February 15, 2018
Perhaps we do need a wall.
This morning, my first read of the day was by Bethany Webster on the mother wound in men and boys as the last link to understanding misogyny. I reposted it on my facebook page as something worth considering in light of the issues around violence against women, perpetrated more often than not by men they know.
It doesn’t take long to find examples.
The gist of what I got out of reading Webster’s piece 17 lives ago, was that men don’t know how to be men without violence. Read the piece. She says it better.
I read it this morning in terms of #metoo, spousal abuse (or, violence, as I like to call it), and the inability of our current president to see the world from any vantage point than his own, hurting, needy, broken point of view.
And then a young man enters a high school, pulls a fire alarm, and sprays gunfire into the students who respond to the bell.
Yes, let’s build a wall.
Not to keep immigrants out, but to keep men in. White men with assault rifles. If you want to purchase one, you have to go live in this walled up silo with others who own them.
Then maybe the rest of us can go to school, church, movie theaters, dance clubs, and just out to get a fucking sandwich without worrying we will be caught in the crossfire of your wounded soul.
Or, maybe instead of a wall, we can talk more about what it means to be a human being, removing all the gender pretexts and subtexts and expectations and strip ourselves down to how god damn needy we all are. How lonely, how broken, how misunderstood–and how holy we are in the midst of all that.
We can build one wall, or we can tear down the one that continues to segregate the parts of us that are most in need of community in all meanings of that word.
But first, beat those assault weapons into rebar; something we’ll need as we build the world we need instead of the one we deserve.
February 13, 2018
How is it that I had to watch the Wonder Woman movie three (3!!) times before I heard Diana preaching my faith? Three times!!!
I know a lot of my Unitarian Universalist friends are already familiar with this. For some of them, the DC and Marvel canon are part (all?) of their theological canon. But this is all new to me.
And there it was, at the end of the movie, after she has battled Nazis and while she is battling Ares, the god of war. “They don’t deserve your protection,” he says of the humans who, as he tells it, have ruined the earth that once was the kingdom of the gods.
And it is there–as she sees men protecting each other, and as she knows the man she loves has sacrificed himself for the greater good–that a new understanding takes over:
“It’s not about deserve, it’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”
It is not about what you deserve, it is about what you believe.
As I noted in my last post, I have been struggling back to my faith and my faith communities for a variety of reasons. Like many people, when I stumble in my ability to be good and true to what I profess to believe, I feel let down and left out, and just generally unhappy.
As Unitarian Universalists, we try to live into this ideal of respecting people for the mere reason that they are. Ours is a faith of grace: we aspire to honor the “inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
What I forgot is that also extends to me, from me.
How long have I been feeling that because I fucked up some things, I wasn’t deserving of other people’s love? And how long has that feeling kept me from being in relationship with those very same people?
But last night, as I sat in my Wonder Woman Wow moment, I decided it was time to lay some of that UU learning onto myself.
I have decided to notice when I spend my energy feeling undeserving, and remind myself of what I believe. I know, I know. It sounds so freaking easy, doesn’t it? And yet, 55 years in and I’m still learning. Over and over and over again.
It isn’t about deserve, it’s about what I believe.
And I believe in love.
February 9, 2018
I bought a desk calendar, the big kind you can either use as a desk pad or put on the wall. This morning I downloaded all the appointments and commitments on my phone/computer calendar, and ones I’d scribbled in notebooks to my desk calendar with a nice gel pen.
I forgot how these calendars count the days for you. As I was writing a commitment for a day in March, I saw the number next to the date and when I flipped back to February, I noticed that today is the 40th day of 2018 (according to this calendar).
Forty days, I thought. Forty days.
Despite the trying and temptation of some to make me so, I am not a person who has read the Bible. But I know enough, heard enough, listened enough to know that 40 days is significant, and, yet, I wasn’t sure why. So I googled it. Short hand for those like me: scholars seem to think the number represents trial, testing, or judgment.
Today is the first day this calendar year that I have sent myself downstairs to my office with the intention of writing something, anything, to restart myself, to understand myself again as a writer. To “reboot” myself, as it were. And today is the fortieth day of the year.
Coincidence, I know, but I am one who likes to make meaning of coincidence. I am one who likes to make meaning of a crack in the cement, so, there’s that.
I have scribbled some things while sitting on the couch upstairs, a blanket or a cat covering my legs as I typed. But when I come downstairs to write a thing, I find myself being led astray by this unfinished project or that one.
Some friends are joining together to relaunch their blogs and I eagerly said, yes, yes I can do that. And I keep opening up the blog, telling it I’m going to add a new post, and then wander off to some other tarnished thing that nudges my attention.
Today, though, snowed-in and warm, I brought myself down here, cleared a space for the computer and set to my intention.
Just before New Year’s day, my husband tried to encourage me forward. “2018 is going to be the year of Tina! Right?” He put his thumbs up near his smiling face. “Right?”
Sure, I said in my head.
The year of Tina.
I hate these posts, these struggling writer posts. I’ve probably written at least three dozen of them. But I have to own up to it today. I have been wandering, for far longer than 40 days. I started this particular blog when I was going to start a new chapter of my life, but I didn’t have any real understanding of what that new chapter would be, what it would look like, or what the center of it would be. It’s been creeping up on me slowly and with certainty over these last forty days that the reason my blog has no center is because I have lost my own.
I was reading a blog post by a friend of mine who has endured two years of pain that separated her from her core, her faith foundation, and then brought her back to it with new understanding, new commitment. (At least that’s my nickel’s worth of telling the story.) And in reading her post, where she claimed herself again, I said to myself, “I wish I had her faith.”
Have you ever heard yourself say something to yourself and then stopped, having heard it, and wondered what made you say that?
I thought long and hard on that one. It may have looked like I was shoveling snow or making a stew, but I was thinking long and hard on what would make me say that. When I wrote each week for the Post-Tribune, I wrote about being the mother of three young daughters. That was my schtick. When I stopped writing there, I started my first blog, UUMomma, that continued the theme of raising my daughters but within a conversation I was having with other Unitarian Universalist bloggers (moms, dads, seminarians, lay leaders, and ministers). I was attending church regularly then and working in a UU institution and my experiences were all easily framed within the struggle of claiming to be a Unitarian Universalist and living as one.
And then some things happened. The first was Facebook. Most of the bloggers I followed started migrating to Facebook and away from their blogs. My father became ill and died. There was a controversy at my home church in which I made myself a central figure. This caused many people pain and drove a wedge between me and parts of that community to the point where my husband and I withdrew from a place that had been home to us. And then everything started to fall apart. Depression, anxiety, leaving my job which created a void I hadn’t anticipated filling and so I did not.
And that story is old. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t need telling, but as I shoveled and stewed, I realized I have been telling parts of that story as if they didn’t connect, or redacting parts necessary to a full understanding. As I’ve wandered in the desert of my living room these past three years, I’ve told myself so many stories that were half-truths or blatant lies–some to make me feel better and some because I didn’t have the emotional strength to see from a perspective wider than my own pain.
My father used to say that all memory is fiction. I understood it one way when I was younger–that we all remember things from our singular vantage point. Now I understand it another way, too: that memory will fuck with you. It will tell you stories that aren’t exactly true, neither as magnificent nor as tragic as the memory will try to paint itself. I love stories. Romantic stories, tragic stories, funny stories. I just have to remember that the stories I love and those I run from are not necessarily the truth and they shouldn’t haunt me into exile.
Maybe this is the year of Tina.
Maybe these first forty days have not been idle wandering, but, finally, a reckoning of what is and what is not, allowing me to unearth the core I thought I lost, but, in reality, I had sent ahead so I could, at last, catch up.
December 15, 2017
I must have been very little to have fit there, on his shoulders for any length of time, and I know I was young because this had to be sometime around 1967 or 68 and I was 4 or 5. We were in a protest march–against the war, against racism and poverty.
I remember the dark night and the street lights and the light from candles being held by unseen hands ahead of us. I remember being a little overwhelmed by all the people, the songs, and all the things there were to look at. And probably, I was anxious to be back home in bed.
But the glue of this memory, the thing I have never forgotten and my brain may hold onto as long as I live and maybe longer, is my father pointing to a van at the side of the road. “See that van,” he said. “The FBI is in there and they are taking pictures of us right now. They’ve got a file on me, and now maybe even you.”
So, that happened. Any wonder I’ve been afraid of authority figures all my life?
I’m remembering all this this morning because I just watched the president of the United States of America, once again, take a stab at verbally dismantling the FBI. And I am conflicted.
My father held a lot of out-there beliefs, a lot of conspiracy theories that I felt it was best, for my own health and anxiety, to skirt or ignore completely. And I did at my own peril, because I’m seeing that many of the things he railed about really were the underpinnings of what is happening in this country right now. Even back in 1967 or 68, he was about as ‘woke’ as any liberal, white, former-minister could be about racial issues in America. (Not so much on LGBTQ issues, but that’s for another day.) He wasn’t so much prescient about what would happen in the future as he was present to what was happening in the moment and able to trace it back to the founding of the country and follow the through-line to what the future held for Black Americans and immigrant communities from Mexico and further south.
He was the kind of outspoken man who wrote letters to the President and his representatives and stood up to the policies that criminalized blackness. He marched and held signs and spoke truth to power–and whoever else was around. He was the kind of man who would have a file with the FBI under Hoover.
So I watched the president this morning, and I watched the grilling of Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein by members of the Republican party, and I imagined my father’s head exploding. Much like my own did, but by lesser degrees.
This is some kind of skullduggery by the manic Republicans, to get a woman like me–raised by a man like my father and a mother who is his peer–to want to rise up and defend the FBI?
But I ain’t takin’ the bait.
Not today, when I can still see the candles in the darkness and my dad’s hand waving toward a van. I’m just going to point my gaze and my body toward the candles held by those who resist tyranny by any hand, seeking liberty. Just as my dad would have; just as my mother does.
If you are following the lights held by women of color, take time to support them. Here are a few to consider:
December 6, 2017
When my mother was here for Thanksgiving, we shopped for candy and trinkets to put in the “advent stockings” I had knitted for my three daughters. While I made pies, she sat at the table and stuffed them all with the care only a grandmother can offer.
This morning, Time Magazine, announced its “Person of the Year” as the Silence Breakers, the women who came forward. I haven’t taken too much time to read their reasons, or look at the talking heads talking about it, but it made me think of those little advent stockings and the treats we stuffed into them. It made me think of all the intangibles I would rather put in my daughters’ lives, not just for a day, but forever. So here is my advent list for my daughters:
Merry, merry, my not-so-little ones.
November 15, 2017
Mitch McConnell says “I believe the women,” and I hate that I feel my body relax, when my brain is yelling, “about f@cking time!”
But the body, she knows. She is the proof that men say they want, but don’t see because they are looking only at parts and not the whole; looking with scientific tools that shine light on rips in the flesh, but not in the soul, where trust once lived.
But the body, she knows. She cushions the brain that tries to trick itself into forgetting with food, or booze, or a drug-induced snooze. Or maybe she moves, and moves, and moves: meetings and exercise and shopping and church and drinks with a friend so when she lays herself down to sleep she prays the memories are buried deep.
The body has acted the role of overprotective mother, quieting the mind and lulling the heart and holding on to the moment when the soul can reopen and remember who it was before. Before who she was became who she is. Before her open heart became a fist closed tightly with keys protruding. Before her trust was ripped from her, replaced with the memory of the stink of his breath, the rage in his eyes, and the force of his touch. Before she didn’t know who she was and never would see herself again.
When you were looking for proof that was irrefutable you looked for what was left behind—-a creepy note in a decades-old yearbook. What can be shown? What can be saved and presented as proof when the body has hidden it all to save the heart from collapse and the brain from eternal thoughts of the life that was, but isn’t now.
But there it is. An old white man says “I believe the women” and the body loosens, if only slightly. It loosens, and tries to remember what it felt like to be home.
October 26, 2017
I’m back in my couch today. It’s a sunny, but cold day, and I have pulled a blanket over me and one cat has crawled on that.
I’m content right now, in a way I wasn’t when the couch seemed to be my 24/7 home. I have a warm cup of coffee, some seasonal candy I shouldn’t be eating but that compliments the coffee so well. I’m looking up at a wall that holds two paintings I love dearly by two women that I also love dearly.
I’m content not because of any thing, nor even despite anything. I am content because I am content.
The wind and the traffic are a low and distant symphony, a backdrop to the clicking of the keys of my computer, but they aren’t taking my brain anywhere it doesn’t need to go.
The world seems hard these days; hard and jagged like the walls of mountains that have been carved for highways, like they are trying to snag your clothes and rip your flesh grown whisper thin with age. So it makes sense that as I stood before my closet this morning, I spoke out loud the words of my heart: “what soft and cozy thing will I find here today.”
Yesterday included a funeral, perhaps that is why I’m stopping for a moment in this soft, cozy space, while the cat’s ears prick up at the sound of the men mowing our yard (more noise for the symphony). I’m thinking of how hard it is, this life we have, even when we have options for soft and cozy. I’m remembering that not everyone has that respite; not many have it as often as I do. Sometimes it is because the world is awful in its treatment of people who need help. Sometimes it is because people don’t know they need help. Sometimes it is a willful choice to run from thing to thing, creating spaces that, even if soft, aren’t cozy.
The world is hard. Life is hard. Being a parent is hard. Being a sibling is hard. Creating a meaningful life that doesn’t ripple a few ponds, is not all that likely.
Today, I decided to put my heartbreak aside, to settle into an old friend, and just … be.
As the old saying would go if I were saying it, if you don’t have a minute to meditate, meditate for an hour.
I’m reminding myself by imploring of you, if prayer is your thing, if walking in nature is your thing, if listening to the lawn mower make rounds in the distance is your thing, if gazing at art is your thing, find your way to unplug from the consistent noise of the world that rings of negativity and woe.
Find your center. Find the beauty. Find the quiet place where you feel enveloped maybe not by the love you receive but by all that you give. It matters. It matters to me that you find yourself in a soft, cozy space every once in a while–even as the gas leaf blower sounds outside the window (and I mean right outside the window) while you are trying to pontificate about the need for that quiet space.
Because quiet is relative. Cozy is relative. Soft, too, is relative.
But love is like the wind we sometimes forget is blowing until it ruffles our hair or bends the tall grass back toward the ground. And it is so, so, so important to feel that wind these days, to remember we are love, embodied, and our most important job is to remind others that they are, too.
And then pick up the heartbreak once more and get back to the job of making the world a little softer, especially for those for whom the world is always searing and craggy.
October 20, 2017
This is not a well-considered post, nor a well-manicured post, nor one where I think deep thoughts and posit them back for you all to chew on and consider and get back to me about it. This post is the spewing of shame that I’ve carried since I can’t remember when, carried in my bowels for decades, not talking about it, not confronting it, not even allowing it time to see light or breathe fresh air. And you know what? This shame I carried, heavy in my bloated belly, tugging down on my self worth, and telling a story of me that I thought was true–that shame should not be mine!
IT SHOULD NOT BE DAUGHTERS’,
NOR MY SISTERS’
NOR MY BELOVED FRIENDS’.
Take your shame. I won’t hold it anymore. I won’t wear it on my sleeve or in my heart or at the base of my spine where I think Eve dwells.
I will not hold your evils, your defiled domination, your power-hungry violence, nor your liquored-up breath–not in my heart, not in my dreams, not in the arch of my back nor the veld of my skin. I will not hold your shame, your inability to see my body as my own. I will not hold it one second longer.
Decades in the making, this post is not about me. I will cry for my lost time, and for the mistakes I made along the way, raising daughters I couldn’t protect any more than I could protect me in the land of the free.
But today I declare my independence. I lay that shame at your feet–you know who you are. I lay it there and I walk away and I refuse to let your shame define me one second longer.
Decades in the making, this post is the scream I draw from the bottom of my arches. “Not my shame to carry.”
Even as I shout this, I know it will not change the world and the men upon it.
But I know that it will change me.
September 22, 2017
Yesterday I rambled in body, doing physical things, like sorting the laundry, maybe even washing and drying a load or two, though the folding waits, as usual, like a child at the curb on their birthday for the parent who always says they’ll come but never do.
I wandered in and out of rooms, though the pedometer on my phone won’t register it because either 1) I didn’t have my phone on my body, or 2) I wandered there only in my mind, trying to remember why I wanted to go there in the first place.
I negotiated a peace treaty with a spider who decided to spin a web in the space between the backdoor and the storm door.
And I made coffee.
Today, though, my wandering stays localized between my ears. I sat down to write and wrote of such ugliness and despair (of welcoming the impending annihilation of the human species by nuclear war if that would clear the ugliness from this planet) that I scared myself back to the moment.
It was then that I looked up and saw the comic KC Councilor made for me, reminding me to keep writing letters to the world, to the birds, to Ida B. Wells. “Every Piece of Art is a Letter,” KC wrote. And then I looked up and further, to the poetry books around me and the photos and artwork around my desk, all letters, all love letters, all dreams of good and beauty.
This, I’m reminded, is what they cannot take from us (they being those whose goals are for obedience and power). They cannot take from us the love we have for each other that we share by doing laundry, or picking vegetables, or even stopping to admire the shape of a spider, silhouetted against a bright blue sky. The love we have for each other through cryptic texts (though they can obliterate cell towers that allow such texts), and inside jokes, and the memory of small hands resting in that space above the waist as the baby sleeps, sated from nursing.
These things cannot be taken from us, even as poems and artworks become nuclear ash. Even so, they once existed, connecting souls that yearn for nothing less. And so we churn out art, like chalk on the walk, that may or may not exist tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow.
Love letters splinter to dust, and, still, the love abides.
Small steps around a small house, pedometer or not, do radiate out, and it is ours to notice, to cherish, and to sing each other to sleep even when we cannot remember the sound of our own voices.
September 12, 2017
Along the hairline
that area that is
And on the
back of my neck
and inching down
leaving minute hickeys
loving me, my body,
he cares not for my comfort
like that guy
playing the piano
till his girl comes
the lover I
who wrecks the
soft, late-summer night
who is also cooing
and wooing Fall
while I scratch
my chin and scalp and
that place that isn’t either
fondly swatting away the
who thinks he’s found
his forever home