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Proper Sorrows

Shortly before I moved back to Maine from San Francisco, I was subject to a devastating life change that sent me into the deepest depression I had experienced in my life. Good news for my dear friend Erin, who was composing a photography series called Proper Sorrows.
The name of the series comes from the 19th century when women were institutionalized, often in their own homes (see The Yellow Wallpaper), for experiencing “undue” or “prolonged” sadness over events in their lives like miscarriages. There was a mourning period that was considered “proper,” and beyond that, women were considered hysterical, and subject to treatment. Signed off on by their owners — err, husbands.
So, as much as I hate being photographed, I agreed to be part of the project. Erin made it comfortable and easy, and I love her results, even if I don’t love looking at myself.
Here is the shot she ended up displaying as part of the exhibit.
I thought of this today because the last time I remember feeling like I do right now, I was crying soundlessly in a chair on my back patio. I am devastated to my core and I can’t see any light at the end of any tunnel and I really don’t want anyone to try and convince me to see things differently just yet.
Allow me my sorrow. Let me decide what is proper.

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Today.

Today, a car almost hit mine head-on when the driver turned the wrong way up State Street out of a driveway at the bottom of a block. The oncoming vehicle I had no way to avoid felt familiar.
Today, I wanted to apologize to every little girl I saw in the grocery store.
Today, I cried in front of strangers and friends.
Today, I wondered if my pharmacist was just better at putting on a customer service face than I am these days, or if he was not bothered.
Today, I attended, and left, a vigil that did not feel like where I wanted to be.
Today, I supported and comforted others who are mourning because it is the only thing I have to give that does not take from me what little I have in reserves to function.
Today, I wondered where I could go and feel safe, and I had an answer.
Today, I am broken. Today, I am fucking destroyed. Today, I am unable to trust more than half of the people around me. Today, I cannot understand. Today, I want to know WHY.
Some of these things will also be tomorrow. Some will be Friday, and next Wednesday, and January 20.
What I am not today, is unable to go on. And I know that that is not how many of us feel.
If you today, are unable to go on, please, please reach out to someone who will help you not have to. We can hold onto the rest of the pieces so you can just exist, in stasis, until you are ready to move. We can make the phone calls and mail the rent checks and call the bosses and do the grocery shopping. We can change the sheets and get fresh kleenex and pick up the kids and find that DVD. If you can’t do these things for someone else but you have a few dollars to share with someone who can, donate to one of the organizations below, or the ACLU, or your local worker’s center or pride committee or women’s health clinic.
We need each other more than ever. Let’s pair the resources with the need and get each other through this.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
24-hour Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386

http://www.translifeline.org/
US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366

Crisis Text Line
Text NAMI to 741-741
24/7 crisis support via text message

Imperfect ally.

Part one of a two-part post, which was written second, but which needs to come first.

I fuck up. Often. And on many levels.
I get defensive.
I try to recognize when I feel defensive, so I can check myself. Defensiveness is often a sign that my privilege is leading the way.
But I don’t always see it.
Sometimes, I don’t realize that I’m being ableist, or racist, or transphobic, or otherwise Othering.

Sometimes, I learn this by being on the sidelines of a conversation that could well have involved me. That always feels a bit like I’ve dodged a bullet: if I had said that thing that that person said, which I would have said if I had been a part of this conversation and not just observing, then I would feel defensive and also like a horrible person. Now I’ve learned that that thing is not an okay thing to say, and also why.

But sometimes, I am the person who says the thing. And I can beat myself up about that for days and weeks and months after I’ve learned why it was a terrible thing to say and what it really means for me to have said it, but I can never take it back.

I’m trying to learn how to lift up the voices of communities to which I do not belong, in spaces where I have privilege they do not have. I am trying to center those communities rather than speak for them. And as I was typing this, I realized that part of the problem is that, I’m not asking them how to do it. And that’s in large part because I’m afraid that I will be told that it isn’t up to them to teach me, because haven’t they got enough to do just trying to survive in a world that wishes they wouldn’t? And it is 100% valid for them to say that.

I don’t know how to fix the disenfranchisement, discrimination against, and outright slaughter of people I consider community and family. People whose lives I value. People whose fate could be mine, if the bigots of the world could see past my presentation, which they perceive one way, and know me for the perverse individual they would think I am if they knew my truth. But I want to. Maybe not “fix,” but “work toward a fix for.” Whatever I can offer, but don’t know how to give.

Knowing “just enough to be dangerous” has greater consequences in some situations than others. How can I be a better ally now, and continue to grow in that capacity?

Moderation, redux.

Temperance. From Phantomwise tarot deck by Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Temperance. From the Phantomwise tarot deck by Erin Morgenstern

I knew before I started writing this blog post last night that I had already written about moderation at least once, some time ago. I was thinking about it again because it only took a week for me to decide that writing about a word a day is too much.

You know those savings plans where you put away a penny on January 1, then 2¢ on January 2, etc., so that when on December 31 when you add $3.65 you’ve saved ONE MIIIIIIILLION DOLLARS? So it’s great cumulatively, but the whole point is that it’s just a tiny bit a day, so you don’t really notice it. Similarly, writing about a word a day is more like a daily reflection: interesting to think about, and maybe it’ll shape an interaction I have today, or impact how I see something today, but it just doesn’t have the teeth for long-term impact. The same way that ONE MIIIIIIILLION DOLLARS is really only $668: nice to have, but not going to buy me that new car.

So I’ll work toward my emotional/spiritual “new car” here, whatever that looks like, by setting an intention, but not a goal. There’s no end to my evolution, as long as I stay where things work.

Feelings day.

Things I have Feelings about tonight, and something like a briefing on what those feelings are:

David Bowie: I feel (1) less-than, that I don’t have profound David Bowie experiences in my past that make his passing painful for me. (2) angry, that I wasn’t exposed (heh) to David Bowie until, really, last year when Sarah Holmes found out that I’d never seen Labyrinth (and probably reconsidered our entire friendship but thankfully has not disowned me), and corrected this problem. (3) alienated, as is often the case when Big Important Things happen that rock large sections of my social circle because they belong to a larger pop culture community.

Shadow of the Hegemon: I know maybe one person who has read this book, and if he has, our opinions and experiences are vastly different. Also, his philosophical muscle is developed to the point where his thoughts about my reactions would certainly feel over my head. Despite that, I would absolutely bring him my feelings about the religious and moral condemnation that occurs between Bean and Theresa if he weren’t taking care of his ailing father right now. Hell, maybe I should – maybe it would help, be a distraction. But I’m not going to take a chance at that not being the case.

Love: too many perspectives, objectives, opinions, to relate what it all comes down to really. But people, places, and things, all have their say. And sometimes I feel like there is no space left for my words, my thoughts, my feelings, my questions, even if I’m directly involved in the conversation. But that’s my own stuff to work on.

Yes.

This secret from Brian Andreas (creator of StoryPeople) is exactly what I was thinking when I came to write this post. He has another story called “Say Yes,” but this one is better for me personally.

I feel like maybe 2015 pushed the winter away a bit so I would have long enough to prepare to say Yes to more this year. I am saying yes to adding activities to my days, saying yes to new experiences, saying yes to spending time with new people, saying yes to getting out of the damned house even when it’s cold out there. I’m sleeping well for the first time in probably my entire life, and I know that’s contributing to my energy level and my overall mental health as well as the obvious physical benefits. Whatever combination of factors is making it true, I’m finding that I want to say yes more than I have in a while. It’s a nice feeling.

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Patience.

It may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine. At least, not tonight when I’m waiting for my first ever yeast dough to rise. I’ve received verbal hand-slaps telling me to walk away from it, but it’s soooo hard!

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Listen.

Several years ago, I was presented with the notion that in conversation, people tend not to listen, but rather to wait for their opportunity to speak. It didn’t take me long to see that that was exactly what I did more often than not, and I’ve made a conscious effort to change that over time. There are other ways that the word “listen” informs my days as well, especially recently.

More than ever, even than when I worked for a magazine focused on audiobooks, I’ve been listening to at least as many books as I’ve been reading. This requires that I actually hear every word, rather than skimming or taking in whole sentences with my eyes for the gist rather than truly reading it as it was written. As much as I enjoy reading, I often get so caught up in the story that I don’t want it to be “interrupted” by lengthy descriptions of the surroundings, or of family histories, or other “non-essential” bits. But, when I am forced to listen to them rather than having the option to skip to the next part I think is important, it becomes a much more fulfilling experience.

Finally, I’m listening to myself. My true self, my authentic self, the self that loves me and believes in me and knows what is best for me. This self lets me know when I need more sleep, or that my body wants fuel, or that’s it’s okay to say no. This self doesn’t berate me for my choices, doesn’t allow me to feel like I’m participating in willful inaction rather than purposefully engaging in my life. When I wake from an extra-long night of sleep and feel refreshed (yes, that’s why I’m writing this morning instead of yesterday), this is my reward for listening rather than pushing through to some arbitrary number of hours of activity. When I feel satisfied and strong after a meal, it’s  a reminder that my body knows better than my brain what it needs to carry me through my days. Every action, or decision not to act, can be driven by either a positive or a negative thought. By choosing to listen to my kind and loving self rather than the unkind voice that shames me for my choices, I experience happier, healthier days. And nights, because sleep is so, so good, y’all.

So, I’m trying to listen. To other people, to the words my eyes might otherwise miss, to my best self. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always for the best.

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Leap.

I am surprised not at all to find that, even just three days in, the common theme of “words” has shown itself in 2016. When I met with my FlyLady mentor last night, she asked me if I had picked my word for the year yet. I didn’t know this was A Thing, but I had written here on Friday and “authenticity” had been knocking on my brain-door, so there was that. Then later last night, Jennifer Lawson, aka The Bloggess, referenced #oneword2016.

The first time I chose a word to take with me throughout a year was, I think, in 2009, when I chose the word, “Affirmation.” I imagine that one will pop up sometime this year as well, but as I’ve just now decided that I will do a word a DAY, who knows when that’ll be!

So, a word a day for 2016. Some days, it may be all I can do to pick a word and post just that word here. Sometimes that word may be “Nope.” I don’t guarantee that there will be 365 — oh wait, Leap Year, 366 unique words. But, I’ll try.

Today’s word came to me as I was writing this. “Leap.” The word itself was in my head because of the realization about Leap Year, of course, but then I thought about my adventure today out on Spring Point Ledge. Now, I realized last year when I started adult ballet, that adults don’t really have much call to bring both feet off the ground at the same time. Unless your gym routine includes box jumps or jumprope or other jumpy type things, we typically have one foot on solid ground most of the time.Taking ballet for the first time in nearly 20 years, I was jumping – leaping – for the first time in likely nearly as long. Sissonne, assemblé, changement, as both feet came off the ground in the 3rd floor studio, I could only think about landing lightly, not about the actual movement I was attempting to execute.

Today was a little different. I was out on a breakwater of granite slabs, in running shoes, mismatched legwarmers, capris, a hoodie, and a wool hat. I left home on a mission, pretending I didn’t remember that the last time I thought about walking out to this lighthouse, in summer no less, I turned back right at the stairs leading down to the first stones. Today, I took the leap. Only barely, and only a few times, and I may have stopped at one point and sent a message to a friend that said, “I don’t intend to die out here today, but in case you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m out on Spring Point Ledge.” But, a few times today, both of my feet were off the ground. As I think about this, I wonder if maybe I’m shifting into a place where I would sooner place my trust in my eyes, my feet, my physical senses in general, than in my emotional senses. Because, while I may not feel this as vehemently, I love this line from High Fidelity:

Rob: “Should I bolt every time I get that feeling in my gut when I meet someone new? Well, I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.”

My guts could very easily have had me curled up in the fetal position out on that breakwater today. There was a point where I felt like I was too far from the goal to go on, and too far from the start to turn back. It wasn’t that moving in any direction was terribly difficult, but that it required a bit of a leap. Both feet had to come up. I had to trust that, if I momentarily lost contact with what grounded me, what felt solid and safe to me, I would yet find purchase, and be supported by where I landed.

So, today’s word is “Leap.” I want to remember that I can leap and land safely. Just little leaps – I don’t need to try and traverse grand chasms. But it’s okay to get a little air. To leave the ground entirely, trusting it to meet me again when I’m ready to come back down.

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