A Real Post

No flowers or birds today. I have been hiding behind flowers and birds for a couple of months. I like flowers and birds, but apparently I’m pissed off and my anger won't be ignored.

It has been showing up in my sleep, in my aching joints, in my sharp words. I finally got the message when my alarm clock (which is chirping birdies) interrupted a dream where I was on top of someone punching her in the face over and over again. I had no plan to stop. There was no blood or expression on my face in the dream. I was looking into my own face – punching it.

There were lots of old standbys to blame, but it felt like a fresh anger.

Here's what I'm really angry about - our skewed priorities. 

Depression and anxiety are becoming the default.

This is the thing we're supposed to be paying attention to immediately. 

When I hear multiple children I know under the age of 13 admit they've considered suicide - when someone else I know is diagnosed with a mental health issue, I think 2 things:  I'm so glad they talked to somebody. Naming a thing is the first step to demystifying it. Whether it's overwhelm, panic, depression, or something else, you can learn and get better.

The other thing I feel is rough and potent, and feels like lightning in my body. I get really angry.

Here's a journal entry from that morning after the disturbing dream, when I was processing my feelings about the latest young person I know who was contemplating taking his own life :

This shatters me. It breaks my flimsy blog. All the hours I’ve spent looking into my own kids’ eyes to accept them fall into jagged pieces.

What does that say about our culture? What does it say about our leadership, our priorities, and our humanity?
When CHILDREN are ready to take their own lives rather than continue on in the society we’ve built.

I zipped right past sad and went straight to ANGRIER than I’ve ever been in my entire life. This is my catalyst. Always prioritizing emotional health over bullshit. ALWAYS.

I want to pierce things and get tattoos and wear all black and smear coal around my eyes. I want to flip the bird and stick my tongue out at people and kick them in the pants when they run their lawnmowers.

I hate adults.

I hate that they kill off pieces of themselves until they are fully incorporated into the massive patriarchal network.
They blindly obey, contribute to the hierarchy, and jeer at my bleeding heart.

Yesssss. These words are better than a massage and a bowl of avocadoes. 

This anger might sound scary, and it's not something I share lightly, but it's incredibly important. Since I have a house full of vulnerable young souls to nurture, I do a fair amount of tiptoeing, swallowing annoyance, and teeth gritting behind the locked bathroom door. You know, example-setting behavior. There's still a place for anger though.

My primal urge to punk out and go wild really means that I want people to pay attention. Not to me, but to the most important thing - Raising good human beings.

Sometimes I think, if everybody had a hobby they loved as much as I love writing or photography, we'd all be alive with passion.

If everybody had a new puppy to snuggle, we'd all have more peaceful hearts.

If everybody experienced homeschooling, we'd all feel empowered in a healthy way.

If everybody could open a window and hear wind in the trees and a birdsong chorus, tuned-in would be our default. (I lied - there are birds today.)

If everybody took time to acknowledge and feel their feelings, we'd all be calmer, more whole.

If everybody read or watched an incredible story about certain moments in history, we'd all have a grander perspective.

Wishes are just wishes unless there's something translatable about them.

The common theme in my wishes is self-determination. We can't choose how much time we have, but we can choose how we spend our time. Autonomy fends off mental health issues and feeds authentic learning

The other common theme is doing less. Just less.

That way the things we do are more meaningful. They feed our wholeness, rather than chip away at our self-worth. Because that's the real issue. We are collectively forgetting what's real and true. Not standardized tests or partisan politics. 

Eating beautiful food, working and playing until our muscles ache, making art and music, and loving until we're lost to time. These are real.

Wild and Waiting

The title of this post was inspired by a lovely Facebook acquaintance who described her New Zealand garden patch as "wild and waiting" for her to spend time there. The phrase was so inviting that I couldn't help but make a little story out of it:

There was once a little boy who was on the cusp of not being little anymore. 

He rubbed his eyes and looked out the classroom window. Without realizing it, he had slipped into a fantasy where his legs were carrying him away from the building, through the tree line in the distance, and into the green space where the sunlight reached his skin only after it had filtered through Spruce and Pine boughs.

When his teacher gently touched his shoulder and roused him from his daydream, she saw tears in his eyes and whispered, "Are you okay?"

The little boy nodded because he had to be okay. His teacher smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. She knew this vacant sadness all too well.

She walked to her desk, slipping one arm into her coat as she announced, "Close your books, please."

The students were still for a moment and then did as they were told. The teacher finished buttoning her coat and said, "We're going outside." as she walked to the classroom door.

The little boy who'd just been blinking away tears couldn't believe his luck. He was the first one out of his seat grabbing his coat and gloves. Of course, as he pulled his knit cap down over his ears, he started to wonder what they'd be doing outside - a short recess on the blacktop, walking laps on the paved track, or some activity that would make him wish he was back in his seat.

Slowly all the children lined up, still not sure what to make of this sudden change in their daily routine. The teacher opened a set of doors that was normally locked at the end of the hallway, letting a fresh rush of air slide into the building. A few students poked their head out of line to look through the open doors. 

The teacher held her class in line at the threshold of the building while she said these words:

I'm not in charge of you.

Smell the damp earth. 
Scrape it and leave the mud under your fingernails.
Stain the knees of your pants on purpose.

Look down close at the rabbit tracks.
Listen for the squirrels' nervous chitter.
Hear the blue jay's warning screech, but don't heed it.

Go deeper into the woods.
Swim in the silence and solitude.
Then let your breath quicken when you hear a twig snap or a pine cone thud.

You are in charge of you.

Your senses will be your guide.
Your pulse will converge with the rhythm of the woods.
Activate your primal urge to notice everything.

Orient your body to the sun, the wind, and the sound of rushing water.
Find you.

I wrote this as an answer to the inviting phrase "Wild and Waiting," but also because it physically pains me to see people of any age walking around in their lives in a fog. I wish I could be this teacher for everyone. We all have the teary-eyed little kid inside. Perhaps he's obedient and going through the motions, but he is not fully alive.

I have the sense that humanity is becoming less tolerant of the lifestyle we've built for ourselves. I can see the anxiety, pressure, and powerlessness in people's body language and in their words.

Nature could be the antidote, the third rail, and the saving grace.

Poems Hide... and I Remember...

One of my favorite online courses in 2017 was Laurie Wagner's Wild Writing. It was just what I needed to break me open a little. The beauty of her poetry and prompts is in the repetition and free-writing. I highly recommend it for writing past any anxieties and getting words on the page.

Some of what I wrote on Day 19 for the prompt "Poems hide...":

Poems hide in your favorite worn-out jeans, in your sloppy sweatshirt, and your stretched-out hairbands.
Poems hide in the couch cushions, the ruts of barstools, and the stained floormat of the car.
Poems hide in the earring missing its mate, the shoe with a hole in the toe, and the bag with gum stuck to the lining.

They hide in the seasoned cast iron skillet, the nearly empty bottle of Herbes de Provence, and the 50-year-old slotted spoon that's still used every day.
They hide underneath kitchen tables, in the back of dresser drawers, and burnt onto the oven coils.

Poems hide in baby teeth, charms from girlhood necklaces, and expired passports.
Poems hide in wooden chests, tufted ottomans, and the fibers of everyone's favorite throw.
Poems hide in our parents, our children, our past and our future,
and in our present where pain and joy collide.

This is what I wrote on Day 7:

I remember riding my bike all the time as a kid and mysteriously stopping one day.
I remember running as exercise for the first time.
I remember playing tennis, wall sits, ball hoppers, and giant court squeegees.
I don't remember adults ever really talking to me.
I remember staying up late in the summertime until the t.v. went fuzzy.

I remember meeting Michael. I remember his eyes and his hair. 
I remember how I felt out of my skin when we talked.
I remember watching him get a tattoo. 
I remember that he never, ever disappointed me.
I remember how clear everything was and still is when we're together.

I remember talking him into getting a dog.
I remember talking him into going to Paris.
I remember talking him into having a baby.
I remember gradually making a family with him.

I remember the first time I understood that he couldn't save me from myself.
Then I remember realizing that I could save myself.
I remember choosing to wake up.

Impeccable Words

People talk a lot, and I'm glad that we do. We also pick up habits in our speech and writing without realizing it. We take language for granted. We forget that words change over time to suit lazy tongues, dropped syllables, and differing cultural norms.

Today's American English is the rogue child of German and French, which come from Proto-Germanic and Vulgar Latin respectively. It is spiced with Spanglish, emojis, and memes.

When you hear a word like invocation, though, it sticks out as one that held fast to its Latin roots.

Invoke: to call on earnestly, in meditation, or in prayer; from Invoquer in French, from Invocare in Latin.

invoke directness.

One of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, says, "be impeccable with your word." I aspire to eliminate the ummms, qualifiers, and idea-softening slush that nice girls pepper in to be polite.

Editing my fiction reveals my writing tics, adverbs tripping over one another, and convoluted wording. As my confidence grows, I remove the "Well, maybe it's just that..." types of phrases that water down the truth in my speech and in my writing.

My understanding of the words I choose is similar to the way I have experienced power over time:

Obey, or not

Here's something I love about myself. I never learned obedience.

Rarely in my life, did I think, I need to do this because I was told to. 

I'm not exaggerating. You know how you get better at the things you spend more time doing? Our brains are constantly going through a "proliferation and pruning process. We make many connections in our brains. The ones we use are reinforced and the ones we don't use die back." (from The Mask You Live In documentary) 

I really like to write, pull weeds, and criticize patriarchal dogma. I am excellent at those things. I never spent time giving a flying fart about following other people's agendas or schedules. Therefore, rule-following died long ago in my brain.

Along with my innate drive to question every rule, came the survival instinct, a.k.a. the ability to look like I'm considering following directions while in my head thinking, Here's what you can do with your rule...

One of my closest friends said recently, "It cracks me up how everyone else just accepts these things, but they just blow your mind." 

I do follow the rules that make sense to me. It's the ones I don't follow that create a large and varied number of problems for me. 


Also, Religion. 

And finally, I have kids who: 

     1. Share my genetic material. 

     2. Have seen me actively disengage from normal institutions and traditions with glee, and 

     3. Know that it secretly pleases me when they point out how I'm wrong.

Guess what? They're not always obedient. They don't do things unless they know why they're doing them either.

Aside from the challenges my disobedience creates, it also defines me in positive ways. I've never been bothered by peer pressure or other people's labels. In fact, if everyone else was doing it, I narrowed my eyes and backed away, suspicious.

I know how to ask hard questions. 

My frustration with the status quo is often a catalyst for growth.

Spending my life doing things I believe in gives me a real sense of power and hope.

This post was collecting dust in the "probably not worth publishing" list. Then I saw Hugh Howey's "The Devastating Consequences of Blind Worship" and I was spurred on to share my thoughts. His piece is worth reading, too.