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The Conundrum of Being a Writer: or, where is all that writing time, anyway?

I was pondering the conundrum of being a writer this morning, specifically, finding the time to write. Sure, there are a million life hacks and everyone has a piece of advice or two. Then there are the writers who, fortunately, get to focus on their craft as their day job—and they have loads of ideas on how to spend more time writing. Sadly, I am not one of those people. I have a day job, a commute, cats that make messes, and no one to cook for or clean up after me. I’ve given up calling upon Dobie’s kin, and until I have more discretionary money, I must—alas—feed myself and housekeep my home. However, something did occur to me—there was a time when I wrote. ALL. THE. TIME. Daily, mostly, and usually for hours. This far-too-brief period was as a University student and English major. I wouldn’t have made it through college without finding the time to do my homework, which was mostly reading and writing. And then it occurred to me—what if I treated my current writing like assignments for a college class? Years ago, I managed to do it—as a single mother, with a husband, and with one-two children. I had a house to keep, meals to make, kids to parent, a spouse to appease—and yet, I still managed to do all of my homework.

So, I have to ask myself, what the hell is my problem now? My answer is as simple as it is exasperating: I let other things get in the way. Rather than saying no, I spend a lot of time saying yes to Netflix, social engagements, volunteer activities, and social media. When I was working on my bachelor’s degree, my social life consisted of fellow students, all of whom had homework. Extra-curricular activities were paused for all of us so we could complete assignments. While engaged in academia, my daily life was filled with passion and inspiration as I discussed and wrote about literature. It was easy, and mandatory, to find time to do what I loved.

Now that I’m out of school, I spend a lot of time on, well, everything else, including excuses. There’s no accountability outside of myself. My grades are not going to suffer if I don’t expound upon why Othello is a play about marginalization. There is no one waiting for me to write a sonnet in order for it to be critiqued. The lack of disciplined answerability has made lazy. It’s just me, and I’ve become a recalcitrant writer, in spite of the Universe beating me over the head with a pen and pad of paper. So, if writing is my passion—what I love to do and must do—then I need to treat it like the assignment that it is. I have to be both the teacher and the pupil, and create my own grading system. This means saying “no” to what has become the daily routine (except for the day-job, I still need to pay bills) and put my writing first. The housework can wait, Netflix and social media can be paused, and a little fasting never hurt me. My friends, if they are indeed, will understand and not take “no, not right now,” personally. This is what my life looked like years—reading and writing (and at the time, kids) first, everything else second. It’s time for me to go back to “college” and give my passions their rightful place in my life—before everything else.

Addendum to this post: I managed to write this, three morning pages and one other assignment, and still clean the bathroom, kitchen, litter boxes, and part of the floor. So, yes,—I am reminding myself as I type this—it’s possible to do both.

The Conundrum of Being a Writer: or, how being alone forces the issue

I’ve been pondering lately, particularly about writing, my relationships and finding my place in the world. For almost 17 years, I’ve lived in Sonoma County; and for 17 years, I’ve felt out of place. It’s not that the wine country isn’t perfectly lovely—it has a lot to offer in terms of food, wine, outdoor culture, and natural beauty. In spite of all this, Sonoma County has never felt like home. Relationships are continuously gained and lost, the tourist industry chafes me, the cost of living is outrageous, and the availability of meaningful work at a real living wage is fleeting. Maybe none of this would bother me, but at the end of the day, being here just feels “unheimlich.”

The longer I stay in Sonoma County, the fewer strong, meaningful relationships I have. I connect with people on some levels, but I don’t vibrate with anyone on ALL levels, and I don’t have a best friend to speak of. In the event of a 02:00 emergency or emotional meltdown, I’m not calling anyone. I’ve learned to compartmentalize myself, and only pull out certain “drawers” for certain people. And yet, I want to nurture my friendships and be a supportive friend. As a person who thrives on connections, this combination of desire and reality is challenging, and at times, somewhat lonely. I’ve wondered if this is Sonoma County’s way of rejecting me and telling me it is time to leave.

And yet daily, I struggle to get ready for work, and care for myself, the cats and the house. If I eke out one page of Morning Pages, I feel fortunate. Mostly, I write nothing and feel like I’ve let down myself and my Muse. Finding balance between my “have tos” and my writing is difficult. Adding more to my schedule, regardless of how pleasant, adds to this stress.

As a writer, I’m finding the gift of being “untethered” to my relationships. It’s easier to say no to social engagements, and my feelings don’t get hurt if someone cancels plans—or chooses not to make them at all. When I vowed to take up my pen, tend to my soul’s work and surrender to my Muse, I asked for what I needed to make it so. Then the friendships started to die back, thus providing me with an opportunity to write. My connection to loved ones is important, but embracing my writing is even more so. Rather than looking at my continued stay in Sonoma County as one of constant loss and frustration, perhaps it is time to reframe—and let it be where I settle into my commitment to myself.

The Conundrum of Thanksgiving: why be grateful only one day a year?

To be honest, this isn’t a real conundrum for me. I do tend to express a daily gratitude on Facebook. I do this, in part, because I don’t need another journal to store. It also helps keep me honest—if I wasn’t writing blessings on FB, I’m not sure I’d write them down anywhere else. Plus, it provides me an opportunity to publicly thank and acknowledge others (there seems to be a lack of this in today’s world). And sometimes it seems to help others. So, it’s my chosen forum for expressing thanks. Most of the time, my posts are day-specific. Occasionally, my gratitude is broader, but not as often. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d express my gratitude for the things that may get overlooked in my life because they aren’t “in my face.” Here’s my list (in no particular order)—and I encourage you to make your own:

Family: I don’t see them very often and some of these relationships are strained for a wide-variety of reasons. However, I love them and I’m glad they are the place from whence I sprang. If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’m not perfect, but I’ve had a lot of growing opportunities through them.

Friends: My friendships have greatly changed throughout the years. There are only a few people with whom I can claim friendship with for more than 30 years. Most of my current relationships are a few years old, and the ones begun when I first returned to Sonoma County have died back. Many of my friends have come from work, others from LIFEE. Many have moved away to other states. Some of my best friendships have fallen apart completely and had to be let go. I can no longer claim to have a BFF; and because of this, I have had to learn to be my own best friend. It hasn’t been easy, but all of these prior and current friendships have helped me grow to a place where I don’t need “the one.” I miss many and sometimes still mourn the losses, but I wouldn’t give up any of the people who have come and stayed, or gone, from my life.

Kids: Being a mother has been about as hard as being a child, sibling, niece, and friend. My children have helped me feel fulfilled and provided me with opportunities to pick up myself after they knocked me down. They have also given me the option to grow fully into myself as a human being by distancing themselves from me due to them growing up and having their own paths. I loved watching my children grow and I love being a mom of adult children. I also love having an empty nest.

Home: As noted above, I am an empty-nester. I get to be me at home. The furniture is where I want it. I eat what I want. I don’t have to share the television. Everything about my home is about ME. This is the first time in my adult life where my space is truly and only mine. My current home isn’t ideal, but it’s currently perfectly mine—and it feels great.

Car: I’ve had my 2001 Saturn SL2 for over 15 years. I’m Sally’s only owner, I bought her new and she is creeping up to having 300K miles on her. She’s had a lot of work done over the last two years. We’ve been to Tucson and back a few times. Ventura and Mt. Shasta and back even more times. She’s gotten me to the river or lake for kayaking, and out to the coast for beach-combing. I’m not sure I can take her very far anymore, but she still gets me to work and around the County almost every day.

Food: If you don’t already know by now, I LOVE food, especially good food. And living in Sonoma County provides me with some of the best fresh, local produce, meat, seafood, and restaurants to be found. And I always feel abundant when I have food.

Water: The essence of life is water (yes, it’s cliché at this point, but it’s still true). I’m grateful I grew up on Mt. Shasta glacier water and artisan springs, and that I’ve lived in places where I can have well water. I also love to kayak, and without water, I would’t be able to. I’m also fond of regular bathing and cleaning. Thank you, water!

Firewood: This has been an off-and-on gratitude for years. I grew up with wood burning stoves and fireplaces, and now I rely on one for winter warmth. It’s not the ideal heat for the environment, but for my needs, it makes more sense than using a space heater, which uses a lot of electricity (thus energy, which is also harmful to the environment).

Nature: Whether it’s a plant growing up through a crack in the concrete or in a tree stump, groves of trees, fields of flowers, cacti-filled deserts, or hillsides covered in ice plant, I love it all and it continues to amaze me. I also acknowledge that I don’t spend nearly enough time outside of buildings (work and home), when Mother Earth can show off her gallery of delights. This planet of ours is INCREDIBLE and it’s a shame we don’t take better care of it and all the things it provides us with: food; water; clothing; places to swim, kayak, hike, ski, bike, ziplining; air; trees and flowers; animals of all kinds. I have a pretty good idea why Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote about Walden. Why Mary Oliver’s poetry is so beautiful and inspired. Why Terry Tempest Williams wrote so passionately about the National Parks. It makes me wonder why I’m not spending more time spending outside and writing about the wonders of a dandelion.

Free Speech: I love writing, debating, bantering, and conversing. I can’t imagine a world where I couldn’t do any of these. Working for government, I do feel I have to check myself at the office door, and I feel like I spend a little too much time overstepping boundaries. However, I’m finding it harder and harder to keep my mouth shut these days. Maybe this is part of how I can contribute. Maybe this is my answer to no longer being able to sit still and do nothing. Maybe it’s time I use my voice more regularly. The United State of America has a lot of problems… free speech isn’t one of them. Now, hate speech is another matter altogether. I don’t love it, but it does provide me with knowing my enemies and the enemies of my loved ones. There is power in that knowing, and allows for the dialogue to continue.

Books: Strongly tied to free speech is books. I started reading at 4 and books have gotten me through life pretty steadily. They educate, entertain, take me to new worlds, inspire me to write and be a better person, tell me how to cook and bake. I can’t fathom a world without books and I don’t know if I’d still be alive without them.

Everything not mentioned: I could go on about technology (I am writing on a laptop, after all), civil rights’ strides, knowledge, education, libraries, art, spirituality, modern conveniences, but I have to stop somewhere. Most people are unlikely to read this far—hell, most people are unlikely to read this at all—and I need to get in the shower. However, there is a lot to be grateful for on this planet, in our daily lives, whether we notice any of it or not. So I try to make everyday thanksgiving—one day a year isn’t enough.

The Conundrum of a Trump Election: or, staying heart-centered amidst fear and loathing

Two weeks ago, a rather heinous and contentious presidential election ended when a man, that one could arguably call fascist and nationalist, was voted into the highest office we have in the United States of America. Every side seems to have a strong opinion about Donald Trump winning the election. One group feels vindicated and has becoming openly hostile and bigoted. Their hatred for anyone not like them has been approved and political correctness hasn’t just fallen by the wayside—it’s been napalmed. Another group can’t understand how this has happened and insist that since Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular vote, she should get the electoral votes as well. However, there is in-fighting as some feminists insist that not all women are created equal and should not have an equal say. I suspect that some of these people also (not so) secretly blame Bernie Sanders supporters. Another group seems to vacillate between horror and blame. It’s the DNC’s fault, Clinton’s fault, if we had just listened and voted for Bernie none of this would have happened. And then there is another group, sitting quietly, confused, trying to regroup, and voiceless shouting, “Just. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. All of you.” I’m not sure anyone is having a good time, including the victors, who seem to be busy throwing temper tantrums because entertainers hurt their feelings.

Then again, there are a lot of us in this country that haven’t been having a good time for years. People who have been out of work and unable to become employed. They don’t know how or if they can fill the refrigerator and pantry, or if they can keep their home—or have any home to live in. There are others worrying about deportation and/or hate-crimes. Some feel “Othered,” even more so than before. All of these people, regardless of who they voted for, are worried about their survival. All of us, regardless of political ideology, are fearful. Survival and fear are a common denominators amongst humans—it gives us a thread to each other. That’s not to excuse the vitriol, the shaming and blaming, the further denigration of the denigrated. No matter how scared or worried about survival we are, were are not given the privilege or the right to hurt others. However, most of us are not at our best when we don’t know what’s going to become of ourselves and our families. Coherent thought usually dissipates at some point in the disenfranchisement. Especially when someone tells us what we want to hear, even if it doesn’t make sense. Because, at the end of the day, all any of us wants to hear is that it’s going to be okay, and that someone is going to make it better. Especially when we have tried to make it better, but nothing seems to be working.

I’m not going to suggest turning the other cheek, loving your neighbor, holding compassion for the less fortunate. However, we do need to remember that regardless of how hateful, bitter and resentful others are acting, that we are part of the same species. And that we, too, have been hateful, bitter, resentful. And we need to let all of that go. But for today, we need to tend to our own rawness and woundedness. Find our own unconditional love and compassion. And then take a baby step or two away from fear. And eventually, let love, instead of fear, be our common thread.

The Conundrum of the World Today: Sunday, June 26, 2016

I have felt sick for the last week. Nothing too debilitating, but unwell. Tired, headachy, stomachachy, bodyachy, bloaty, no meaningful appetite. My heart, head and body feel heavy. Too heavy. And today I wondered why I wasn’t feeling any better. Then I realized, I’m feeling the weight of the world. It doesn’t feel good. There is introverted-empath me who wants to shut off the computer, throw away the phone, delete the Facebook profile, take the cats, and go live amongst the trees and streams. And then there is the writer-activist me who says, “Why aren’t you saying anything?” Today, the writer-me won, so I’m saying something about why I feel so itchy-scratchy.

Here is the world today, as I see it:

June 12, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured by a loan gunman in Orlando.

My daughter tells me that she has to be careful of where she goes to school and that so do her friends. She has told me that if I were to move to the south, she would never visit. I would like to tell my daughter and her friends that their sexual preferences, gender and race really don’t matter in today’s world. I can’t, and it makes me sad to know that a man decided the LGBT community was an enemy. I’m glad my daughter and her friends decided to stay in California when they transferred to a four-year university. I’m glad they weren’t at Pulse. This event has sparked a lot of dialogue and vitriol around the Second Amendment.

June 23, the people of the United Kingdom, 52% to 48%, voted to leave the European Union.

A country that has spent centuries colonizing the world is now claiming nationalism. People are scared, the stock markets are looking grim, and the U.K., for once, is the butt of the political jokes. The consequences of this decision are still to come, but British friends who live in other countries, thanks to the EU, are now worried that they will lose their homes and livelihoods.

May 4, Donald Trump became the presidential nominee for the Republican Party.

I don’t know what to say here, because it boggles the mind. If he wins, the United States will again take its place as the country with the most idiots and we will, once again, be the butt of many a joke. I’m not sure if the people who support him care about that. I think most of them are nationalists. And if British politics are an indicator, well… Trump will be our 45th president.

June 12, Hilary Rodham Clinton became the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party

HRC is the first women to win the nomination for a major political party in the U.S. It is, and should be, a momentous occasion for women. However, Clinton comes with a lot of baggage and there has been a lot of vitriol directed at her by Bernie Sanders supporters (some of whom are registered Democrats) and the Republicans. While we should be celebrating that a woman has made it this far, the Bernie Camp and Hilary Camp are still gnawing at each other’s throats. I don’t see this ending before 2017, if then.

None of these events, in and of themselves, are the entire cause of my fatigue. Work is fraught with problems of posturing, control, terrible morale, and being in a job and place not well-suited for me—or I it. My daughter is mostly snarky and snotty to me as a young adult, (she was an awesome teenager). I commute too many hours Monday through Friday. I worry about how I’m going to help Daniela pay for school while paying my student loans. I’m tired of not having enough time to do it all. I want to spend more time writing, kayaking and hiking, and less time running errands, cleaning house and going to a job I dislike. It all weighs on me.

But really, what bothers me the most, is people. I’ve seen a lot of unhealthy behavior for months and there seems to be an inherent meanness, rudeness and inability to just shut. the. fuck. up.

Friends, who should be on the same side politically, are pointing fingers, calling each other names, and slamming the other’s presidential candidate choice. Friends, who are good human beings and working to make the world a better place, are adamant that everyone should have the right to own semi-automatic weapons. Other friends, who are equally good and working equally hard to improve the world, feel that gun reform is absolutely necessary. I’m pretty sure that all these people would like world peace, climate change to repair itself, the United States to regain some of its health and strength as a country. I’m pretty sure none of them want to see or hear about any more mass shootings, the destruction of bees, the loss of potable water, and possibly the 2016 Presidential Election. And yet I watch and listen to all these good people talk down to each other, and no one stops to listen.

Why am I wrong? Why are you right? Why is your candidate better? Why do you support the Right to Bear Arms, as is? What would you put in place of the Second Amendment? Why do you hate people who are different than you? Do you hate all of them or just some of them? What do you love about this insane world of ours? What are your hopes and dreams? What are your hopes for your children and grandchildren? Do you care about our planet? Do you care about yourself?

We aren’t asking these questions of one another. Instead, we are speaking with fear in our hearts. Fear of a lot of unknowns. Our world is scary and uncertain. At the rate we are going as a species, our time on this planet is running out. Our country seems to be spinning out of control. And yet, at the same time as Pulse, Trump, Clinton, Sanders, and Guns, Pope Francis is saying that the Roman Catholic Church and Christians should apologize and ask for forgiveness of those it has discriminated against. It’s remarkable! He speaks without fear. Or maybe he speaks in spite of it. I don’t know.

I don’t have an answer for the conundrum of fear. I don’t have answers to anything these days, I just know that I am weary of it all.

Yet, here’s what I do know: If we, as a species, continue to roam Earth with fear, we will stop existing; Friendships are being divided because of fear that comes in the form of racism, bigotry and the need to be right; “United we stand, divided we fall” is something we should be pondering now, not just in this country, but globally; And if we live with a little more love and a little less fear, we might have a chance of making our daily lives better, keeping our friendships, and remembering that regardless of anything else, we are in this together.

The Conundrum of the Future: An Interview with my 100 Year Old Self

This post came from an Inner Goddess Revolution writing “assignment.” As of today, it’s about 2 parts wishful thinking, 1/2 part reality, a big dash of accountability to myself, and a snapshot of who I am.

The conundrum was how to write about what hasn’t happened yet because I haven’t created it (although I want to). Some of what I want to accomplish in the world may change and who knows, I may have a life partner at my side while I do it. At any rate, I decided to style this writing as interview with myself, rather than as an article or obituary.

Nobel Laureate, Activist and Erotic Poet Turns 100
Michelle R. Denham, Writer
October 4, 2067

Michelle Rene, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work and writing on human rights, women’s empowerment and sustainability, celebrated her 100th birthday today amongst family and friends. The celebration included champagne, chocolate, homemade ravioli, and at least one favorite dish for each guest. The press was not included at what could be called a “borderline gala,” but as a close personal friend of Michelle’s, I was privileged to be granted an invitation to the party as a well as a brief interview with a woman who is as well known for her poetry and non-fiction as she is for her activism and a, ahem, somewhat erotic side.

Michelle, when did you begin writing, and why poetry and essays?
It seems like I really didn’t get going until my 40s, but in retrospect, I started writing in elementary school, mostly poems or short stories that were assignments. By high school I was actively corresponding with friends, most of who were a little older than me and had entered the military. My love of books propelled me into an English major in college, where I got to do what I loved most: read and write. I also explored astronomy while I was there, which inspired some of my earlier poetry as well as my honor’s thesis. Then I stopped writing for a while. My marriage failed and ended in divorce, I became depressed and was a single parent trying to survive life and make my way through a master’s program. The writing stopped. At some point I started journaling again, but my muse seemed to disappear and I didn’t go beyond morning pages for years. I’d write a poem here and there, or a blog post, but nothing much of consequence. When I hit my mid-40s, I realized that writing was important to my wellbeing. I couldn’t live without it, and at 46, I made a promise to myself to write daily. Didn’t matter what I wrote or for how long, just so long as I wrote something for myself. And to this day, I write something every day, although a lot of the time it’s with help. The fingers don’t work the way they used to. I consider myself an essayist, blogger, and a poet more than any other kind of writer. They seem to be the best way for me to get my message across—things don’t get lost in the details the way they can in novels. And really, it’s what I’ve mostly written.

But what about your erotic poetry? What was your inspiration?
Oh, that poetry! Well, I wanted to explore my sensual side in my 40s. I was single, not having sex, and wanted to write something that intrigued with a hint of titillation. I began reading what I could my hands on, although most of it was crap. I think what really kicked it off was a boyfriend I had. We wrote a few stories for each other in the short time we were together. Then I tried to read the infamous 50 Shades of Grey and couldn’t get through it because the writing was so horrific. I decided that I could do better, so I started writing under my pen name, Michela L’Arancia. Then I realized that if I was going to write erotic poetry, I needed to explore my sexuality, so in my mid-40s I took an occasional lover.

Out of all those lovers, did you find a soul mate?
All the men were special in their own way, but none ever fit the soul mate category. I made a lot of decisions about my life when I hit my mid-40s, when I was 46 in particular. I realized that the work I wanted to do in the world was much bigger than myself and I wanted to ensure I had time to write. I made a conscious decision to not pursue a relationship—too much responsibility. I didn’t want to come home exhausted from traveling or teaching and not be able to give a significant other 100 percent. Besides, I’ve learned that soul mates come in many varieties and most do not make good partners. They do make excellent teachers, though. Having lovers worked out fine, especially since I wasn’t willing to give up sex! I’m often asked if I ever got lonely, and to be honest, sometimes I did. But I never spent a night alone when I didn’t want to!

I can see by the mischievous twinkle in your eye that’s probably true. But what about this work in the world. It included creating models for a sustainable, holistic approach to life as well as empowering women.
Yes, both were equally important to me, although they came to me separately. I hit an all-time low at 45. I was unemployed, and my daughter and I were living off of food stamps and child support. I couldn’t pay rent and ended up more-or-less evicted. Fortunately, friends had a place for my daughter and I to live and I finally found work. I realized I wasn’t the only person in this situation of being educated and unable to make ends meet. This was part of the Great Recession back in the early 2000s. Unemployment was at an all-time high, people were losing their homes and one of the biggest sanctioned financial scams left thousands homeless and destitute—middle class people, poor people. The only ones who fared well were the very wealthy. The 1% they were called at the time. Anyway, I’m rambling. I wanted to find a way to work, make ends meet and live a sustainable lifestyle. I wanted either no commute or a short one. I wanted to grow my own, non-gmo, organic vegetables. I wanted to live a simpler lifestyle where I used less energy. And most importantly, I wanted to help other people find a way to do this as well. Once you have to rely on one job and a long commute to earn a livelihood and survive, your life is no longer sustainable. I came up with a way to help people find and use their talents for a variety of jobs so that they always had an income stream coming in. Some people wanted to work from home, some wanted to work in an office. Some wanted both. I was able to structure systems for each, then I created workshops to help guide people into this way of living. The old paradigm of working for one company and working your way up was gone and it wasn’t coming back. It was time to find a way for people to live in a village and receive the benefits of that lifestyle while maintaining their individuality. From the workshop sprang books, and as they say, the rest is history.

Empowering women also gave you equal renown.
Yes, it did. When I started kayaking at 39, I never thought it would lead to empowering women, but it did. You see, I found the practice so empowering that I wanted to share it with others. My friends loved to kayak with me, so much so that going alone was a problem. I preferred kayaking by myself, but I couldn’t tell anyone I was going! Otherwise, I was taking others. Anyway, the kayaking led to a blog for single women kayakers, which lead to Kayak Therapy. I thought about my cousin who had a horse therapy non-profit where she worked with women and girls. I loved the idea, but kayaking was my thing. So, I decided to start working with therapists to find clients—women who were really ready to take their next step in healing and empowering themselves, and so it began. Once I had the business aspect dialed in—it took a few years, I created a model and took it to cities where there were kayakable bodies of water and women interested in empowering themselves and others. Between creating sustainable practices and start-up models for Kayak Therapy, I had to hire women to run my local business.

Lesser known, although equally important to you, is your spirituality.
It is, it is. I consider it as much of a catalyst for everything I’ve done over the last five decades as much as anything else. I used my training as a shamanic practitioner as much in Kayak Therapy and sustainable living as I have anywhere else. It’s also become the mainstay of my witchy ways. While I never became a shamanic practitioner for the purposes of right livelihood, I use it to help maintain my integrity, my relationships and to take care of planet.

You’ve lived quite a life.
I have and I’m grateful for it. I think my take-aways for this lifetime is to get busy cleaning up past-life karma, and love unconditionally—everyone and everything, especially yourself. It makes life a hell of a lot easier.

The Conundrum of the Second Amendment; or, the shooting of Andy Lopez

I’m so overwhelmed by outrage and sadness, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep unless I wrote about a death I heard of this afternoon.

A teenager–a child, really–was walking down a street in Santa Rosa with what looked like an assault rifle. The sheriff deputies who saw this didn’t see the 13 year-old’s face nor did they necessarily get a good look at the gun. The reports say that 10 seconds after the deputies ordered Andy Lopez to put down his weapon, they shot him seven times. Seven. Granted, they shot 8, but one shell missed him. They had no idea that they shot and killed a child. They realized, after the fact, that the “assault weapon” was a pellet gun. This  happened Tuesday. I found out about it today. Normally, something like this would get the posts on Facebook going. There would be outrage from the Occupy and Anonymous groups, the continued politicizing of the pros and cons of the Second Amendment, something–anything. But I heard nothing.

To be honest, I can’t decide what outrages me more: that no one I know has spoken out about this tragedy publicly and that it seems to have been kept relatively quiet by the media; or that an eight grader was shot and killed by a man who is sworn to protect the people of this community. It’s disturbing to think that Andy Lopez could have been my son, Travis Spaulding, 13 years ago. And I am appalled for Santa Rosa, for Sonoma County, for Andy’s grieving parents and friends, for all the adolescent boys and girls who make questionable choices, like carrying a pellet gun while walking down the street. But before we start blaming Andy Lopez for having a teenage brain, perhaps we need to start examining the irony and hypocrisy of the situation through a set of questions:

Why are pellet guns made to look like assault rifles?

Why are they made to look so much like assault rifles that law enforcement officers can’t tell the difference?

Why do the same people who fully support owning assault rifles worry for their lives when they see someone carrying one–so worried, in fact, that they feel the need to shoot and kill that person?

Why do we glorify violence in the form of warfare, the military, action movies, video games, and gun rights then become incensed when someone shoots students and teachers? Why do we feel the need to kill someone for emulating this violence by walking with a pellet gun?

And while I hate to bring up race, would Andy Johnson have been as readily shot as Andy Lopez?

I don’t have any easy answers for this conundrum. I’m not even sure I have hard ones, although I would ask anyone who reads this post to carefully consider their stance on and partaking of gun control/rights and the exaltation of violence. But really, all I know at 02:20 is that I wasn’t going to bed until I wrote about how deeply disturbed I am by the killing, and how badly I would love to fix this problem now because it is reducing me to tears and I don’t readily cry.

My heart breaks for our community and our country. It breaks for the people who lost a 13-year-old boy on Tuesday. It breaks for the lack of questions and outrage “brought” on by his death. It breaks for a boy who is never going to be a man.

(Note: I acknowledge that I am making the gross assumption that all law enforcement officers/people in uniform are conservative, potentially racist, and fully support the NRA and the ability for people to purchase assault weapons, which may or may not be true.)

The Conundrum of Letting Go: or, the damage of holding on

The following is a bit off the cuff and was originally a Facebook response to something someone posted. Once I was through writing it, I thought, “gee, I’ve written a blog post.” Here it is, unedited (unless I find a typo) and straight from the heart:

I’ve been pondering this ever since I saw the post. So, I’m going to try a little tough love with a whole lot of compassion. I’m also going to say that from experience, I know how hard it is to let go. That being said, here’s a conceit, otherwise known as an extended metaphor…

Would you hold onto a hot ember? And if so, how long would you be willing to hold onto it? And what would you say to your children if they wanted to hold one in their hands? Chances are you are going to tell your children, “no,” and rightfully so. Holding onto an ember is going to burn the hand holding it. The longer it’s held, the more damage it does and the longer it takes the wound to heal. Now, you might be able to hold it until it dies out, but what will be left of your hand? Chances are it will be damaged beyond repair.

Holding onto something you shouldn’t is holding onto a piece of white-hot coal. It continues to hurt you, even if your ego thinks it’s protecting you from something worse. Not letting go doesn’t really hurt anyone but you. Granted, losing a hand means holding only one of your children’s hands instead of one in each, which might hurt them or make them sad. It’ll make picking up them more challenging, and some point, impossible (kids grow fast = get heavy fast). Your kids might even get angry or resentful that you held onto that ember because it reduced what you can do for them. And that’s going to cause more pain. See where this is going? Holding onto pain, anger, whatever, is cyclical. Mostly, it taints your life, but it does reverb out.

So, my question to you: why is it worth it to hold on when all you have to do is open your hand and let the coal drop from your hand back into the fireplace?

And yes, I know how hard it is. And yes, I’ve done it. Therapy, meditation, spirituality have helped. But really, all you have to do, as simple as this sounds, is forgive yourself. Don’t focus on forgiving the transgressor(s), because that person/people aren’t the real issue. Being angry with yourself for not protecting, letting it happen, whatever, that’s the ember. And if you can let go of the guilt, rage, helplessness, and all the rest, you can forgive yourself. Once you do that, forgiving others starts to become easy, or really, a non-issue. This is just one answer. There are probably many. But saying, “I don’t know how” is pretty much saying, “I don’t want to.” And once you are really ready to let go, you’ll know how and the coal will be ash.

I don’t know that this will help, especially if you don’t want to hear it, but I hope it does. Sending love and compassion to all of us that struggle with this issue.

The Conundrum of Lost Desire; or finding inspiration to write a villanelle

With love and faith, I cracked my heart for you
and passion filled the holes with fire,
while grace’s light surrendered what I knew.

Wandering alone, I found Xanadu.
And there, for my burdens, was a pier
with Love and Faith; I cracked my heart for you.

A familiar world turned to flames of blue
as I gathered ashes of desire,
while grace’s light surrendered what I knew.

I carried the urn to grasses of dew.
Spreading the contents, there sprang a brier.
With love and faith, I cracked my heart for you.

Closing my eyes, I shunned the thorns I grew,
then saw the roses of its attire,
while grace’s light surrendered what I knew.

Through Beauty, I was given what is true.
In her arms, I let myself retire
with love and faith. I cracked my heart for you,
while Grace’s light surrendered what I knew.

The Conundrum of a New Year: A “love” letter to 2013

It can be agreed that 2012 was a tumultuous year: an ugly, expensive presidential race; the Koch brothers buying any state propositions they could; women getting a strong sense of how they rate amongst the republican party. On a personal level, as Fortune turned on her red stiletto, some of us found ourselves unceremoniously dropped on our heads, financially, romantically and/or health-wise. However, this post isn’t so much about last year, which was officially over everywhere in the world a few hours ago. This is about the love affair I’m going to have with 2013… well, love may be a bit strong, and affair a bit presumptuous. Let’s just see how it goes.

Dear 2013,

We’ve just recently met—really, it’s only been about 13 hours since we were introduced. I can’t promise undying love or loyalty (it’s much too soon for that), but I can say with some surety that I plan on being around until it’s over. Maybe we’ll even like each other.

I will admit that like any new relationship, I have trepidations about this one. Some of my fear buttons are stuck in the on position (honestly, it’s not spilt champagne or powdered sugar from the beignets). It’s just that, like all new years, the last one started out with such promise, then thoroughly broke my heart towards the end. I’m sure you understand. So, here’s what I’ll agree to, 2013:

I’ll try my best to move forward along my soul path. This year I’m adding financial abundance, right livelihood and creativity. If I could meld them into one word, I would. But I suspect that they are intrinsically tied to each other. And I’ll continue to practice unconditional love, compassion, gratitude, grace, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, trust and courage. Yes, some of these need a LOT of practice.

I’ll stay positive, and if positive isn’t readily available, I’ll try to shift into neutral. If my vibration is high, it does seem to help the rest of my world. Except for Oberon. High vibrations seem to stir him into a frenzy (just ask the roll of toilet paper).

I’ll listen to my Wild Woman and Muse more often. I know I don’t give them the attention they deserve and they do have my highest self at heart. Besides, they are integral to the successful completion of my goals.

I’ll stay open. There will be challenges, there always are. Maybe more deaths and other losses, even. But regardless of what is going on, I’ll keep the doors and windows unlocked and listen for your convertible, motorcycle or knock. I know you’ll be bringing me opportunities. And maybe once in a while you could bring roses, peonies, or chocolate.

I’ll do what I need to do. Even if that means taking a crappy job until something better comes along, dating lots of men until the right one arrives, and asking for help when I need it. I might need some prodding on that last one—okay, I might need prodding on all of them.

I’ll serve. I already have one volunteer opportunity lined up, and two more that I’ve been thinking about for years. I’ll do what I can to be of service locally and globally, and in any ways I am guided to do so.

I’ll trust that all things that happen are ultimately to my benefit and serve my highest good. This is a tough one and I can already feel myself faltering. I’ll definitely need help and encouragement, 2013.

I hope the terms of our relationship are amenable to you and I look forward to getting to know you better over the next 12 months.

Love, Michelle