Obviously, yesterday, I was pissed. Waking up this morning, the rage still existed. And only grew as I read through social media. (Why do I do this?)
It’s really easy to get caught up in the topic of the week. In the screaming matches of Twitter. In the darkness of humanity.
I used to be afraid of my anger. Of feeling. For me, anger is just sadness with velocity–easier to live in. But harder to release. When I was younger, I would stuff down all my emotions, and then sometimes explode with an anger that scared even me. It was very rare. To this day, if I’m truly pissed off, it shocks people. I tend to be an even keel, mostly.
But I’m learning how to let things go. And the things I can’t let go of, I have to choose what to do with. Do I steep and stew in my own crappy feelings, or do I transform them?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m angry, I can move mountains. It’s what got me to college when I had no money to pay for it. It’s what got me out of poverty. That and a lot of hard work.
So, as I read all the sexist tweets that spouted up overnight, as I felt more and more disgusted about our world–I decided to do something about it.
I’m only one person. I can’t stop millions of awful, woman-hating humans by myself. But I AM powerful. I have white privilege, money in my pocket, time, a Master’s level education, and the ability to share.
So, the world can continue steeping in its own crap. But I am done letting this crap continue in my world. I’m done with being an accomplice. What does that mean? It means that I will do everything I possibly can to not contribute to this culture of crap. It means I will stop tolerating and engaging hate and sexism. It means I’ll support every woman and girl I can, in the names of those who’ve died. So I’ll give my money. I’ll volunteer. I’ll cheerlead and share. I’ll tell my story and all the stories of the women I know. When I see sexism, I will confront it–even if it comes from people I love. It ends here, with me. And if we all did this, maybe shit will change. But my conscience will be clear.
A few minutes after I posted my last blog entry, I got a text from a friend of mine. She’s a nurse at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, and word was out that there’d been a shooting at a Planned Parenthood right near Garden of the Gods. A couple of seconds later, my Twitter feed exploded.
I was pissed. I’d felt this low level current of rage all day today, anyway, but this news was like a lightning rod for me. It hit very close to home. For years, when I was uninsured, I was a patient at Planned Parenthood. The Lakewood location was where I got my first pap smear. I’ve been to almost every location they have between here and Boulder. I went for well-woman exams, birth control, and a cancer scare.
Even before I was a patient, I was a supporter of their work. I’m staunchly pro-choice and consider myself a feminist. I remember the moment when that happened. It was in high school. My bus used to pass by an abortion clinic on South Federal. And I remember watching the picketers with their signs. I remember hearing about the death threats. I remember the faces of the women trying to get medical care, going through the maze of angry men raising signs of aborted fetuses. I remember, even at 14, knowing there was something inherently wrong with this behavior and not understanding it.
I went to school at a Jesuit college, and many of my friends are pro-life conservatives. Good Catholics with large families who serve their communities well. They mostly keep their opinions about abortions to themselves, and I can have guarded discussions with them about my differing views. I respect them, though we disagree in many, many ways.
I’ve always prided myself on being able to discuss difficult topics with people I disagree with. I can usually understand their side. I can calmly communicate my points and see them as people.
But, today, while I was talking about this on Twitter–I flew off the handle. I think it had been building up inside me. For weeks, I’ve watched these horrible events play out–over and over again. And everywhere you go, all you hear is the disgusting rhetoric of the Trumps of the world. I’ve felt numb and indifferent to it all. Disturbed by it–yes–but unemotional. Shut down. This–though–well…like I said, it hit home.
I could have been in that clinic. One of my doctors could be in that clinic. People just like me a few years ago were in that clinic.
I finally had to get off social because a someone insisted on reminding me repeatedly about the fact that it was unconfirmed that the Planned Parenthood was the target of the attack. That maybe it was a bank robbery. I explained to my friend that I was getting information directly from a friend at the hospital where the officers (and later victims) were being transported. In that moment, I thought I was just reacting to a shooting–that the Planned Parenthood aspect wasn’t fueling my anger. But–now–I realize–had it been anywhere else–I might numbly have shut the tab and tuned out.
I get that my friend was concerned about responsible journalism. Okay. Fine. That was her concern. She’s allowed that. But here’s the thing: does it fucking matter if Planned Parenthood was the target or not? Shouldn’t we be pissed off that multiple people–people just trying to get an exam or pick up pills–or do their jobs (in the case of the officers)–were shot for no apparent reason? Shouldn’t we be pissed that some coward decided to open fire on unarmed people?
And shouldn’t we be pissed that it happens over and over and over again–so many times IN THIS STATE? Shouldn’t we be pissed that when it’s a white DOMESTIC incident, it’s suddenly not terrorism. But if you’re brown or have an accent, God fucking help you. And even now, we have people dismissing this incident who just a few days ago urged us all to incarcerate all Muslims.
Does it fucking matter that Planned Parenthood may or may not have been the direct target TODAY? Really? Does it? Because we all know it’ll be a target sometime tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. Because we all know these irresponsible politicians who incite violence on a daily basis won’t ever stop. Because we all know these asses value some forms of life over others. So let’s just be real here. And be honest about that. Our world is a shitshow of massive proportions. So, if it’s Planned Parenthood or Wells Fargo or King Soopers–who the heck really cares? Because the goddamn truth of the matter is that evil exists on this planet and there are plenty of people acting as accomplices. And I’m so damn sick of witnessing it, day in and day out. I’m so damn tired of people pooh-poohing it. Of good people standing by, saying nothing.
So, I’m fucking yelling right now. Because someone needs to. And we’re all caught in its ugly grasp.
Last night, I watched an interview Bryan Cranston gave. During this interview, he talked about his film Trumbo. It’s about a screenwriter who was one of the Hollywood Ten during the time of the Red Scare in America. His life was essentially ruined. The movie looks amazing, and I can’t wait to see it. Cranston said something that really resonated with me…that if you ever have an inkling of that kind of evil happening in the world, you have a responsibility to speak out about it–while you still have a voice. So many things lately–especially Trump’s candidacy –remind me of that era in our history. My father fought in Pearl Harbor. He had such a strong sense of integrity when it came to speaking out about things you believed in…and I think it’s because he saw what happened when good people didn’t.
Too many of us keep silent to keep ourselves comfortable. To make nice at the dinner table. When being silent diminishes all of us and enables really crappy people to do unspeakable things. It’s time we all start yelling. I’m certainly not going to stop.
Facebook decided to remind me of a blog post I wrote five years ago about home. It was extremely appropriate for some of the things I’ve been feeling as our move gets closer. I think I might re-post it here since that blog’s been off-line for a while now. It kind of suckerpunched me, and I’m finding myself feeling pretty emotional after revisiting it.
Weird how your own writing can do that, yea?
Lately, my friendship with my ex has been bothering me. We keep oscillating between some tepid friendship and the in-between of flirting–though, in my mind, it’s been done and is done. And won’t be undone. He doesn’t seem to realize that. It was on my mind recently after I found out–via social media–that his aunt might have cancer. He posted it on Twitter. I don’t follow him on Twitter, but a mutual friend told me about it. (I’m not sure why our mutual friends always seem to get in our business like that). Yet–despite us talking multiple times since he posted it–both in text and on the phone–he hasn’t mentioned it or seemed at all bothered by anything. His grandfather is also in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and he’s never said a word. I found out through a conversation with his mother the other day.
I was thinking about our conversations, and while he does talk often and can be a good conversationalist, I’m realizing–more and more–that there is absolutely no depth. If we talk tough subjects, it’s always in this detached, hypothetical way that frustrates me. I don’t talk about things in hypothetical terms. If I have opinions about things, it’s because I’ve lived through these issues. He doesn’t get why these things make me so “worked up.”
Similarly, I’ve never fully told him my mother’s story–despite knowing him for almost five years now. He knows bits and pieces and used to read my blog–but he’s never really asked about it. The parts I told him I shared because it bothered me that he didn’t know, and I sort of stopped telling him many parts of it because his lack of engagement made me feel like he didn’t really care.
My parents’ deaths are huge parts of me. With nearly every relationship I’ve been in, that’s been shared almost immediately. I want people to know that part of me because it’s a huge part of understanding me. When you do, I think my actions and thoughts make a lot more sense. And most of my past partners have been grateful that I shared it with them. To have someone who says he cares so much about me not really want to hear the whole story–well, that puzzles me and also makes me feel like all of it is false. How can you really love me if you have no idea who I am? I mean–we talk about tough things–or at least I do–but he buttons up immediately. He has no idea what I’ve been through or what my heart even looks like. So, it’s hard to really trust him or even love him like I want to.
Lately, it’s been a big problem because I feel like he thinks I’m one way when I’m really not. He thinks we’re much closer than we actually are. He thinks we’re getting back together eventually when I’ve decided it’s a never ever again kind of deal. And I don’t know how to set him straight without being blunt and possibly ending our friendship–which I don’t want to do.
It’s affecting the quality of our friendship, though. Like today, I tried to set a boundary. It started out over something really dumb. He uses emojis all the time to communicate with me, but I’ve asked him repeatedly to use them as garnishes rather than the meal of our conversation. Mostly because it’s hard to interpret emojis when having serious conversations. I value words a lot, and I try very hard to be clear in my communication. I struggle with communicating sometimes, which is why I told him to please not only text me in emoji. I asked again today after he did it all morning. Instead of even acknowledging it, he completely changed the subject to tell me about lunch. Again, using emojis. So, not only did he totally ignore it, he also disrespectful the request and ran right over my boundary. I don’t take this lightly. Boundaries are big for me, and it’s been so hard to get myself to enforce them. It makes me want to give up. Normally, I would literally just not talk to him–later forgiving him–and letting him get away with it.
Not this time. I told him that I had asked him specifically not to do what he just did and he completely ignored it. I told him, “You can either engage me with respect and vulnerability, or not at all.” But he still didn’t get it. He blamed not paying attention and then proceeded to tell me what the emoji meant in our last leg. I asked him if he understood what I had just texted him. He said he did. So then I asked, “Well, then why are you explaining emojis when this is not about emojis but about you disrespecting my boundaries and not listening to what matters to me?”
At the nursing home yesterday, I had a conversation with an 80 year old man about emotionally unavailable men. This man was so open about his everything. He was refreshing and exactly the kind of guy I’ve always respected. During that convo, I realized that most of my exes were emotionally unavailable to varying degrees, but that my most recent ex is off the charts on this scale.
Don’t get me wrong–I do it too. Hell, I probably attracted the people I did because of who I was. I’m moving away from those patterns, though, so it’s especially painful for me. All the advice I’ve read basically says to run. I think I’ve put up with it with this last ex because I just thought it was his introverted, analytical personality. When he opens up, however rarely, it is kind of beautiful and endearing. It’s what won me over this last time. But that open, honest guy disappeared two weeks later as soon as he was in Europe.
It’s probably the reason I really can’t be with him. Ever. And it’s probably the reason so much of who he is really feels off-putting. He just really lacks any kind of real empathy for people. He’s a good guy, but his level of caring is very superficial. I’ve worked so hard to be a vulnerable, open person that I feel like I kind of give up when I’m around him. It’s easier to just stay superficial with him and pretend it’s all just fine. I know he prefers that, and it deeply bothers me.
I care about him, and it makes me sad. I feel like he has so much more to share, and he’s cheating himself (and everyone else) of the sensitive man he really is. But do people like this ever really change? I don’t think so.
I kind of want to tell him all of this, but I don’t know how. It’s so frustrating.
As a kid, I lived with a lot of adult problems. My father’s alcoholism, my mother’s co-dependence, poverty, and neglect. I was always very protective of them and always taking care of them when they probably should have been taking care of me. I grew up in a world where everything was dysfunctional and came from a place of lack. But I knew I was loved, always, and that gave me something to hold onto.
As a kid, I tried very hard to be perfect. To be normal. To feel happiness when I had no idea what happiness even meant–no models to tell me. But I was also a kid who held onto her humanity and was reminded of it, often. And I credit that part of me to those people who reached out to me–allowing me to stay open and strong when things got even harder.
I am sharing all of this now because I was reminded of it today. Like four million times.
Today wasn’t ideal. My neighbor woke me up, drilling something into the wall that abuts my bed. He kept on and kept on so long that I just decided to get up two hours early and feed the cats. I was irritated. Okay–maybe, I thought about stuffing a turkey baster up his ass. (I’m not perfect. Heh).
I fed the cats and started on the stuffing. The butter was super hard, and I actually broke (!) the spoon I was using to break it up. Shrapnel went flying into the living room. And before I could go pick it up, Rilly was on it–trying to eat it. Probably because it was coated in butter. Luckily, Rilly is kind of dumb, sometimes, so I was able to wrangle it away from him. Undeterred, I used the broken spoon to finish my task. It actually worked better. Ha. I then cut up the apples and retrieved my pre-cut onions and celery from the fridge. (I’ve learned the hard way to minimize my chopping duties on holidays because I tend to get distracted and cut my finger). I dumped it all into the crock pot, chopped a tart green apple, and dumped that in as well along with hot water from our Deep Rock machine. I placed the turkey I got from Whole Foods in along with some dried herbs, dried fruit, salt, and pepper. I then carried the whole shebang over to the base and set it on low. I let the mixture warm and melt together. After an hour, I removed the turkey, added two large bags of croutons along with more seasonings, and stirred. I then returned the turkey to sit on top of the stuffing mix and added a bit of turkey stock and more butter to make everybody happy and moist. I set it to 8 hours. Thanksgiving dinner was now pretty much done.
I then showered, got dressed and pretty, and looked for my coat. And discovered I packed my parka. Which was kind of a problem because it started snowing–big, beautiful flakes–overnight and it was actually cold. (I’ve been getting away with heavy sweaters and hoodies for most of autumn). I cursed a bit, tried to remember which box it was in and decided to just wing it and wear the wool jacket I found while searching. Layers are my friend, right? I ordered Uber and made my way to the nursing home.
Volunteering has been in my blood since I was little. Even when we had nothing, my parents always took me downtown to the shelter to help serve meals. Then, we’d go home and eat the meal we prepared late into the night the previous day. It was a tradition that stuck after daddy died, even, and Thanksgiving –to me–was always this day where everyone had something to be grateful for. It reminded me, always, that things could always be worse and that I was rich in all the ways that mattered.
That spirit of giving has always been so ingrained in me, and I’ve held onto it during the most difficult times in my life. It kept me an optimist–kept me smiling–and it’s where I found a lot of happiness. I volunteered all through high school and college. Even in my adult life, I did it. But in more recent years, when my health got challenging, I had to focus more on myself and give less time. But I was still in school for nonprofit management, so I sort of gave of myself–but not in the same way.
Lately, I’ve felt a lot better physically. I’ve missed my volunteer work so much, and I knew I really needed to do something this Thanksgiving. As much as I love volunteering at the soup kitchen, it can be a pretty impersonal experience because it’s so popular. I thought–where can I really make a difference? And I decided I’d hang out with old people who maybe wouldn’t have any visitors this year. A friend of mine runs a nonprofit, and I’ve done this stuff in the past–in high school–and really enjoyed it. So, that’s how I spent a big chunk of my day. Speaking to seniors who had no one there, listening to their stories and helping them make crafts. Dancing with an older man who maybe had a crush on me.
I had woken up so grumpy and so many things had gone wrong, but life was just beautiful. I laughed and smiled. And they gave me so much more than I gave them.
I decided several weeks ago to start volunteering regularly once we’re all moved out to San Jose. I’ve found a couple youth-oriented organizations, and it really makes me inspired to do more even before we leave here.
On the way home, I bought a new coat on Amazon–rushed it, actually–since I have jury duty on Tuesday. Nothing was really a great fit–but whatever.
When I walked in the door, Rilly was being insane. Fogg was chewing the sisal rope off the cat tree. Eating it. I yelled at her. Because sisal can harm her, if ingested, and started taping the loose bits so she couldn’t get at them. I’m thinking we’ll need to replace that thing for a non-sisal one in the near future.
I checked the crockpot, heated up my lunch of sage butter, prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts and homefries, ate a banana, drank some wine, and caught up with Facebook. And then the fire alarm went off. And the fire trucks arrived. And I did not go outside. Nope.
At that point, I was like, “WTF, Universe!” Yesterday, I had so been looking forward to this calm, great day. I was so grateful. And today was just this crazy up and down rollercoaster.
And then I remembered–this is life. It’s unpredictable. It’s full of crap, sometimes. It’s inconvenient. And some things? You just have to get through. And then there are these magical moments where it all makes sense, and you know why you’re here.
You have to be grateful for all of it. Because all of it matters. This was a powerful epiphany for me, and I think I had it because I’ve been outside of the holiday culture for such a long time.
People try so hard to make the holidays perfect. To cook the best turkey and make everything beautiful. And then life decides to show up. Uncle P gets drunk. Aunt Mary asks the single people about their future children. People talk about Donald Trump. The cranberries burn. The fire alarm goes off mid-bite. People who should be there aren’t. And we miss them.
We could give up right there. And many of us do. I know I did. When life wasn’t what I wanted, I opted out. I said, “Nope.” Just like I said “nope” to that fire alarm and going out in the snow without a proper jacket.
But the reality? We can’t control a damn thing. As much as we want to. It’s so easy to choose our comfort zone. To choose what we think is ours and what we think we need/want. But in doing that, we lose. We miss out on being surprised. We miss out on growing up. We don’t heal. We stay small and angry and sad and alone–even in rooms full of people.
And that’s our prerogative.
But I’m here today to tell you it’s a choice. One I made repeatedly throughout my life. One that I now regret so much. You can choose to be those things–to be miserable–or you can choose to live.
Life isn’t easy. It beats us up. It blindsides us. It’s incredibly unfair. You might get shit you don’t know what to do with. But that’s where happy is.
People talk about happiness like it’s some random emotion that we can achieve by being good enough to deserve it.
But it isn’t.
Happiness comes when you allow yourself to sit in the unknown that is your life–and take whatever comes…good, bad, ugly…accept it for what it is…and love it. Eventually. Immediately. It’s a practice. It’s a choice. It’s a miracle.
Open yourself to the possibility that there is more out there than you could have ever imagined–that these things will come when you least expect it–that it’s all good.
And be thankful you’re still here to be blindsided.
When I was a little girl, I loved nothing more than holidays. My favorites, of course, were the winter ones (with Halloween being my 2nd favorite after Christmas). I even liked St. Paddy’s Day. I was that child who would jump up and down multiple times the day before because she was just so darn excited. And yes–I was awake at 4 am that morning. Every holiday. I’m sure my parents adored that aspect of it, too. ;)
I was even like this as an emo teen. I was always a key player in cooking for our holidays. I never complained either because I loved cooking something fierce. And I was good at it. In my teens, I started calling our turkey “Turkey Dude,” and I invented a special dance to accompany all that basting I did. As I got older, I started experimenting with food more–trying to cook things I never had before–in addition to ALL the favorites. I got special joy in making things prettier and fancier than they had been in previous years. Oddly, the kitchen is the one place where I can mostly relax. My perfectionism subsides a little, which means I can do pretty awesome things (because I’m not in my own way).
I really, really miss cooking like that. I had so much energy back then (and Mama as sous chef). In recent years, I’ve tried to cook that way–but it was an exhausting ordeal that I didn’t get a lot of joy from. I tried. I really did, but when your heart isn’t in it, it’s a burden. My roommate makes fun of me because every meal I make is this big production. I can’t really cook simple food, for just a few people. I have to overdo it. It’s the Leo in me, I think. I like making things special. I like making garnishes and gilding everything. Despite my hatred of parties, I actually love having people over for dinner. Shocking, I know. My ex and I did it often, a long time ago, and I miss it.
Anyway, more recently, my roommate and I started relying a lot more on Whole Foods for our Thanksgiving dinners. I’d do a few dishes, and we’d pick up the rest. Last year, I finally started appreciating the ease of such things–and stopped feeling guilty about not cooking much.
This year, I’m once again relying on Whole Foods. Instacart is braving the crowds for me–since I really (still) can’t do that aspect of holiday–and should be here any minute now. It’s just me this year. But I got a big bottle of wine, flowers, and all the things to make it great. And of course, I’m making my stuffing. Because that’s one thing I can’t outsource without a wince.
Tomorrow, I’ll be hanging out at a nursing home–volunteering for most of the day–and coming home to a nice meal alone. I’m even getting dressed up.
I just gratitude bombed like my entire company. And I found myself smiling. It was that smile only my roommate has seen–this little self-satisfied lopsided kid grin that takes over my face. It’s my Daddy’s smile. And I realized–just now–I feel like that little kid–so excited for the holiday. Joy.
Hope you all realize the gifts you have and give all the gifts you can share this week. Have a great holiday. And jump up and down a little (or a lot…I won’t judge). I’ll see ya on the flip.