Monthly Archives: February 2017

“Whatever comes, good or bad, don’t make a move to avoid it.”

Maurine Stuart Roshi

I think about the ways that we construct a reality. I think about how we absorb emotional experiences, intellectual information, challenges and mythologies – cultural, familial, personal –  and determine a ‘view’ for the world we inhabit. This view is only ours, and it is subjective, limited, and perilous.

I think about how what is simply is, regardless of whether we have integrated it yet.

On Tuesday, I learned that I have colon cancer. When I woke up that morning, I reminded myself that whatever I learn at the appointment already is. The cancer didn’t just arrive at 2:15 that day. It had been building for a long time. My awareness of something in my body being imbalanced began several months ago, but the imbalance began long before my awareness of it. The groundwork for its manifestation began a long time ago.

There’s the micro-second between sleep and waking up where I have forgotten, and then I remember, and the remembering settles its downy wings over me. This happened the morning after the election. And the next morning, and the next morning. It happened the morning after my dad’s death. And the next morning, and the next morning. This is part of the grieving process. The old view — the default — is still a residual part of the burgeoning view. It has to reshatter each morning as it reconstructs itself. This is part of integration.

I have spent most of my life working on grief and loss and transitions in academics, in practice, and in art. My first thought after I received the news was that this will transition into some fantastic art. It will give me the next layer of my teaching and my writing. It will forge my soul into its next thing, and what I learn I can bring back to others through my books and classes.

Absorbing this knowledge of cancer is a slow process. It’s like pouring water on the earth. A little more awareness seeps in each day. A little more integration. But the cancer was there before I knew. That’s the first piece to address holistically.

I am not fighting this cancer. I will not be at war with my own body. I will not hate it. It is a tremendous body, and it has done good work. I do not like the language of illness most of Western medicine uses and I will not use it. I will not stand in a place of aggression towards myself. I will not “beat” this thing. It is not a villain to be destroyed. It is not an invader. It is my own body’s response to too much inflammation. It is, ultimately, a gift to be unpacked.

I will alchemize it. I will integrate it and I will transform it into something else. I will not kick its ass or blast it away. I will not put my emotional energies toward destruction and I will not let the dualistic language of medicine turn me against my own flesh.

I will extend my hand to this gift and I will put my energies toward reconception. Rebirth. Renewal.

This is not passive.

I am actively seeking help from a blended group of sources. I am meeting with a surgeon on Wednesday and I will have the tumors removed. I feel like this step is the equivalent of first putting out the house fire so you can understand underlying structural issues. The ‘fire’ must first be contained. But there is more. I do not want to rebuild the same structure. This is my opportunity for new architecture. I have several incredible healers in various modalities in my life who I am privileged not only to have in a professional role, but also in a deep-love space. From my Taoist yoga writer friend Cain Carroll, to my acupuncturist Traeger Stertzbach, to my massage therapist Carolina Morton, to my genius Jungian therapist Dalena Watson — I have help.

I am grateful to have access to top surgeons down in Phoenix. I am grateful to have a flexible job and loving friends and family and cats. I am grateful for health insurance. I am grateful for my panel of alternative healers and my background in psychology, grief theory, trauma and mythology and story.

Everything I do in my life revolves around writing and teaching. I am at the threshold of the next door, and I will not look away.

“In the heart of the fire lies a hidden spring.”


feel free to share

#persist #sisu #cancergift

Art the F&*k Out of Your Life

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.”

–Arundhati Roy

Don’t get tossed away.

Don’t chase each outrage until you are spinning like a top.

Don’t overcommit or undernourish yourself.

As I mentioned a bit in last week’s blog, the nation is in chaos under the narcissist-in-chief (like you needed me to tell you 🙂 ). If you’ve lived with a narcissist, you know first hand the challenges. In this time of (what he thinks to be) unquestioned power, combined with instant communication, it is easy to feel so overwhelmed you reach for that first shot of whiskey before you fully wake up.

What today? What now? He did what? And then the list of incredibly important issues and happenings scrolls by and you know they ALL NEED YOUR HELP. And then maybe you just want to go back to bed and curl up until 2018 at the earliest. But then you remember that you need to fight for the country you want, and maybe you don’t have training for that, or maybe you didn’t see it coming, or maybe you thought it couldn’t get this bad, or maybe you think you’re only one person and it’s just you.

It isn’t. We have gone beyond party preferences. Gone beyond the ideological differences that reasonable people can have. America — people — will always have reasonable disagreements. That’s important to a vital society. But we’re so far from that I’m afraid we’ve lost the map back to sane.

There is quite frankly one right side of history in this battle, and if you need a check in, it’s the side that’s advocating love and tolerance and acceptance and freedoms. It’s the side that believes our Constitution did some cool things — like separation of church and state, freedom of (and from) religion, a free press and freedom of speech. I know it’s a flawed document. I know many of the founders owned slaves. There were no women present. And on and on. But it is that document that has ensured that over time we have stretched our rights and ideas of what an American is, and though it’s been rocky, and not a very straight line, we have nonetheless always prevailed on the side of more equality, more tolerance, more acceptance, and more compassion. (And if you don’t think EPA regulations are about compassion, think again when you can’t see the sky and you can’t breathe at work and you’re settling in for a home remodel with that new lead paint.)

And it’s the side that is not endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis.

And it’s the side who thinks you probably shouldn’t be talking about national security issues at dinner with a bunch of folks with phones. But her e-mails. Goddamn, I know, right? Whew.

I have found this site helpful in navigating the noise. You can sign up for daily WTF happened today e-mails. They are consolidated, from multiple, respectable, vetted sources, and are calm. You can check in one time and know what happened or didn’t and not be clicking madly through your day, elevating your heart rate to an unsustainable rate.

Survival Tips

Tip 1: The Narcissist wants you to click madly through your day. Then you have wasted your day and exhausted your energy. Then you can’t make your art. You can’t do your job. You can’t maintain your relationships. Don’t give him that power. Don’t step into the swirl he is making. Stand on the outside and make conscious choices for your action. Otherwise, the gale-force winds will send you soaring.

Tip 2: Know when you’re being gaslighted. 45 can’t tell the truth. It’s blatantly obvious. When challenged, he will try to force you to question your own direct experience and direct observation (YUGE crowds…bigly! Massachusetts bused in 3 million voters to New Hampshire! Sad!) You might take photographs. Keep a notebook. Record what you’re observing and feeling and check back with it. Reasonable people know they can make a mistake, and this is why gaslighting works so well for narcissists. We start to question ourselves … maybe I didn’t see what I thought I saw … and the Narcissist is so freakin’ happy that you’re spinning in his hall of mirrors he goes on a Tweet-storm at 3 am to send you back to the click-bait storm he wants you swirling in.

Tip 3: Reasoned arguments will not prevail. Problems cannot be solved if there’s no agreement on the nature of the problem, or if we can’t acknowledge there is a problem (example 1/1000: climate change is happening – GAH!!!). We can’t have a reasoned dialogue with 45& Co. They are not interested in governing. They are ideologues and they’re after their own interests. This is a kleptocracy teetering quickly toward dictatorship. We have to figure out what they can hear, which seems right now to be SNL, CNN, the New York Times, and the protestors (which for the love of all things are NOT paid). I hate conflict. So. Much. Yet here we are. Don’t waste your energy talking to someone who will not hear you. They are hoping we fail. They are hoping we exhaust our resources and our hope. We will not. Everything is at stake.

Tip 4: Double down and go deep, if you’re getting exhausted, rather than trying to go broad. We’re not facing an assault only on women’s rights, or on LGBTQ rights, or the environment, or freedom of the press, or healthcare, or the working poor, or the minority religions or POC, or education, or fair labor practices, or international partnerships, or the very promises America has held out of welcoming refuge to those seeking a better life. We’re facing it all (and I’m sure I forgot some!) So as one person, what to do? Ask yourself which issues are most vital to you. (I know I know they all are!) Choose one or two to focus on. Others will carry different ones. We can’t hold up the whole sky, but we can damn sure hold up our own cloud (full of #nastywomen and #badhombre snowflakes). You will feel like you’re accomplishing more and being more productive and you’ll experience less burnout. We’re not robots, even under crisis. This is a long long long game. Keep your eye on the prize.

 Tip 5: Art, art, art, art, art the fuck out of your life. Write it. Sing it. Dance it. Film it. Paint it. Sculpt it. Consume art like the fuel that it is. Draw on those who’ve been down this road before (Sweet Honey in the Rock and Nina Simone have been helping me!) You don’t have to “high” art it. Low brow it with the best of us. Just Art The Fuck Out Of Your Life.

#resist #persist #werk

Nevertheless, She Persisted

(Warning: language/possible content trigger/& a rant)

So can we finally say that sexism is a thing? That misogyny is alive and well–it’s got the best health care plan, after all! Can we finally say, after Mitch McConnell told Senator Elizabeth Warren to sit down and shut up — following, by the way, the script of every abuser: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” — that there are still some parts of this country that have a hell of a hard time with a woman who dares to speak?

Women are hysterical. Wild-eyed. Out of control. And need we mention that an old white man told a woman to shut up while she was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to try to prevent the confirmation of good-ol-racist Southern boy Jeff Sessions during Black History Month? And that Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he could only “hope that if Coretta Scott King were still with us, that she would support Senator Sessions nomination.” I’m a fiction writer and I can’t make this shit up. (Should I give points to Spicer for knowing that Mrs. King was deceased? I mean, I guess she and Frederick Douglass could be having a Skype call right about now  discussing the carnage of the Bowling Green Massacre…#strangerthanfiction)

The ancient Greeks gave us the term “hysteria”, which means literally ‘wandering uterus.’ And if the way the old-man GOP congressmen have understood how women’s bodies work in the past still holds true: a shut off valve to prevent pregnancy in cases of rape; women don’t need gynecological care after 50, and my favorite — we apparently get pregnant all alone, but heck…I’m just a noisy bitch don’t listen to me, and I’m not a 10 and I’m old, so really, as the esteemed Nebraska state senator Bill Kintner reminded me on Twitter (the GOP’s new means of transmitting important information) But her emails! Sorry, damn, I keep digressing-– that the marchers were too ugly to fuck anyway, it’s likely they think that our uteruses (uteri?) have just gotten a little unhinged, running amok among the ‘down there’ parts that are just messy and disgusting and there only for the pleasure of their tiny tiny …. (right. hysterical bitch. shut up. sit down. breed a baby or two while you’re there. what do you mean you didn’t take his last name? and don’t wear pants, by the way. dress like a girl.)

I’m still framing my thoughts around the trauma that the election of 45 has triggered. The ‘sharking’ he did of Secretary Clinton during the debates. The bullying. The name-calling and the ranking of women. When a sexual predator is President, the whole country becomes his victims. When a narcissist is President, the whole nation spins in his chaos.

I don’t have clarity yet on the work for me around the trauma being released by this election. I feel there’s the potential for lots of healing, lots of working with the unspoken and hidden–in myself and with others. We’re headfirst in the unacknowledged–our country’s deep Shadow work. We have buried our secrets for far too long, and as James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” And that’s where we find ourselves now, #woke and furious and looking at a whole lot of our buried shit trying to find the seeds of a new way.

Right now, 45 and the GOP are the bullies I have faced-down my whole life. The ones that told me to be quiet. The ones that told me to let him go first. The ones who told me that I needed to stop raising my hand so much in class. The ones that told me I was not, in fact, a 10, and the ones that, in a workshop in graduate school, told me to remove a scene from a work-in-progress because it was utterly unbelievable that a husband would rape his wife. And the one in particular, who told me that if I ever left him, he would kill my family. But that’s a story for another time.

What I’ve got to say now is this: She persists. She resists. This is not the good ol’ boys club anymore (though yes, clearly we play one on the reality TV show that has become our government). Our biggest challenge now is to not get tossed away in the chaos. Our biggest threat to them is our long, long, long history of watching them. Of learning how to navigate their world so that we could get a foot in the door and a seat at the table. We–the marginalized who have been shut out of your club: the women, LGBTQ folks, people of color, immigrants, the disabled, the poor–have been watching you, and because you did not see us, you will remain forever surprised that we are here and are coming for you. Because we were invisible to you, you did not know our superpowers.

Make no mistake, 45 and the GOP: We are not going away. If we know how to do anything, it is how to persist. May you choke on your last gasp of this obscene indecency that is your privileged, greedy, narrow world view. McConnell. Ryan. Flake. McCain. Don’t think we don’t have the lists of how you’re voting and what you’re voting for. I haven’t reached an enlightened stage of compassion for you yet. I’m not interested in joining hands across the table to sing kum-ba-yah. Maybe it’ll come. Maybe it won’t. But for now, I’m taking my wandering uterus and persisting the fuck out of this mess. “Step by step,” wrote Pete Seeger, “the longest march can be won.”

Maybe we can find common ground again. I hope so. But I know from personal experience with abusers that after staying alive, the next step is to never negotiate with the terrorists, followed closely by get that person out of your house, and right now that house is our White House.

So, I’m sorry the hand towels weren’t soft enough for you on Air Force One, 45. Use one of Ivanka’s scarves instead. I hear they’re going to be lots of them showing up at discount retailers all over the country. Oh wait, the discounters also said #noivanka? Well. Goodwill then. On half-off Saturday. Maybe your family will finally make an honest charitable contribution.

(And PS: Thank you #9thcircuit. Team Constitution!)

#thankyounordstrom #thankyoutjmaxxmarshalls #resist #blizzardofsnowflakes #shepersisted #nastywoman

It’s Time to Uncover What You’ve Been Hiding

She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.

  • Shel Silverstein

I thought I was an engaged citizen. I have voted in every election since I was 18. I have signed petitions and done some marching and called some Senators and Representatives and wrote some poetry and hosted some events. And now, it is apparent that this type of engagement will not be enough for me anymore. I, and many others, are realizing that we are suddenly in the middle of a rebellion and revolution that (at least I) thought were things of the past. America had figured it out. Sure we disagreed on lots of things, but at the end of the day, we had a center that most of us could agree on.

I still think that’s true, as is evidenced by the sheer numbers of protests and outcries. I think the current ruling Kleptocracy is, while very real, not representative of us. I hold to that when I watch, open mouthed, as one day of #45’s actions feels like a year of being run over by a truck.

I’ve had to add daily acts of political activism to my routine, and that has caused me to have to adjust. I have had to (and continue to) dig deep inside to find out what tools I have that I have let go dormant that I can use now to benefit the #resistance. In my 20s, I spoke out against President George HW Bush’s policies, and then again with President George W Bush’s administration. I wrote plays and poems. My work was picketed. I was put on a Catholic Watchdog list. But I had something to say.

I was so certain of everything. So very much rooted in my twenties. And as I grew more, I understood that I was not always right. That shouting was rarely the most effective means of communication. That outrage, unmanaged and left to fly wildly, wasn’t helpful. So I moved away from anything controversial in my public life. I still voted, signed petitions, called representatives. But I didn’t want to offend people. I wanted to connect people.

I don’t think those changes I made were wrong. I was young and righteous and smug and my anger was destroying me. But I think now that I may have gone too far. By attempting to remain neutral, I haven’t always said much of anything. By trying not to incite conflict, I may have inadvertently turned away from something or someone I could have helped.

And here we are in February, 2017, and I have found the rage I thought I left behind in my 20s is still there. I am not interested in fighting. I do not want conflict. But here we are. And the choices we make now will be judged by future generations. This isn’t about one bill or one appointment or one executive order. This is about a full on assault on the Constitutional foundations of America, and as we have seen in the protests, it’s not only Democrats or Progressives who are speaking out. It’s Independents and Republicans. Green Party folks and no-party folks. It’s every country in the world.

And so, with that rage that fueled my twenties, and the wisdom I’ve gained in the thirty years since then, I am reclaiming that fire. I have more tools to use it in a healthful way. I have more experience with communication and conflicts and mediations. But that fire is there, and as I wrote in a post on Facebook in Pantsuit Nation the night after the election, “I promise I will never be silent again.”

Is there something you’ve let go to sleep for awhile that can help you now? This is the time. We cannot say we didn’t see this coming, and I, for one, cannot and will not say that I did nothing.