believe this friendship showed the world that the cause of non-violence isn’t limited to just your home country. That if we are to truly live in peace and harmony with each other we must speak out whenever we can. Thich Nhan Hahn told Dr. King Buddhists considered him a ‘bodhisattva’, an enlightened one. To be enlightened means you see how everything is connected and you nurture those connections in peace and love.

In recent years, I’ve learned a lot about Dr. King’s teachings and advocacy not just for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War, but also his advocacy against poverty and economic injustice. He talked about creating the ‘Beloved Community’, a community in which all people were welcomed to the same table with the same opportunities given to others already at the table while being accepted as they were. But this is not a popular idea even today and why is that?

Because like in the past, there are people who are opposed to this who say that by welcoming all to the table that those people will take from those already seated. That’s not true in any way, shape, or form. There is no need to take more than you need or to take from someone simply because they are not like you. Suffering is NOT noble or right in any way, shape, or form. Suffering does not build character or resiliency. Instead, it creates trauma that echoes through the generations and takes time to heal. And that trauma can’t be healed if a person is suffering from oppression, poverty, or violence.

Non-violent resistance means you will not take up arms against your oppressors, but you will not remain silent in the face of that oppression either. This is why I say to those who push back in fear or ignorance against change for the better: ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers you can, though I will give warning that you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them. No one can change another person, or as I like to say, no one can pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. I do believe people can change for the better and I will welcome those who do sincerely change and accept responsibility for their words and actions in the past.

The time for change is always now, and forever.

For more on the friendship between Dr. King and Thich Nhat Hahn, you can read this wonderful and moving piece by Jay Kuo HERE

Writing as an Act of Defiance

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

This blog entry is prompted by a question I have asked myself a lot over the years:

Why can’t I write when my stress and anxiety levels go up and come up hard?

The answer to this question comes from something I learned very early on about women writers: we’re really good at keeping our writing out of sight and sound from people in our lives.

From Jane Austen hiding her manuscripts under a desk blotter in the sitting room anyone someone came over, to Margaret Mitchell and Danielle Steele writing in their laundry rooms with their typewriters on top of the washing machine, to Nora Roberts and Jackie Collins writing on spiral notebooks in the carpool line waiting to pick up their kids, and to countless romance writers I knew and read about who would get up early or write after everyone had gone to bed… I learned that my writing was something I had to keep out of sight and sound.

Why?

Because women, whether they’re married or single (like me and Jane Austen), take on a lot of responsibilities and the busybody-assholes as I will now refer to them make sure that if it looks like we might be thinking about slacking off on those responsibilities (which we would never have done), they made sure to let us know we were the bad guys for wanting to have some sliver of a life for ourselves. In my twenties when I was a caregiver living at home, I felt like I was under constant scrutiny and that if I stepped out of line enough the shit would have hit the fan.

I’ve written here about how my parents asked me to stay silent in the face of busybody-assholes trying their dead-level best to butt into my life and shit all over me. I understood why they asked me to do that but thinking about that now I feel like they denied me something I should have been able to do, and that was to stand up for myself. I should have been able to tell people who wanted to butt their noses into my life and try and run it for me this:

Back off and deal with your own fucking shit.

Because I feel like people who butt their noses into other people’s lives and try to dictate how other people should live are trying to avoid dealing with their own lives and yes, their own shit. And no, I’m not being a bitch here for saying that even if someone reading this may be feeling more than a little butt-hurt. I say this because I was doing my dead-level best back then like I do now to stay out of everyone’s life and not tell anyone how to live their life. And most of all, I’ve been working my ass off to deal with my own shit as I’m fond of calling it.

No, this is not an attention-grab or any bullshit like that. This is for anyone who has ever felt like they’ve had to hide a part of their lives from everyone around them.

I look back now and feel like if I had kept writing through the worst of the shit-storms I went through in my twenties and thirties, I wouldn’t have had near the amount of shit to work through, and I wouldn’t have had to box up so much crap from back then to deal with now. I look back and think I should have been able to keep writing through all that and if anyone had found out and said something to me I should have had the freedom to tell them to back off. But I was not defiant back then like I am now. Back then I was terrified I’d set off a shit-storm if I pushed back or gave anyone anything they could use against me, and yes that would have included any writing like a journal or diary that I could have used as a therapy source back then.

Prince Harry recently said his family’s motto was always, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that motto is for tons of people and families around the world and yes, I will apply it to my own. Because I’ve been told to my face in the past not to complain, that I had NOTHING to complain about even though in reality I wasn’t complaining so much as trying to explain myself. And that’s what I’m doing now: explaining and not complaining. To me, complaining is running your mouth and expecting people to go along with your high-handed bullshit and if they push back then they’re the bad guys. Explaining is talking things out and trying to find understanding in how you think and feel.

Writing is my way of explaining and trying to find answers to questions about why I think and feel the way I do. I think writing is about finding truth and that’s not a popular thing with some people in this world. Because if your truth doesn’t align perfectly with theirs then that’s when the shit could hit the fan.

To any writer reading this who feels like you can’t write, or shouldn’t write when your stress and anxiety levels skyrocket and things come at you fast and hard: I understand your feelings and it’s okay to have them. But you don’t have to give in to them either. And if there are people in your life who feel like they can dictate when you write or should write or any bullshit like that, feel free to use my rude-and-crude response: back off and go deal with your own fucking shit.

For me, luckily I’m working in a vacuum and that means as of right now I’m not getting any direct communication telling me I’m an asshole, bitch, or that I should just shut the fuck up. And every time I think of this, I hear my father’s voice in my head telling me that’s one less piece of bullshit I have to deal with and to keep doing what I want to do with my life. The old man is right as always and I would do well to listen to him as I think other writers should, too.

The (slightly) Defiant Reason I Drive an Uber

Image created by Deborah Ratliff

Whenever I’m asked why I started driving an Uber I always say it’s because I needed a job and I wasn’t able to get anything else going at the time. And that is true as it was a financial need that drove me to sign up for Uber.

When I first signed up for Uber, there were no tutorials or instructions on how to use the app or any instruction on what to do if there was a problem other than solve it on your own (no live support back then). But I’m a problem solver and I’m pretty good at figuring out stuff so these weren’t problems for me. What I quickly discovered was how I liked not dealing with asshole-human managers and being able to set my own hours. Now the money does fluctuate, and sometimes it really fluctuates hard. Not long after I first started driving, Uber got kicked out of Austin (they got into it with the city of Austin over the issue of background checks though after a couple of months the state legislature stepped in and got the city of Austin and Uber to kiss and make up). But that influx of drivers drove demand pretty low and I seriously questioned my choice of gig-company yet I stayed with it. That was my first lesson in how to ride out a downturn (which happens quite often as this business is highly-subject to supply and demand).

Where the act of defiance comes into play is this: if my father was alive he would have told me ‘no, no, and no’ in taking on this job. My late father was terribly over-protective of me and thought I should work a nice office job or hopefully make it as a writer so I could live and work in a nice little house somewhere. He would have told me it was too dangerous unless I carried a gun (which is prohibited under Uber driver rules) or if I did defy him he would tell me to only work during daylight hours or something like that.

Yes, I’ve driven in parts of town that a lot of people wouldn’t consider ‘nice’ or ‘safe’ though I’ve never, ever had any trouble. I’ve just dropped people off then went into ‘unavailable’ status and headed out, or as I like to say, I don’t stick around for autographs. Also, I don’t work past midnight unless I’ve picked up someone from the airport and nine times out of ten these people nap in the backseat on their way home because they’ve been traveling all day. I have done late-night 2am bar pickups but drunks haven’t been fun since covid so I’ve taken myself out of at the risk-factor of mean-ass behavior and the potential for puke (luckily, no one has ever puked in my car).

All my life, or at least until the last few years since my dad died, I did think I was fragile and not able to go anywhere near a potentially ‘rough’ place. But I’m going to talk about something here I’ve never really talked about before because there are potential ‘risky’ places and situations everywhere.

I worked in call-centers for the better part of seventeen years and those places could be soul-sucking pressure cookers. In one of them, rumors began to go around that security was going to start searching cars and bags at the entrance and desks for weapons. We began to talk about what to do if someone walked in the place and started shooting, always making a note of exits and where to hide. Another place I worked we used to talk about how security was a useless joke and how easy it would be for someone to walk in and start shooting and how the escape routes and hiding places sucked. So, there were times when I feared for my safety in these places.

The closest I ever came to getting really nervous about my safety in my Uber was in the summer of 2020 one weekend when these right-wing gun-toting bozos paraded around Alamo Plaza with guns and got a fucking police escort instead of being hauled off. I was boxed in by traffic and I just prayed these assholes wouldn’t lock and load and start shooting. I saw a phalanx of riot police that day and yes, I was scared fucking shitless something terrible was going to happen. The left-wing counter protestors were unarmed and peaceful and I’m glad I got to pick them up instead of the right-wing nuts.

But other than that day, I’ve never truly feared for my safety. And I can deflect and defuse people who start to act like assholes muttering shit to me or hitting on me though I can count the number of assholes who have done that and still have fingers and toes left over. The incredibly-vast majority of my passengers are awesome, and I think they make the Uber gig truly worthwhile. But even after close to six years on the road, sometimes I still feel like I’m defying my late father’s over-protectiveness and other people who have tried to follow his lead.

When I’m on the road, I lock in and drive and though my mind can wander sometimes, I’ve got the thousands of hours and miles of driving experience where I can successfully do that. And I do maintain what I call ‘situational awareness’ on the road and where I’m at all times, but then I do that no matter where I’m at.

So, my take on this: be defiant in doing what you want to do but be smart about it and don’t take risks you don’t have to while you keep your shit together at all times.

Royally Breaking Your Silence

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

This morning I watched the interview Prince Harry did with Anderson Cooper on ‘60 Minutes’ this past Sunday (you can watch here You Tube) and my take on what Harry is doing by giving interviews and publishing his memoire is this: he’s breaking his silence. And I am totally with him on this as there were several things he said in the interview that really showed the healing journey he’s been on, a journey I’ve been on along with a lot of other people around the world.

Prince Harry said the Royal Family’s motto has always been, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that’s a motto for a lot of families, and I feel it was something I grew up with. I felt like there was an expectation of me to be very independent and self-sufficient from a very early age and that also meant that I had to pick myself up and keep going. I internalized that people were horrified to see me cry so I tried not to. I tried not to show I was sad and hurt whenever I was because I had not been comforted when I should have been. And that lack of comfort continued on in my life and that does a shit-ton of damage to a person. For Prince Harry it meant he didn’t cry or really talk about his feelings at all and that at times he turned to adrenalin as he said in the interview when he joined the Army and served in Afghanistan in combat. He also talked about how used to drink heavily and that he did use drugs to numb out his feelings. Luckily I never drank or used drugs, but I numbed myself out with silence instead.

Harry was always called ‘the spare’ as in ‘the heir and the spare’, the heir being his older brother Prince William. And a ‘spare’ is like me being a middle female child, which means you’re the outcast in the family simply because you fill a position with a role that others define and you don’t. Growing up like that means you feel like you never really fit in and nothing you do will ever be good enough. It’s a role where you’re expected to just do what you’re told, take responsibility for others, and not step out of line. For the longest time, I felt like the world just didn’t know what to do with me and never would. But now I call bullshit on that because there is NO need at all to treat someone like an outcast simply because of some bullshit things like birth order and expectations that are supposed to go with that.

In the interview Prince Harry talks about his wife Meghan and the horrible treatment she received and that she was accused of ‘changing’ him. Harry then said without a second’s hesitation, “Well of course I changed.” In another interview with Harry, I remember how he told a story about how shortly after he and Meghan began to see each other how he tried to pick an argument with her. She stopped him by going, “Harry, what’s wrong?” He was shocked and surprised by this question and she told him, “This isn’t about me.” She realized he had misdirected anger and unresolved grief from his mother’s death. And I think what was happening also was that he was in a good place with her and therefore his mind went, okay, now you’re ready to deal with the things you locked away all those years ago when your mother died. Harry’s wife Meghan has an extraordinary gift of perception in helping him see that, and it was because of her that he began to deal with his grief and other emotions he’d silenced for so long.

Yet that wasn’t a popular decision. Between that and Megan being an outsider to the Royal Family like Harry despite him being born into the family, things weren’t going to go well for them. I give them a lot of credit for sticking with it as long as they did and for how hard they tried to communicate and make things work. Sadly, in the ’60 Minutes’ interview Harry revealed he is not on speaking terms with his father, King Charles, and his brother Prince William. Harry said how he hoped to mend those relationships but at the same he also said this, “The ball is in their court.”

I will freely admit here I have pulled back from people but in explanation I will say it’s because I took tiny steps long ago to try and make myself available to others and it didn’t go well. In the ’60 Minutes’ interview Harry said he’s told his family that if he and wife did things wrong to just be told what those things were so apologies and amends could be made if possible. But Harry says his family refuses to tell him and I think it’s because maybe he and his wife really didn’t do anything wrong, or they didn’t do things that warranted any of the horrible experiences and words they’ve been subjected to. If I’ve done something wrong, I want to know so I can take full responsibility for it and do whatever I can to make amends. But until those answers on the table, the silence will remain at least on the side of his family, and I will remain in the vacuum I’m in.

Harry has been getting a fair amount of shit in the press, especially in the British press for doing these interviews and for publishing his book. He has said he’s doing this to set the record straight and so that his family can hear his side of the story and in his own words and not shit-filtered through the Press like they choose to communicate. I’m sure he’s been told like I’ve been told in the past to just shut up and keep going, and also to just get over your shit and let it go. But that comes off like being told that your feelings and your experiences don’t mean shit. Wounds don’t disappear and the past isn’t changed or erased just because someone doesn’t want to talk about it or be with someone who’s been hurt. That’s why I think my father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” I think an apology is meaningless without an acknowledgement and acceptance of what happened along with the damage it did and what it takes to heal from that damage and pain.

I’m breaking my silence in order to help other people do the same. Because for me, putting words onto feelings and giving voice to unspoken thoughts is what has brought me healing as it has to so many other people. Because when you find the words for your thoughts and feelings, then you learn how to deal with them and heal the wounds. And no, that’s not a popular decision with some people because it changes you and it makes you find your own way in the world. Most of all, you find happiness and peace that other people refuse to work towards in their own lives and that in turn makes them lash out in anger and insensitivity.

Writing like this hasn’t been easy for me since I renewed my commitment to writing here daily about what’s on my mind and going on in my life. But like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it. Because like Admiral Kirk said in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’: “We learn by doing.”

And I believe we can start learning about ourselves and how to heal by doing the work, and breaking the silence.

A Dream Deferred and Recovered

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

Last week I started off the New Year with a grand plan to start blogging regularly. I’ve been trying to become a regular steady blogger for well over a decade and every single time my efforts ground to a halt. And yes, I’ve repeatedly asked myself why, but I’ve never found the answer I’ve been looking for. Hopefully, I’ve found it now in two things that have been at the forefront of my mind since my restart ground to a halt.

The first thing that’s been on a repeat loop in my mind is how much I’ve been told in the past that I can’t do this or that. I’ve heard the word ‘no’ more than I’ve ever heard the word ‘yes’ in my life and any ‘yes’ wasn’t followed by a lot of encouragement and support. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years working through this and it seems I’ve got a little more work to do. I had to dig in and see how this related to my decade-plus desire to become a writer and blogger.

The answer to this question of why I’ve never fully pursued my writing and blogging had an answer I sure as heck didn’t anticipate at all. It came from a very interesting source that has taken me a few days to figure out and put into words here. It’s where the title of this blog entry comes from with a story starts back over thirty years ago.

Growing up I read everything I could get my hands on- newspapers, magazines, books, the backs of cereal boxes. My parents, God bless them, never restricted me in what I could read (or watch or listen to, either) and because of that I lived with words around me twenty-four-seven. And yes, it’s one of the reasons I began writing. In high school, I began to formulate a dream of being a journalist-muckraking commentator like the late great Molly Ivins. I wanted to be a kick-ass writer who told the truth and had fun doing it. I never told anyone I wanted to do this because I knew what I would be told in return, “No.” I knew I would get some bullshit song-and-dance about how I didn’t have what it took or that I wasn’t tough enough to take the shit in return. Because of that, I let my grades slack off pretty badly in high school (I graduated with a low C average) and didn’t do a single thing to apply for college at all.

Luckily, my parents let me have some gap years, living at home working part-time gigs while writing. By the time I was twenty, I began to formulate a plan of getting a job and going to community college part-time to get my basic coursework out of the way then transferring to a four-year college as an English or Journalism major. Again, I didn’t tell anyone about this but for a different reason.

When I was twenty, my dad had his first heart attack followed by a series of health issues that began my caregiving years as I call them. Then when I was twenty-one and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I put this plan aside completely. But my parents refused to let me give up on my writing and I shifted to an attempt at a fiction-writing career because I figured I could do that without a college degree and part-time while continuing my caregiving responsibilities. And because my parents and I took way too much shit for my writing aspirations, I’ve held back more often than not.

In the early 2000’s after my mother died, blogging emerged on the internet. For the first time writers had a way to get their writing out into the world without battering at the gates of traditional print publishers (books, newspapers, magazines). Bloggers began to get book deals and make money just from writing and posting directly to the internet. I wanted in on that so badly but until just this past week, I didn’t really understand why. It was because a part of me realized this internet-blogging thing was a way of making my dreams of being a journalist-muckraking commentator come true in addition to continuing to write fiction and other things.

I didn’t just defer my writing dreams in order to devote myself to being a full-time caregiver. I deferred those writing dreams because of two things:

I didn’t want to confront people who would tell me I couldn’t do what I wanted to even though they had NOT done what I’d done and were talking of their asses. Because when I gently tried to push back, I got a shit-ton of butt-hurt feelings in return. And therefore, I found it a bit easier to just shut up and not say anything to anyone.

Second, I have been told, literally to my face, that I should just shut up and get over my shit. I’ve been told to just let it go and not talk about anything of substance or meaning, especially my thoughts and feelings. I’ve been told that when I talk about my feelings and my emotional recovery that I’m nothing but an attention-seeking martyr.

I deferred my dreams more often than not for other people who had no right to that sacrifice of mine at all. So, I’m going to say this now: this isn’t about them. It’s about me and what I want to do with my life.

I love writing every day even during the times it drives me nuts and has me cussing up a blue streak. I love writing even when it makes me angry and hurt at the same time. I love writing even when I’m constantly writing and rewriting and deleting and starting over multiple times like I’ve done with this piece. Maybe this sounds like insanity to some readers, but writers are a breed unto themselves. And yes, I have used writing as therapy and will continue to do so. Because like a lot of writers, it’s either been write or go crazy.

So, what can you expect from this blog?

Something every damn day for starters. And in the next week or so, daily doubles as I’ll call them: the single daily piece and another multi-part piece (I’ve got plenty of ideas on tap for those) in addition to other things I want to do going forward. I’ve always been afraid for some dumb-ass reason about putting a lot of content out in the world but the writers who are successful today on the internet put the content out there. And if anyone has an issue with this, please come and tell me and try to be creative about it. Yes, that was sarcasm because as I was telling a passenger of mine last night (my paying gig is as an Uber driver) that I feel like I’ve pretty much heard it all and am just listening to variations on a theme now.

On a final note I will say this:

A dream deferred will always try to find a way come true.

Visions From the Past and For the Future

First, when I talk about ‘visions’ I’m not talking about major woo-woo moments. No blinding lights or massive orchestra music or anything bombastic or big. Just brief moments of certainty that change me forever. Yesterday I wrote how the Universe likes balance and the following two stories are proof that the Universe does balance things out… eventually.

Yesterday I also wrote of how I believe when you put words onto feelings and break the silence of your thoughts you learn how to deal with them. I know that’s true based on two visions twenty-seven years apart that are the total opposite of each other in terms of knowledge and emotions. One forged me in fire and pain, and the other has brought me focus and an anticipation of joy.

The first happened when I was twenty-one years old, when in August of 1995, my mother found a tumor the size of a golf-ball in her left breast. The biopsy showed it was cancer so a mastectomy was scheduled. Before her surgery, she sat down with me and my dad one afternoon in the tiny cracker box of the house we were living in at the slightly-wobbly glass-topped dining room table. The sun was blazing into the house from the back patio behind where my dad was sitting. My mom sat with her back to the living room behind her, and I sat between them facing the kitchen. We were talking about my mom’s upcoming surgery and recovery and what would need to be done. I simply told them I would do everything I could to help out. I was still living at home and working part-time gigs and doing chores around the house though I had begun to formulate other plans, plans I scrapped along with my future goals and dreams. I didn’t say this out loud to my parents because they didn’t ask me to do that and at any time if I had wanted to leave, they would have let me go without a word of dissent. It was a sacrifice I knowingly and willingly made, and I believe it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

But it was made with one piece of knowledge all three of us were given that blazing-hot afternoon around that table: the complete certainty that my mother was going to die of cancer, that she was not going to beat it into remission and live to a ripe old age. It was a certainty we were given that day the three of us had to deal with. My mother and I never talked about it directly though we talked about death and dying quite a bit in private. I gave her the space to talk about that because no one else other than my father wanted to have those conversations with her.

Somehow some way, word got out that the three of us were talking about death, about end-of-life care and making plans for that end. Behind my back I heard that I, along with my mother and father, were too ‘comfortable’ in talking about death. And the word ‘comfortable’ was not used in a good way. The insinuation was that the three of us were ghouls who were going to bring about my mother’s death if we talked about it at all.

There was NO comfort in talking about death, about dying, and what to do. For the three of us, it was our way of doing what we had to do because we knew what was coming. And the three of us felt like we couldn’t talk about it outside of our little circle. Why we were given this certainty and knowledge is a mystery though I guess the Universe felt like we needed this knowledge in order to do what had to be done. Most of all, my mother and father placed complete trust in me to carry out their final wishes and to do whatever had to be done. And I did that though I paid one hell of a price in keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself.

Going through this memory as many times as I have in the last six years hasn’t been easy but each time I gain more insight into what it did to me and have learned that my father was right when he used to tell me, “You are so much stronger than you will ever know. And that you don’t know what you can deal with until you’re faced with it.” For the longest time, I thought I was never good enough, and that what I did hadn’t been good enough. Now I know that’s total fucking bullshit and at this point if you’re reading this and your back is coming up and you’re thinking about coming at me, ask yourself why and keep asking until you find all the answers you can. And as I always say, you might not like the answers you find and sooner or later you will have to deal with them.

I’ve dealt with my questions and answers on this and recently, it brought me healing. And I believe that this healing opened me up to the vision that balanced the pain of this old memory.

A couple of months ago, I was sitting in the airport waiting lot for Uber (and taxi) drivers on a beautiful afternoon. The sky was a clear blue, and the sun was shining though it wasn’t blistering-hot. I was thinking then how much I wanted to be home writing and a thought came to my mind that I would be sitting outside writing soon, much sooner than I’ve ever believed possible. I felt like for the first time since I came up with the idea of living and working on the road that I’m able to achieve that dream. I told myself people have done so much more with so much less than I have so it’s possible for me. Because trust me, this house-on-wheels/life on the road thing is going to be done on a very short and very thin shoestring.

But this stream of thought made me feel good and lifted weights of fear and anxiety I’ve lived with for far too long. I have weathered one more big storm of anxiety and fear but have started this year on a tiny bit of solid financial footing.

I believe because I faced that memory from the past and worked through it to the best of my ability I have opened myself up to a better future. So, if anyone asks what’s the purpose of working through past pain and misery, here it is: it will lead you to the light of healing.  

Moments of Clarity – Looking Back and Looking Forward

Image by Kanenori from Pixabay

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

As we begin a new year, I looked back and asked myself, what I have learned?

The first answer that came to my mind was I’ve learned things about myself with a depth and a clarity I’ve never had before. Over the last eight and a half years since I turned forty in May 2014, I’ve had what I call ‘moments of clarity’. A moment of clarity for me is when a thought comes to my mind with perfect sight and sound. These moments come like the calm after a storm, lifting weights of shame and guilt off of me that I had no business taking on in the first place. And in this past year, they’ve brought healing to me, something I never believed was possible before now.

In the past year, my moments of clarity came to me as I asked questions and found all the answers I could. Then I dealt with those answers no matter how painful they were sometimes.

So here are my key moments of clarity that have come to me over the past year:

From the question, what holds people back more than anything and its answer, other people, came this moment of clarity:

Not every single person is going to like everything I say, write, or do. And I’ve accepted that even as I believe people are free to say or do what they want in response to me. But I’m also just as free to respond to anyone in any way I choose to.

This moment of clarity came from one prior to that:

I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass. That is not my purpose in life nor is it anyone else’s. If a person has their head up their ass, it’s up to them to pull it out.

And that moment of clarity dovetailed into this:

I’m not responsible for appeasing someone’s butthurt feelings if I’m not doing anything wrong, or being cruel, insensitive, thoughtless, or acting without conscience, empathy, or compassion. If I’m not doing something wrong and someone has a problem with that, it’s not mine to deal with.

In the past year I feel like I’ve been living and working in a vacuum. I haven’t had a lot of feedback on what I’ve said or written, and I have wondered if it’s because of the ‘don’t fuck with me’ vibe I’ve honed to perfection. If so, then that’s one less piece of bullshit I have to deal with. And again, I’ve accepted that and am now moving forward in my life.

Now before I go any further I want to share something my late father used to tell me a lot:

The vast majority of people in this world are good people. Don’t let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to be everything to everyone and failing miserably because that’s not possible. I’ve spent too much time trying to appease people to try and keep them from hurting me more than they already did. Appeasement and people-pleasing are not possible, and I’ve accepted that. And to anyone who has ever told me that if I live my life on my terms I’ll end up all alone I will say this: no one knows what the future will be for anyone.

All my life I’ve been told I can’t do things before I even attempted to do them by people who said they had my best interests at heart. My father was one of them though he also used to say to me, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The thing was these people were talking from a complete lack of knowledge and experience. Or as I like to say, they were talking out of their asses. And as to why that was doesn’t matter at all and isn’t worth thinking about in any way, shape, or form. Because as I read somewhere recently, if you don’t know something you can learn about it.

And at this point if you’re reading this and your back is coming up and you want to lash out at me and say I’m just out for pity or sympathy, or I’m just trying to be seen as a martyr: ask yourself why you and think and feel this way and keep asking until you find all the answers you can. But I will give you a warning: you might not like all the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them. I don’t say this in order to hurt, just the opposite. I say it in the hope that it will keep someone else from being hurt like I’ve been.

Accepting that I’m not perfect, that I can’t be everything to everyone, that I can’t spend my life appeasing people, and most of all, accepting myself as I am- good, bad, ugly, and anything in between lead to something I never thought was possible: healing.

For me, healing is finally feeling pain easing off. It’s knowing I can learn and grow as a person, and that I can weather the storms of life and inside myself and come out in the light. It’s accepting that good can’t exist without bad, and that pain can’t exist without happiness. The Universe likes balance and when you find that balance then you can truly move forward in your life.

So. for the coming year I will be learning and growing, taking life one day at a time, and working towards my goal of living and working from the road.

And this is one from the road…

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