Friday, December 9, 2016

Falling in Love for the First Time

I am fascinated by the posture of an archaeologist, bent over and completely immersed in the task at hand. I wonder at their hands, which so gently brush away dirt, which so carefully move away any debris from the treasured object they seek. It is amazing  how for hours, they imagine the shape of the object enough to know which part of the light brown needs to be moved away, for it all looks the same to me. But their imaginations take them deep below the surface, into what they have read about and perhaps have seen samples of, yet this one is deeper, new, in a different place, significant even if it is insignificant in some realms.
This time and attention is love.
It is a constant and tender uncovering, this diligent brushing away. The imagination of what is beneath must be reconciled to an openness of what is, of managing real limitations and swaddling beliefs in utter, blind hope.
Rudolf Steiner, in his theories of child development, recognized twelve senses. One of those senses is the "sense of life". On a visceral level, this is knowing when you are hungry, thirsty, etc. but I believe it also includes emotional and relational needs...when you need touch, when you need to play, when you need time alone with your thoughts, etc. Other people around you give you the sense of goodness in the world, that your needs are ok, that you are loved and affirmed. A good sense of life in childhood will leave you with a profound sense of trust in the world, and a deep belief that overall, the world is good.
I was thinking about how this relates to trauma. Trauma takes the sense of life from "the world is good" to "the world is hurtful and undependable", or "the world is good sometimes, and mostly unbearable", or "the world doesn't want or need me here." Trauma disorders the sense of life and creates a chaotic, unstable reality. The others who surround a child can create the chaos that takes away their sense of the world as good. Systems of culture, family, and civilization that create poverty, lack of safety, and lack of stability for children contribute to this trauma. I think we are all aware of that. But if you haven't lived it, you can't really know what it's like to live like then hear that it's your fault for being poor...for being judged on where you live...for not being able to "pull up your bootstraps" because someone keeps taking your boots through more and more demands of your resources. And those who have the power to change it, don't.
This indifference and abuse of power is hate.
It is a witnessing of suffering, or even having a hand in causing suffering and turning to not look.
Despite this, and my personal experience with people like this, I have fallen in love. I have fallen in love with life. My healing took a wide turn straight into freedom. I am free of abusers. I love humanity but I hate their abuses. There is no price an abuser could pay for me to be with them. I am willing to pay abusers to stay far away from me. I am so grateful and happy to be free it is incredible. I feel like I climbed a mountain, like I arrived, that therapy is archaeology and after hours and hours of  loving intention, I found my love. I found my grace. I found my peace. I am holding in my hands this volcanic ash, centuries old, blessed by the mother goddess, consecrated by my work, connected to all that is good and loving in this world. I can handle my broken places. I can change and grow.
This shift in healing...from being attracted to what abusers offer to being attracted to the goodness of the world, feels huge. I used to go to wailing walls, where a person was the wall, and I was the one who wailed. But I turned around. I saw there was so much more to life than wailing walls.
Healing from trauma requires an imagination, the imagination of archaeology. If you can't imagine that underneath the rubble of what is disordered, there is something good and peaceful, then you lose hope, or you become abusive. There is not much else to do. You must see with your heart that there is something more to life than pain and suffering. There is more than what is unbearable. There is more than making life unbearable for someone else. Then you take up your love for yourself and for others and for this life, and start in with patience. It is tedious, time-consuming, difficult, and uncomfortable work. You lose a lot but most of what you lose is rubble anyway. And the treasured healing..the clarity and freedom...the absolute knowing there is something more...that is so dear, so priceless.
Thank you, thank you abusers for leading me to a happy place, for showing me the dark underbelly of everything, for helping me see the other side, for you yourselves being a sorry contrast to all that is kind and good and a shining example of what is completely messed up in this world.
Maybe this is just one part of my healing. I have no illusions that the darkness of the world won't seep back into my soul.
Today, though, I am in love with life and this welcome bolus of hope. No matter what I thought before, healing IS possible.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I read some of my writing out loud, to fellow students, and the whole time I was nervously thinking, "This is crap. Why am I doing this? I have nothing new to say. I hate my writing." I was looking back at some of my writing and thought about a turn of phrase I fell in love with. For days this phrase delighted me. I was positively like a raccoon with a shiny found treasure, something dug up or stolen from a hole-y pocket or found beside a stream. Something sparkling and real and satisfying. I took that treasured turn of words and tucked it into a poem and a short story. I was euphoric.
And then I wasn't. I read those words after some time had passed, and they seemed awkward, less clever, out of context. Why had I held on with such glee to such a mediocre string of words?
I know why. Because I am an artist. I spend so much time with my inner "editor" I forget there are a host of other parts that bring about my art. And the smiling raccoon-like glee? Totally the point of making art. Any self-congratulatory glee is part of the process.
Because artists know that we are all a little lost. Uncovering a turn of phrase, an arc of brush stroke, a lovely yellow, a wide-open voice, a clear speech, an embodied dance, a lived-out character....uncovers a part of the artist. It is finding something you didn't know about yourself or the world. It is a relentless examination and turning over of something to articulate, some gestalt. Even if that  part is the gleeful, complacent part. That is the part of an artist that is immersed in a flow of spirit...of some unknown spirit...of compulsion to keep doing it over and over and over, striving to uncover, digging deeper, opening heart and eyes wider and wider to SEE.
I think artists, in discovering parts of themselves, are always moving toward what is essential. They are the archaeologists of essence, of revealing what it means to be human in this minute, in this day, in this era. Give me some ache, some dark underbelly, something raunchy. Tell me how it is. Throw in some beauty.
When artists lose their glee and attraction to shining ideas, perhaps they have been spoilt by modern times...busy-ness and manufacturing. It's difficult when art has been cheapened by mass manufacturing, and you can't necessarily make a living being a free have to produce something and be financially accountable to your art. Or at least there is pressure to do that.
But that is never the point. If you produce nothing through your idea-saturated glee, you are still an artist.
I revisited that written phrase with different eyes. Yes, it was silly and out of place but I still liked it. It wasn't quite the old food in the fridge I imagined it to be, although it wasn't a shiny trinket either. It just needs tweaking. It bothered me enough to hang on and stay, and not be an idea that got tossed into the fire or was ingloriously unraveled. Destruction is essential too.
Whatever ideas and art visit me, whatever I do or don't get done, I am still an artist and this is how I live.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Don't fall in love

I loved this. I lost this woman and now she is back.

"Don’t fall in love with a woman who reads, a woman who feels too much, a woman who writes...
Don’t fall in love with an educated, magical, delusional, crazy
Don’t fall in love with a woman who thinks, who knows what she knows and also knows how to fly; a woman sure of herself.
Don’t fall in love with a woman who laughs or cries making love, knows how to turn her spirit into flesh; let alone one that loves poetry (these are the most dangerous), or spends half an hour contemplating a painting and isn't able to live without music.
Don’t fall in love with a woman who is interested in politics and is rebellious and feel a huge horror from injustice. One who does not like to watch television at all. Or a woman who is beautiful no matter the features of her face or her body.
Don’t fall in love with a woman who is intense, entertaining, lucid and irreverent. Don’t wish to fall in love with a woman like that. Because when you fall in love with a woman like that, whether she stays with you or not, whether she loves you or not, from a woman like that, you never come back.”

-Martha Rivera-Garrido, Poet

A Strange Courage

"Abuse can make you feel straitjacketed." -Lundy Bancroft

I have all kinds of themes touching my thoughts this morning...anger, righteousness, injustice, slavery of all kinds, how abuse puts you in jail for crimes the jailer committed against you. How that makes no sense. How education has opened my eyes. How I read about global structures and how people are enslaved at the hands of the powers that be, and how I've experienced this very enslavement in abusive families-same structure, same dynamics, much smaller group. How this has become what I write about, at least for awhile. I don't know many others who are writing about their childhood, marital, or family traumas from a healing perspective. I know there are a lot of people trying to break free from narcissists, who write about narcissists and the pain they cause, because narcissists work by denying their victims so many aspects of humanity. This front-line information is important.
And it's a part of healing, because you have to know what you are dealing with. If you were dealing with anything else, you'd have support. But for complicated reasons, narcissism is a more socially acceptable disorder to have. Narcissists even deny research because they won't get diagnosed. So we have to rely on people who experience it. Abusers ARE different and play by completely different human rules than the rest of us. While I hope people never stop writing, speaking up, and finding places to embolden their grief around narcissistic abuse, I also want to dig deeper. It is my belief that often, a person finds a narcissist because they are subconsciously seeking a re-enactment of childhood trauma. They are seeking the security of jail, no matter how painful a security it is.
I want to write from the front lines of healing from this sordid, unimaginable type of abuse. It's hard to come to grips with people who completely disrespect and disregard ANYONE'S humanity, but much less understandable when that disregard is personal because of the relationship.
Forty-four years is how long it took me to realize. Forty-eight years to break out of jail. That's a long time and I could hold my life in my hands and pore over it with all regret and anguish and hurt and pain of nearly a half-century.
But in the words of a favorite artist, Louise Bourgeois:

The elements of the abuser's pretend-jail are always embedded in a system. There is always a jailer and an inmate. And this system supports patterns. One pattern is the blaming setup: "I use power to offend, harm, or dominate someone, then when they react or protest, I use their reaction to show how illogical and wrong they are, and abuse them more."
Another pattern is the "Kick-'em-while-they're-down" setup: "I deliberately undermine or cripple my target in some way, then I make sure to make demands of them that compromise them further."
It becomes funny after awhile, how predictable the abuser is. After every interaction, you can say, "Called it!"
It becomes sad, though, when you realize your own patterns in response to all this. It's Seligman's theory of learned helplessness all over again, only applied to abusive human relationships. Yet another cage...jail...straitjacket. It's easy to stay in the cage.
But as I have written, part of healing is separating yourself in character and orientation to abusers. It means realizing you are irreconcilably different in basic morals. There really is a good and bad, but not in the way you originally took it. You realize that while angry at the treatment you received, and while you made big mistakes, you don't hurt people for fun. You don't take in their complaints about how you are hurting them and use that as a reason to ignore them. You feel remorse, they don't. You seek the truth, they deliberately twist the truth and ignore it.
A strange courage overcame me when I realized that I was different. I realized the straitjacket was theirs, not mine. Any human being bound by a compulsion to control is in their own jail.
Then I felt incredibly free. I realized, they can't touch me. The abusers of this world can take my blood, my marrow. Here, millionaire, need an extra five grand? Great! Take all of my money. I am filled with gratitude that I am out of the cage and never have to go back. Poverty doesn't scare me as much as it does you. I never again have to talk to people who have used, exploited, cruelly judged, criticized, and abused me. I never have to step through dysfunctional goo or dread all these weird, unspoken rules and dynamics that play out in sick families. I never have to listen to them talking behind each others backs, calling each other names, and laughing about how they hurt someone. I never have to witness constant hypocrisy as part of my personal daily life. Anyone who scapegoats is doing wrong.
All monies I have to spend on being free are my freedom fund. I am so incredibly grateful. My health and my soul are intact. In fact, I have become stronger through my reverse learning...learning how not to treat someone else by being mistreated.
Watch me dance my life as a prayer of thanksgiving. I have learned that freedom from narcissists and abusers comes with a price, and great loss. Loss of dreams, money, relationships, security, time. Loss of self. Loss of touch with what is human. Loss of knowledge. Loss of love. Loss of will to live. Loss of faith in God. Loss of faith in humanity. Loss of friendships. Loss of way home.
But that price is so worth the deliverance.All of those you can get back, except for time. And time spent in soul-health and love as you travel on this planet is worth everything. Having sold your soul to the devil, you realize you CAN buy it back. It was never his to begin with.
Ah, freedom, sweet freedom. It's the only way to love.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

patriarchy is a myth-poem

Patriarchy is a myth

that was belted out in fatherly lines across bare buttocks
that sang through and sailed over my head in
wails I dared not publish
it was smeared red with anger across bare thigh backs
the movement of the myth was not like the other stories I heard
rather,  this myth rang violent staccato blows to my spine, my temples
through fatherly hands: BOOM BOOM BOOM
This myth stood over me as a child and stained my bones with fatherly screams
yes, my very skin, and muscles, and heart could not stop the blatant poison
from marking my bones
where were my hands? Not allowed to move
as the gun was pushed to my mother's temple
I will fatherly blow your brains out
you fucking bitch, the hero of the myth spits out
comply, or be fatherly punished
and I will suck the marrow out of those bones
what kind of curious myth has no end
what angered river of tale never ceases to flow
never even tries to father or ache or soften
can literally be beaten into a woman's body
isn't it a scientific marvel? How her very cells and bones
will ever be fathered by storied violence. "We broke her".
-noted with cold intellectual pride. Yet husbands are myths too
Husbanded to magical, mythological patriarchy, cut through with vengeance
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the fatherly
the bank account myth within a myth-that's a good one
told by no one fatherly who sees or has a care
this one is where patriarchy took a deep stab at equality
it was a joking ode and its fathered husband-fist; fat, full of hundred dollar bills
forcefully sanctioned the taking of food out of the mouths of its own children
my account of this became equal to or less than impoverished;
because I am a she who displeased and who cried and who dared
because where man is wealthy, and one-down is poor, that is fatherly equality
(Laugh here)
Some cry under their breath: asshole
Others cry: get HER
some silently applaud from the fatherly sidelines
others move it to their fatherly bedrooms
some say she's crazy, she's stupid, she's fatherly; making it up
others simply cry, for
patriarchy is a myth we don't speak.

After the Divide/Enmeshed

Once the necessary divide has clearly occurred, oppressors have a choice.
To back up some, the alternative to division is enmeshment. Enmeshment demands loyalty to a pre-set grouping of dysfunctional or immoral behaviors. Under the rules of enmeshment, peace becomes compliance, and love becomes subjugation. Strict adherence to the local and familial laws of enmeshment make change difficult, and make enmeshment something akin to jail. To escape this feeling of suffocation, the ones enmeshed cope with their subjugation by fiercely adhering to it. The oppressors do that by getting really good at hypocrisy. Meaning, they silence the loudness of their misdeeds by emphasizing the superficial. They focus on the ill manners, dress, or habits of others: the ones they seek to oppress. They criticize and relentlessly judge anyone who does not hold to their narrow code of enmeshment.
Conflict does arise among the enmeshed set but the outcome is to fiercely guard the fragile status quo rather than actually grow and become good human beings. Therefore, they lie about themselves, to themselves and everyone else. Enmeshment is a system of fear that breeds cowardice through narcissistic injury.
One need look no further than racism to understand this. White supremacy rests on assumptions of superiority, and a litany of irrational judgements placed on people for their skin color. Bigots don't just judge on skin color. They judge on last name, how you keep your house, where you live, what you drive, who you know, what church you go to, the color of your skin, how you talk, your teeth, your shoes, your mannerisms, your words, your thoughts, you get the idea.  A bigot is a bigot is a bigot and will scare up hatred as it pleases. They then do exactly what they criticize you for doing. They can be scary. Their contradictions and insistence on ignoring facts are just plain scary.
However, I have never been one to take off my rose-colored glasses with regards to oppressors. No matter how entrenched in their dysfunction or how harmful their behaviors, I believe in the power of the human spirit to change and to come to an understanding of one's self as inwardly good, as opposed to outwardly good, and let the good inside match the good outside. Congruence, as truth, is underrated.
This is where the divide comes in. Dividing the oppressed from the oppressors is completely necessary. But then, faced with the truth of their oppressive behavior, oppressors have a choice. They can continue to oppress, or they can enter into a conflict.
We have this human capacity to compartmentalize. Through our feelings and impulses, we then make decisions and act on those divisions. So seeing something as all good or all bad is the norm, rather than seeing something that has a critical mass of good, or a critical mass of bad. Most abusers amass a huge critical mass of bad, because every time they are given the chance to make things right, they predictably choose the wrong path, the one that harms a scapegoat the most.
Now, continuing to oppress is the easy way out. Oppressors have to protect their entitlement and enmeshment in a system that allows harm to a fellow human being. No change is required, and all oppressors have to do is to replay their same old boring track of judgements and manipulations. They might have to shift audiences, but who cares. They're taking care of Number One. No growth and no change is possible with people like this.
But I believe that a divide is not a forever proposition but part of a social healing process towards advancing humanity.  It is forever if abusers continue to abuse, and in our country, that is exactly what is happening. Finding middle ground is a fiction, for the middle ground is humanity. Abusers have to bring themselves down, while the oppressed have to bring themselves up. Human rights, and therefore, justice, is the meeting in the middle. This way of thinking obliterates the oppressor/oppressed system.
Entering into conflict has one purpose: to make the oppressor face the consequences of his or her actions. Only the most courageous have the sense to do that, and the wisdom to see the bigger picture of actually benefitting MORE from good will and harmony than from enmeshment and abuse. The lie is that being an abuser confers benefits. Sure, it might confer benefits of entitlement, but it confers no benefits of soul. So of COURSE we never hear stories of someone willingly making amends. Normally, in our litigious culture, people have to be court-ordered to do the right thing and make restitution. We can't even make restitution for broken treaties...our country hems and haws and finds even more heinous ways to civilize its barbarianism. And the very rich and entitled will twist it to demand restitution from those they've abused, which is even more heinous and immoral.
At the end of the conflict, the desired outcome is always an acknowledgement of equality...that one's humanity is not less than the other's.
But what if some courageous soul started a amends movement...ah. I can hope. Instead, we have to start forgiveness projects and the oppressed carry the suffering and also reap the benefits of spiritual growth.
The ball's always in your court, abusers. Now start to play the game with fairness.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Necessary Divide

Matthew 10:34-36

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. "

I understand the common Christian interpretation of this verse is that the divide is between believers and non-believers. My interpretation is the social justice version. I believe that Jesus was an excellent example of a warrior for social justice, and on further examination, this verse will lead us to a principle many fear but that ultimately leads to peace.
Abuse of any kind creates a divide. To relate abuse and social injustice, remember that social injustice has to do with distribution of advantages and therefore, resources. When a person or group of people seeks to gain advantage over another person or group of people through oppression, that is abusive and therefore, injustice occurs. In a family, the leverage is wrought over another through verbal, economic, physical, or sexual means and sets up a false dependency. The abuser sets up a situation, where, by beating into or starving out of or ignoring the needs of another, that other must enter into a struggle and fight to regain their humanity.
This is where Jesus's sword comes in. The sword severs oppressors from the oppressed. It is a sword of protection and truth. Regaining one's humanity and realizing that one's spirit was never meant to be treated with such contempt and abuse requires taking up an inner journey towards wholeness and strength. It means reclaiming one's Self and setting your heart squarely in the light of love.
This is extremely difficult in a family situation. Sometimes, the abuse is rejection and the decision is made for you. In some ways, that is easier. But to stay in a family where the sense of belonging and loyalty to dysfunction is often hard-set and immovable within yourself can be harmful to yourself and others. This is where the sword of love and spirit can free you.

Credit: Jonathan Hillson

One has to choose between the "good" face an abuser shows, and the "bad" actions. One is forced into a black and white, otherwise, you'd go crazy trying to figure out the sweeping contradictions in behavior, the abusers' complete cluelessness about themselves, the extreme entitlement to do as they please and twist the story.
Tenebrism is an artistic technique that was used mainly in religious paintings. Tenebrism uses stark contrasts between light and dark. The answer for survivors of abuse is to enter into a tenebrism of spirit, and violently reject that which is oppressive and abusive to others, and paint yourself with the light of love. Only then can the divide be really seen. Abusive and oppressive situations create muddy chaos and dark, dark confusion. It is important to contrast that by staying out of it, and then maintaining a fierce loyalty to love.
This is the necessary divide. Peace cannot occur until there is a very clear and dividing line between those who choose to cause pain and those who choose what is connected to humanity. It's very much a right/wrong proposition. It's wrong to oppress but abusers can't stop themselves. Make them consciously choose by contrasting their actions with love. It's equally as wrong to take on the abuser's message that you somehow deserve their abuse and their cruelty. Peace cannot occur while simultaneously causing someone pain, although abusers want you to believe that.
Love is divisive. Love really is intolerant of abuse. Love trusts that if you are held to the darkness of your own spirit, that you can work to correct that and come to what is beautiful and true. Love is a sword and demands that you are loyal to a humble walk through empathy and generosity of spirit. Love says to reject oppressors and those who support cruelty. They get to choose their love or their hate. But you can always choose love.
Once the divide is clear, then if you have invested something in a relationship with people who are still in darkness, then you can discern if you have something to work with. If they insist on blindly holding to their fears and entitlement to abuse, then send them compassion for their compulsion to harm and let them go. If, however, they have the capacity for contrition and remorse for their hurtful behaviors, then there is hope for peace and the sword of love did its work. The sword of love quickly shows who cares for their relationships and who doesn't, who has remorse and who doesn't, who feels appropriate guilt and who doesn't, and who is able to change and who isn't.
The verse about Jesus coming to bring a sword, to me, is about healing. Once a survivor of abuse is standing up for themselves, they are wielding the sword of love and demanding justice. This is absolutely what Jesus came to set things right and rescue victims (the oppressed) from abusers (oppressors) through a journey of spirit.
Use the sword of love. I am telling you, there are others who have been harmed too by the violence of darkness and who have struggled in the gray area for a long time. It is a noble and worthy struggle to heal, and to come into the hopeful light, and we are never alone.