Fadi Skeiker Workshop Happening In Austin

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Fadi Skeiker (a shadow and object puppeteer), has come all the way from University of Jordan to visit Austin and to teach a workshop.

Performing Virtual Advocacy
An event hosted by Austin Community College

Workshop facilitator: Fadi Skeiker (University of Jordan)

Participants in Performing Virtual Advocacy workshop will be guided into devising scenes for three imagined characters who are living in different Arab Spring states. The facilitator will be using applied theatre and devising techniques as tools to craft the monologues of the three characters. Participants will be using social media platforms such as Facebook and twitter as sources of information; therefore, participants are asked to bring their smartphones/tablets/laptops to the workshop; and are asked to do a bit of research on Arab Spring states, such as Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia..etc. prior to attending the workshop. No previous theater experience required.

Workshop is going to be at the 301 Gallery Theater, Rio Grande Campus, Austin Community College (1212 Rio Grande Street). The workshop is free and open to to interested participants in the community.

Monday July 21 from 6-9pm

To register in the workshop, please email or call:
fadiskeiker@hotmail.com
phone: 737.333.9299

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The Women’s Community Center Of Central Texas

I have news!

As of next week, I will be the Director of Development for the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas.

This new organization serves women and girls of our area, providing them with resources, information, education, and more to help them empower themselves and be the best they can be.

Here is a little more from their website:

 

Mission
The mission of the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas is to promote the well being of Texas women and girls and to build positive connections among people and organizations that do the same.

Vision
We envision and work for a central Texas community in which all women and girls have the resources they need to build the lives they want. The Center will be a hub where women, girls, and allies from all walks of life come together to support each other and find empowerment.

Values
Equity – Working within a human rights framework, we affirm the inherent dignity and worth of every individual and the unique contributions they can make to the Center and the wider community.

Community – Fostering positive connections among organizations and people, especially women, and creating spaces for those connections to happen.

Intersectionality – Recognizing that women have very different experiences shaped by their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, immigration status, and other characteristics, we commit to understanding and supporting each other.

Respect – Board, staff, and volunteers commit to listening to each other and to every person who seeks us out as the experts on their own experiences and treating everyone with courtesy and kindness.

Accountability – Board, staff, and volunteers are all accountable to each other and the community. Every person involved with the Center is responsible for doing their part to build community and create positive change for Texas women and girls.

Positive change – Fostering personal growth for women, the growth of connections among women and girls, social changes that increase women’s well-being, and the evolution of the organization as a force for these values.

I will be raising money, supporting volunteers, helping with events and generally spreading the word and advocating for the center. I’m so thrilled that my own mission and vision are so keenly aligned with the Center, and that I can use all my skills for something so special and powerful.

Look for more of their blog cross posted here, and for more outreach from me in the coming months. Meanwhile, if you’d like to get involved, feel free to contact me here.

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Walking Away

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My 4th was spent in Marfa. Normally, I dislike the holiday both for the reasons you’d expect from me (a disillusionment and anger at our nation for atrocities, racism, and lack of equal rights) but also because I’m not ever too keen on crowds and plastic pedestals of pride and victory, the patriotic emails from politicians and companies both, begging me for my filthy lucre. I do like a good cookout, though. We started the day at Above All Else where there were also several shorts focused on protecting the treaty lands of South Dakota, and impassioned requests from Lakota elders that we all work together to stop the pipeline.

After the films, we went outside to meet with the elders who spoke about their village they’ve established as a protest and barrier against the Keystone. It was so clear to me, under the huge sky with the wind rustling past us, that we must act, and together. A new way must be midwifed. It’s coming, it’s most certainly present, but it has to be born. We all have to do it, and we all have to learn when we are centered in the story using our own individual skills and powers, and when the story is what matters, not us individually. That’s a complex skill, but we can do it. I saw it in action yesterday. Community, real family, interdependence, patience and compassion while holding a fierce line and living so, so differently, that’s what it will take.

The rest of the day we wandered, eating ice cream and getting sunburned. We landed at El Cosmico for their cook-out, by Frank, beer, and cold tubs. A wild encampment filled with dogs, children, rag tag clothes, and dusty arty people both in the Empire, but seeking ways out of it. I felt my privilege so deeply, just being there, and wondered if it was possible to walk away from structures of power when everywhere I go, there they are, so there too am I.

Can we live outside it? Is it so tangled in us that we enjoy our film festival experience all while sharing films about the empire that is killing the planet, dining well, driving long distances in the great desert using fuel. Sometimes my mind gets caught up in itself.

At dusk, we drove to a park on the outskirts and listened to music from the band stand as the wind whipped and the stars appeared in a crescent moon sky. Just looking up is a dizzying experience. The sky extends, like arms or a maw, to swallow you into itself. The stars range from edge to edge, more than I’ve ever seen. My eldest ran to the playground, a scrappy grouping of old metal slides and spinning circles, and watched the display of locally bought and shot fireworks. My youngest and I danced on the pavement to the music, doing the shag, swinging in circles. Sublime.

The darkness fell, and I lost track of everyone, then found them, and then suddenly had a feeling of fear. Existential maybe, but about just flying off the face of the earth into that dark open embrace of space. Even as I was connected to the ground, I tangled my own limbs into my husbands, my children, for extra touch points of gravity. I watched the people laugh and dance, hug and play, thinking of the vastness of the desert, of space, and of our own hearts. So close together all of us, but sometimes it’s so hard to keep ourselves connected. And we have to stay connected, so easy to say. Why so hard to do?

We drove home in the hypnotic dark, sought out the Marfa lights, made up silly theories about them in the car on the quiet ride back. We tumbled into bed, dirty and dusty, reddened by the sun, possibly changed by the day and the kiss of the desert, but maybe not. Maybe we’ll take what we learn with us. Hard to tell what will stick, what we’ll take with us as we walk. Can we even walk away, and can we do it together? Maybe it’s walking towards something. Something better. 

The boys still sleep, curled up like little wild animals, unaware of what the future will bring.

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Instagram Makes Me Feel Talented

A recent walk around the neighborhood.

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Amplifying The Good

I’ve been struggling lately with vision, goals, what I should be doing with my time to best support a new way of being in the future. I’ve talked about empire a lot, this corporate consumer model that extracts good and worth out of people and the world, leaving little left.

This is an incredible little video, idealistic and succinct, which brought some hope to my heart.

350.org – A new economic paradigm is not only possible, but plausible.

How We Live: A Journey Towards A Just Transition from Kontent Films on Vimeo.

It’s clear that we CAN live differently. It’s a choice, and not necessarily and easy one, but we can choose.

All I know is, I want to live in a different world, one made by our hands. All of us, working together to build and birth something new.

Here’s a woman, Vandana Shiva, leading the way with saving and cataloguing seeds. She’s amazing

Two Options from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

There are lots of intersections where change can be made, vision renewed, systems reconfigured. From slow food to home farms, storytelling to theater for justice, Moral Mondays to Cowboys and Indians facing the Keystone, people all over are waking up to the possibility that something can indeed be done. There are healers, ministers, farmers, artists, activists working together in ways they never have before. It’s new, sometimes people don’t intersect as well as they should, or even know they can, but it’s happening.

It’s challenging, especially in a world where bad news is blasted from every social media outlet. Just today I could have posted about 10 horrifying and demoralizing stories of things so big that I wind up freezing, for issues which I don’t know how to help. I get down. I feel helpless. I wonder what it is I’m doing that makes a difference. But I do know how to help when things get broken down to steps. And I try to remember that there is as much or more good happening, and that I have to help amplify the good. That in every article of horrifying news, there are always ways to discover change. For every shooting there are now groups like Everytown pushing for gun reform. For stories about prison human rights abuses, there are groups like the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition helping to expose the problems.

Amplify. Organize the good. Create community around the good. Listen to and create space for people to tell about the good. Build pathways between groups of goodness that may not even know about each other. Because there is a pull in the hearts of so many, and people need to know who is out there doing amazing things.

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Of Adam’s Rib

I have been, like so many, watching the horrific case of Elliot Rodger, a young man who brutally murdered 6 people. He committed this act of violence after leaving multiple videos and a lengthy and detailed manifesto focused on his pain and rejection by women, his inability to connect with people, and his sense that the world wasn’t responding to him as it should. The 137 page letter is chilling.

I am not a psychologist, nor an academic. I can’t speak accurately about his mental state, though I, like so many again, have opinions, unprofessional as they may be.

I’d like to think he was a sociopath with extreme narcissistic focus (mirrored in a deep and unabating self loathing and huge levels of anxiety). Women were the symbol of wellness, power, and worth. I don’t think there were very many human beings in his life that he actually saw as separate differentiated individuals. His writing about his life was devoid of empathy or compassion about anyone else’s circumstance, only how other people affected his life, not being happy when they helped him and hating them when they got in his way or failed him. His piece makes it seem like the only person who cared about him was his mother.

Nothing in the manifesto, save the end of it, was about non-reality, only about him and his idea world that would come to fruition if people would just behave the way he wanted them to behave. In this case, it was women he felt entitled to, and particular kinds. But his writings show some pretty messed up beliefs about sex and his early experiences with his body and sexual imagery, entitlement and dominance-the lessons of which are all mirrored in our culture. He seems to have found sex particularly disgusting, but also nearly an addiction.

I don’t like that the narrative around the shooting is focused primarily on mental illness. Not because I don’t think he was extremely disordered, but because we focus on this as an individual mental health issue, rather than a cultural and societal illness. We cling to the idea that these rampages are purely isolated occurrences, that somehow these young men, nearly always white or raised in a white cultural milieu, just snapped. Why they snapped? That’s not something we dare deal with. far easier to erroneously blame his attack on schizophrenia or autism, rather than look at the much bigger problems and dynamics that might combine into a perfectly violent and murderous storm.

It’s an additional part of a failed narrative to blame violence committed by people of color as acts of moral and character failing, rather than mental illness. We say that its about drugs and gang violence, that people of color aren’t educated enough or whatever other dismissive bullshit passes for excuse. We rarely give them the out of mental health issues. Racism pure and blunt.

And as for hate crimes, we allow that narrative as well, but only in some specific cases. Shooting up a synagogue is an obvious act of anti-Semitism, for example. Beating up gay men, or killing trans individuals, joining groups that attack based on race, are seen as hate crimes..

But in the cases where women have been killed (and there are many cases of men killing women for issues pertaining to sex), we don’t allow a more realistic narrative, one of hate, entitlement, control and the toxic effects of modern Western masculinity. It’s just mental illness. As Ruby Hamad states so eloquently:

His mental state may have played a role in his crimes but Rodger’s digital trail leaves no doubt that he was heavily influenced by a culture of hatred towards women. He did not choose a sorority house any more randomly than the Brussels shooter chose a Jewish museum. Both were targeted attacks against a specific group of people in the community, and both presumably driven by a violent ideology.

It’s true that not all of Rodger’s victims were women, but his male victims were chosen because they were allegedly getting the sex Rodger felt he was entitled to: “I’ll give you exactly what you deserve … all of you men for living a better life than me. All of you sexually active men. I hate you.”

It is disturbing that even when a killer leaves vast trails of evidence detailing the exact motivations for his crimes – hatred towards an identified group – because that group happens to be “women”, we prefer to engage in mental gymnastics rather than admit that this hatred is a real and not uncommon thing.

Elliot Rodger may have acted alone in his killing spree but he was far from alone in thinking he was entitled to women’s bodies, that sex with women was his right, and that the women who denied him this right deserved to be “punished”. As feminist blogger Melissa McEwan argues, “Dismissing violent misogynists as ‘crazy’ is a neat way of saying that violent misogyny is an individual problem, not a cultural one.”

For all the talk of women’s empowerment, ours remains a toxic culture that denies women’s subjectivity, insisting, for example, that the “friendzone” is a real thing because men can’t seem to grasp the simple fact that women are not slot machines into which they can insert “niceness” and get sex in return.

Jackson Katz wrote about all of these things after Newtown, and begged the media to focus on nanhood not guns or mental illness when writing about such shootings. I’m not sure you can leave out guns and mental health, or manhood or masculinity. Guns relate directly to masculinity. Our current cultural hatred of vulnerability and compassion relate directly to how we accept or deny mental health services. Our cultural mental health itself is in trouble, with its focus on power, dominance, greed, achievement, control of resources by any means necessary. That’s tied into masculinity as a representation.

The misogyny is real. Violence against women as a hate crime? I think it’s real as well, and directly related to the symptoms listed above. We don’t accept the idea of hate crimes against women and here’s why I think that is-women aren’t seen as separate from men, but as a subset of men. Two great authors have amazing articles on the subject of this act being a hate crime and a symptom of misogyny built into our culture, Soraya Chemaly and Pia Glenn. Race also played a role, as noted here by Zac Cheney-Rice.

For about six years I produced a women’s comedy festival here in Austin. For women, by women it was an amazing gathering of talent, humor, and skill. Each year I did press I’d get the question of “Why have a women’s comedy festival?” I always wondered if the Latino Comedy Project got that question. Or if Cine Las Americas heard statements like that? Or if Ballet Folklorico, or Alvin Ailey, or the Bay Area Black Comedy Festival had to answer questions about justifying their difference, their uniqueness.

Something about women separating themselves out irritates our culture. Or maybe it was, as I thought quietly, years ago, that women aren’t a “culture” on their own. They are a subset of men, drawn and born out of Adam’s Rib as per our very bible. Not unique in our own selves, but a helpmeet to serve Adam, and this mythos fills all our cultural norms about women and their role. How can you hate that which is part of you, right? But you sure can keep it in line, because it belongs to you.

When you see women as a sub-set of you, as a resource or as something that you own or control, it twists and toxifies the relationship.

This is about so much, this shooting. It is indeed a mental health issue-for our whole culture is mentally, emotionally, psychically unwell when it comes to power, greed vs softness, love. It is indeed a gun issue since so many guns are just available but also act as a cultural symbol of that desire for dominance, masculinity pathologized. It is most certainly a gender issue and an issue of hatred of women (seen as a resource that now are trying to be viewed as equals).

Since Newtown, there has been discussion of Aggrieved Entitlement, a state of experience that men, white men in particular are experiencing as our culture shifts dramatically.

Masculinity is equally resistant to any type of critical self-examination. The combination of the two, and an intervention which seeks to examine white masculinity in America and its relationship to violence, is destined to create a hostile reaction on the part of many white men.

In all, I am legitimately taken aback by the sincerity of the pain and offense at the idea that white men could be experts at committing singular types of crime in America.

Moreover, in surveying the comments and reactions to my (and other) essays about Adam Lanza, white masculinity, and gun violence, there is a tone of real hurt.

White Masculinity, like Whiteness, imagines itself as normal, innocent, and benign. The very premise that the intersection of those identities could result in socially maladaptive and violent behavior which is evil, and yes I use that term intentionally, is rejected by those deeply invested in a particularly conservative and reactionary type of White Masculinity, as something impossible. To even introduce such an idea is anathema to their universe. The language is verboten. The Other is suspect until proven otherwise; “real Americans” as “good people” are to be judged by precisely the opposite premise.

I don’t particularly want some new DSM diagnosis for individuals. Aggrieved Entitlement, while it makes good sense on paper, as a label doesn’t necessarily solve the underlying issues which are racial, gender based, spiritually inculcated of how our culture operates.

This is about so so much, so much that it’s nearly unbearable to take in, to understand, to heal. So much easier to just pick a camp of blame. Right now there is so much pain. I wish truly we’d all collectively do the work of healing. I admit I don’t truly even know where to begin.

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Church

The Organic Cathedral

The Organic Cathedral

I’ve spent a lot of time in churches lately.

I used to spend time there, and then as noted in previous posts, rejected organized religion and institutionalized dogma. I didn’t especially fill in the time with mystic training, or what would be identified by most as spiritual exploration but I think my desire for such never waned and so I found myself producing theater, studying systems and groups in a grounded curriculum that focused on the humanity of participants, and also exploring and deepening my relationship with sexuality. And, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a couple of rounds with therapists.

In all that time, both in the physical church and outside of it I’m aware that the most spiritual or numinous have not been inside churches. They’ve been in homes, on grassy fields, under trees in the deep woods, in kitchens, on stages, in hospices, in quiet conversations on picnic blankets.

Numinous. It’s such a wonderful word. I’ve read the definition so many times and often craved to feel what I thought it meant, some huge overwhelming shivery trembling holy presence, but now I recognize it so much more as a subtle shimmering inside me, the presence of well, presence. Quiet, still, but alive and beaming in connection between. Between people. Insight. That moment when I know the right question to ask, or I understand intuitively what a person might need to feel safe or to sit with discomfort. When I feel slight chills about a creative idea or performance. That moment when perhaps a thousand physical cues congeal or spark into a metaphysical understanding of a situation, place, person.

Is it God? Or god? Or the space of us between us?

In all this filming of Mary Ann Barclay, in her true calling towards ordination, I’ve felt the most of that numinous presence in these small groups, in the prayer circles in a home, at a table at Chili’s, in a library. While the rain fell on the car as we drove and just sat thinking about the injustice done to her and so many.

When I was a child I wanted to be baptized. This was after my father died and I assume that my child’s mind was terrified at the thought of death and needed some kind of reassurance. So my mother helped provide that for me by meeting with our minister at the Presbyterian Church. He was a fine old minister, Dr. Franklin was, but he was just about to retire. He asked me a few questions to determine my readiness as this would be a baptism out of order. Normally they’d do a 6 week catechism class prior to the event. He asked me, and I can remember this clearly, “If the church burned down, what would we do? Could we have church?” And I said, “We’d just have church outside with each other.” I remember him laughing and exchanging warm looks with my mother and he said, “Oh, she’s ready.”

I saw a FB comment in all the aftermath of Mary Ann’s denial of ordination, a child about that age as I was, saying, “I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t I want Mary Ann to be my pastor? God loves everyone?”

Perhaps that is what the institutional church is the most afraid of beyond sexuality, beyond gender, beyond rules. God, whatever that force may be, loves everyone. The institution can’t control where the spirit goes. Who it calls upon, how it seeks itself in others, why it calls who it calls.

Spaces do not matter, gender does not matter, orientation does not matter. What matters is, at the essence, is love. One can place rule upon rule upon rule on spirit, build a church out of bricks and rigid stone, but without love? That’s not church.

My own pastor Jim Rigby said this in reference to another minister friend, Layton Williams, recently attacked for speaking out about LGBT issues:

“You know that the problem is not in the people of the church, many of whom want justice as badly as any of us. The problem is in the systems of power we surrender responsibility to. When our allegiance to the church is greater than our allegiance to the gospel, it makes our dreams of a better world impossible. We all want a better world, but we don’t want to lose our own place in the system which gives us our credentials, our credibility and our acceptance: and locks some people out at the same time. We on the inside have broken hearts for those locked out, but until we actually risk our approval and status for the outsiders, until we are willing to cross the line, nothing will change-Jim Rigby.”

Maybe I’m just holding on to some childhood ideal reaffirmed by a man I admired. Maybe I just had child’s mind at work, that precious time not over thinking things. Or maybe there is something very heretical and powerful that moves about and reveals itself if we’d just hear it, regardless of rues we make to keep things in place. Like that sweet child speaking. Like Layton, Jim, and yes most certainly Mary Ann.

Church is us. It’s just us.

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Out Of The Bedroom

I’ve had a very powerful week, politically and spiritually speaking.

Our producer Mia Martina was on a panel for the Forbidden Film Fest on Sexuality and Feminism, along with some local activists, Dr. Kim Tallbear, Morgan Collado, and Mistress Kayla. The conversation was passionate and focused on the next level of activism, even past intersectionality, and truly reinvigorated my belief that what we do is political and required if we want to shift systems. We must approach this work with earnestness but also a sense of humility. We will get things wrong as we go. We must always be willing to learn, to be challenged, to apologize when needed and to push forward when others need challenging.

As Dr. Kim Tallbear quoted from Margot Weiss’s article on sexuality, referencing Pat Califia, “”I do not believe that we can fuck our way to freedom.” You have to work outside the bedroom for equality. Simply engaging in “transgressive” acts (whether or not you find them transgressive) with no follow up action doesn’t change systems necessarily, further expansion and work is needed for liberation, rights, equality.

A few days after the panel I traveled to Kerrville to capture footage as Mary Ann Barclay did her ordination interview. She is a queer woman and a kick ass theologian, feminist, inter sectionalist; the kind of Christian that I dream about. She’s radical and wonderful.

A finer candidate for minister I cannot imagine, from her personal strength to her in depth understanding of Weslyan Theology. While I find much of organized religion very problematic and painful to move through at times, I recognize a deep spiritual resonance in many communities that I’ve met (secular and non). But I recognize what can only be called “spirit” in Mary Ann as well as her partner Annanda. Call it social justice. Call it Buddha. Call it love, service, leadership, but my lord, call it what it is, a gift.

My husband and I have been filming and documenting the process she’s gone through, and we went out in Kerrville waiting for the decision. We couldn’t be with her during the day, but we witnessed such powerful community and fellowship, love and compassion from morning until we left to drive home. Bearing witness and providing space for this story to be heard, seen, it’s important. She is a minister and nothing can actually stop that. She lives her faith in the world, and no title will change that. She has, as they say in the church, a prophetic voice and nothing will silence it.

Her sexuality, orientation, ADD to the power she has as a voice in this world, not the opposite. This is the thing, isn’t it? Our wholeness is what helps others be whole. Our authenticity helps others find their true voice. Being willing to be seen helps others see more clearly. Were I to be a church-goer, I’d want my pastor to be able to embody the struggle, walk the path towards wholeness, authenticity, vulnerability, realness. To ask ministers to deny a core part of themselves seems heartbreaking to me.

She is a model for living authentically and frankly, in my opinion, embodying God in the world from her love to her partner, to the service she provides others, and the message she brings. The church is truly behind, but then looking back at history, institutions usually are. The NFL seems to get it, I’m not sure why the Methodist church can’t.

As she notes in this piece, it’s not the end for her path. It’s most certainly not. And we hope to document what goes forward because her story, like so many before her, so many happening now right now, so many LGBT youth being cast out, not able to marry or be ordained or be in fully community, those stories are sacred texts.

The stories told at our show are also sacred, powerful and important. Stories ARE holy moments, distilled into words, so we all feel less alone.

Taking sex out of the bedroom, taking food out of the kitchen, taking the work into the world is vital, at least in my opinion. We cannot separate who we are from what we do, nor should we. Our sexuality is core to our humanity and those stories shine a light on how we all navigate the world. Those who have shared those stories, I am so deeply grateful to for their courage in shifting the lens on sex. It’s spiritual in the best sense of the word.

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Erosion/Accretion

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My mother passed in June after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. Today is Mother’s Day and I’ve been feeling sensitive about it. Nothing has left me feeling as empty, confused, and strange as this past 9 months since she died.

I’ve heard from other people, with similar stories. I lost my father early in my life, and that loss has certainly marked me in a very particular way. It was a sharp shift, sudden, a kind of earthquake leaving a fault line that altered my ability to move, emotionally at least, that I’ve had to work purposefully on in order to increase my range of travel and movement.

With my mother, it’s been different. She and I had a tense relationship, akin to each pulling away while keeping a tight grip on the other; closeness was too much, but fear at being apart. Love was there most assuredly. I have been told wonderful tales of her thrill at my arrival and her joy of having me, but those stories were mostly about the time prior to my father passing, that time I can’t remember much of. The rest, well, her life was turned upside down after that, and her patterns then were built out of something difficult, her own history, things she had little control over come home to roost post 1978. My memories of that time are troubled.

I played a role in that too, often as the person chasing after her for affection, praise, acknowledgement. Somehow, how she gave it to me and it didn’t stick, or it was clear that nothing I did, no matter how hard I worked, or how good I was at things, would ever actually help HER be happier. Her happiness felt like my responsibility, hell even keeping her alive at times felt like my responsibility. I had no way of knowing if my feelings about her depression were accurate, but I worried for her safety.

Instead of being able to see that dynamic when I was younger, I felt I just had to work harder. Not even for the right reasons-hey Julie, clean your room because it’s good to clean your room, not because you hope to stop your mom from freaking out, to please her, to appease her, to normalize things instead of really fixing the system-but reactive ones. That way of doing things meant never feeling good about the work or the result.

When she got sick, well, it was a slow moving disaster for the most part, trauma in micro scale. I did the whole “I will go to therapy and close this relationship even though she can’t be a part of it and even though when she could have been she wouldn’t have been because she thought therapy was stupid” kind of thing. But looking back, I didn’t even do that for me, not truly. Not to say that counseling wasn’t helpful, but part of me knows that there was a projection going on of what a “good” choice would be, instead of for me getting where I wanted to be.

After my mother died, I went back to my therapist, who told me to take exquisite care of myself. I remember thinking two things; 1) What the hell does that even mean and 2) If I take care of myself that means it doesn’t count. It doesn’t count if I do it because I wasn’t good enough for someone else to do it. Honestly, I’m not all that good at even recognizing when people are taking care of me and not allowing that care inside-I have to own that, because it’s a mirror of what happened with my mother and myself.

Because I am stubborn, or perhaps incapable of taking the loving caring advice of the therapist due to well, everything I just wrote, I did mostly the opposite of self care. Not self-destruction, but passivity. Anhedonia. Minimal participation. Letting things just…go. Shopping for clothes I needed? Nah. Manicures and pedicures? Why bother. Good food choices? Not so much. Reading for pleasure or going to parties or seeing theater or shows? Exercise? No. Rejecting support. Yeah, I think I did that. In bed by 9:00 and shutting down hard, mostly. I will say I’d think about her advice a lot, I let it work on me even as I sat passively not taking care of myself. Maybe all the work was happening on the inside.

It wasn’t until quite recently I figured out how much this untethering had to do with my mother. Her loss. My childhood experiences with her post her loss. The loss prior to the loss. The ten years of incremental, omnipresent loss like erosion, tiny waves of grief, carving out my heart during the disease. I didn’t do the self care needed during those years either, absolutely not.

This is the whole damn thing about families and patterns, isn’t it. You often can’t see what you are in when you are in it, even when people tell you, and even if you see a tiny bit of the actual truth because it’s hard to manage, deal with, process. But then, not managing it causes big problems, too, problems I’m trying to hard to solve and tend to, even if some of it came late.

Mostly, this Mother’s Day I’m admitting that I’m learning how to mother myself to allow for and support my own interior, to view a variety of intimacies as something I can have within me, not because she couldn’t provide it, but because I can; at least I think I can. I can take care of me, not because I’m left to do it, but because it matters that I experience the care of caring. To know that more people cared for me then I ever imagined (yes, even her, in her way), even if it was hard to take in. That “cleaning my room” is what should be done as a matter of course, not to tame some fear, but because it can be a pleasure just to do it; because it makes my life better, and that makes everything better in the long run.

It’s been a stunningly strange year. Transformative in the truest sense, interior and stark. I feel shaped by things I cannot yet see clearly. Perhaps the slow long work of care is about accretion now, slowly building back the spaces where grief made inroads, planting a new landscape of self.

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The Power In Social Media

I know that yesterday I posted about my frustrated relationship with social media, but I thought it worth sharing that two things occurred this morning shining a light on how powerful the collective voices of individuals can be.

This particular article I’m writing here might not flow, might not have all the moving pieces to seem well written. I’m still recovering from a flu and my head aches and feels foggy. Still, I want to say these things.

First, an article on Mashable, Bring Back Our Girls: Why The World Is Finally Talking About Nigeria’s Kidnapped Students, popped up in my Facebook feed.

The girls were kidnapped from their schools over three weeks ago. The trail, which could have perhaps been followed if immediate action was taken, is cold. Boko Haram has claimed to have sold the girls as “wives,” a misnomer if ever there was one, into slavery to other militants.

And the media, for the most part, has remained largely silent. Coverage of the missing girls has been dwarfed by the other major stories of late — the South Korean ferry, the racist NBA owner and the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

“Maybe if the more than 200 Nigerian girls abducted from their school weeks ago were on a ferry in Korea, a jet liner in the Indian Ocean, in the owner’s box at a Clippers basketball game, or were white, the world would pay more attention,” Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin said, echoing the thoughts of many.

“If it had happened anywhere else, this would be the world’s biggest story,” said CNN’s Frida Ghitis.

But now, three weeks later, a hashtag associated with their disappearance has been tweeted nearly 1 million times.

I’ve been a part of that million, following the story since it’s beginnings. I rarely go to major news outlets for actual news. I scroll Twitter each morning and take note of the stories to follow. Twitter is filled with citizen activists who know what to pay attention to, and they do it well.

I believe major media outlets didn’t pay attention to this story because it is Africa. Because race. Because gender. Because poverty. Because there seems to be a priority list for all the horrific stories that could be reported on at any given moment. And there are a lot of them. As I mentioned yesterday, social media can mean feeling covered in badness, over-empathizing, taking in too much about things that it seems impossible to do much about.

But millions of Twitter users did indeed do what they could, which was hashtag the hell out the situation. Finally, there has been “breaking news” on CNN, though for the girls that will be cold comfort. They’ve been kidnapped, assaulted, raped, and sold all while the powers of the modern world did nothing. All while millions of individuals in the world screamed through the internet, through links and posts, through calls to their representatives and through petitions.

It took constant pressure to make their plight rise up the priority ranks. Social media played a huge role in doing just that, getting the attention to push the response up the chain. It is shameful that the world powers, the media, the news channels waited so long to respond to the cries of the Nigerian parents. I’m glad people have called and called and called for attention to be paid. In this case, it was a large group of students, women, and the group kidnapping them was clearly and adamantly against western education, and focused on Jihad. If it had been only a few girls in Sweden, though…

Meanwhile, I’ll note (not as a derail, but as a heartbreaking reality that something truly toxic is happening longterm) that these girls being captured isn’t something new per se. Girls around the world (yes, the US) are trafficked for labor. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world get captured to be soldiers, economic labor, drug mules, and more. I see very little about that on mainstream news, and watch as activists write tirelessly only to be ignored.

Perhaps there are just too many symptoms manifesting to truly pay attention to and treat the actual illness. My mind feels like it will break wide open sometimes. We want all these things all these material goods and a way of life that we’ve grown up with. On whose backs has that life been built? What is the relationship to child soldiers in Africa and how I live here? My out of season strawberries and children working in fields? I’m not sure how we all aren’t thinking about this.

This one news event should have hit major outlets immediately. AND the bigger and more toxic longer term problem should be on the news ALL the time until we get our shit straightened out. It will likely take more than hashtags to make that change.

The other thing that I saw today, and it seems silly even to tie this together with the previous topic, was a post by a friend. Long story short, she’d had a voucher for airfare due to delays on the airlines’ part, but due to extreme illness wasn’t able to use it and booked a ticket for her mother within the time frame allotted. Her mother became ill and she wanted to extend the ticket past the original deadline to help her mother travel later. The airline balked of course, until she threatened to take it to Twitter and Facebook. Suddenly, no problem.

Why can’t systems and corporations just do the right thing to begin with? I suppose because we built the systems that way and our western system rewards corporations that protect their financial bottom line over anything else. And maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s related to power and dominance just hating bad public relations? Better to spare $300 in a voucher rather than lose $10,000 over a Twitter snafu?

Better to get some kids on the news than to really deal with changing an entire world view about economic labor and bodies and how we use people (perhaps we always have) to further empires built of people by people on the bodies of people.

I don’t have an answer for it, I just know that the more eyes on the systems and the freer we are to call the systems out, change the systems, keep actual checks and balances in place the better we are. Or should be.

And I know that no matter how it hurts, we have to keep our eyes open to see what’s really going on and see the systems for what they are. The girls need to come home, not just for them, their families but for all of us to say No More Of This Anywhere.

God knows what happened to the men early on who took the girls. Or to the leaders who took the boys and raised them up to be able to take those girls. Or to us who change the channel when things get too hard to watch, who need to figure out our priority of things to respond to in a world that is catching fire, or may always have been burning, I’m not sure.

I don’t have a damn hashtag for that. There is power in social media, I just hope we can figure out how to truly use it.

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