Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not ... Enough

Have you ever noticed that if you don't do something the "right" way, the socially accepted way, that then it's all your fault?

Yesterday I discovered Black Girl Dangerous, a fantastic blog that describes itself as " a literary and activist forum that amplifies the voices of queer and trans* people of color."  Yes, it's angry, it can be extreme, especially the current post, but, it also makes some excellent points, and can be beautiful to the point of bringing me to tears.  I got carried away and linked a lot (3?) of the posts on my facebook page. 

I was saddened to see the comments that a couple of friends made on my links to her posts.  Mostly along the lines of "I can't read her" -  she's too angry, full of loathing, negative, not productive....
It could be summed up in this remark: " Really, it doesn't take any more effort to look around and see the positive. But then one can't continue to call oneself a victim."

It's being a victim to express your feelings?  To name the injustice you've seen and experienced?  When you've been abused and mistreated, when you've seen others in the same situation, you shouldn't be angry and speak out, you should just "look around and see the positive"?

I felt personally invalidated by their opinion on BGD posts.  It's taken me a while to understand why I was so hurt by this, why I was well and truly triggered.  Here it is- what I heard these people say was "She's not doing it right."  I heard them say that there is a proper way to be a marginalized minority, there is a proper way to express the feelings you have about how you have been treated, and this isn't it.

It's something I've heard and experienced again and again in my life.

When I spoke out as a young adult about being molested and abused as a child I was invalidated - told it didn't happen, told it wasn't so bad, told I was rude to talk about it, besides "You lived, right?".  Because surviving was evidence enough that it couldn't be that bad?

Now as an adult I'm not recovering from cancer treatment right either, I'm constantly asked "How are you?  When are you coming back to ...?"  No one wants to hear anything but "Fine." and "Soon."  No one (including me!) wants to hear the litany of ailments cancer treatment has left me with, or that my life will not be returning to what it was any time soon, maybe not anytime at all.  I just need to "look around and see the positive."  To do otherwise indicates that I'm ungrateful for my life and all my blessings.  I lived, right?  Shouldn't I just shut up and be grateful to be alive?

I was taught to be a good little girl.  Keep quiet.  Keep the family secrets.  Be polite.  Suck it up.  Put on a good face.  Time and again, when I have bucked those lessons, I've been reprimanded and shamed, and that's what I heard in the facebook responses to my links to BGD's posts.  You are not ____ enough.  Not polite enough, not good enough, not white enough, not brown enough,not sick enough, not healthy enough, not grateful enough... 
You Are Not Enough.

I don't think they meant it that way.  They certainly didn't mean it towards me.  Knowing these people IRL, I suspect that it really is just that they have enough on their plate without having the pain of another thrown in their face.  I know it's hard to face the harsh reality that so many other people have to live with, especially when our own feels like more than we can take.  I can only take so much too. I turn off NPR and turn on my MP3 player to avoid having to listen to one more report of another bombing, another war, another rape victim.

Just because I can't take it, it doesn't go away.  It's my right to not listen when I can't take anymore.  But even more so, it's the victims right to speak their truth, in any way they need to.

Yes, it's good to survive.  Some times it makes us stronger, but the unfortunate fact is to be a survivor, first we had to be a victim.  It's not a crime to be a victim, it's not a crime to wish it never happened and to rail against the powers that be that allowed it to happen.  It's right and just that we speak out when we can, however we can.  The world needs our truth. 

The world needs everyone's truth - even if the truth is ugly.

How else can we know we need to work to make things better?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax Day / Snow Day

Remember that nice weather in January?  When the kids were out in their shirt sleeves playing in the sand box?

Well, here is today:

This is what happens when you live in Colorado.  You can golf in January, and go sledding in April. There is at least 5 inches and it's still coming down steadily.  Up to 8 inches is predicted over night tonight.  I had a long list of errands that really had to get done today, but Mother Nature had other plans. 

Time to bake some bread!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Welcome Home?

We've been home just over a month.
Can I just tell you how hard this last month or so has been?  H-A-R-D. 

I have been working, really working, to hold it all together.  I've tried not to be a whiner.  But it's time to just let it all hang out.  I'm going to list why this has been such a challenging time. 
You may not tell me I'm a whiner, you can just shut up and read. 
Or, click away from here, 'cause it ain't pretty.
You've been warned.

About 5 weeks into our trip Fire Lord got a call from a co-worker asking if he could borrow those clamps they'd talked about.  Fire Lord was game, but had to explain that we were, like, out of the country, on a boat, on, you know, the ocean, so the fellow would have to work it out with our house sitter.  With that settled the co-worker said something like "Well, I think you should be ok, I saw your name on an org chart, so you probably still have a job."
He didn't say this like it was a joke.  Turns out there was a lot of layoffs reorganization in Fire Lord's lab while we were gone.  By "reorganization" you can read the entire project was canceled and everyone redeployed or released from employment.  Luckily his supervisor was responsive to his rather alarmed humorous voice mail, and assured him that a job was waiting for him when he got back.

Just a week and a half before we came home we learned that my FIL's best friend had died.  She had been like a grandma to our boys, joining us for Sunday dinner and family holidays.  We got home on a Sunday, and attended her funeral the very next day.

We spent that first week home catching up on laundry and sleep, and spending some time with my SIL who had been staying with my FIL.  It was during this week that we agreed that my FIL would be moving in with us with in the next month.

The next week Firelord learned that the plum new job he had waiting for him was as a tech lead in field he hadn't worked in for 20 years.  Talk about a steep learning curve!

The rest of us stumbled around trying, without much success, to get back into our normal routine.  I had a series of medical appointments to go to, dealing with the after effects of cancer treatment and trying to tease out those symptoms from other issues.  It was spring break for our local schools so some of our regular lessons had been canceled, friends were out of town, and we just weren't getting much of anywhere.  Little did we realize that this week would be about as good as it gets for a while.

We learned on Thur. 3/28 that Fire Lord's father had died the day before.  We'd had him to Sunday dinner just a few days earlier, (like we did pretty much every Sunday).    He was 93, but we really truly believed that he would be with us another few years.  He'd been to the doctors for a check up just a couple weeks prior and the doc had said that he had the health of a man 10 or 15 years younger than he was.  We thought he'd move in with us this month.  As much as the death of a 93 year old can be unexpected, this was unexpected.

I have no words to tell you how this hit us, how shocked, surprised, sad, and guilty we felt.  The "if only"s came on hard and fast.  "If only we'd convinced him to move in with us sooner."  "If only he'd moved into a home" "If  only we'd stopped by to check on him more often" "If only he hadn't been alone"  So many "if only's".   The coroner's findings indicated that it was quick, and that there was nothing anyone could have done, even if they had been right there.  That doesn't seem to get rid of the "if only"s though.  There is little logic in emotion.

That weekend, while we planed my FIL's funeral, family started coming in.  Easter Sunday came, and Lego Kid's birthday came.  The week of the funeral one SIL and another BIL also had a birthday.  We had 14 people sleeping under our roof, plus more family put up in town.  It was amazing and wonderful to see the family again.  I loved that we got to have the little kids at our house.  But it was also crazy.  Anyone who has had a loved one die knows that feeling a funeral brings - feelings of family reunion and love, and sadness and loss.  It's crazy, and it's exhausting.

It's been a week now since the last of the family left town.  It seems like both more and less time.  Nothing is really settled yet.  Fire Lord has not only a new job to learn, but has to settle up his father's estate, and cover for me while I take care of medical stuff.  My kids lost their closest grandparents within a month of each other and we haven't settled into our homeschool rhythm.

It's just hard.  I know we'll get through this, we have wonderful friends here, and I do honestly have some of the best in-laws on the planet.  I know it could be so much worse.  But we are so very weary. 

Welcome home indeed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wishing for Grace

I find Christianity so very appealing.

I know now, today, why.

Today I am feeling so very guilty.  I want that lifted.  I want to take it back.  I want a do over.

Tonight Hot Dog pulled some attitude on me.  It's not new, it's been growing, especially recently.  This has been a hard week.  This last year has been hell.  He has not been getting the attention and direction he needs from his mom.  I fell down on the job.  Now it is a challenge to get us back to where we need to be.  It's hard on both of us.

So, when he pulled his attitude, I ignored it and kept on reading the story I started.  When I wouldn't do what he wanted he said "Then I might as well not have a story".  I told him I was sorry he felt that way.  I put away the book, moving on to the next bit of our bedtime ritual. He was beside himself.  "I take it back.  I'm sorry!"  I accepted his apology and told him we'd do better tomorrow, but that there would be no more story tonight.  "This can't be happening.  This is just a bad dream!"  He was frantic, bargaining with me, promising me everything he could think of to get what he wanted.  I know the feeling.  I wish I didn't.

I know that he wasn't really talking about the loss of his story this one night.  I think it was about the loss of his grandpa last week.  I think it was about his mom having cancer and cancer treatment last year.  It was about all the awful things that have happened that we can't take back, that we can't undo.

That's a very human feeling.  I wish I'd never had it.  I wish you hadn't, but I bet you have.  There are moments when you realize that something has changed, changed forever, and there is not. one. thing. you can do about it.  That moment when your innocence is stolen, you parents divorce, a parent dies, violence damages your body and spirit, a friend dies, illness forever changes your health, a child dies ...  Even worse are those moments you cause yourself, doing something that can not be undone, saying something you can never unsay, or worse, not saying what was in your heart, and then it's too late.

In those moments I've said "NO.  This is not happening.  This is just a bad dream.  I take it back.  I'm sorry.  I'll do anything.  Fix it! Change it back."

But it can't change back.  It never can.  It will never be the same.  There are somethings we can't change.  No amount of sorry or begging will fix it.

That's when I long for Christianity.  I long for forgiveness and Grace.  I can see the appeal of someone paying my penitence with the kind of pain I know I deserve.  I feel the desire for a way out, a path towards redemption.  I want to feel secure that it will all somehow, somewhere, sometime, work out and be better.

I've had a Jesuit priest tell me I'm a Christian, and a Baptist minister tell me I'm not.
I don't really care if I am a Christian or not.  I honestly don't think that if there is a god(dess) s/he will care what color my religion is or isn't.
I'll tell you what I do believe.

I believe that we don't get a do-over in this life.   We get one life, to live each day.  At the end we get our death.  The value of our life will be decided by the love we've given away and those who are able to pass it on.  If we want it to be better, we have to keep trying, in the here and now, to make it so.
We are human.  We will fail, but we must keep trying anyway.

I held Hot Dog while he cried.  I told him I loved him. We talked and I rocked him to sleep.  I did not read him his story.  I feel awful about that.  Yet, as a parent I know, he needs to learn -sometimes sorry can't fix it.  It's important to do our best to not have to be sorry.

When we are sorry, when it can't be fixed, it's good to have a shoulder to cry on and to know we are loved - human and fallible, and loved.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's a Bill and Ted Day

There are days when each and every wound you ever received is on the surface, raw and tender, waiting to bleed all over again.  These days are a reminder to be kind.  Show compassion.  Practice patience.

That woman yelling at her screaming child in the check out line?  Maybe she had to decide whether to buy groceries today or pay the doctor.  Give her an understanding smile.  If you're up to it, offer to help her get her groceries to the car.

The perfectly healthy looking guy who's walking away from the handicap parking spot?  He might have one of those insidious hidden illnesses.  This may be his first outing this week, and it will take him 2 days of rest to recover from it.

The person who pushed in front of you at the express lane, but has more than 15 items in his cart?  Maybe he's getting last minute supplies for his father's wake.  He didn't even see you moving towards the same line.  What he sees now is the last time he saw his dad and how he wished he'd told him more often how much he loved him.

The woman who's late for work, again, even though she knows the big project is due tomorrow?  Maybe her asthmatic child has another respiratory infection.  She's frantically calling to find child care while she works from home on her computer.

It's a hard world out there folks.  You know it is because you live in it too.  I know people can be assholes to each other.  I know I have been.  But usually there's a reason, even if we're not ready to share it.

So, today, I'm going to try to remember that everyone is hurting.  We all have our own pains and sorrows.
Sometimes those pains are obvious and people give you hugs and casseroles.
Most times those pains are invisible and people just try not to strangle each other.

Just for today:

Be Excellent to Each Other.