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Leaning Out. Way Out.

mattmcgillivray flickr creative commons

mattmcgillivray flickr creative commons

Sermon time.

My friend and neighbor, Allison wrote this and posted it on Facebook recently:

“I haven’t worked full time for about 12 years. It was part time, then freelance, then run own business, then school, then more freelance. Full time this week has taken a village to pull off. Thank you all for helping. Starting 30 hours next week till Mid-June. I’m in awe of parents (and jeez, single parents) who do this all the time. And how the heck did I do it before? With toddlers? It feels like there has to be at least one parent in the household with flexible time to deal with the million things you have to do for kids/house/life. This week I’ve been feeling so much empathy for the working poor as my list of things I take care of during business hours fell off the schedule and onto my worry list. And low-paying jobs are the least flexible. Want to take care of that parking ticket/doctors appt/teacher meeting? Those things happen during the day and they require more than a lunch break. At best, it’s time without pay, at worst lose your job. Another way being poor makes you poorer as fees accrue, and the high price of convenience makes planning impossible.”

I’ve been lucky enough to have a neighborhood filled with families who have kids of the same age as mine, all of whom have grown up together like cousins. The parents have a Facebook group to coordinate support and keep track of where they all are, and I’ll tell you, it’s been invaluable to know that my children can show up on any doorstep and be fed, watered, and kept safe. It’s delightful to return the favor when one or more “cousins’ show up to raid the pantry or play in the backyard. It was incredibly important to have this support when I was taking care of two small children and a dying mother, while working full time with a husband who was working and finishing a PhD.

I’m often surprised we survived at all.

Allison is right that it’s almost nearly impossible to run a household, take care of personal, business, and family needs, offer true attention to your children and help them thrive all while both parents are working a full time job (or more). It’s a relentless and constant race to keep up without letting that one important plate crash to the ground, and they all seem important.

There is something SO wrong with that system and that system is neoliberalism and capitalism. And I’m in it and I suspect I”ll be in it and not much to be done, but damn if I don’t want things to be different FUNDAMENTALLY.

Here’s the thing. Machines can do the same thing over and over day in and day out and not need rest or breaks or emotional support. They are efficient and they are industrial and they cannot ever EVER be the model for human systems. Humans cannot do the same thing over and over. They DO need rest and breaks and my god the emotional support people need. Or maybe that’s just me?

We are often extremely creative creatures, but often very inefficient because creativity doesn’t work on a machine’s time table. Creating is not a straight steady line.

Machines have the same day, so far as we know. Humans have bad days, grumpy days, need to pay a tax bill, need to take kids to the doctor (mine are BOTH quite sick right now and thank god my husband can be there today).

Women, have generally served as the home and family caregiver and it was a full time very important role. And not just for having kids. Some people don’t have kids, but everyone has aging parents, or a sick partner, or their own illness. Life has been so potentially bumpy that it’s been really important to have someone who can be at the home taking care of things. It’s so important of a role that women entering the workforce was seen as a revolutionary act in both directions. People fought for it and against it (still are actually).

Feminism of course is vital and important. Women are human beings. That’s not even a section of the system I want to get into. The one thing that I’ve felt has been perhaps…negative…about women working full time is that men have not necessarily been as free to become at home caregivers. Women have adapted into the working world (which of course they always were working both at home and in many other ways), but men haven’t had the cultural approval to “just” parent. The economic market has certainly not supported one person staying at home.

We are a duel income (and some times more) society and most folks working full time jobs still can’t make ends meet as salaries have not matched cost of living.

I don’t think the answer is that “women stay home and men work (which completely erases trans and gender non binary from the equation)” but I don’t think the answer is “everybody work all the time.”

The system is just built wrong. Well, it’s built wrong for most of us. It’s built pretty darn good for the ones reaping the financial rewards at the top of the heap.

Allison’s post describes perfectly how chaotic my life feels most of the time and I am married to a very non-traditional man who has a job with more home flexibility and I myself have had jobs with more home flexibility. I never feel caught up, I always feel lacking as a homemaker and parent because I’m at work, or I’m trying to run faster and faster to achieve…something.

All of that but I’m privileged as hell. As hell. I’ll say it again, I’m goddamn privileged in this ridiculous system and it’s still exhausting, demoralizing, and confusing often enough that I wonder how in the hell anyone ever thought “Lean In” feminism was a good idea.

It’s a total racket. Now, again, I don’t mean the feminism part. All human beings deserve equal rights, ability to earn income equitably, not to be discriminated against or held to arcane cultural standards about roles.

I mean the lean in part. If I leaned in more and became some high powered high paid Whosiwhatsit CEO do you know what would have to happen? I’d have to hire people, other women more often than not, to take care of my house, my bills, my errands, my kids, my life.

But then who takes care of their houses, bills, errands, kids, and life? How hard then do they have to lean in to hire help. And what about that help? Who helps them?

Do they read Lean In and just work more? Do they watch Oprah and assume they don’t “believe” in themselves enough to “attract” wealth?

Everyone working so hard to get ahead of someone else so that they can farm out life to other people so that they can work harder.

Leaning In seems like a grand illusion to me. Meanwhile kids are growing up, doing wonderful things. And there are meals to be cooked, deliciously. And golly, lying in the dusk in the spring grass while a firefly parade bounces through the yard seems really fucking important.

There was a full moon last night, too.

I know that have odd skills. Here they are:

Pretty much I can get on stage, channel some kind of strange energy (I’m sure there is perfectly mundane explanation for it but it feels energetic) and hold a powerful space.

I can make people laugh, I can see the joke and moment that takes the hard thing and humanizes it, and see the power in story.

I also can listen very well and give people goodness about themselves.

I pay attention to the humans IN systems, and while I can see the systems, for me it’s the humans that matter most.

Finally, I write rambling posts about things I think about and people seem to like them.

Right now? I’m thinking about those skills of mine and how to use them in the world-hard. And about art, revolutionary ideas like empathy, love, connection, slowing down, embracing the skills you have even if they aren’t “valued” the same way other skills are-like making money (which…well money is necessary, it’s unregulated net-liberalist capitalism that is stuck in my craw right now and I suppose I should get over some of my feelings enough to take care of my family but you get my point yeah?).

That’s about the only thing I’m leaning into, right now, is me, and as for the rest of the illusory racket?

I’m leaning out, at least far enough to see the fireflies and the moon.

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Generative

flickr verybabytomato

flickr verybabytomato

It has been a long time since my last post. I’d like to chalk it up to some sort of winter germination, but I’ve just been busy and sometimes when I get that busy, I don’t take a lot of time for self-reflection. Sometimes, when I’m doing a lot of work for others, producing or holding space let’s say, I don’t do a lot of performing for myself.

I’ve been very busy and it’s been very exciting.

Roundabouts January sixth, I posted that I was launching a freelance business of sorts. I attracted some incredible folks, and got started managing several social media accounts, consulting around storytelling for documentary, and helping two fantastic theater companies. While that was going on, BedPost Confessions has been growing and experiencing some pretty rich changes. And then that lead to a full time job at an incredible company, Production For Use, which offers a wide variety of consulting services for films in development-from social media management to Kickstarter Advising, they are truly producers for hire, and damn nice people to boot.

All in all? It’s been a little wild. Through the winter (what passes for winter here in Austin, at least), I’ve felt a little stunned, surprised, and amazed both at where I’ve landed and the goodness of the people I’m working with. Between supporting the stories that come out of BedPost and (un)Spoken, consulting with theaters and promoting their work, and now being a part of a team that gets films out with real impact?

I feel like a veritable midwife, and truly lucky.

In all of that wonderfulness though, sometimes I forget to find time for myself and to do my own work. It was delightful today when I went out to a Garden Party at The Vortex, and got my hands in the dirt, smelled beautiful new blossoms, saw some brand new babies, and played with goats and chickens and rabbits and pups. Played

The sun was gentle, music was jovial and free, jazz punctuated by baby goat cries and ducking peeps. My lungs were filled with the breath of spring-soil, pollen, soft sweat, and green leaves.

A good friend asked me when I was going to do my own one-woman show. I asked her in all earnestness, “Oh, god! What is it about?” She laughed and said, “That’s up to you.” I was reminded suddenly of how little I’ve been writing. How little I’ve been creating outside of creating space for other creatives to create. There is a generative cycle that needs to be respected and I’m not sure how I’ll find the time, but I think I should try.

My question is how? How do you out there (my friends who do both) balance the generative and restorative, the production with the performance, the holding space for others with having room to create? Or do you, can you, see it all as two sides of the same coin?

My father once wrote a book called Teaching As A Performing Art and I wonder if Producing is also an art on it’s own, though one of working with people, places, and things to create a big outcome that can reach so many. He had his own challenges with the balance. He taught and he created music. He swung between those two poles and perhaps at the detriment of both. Perhaps not.

He was a beloved professor (that much is still true-I get emails from former students who learned from him in the 70’s) and a well-respected composer (his music is still played), but was his life a divide? Old letters of his show that the two sides pulled at him and he struggled-when he wrote he longed for teaching, when he taught he heard the song asking to be written. He felt depressed over it and was filled with self-doubt. Maybe it’s about accepting that some of us don’t have one thing to do and that’s ok.

No matter. I’m not sure struggling between poles ever gave anyone anything but whiplash.

So here’s to spring, to creating in all possible ways, to generative action and whatever results that action may bring.

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New Year, New Chapter

craigsunter

craigsunter

It’s a new year and all around me I see proof of it online and off. Mostly, it’s in the “New Year/New You” posts on magazines, ads, CNN reports-everywhere! Lose weight, change your face, get a new job, join the gym, be someone new! Resolutions focused on changing the “you” of you into a new person, don’t work, and frankly that usually leaves most of us who try it feeling like failures by February.

And think about it. In order to be a new you, that means have to give up who you currently are and who you used to be. That’s not only impossible, it’s kind of mean!

You are exactly who you need to be.

The thing is, we don’t need a new us, we just need to work on the next chapter of the story of our lives. It’s always your story, and you are always the lead character. Why not think of the new year in terms turning the page and seeing what adventures you can create?

I’ve fallen prey to the same resolution listing and I’ve certainly tried to avoid being me by being a whole new person-boy have I and Lordy how that didn’t work out. But over the past few years, I’ve discovered some core truths about myself in the world, the skills I offer, and the next chapters I myself want to set out (in print or otherwise).

Your story matters and I want to help you tell it.

Whether you are working on transitions in the story of your life, if you are needing strategic production support in creating a powerful event, or if you are seeking someone to speak or emcee an event I would love to work with you.

I have a handy little page on the blog with info on what I offer-from personal story coaching to social media management to events, and I’d love to talk and find out if I can be of help. I offer competitive rates, as well as a sliding scale for my services, and always offer a free complimentary session for us to get to know each other to see if the relationship is a match.

These are just a few of the services I can provide. Let me know if you’d like to connect. And Happy New Year. You are going to be amazing.

Personal Consultation: The Story Of Your Life

What’s your story? Experiencing big changes or transitions in your personal narrative? I’m highly intuitive about finding the heart of the life-issue or artistic vision you are working on, helping you plan and set goals, all while providing compassionate support along the way.

Promotion and Media: Your Story Online

Need support with social media campaigns? Know that you need them but are not sure where to start? I am well versed in finding the narrative you want to share and condensing it to 140 characters, fun posts, captivating images. Social media is a powerful and necessary part of any business, non-profit, or event, so make sure your story is told online as well as face to face. A plus? I collaborate with Tilton Rivers Films so can serve as a one shop stop for media needs.

Producing Events: Your Story On Stage

Events are stories on a bigger scale, with the power to create a shared experience. With over 20 years experience in theater and event management, producing small evening events as well as festivals and conferences, I can manage the event for you, offer services from consulting to crowdfunding, from strategic planning to volunteer management.

Public Speaking: Stories For Change

Sometimes we need to hear stories as much as tell them. Whether you need an emcee to help spice up your event, or need a workshop presenter on the topics on Public Speaking, The Power Of Play, Transformational Storytelling, Sexuality, Spirit, And Shame, or Improvising Your Relationships, I’d love to work with you.

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Burning Bowls

tschoppi

tschoppi

Burning The New Year
Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

This is a ritual that I’ve partaken in both at home and at my personal choice for spiritual worship, the Unitarian Universalist Church. It’s a bowl that you place a fire in, and you then write short notes or words on scraps of paper, or just hold the paper and thing hard on something you want to let go of, and then you burn the paper and send the releasing of it into the air.

Sometimes you can also burn the things you want to call to you as well. Either/or because as rituals go, it’s about the intention.

It’s a beautiful thing to see flame and fire, feel heat and smell the sharp and acrid scent. It’s a powerful thing to name the thing you want to let go, or the thing you want to call in.

And if you want, you can roast marshmallows.

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Year Behind/Year Ahead

flickr groume

flickr groume

Today is the last day of 2015. Tomorrow begins the month of January, named after the Roman God Janus. He had two faces one which looked at the past, and the other looked towards the future.

My 2015 has been very full, very busy, and very educational. I’ve performed or spoken at 26 events. I’ve been a facilitator or trainer at 12, and the productions I’ve worked on numbers about 15. I’ve begun additional free-lance production and consulting for some incredible and visionary folks, and am focused more on story than ever.

While all this has been going on, I’ve been enjoying a lovely life with a wonderful husband (20 years!) and madcap children (already in middle and high school!), and I am so grateful to have dear and valued friends.

On top of that there has been a real re-emergence from the past two years of grieving the death of my mother. While I’ve been present and happy on the surface, there was a whole lot of Orpheus in the Underworld about my inner life since she passed. Or Eurydice. One or the other, not sure, possibly I lost some of myself there and was finding out how much I could bring back. Regardless, I’ve done a lot with my time and from looking back over the year I can see how it was leading me to where I am now.

Sometimes being busy is a good thing. It’s certainly valued by our culture, right? Being too busy to sleep or go see friends, or even book a massage because you are so stressed from being so busy! As the NYT said, it’s a bit of a trap. But sometimes it’s a way of avoiding stopping and reflecting on one’s life. If you (or say I) are so focused on externals rather than what really needs to be addressed internally, well then cycles occur and they aren’t always good.

Or if some things are working in your life, but other more structural things are not, you might (or I might) be very tempted to pay attention to the workable things and ignore the things that are harder. And, even with the good things happening, you may find that you (or well, maybe me) can’t really get over the hump of it all to affect some real change that would make a BIG difference.

It’s a little like being stuck in an eddy. Even if the scenery is nice, you need to get your ass downstream because the river is flowing, and you are supposed to flow too. Something. Mixing all my metaphors.

All this to say, I found myself at the end of 2015 with a new awareness of boundaries, of self care, of respect for systems and my role in them, and of family.

With that knowledge, I’m very much looking forward to well, looking forward into 2016. I wish you a thoughtful look back and a Happy New Year ahead!

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Archives Revolutions

From My Archives Revolutions

creative commons flickr by Alan

creative commons flickr by Alan

True then, true today. But who knows what lies along the way?

Definition of REVOLUTION

1
a (1) : the action by a celestial body of going round in an orbit or elliptical course; also : apparent movement of such a body round the earth (2) : the time taken by a celestial body to make a complete round in its orbit

2
a : a sudden, radical, or complete change
b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm

Why do we call them resolutions?

I wrote all this last year, and I’m a little wobbly from the truth I see in it for me now, today. I could probably write this same post all over again.

“I resolve to let things make sense.

Turning around to face the past year, I do know this, risk is vital and that life is random and capricious. Deaths of all kinds, physical and meta, occur without much notice. Using your precious time preparing for the moment when you’ll be who you are enough to do the things you want is a risk indeed, but not the one that will help you. By negotiating with demons such as After-I-lose-weight or Once-I-save-the-money and so forth in order to be who you already are, and you DO know who that is, is a kind of dying while living. Risking leaping while learning, just letting yourself take the damn lead, that’s the trick of it. Even if it is terrifying, it’s aliveness.

I resolve to be who I am.

There is no glory in waiting, no nobility in waiting to live until later, until tomorrow, or until the time is right. My mother, who waited and waited and waited while she was alive, waited for something that I still don’t quite understand, always put off who she had been, could have been again, and simply waited. After her illness, I waited alongside her glimpsing parts of the me I should have been being, if not for waiting, waiting until she passed? And then? Get to finally be myself without fear of loss and reprisal? Have less on my plate? Just wound up behind where I could have been? Perhaps, perhaps it was all a process to get where I am today.

Still.

I resolve to live without waiting.

The year itself ends, a symbol of passage both of time but also life. A year dies, a year is born and we mark the end with lists and the beginnings with resolutions, perhaps it is all the same thing swirled in and out of itself. All I know, facing this transition is that holding back the self, the call whether through waiting, hiding, not risking, being one way at work, another outside of it, serves no one, certainly not you. Certainly not me.”

And yet, there was frustration at things not making sense.

There was challenge in trying to know who this person I said I’d be ok with being actually was.

There was most certainly waiting.

Sometimes waiting is the thing that you have to do in order to not wait. Waiting as an action? I don’t know, it feels like one of those paradoxes.

Sometimes there is a desert and you sit in that desert because that’s where the work has to happen even if it doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes things take a lot of time to process, to grow, and to emerge from where they’ve been hidden.

Have I mentioned ever that I’m an ADD Aries with an impatient streak?

I realized today that a year ago, a friend of mine made a big and bold declaration about her life. When I read her words, I had this huge huge response inside my chest, of desire, of want, of a nearly desperate call to do that same thing. I know it wasn’t time, but the call was loud and clanging in my ears and I was terrified.

She wants to be a minister. I do too.

I am often embarrassed and frightened by my desires, the deepest ones, as if to admit the want is a weakness. Or worse, that admitting them is opening the gate to let out a hungry animal, that will then leap out of me and consume me. I know that seems dramatic, but it feels like that sometimes.

These desires are the transformative/transcendent experiences, the peak moments. Sex, food, grief, writing, theater, dance, music, magic, deep community, religion. All are the same feeling, on my own or in groups, I realize it’s a room of mirrors all of it the same dynamic and the same feeling inside of myself.

All are the same feeling because it is all the same thing. The source.

And I have lived a life where I measure those out those moments and try to control them, or I leap a little too far in (often letting alcohol provide a gateway in) and feel overwhelmed afterwards, or I deny them totally choking off the power that is right there and poking at me and wanting out to run alongside me. There is a lot of shadow territory there. I started off life with some heavy stuff, so it makes sense I’d either have jumped into it or left it in a box avoiding that work in favor of “light” things.

I don’t know that I resolve anything this year, save to continue revolving around the center of this understanding, spiraling inward? Outward? Which doesn’t always happen in space because of gravity, I realize but that’s the image that comes to mind.

Revolving.

Revolutionizing in both sense of the word. And it feels like revolutionary times right now, at least it does to me. We are all feeling it, I think, this pull towards realness and real systemic change is happening hard right now, and frankly, it will take all of us to pull this revolution off; a revolution of people, accepting the deepest truths about ourselves personally and culturally, light and dark. It will entail not hiding desires in boxes, not measuring them out with fear and a leash, but letting them run alongside, often leading the way of revolution, towards love and rage and hope combined.

At least, that’s how it feels today, on this last day of 2014.

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Archives Prayers For The Messy

From My Archives Prayers For The Messy

Daniel Oines Creative Commons

Daniel Oines Creative Commons

I am messy.

I live in fear of the unexpected drop-in with a carpet bedecked in crumbs, a bathroom evident of life, a kitchen sink filled with mess and remains. I’ve had eating disorders which I suspect are related to the same root fear and desire for control, the right food at the right time made with the right combination of fats and carbs, the proper perfect amount of exercise all in the goal of control of the body, the control of the mess.

I am messy.

Fear of messes means you don’t risk. It means, often, a waste of energy on making sure things are perfect, rather than enjoying what’s happening in the NOW. It can also be a kind of procrastination technique, keeping yourself (or I should say myself) focused on cleaning or order rather than creation which frankly is one of the most messy things anyone can partake in.

I am messy.

I feel shame around it, the mess, the lack of perfection, the missteps or the waste of time this time I can’t help but use to create order, a facade I suppose of what’s really happening underneath, passions, humors, miscalculations, things inside me that don’t always match up, inconsistent and bumpy.

Do we all feel this messy? Do we hide it in perfect homes or perfect bodies or perfect yards or perfectly ordered lives and careers and rules of how to be? Maybe. I know I feel this messy. Sometimes I just have to forget about cleaning up, and get to doing the work, which perhaps is just the same thing.

The only way not to leave a mess, is not to live.

Here’s a poem and a prayer from a beautifully talented Austin writer, Abe Louise Young.

FORGET MAKING YOUR BED
by Abe Louise Young

(for Emily Joan)

Forget making your bed. Make your desk instead.
Let your bed sheets lie rumpled on the floor
with pillows underneath them
like elephants in the bellies of snakes,
with stuffed animals and a water glass
tipped over on top.

Forget the bed. Put the pages of your desk in order.
Line up the sheets from head to foot.
Smack the dust and grit off. Shelve the books.
Make your bet that what you’ve got to write might crack a boulder
like a light bulb, that a cone of butterflies will stream out,
that you could make a person you’ve never met
want to give birth through her eye sockets.

See those piles of old textbooks,
post-it notes, envelopes
with little plastic windows, job application folders,
nests of screws and nails and grommets,
empty condom packets, coupons for bulk soy milk?
Take it all and throw it out.
Would you sleep in that?
No.

Dream at your desk, then work your mind
through its torque. Mime the regular simplicity
of milking a goat. Every day, twice.
Morning and night.
A squirt of hot goat’s milk
puddles in a metal pail with each gentle tweak
of your mind’s nipples.
If you don’t, the goat will cry.
Have you seen mastitis?

So milk the stream down, thin as silky thread.
Stir the cream slowly so it turns to butter,
then heat it to cheese,
add those herbs you’ve spent years growing
in cracked pots on the windowsill.
Memory sits down gratefully
like an old farmer
and takes off its weathered, sweaty cap.
Out of the sun, off the fields,
in your company. Put out a loaf of bread.

Put your head where your feet should be.
Hug the pillows to your chest.
Pretend you hold a body, soft, trusting,
someone who’s not going to leave at morning light.
These are your readers,
the ones you need, the ones you are lonely,
brittle, adrift without, the other mammals
full of feathers, like you,
who miss their mothers, like you,
are ringed round with zippers, like you,
indented and passive, like you. But not tonight.

The night is big and empty on your desk.
Touch blank paper with your fingertips.
The paper used to be trees; seed,
soil, water and sun, which used to be
your ancestors’ voices and breath
buried in light without a box.
They will lead you to your readers.
You might never know them,
you might die before they’re born.
But tonight, hold them tight.
Make the desk sprout leaves and sing.
Make it feel like a sapling.

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Archives Exiting The Mobius

From My Archives Exiting The Mobius

nosha creative commons flickr

nosha creative commons flickr

I watch my Twitter feed, my Facebook timeline. I see a winding stream of posts, typed and sent through the ether, human voices posting about inhuman things. Inhuman circumstances created by humans in systems built by humans; perhaps the systems are inhuman because we can’t live up to our promise, or perhaps the systems kill our spirit leading us to act in inhuman ways.

Syria.

There are people trying to reach safe havens risking everything, and losing everything, their most precious loves, their children. Who made this happen? Why is there no salve for this? Where can these people go? Can we sit and watch?

We need to help. We need to help always and every day. This is a tough life, being human because the helping, the need for the help, never seems to end; indeed we may be causing the need for help even as we may try to fix it. Humans seem to me to be a mobius monster of cause and effect, good and evil, help and harm.

Still, the harm is here and we need to help. Many will offer some brief respite, money, goods or services to help those refugees from a man-mad war, from terror, from death and destruction.

As the article states, these are practical ways you can help, I can help, at least in the short term.

Make a donation, and volunteer, and petition the countries you live in to act. It may seem like a small thing, just doing even one of the items on the very long lists. The impact of a small thing feels, well, small when compared to the situation at hand. I don’t know that it’s comprehensible, the terror and pain people must be in to escape and leave their homes. It’s happening though, and if every one of us did something that would have an inestimable impact. At least I think it would.

Perhaps it would be help in the short term, but what’s the impractical way to help, the radical way, the way that stops this from happening again? How can we act practically when what is happening is irrational and a rip across the soul? That’s not addressed except in snippets on my feed. Sometimes I scroll social media looking for clues and keys.

Meanwhile, I’d like to also mention that this same pain and fear is in our backyard here in Texas. There are many people escaping difficult lives, war, poverty and coming to the US where they risk everything, can lose everything that is precious.

We have families in detention centers here in our state. It’s a kind of torture to be so isolated. Again, I don’t know that people comprehend what is really going on there, perhaps they can’t because to open up their minds to what is really occurring to human beings, is to risk a kind of madness of awakening. But it’s also madness to keep our eyes closed.

Dilley. Karnes. Hutto.

You can also help here, right now. End Family Detention has a number of ways to help, both pragmatic and personal. Their links on how to be of service are invaluable, but you need to feel, as well, the Visions From Inside, the pain and the needs and the words of those in detention centers because they would be erased, forgotten, invisibled if not for End Family Detention and volunteers who stand up for humanity in inhuman systems.

Practical and pragmatic ways to help are good, at least they are far better than nothing. I am never satisfied with that, not even in my dreams at night. Why? Why this circular winding, back and forth of beauty and degradation, of humans and inhumanity, of pain and relief, peace and chaos? How to drop out of that mobius to find the deepest places of change?

Is it possible? What would it take to really help? Photos? Stories? Water over stones over time over souls? How do we exit this loop or is it part and parcel of what it means to be human?

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Archives Darker Stories

From My Archives Darker Stories Given my time at Grief Rites last night, it feels appropriate.

flickr shotsatrandom

flickr shotsatrandom

Today there was a very good post in HuffPo about things not to say when someone has experienced a great loss. The article was specifically discussing death, because death loss has a very particular feeling and pain to it. Grief can be found in losing other things, most certainly, and it’s real, but this article really moved me because we, as a culture, don’t talk about death other than to cover it up.

The article lists things not to say, 8 of them, to someone experiencing deep grief such as

“1. “Cheer up. Your (loved one who died) wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
After my mom died, people told me that Mom would hate to see me carrying around such pain and that, to honor her memory, I should stop being sad. It’s true that I can’t think of a single time when my mom said to me, “I see that you’re super sad, and I think that’s awesome!”

Sure, Mom liked to see me happy, but for a period of time after she died, I simply couldn’t be happy. When you love deeply, you grieve deeply. Grievers need to be sad in order to get to the other side of grief.

2. “Focus on all the blessings in your life.”
While this message is optimistic and all, it’s not really what a grieving person wants to hear when his world has just been shattered. I mean, I get that it’s better to concentrate on the positive than the negative. Nevertheless, even if a griever appreciates the good things in his life, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s reeling from a monumental loss. Therefore, when someone is newly grieving, he likely won’t feel like yelling from the rooftop, “Hey, look at lucky me!”

(and my personal least favorite)

3. “She’s/he’s in a better place.”

I agree those things aren’t especially useful things to say, but then again, for some people they might be. More importantly, I think we need to consider WHY people say those things. My thought is its because we don’t know what to say instead, and we feel extremely nervous and vulnerable about saying anything at all. We create verbal rituals to pass the difficult moments, which often make the moments longer and harder. We create verbal rituals also to protect ourselves (magically) from death coming near us. Many of us are highly rational atheist types, but I see this kind of “Defense Against The Dark Arts” kind of magical thinking all the time. It shows up a lot in victim blaming, but also around difficult transitions like deaths, divorces, job loss, and illness.

Why not talk about death more and get used to sitting with people in their difficult emotions? It’s hard, I’ll say that. I’ve experienced how hard it is on both sides. I’ve lost a father early in life, several dear relatives in my teens, a boyfriend to suicide, and my mother over a long slow lingering battle with Alzheimer’s. I’ve not known how to share my stories and felt awkward when I did, like I was that weird kid at the party with TMI. I also was comforted in the weirdest of ways by people with good intentions but who didn’t help much.

Mostly, its simply that I wasn’t sure how to asked for what I really wanted that could help me, and others didn’t know how to offer. I’ve been on the other side of it too, saying the wrong things, being afraid to reach out (that magical thinking thing DON’T ATRRACT DEATH!) and been frustrated when nothing I could do could help (most scarring- with my own mother whose grief ran so deeply that I pretty much lost her for about 5 years).

Because of this, I think we should open up a conversation about it to make things easier. Want to talk about death, grief and grieving? I’d love to meet you for coffee or lunch. Have a story to tell about a loss? I’d love to read or hear it. There are several friends of mine who want to hear and share those stories too. I think they need to be told and that we can create a courageous space to share ALL of what they entail-from the sadness, to the absurd, to the (yes) humor that can attend death, and wild frightening moments of emotions that fill us up so much we can’t but pour them out in deep and powerful tears.

Let me know if you are interested. They may be darker stories, but the deserve, and I’d say demand, to be told.

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Grief

flickr thomaspics

flickr thomaspics

On Monday, December 21, I have the honor of reading at Grief Rites. This is an amazing reading series in Portland, Oregon which focuses on that which waits for us all. Death.

From their site

memento vivere ~ memento mori
remember to live ~ remember you will die

We are afraid of death and grief. We are afraid to talk about it and think about it. The only way to end the fear is to talk about it openly and honestly. We are ALL going to die. We all know someone who has died. We all know people who will die. We may even have the honor of being with someone when they die.

Let’s work together to help end the stigma. Talk about it. Sing about it. Write about it. Make art about it. Embrace conscious and compassionate death. Live until you die, and then keep living.

Grief Rites will bring you information about how to talk about grief (and how not to!). Information about home funerals, green burials. Articles, poetry, essays, quotes. Inspiration. Consolation. No bullshit. The real truth.

I’ll be reading a piece about letting go of ghosts (even though they are always with you) which yes, does involve a little bit of sex because what would a piece from me be without sex? Sex and Death are closely related, you know?

We need to talk about the hard stuff because that’s what makes us all connected, human.

So if you are in Portland, come on out and see the show and say hi if we haven’t already met. I’d love to say hello!

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