Monday, February 27, 2017

Dog | Savior


We found Sadie in the forest at the same time she found us. She found everyone in the forest, including some thirty-odd ticks. At our campsite, I was steady in my "no, we cannot keep her."
I had just started school after my crappy divorce and getting a dog was a someday sort of proposition. Overwhelmed, reeling from broken promises and flirtations with poverty, a dog was the last thing on my mind. We unpacked our tent, set up, and I was somewhat relieved the kids had a "project" for our short time there and a dog friend they could play with.
Fire made, this dog kept poking her friendly face around our campsite. We cooked, and ate, and the kids played with her. She seemed guileless enough, but you know, strange dogs...one must be smart and careful. We gathered more information: she'd been there a couple of weeks. The camp store clerk had been feeding her. The park ranger explained that people left their dogs at this campground quite frequently. He had five dogs as a result and he said he could not keep any more.
I watched my children with this tick-y, flea-infested, and lord knows what else dog. They wrapped their arms around her and surrounded her with pure love and consoling voices and surrounded me with plenty of begging pleas. I kept hesitating and watching. I remembered how it is to be ten and the only one who understands you is your dog. I remember what it felt like when your moronic parents couldn't keep their shit together enough to keep your family a good and whole one, a loving one. I remember how much my own heart ached to leave all my animals on the farm. My heart clenched at knowing my children would bear all the same mixed messages, disillusionment, hard situations, sacrifices of needs and desires, longings for wholeness, and wounds of divorce that I did. I had lost control of so much of my life and had been working so hard just to keep from losing my shit and struggling to wriggle out from a very big thumb and create some stability that I'd forgotten they were just along for the ride. They didn't ask for this. Their life was forever changed, too. They wanted a whole family, too. They wanted more of the love part of life, too, and not the reminders of how incredibly hurtful and destructive humans can be to each other, and how a family can be torn apart.
And right here, in front of us, was more of the love part of life. I had no idea how I was going to afford her, care for her, or if she was even a safe dog for us. But she kept nosing her snout into our hands, kept bowing her head to say, "pet me", kept following us in the woods, and kept tugging me -us- forward.
It was obvious-my kids needed her.
The campers next to us had been there for awhile. They were RV campers, not tent campers. They surprised us with a goody bag after a trip to Wal-Mart. They had gathered I was a single mom, even though I have always camped alone with my kids, even when I was married. They had assembled a Dog Starter Kit, complete with food, leash, toys, bowls, and a brush. Of course, I had no ability to say no. My kids had fallen in love with this dog and had already decided she was ours and had already resolved to teach her that her new name was "Sadie."
Now, something you must also know is that our house is a kind of pet repository. It's my weakness and it's also my older daughters' weakness. They live in apartments, and pets are a sketchy undertaking in apartments. So, we started out with two cats of our own, but we ended up with cast-off apartment cat number 3, then apartment cat number 4, then apartment parakeets. "Mom, they need a new home. Just for a little while." "Mom, I'm giving a surprise to my little sister." My best pet word now is "NO."
So despite my initial overwhelm, Sadie came home with us, already well loved. But we learned she had not been so well-loved in her previous life. We checked her out: no chip, she was spayed, and she had Lyme disease from all the ticks. Her teeth were worn down from maybe being in a cage. She peed anxiously when someone would go to pet her. She didn't know how to play or be a family dog. We set her up in her own room, my studio, and started to get to know her.
We've had Sadie for three years now. She is in every way part of our family. I suspect she is older than we thought. She hates car rides, loves chasing squirrels, loves taking us for walks, is jealous of hamsters and cats, and will take all the loving you can give her. She is the pickiest eater of any dog I've ever met. She loves rolling in bones and shit: deer shit, mole bones, squirrel skin. She won't clean the floor after meals-with-kids-crumb-explosions but she will come every single time you call her, faithful and true. She is so subtle and considerate in her requests for food and she barks an appropriate warning every time there is a noise or stranger. She grins from ear to ear when she sees my daughter and they have a very close bond. Sadie is a graceful, smart dog. She won't sleep with you, which is fine with me, and there are only two other dogs in this world she gets along with: Claire, my oldest daughter's Chihuahua mix, and Buddy, the Jack Russell mix of a neighbor's.
She is an awesome dog and I can't believe anyone would leave her in the woods like that. Cruel, just cruel.
We all need someone who saves us, a bringer of grace and salvation, someone who shows us to our worth. Dogs and people do this for each other, without question. And my sweet children taught me something about the practice of redemption...it's ok, mom, to let go. It's ok to do the hard work of redeeming a situation. In fact, it's necessary if we are to keep combating the shame and brokenness that so permeates our relationships and culture. We're all being taken care of despite ourselves. We all take care of each other. Look at how we keep getting graced and blessed.
Thank you, Sadie, for being our faithful good dog.



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Demand Man

Today I am thinking back to a time when an intimate made listed demands of me, thinking about relationships my daughters have had, and how it connects to our culture's ability to be subversive. 
Sometimes my writing is very squirrel-like. These are some choice provisions I've hoarded and are now simply chewing on and connecting in my mind. This blog is perhaps a bit of hoarding this way. I tend to see the bigger picture and look at how basic structures set up dynamics of power and abuse. 
In writings about intimate abuse dynamics, the focus is frequently on the dyad of abuser/victim. But, in any situation that entails abuse of power, there exists the silent crowd of witnesses and enablers to abuse. Some hide behind neutrality, others join in the scapegoating wholeheartedly. Either way, they support abuse and this is always so fascinating to me. At the end of my "squirreling" here today, you will find an Einsteinian hypocrisy. It illustrates how we cannot afford to continue contributing to our own blindness. 

"THE DEMAND MAN- By Lundy Bancroft

The Demand Man is highly entitled. He expects his partner's life to revolve around meeting his needs and is angry and blaming if anything gets in the way. He becomes enraged if he isn't catered to or if he is inconvenienced in even a minor way. The partner of this man comes to feel that nothing she does is ever good enough and that it is impossible to make him happy. He criticizes her frequently, usually about things that he thinks she should have done—or done better—for him.

Is every highly demanding partner an abuser? No. There are specific elements to the Demand Man's style:

1. He has little sense of give and take. His demands for emotional support, favors, caretaking, or sexual attention are well out of proportion to his contributions; he constantly feels that you owe him, things that he has done nothing to earn.

2. He exaggerates and overvalues his own contributions. If he was generous one day back in 1997, you are probably still hearing about it today as proof of how wonderfully he treats you and how ungrateful you are. He seems to keep a mental list of any favors or kindnesses he ever does and expects each one paid back at a heavy interest rate. He thinks you owe him tremendous gratitude for meeting the ordinary responsibilities of daily life—when he does—but takes your contributions for granted.

3. When he doesn't get what he feels is his due, he punishes you for letting him down.

4. When he is generous or supportive, it's because he feels like it. When he isn't in the mood to give anything, he doesn't. He is positive or loving toward you when he feels the need to prove to himself or to others that he is a good person, or when there is something that he is about to demand in return; in other words, it's about him, not you. The longer you have been with him, the more his generous-seeming actions appear self-serving.

5. If your needs ever conflict with his, he is furious. At these times he attacks you as self-centered or, inflexible, turning reality on its head with statements such as, All you care about is yourself! He tends to work hard to convince outsiders of how selfish and ungrateful you are, speaking in a hurt voice about all the things he does for you.

At the same time, the Demand Man is likely to be furious if anything is demanded of him. Not only are you not supposed to demand any favors, you aren't even supposed to ask him to take care of his own obligations. If you ask him to clean up a mess he's left, he responds, I'm not your fucking servant. If you ask him to pay money he owes you or to work more hours to help out with the household expenses, he says, You're a typical woman, all you want from me is my money. If you complain to him of how rarely he is there for you, he'll say, You are a needy, controlling bitch. He keeps twisting things around backward in these ways, so that any effort you make to discuss your needs or his responsibilities switches abruptly to being about his needs and your responsibilities.

The Demand Man is sometimes less controlling than other abusers as long as he is getting his needs met on his terms. He may allow you to have your own friendships or support you in pursuing your own career. But the effects on you of your partner's extreme entitlement can be just as destructive as severe control.

The central attitudes driving the Demand Man are:

• It's your job to do things for me, including taking care of my responsibilities if I drop the ball on them. If I'm unhappy about any aspect of my life, whether it has to do with our relationship or not, it's your fault.

• You should not place demands on me at all. You should be grateful for whatever I choose to give.

• I am above criticism.

• I am a very loving and giving partner. You're lucky to have me."


If we take those messages and instead of making it between intimates, let's say we make it between a racist and a person of color-whatever that racist deems is the "wrong" color. The attitudes completely fit. And they set the stage for punitive behaviors, for punishment. If we take this and then apply it to our court system, where, "the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a coalition of politicians, corporations, and legislators, has pushed for laws allowing for the growth of privately owned prisons where corporations can get rich off punishment. "http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/28290/13th 
The subversion of racism through the war on drugs and the court system is appalling to me. 
In family court, often the exploitation is by a richer party and men are put on "welfare" by not being punished or by punishing the real victim, financially or by taking away their rights. Family courts believe and enable Demand Men.

"the opposite of criminalization is humanization." -Van Jones

And, I can't wrap my head around Einstein, who was articulate, but who many say took many of his best ideas from his brilliant first wife. He gave her this list of demands:
  1. You will make sure:
    1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
    2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
    3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
  2. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
    1. my sitting at home with you;
    2. my going out or travelling with you.
  3. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
    1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
    2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
    3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.
  4. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.

http://www.listsofnote.com/2012/04/einsteins-demands.html

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." -Einstein

Clearly in making this list of demands of his wife, Einstein knew intimately what it was like to have forgotten the gift, and create his own intimate "society that honors the servant." In his list, he was trying to make the intuitive a servant of the rational and logical. We can all take a cue from Einstein's lack of congruence and his narcissistic injury to decriminalize each other and learn how to be human together. 

Farm Wife

This is something I am writing in class:

Farm Wife
The score reads that the mother of the farm feeds the cattle. No matter how tightly shut they were in their barn, or how far away the house is from the barn, no one sleeps when cattle are hungry. She never slept, anyway. The mother of the farm brings them food at an ungodly morning hour. The cattle were relentlessly loud. As she shuffles back and forth she keeps time by counting: ten fifty-pound bales of hay put out to subdue the cacophony. The cattle now at a snuffling pianissimo, the hunger of the hogs rises to a contrasting mezzo forte. In addition to the hogs, she feeds the other creatures that needed feeding: turkeys, chickens, dogs, ponies. By this time, the clock hands, timely conductors, read 5:30 a.m.
The score reads that she walks into the entryway where she cleans farm shit off of her boots. She starts breakfast. Her hair is a mess and sweat gleams on her temples, unnoticed as she bustles. In the next measure, wake up the children, feed them-always someone to feed-and cart them off to the babysitter. Fix hair for six hours in the beauty shop, then pick up her children.
The score reads that when the first daffodils arrive, they are to take their airy pews and wait for the rest of the congregation to arrive. And the congregation does arrive, singing bright yellow tones, soprano voices bobbing in time to a swelling aria, swayed by the spirited wind. They gather near the fence row, obediently standing in choral form. It is all her daughter can do to restrain herself from hugging them all, from wanting to roll and sleep among them, as if she, too, could utter such yellow songs. She plucks them out of their sunlit reverence and brings them by the armloads to her mother, who later places them in a jar, pianissimo.
The score reads that there are open fields near a beautiful rolling hill with plenty of space to roam. A creek runs through the farm, a haven for children to roam.  While her kids play, she sets back to work to bake and decorate cakes for clients. She has a freezer full of cakes and frosting roses. These cakes are elaborate and require a special tools and clean shoes instead of mucked-up boots. Silver pointed flutes with white bags magically pipe all manner of decorative ropes onto plain, frosted cakes. She makes Disney character cakes sometimes, with tiny staccato frosting blossoms.  Sharing the freezer with the cakes are nearly twenty-five chickens that she’s “raised from biddies”-her words- and put away for her family to eat. She huddles over her cakes and thinking about dinner, she doesn’t notice the daffodils on the table.
The score reads that her small children enjoy a farm life with much more freedom than the farm mother’s. Nevertheless, they love to help their mother throw corn to the chickens, or hand-feed the unmothered calves. There are unmothered calves among cattle, for a cow will think nothing of giving birth and walking away from her offspring as if it never happened, a forgotten instrument, a skipped beat.
The score reads that her husband, the children’s father, works long hours at an outside job, too, and plays basketball. Sometimes he helps on the farm, but for the most part he is free to come and go as he pleases, unfettered by the needs of children or cattle, and to come home and watch his show, have his favorite dinner, and start his projects. His absence is at an irritating sforzando most days. He is, in affect, an itinerant farmer but is not really tied to the farm, or his wife, or the children. A disappointing decrescendo.

The score reads that when she finally goes to bed at close to eleven p.m., she thinks about how free she is. The farm is her song, a rattling industrial percussion, a compulsory exhaustive dance, and it drives her more than marriage to any man. Her needs: sotto voce; the farm’s, her husband’s, her children’s needs: a clanging fortissimo. She says hard work is what develops character, that it is necessary, but she never got to hear the daffodils sing. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Out of Our Minds



In 1973, I learned how to read. I was in kindergarten, and at the end of a certain school day the teacher said something about reading. What I swore I heard her say was that we HAD to know how to read by TOMORROW. With all the panic and illusory certainty of a five-year-old I went home and tearfully insisted I HAD TO LEARN HOW TO READ. I cried so hard and tried so hard. I was young and thought it entirely reasonable to be asked to learn to read overnight. Maybe I was born with my mouth wide open for small trickle-drops of approval. Maybe it was shamed into me. Maybe I was guided by some invisible and overwhelming drive. But I pushed through and learned how to read, and went back to school proud, and also shocked when my teacher laughed and said, "oh, you didn't have to learn LAST night. That isn't what I meant."
I picked up on two things that day: that there was a piece of me ashamed to know too much, and a piece ashamed to not know enough. Those parts of me went back and forth for a long time. "Not enough" memorized the names of the first 100 Kentucky Derby winners. "Too much" barely skirted through algebra. "Not enough" took every vocabulary quiz in the dictionary set that came with our World Book Encyclopedia set. "Too much" blew off countless homework assignments in high school.
As I was carrying on my inner competition, an outer competition in the world was happening. I picked up on the fact that you would get social goodies based on what you knew or didn't know. I played dumb with boys. I learned useless facts, like did you know a postage stamp has ten calories? I wasn't very interested in that or invested in good grades. I was distracted by art and music. There was always more to know and always more I didn't know. Instead of taking delight in learning more, at some point I grew tired in my head of always this competition...this meaningless pitting of facts I have, facts I don't have, with facts I should have and things I should understand.
Understanding. That world of my youth seems so far away now. I wanted to please, and pleasing others meant the acquisition of facts and being able to spit out those facts. I know now there is a name for this: materialism. I now know the world as a place where you can be rewarded more for what you know than for WHO YOU ARE. When speaking about our children in school, often grades are the first thing we talk about. Accomplishments. These kinds of proclamations can range from subtle comparison  to all-out, unapologetic, "my kid's better than yours."
I'm not saying don't be a proud parent, I'm simply noticing that our culture values things of an intellectual nature above things of the heart, and this is a form of materialism.  It can set up a superficial knowing without having a heart-felt will to do something good in the world. We have all these facts we can spout off, studies we can quote, facts we proudly know and use in our jobs. Facts mean nothing unless we are constantly questioning the structure within which they are employed. Facts in the mind of a disordered person can be presented just the same as facts from a non-disordered person.
Having  an emphasis on intellect without having to contextualize or live any knowledge is dangerous. For instance, whole churches have been duped by ministers of God who bring a beautiful and flawlessly philosophized message, then go do the opposite of the message they brought. Or psychologists who know all the correct terms for diagnosis, who can spot projection a mile away, but who constantly project in their own relationships and have no self-knowledge. We all know someone who does not practice what they preach, who is inconsistent with the image they present.We also know people who are said to be "in their head". These, ironically, are not the first people you'd go to for a new idea. Or that you'd tell you had a terminal illness. They just don't "do" imagination or empathy.

I would tell my five-year-old, my teenage selves now: it didn't matter what facts you had. It mattered what truth was in your heart.

Before the election, facts started to become more important with "fake news" and avid fact checking amidst the lies. We always want to do the right thing and find enough evidence so others join us in this right thing. We often forget that we, as well as others, are driven by more than intellect. In kindergarten, I was driven. Intensely driven. I wanted so badly to please my teacher, my  parents, and my aunt by reading. I had misheard...misunderstood...got it wrong with the teacher. I was five, and luckily this was reading and only good came out of it. But I could have had a much easier time getting there, and I see adults as having this same impulse and mistaken drive. It would have been just as easy to be driven toward the wrong thing. It wasn't about having something: reading. It was about an impulse to ultimately belong and please. I was a slave to the drive so I could be rewarded with approval.  The knowledge comes through feeling experiences. We learn best through engagement, and that takes going on a deeply curious path of what drives us. What is in our hearts? We know the chatter of our heads all too well. But what cares have we for this world? Where can we make it better?
Are we good people?
We can be creative, free thinkers when we take our hearts, and also our hands, into account. Our feelings and self-awareness lead us to awakenings we never knew existed. It is a wide-open field of ideas. Without our hearts, we have no imagination of how to contextualize and what to do with facts. Having our hearts deepens and humbles us.

In singing, there is the concept of a blend. It means you are able to move from your throatier, more robust chest voice into your higher, lighter, free-er head voice with the ability to impart a nice tone that allows little distinction between your head and chest voice. I read this article about our ability to move between empathy and logic and it has always fascinated me. Just as you cannot sing in your head voice and chest voice at the same time, you cannot employ empathy and logic at the same time. There are real neural constraints. But some people get stuck in their heads. New ideas, creativity, and cannot flourish in the robotic, "logical" world of facts. Creativity always has regard for that which is shared humanity, and the factual is not our shared humanity. Our stories of grace, struggle, and making meaning are what make us human.

We cannot change anything unless we engage our hearts. Our minds create tracks of assumptions and we wear those tracks deep into the earth. Being stuck in assumptive ruts, with people, with concepts, with words, means we are not being touched. We think we know but we don't. Logic does not stand on its own and takes us far from our heart, our spirits, our creativity.
Which is why art is so important. The call of art is to move seamlessly between logic and empathy, to blend our heads and hearts without anyone detecting a timbre change. Neuroplasticity can overcome neural constraints. The practice of decompartmentalizing logic and empathy, thinking creatively and with heart, can deepen our collective wisdom.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How To Be Completely Perfect in Ten Easy Steps

Step one:
Stop falling for headlines like that.
There is a whole internet out there that knows exactly what you need to be doing and when. There is always a list of ways you're totally messing up your kids, your life, your job, your relationships, and your exercise routine. There are a million ways to improve yourself.
I keep wondering if the self-help movement of the eighties and nineties set us up for the list-of-advice movement of today.
Which means there is an instant stratification: the experts who know what you are supposed to do with your life and you, who are most certainly mucking things up because you know nothing. It is as if we seek to be shamed.
Besides the fact that perfection is an illusion, a concept sold to us by corporations who define what is "perfect", there is, in the question, a longing to be something other than we are.
What if we simply learned to be human? To seek for answers inside of ourselves? To be fully ourselves lit up with kindness and grace? To walk with intuition?
There are many many advantages to having many voices represented in this wide world, and that is the blessing of the internet. Our awareness is raised, we have all this information at our disposal, it is easy to Google.
Lately I've been reading a lot about dissociation. Dissociation is a word most frequently used with those with PTSD. ISSTD begins its discussion of dissociation this way:
"Dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness (Anderson & Alexander, 1996; Frey, 2001; International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2002; Maldonado, Butler, & Spiegel, 2002; Pascuzzi & Weber, 1997; Rauschenberger & Lynn, 1995; Simeon et al., 2001; Spiegel & CardeƱa, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1990, 1993). In severe forms of dissociation, disconnection occurs in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception. For example, someone may think about an event that was tremendously upsetting yet have no feelings about it. Clinically, this is termed emotional numbing, one of the hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dissociation is a psychological process commonly found in persons seeking mental health treatment (Maldonado et al., 2002)."http://www.isst-d.org/default.asp?contentID=76#diss

Dissociation basically takes one away from grief...it's a numbing to feelings. I have called it by different names: self-betrayal, anesthetic. Many things can be used to numb: food, sex, shopping, video games, movies, our phones....oh,our phones. When we are not huddled over our phones, what are  we doing? The average person checks their phone over a hundred times daily. Alcohol, drugs, anything that causes us to anxiously scan for something else so we can avoid our feelings, ourselves.
Maybe that is why there are so many articles on what you should be doing-lists of what you do not know and how you're messing up. We have dissociated from ourselves and from each other. We are afraid of bearing each other's griefs, and fearful of being swallowed up by our own. So it is in a pat answer we find direction, in platitudes a path far from grief.
The antidote for dissociation, I'm convinced, is devotion. Devotion to a practice of meditation, therapy, yoga, and a life lived in service to Love. Devotion to God, Goddess, or both as is the case with me. Devotion to not running away from yourself. 
I have struggled with dissociation mightily. I've run away from myself straight into the arms of unavailable men, all the better for me to remain unavailable myself. Even my beloved therapist had to chastise me: "Stop dating men who would be potential clients." Dissociation often runs my house, my relationships. Sometimes I relish loneliness and alone time like it is lush dessert....the sensual hum of absence, the delicious darkness of hermitage. I'm better at catching it now...sometimes I wake up and say, oh, I am dissociated...there you are, calm numbness...what am I avoiding today? What do I need to face with courage?
No one learns to re-associate in loneliness. No one learns to find their feelings through avoiding other people.
I have been a voracious consumer of online lists. When a handful of therapists during a time I was in denial-another form of dissociation-all, independent of one another, pointed me to NPD as an explanation for some people's behavior, I could not believe it. I was too caught up in shaming and blaming myself, based on how other people, abusive people, had characterized me. I hungrily read everything I could in every attempt to wake up and really see what was going on and how narcissism in close others I loved had affected my life. The DSM list of traits seemed in itself a pat answer, with no appreciation for the painful nuances. And of course, many "lists" had all the answers for how you are supposed to heal and what you are supposed to do. I needed that initial direction and information to come out of the darkness of denial, but at some point I had to stop and just trust myself. At the time, I really didn't know what I didn't know.
At the center of each of us is a core that is capable of great empathy, kindness, love, and compassion. Perhaps mindfulness is removing barriers to our own compassion and kindness instead of heaping on more information and taking in one more opinion. Or giving one more judgment and one more criticism in an attempt to "reform" someone else. We know what happened to us. We understand more than we give ourselves credit for. We don't need someone to define us, to tell us who we are. We can have our longings and desires for spirit met other ways. But this is our individual work. 
The dissociation is there because of suffering-suffering experienced, suffering caused, investing in your own blind spots. Feeling grief and sadness for the loss of friends, for pain you've caused in yourself or others, for so many failures....is an act of great courage. Just feeling is courage. I would say it is an act of anarchy, since this world isn't going to celebrate your spiritual growth and will try to block it. 
Do it anyway. Personally, I don't have it figured out. But I'm determined to keep waking up, to keep learning love, to keep going to the grief and feeling it with all my heart. 
Life is too short to not heal.


"It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”


― Wendell Berry

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Just sharing

I loved what this writer has to say about writing about trauma. Sometimes it is a relief to be so validated. Right now, I'm somewhere between getting to the heart of my pain through writing and thinking, just thinking, about being traumatically artistic. Or artistically traumatic?

 From the article:
"Navel-gazing is not for the faint of heart. The risk of honest self-appraisal requires bravery. To place our flawed selves in the context of this magnificent, broken world is the opposite of narcissism, which is building a self-image that pleases you. For many years, I kept a quote from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet tacked over my desk: “The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
***
Listen to me: It is not gauche to write about trauma. It is subversive. The stigma of victimhood is a timeworn tool of oppressive powers to gaslight the people they subjugate into believing that by naming their disempowerment they are being dramatic, whining, attention-grabbing, or beating a dead horse. Believe me, I wish this horse were dead. To name just one of many such statistics in a grossly underreported set of crimes: The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey recently found that 46.4 percent of lesbians, 74.9 percent of bisexual women, and 43.3 percent of heterosexual women have been the victims of sexual violence.
But we shouldn’t write about it because people are fatigued by stories about trauma? No. We have been discouraged from writing about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Because a patriarchal society wants its victims to be silent. Because shame is an effective method of silencing."