Find Your Moments of Joy

All my life, I’ve been told to keep my mouth shut. Worse, I’ve been told not only to do that, but go away and stay away. And worst of all, I’ve been told I have no right to talk at all because I’m full of shit and I don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s just taken me a lot of years to realize that silence is the tool of the oppressor. And that oppressor isn’t just the court of public opinion and random assholes in this world, but of people in your life. The people in your life are the well-meaning ones who think because they’re in your life they have the right to dump on you and that you just have to sit in silence and take their shit.

This is why I keep myself to myself, so to speak. But this isn’t about me, though. This is about good, kind, loving, and generous people I know who feel like they can’t be as open about their lives as they would like to be. They feel like they can’t share their joys and successes without getting shit all over.

First, I celebrate and feel an enormous surge of happiness at seeing other people happy and successful in their lives. Especially people I know who are good people, people are successful and happy because they not only work hard, but they have faith, hope, and love in their lives.

But I will say this now to anyone reading this: if you have ever shit all over someone for their joy or success… ask yourself why. And keeping asking yourself that question until you find all the answers you can. Then have a very serious talk with your conscience and whatever God you believe in. Then in the end, don’t ask for forgiveness because that won’t take away the pain you’ve caused. Instead, make a conscious decision to be a better person going forward. And maybe then, you’ll earn a tiny bit of the trust and good faith that you tried to destroy with your thoughtless and cruel words and behavior.

During the worst times of my life when I was watching my parents die slowly and painfully, I still managed to find tiny bits of joy and happiness in each day. I worked my fucking ass off to hide all expression of emotion during those times, to try and keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. And not just because I felt like no one wanted to hear me or be with me at all, but because when my guard did slip, it didn’t go well. And I will not excuse shitty behavior, or minimize it in any way by saying people are just thoughtless and have their heads up their asses and spew diarrhea of the mouth. And I won’t take all the blame by saying I turned into a cold-faced bitch just to get through those times. Because I shouldn’t have had to be like that in the first place.

This isn’t easy for me to write because I’m not shuddering in fear inside myself now. I’m shuddering in barely-restrained anger and rage at people who hurt other people because they choose to. And I’m shuddering inside with an aching pain for good people who have been hurt by this cruelty. So to those who I rage and ache for I say this:

You have every right to your thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And you have every right to deal with them in any way you choose to, and you have every right to express them in any way you choose to (or not to).

Also, as my father used to say to me: you have every right to be happy. You don’t have to walk around feeling sad and sorry for yourself. And if someone doesn’t like and gets butt-hurt if you tell them off for their shit, remember you are NOT someone’s hemorrhoid cream. You have the right to tell them off and walk away from them. You don’t have suffer assholes if you don’t have to.

I was reminded of this last night after I read a devastating New York Times article on the child separation policy and how it was rammed through so damn hard because the cruelty was the intent all along. I shuddered and cried inside thinking I didn’t have that in me to do so. But I know it meant that I am still human, and that I can still feel enormous grief and pain over this suffering. And that I can feel enormous rage and anger at the monsters who are doing this. But as my father also used to say, you can’t run on anger forever.

So eventually my emotional storm subsided and I got up to wash dishes and get ready for bed. When I do that I put my headphones on and listen to some music. I found the Rolling Stones new release from their ‘Steel Wheels’ tour and was surprised to see some tracks on that album of songs I didn’t know they had done live before (‘Undercover of the Night’ and ‘Harlem Shuffle’). So I cranked it up and pretended I was backing the boys as I did my stuff before bedtime. Yes, that made me feel better and I refuse to apologize or take shit for that.

Don’t ever lose those moments of joy because life is both good and bad. The world is out of balance right now but we can get that balance back if we’re strong and true to ourselves and are good to each other.

Reclaiming Happiness for Healing

When the movie ‘Flashdance’ came out in 1983, I along with millions of young girls wanted to be a dancer and have it all. We all had the soundtrack album, the leg warmers, and the ripped sweatshirt. In 1983, I was nine years old and definitely not dancer-material, or physically coordinated at all. And in that year, that was painfully driven home every single day in P.E. (physical education) class when we did our exercises to the song ‘Flashdance (What a Feeling)’ by Irene Cara. By the end of that year of P.E. hell, I learned how to hate that song and for close to thirty-five years, I couldn’t listen to it without those awful memories of being picked last for any team, laughed at when I fell on my ass, and glared at daily by the P.E. teachers I had.

But in 2018, I reclaimed my love for that song.

It started on a Uber ride one morning when I was in very heavy traffic and unable to take my hands off the steering wheel to change the radio station. So I had to listen to the song, and when I did as a forty-four year-old woman, I heard these lines:

All alone I have cried

Silent tears full of pride

In a world made of steel

Made of stone

(Lyrics by Irene Cara and Keith Forsey, Music by Giorgio Mororder)

When I heard those lyrics, I shocked and amazed that I had forgotten them. Then I got back to my place and put the song on my phone and put my headphones on to listen to it again while I made breakfast. But when I heard those lines again, I bawled my brains out over a plate of breakfast tacos. Luckily no one was around to see that and my pets kept their distance from me.

I’m glad I bawled my brains out over those lyrics because after that, I began listening to the song and not thinking about being bullied and teased as a little girl. I began thinking of myself as a woman who had survived all that shit and was on the road to becoming the person I have always wanted to be. And that person is one who can smile and sing along (quite badly, I will admit) to this song and yes, even move around to it. It was like I was telling myself it was okay to cry those tears in silence alone in a shitty world because if you listen to the rest of the song, you’ll understand why this is so liberating.

For many years, I glossed over a lot of those memories of my childhood and adolescence, unwilling and unable to talk about the shittier aspects of it. But because I had stayed silent about those shit-times, I had buried the good times, too. Because despite being bullied and hated as a young child, I had an imagination and through that imagination I had hope. Hope that I could live in a world where maybe I wouldn’t sing and dance, but where I would find my dreams and make them happen. I’m working towards that now and realizing I’m so much stronger than the lies all the shit-bag assholes of this world ever told me.

And being stronger than you think is also a message of the movie ‘Flashdance’ as Alex (played by the awesome Jennifer Beales) learns in the movie, too. That year in that P.E. class took that away from me, too but I’ve gotten that message back. So I want to say here to anyone reading this: you can reclaim the good and learn how to put the bad away in boxes and store them. You’ll never forget those bad memories but when you box them up, you take away their power and you remove their sharp talons from your heart and soul.

I recently found the word for this reclaiming process: healing. Healing is when you find joy and happiness that you’d lost, or had taken from you. Healing is when you find the good behind the bad. Healing is taking a deep breath, wiping away your tears, then smiling and singing along with the old songs that made you want to dance.

I don’t think I can stress the importance of healing now. For me, when this word came to my mind it was like a punch to my stomach. It knocked the wind out of me and pissed me off like pain does. But know this: healing is not rebellious and radical. And if someone sees healing as rebellious and radical, they can take that and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. We all have wounds we need to heal from. It’s not an easy process but one that’s well worth it.

Healing is what gives me the ability to write now and bring three very important projects together. It’s slow-going at times but that’s alright. The shit-heads of this world are wanting to burn it down and not nuke us like they wanted to back in the 80’s so there’s time to write.

Most of all, there is time to heal.