Monday, March 20, 2017



If you are local to Louisville, I am honored to be reading a piece of my creative nonfiction at Louisville's SWAN Day celebration.
SWAN is an acronym for "Support Women Artists Now."
I find it funny and also delightful that I get to read my writing when I have had such trouble embracing myself as a writer and my fingers are in all kinds of art and music pies. Maybe being insecure about writing makes me a writer?
Here are details for the event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/416056615427478/


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

OH MY GAWD

As a music educator, and mostly as a parent, I believe it is my duty to influence my children's musical tastes. Or at least expose them to good music. When the pre-teen and finally teen years hit, with a six-year-gap between my younger children, this poses some unique challenges. I want to embrace what my children are listening to, and give them room to explore on their own while gently exposing them to other things.
But man, a mom can only hear "JuJu On That Beat" so many times. After I'd reached my threshold of tolerance for that particular song, I declared a War of the Generations: Dance Music Edition.
First order of business: Madonna. First, my daughter sat on the couch. I won't publish the pictures here but suffice it to say the looks she gave were scornful. Then they were more scornful. Then her whole face was downright contemptuous.
SCORE.
That meant I should play another Madonna song. Don't worry, there was a smile beneath the contempt and she even humored a round of "how contemptuous CAN you make your face?" That turned out to be funny.
You see, she is in the throes of becoming her own person. Mom isn't cool any more. Hugs are in short supply and we now share a full complement of moods. I have to be creative in finding ways to connect with her without intruding on her individuation.
But by Madonna song number three and trying to dance to it, REALLY dance, the ol' pre-teen college try, she threw her body on the floor in a "Holiday" sized tantrum. Her face down, arms splayed out like a cross -how apropos-, she wailed hysterically, "NOOOOOOOOOOO."

"NOOOOOOOO, MOM, NOOOOOOO.
OH. MY. GAWD. NO."

My poor child. I had to redeem this situation. I know, the Moon Walk.
We watched the moon walk, we tried the moon walk, we listened to Billie Jean and danced to Beat It. My inner mom was giving a thumbs up. Way to go. Good job.
Dreams of other songs, comforting songs from the 80's, filled my head. A respite from JuJu On That Beat, however temporary it might be. I didn't care. This was great. We were connecting over 80's songs.
Then, something happened. Google. She wanted to learn more about Michael Jackson. So everything was ok until we got to bleaching and burns and melting face. Then she had exactly two nightmares about Michael Jackson's face and I had to write this evening off as a parenting fail. A year or so passed with nary a mention of -shhhh- MJ.
So, imagine my surprise when tonight, we all ended up dancing in the kitchen to Michael Jackson, prompted by my daughter. There was even a little break dancing. What fun.
The point of all of this is that even when you think they aren't, your children are listening. They are hearing you. If they have made that turn towards freedom, they need you even more, way more, than they will ever let on. I'm convinced you have to let them think they don't need you, and quietly love them over those contrived distances. If they still think Mom is cool, then eat that up, every moment of it.
Actually, just eat all of it up. It's way too short.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Missing the point

I rely a lot on friends to keep me abreast of things that are happening in the world of politics. My time is thinly stretched these days, so this morning I listened with interest to a story my friend was telling me. He said as he was driving through Indiana, a radio announcer was going off about the issue of raising minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. This announcer was denigrating the kinds of jobs people who work at minimum wage hold, and complaining that raising their income won't improve the quality of their work. I could not help but think that there are many, many people who think like this radio announcer, that they are entitled to have lower-earning people in their poor place to serve them, have no obligation to examine their own entitlement while they benefit from oppression and keeping others poor.
Yet I  understand the thinking of those who are entitled. Entitlement completely underscores abuse. In this case, a man believes that only his opinion is what counts, and he should benefit from the toils of people who he deems less than him, basically using human beings so he can feel better about himself. So the selfish show of entitlement comes when that man believes that these people OWE him that. And when he does not get what he is owed, he turns himself into a victim. Somehow minimum wage workers threaten him because his hamburger might be of lesser quality.
Another man I heard of was in dire straits because he might have to downsize his house by half: from a value of half a million to a value of a quarter of a million.
To most of us, this is obvious. It's the spoiled brats of the world and whiny grown-up babies who mess it up for everyone else. Even though they have more than they need, they must affirm their perception of themselves as God by controlling the lives of others through taking from them or subjugating them, or both. The lord giveth and mostly taketh. That radio man, in looking only at how empowering a downtrodden group inconveniences him, is acting like a prick and missing the point. Putting people in a position where they are basically asked to be slaves to those richer than they are is oppression at its finest, fueled by fiery entitlement. His conviction is that he is owed certain things by people he deems lesser than him. When he does not get that, he feels oppressed and therefore, victimized. However, the people he is oppressing with his heinous attitude have real worries: food, shelter, clothing, basic human needs. To him, he is being victimized when he is disagreed with and his superiority is not acknowledged and acted upon. To those he oppresses, their victimization is real in that their basic needs are being threatened.
This man flippantly said they should get two jobs if they need to. Men who use the courts to financially cripple their exes are the worst. I am certain those kinds of  men would never take two minimum wage jobs, even though any monkey off the street can spout off opinions on the airwaves or make sacrifices to their vacation schedules to accommodate their children's needs and see the value of being a supportive co-parent instead of an obstructive and destructive one.
Supporting the poverty of another is enslaving them. Abusers deliberately enslave an other. They feel threatened not when their basic needs are actually threatened, but when their ego and convictions about their entitlement are threatened. So they focus on their false victimization-you victimized them by disagreeing with them or having your own thoughts- and cannot see the damage they do in reality. Their grasp on reality is tenuous at best. That is why politicians can get away with so much oppression-they twist things around to garner sympathy. People really believe their "hamburger will be devalued" if they support another.
When the real victims then stand up for themselves, they are punished.
Fear of punishment should not stop people whose human value and quality of life are threatened by entitled bullies. Oppression marks everything that is evil and shameful and hateful in this world, and working to change it takes great courage and insight.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

river

it used to be I minded being born
on to undressed walls
only when I was in white love
in womb-warmed darkness
comforted by the pleasures of illusion
the rich blindness of soft soil, where one
can grow straight down
to the cusp of moisture
held simple on lips
no skin untouched

in deep, a long stretch of
sea legs would carry wind to
bluster and billow out the dreams
seed pods lying on top of dew
or floating in the sun
they blister and heal

it used to be a river
which had my entire devotion
was hung on a clothesline
where it dried and cracked

I heard you say I was strong
when you broke me

am I? is broken strong
or moved like other rivers;
seeded like other births?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

hands know


How much do hands know any more?

It used to be I’d watch my grandfather turn over a stack of twenties in his fingers at the betting window. I’d watch my grandmother’s fingers gracefully twirl a swift cigarette from out of the package. All eyes turned toward the track or the television in some corner, they’d forget their handling and fondling to go shout a number. Horses begin at one part of the oval, end at another, first number at the finish line is noted.

A pack of horses densifies and then stretches in a line.

Lines on lines, rows on rows, forming and re-forming.

Another cigarette is rolled from the pack, is lit, and bobs on my grandmother’s lips when she talks.

It rolls like the whorls in a baby’s hair. Like the whorls in an enthusiastically running tide.

Like seashells, snails, Klimt paintings.

Trees of life.

Horses hurling towards the finish line.

Like the Fates, twisting the threads of life between their gnarled crone fingers, between their spindly joints, making whorls of tangled torments from smooth lines.

Horses leave the gate frantically,

My grandmother’s fingers are grey, and her skin is smooth like thin paper. Her irises are tiny black lights. She is ash all around, head always wrapped in a fog of smoke. A cigarette is always dangling, resting, smoking and throwing up thin ivy-like shoots into the air before they disappear. Cigarette smoke, if I look closely, is only foggy when it is forcefully expelled from a mouth, chaos. Most of the time it forms thin lines in the air, curves gracefully in visible lines. These lines throw dirt on walls, in conversations. They become violent if provoked by a philandering, gambling husband, forming and re-forming, light up, breathe in unseen, breathe out chaos, stub out, repeat.

It takes patience to untangle chaos, to hold one’s breath while the fingers work beneath.

It takes intention to choose which horse to bet on during any given race, the names blur and run together after a few drinks. Another cigarette, another bourbon, heavy breath and empty pockets. Plastic cups empty and gather at a tiny table. Racing forms with frantic pencil circles and calculations. She always said she only held the smoke in her mouth and did not inhale it and would not take it in all the way. He smacked his “Form” on his hand in an excited “come on”.

Jockeys goad with their whips.

Like sweeping the floor.

Like fists curled deliberately, clutching a retaliation for dear life.

Poking anthills, firing up ants, rigid, thick stick arguments.

The floors are dirty and covered with stepped-on losing tickets. Loser’s confetti pieces, folded and torn, then scattered and tamped down. Tiny cigarettes in a pack. Pinch, pull out, light, drag, stub out. My grandmother mutes herself with cigarettes, with calculated circles of resignation. The horses are in the gate, dancing on their haunches, taut and ready. Participatory repression, spring and release.

Watch the cigarettes leave the pack. So many were smoked.

People stand in long lines waiting for their turn to bet. These lines are slow and ponderous. Sticky hands reach into pockets to pull out money, count and count again, which number should you pick. Agonizing confusion over the inability to predict something with certainty, yet with all the information written on the Racing Form one has a hunch. A hunch, a clue, an illusion, you like the name, the horse looks good, the jock looks good, just pick. Roll one more cig from the pack. Dirt circles shoes and money, leaves residue like the angst of drunkards.

Wring out a winner, twist the numbers in your head.

Horse races were always accompanied by other rituals: drinking too much, followed by my drunken grandfather losing his money. The ritual retelling by my grandmother of how my grandfather gave his money to whores, fell out of drunken windows, her floors at home left dirty, her mouth circled with smoke, his head in an unremorseful fog. She was yearly sheared of her dignity and place, a domestic. These rituals were circular, relational whorls, tidepooling and receding, one smoke after another.

His mouth was always ready with a smooth line and in his hands a wad of twenties. The years gathered on his bobbing lies, growing fatter and fatter on his lower lip, slow creeping ivy-tendrils of thin smoke. My grandfather kept lying words on thin threads, just in case he’d have to tie something together, make something other than a mess or pretend he could do something better than twist out a crying woman.

Sometimes, something has substance on its own. A winning horse, the ticket with the correct number, the drunken losses that are felt and ignored. A jockey who is carefully measured in stature and lightness. A number that is a wild card win. An obsequious smoke. Other things must be plied together to create substance, to stick together, to later tangle. Horses whirling tightly together, circling. Smiles on drunk faces. Folding and stacking losing tickets in halves as you tear each half, smaller and smaller, snuffed out. A man, and women. These, too, are ritually discarded with the cigarette stubs.

Spun cigarettes, horse races, grandparents, circling, crying.

Ritual twisting.

Losing tickets.

Hands know.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I confess

I have a secret I've kept from all but a few close friends. It is one of those habits of comfort that as an adult, I've deliberately secreted away. It is a pleasure from a time in my life when I was a completely different person, full of passion and fire, full of conviction and evangelism, a somewhat embarrassing person. No, really. Any time you know what someone else should be doing you are embarrassing yourself. When I embraced fundamental Christianity, I listened to only Christian music because all other music was "devil music". I even went to a workshop at my youth group where someone played a Queen song backwards on a turntable and if you strained to hear, the chorus sounded like, "it's fun to smoke marijuana." We ooohed and ahhhheed over how crafty the devil is in leaving these bad influential messages in the popular music everyone was listening to. On first dates, I don't really disclose that information, again, embarrassing, and say instead I have "large gaps in my cultural knowledge." But I loved contemporary Christian music, and my secret is, that although my spirituality has shifted, I still listen to it.
Going back to that time where I was so naive and had so much love I needed to put somewhere, when singing my heart out to "Jesus music" brought me feelings I didn't know I could have, when church brought me connection to something bigger than myself, is just comforting.
I was saved at several Petra and other Christian rock concerts. In the black-and-white thinking of a teenager, I thought salvation was an either/or proposition: either you were saved because you toed the line and were good enough, or you weren't. I hadn't learned about grace and so I'd have an unsavory thought or do something sinful and back I'd be at the altar call.  Maybe I took it as shame and putting on a garment of shame felt familiar. There were other ways the church put on shame, and my waking up to how truly radical Jesus was, and what a social justice warrior he was in the narrative of his life, not to mention that I experienced in a bad way the Pharisee nature of many Christians, left me seeking other ways to experience holiness and divine connection.
But I loved the music. I loved, and still love, the feeling of worship and devotion. I remember one artist was fire-was controversy- was passionate honesty: Amy Grant. I remember what a stir she caused by inching to the mainstream, by working with Peter Cetera, and then breaking through with her hit "Baby Baby."That was huge for a Christian artist. She also sang songs about the joy of family, had scandalous names to her songs like "Lead Me On", and wrote about struggling with temptation to cheat on her husband. Wow. Christians didn't talk about those things, much less sing about them. People freaked out and judged her relentlessly. I loved her.

What I drew from singing and listening to that music was an honesty I hadn't found in the letter of the law. It was the spirit of the law, the psalmist's cries, as the deer pants for the water; sincere longing and passion. It was the utter vulnerability that comes from recognition of your humanity in contrast to the Divine. And oh, having been bathed in shame my whole life, I was attracted to Christianity, but eventually realized for me, the truth of God is the opposite of shame. Perhaps shame is what brings us to spirit, which is why I love it when people expose their dark underbellies. I have spent so much time in dark underbellies of abuse and have seen the worst of humanity:  in Christians, in organizations, in myself, in beloveds. But often the people who are the most hurtful are the ones who appear the most righteous and perfect. It's so boring and bland to be righteous and perfect and above reproach. How positively wearisome and banal . Give me some reality...tell me how you hurt or avoided responsibility or lied or stole or messed up or had to unburden your pride and apologize. Tell me what you know of your darkness, where you have stumbled, where you have humbled yourself before others and God. Let's get real together. Because, yikes-how we wound each other, constantly. How we hurt, ignore hurt, abandon, reject, criticize, and blame each other. How some even enjoy this wielding of powerful swords over others, even swords of religion and especially shame. Yet-please show me a person who has found grace without coming face to face with those shadows and darkness. Show me the person who hasn't fully emerged from beneath a dark underbelly without lifting their arms in praise to anything and everything that is LIFE, screaming "I am FREE!!!"  Show me the person who has walked in darkness and strife, in numb pain and isolation, who doesn't come all the way out of that knowing grace IN THEIR BONES. They have to because then they have known how shame hurts.
I love that one can touch darkness and it leads you to grace. It helps me accept my own faults and the mistakes of my humanity, and be as unburdened by perfectionism as I possibly can. I can always fix a mistake, but I can't fix it if I don't own it.
Part of me doesn't want to admit that oppressors have any use in this life except to cause suffering, that ideally we will all be walking in the light of grace and restoration and love when everyone's enlightened and the divine feminine has come to a place of equality with the divine masculine and then who cares, there is just the DIVINE. But if the whole purpose of being abused, being scapegoated, being made into an enemy is to find grace, then all that suffering will not have been wasted. And how odd to find grace through people who are not full of grace yet claim righteousness. That's just the way it works.
Also, there is Amy Grant.
So, I will just keep closet listening to my Jesus music. And Queen, too, because there never really was any devil music.
Lead Me On.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Devotion

One of the most beautiful sights to me in this city is when I drive by a particular residential area. This street houses a group of Tibetan monks, and on some days, the monks can be seen walking the sidewalks, with their long robes flowing on their way to attend to common human needs, like grocery shopping. When I recently drove past with my son, we saw three monks out walking towards a retail area and he asked about them.
"They're monks."
"What are monks?"
I had to think of a way to describe monks that was inclusive of all religions and without going into details that are of no interest to an eight-year-old.
"They are men who have chosen to live their lives in complete devotion to Spirit."
"what's devotion?"
Ah, this one was harder and I admit my heart revved a bit. Since the new year, my inner meditation has been about devotion...what is devotion? I have asked myself this question over and over while struggling to grasp something to write about it, and now here I had to be accountable for my work, at least for today.
"it's when you give your life to something."
"You mean like when you give your life to Jesus? monks give their lives to Spirit?"
"Yes, like that."
Later, he told his friends, "we also saw someone who didn't believe in cars so they were riding a carriage " (We had passed an Amish family en route to a maple syrup festival).
Devotion, hard-core devotion is a linchpin of both kingdoms: monks, or Amish. It meant, to me, commitment, ritual, love of God, humanity, or spirit, and even stubbornness. It is possible to be devoted to things that are dysfunctional. Devotion can be narrow, as in devotion to law, devotion to judgment of others, or it can be broad.
To me, devotion rests on rituals...habits of thought and mind that wear over and over. This is why the faithfulness...full of faith...and loyalty parts of devotion are associated with religious beliefs. But we are all preachers with each other. Every day, we communicate our devotion through the practice of these rituals with each other. We spend every hour of every day in devotion to an idea, an ideal, a perception, a paradigm, a rule, our own desires, etc. Devotion is a sort of conscious enslavement, a whole loyalty of life. Yet even ritual enmity is devotion. Ritual criticism, ritual hatred, ritual shaming, ritual self-deception, ritual dishonesty, ritual disempowerment of an other. Ritual rejection, ritual hurting. The lie is that rituals of beating down others somehow makes you bigger, God-like, loving, simply because you are devoted to some hoary, trumped-up cause. But God and Love are found in rituals of Grace, kindness, and generosity. Rituals of God are found in restitution, not stubborn adherence to convictions that some others are less worthy than you.
Speaking of restitution, there is a recent New Yorker article about a new book coming out by George W. Bush where he paints portraits of veterans from wars he created.
From the article:
"Having obliviously made murderous errors, Bush now obliviously atones for them. What do you do with someone like that?"
I am not sure what one does with someone like that. Clearly, he is devoted to admitting some kind of wrongdoing. At first I got mad. Paintings of those you hurt, while raising awareness, are a self-serving way to assuage the pangs of ego, to make one's self feel better. It doesn't bring back that part of their lives, it doesn't heal any financial damage, it isn't therapeutic to those who have been harmed. But then I thought, who am I to say what is or isn't therapeutic for them? And grand acts of atonement and empathy should be celebrated and embraced, yet it looks self-serving to me since admitting wrongdoing is not restitution, is out of proportion to the harm, is woefully too little too late, is far less than. Food for thought indeed and I haven't completely thought this one through. The article is clearly sympathetic towards Bush, but I am not so sure. Soldiers get a life of PTSD. W gets a painting tutor but at least he's remorseful. What DO you do with that?
Part of change and creativity and consciousness is re-forming  habits of mind to make us more "real", more congruent, more truthful with ourselves and each other. It takes imagination to first of all, see these habits in action within ourselves, and second of all, change them so we are the people we say we are or want to be.
Thanks to the ritual devotion of oppressors to scapegoating, I have been forced firmly on a path of devotion to healing. I am so grateful for that! In my musings I have gathered up my passion and said, "I am devoted to art,to music. I am devoted to writing." But really, while I practice being creative daily, these most of the time feel like lofty goals and really they are in service to healing. I have been hard pressed into doing the often exhausting work of leaving a firm devotion to dysfunction and adherents of dysfunction and find health. Writing my way out of dissociation and into thinking-feeling. Painting my way into beauty and skill without muddying up all my colors. Singing my way into connection with God, Goddess, Spirit That Imbues All Life.
I think it is good to always keep your heart sensing the bigger picture of what captures your devotion. Devotion takes practice, intention, and deliberation.  It is not sacrifice in service to martyrdom or putting on appearances, it is fully embracing a way of being that is of spirit.
This writing has no ending, for devotion is an ever-changing, multi-dimensional, living gesture. Devotion to healing, to Love, means adjusting practice as new insights are made, as more humility and openness is filtered through the painful cracks in our souls. We don't always have to give up cars, or wear long red robes to identify our devotion.
I will keep asking the question and tell myself I just need to brightly love.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Woman, listed

-that I am never on the computer just before dinner time
I want to take apart this sentence and break it out into elements: dinner, computer, time, never, I. Each of these fluid parts of the puzzle, they can be taken out or placed back at will and at random. They are part of a day, a week, a month, a marriage, a walk. Dinner means with the family, with the family means within a marriage, a marriage means I, a walking computer, lifeless, robotic. being the variable threaded through all of it…walking through dinner, walking through time, walking as a computer walks-without feeling, walking into so many nevers I cannot count them all.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
-he is in charge of the entire household: where furniture and pictures go, where my stuff goes and how it is handled, and he will consider my wishes and requests but ultimately he is in charge.
The first time I heard about patriarchy was in a class. I honestly don’t remember which class but I remember really understanding the word for the first time. Like how you can drive by a tree every day and not really notice the tree until someone points it out, and you respond, “oh, yeah. There’s that tree.” Patriarchy I instantly understood to my core since often, it was beaten into me. The dad of my youth swung between raging dictator, with peons flying in front of him, screaming in terror before his feet, and charming uncle, joking and jovial. It only mattered what mood he was bringing home on any given day. This domestic terrorism of mood, of implicated volatility, of the power derived from violently instilling so much fear into a household, is what ingrained patriarchy into me. When I heard about that concept, about how the wishes, desires, and deeds of men can be placed so far above other aspects of humanity as to be positively worshipful, and that this devotion to man-as-god was infused into the structure of our society, my memory bobbed to the surface, having lived in sleepy submersion.
Memory, for me, is like singing. You sing on the vowels, but the consonants hold the words together. The image of a telephone pole is used to describe this; the poles being consonants and the wires being vowels. Singing, i.e., living, happens between the poles, and all the minutiae of daily life soars away from being stored. But the psyche and body are nodal points, telephone poles, of memory. Memories of my dad as being in patriarchal charge are very few. Cutting switches for him to punish me. His blustering into the room and changing the channel from the Wizard of Oz to a ball game. Overturning the breakfast table in a rage.  I learned that the wires that connected it all are patriarchy, which for me, meant the unquestioning compliance with a man’s wishes. Men made the laws, after all. Men made the money, built the roads, decided who was worthy, made the important decisions. Everywhere a woman turns, a man is in charge, of where she is put, of how her body is handled. I already know HE is in charge.
I tried very hard to worship these gods.
that I tell him when my menstrual cycle is happening
I will take this opportunity to educate anyone who is still shrouded in mystery about a woman’s menstrual cycle that as a woman, my menstrual cycle is always happening. My menstrual cycle arrived when I was fourteen and persists up until today, age forty-eight. For thirty-four years I have been in some phase of my menstrual cycle. Of course, there is the science that counts days and marks fertility, for that is an important apex in this particular cycle, as is “day one”. But what they don’t tell you is how it marks a woman’s spirit, how it echoes a woman’s nature, and how it fits into all nature that dies and is born again. During fertility, the point is not that one can get pregnant, but that as a woman, you are filled with possibility. And when I am fertile my whole body sings with the desire to create, to flirt with people, to paint and sit in a flow of ideas. If I am fertile, I am artist. Once that passes, I make a gradual inward turn toward spirit and am called to suffer. That might sound dramatic, but I have a lot to grieve, and I believe that when one feels and grieves, one heals. My body always knows what I need to work on: letting go, being present, getting good and angry. It is a time of deep feeling. It is a time to build up and tend a wound so it can be released. My very body swells with this tightening and then I can flow, bleed, let the wound close over in deep healing.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
that I trust everything he says, no matter if he has lied to me, I am simply to blindly trust what he says
Blind trust given to anyone is akin to psychological suicide, especially when that person has lied to you. Trust is a difficult thing when one has been lied to. I struggle, I want to believe the good in people and how they care about how they conduct themselves in relationship, and I don’t want to know that there are people who have no regard for how they treat others. I would say that working this concept has been like tilling soil, bringing it up and tamping it down, creating furrows and adding in compost. There are parts of me that are blind, that do not want to see or acknowledge the possibility of evil, of people who truly enjoy the suffering of this world and of others. I tried to trust them, this church of men-the expectation of undying devotion to things you don’t see or don’t want to see. I was let down every time.
Developing trust has required that I leave that field of unworkable soil and learn to trust myself, to walk in my own land. Blind trust equals dependency and victimization. Walking my own land equals strength and power. I found that focusing on one little piece of someone else’s soil,  my face pushed toward the earth in an effort to make me see, to force me to justify my existence, to shame me; just made me mad, and small.
For so long, I tried to tend that tiny patch of land as forced to, and now I know inside and out how it works. I observed and learned. Now I know, and I have grown in my own land a wide patch of gratitude. For if I had not experienced the certain imprisonment of being required to blindly trust and never question, I would never have gotten angry enough to walk away and learn how to trust myself.
that I make “I” statements 100% of the time, even when speaking of observable behaviors
Once I learned how to trust myself and what I saw, I could remember the person I was. I was once little girl in this relationship. I spent hours crying in the bathroom, just not being able to make sense of anything, being abandoned, criticized, and beaten down by a man I loved. I lived and circled within these tiny words, liminal, confined. He was just my father reincarnated while they were both still alive. So when I learned how to trust myself, another part of me came up, a part that was like a raccoon with a trinket. A raccoon with shining eyes and paws filled with mischief. My paws wrap themselves around “I” statements with delight. Finally, I am “allowed” to have an “I”. It doesn’t matter that he would not hear anything that comes after the “I.”  I can say anything I want.
I feel hopeless that “I” statements would fix anything about this relationship.
I feel stupid for ever having believed a word you said.
I feel pissed off when you make stupid lists of demands.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
change my Facebook status to “married”
Changing status is not easy, especially when one demands that your status be as he wishes it to be. Status has typically been assigned to people based on their sex (man), color (white), and resources(rich). I have learned that “white rich man” equals the most status. In dealing with a man who grew up having that status conferred on him without actually having to earn it, I have learned that control of a woman’s status is an unspoken privilege of being a white rich man. This man behaves as if he is conferring me a favor by assigning my status.
History is filled with men who determined a woman’s status. It used to be a woman was only considered property of a man, and she could only claim certain rights according to how she married. In divorcing, I still had little right to claim my own status or privileges with regard to property. That divorce left me just as penniless and in debt and as void of rights (thanks to family court) as a woman who divorced in the 1700’s or 1800’s would have been. And then the status of “divorced woman” is conferred on me, causing society to eye me differently because I did not have the wiles or wisdom to make a man stay put. And there is always the implication that it is a woman’s responsibility to make a man stay put, never his responsibility to commit and humanely connect.
In some way, he was right. Changing my Facebook status to “married” would have elevated my position in society. That’s just the way it is, in patriarchy. Elevation happens in relation to the broadcasted orbit a woman forms around a man, star hitched to his wagon, ever running behind.
that my emails and Facebook are always open to him and that I give him my passwords
            I am a little aware of what others might think. People have different reactions to someone else’s divorce. They will pull out all the not-very-helpful platitudes such as, “just let go.” “Time heals all wounds” (with the implication being that now is the time to be healed.) They don’t know that the divorce was just a small patch of earth you tilled for a while, that was part of a whole plan of growing your life, that some disasters stand in representation of past disasters, and that getting out of cycling pain takes longer than anyone but you could know. Not everyone has had a life of abuse at the hands of men. Most of the time I feel like I am out of place anyway, employing psychic doggie paddling to keep up, to understand how the rest of the world thinks and works.
Louise Bourgeois wrote and painted, “To unravel a torment, you must begin somewhere.” My unraveling began with that list. It put up such a huge wall between me and my "beloved" I could not even see around it. Nor should I have seen around it. The only thing to do was leave and find myself. That sounds trite, to “find yourself.” Yet there is truth that if your “self” is only valued as being in service to its own disempowerment through men, then you don’t really have a “self”, not in the context any man would.
Seeing it that way, helps me realize how utterly foolish and ridiculous these demands are. Open my emails and Facebook to him as if he were the most benevolent dictator? "Father knows best?" But in looking at these demands again, they aren’t even offensive any more. They’re just sad. I took it so seriously because I wanted to have something that worked, to know that not all men stomped on women, to really make a go of relationship and confirm all the lovely sentiments I had had about family. It didn’t work that way. I chose wrongly and sentiment is not substance. Unraveling this torment has not just been working out the torment of a relationship, it’s been addressing the torments of father, of man, and of patriarchy. It’s in my bones and shaking off the woman-shame placed on me has been hard, defining work.
Is that the answer he wanted when he made this list, I wonder? This list with a stated intention for control?
He said he needed to control me. He didn't realize he was already in control, but had lost control of himself. He didn't realize that the control of patriarchy touches every woman and that he is just a willing participant. He didn't realize that true strength comes from within, and for that reason, he gave me a great gift because I found my own courage.
Still, I work to list myself. I define me. I confer my own status. I am valued and valuable.
I am woman and as such have a thinking mind.
I am woman and no one has the right to name me.
I shake off names such as “bad mother”, “unworthy” “not good enough.”
I reject my father’s notion that a girl is not a blessing from God.
I reject any man's notion that women are only here to serve him in some way.
I reject all the heaps and piles of shame placed on me, shame that didn't belong to me, shame that made me cry and wonder how I could have been so bad as to be punished and shamed so loudly, so violently, and with such cruelty.
My life is lived in service to Love.
My hands are precious and valuable and able to do good work in this world.
I will not, literally, “dick” around with control freaks and lists when there is so much suffering in the world and people need helpers, not bullshit patriarchal shamers.
I will learn from oppressors how to support and affirm humanity, and ease human suffering.
I embrace my sexuality and all that being a woman entails.
I will fiercely love and protect my children and be all-Mother to them.
I will not waste one more minute worrying about what some selfish, judgmental bullshitter says about me.
I fill my life with artists, makers of beauty, writers of words, workers of healing, magicians.
I am  blessed, beloved, celebrated child of God.

Part Two:


"it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society".
                                                              - Jiddu Krishnamurti


-cease negative talk and self-talk in front of the children

I have, throughout my life, learned the art of supporting another. As a parent, there are two children and two parents you have to work with: the child you WANT your child to be, the child who IS, the parent who can accept who is being parented and make the sacrifice to affirm that person, and the parent who refuses to accept and goes about their selfish way trying to cram their child into a parent-fabricated box.
I believe it is the job of parents to simply uncover who their child is, and not force them into an ill-fitting, harsh box.

Because the world we live in is especially unkind and will hurl all kinds of negative messages toward a human being, messages meant to shame and not validate. Therefore, it is important in intimate relationships, in all family relationships, that you not become a person who is a shamer. That instantly makes you an unsafe person.

One thing I have learned about myself is that when I'm around unsafe people, I wheel out the self-deprecation and wholeheartedly and proactively participate in my own oppression. It's protective, really. I don't want to see these people as unsafe and want to invest in the relationship, so I shoot myself down before they do, because I know it's coming. I deflect through self-abnegation. However, had that person been safe, they would have inherently understood that the only thing that combats the destruction and shame in this world is the love of grace, and giving this grace to each other. They would have understood the ways of the world and have shown love. 

But when a person who is unsafe demands, in essence, that they be given exclusive rights for "negative talk"-criticism and judgment heaped on another person- then we see a hypocrisy, or a subjugation, in place. Right in front of the children. Unapologetic. Unaware. Only he can criticize and judge ruthlessly. A child sees and hears, "your mother must not shine so brightly, and if I take down her shine a few notches, she has to shut up about it." Shut up about it. 

A demand does not fix a negative message. Love does.

The crux of this message is shut up and be perfect. Never feel insecure or doubtful of yourself, because you certainly cannot expect a kindness from a man in response to your humanity. No, only bathe yourself in my manly, superior vitriol. I alone tell you who you are.

It's no wonder daughters feel that they must starve themselves, break glass ceilings, walk behind, try to please. It's no wonder they feel less than. It angers me that my children must deal with this modeling of dislocation of who they are in the world.

That's right, even my criticism and judgment is superior to and insight you have into yourself.

Only a man is qualified to voice the inadequacy of a woman.


She must not do it herself, so she can never be more than he says she is.

She must shut up.


-cease punitive and vindictive behaviors

I don’t remember misbehaving, but I remember switches. A man I loved hit me with it. A man who was supposed to care for me punished me by making me pull down my pants and take a belt when I was too young. A man I loved punished me with silence, and criticism, and put downs. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop these punitive and vindictive behaviors. I tried crying, pleading, and every time, something in me broke. No, I could not have stopped these behaviors if I tried.
Why was I being punished? Because I was not the hoped-for boy? Because I had needs? Because I spoke up? Because I had opinions? Because I wanted to be heard?

And who can stop the punitive behaviors? When an abuser has proclaimed themselves the victim, they will stop at nothing to fully punish their scapegoat. They are obsessive, monolithic, singular in their quest. They have a lie to prove.

My head cannot fathom the magnitude of selfishness it takes to expect someone to do that which you cannot yourself do, to so stubbornly insist on a double standard. Nor can it fathom the powerlessness I once felt, once had heaped on me.
What woman, alone, can stop a personal patriarchy, held in place by myriad supporters and players?

A projection is a mighty powerful train ride: heady, soporific, seductive.

Addictive.


-find a way to cope with my intense emotions

Coping is an interesting thing. One copes to barely bear a burden, to get by, to appear strong. Coping is a psychic band-aid, a way to mitigate deeper pain, to avoid being passionate enough to touch and express one’s self. Coping with deep dysfunction sometimes draws out the blood cries, the angry wounds, the need for the protection of righteous anger.

And I did find ways to cope. I asked for hugs. I asked for the anger to stop. I asked for help around the house. I was obsequious, pleading, even begging. I became a shell of a person...is that what he wanted?

He said, repeatedly, he wanted control. And he wanted me to have no feelings about it. No feelings about the cruelty, the extreme lack of compassion, the covert seething red river of anger. No protest of this senseless act of relational destruction.

It is something a stone would say: "here, you cope. I can't tolerate feelings."

Control is confining to the person who is doing the controlling. It limits that person to keeping the right to offer nothing. To keep the title of relationship without actually having to offer anything financially, emotionally, or physically. It is the right to be deliberately inadequate and force the other to perform for you, the "right" way, to make up for your underfunctioning.

There is no love in that.

Thank you, stone, I needed your message.


-that I cease triangulating

A triangle is the most stable of all shapes. It is the most interesting because of all the angles one can take to arrive at a triangle…a million different triangles can happen in any given moment. Triangulating is a going around the triangle and is actually a circular motion, an establishment of something that wasn’t there before, a lie sent one way to set up the triangle. I could not stop this from happening to me.

I learned about two things: enmeshment, and projection. I could not stop the triangles forming around me, the ones I wasn't included in, the ones that congealed and led to a full-on contrived scapegoating. I could not stop the lies, the pettiness, the snobbery, the cruelty. I didn't have the power to stop this blaming of me, this negating of me as a person. I feel dirty thinking and writing about it now. If the stuff of this shame were visceral and tangible, it would be putrid, slimy, dirty, filth. Black, sticky. Vile, acidic, full of the stench of shame. Remorseless in its cruelty. 

Again,  projection is a heady drug. It protects you from all kinds of truths about yourself and is a pretty delusion.

Triangles eventually enlarge and will  attack that which does not assimilate. 

I am free from all the shapes of that particular prison.


-that I spend $500 a month on food 

Reasonable dialogue and committed cooperation is not based on demands. It is based on reality and respect. Control is starvation, is need, is constraint, is a slow way to choke out the life of something, to suffocate it, to starve it. Restrict nourishment, determine the constraints, and punish when the bar is not met, set bars in order to justify punishment, play keep away.
Control is damaging to those who are bludgeoned by it, and ironically, also to those who wield the club. They base their lives on conditions and therefore, give up control of themselves.

Some people said "she was out of control. She needed to be reined in."

How positively patronizing. How utterly patriarchal. Kind of like, "she was warned, but she persisted."

Patriarchy seeks to control out of its lack of faith in itself. It does not see that cooperation, support, and vulnerability will get you more of what you want and need, and more pleasure, than control. It has not learned to feed itself, so it ruthlessly exploits others to feed it. It has not learned that it is not necessary to crush others in order to be valuable. It has not learned that the value of others is not their material usefulness, but that as human beings, we have spiritual value.
It has not learned the way of love and grace. Instead, it upholds hatred and hypocrisy.
For this reason, we should ultimately not fear its weakness, but pity it.

I hate it for my children.

"Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence" -Bell Hooks

-that I cease psychologizing

I'm off the hook on this one, because not fewer than six, doctoral, post-doctoral, and master's level clinicians validated me and led me to a word that has been the bane of my existence and the fruit of my healing ever since. Two of them kindly got out their DSM and said, "have you heard of..." and walked me through the traits. It doesn't take anyone trained in anything to diagnose a hangnail, or baldness, or a common cold. These things are obvious. 
Psychologizing without having all the knowledge is irritating at best, and at worst, makes one look foolish. But I did my homework, extensively, thanks to the prompting of highly educated and experienced people. I am not uninformed in the least. I am smart and I strive to think for myself. And honestly, any label helps me more than it does the label-ee. Because this illness is one of blame and blindness. And this illness thrives on the stupidity of its victims. It demands walking on ego-bomb eggshells. My own labels, I can face and handle just fine. But in this case, the demand is really telling me, "don't think for yourself." and, "I can't handle unfavorable information about myself, even if it is truthful."
I always say about those less-than-favorable labels, if you don't want to be called one, then stop being one. Apologize, make amends, and muster up some empathy. Stop being hypocritical. Stop blaming everyone but yourself. Stop judging, criticizing, and gloating. Stop taking pleasure in doing the wrong thing. Stop scapegoating.
But if a person with that label could, they would have.
My downfall was that I didn't recognize this. I thought I was reasoning with people who had basic care and empathy. I was sorely mistaken.

The fallout from dysfunction, sadly, is not cleaned up by those who made the mess. It's not unlike  a whole family of alcoholics who deny the problem and create a convenient scapegoat target. The work must be done by those who were damaged. Lines of ownership must be re-established and rooted in reality of life, not the illusions of an abuser. A healing journey involves renewed understanding of personal responsibility with the boundless blessing of grace. 
It was not my "fault". I did not create the dynamics. 

I will not shut up, especially about the truth.

I will continue to honor my voice and the voices of others.

I will set an example for my children of how to feel, deeply and openly, how to love, and how to find spiritual medicine for their own wounds. 

I am not afraid to help others shine.

I live my life in gratitude.

I accept that anyone who has a compulsion to punish another human being is dysfunctional, and when this punishment is hurled at me, I know it is not about me.

I will be awake to hurtful, unsafe people and not blind myself with denial.

I think for myself, and do it quite well.
I am responsible for myself.

I am allowed to feel anger on behalf of my children and myself when we are forced to bear the burden of others' shame. We will not accept this burden.

I will ultimately have compassion for abusers.
I will be raw, real, and grab this life with both hands and savor and enjoy it.

I will unburden myself from expectations of perfection and know I am loved just as I am.

No one can separate me from Love.