unfriendly skies

I am almost four hundred dollars short on rent.

I am physically exhausted.

I am having a wee bit of emotional turmoil.

Yesterday I heard one of the women I came to know through the Treatment Center very recently, died of an overdose. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this one but in my small town it is impossible to share without the possibility of causing more pain to those living. It is very hard for me to wrap my mind around the reality this young woman was here just yesterday, and is gone today – although God Knows I have no cerebral reason to experience surprise.

That’s not all. I had a really difficult conversation that I had hoped wouldn’t have to happen. I had to stand up for myself to someone who I know to be retaliatory. My husband pointed out to me I shouldn’t be afraid because I learned to stand up to HIM back in the day and that I had a lot more to fear, then.

Well. He’s probably right. But fear keeps me company sometimes.

Life has been a creaky, uphill climb; a brief bit of comfort here and there. Then suddenly: stunning experiences of love. Today I looked out a door and saw an addict I know, sucking on one of those fake cigarettes, and I felt this surge of love. He probably doesn’t know I feel anything for him and he probably doesn’t give a shit about me. I felt this weird comfort about this. A gladness to be alive.

Tonight in another setting I waited my turn to speak and I felt an irritation and anger that rattled my chest and soured my guts. I prayed for Love and Tolerance. A few minutes later and I had it, and I could speak with love and laughter.

Today my husband put his arms around me and I felt his human presence with gratitude. In June we will celebrate sixteen years together.

In one month exactly I will celebrate three years’ sober. I am not an inarticulate woman, but the gratitude I feel is nearly impossible to express. I am aghast.

Tonight I try to give myself the gift of compassion. Sometimes it seems the only true treasure one can grasp.

bravery is required

Spring emerges. Skunk cabbage, and newts in the small freshwater streams. Flowers have erupted from the still-cold and seemingly-inhospitable earth. It felt like things weren’t going to change. It was dark. The light is spilling in.

Tonight I flush a pain prescription; yet, afterwards, I feel foolish and uncertain. What I’m really trying to do is stop struggling. The most insane of struggles that I take up, time and time again: fighting my fears.

Stop worrying. I am beginning to think one day I will lose a kidney. Despite my efforts, despite the care of physicians. For a person who has a severe fear of even minor surgical procedures, the concept of something like that is very difficult.

And it feels wasteful to flush drugs I could sell on the street. Yes, I am shocked I even have such a thought, however fleeting. I have never sold drugs and I do not think that is ethical behavior. I know it isn’t legal. And yet the thought occurs because my mind has been overrun with fear. How will I provide for my family, how can we make Rent.

It is the most powerful seduction: there is something I can do, there is an action I can take Right Now, that will sort out my life.

In the car the other day, a beloved friend and I were talking. I said – in gratitude – “God supports me,” and she responded, “Well. I support myself. I provide for myself.” I drove on for a bit and then I said, “There is a lot of suffering in that idea.”

I am going to stop saying “God” when what I mean are the three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha. I am shy about Buddhism because where I live it is a minority faith tradition. If you say “God” people might be prejudiced but at least they might not be outright bigoted about it all.

I can be a little bit brave. A little at a time.

Ten List: Things That Make Parenting Easier, #9

A few of my Twitter followers asked that I elucidate on “ten lists” I’d turned out recently. Here goes with the ninth installment of my first list: “Things That Make Parenting Easier”, based off my ten-plus years being a devoted and hard-working parent. I hope you find it helpful. That is the only point of this post. To help those who could use it.

This is item #9. You can find item #1 here, #2 here, #3 here, #4 here, #5 here, #6 here, #7 here, and #8 here.

Each post will have a picture from my life, my day, when I wrote the post. A picture from this evening: on an 8 o’clock walk, Phoenix and Hutch pause and goof around. Hutch is RARING TO GO, out to the mile long semi-wild loop we call “The Flats”, just a few blocks from my house. The kids and Hutch get to here every day; usually Ralph or I (or both) also take the dog this way later in the day.

Happy Pup + Happy Daughter

#9. Parent my hopes, not my fears. Works brilliantly.

I parented my fears for many years. I thought about writing in a general way to cover lots of ground, but I’m worried these Ten List posts are too general. So let me talk about something specifically. Manners and so-called “socialization”.

For years I tried to parent my kids to be “polite” and well-mannered. I know that sounds good on paper, right? But unfortunately, “manners” were required at the expense of my kids’ authenticity; and, to be honest, at the expense of my own. Specific social niceties were required years ahead of when it was reasonable for a child to develop them. These behaviors were essentially enforced, rather than looked at as something they would naturally learn if I modeled them; what I like to call the long view of compassionate parenting. You know those annoying adults who give your three year old child a treat and then sing-song, “What do you saaayyy?” (meaning: This was not actually a gift, YOU MUST THANK ME FOR LIKE AN ANGRY AND CAPRICIOUS MINI-GOD I DOLE OUT CORN SYRUP BLESSINGS)? Yeah, I basically went along with that. “Say ‘please’,” I’d order them. Like a douche.

I sold my children out.

Oh, not every single time of course. And hey, weren’t my intentions good? It’s something many parents do, if not most (if you seriously think I’m judging, you don’t read me too closely). Today I have compassion for my former strategies. I wasn’t just culturally-trained to parent my children this way; it was also a family lifestyle. I certainly came by it honestly.

Yet, parented this way myself, I had not only resented it, but I’d learned the wrong things. I remember going out to a restaurant and one of my parents was so servile to her perception of the waitstaff’s time schedule that often I did not get to order the food I want, rushed through my selection I’d be forced to eat something I didn’t want. I wasn’t treated like an adult would be. Well into my adulthood this same parent did the same thing. A couple years ago she apologized to the waitress when I asked, perfectly politely, for an ice tea refill. “Excuse me, may I have a refill on my ice tea?” I ask. “Sorry!” my mom winces and calls out at the waitress. TRUE STORY.

This sort of thing was not an isolated incident, but hopefully it serves. I didn’t like being parented that way for about a dozen reasons. One, I learned as a child I was less important than an adult. I always knew this was bullshite, but I didn’t seem I had many people to back me on this. (Later, sadly, I would treat my own children as “less than”.) Two, I often felt like my parents, in particular my mother, would sell my ass out to meet some kind of approval from a perfect stranger. I hated my mother for needing that kind of approval from others. I hated her for not being in my corner. If your mom’s not in your corner, who is?

I’m happy to tell you today I no longer carry that hate and resentment; my mother’s need to get approval is none of my business. But releasing the resentments of my past does not mean I don’t remember how it felt and the reflexive responses I developed. Namely, being a people-pleaser. Saying “I’m sorry” for stuff that wasn’t mine. Caring more about “polite” and “nice” than kind, compassionate, and authentic. Saying “Yes” to stuff and coming to resent the person I’d said Yes to. Twisted shit.

Years ago I read an article by author Naomi Aldort entitled “How Children Learn Manners”, which fully articulated what I didn’t like about the way I’d been raised and the way, de facto, I kept treating my own kids. This article blew open everything I couldn’t fully articulate as a child. I’ve sent it to parents now and then who struggle with this issue.

I began to parent my hopes. I began to stop demanding my children perform in public. I began watching my own behavior and talking to my husband more about the problems in our previous approach. We figured if we modeled civility the kids could learn it (we were right).

I wasn’t perfect at this – specifically relinquishing controlling behavior. Old habits die hard. There was this weird gap too where I hadn’t learned to address my kids’ deeper issues effectively, but was determined not to be scary to them in public, and there were times I was caught amiss and the kids were too. (Here’s a great, gory story you’ll love.) I went through doubts and fumbles. But I am so glad I stuck to it.

Today I have no regrets. My children are kind and considerate. When they say Thank You, they mean it. They have well-developed consciences. Two days ago I came home and the children hadn’t done the dishes as they’d said they would; when my eight year old walked in from taking the dog out he said, “I apologize mama, for not doing the dishes.” then he did them. Stuff like that. The system works.

The truth is, it is rather easy to bully one’s children into being “well-behaved”, but it is not a lasting model, and there are so many negative side effects, as I’ve written on at great length in many other writings. It isn’t the issue so much but the methodology; I was parenting out of Fear. Fear they wouldn’t be nice and that it would reflect on me. Yup, I didn’t want to admit that to myself, but that was just about it. Talk about being self-absorbed!

Today I can parent out of Hope. Not even hope – Faith. I absolutely know children grow up on their own terms, and are best served being treated well and being around adults who treat all people well, big or small. I know it because I’ve seen it. I’m passing it on here, so maybe you’ll believe in it for long enough until you see it for yourself. Maybe you can have some Hope until you get your Faith.

the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding

 
I have recently committed to a path of Honesty. This may sound easy to many on first read, but rigorous honesty is something entirely different than, “I don’t steal from my employer’s till” or, “I don’t tell bald-faced lies, or at least not that much, or only when it doesn’t matter.” It means no longer telling any lies, even those by omission – and excavating where I’ve been lying while lying to myself by not admitting I was doing so.

Deeper still, honesty to me means no longer accepting the tacit bargains of codependency and hardened hearts. It means being present in the moment (this is hard); it means caring about the other party involved in a way almost transcendant. It means risking hearing the other person’s response when I speak up with things previously unsaid. It means no longer lying to myself that omitting information isn’t dishonesty – when it really is.

Relevant to the last few days, I have committed to being honest about my thoughts and feelings with my friends – specifically when something they do hurts me or affects me adversely. Everyone is different, and some people (though I suspect, not so many) do not have this difficulty in their relationships; however, I historically have. What I have typically done in the past is either held my feelings inside (and thus developed either resentment or anxiety, or both) and/or perhaps committed to avoiding or turning off to these people – cutting off or curtailing friendship. I’ve often thought a version, a lie really, not so specifically spoken, of “easy come easy go”. It has been my softer, more cowardly way to let go of a possible intimacy than do the scary work of growth.

You can imagine how hard it is to live this way with husband and children. I’ve caused a lot of suffering for them and myself.

And finally, I am of course of severely diminished use to anyone else – everyone else – when I live this way.

Yes; when I live this way, growing active cultures of Anxiety and Resentment, I become Fearful and Angry. I don’t necessarily complain too vociferously to other people about the party who hurt me; but of course I have spoken evil about individuals. I regret this as these behaviors accomplished nothing good. I don’t want to do this any more.

My avoidance tendencies and my responses due to deep-seated fear of being cut off (from affection, mostly) were developed and perfected over a period of many years, as a result of my upbringing and as a survival mechanism. While understandable responses as a child, I have spent years parcelling my mind, heart, and spirit into ever more narrow and frightened spaces. I’ve outgrown the usefulness of these strategies and they now hurt deeply – and not just me.

So I am honest now – to the best of my abilities – and it is not at all the freeing experience one who hasn’t committed to fully might guess. It is quite terrifying. Implicit in telling someone, “Ouch, that hurt” is every single Boogeyman that kept me from saying it for years. The possible responses: “See you later, I don’t need this shit”, “Come on, you’re making a big deal of nothing!”, or “Well now that you’ve opened the floodgates let me tell YOU just what I think about YOU!” – exactly the results I’d feared so much and for so long. It risks everything I hadn’t been willing to risk before – all this at a time in my life, now, where I am learning to cope with life on life’s terms; without the evening cocktail to obliterate the pain.

See, telling someone I’m hurt is the opposite of a Control thing; no, Control was what I’d tried to maintain earlier by my dishonesty. Speaking aloud these truths is not done to secure a friend’s future behavior nor demand anything in particular from them, but to be honest about who I am – today – and what I think and feel. I don’t require people change, and I could not force this result even if I wished to; to the best of my ability I merely tell them in as direct and brief a way possible (seriously, like one sentence) what they did and that it hurt. Then I wait to see how they respond.

Turns out, so far, some people don’t like this kind of honesty much. Most recently, someone I care for very much literally stomped out of my house. I won’t write down the things this person was quite quick to talk over me and claim about my character, but they were many and they weren’t complimentary.

After the person left it felt so tempting and familiar to think of attempts to “take it back” – to apologize if I hurt their feelings – to diminish what I said as if one or two sentences were too much for me to claim. But I can’t apologize for other people’s experiences (or feelings). And at the same time I am brave enough to be honest, I realize there is no friendship I absolutely need – there are many I want to keep, if possible. What I need is to love others unconditionally, and to instantly forgive them when they wrong me – even if they never apologize.

I am no longer going to deal the way I used to with those who respond poorly to me; even those who outright try to hurt me. I can’t afford to hold a grudge or cut them off from my thoughts and prayers.

The one time in my life, that I can remember, that I earnestly wished for death – I sat in an AA meeting in early sobriety and even my final barrier, that I could never physically destroy my body for the pain it would cause my children, in that moment even that barrier was removed – a man shared and at one point he said, “No one owes you a goddamned thing for getting sober.”

His words were like freshets of water and they give me strength now.

But, unlike the words of my mentor and virtual life coach Dalton – I find pain, really, does hurt.

America is for Americans

freaky friday

Quotable
Something I wrote last Friday was quoted at both The Life Learning (Unschooling) Happiness Project and Life Learning Magazine. I love it when I’m quoted without an accompanying descriptor, hee. And in the case of Life Learning I mean look who else is quoted there. Come on. Who wouldn’t feel just a teensy bit awesome about that?

Culture & Pop Culture
“A Decade of Fear” from Information is Beautiful
I wonder how many people think of the toll that obsessive fear plays on our own and others’ psyche.

Kanye’s new video got leaked, so they’ll be much this-and-that discussion. Right out of the gate PostBourgie and Ta-Nehisi Coates came forth with pieces I enjoyed.

Refiguring the Passive Girl Toy at SocImages (Yeah, that’s me that made the submission. SocImages has the readers do a lot of their legwork, I think they should work harder on the linky-love, but then what do I know. I have a tiny site with small readership).
The first commenter asserts girls won’t like having their toys chopped up (so I guess this person doesn’t understand the concept of a child owning his/her own toys and getting to make that decision on their own?). Never fear, many readers (several of which who were once, you know, actual girls) chime in with how very much they DID like hacking their toys. Yarp.

Health
The new issue of Squat! is available. If you’d like you can read last summer’s first issue gratis, which features a piece by reader and friend Kat (“Unassisted Birth Story of David Elijah Kirkwood”).

From The Unnecesarean: “Nitrous Oxide for Laboring Women in the United States”. I am truly gobsmacked with what women face in the hospital, this form of low-risk and near instantaneous assistance (which has the additional advantage of being in the mama’s control) is not available.

Some perspective on the obese monsters who are Ruining America (and the concern trolls who love them), brought to us by Idzie’s tumblog and from Fat Heffalump.

Work
“A Plentitude of Work” by WendyPriesnitz: “unjobbing”, not just for SNAGs anymore.

Race
Re: Huckleberry Finn – I read easily a half dozen pieces this week. I enjoyed the summation “Voices: The Huckleberry Finn Controversy” at Racialicious, Renee’s perspective, and The N-word belongs in “Huckleberry Finn”, by Elon James in “This Week in Blackness” at Salon

This isn’t a case of political correctness. This is a case of being racially uncomfortable [ … ] America, in its constant obsession with being seen as “awesome,” will actively try to Photoshop its own historical portrait. (Um… is this last sentence pretty much the best sentence I’ve read about America? Yeah. I think so)

“Nickelodeon Gets Diversity Points, But Still Overlooks Race” at Colorlines

Also from Colorlines: “Two Young Girls Climb U.S./Mexico Border Fence in 18 Seconds”; please do watch both videos.

“Racists Totally Freak Out Over Muslim ‘Batman of Paris'”; this came to me via Ralph. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen (white) fanboys froth at the mouth regarding the God-given imperative to cast white actors in supposedly white-sourced roles. Guess how many mainstream Hollywood films have featured black superheroes as title character? No, guess. (I’d cite non-black poc statistics but I actually don’t know the answer on that one).

Make/Craft
Milk Punch at smittenkitten (h/t Paige). We made a non-booze version and it was delicious; Ralph especially enjoyed it.

The Soul Roll by Emeril. Made this two days ago and? Yeah. Delicious. Do make the sweet cornbread with this meal. It perfectly balances the NOMNOMNOMness.

Environment
“It is the main topic along the border. And the strange thing is it’s very hard to find anyone for it.” Speaking of the U.S./Mexican border fence, as the largest country-dividing construction since the Great Wall of China (h/t reader and friend Jeanne), the levels of suckery are boundless: “The US-Mexico Wall, it’s Borderlands, Wildlife, and People” from triggerpit. Beautiful, amazing photos and a wonderful and informative perspective in the text.

“Nobody disagrees on how this is affecting the environment, the only disagreement is how important the environment is in the overall discussion.” Ana Cordova, Ph, D, Institute for Northern Border Studies. US-Mexico

Tweet Of The Week
Yeah, I totally agree.

Random Awesomeness
America is for Americans

No matter how mean the internet is sometimes, mashups #FTW: