There was a time when the people I dealt with were merely making appearances in the soap opera that was my life, or so I must have believed on some level. I starred in it, directed it, and expected each actor to play their role as I created it. Under these circumstances, less-than-favorable outcomes are magnified and often unendurable. Even petty slights are infuriating and upsetting.
In twelve-step programs, it’s called “Rule 62”—Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously! Becoming aware of that and then understanding it and accepting it was another thing pivotal to my recovery.
We have to be able to laugh at ourselves! Have you ever noticed that people who take themselves too seriously are the perfect target for internet trolls? I observed one guy on Twitter complaining that trolls wouldn’t leave him alone. It was evident from his feed that he’d been sitting around, answering them for quite some time. That is a waste of energy because trolls are devoid of empathy.
Bullies tend to throw stuff out there to see what will stick. They know it when they hit a nerve, and they’ll use that to provoke you. The more misery they cause, the happier they are. These are not people you can reason with or convince. If they can’t get a rise out of you, it’s not fun for them. So, it’s best never to “feed a troll”—not so much as a crumb.
We don’t have to tolerate bad behavior, but we don’t have to live in agony because of other people’s behavior and perceptions. And we don’t have to be obsessed with damage control. That’s a full-time job, with plenty of unpaid overtime. And it’s exhausting! Allowing people to infuriate us and rob us of our serenity gives others way too much power over us. Humility saves us from ourselves, keeping us aware that we’re human and flawed.
Before I understood Rule 62, I told someone, “It’s not that I want to be better than others. It’s the opposite; I strive to be acceptable because I feel inadequate.”
Inadequate in my view because I aimed for perfection. I didn’t understand that I wore my inferiority complex inside out. I’d taken it to the superiority complex level, never realizing that those were two sides of the same coin. It never occurred to me that I held myself to a higher standard than others.
The first thing I had to do was take myself down off the pedestal. (Yes, we can put ourselves on pedestals, too.) I had to realize that I was not the star of everyone’s show. Things are happening to everyone on the planet—not just me.
Before I grasped “Rule 62,” I expected fairness, always, no matter what. I had to learn that there’s so much about this life that isn’t right, and life’s been far more unfair to others than to me. It’s all relative, and I had to process the fact that while we can fight for justice when appropriate, life ultimately isn’t fair, period. Accepting that removed a tremendous burden from my shoulders.
Humility, in my view, is something we continually strive for, not a trait we crown ourselves with because we’ve risen to sainthood. And none of what I’m saying here means we’re not important, or we shouldn’t have healthy egos. But if we try not to perceive ourselves as overly important (more so than anyone else, anyway), then we’re less biased when it comes to ourselves. We’re able to recognize certain things for what they are and not take so much personally—be it constructive criticism, a bit of teasing, or someone being an ass.
It helps me to acknowledge that I’m not this person the whole world is watching and with staggering expectations, hoping I will fail. Also, if we stop looking for adversaries, perceived enemies, and their agendas, for the most part, they somehow cease to exist.
It comes back to balance for me, but when you’re able to keep an open mind, discernment about what to take personally and what to blow off becomes more effortless.
As an author, I put my words out there in a world divided on many topics. The varying opinions don’t always come from someone with a reasonable frame of reference. Someone may read about a tragic event and say it isn’t an accurate portrayal. You can write about something that actually happened or describe exactly how it was, and someone might view it as a misrepresentation because that’s not what they experienced. People do have personal biases and triggers. Sometimes, they’re turned off by something that has more to do with them than with you. I’ve noticed fellow writers getting two-star book reviews for reasons unrelated to the book. Internet trolls may say negative things merely because they can. Also, the best writers out there have had plenty of critics.
But not every critic is a troll, which is essential to acknowledge. Some people don’t have a vested interest in us and are not biased, and, quite often, they’re right on the money.
A bit of lightheartedness and a good sense of humor are critical.
Years ago, I realized I could change my relationship with criticism by changing my perspective. Criticism isn’t comfortable, and we don’t like feeling uncomfortable, so we tell ourselves we can’t handle it. If we take ourselves out of that fear mode, acknowledging that we’re not comfortable but can handle it, it’s easier to decide how we’ll do that. Stressing makes things worse.
In those moments, it also helps to remember we’re not alone—others are going through it or have been through it. I tell myself I’m no less capable of handling it than they are, and it only seems so much worse because it’s happening to me.
Sadly, though, some people fear criticism and rejection so much that they don’t pursue their dreams or find true happiness.
As far as I can tell, we must keep listening to learn. On a personal and professional level, there’s always room for improvement. I am obsessed with learning more and more about things that knocked me for a loop when I had to deal with them in others or myself. I can’t help being grateful for these opportunities and challenges to overcome the obstacles that derailed me.
Falling in love with the process of learning, growing, evolving, and recovering helps us to succeed more and suffer less. It’s about wanting to be the best we can be. It’s okay to be vulnerable, but only as long as we know we are and how! Then, instead of worrying about how others perceive us, we do what we do from the heart. I tell myself this: I’m another person trying to learn and figure things out here. We are transmundane beings in an astounding old universe. We are vulnerable—not merely to the force of nature and random happenings, but to each other. Life gets better when we accept ourselves as a part of everything rather than the center of everything.
I maintain that until we fully heal from whatever we need to recover from, we remain in bondage to something or another and are prone to obsessions. Disentangling ourselves from that is a painful process, but as I witness people becoming who they were before the pain and unwarranted shame, I have no doubt what awareness can do. It tells me there’s hope for everyone.
*Excerpted from my forthcoming memoir, Grateful to Be Alive: My Road to Recovery from Addiction*
Some people may think unconditional love as a way of life means loving, supporting, befriending, and forgiving everyone in every instance. I see it as a general way to view other humans and a way of having compassion for those who struggle.
It doesn’t mean supporting or necessarily forgiving the behavior of those who intentionally seek to harm others. It doesn’t mean befriending those people.
Unconditional love is a blanket feeling, a way to interact and approach. It’s a way to work at your life’s passions. Overall, it’s a way of being—having an inclusive mindset, offering a welcome space, and relentlessly projecting love. ~D.K.
While I’m certainly not a professional, I’ve dealt with my share of narcissism throughout my life. Unfortunately, many people have endured far worse than what I’ve experienced, and some have been damaged beyond repair. Whatever we can do to help others toward the light in the darkness can mean the difference between their giving up and holding on.
My primary theory is that malignant narcissism is at the heart of the world’s dysfunction. I’m convinced that we’re dealing with the chaos of the world’s trauma, shame, and pain. It’s the gift that keeps on giving—with the worst possible repercussions, and it spreads through the universe like a poison. I believe this suffering, which leads to more suffering, is a cycle we can break with recognition, empathy, and a genuine desire to change.
So, I write this from the heart.
THE NARCISSISTS AMONG US
As you likely already know, narcissistic abusers can be parents, lovers, siblings, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, co-workers, employers, teachers, etc. Many of us are unwittingly drawn to them because of their familiarity. Awareness of malignant narcissism is critical since we have long-term contact with some of these people, which can amount to significant damage.
Reading and participating in narcissistic abuse recovery groups has taught me that there’s a difference between people with full-blown NPD and those who get “fleas” from narcissistic abuse—the latter having acquired the narcissistic abuser’s strategies and behaviors to cope and survive. There’s a spectrum, I believe, with varying degrees of impact. Some narcissistic abuse survivors don’t seem to exhibit any of the behavior they were subjected to, while others appear to have inherited every trace of it.
In short, while experiencing narcissistic abuse, we’re often dealing with a person’s trauma response to the abuse that they themselves experienced. Victims of narcissistic abuse can become so defensive that they, too, can become hurtful.
There was a time in my own life when despite the general empathy I had for others, my privileges made someone else’s struggle unrelatable to me. I took for granted that I had a good job and a career and that in my recovery from substance abuse, I wasn’t struggling. Relapse was not a temptation, let alone a threat. Many would say, well, you worked for those things. Yeah, I did, but the fact that I was able to shouldn’t have blinded me to the reality that it was hard and damn near impossible for those who didn’t have the advantages I had while growing up. My expectations of others at the time were unrealistically high, and I didn’t understand it when people fell short of meeting them.
I mentioned empathy a couple of times now because that’s an essential factor here. Empathy is what sets the recovering victim apart from a hopelessly disordered narcissist because it is empathy that makes us want to do better and play fair. We’re eventually willing to relinquish the narcissistic “payoffs” because we care about others. In my experience, I’ve found that as long as we have empathy for ourselves and others, we can rise above many of the character defects that burden us and make us a burden to others.
And to be fair, I’m not sure I’ve ever dealt with anyone who had a total lack of empathy, but they’re out there, and they’re dangerous.
In my view, most narcissistic abusers do what they do out of insecurity, fear, and habit, and they can be oblivious to what’s causing them to act as they do.
These narcissists are ashamed of who they are, so they manufacture an image of who they want to be. That’s where the obsession with one’s self-image develops—and whatever the narcissist stands for becomes part of that façade. It becomes necessary for them to buy into and sell their superiority because, in the narcissist’s conscious or subconscious mind, there is no in-between when it comes to superiority and inferiority. Equal isn’t an option, and they don’t want anyone to see them as inferior. Damage control becomes a survival strategy and an automatic response to any threat to the ideology that comforts and, quite frankly, saves them.
In terms of fear, I think one thing narcissistic abusers often derive from their experiences is that there’s not enough of what’s good to go around, which may even be the case in their family environment. They then take that fear out into the world, believing, again—perhaps only subconsciously—that there’s a limited amount of love, attention, money, success, fame, and so on, no matter where they go. More for you means less for them; therefore, everything becomes a competition. With this mindset, it is difficult for them to genuinely support others and easy to fear that those “others” might succeed at their expense. You want them to root for you, but they’re more likely to sabotage you with discouragement and disinterest.
Perceived threats to a narcissistic abuser can be enviable traits, such as someone else’s popularity and influence, or even unenviable traits, such as an illness or disorder that another person may have to endure. People begin to pay more attention to the afflicted or popular ones, which can trigger an alarm for the narcissist. It compels them to redirect the attention they’re not getting so that the focus is back on them.
Sometimes, narcissistic abusers reject others simply for being different. There are circumstances where a child has mental or physical health issues, and a narcissistic individual will perceive that as shameful because they think it reflects negatively on them, or they see it as a weakness from which they must distance themselves. Sometimes, parents or relatives deny the problem or blame the child rather than support them. To a narcissist, that behavior is an affront to them. The main concern is, What will people think?
That was typical behavior hundreds of years ago—the result of clinical ignorance and/or superstition of the times, but it hasn’t entirely vanished all these years later, despite our society having a better understanding of these issues today.
For a dysfunctional narcissist, everyone in their family and circle of friends must be normal by their standards. Every member of their family or circle must also validate and reinforce whatever they think, say, and do in order to nurture the notion that their perception is always accurate. That’s crucial to them because their deepest fear is, if they are wrong about that, what else are they wrong about? And can they possibly be wrong about everything they believed to be true? They may not be ready to examine any of those possibilities.
Narcissistic abusers withhold support, validation, admiration, attention, and approval from those they perceive as threats or competition or anyone who challenges the reality they’ve constructed. They reject, bully, intimidate, humiliate, and kick perceived enemies when they’re down. These heartbreaking actions can crush a person’s spirit and leave them with paralyzing trauma and fear. Malignant narcissists often demonize someone because they don’t have the same power over that person that they so expertly wield over others.
Character assassination is most definitely in the narcissistic abuser’s wheelhouse, and they excel at it. They rewrite history, spin false narratives, mischaracterize, mock, and blame their chosen targets. There will be people within the narcissist’s social group playing both sides, as well, which becomes a never-ending drama. Too often, people want to be on the side they figure is winning, more popular, or simply more rewarding. They may even fear the narcissist and remain loyal rather than become another target. As victims of narcissistic abuse, we may also feel a sense of loyalty to the abusers, and we may wish to protect them. Denial becomes a method of survival for us, too. It doesn’t help that narcissistic abusers can be charming. We may find them so lovable and irresistible that we’re desperate to be wrong about them.
Nor does it help that none of us are perfect people, unwittingly allowing abusers to bring out the worst in us. When dealing with manipulative behavior, we sometimes make a bad situation worse with our reactions or simply by tripping over our own flaws and insecurities, thus taking the bait. (If I had a dollar for every ridiculous thing I’ve said in those circumstances—well, you get the idea.)
Sadly, too, we often genuinely love a narcissistic abuser and hope we can help them. It’s wise to remember that people who want to recover will do the work required to repair themselves. People who are not aspiring to change may not be willing or ready to examine themselves, acknowledge their mistakes, take responsibility, and begin the process of learning, growing, and healing. If they are not there yet, and you confront their behavior, they’ll likely act as if your question or statement is shocking, offensive, or absurd, and they’ll think you’re the one with the problem. The moment you put them on the defensive, it becomes even more critical to discredit you to themselves and their circle of family and friends.
It won’t matter what you say to them or how kind you are; your words will not move a narcissist who isn’t ready to change. You think you can meet them halfway, but if believing you, understanding you, and finding a way to co-exist peacefully with you doesn’t work with their agenda, they don’t compromise. Even if they care about and respect you, the extent to which they care has to be greater than their need to be perceived in the most flattering light.
The payoff they’ve gotten from selling their narrative is a lot to give up because they’d have to be willing to risk losing the false alter ego they created to survive. It’s easier for them to dehumanize a perceived enemy and rationalize that this person deserves their retaliation, no matter how vicious it is. They can’t afford to put themselves in your place and understand your emotional pain or see how they may be the ones who caused it.
Narcissistic abusers may call you selfish if you end the relationship or leave their group because they don’t realize what they’re asking you to do is tolerate their constant disrespect and abuse. But that’s okay. Those in their corner will agree with them that you’re selfish, and that’s okay, too. Maybe someday, they will be able to see things objectively, but don’t confuse someone you can save with someone you need to save yourself from.
IMPACT, SURVIVAL, AND CHANGE
I mentioned bullying above because bullying is a form of narcissistic abuse and can be debilitating for targets who are deeply connected to their emotions. These people may be strong in most situations, but bullying distorts their self-perception and leads to kindhearted people becoming more sensitive and insecure—often hating themselves. People don’t necessarily realize it when they contribute to the erosion of a child’s self-worth, but kids pay attention to how people treat them, and they get the message loud and clear. Abusers intentionally or unintentionally break our wings so that when we don’t fly, they can say they knew we never would or that we might have succeeded if only we’d listened to them.
Sadly, most of us already have an underlying fear that people won’t love us for who we are, which, through suffering from narcissistic abuse, gets distorted into the notion that no one will ever love us—period. That’s often one of the things people fear most in life, a fate worse even than death, and many young people out there are killing themselves for that. They fight to cope with one trauma after another until they reach a breaking point and can’t cope anymore, and then they shut down. The message is I’ve had enough; I can’t do this anymore. I’m out.
Often, when people feel that desperation, getting beyond thoughts of suicide is only the first hurdle. From there, it’s a long haul to reclaim themselves and their capacity to love.
That’s right. Our ability to love genuinely is also affected. We ask ourselves, What’s wrong with me? We can’t fix it or explain it, and we can’t stop it. We sometimes imagine we’re crazy or going crazy. We get completely lost and unsure about many things. Underneath it is a chronic sadness that never really subsides, and shame overwhelms us.
Awareness and acceptance are the first steps to most self-help, and that’s very much the case here. It takes time and requires ongoing self-maintenance, but we are generally more powerful than the obstacles that derail us. In this instance, I’m not talking about chemical imbalances or illnesses beyond anyone’s control; I’m talking about things that are beyond our control simply because we didn’t understand them at the time.
I advocate awareness because it’s easy for people to use our idiosyncrasies against us. Longtime endurance of narcissistic abuse leads us to question our judgment and sometimes acts to prove that the negative assessment of ourselves is correct. We may be attractive, intelligent, talented, or whatever, yet we fear we are inferior and unworthy of love and success because the people we want to love us—the narcissistic abusers—are incapable of genuine love. And if we are the reminder of their shame, they fear us as much as they fear the true selves they’ve buried deep.
We become more understanding as we become more aware. We learn to examine our actions and motives and not fear what we find. Again, we don’t have to be perfect, and none of us are. More important is the desire to recognize and correct hurtful behavior as we move forward.
When we choose to break the cycle, we learn to spot trouble from the get-go and avoid it. Even better, narcissistic abusers will tend to keep their distance because they’ll realize they’re not able to manipulate and control us.
The good news is we are always healing, as individuals, as friends, as a family, as a nation, and as a planet. As part of that process, we continue to expand our consciousness, and we wake up every day one step closer to who we are meant to be—the best person we can be under our everyday circumstances.
This blog contains numerous excerpts from my forthcoming memoir, Grateful to Be Alive.
Grateful to Be Alive:
My Road to Recovery from Addiction
By D.K. Sanz
Do unsettling truths bring harsh judgment? They do, but the price of denial is steep.
D.K. Sanz’s storybegins in the drug-infested New York City streets of Woodside, Queens, during the tumultuous HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s. It offers a glimpse into how a now often-overlooked pandemic impacted Sanz’s nuclear family.
From her earliest days, Sanz was the easily forgotten stranger, always a little out of sync with the rest of the world—a tough but naive kid and aspiring writer. Her triumph over illness and addiction includes amusing anecdotes and nostalgic, heartwarming memories.
Grateful to be Alive delves deep into Sanz’s confessional self-sabotage, self-destruction, and the harrowing downward spiral she almost didn’t survive. Her never-before-told story ranges from recklessness and impudence to empathy, forgiveness, and love.
D.K. Sanz has since published several books, primarily poetry but also a novel, and she continues to work on sequels and an all-new fantasy series. You’ll find some of her poetry at the end of this book.
Whether struggling or not, you will find Grateful to Be Alive is a story of hope, of defying insurmountable odds, finding joy, and a gradual transition toward authenticity and becoming the person Sanz always wanted to be.
First ARC copy review:
“When you begin this book, you will not put it down. You will immediately be drawn into Sanz’s bold narrative of a woman, throughout her life, passing through “every forbidden door,” as she says of herself. It is a book of continual growth through experience, defeat, and triumph. The prose is swift, concise, full of irony, truth, and poise. You will not find a more startling, revealing memoir. Highly, highly recommended.” ~ J.T. Masters
If you are interested in obtaining an ARC copy, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funny thing—when I was younger, I hated the idea of being a “fan” of anyone. I thought of it as worshipping others when we all are, in fact, equal and that it was beneath me to worship someone else. Now, I see a difference between worshipping and having the greatest admiration for another human being. In fact, if I love you, I’m likely one of your biggest fans.
But the issue of equality remains of the utmost importance to me. For example, when they say you can judge a man by how he treats his inferiors—no, we don’t have inferiors! Some people have more talent or money, better positions, nicer cars, higher functioning brains, and genes that make them more attractive. Still, there’s no reason for anyone to hang on to the illusion of superiority.
When they say you know a person’s character by how they treat someone who can’t do anything for him, then yes, that might be true. But do those who believe in a merciful creator think their creator would snub the poor, sick, disabled, or anyone of another gender, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation? Would that benevolent creator think less of them? It begs the question; if you believe we are sacred, who is less sacred than you?
Some who have co-opted the term ‘woke’ make fun of the concept, but deplorable hate crimes are rising at an alarming rate, and I have to wonder why we’re still fighting this battle in 2022. The term ‘woke’ came about to bring awareness to racism, and now it’s being used as an insult as if inclusion is a bad thing and wanting everyone treated with the same dignity and respect is a problem. They have this idea that we say what we say to impress others or to appear tolerant or benevolent.
I can speak only for myself, but I know this is true for many people. I don’t care about impressing anyone. I say what I say and do what I do because that is 100% genuinely and honestly how I feel. I have never seen any justification for denying people rights, dignity, or civility based on their represented group. There was never a time in my life when that didn’t seem inhumane. It always made sense to me that you don’t know a person just because you know their race, ethnicity, or sexuality and that being one thing is better than being another. And it’s been said many times, but tolerance, WTF? Who am I to decide whether to “tolerate” another person’s existence or not based on that information? I’d have to be a complete narcissist to think these people are beneath me for those reasons, deserve less than I, or are less worthy than me.
Unlike the woke critics, many of us have never been asleep in the first place. But it comes down to this: how people treat each other is appalling. Life’s hard enough, and I think we need to cheer each other on along the way.
I never write short stories; this effort is the first, only, and maybe last I will ever do. The initial version came to me decades ago, when I was so young, but I later found it and rewrote it for my son. It was just a fun thing I decided to do, so I hope you enjoy it.
A STRANGE AND PEACEFUL NEW WORLD
Employing the latest holo-vision technology, top scientists on planet Obelus had fully monitored the Earth’s predictable decline. It was as if they had a front-row seat to a horror flick.
Arsenal, biological, and eventual nuclear warfare had prevailed for several Earth weeks. They experienced flooding, drought, landslides, and elevated levels of carbon in the hot, dry atmosphere. The few survivors lived in primitive darkness surrounded by fires and billowing smoke, breathing toxic air.
That was hundreds of years ago. Most of the survivors went insane, and, sane or not, they turned on each other.
On this particular day, Seren Heddle, one of the most famous scientists on Obelus, was there in the flesh. His brilliance had prompted the aristocracy of his native land to have him visit and observe the new Earth. At his side was the beautiful Alula, with whom he’d been obsessed ever since she came to work with him. They wore full body suits, rugged shoes, gloves, and safety visors, but underneath it all, Seren was a slight, five-foot-six inches with verdant green hair and eyes like topaz jewels. The shapely Alula, only a tad shorter than he was, had bits of silver stardust sprinkled through her lavender mane, which was straight and smooth to create an elegant frame for her feline face. Hers were the eyes, nose, and the clever snickering grin of what was once the Earth’s cat. She was a hybrid version of the feline species trained to scout on Earth and other planets.
Before them, grey steel buildings and factories stood amid tree stumps on barren lands of eroded soil and mud-filled puddles. The noise level was hard to bear, so dwellings and workplaces contained stone walls for better insulation. Experts planned for reforestation, hoping new trees would come to life within the next few decades.
“We had hoped to intervene,” Seren said with a slightly guilty conscience. “But, from all we’d heard and observed, many earthlings fear and demonize alien entities of any variety.”
Alula shrugged, as he’d said this before, many times. “Perhaps if we reflected their own images and perceptions, they’d have welcomed us with a champagne and truffles gift basket,” she joked.
Seren nodded. “They are that way with people in their homeland, too, and yes, terrified by ‘creatures’ from outer space, but, truth be told, they’d never even heard of Obelus.”
“Oh, right,” said Alula. “The astrologist scalawags pretended our planet didn’t exist, though they knew it was there all along. They tricked earthlings for centuries with their corrupt pseudoscience.” Obelus was huge and took up quite a lot of sky space for an ignored constellation, she thought. It held the second-closest star to the earth!
But earthlings had had much more to worry about than a world shaken by the revelation that the sun’s position, when observed from Earth, was not aligned with the arbitrarily defined planet they thought it was on the day they were born.
You see, the last original human survivor, Mason Guthridge, was a scientist who’d built himself an elaborate bunker city and didn’t invite anyone else. He’d decided that only uniformity could create a world without jealousy, elitism, and hatred, so he decided to clone himself ad infinitum and lived underground with his clones, waiting for the remaining humans to expire before returning to the surface. His clones, male and female, were called dittos, and the dittos had plastered his photo on billboards throughout the planet, Mason was bald, with a circle of reddish hair above his ears and a walrus mustache. Aside from having a full head of hair, lacking the walrus ‘stache, and having different physiological ‘equipment,’ the females looked like him, too. Dittos had only the slightest variances in appearance and were about the same weight since limited resources had them all on a rationed diet.
“The man is a hero!” Seren marveled. “The wave of negative energy that once seemed the driving force here has dissipated!”
Alula nearly gagged. “Only a narcissist would clone himself even once, but enough times to populate an entire planet?!”
Seren begged to differ. “It’s marvelous, I tell you. There is no way to detect who is superior upon sight, and neither can one determine from where the dittos originate.”
A look of displeasure distorted Alula’s flawless face. “Seren, it could get so chaotic. There can be no attraction toward one another.”
With a bright smile, he shook his little head. “No, Alula, that is not true. No one is prettier or more handsome as to inspire jealousy, turning twisted envy into angry and hurtful vengeance. The dittos communicate without consciousness of the physical self and form opinions then ultimately relationships, based on hearts and souls connecting. Each has only his or her inner being to offer, and only by that can he or she be judged.”
Alula yawned before countering, “Okay, if they, Guthridge, or anyone else here truly was a genius or had any brains at all, they wouldn’t need such a preposterous solution in order to accept one another, differences and all! Want to know why this is insane? I’ll tell you why. Life, this way, is impossible! Suppose I was to converse with a gentleman and hoped to run into him again. How would I recognize him? Infidelity must be a common problem.”
Seren shook his head. “The meetings and arrangements are discussed, as are ways of how and when to contact. That is good, for if one wants to meet with you or have you contact, he can voluntarily instruct you. If he or she does not wish to see you again, it is marvelous, for the individual can, simply, withhold the information, and you never could harass the person. It would be difficult.”
“That is not likely to discourage infidelity.”
“I assure you, Alula, it is not a problem, for the mates are in heart and soul exclusively. Nothing is worth the risk of losing what they’d found.”
“That’s fine,” she allowed, “but how would I know if I’d like to converse with someone passing by and possibly get to know him?”
“Well, the signal for approach is always a beep, but you are not an earthling and therefore not equipped for beeping.”
Alula kicked some nearby rocks. “That is just stupid.”
“Why is that stupid, my lady?”
“It’s stupid because how does one know if he or she would like to beep?”
“They do not control the beeping process,” Seren replied. “When ditto instincts dictate, and they have the intention of approaching, they beep automatically. An effective method for dealing with shyness, wouldn’t you say?”
“No, no, no, no!” She stomped her foot for good measure.
He ignored that. “We might think about a similar system for—”
Alula was aghast at the mere suggestion. “Oh, right, let’s adopt this post-apocalyptic absurdity in our perfectly functional society. Are you out of your mind? The last thing I want to do is trade my unique attributes to become just another ditto.” She thought of another argument. “What then might I do if I’m walking merrily along and feel someone sneak up behind and pinch me? How would I know which beeping ditto did it? I’d turn around and see a slew of them parading behind.”
“Why would any of them resort to that?” Seren turned his palms up, smiling. “There is no physical attraction, and lust is no longer an obsession.”
“Lust? Do you think it has to do solely with lust— why people prey upon others? There are other reasons they choose to be a nuisance.” Alula folded her arms across her chest. “How much do you want to bet? You’ll have confused dittos beeping incessantly at everyone!”
At that very moment, a frantic, beeping ditto raced toward Seren. While yanking the wallet from his pocket, the culprit pulled at his nose, bopped him on the head and knocked off his visor. Alula could not help laughing, cupping her mouth, and feeling relieved for, in an instant, the guilty ditto was lost amidst a crowd of lookalike dittos up ahead.
“Obviously, a psychotic,” Seren said, looking for his visor amid the rubble.
“Hmm, and this is why we can’t have nice things.” Alula spied the visor and picked it up for him. “Tsk! Listen, I love the idea of being one and equal and loving one another, but if the answer is they can only beep and steal wallets, well—”
Seren, grabbing the visor from her hand, looked embarrassed. “The unfortunate result of generations of inbreeding, I suspect, but it could have worked.”
Time goes way too fast for me. I saw Midnight Mass on Netflix about eight months ago and have wanted to write about it, but I’m just now getting around to it.
If you haven’t seen or heard of it, Midnight Mass is a seven-episode miniseries created and directed by Mike Flanagan. Flanagan’s inspiration came from his Catholic upbringing and recovery from alcoholism. The genre is supernatural horror, the same as The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, both of which he created previously for Netflix.
David Fear of Rolling Stone magazine called Midnight Mass extraordinary. A critic on Rotten Tomatoes called it “gorgeous and unsettling.” Tomatoes revealed it had an 89% approval rating.
Okay, some felt it was too much of a Salem’s Lot rip-off, paying homage to Stephen King. Those influences were there, sure, but, in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
Anyway, the filming of Midnight Mass took place in Vancouver, at a seaside public area called Garry Point Park. Garry Point Park became Midnight Mass’s fictional Crockett Island, a small offshore fishing village whose inhabitants are trying to recover economically from an oil spill that devastated its fishing industry.
Riley Flynn is the main character who comes home to Crockett Island from prison after his drunk driving resulted in a woman’s death.
The supernatural element stems from the arrival of a stranger; a priest called Father Paul. And while Father Paul is charismatic, he is not exactly normal. He performs miracles amid tragedy with winged, blood-sucking creatures lurking. I’m not a fan of gore, but if a series is good, I’ll endure whatever I must (Hello, Game of Thrones) and, if necessary, resort to covering my eyes. (Of course, I’ll peek out of one eye.)
Ultimately, Father Paul seduces his whole island of followers, pushing them to poison themselves with cultlike devotion. It reminded me of the preacher and mass murderer, Jim Jones, who was solely responsible for the Jonestown, Guyana massacre in 1978. Some viewers complained about Father Paul’s profound monologues from beginning to end, but I enjoyed them. Honestly, I found the entire series brilliant and thought-provoking.
Hamish Linklater as Father Paul received widespread acclaim for his character portrayal, and yes, he was great. Jen Chaney of Vulture called his performance “phenomenal” and believed he elevated the series to “moments of greatness,” writing: “he speaks as if he’s discovering his way through every sentence and wants you to come with him.”
Other noteworthy performances include Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn, Robert Longstreet as Joe Collie, the town drunk, Rahul Kohli as Sheriff Hassan, Kate Siegel as Riley’s childhood sweetheart, Samantha Sloyan as a high and mighty zealot, and Henry Thomas as Riley’s father.
There was tremendous praise for Flanagan’s directing.
However, many Christians found Midnight Mass offensive in every regard.
Sherriff Hassan, as a Muslim, feels like an outsider, with the townspeople forcing Christianity on his son. And Riley questioned his faith, which I thought seemed normal after what happened to him. Even the most devout have struggled to keep the faith. We’re supposed to be human and flawed, right?
Another complaint was that Midnight Mass portrays a vampire as an angel. Father Paul is romanticized and sexualized, ranging from benevolent to malevolent. But doesn’t the Bible have angels who rebelled against God? The fallen ones who’d decided God was a despotic, unmerciful tyrant and got sentenced to eternity in hell?
I read a comment that “priests would be able to recognize evil and not succumb to it,” yet they’ll defend the pedophile priest with arguments that the devil targets him, relentlessly tempting and “tricking” him. That’s just bullshit, but in the holy books, Satan is a powerful and ruthless rebel—a trickster who will constantly aim to manipulate and deceive you. While I may not believe these things, I learned while growing up Catholic that the devil will have his reign upon earth. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that one. So, it’s hardly shocking that Midnight Mass presents you with a version of the legendary Anti-Christ, who predictably fools people.
Midnight Mass also explores humanity’s desperate quest for eternal life, which is the “gift” offered to Father Paul’s followers in this story. The gift, in addition, relieves them of pain and suffering. I believe that’s why vampire lore is so popular. It dangles that gift and explores its consequences.
Midnight Mass presents the idea that “we must do evil to combat evil.” That misguided belief system is out there. Just look at the justification for people denying others fundamental human rights, justice, and dignity. Consider the lengths they will go to oppress and punish people for not being what the bigots say they’re supposed to be. No, not every religious person is like that, but no one can deny the mentality is out there. People believe they are combating evil and might have to resort to atrocious behavior themselves to accomplish that.
At the same time, some believe in a loving, merciful, forgiving God and opt for the perception of him that is consistent with the caring and compassionate Jesus. Others fear God as a cruel, unforgiving, punishing entity who is offended by slights to his ego and will ask that you do horrendous things to prove your devotion to him, and they obey him to avoid punishment. Well, Father Paul is a depiction of the latter.
Of course, I can’t tell people what should or shouldn’t offend them. None of it offends me, but I don’t share their belief system and so reserve judgment. I will say that some of the best characters in Midnight Mass were Christians and made admirable sacrifices rather than succumbing to all the madness. And most were victims of a psychopath leader. Except, in this story, people fought back.
I believe Midnight Mass is still on Netflix. If you enjoy this kind of stuff, check it out.
Parting is rarely peaceful or the sweet sorrow of Shakespearean poetry. It can be an ugly and torturous process. It’s not unusual either to be called selfish for walking away from toxic relationships and environments.
We get involved in something or with someone having the best of intentions. Often, we don’t realize what issues we bring to the table. There may be parts of us still in need of healing. When we look back, we may see we could have handled it all better—not simply because hindsight is 20/20 but because we can’t be objective. We’re busy drowning. Everything is clouded, including our judgment. Being oblivious to what motivates us and how others can manipulate us, we fall into traps. We may even trust the wrong people, people who take advantage of vulnerabilities and unresolved needs. They push buttons we didn’t know we had and, after a time, we don’t recognize ourselves.
We walk away, because we don’t know what will happen to us if we don’t. We choose sanity and serenity over endless battles. The exit becomes the way of saving our lives, reclaiming it along with our dreams, putting our needs first after years of trying to please people who cannot be pleased. We are no longer in a place where we can be or do our best. The kinder thing is to go on and heal what needs healing. Who says we can’t bring our best efforts somewhere else? We can take our kindness. We know, too, it’s never going to be enough to walk away. We may need to burn that bridge, so we don’t get sucked in again.
The place we escaped from may haunt us from time to time, what we left behind. We can leave those dead things wailing in the dark and shut the door. That part of our past taught us many things we needed to learn, and it’s over, done, dead. As long as we didn’t lose the lesson, we’ll be fine. We needed to be there and experience what we experienced, but we’re free now. It’s time to celebrate our freedom.
Since its first season, I have been a fan of the television show Dancing with the Stars, so I am pretty familiar with Ukrainian-American pro-dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who appeared in many earlier seasons and recently as a judge. When the Russian invasion began, Maksim was a judge on the Ukrainian version of Dancing with the Stars. For days, he took refuge in a bomb shelter, and his frequent Instagram videos revealed how distraught and heartbroken he’s been, barely able to hold it together. At the same time, he kept us informed and advised people of ways to help. As of now, he’s trying to leave Ukraine, making his way to the border, and I pray he arrives home safely to his loved ones.
So many courageous people, including Maksim. are coming to light right now. And we’re seeing an extraordinary display of empathy with people speaking up and reaching out, a great measure of love and support. That moves me to no end, as does the unity among the Ukrainians and overwhelmingly on a global scale.
Someone posted on Twitter that “Ukrainians are not fighting with each other over issues like vaccines and CRT. They are fighting FOR each other so future generations will enjoy the freedoms that exist in a true democracy.”
That’s true. These things I mentioned above—empathy, love, unity, etc.— have been lacking here throughout the elections and pandemic and one crisis after another. So, yeah, I find it hard not to cry when I see good people fighting back against corruption, cruelty, and greed.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has stepped up to be quite the courageous leader whose humility allows him to see himself, not as an idol to be worshipped but as a patriot who refuses to abandon his country or his people. It reminds us that humans can be amazing.
Every day I send all of them love, light, and prayers—and to the whole world. Wherever there is suffering, we suffer, too, because we care about each other.
As one of those people who believe kindness is a key to survival and, yes, empathy and love, I see that as more evident now than it ever was.
Once upon a time, I worked in a hospital where nurses, children, and hemophiliacs were testing positive for HIV along with heterosexuals who got it from an infected partner. People were saying that quarantining the infected was the solution. Of course, they believed it affected only drug addicts, gay people, sex workers, etc. Some decided it was God’s wrath.
I think most of us agree that law-abiding people with addictions, afflictions or different sexual preferences and ethnicities do not deserve punishment or anyone’s wrath. It’s just the opposite. They’re entitled to the same rights and to be treated with equal dignity and respect. We embrace them and love them for who they are because they’re as worthy of that as we are.
But when HIV was the biggest concern, I heard people say that quarantining the infected was the solution. They, including our leaders, saw no need to aggressively fight the spread of HIV because they didn’t think their own communities could be affected.
Now, here we are with COVID. Many people who might have thought it was an excellent idea to quarantine people back then are talking about their freedom not to wear a mask or get vaccinated. At a time when the disease seemed to affect minorities they’d deemed undesirable, they didn’t question the government or the existence of a pandemic. They somehow found methods of complying with safer sex.
Meanwhile, I guarantee those people infected with HIV would have loved to get vaccinated if it meant the disease going away or not being transmissible. I’m sure most of them willingly did what doctors asked them to do to prevent the spread of this disease.
Thanks to scientists and the gay community who fought tooth and nail for help, effective drugs came along, making HIV no longer a death sentence. Many of those infected live normal lives with the virus and achieve an undetectable status where they can’t infect others.
So, what is the thing about COVID that people suddenly want to be so defiant? I’m sure they’d be outraged if anyone tried to quarantine them or discriminate against them the way they did people with HIV or AIDS. And COVID is so much easier to transmit than HIV. Why would they not, at least, wear a mask?
With all I’ve seen throughout my life, I firmly believe this is not a thing to fool around with, and ego/pride is not anyone’s friend in this sort of crisis.
“When the whole world is entrenched in the bunker of physical and often emotional isolation, only flexibility and ingenuity can revive us to remain grounded and imbibe the bolstering sunlight piercing through the canvas of chaos.― Erik Pevernagie
Whether it’s socially, mentally, or physically, being out of your comfort zone can be unbearable—more so for some than others.
During the pandemic, we’ve had hard decisions to make, all of us, knowing whatever decision we made for ourselves would impact the loved ones in our bubble who’ve been riding it out with us. They’re not only counting on surviving it themselves; they’re counting on you to survive. A year is fleeting compared to a future without the people you love.
I always remember what my younger sister would say when things were not so great. “It’s temporary.” And what I used to tell myself, “Life is an adventure, part of which is figuring out what to do with every challenge thrown at you and then rising through the challenge.”
The restrictions, added to other stressful political and personal situations, have been tiring. They certainly brought out the ugly in some and the beauty in others. There are people in my life who’ve been sick with Covid or lost loved ones to the virus, and, at least for the time being, the spark I used to see in them is gone.
Finding ways to cope with even simpler things like wearing a mask and the constant handwashing and disinfecting is frustrating, yes, but we are warriors and survivors, and I love that about us. It comes down to preserving yourself for when you can get back the life you want. It’s definitely a time we need therapeutic measures—including ways to escape.
Sure, it was easier for most of us writers. I worked on several books, wrote poem after poem, read one book after another. Those were all things I could never wait to do, so, believe it or not, it was exciting.
Taking walks has always been an excellent balance for working in isolation, but there’s a lot of construction going on around here, where I live. Long Island is the suburbs, but my neighborhood, right now, looks like a rundown part of the city.
My son, who never cooked much in the past, decided to watch all these cooking videos and learn to make all these incredible meals from scratch. He became a great chef and managed to lose weight in the process because he worked out daily while doing his job remotely. All of it was a great confidence builder and kept him motivated!
Working out whenever, wherever, makes you feel good (well, afterward, at least 😉).
As for me, along with whatever else I was doing, I’d think crocheting might be enjoyable or maybe guitar lessons, but then I’d have to buy a guitar. So, another pastime I had was deciding what place I wanted to move to and then, from time to time, check out what houses were for sale there. For a while, it was Norway, then Germany, then Amsterdam. Right now, it’s York, in England. Yes, I want to move to York. I do very much, want to move.
And who knew I’d rediscover Super Mario Brothers and become so good at the Dr. Mario game? (Listen to me, bragging!) Well, it helps your coordination and response time. That is good for me. 😆
Music was another Godsend.
We’re so lucky, too, to have the internet for connecting with everyone—being able to talk to people all over the world about how they’re coping with the very same thing. I can’t imagine how people managed crisis after crisis in the dark ages. But they did!
And what I love most is the fact that laughter gets you through everything. You can’t ever lose your sense of humor. I was joking with a cab driver the other day about neighbors who never knock on your door, and suddenly, during the height of a pandemic, they come a-knocking. And it’s to tell you something like there’s a piece of paper outside your door, an advertisement. Uh, thank you?
No! Don’t bring me things when we are in lockdown! Do not knock on my door!
He and I laughed so much about that, joking back and forth because you have to. Sometimes people mean well, I know. And sometimes they don’t.
Another day, I got a letter in the mail saying that my neighbor (mentioned by name) is a disgusting boyfriend-stealing whore who will sleep with anyone, and her family deserves better than that. High school shit or something you’d expect to see on Desperate Housewives or maybe Jerry Springer. Its author used cut-out letters like a ransom note and pasted a biohazard symbol at the bottom. It’s not what healthy people do. It’s more so the work of a narcissist dragging everyone into their bullshit. They are experts at character assassination.
How dare they, right? Whatever happened between these people is their business, and I don’t care. Imagine someone cutting out all these letters to make a note like that? And God knows how many of these the person sent out! I found it appalling. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as they say. Come to think of it, I don’t have any of that chaos in my life these days, and I like it like that.
Aside from the heartbreak I feel as so many are still struggling to cope, I also have this stubborn enthusiasm that we may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that has me talking up a storm lately with an energy I haven’t put forth in a while.
Hold on to your peace however you can, and you will be okay.
“I can be by myself because I’m never lonely; I’m simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me.”― Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude
This collection consists primarily of poems written during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of loneliness and rumination.
Lyndon’s poetry stems from intense emotions that swing from one end of the pendulum to the other as she captures the agony of love and loss, along with innocent joy and lighthearted fun.
Each poem is an earnest response to life, love, and everything in between.
Here is one poem in the collection.
SAME OLD NEIGHBORHOOD
The neighborhood hasn’t changed,
But the draperies on the windows have been swept aside.
We see you.
Telling someone to go back to where they came from,
To the place where they had no voice
And no choice.
That place where they were beaten,
Neglected and shamed,
Where they never felt safe,
Never had a chance.
Oh, they’d love to go home,
But, home isn’t home anymore.
The neighborhood hasn’t changed,
But, the fanfaronade has consequences.
We hear you.
It’s not just words.
It’s not simply freedom.
It’s a weapon to harm and destroy.
To punish those who aren’t the same.
People just like you commit horrific crimes,
But you don’t identify them
Only with crimes because they mirror you.
People just like you hurt you and fight you and hate you
But you don’t see them all as threatening because they are you.
The neighborhood hasn’t changed,
But many more of us want to live here only in peace.
You can make that happen.
So many beautiful people I’ve known in my life
Were those people you rejected,
And they were full of warmth and kindness and wisdom.
You don’t see them because they’re not the same.
The neighborhood hasn’t changed,
And neither has any divine love for all who live here.
Like you, we are sacred.
All is sacred every moment of every day.
WHAT READERS SAY
“She has the ability to convey to the reader some of the most complex thoughts into words that truly reach our hearts.”— Love Books
“Her lyrical voice speaks with careful observation and passion. In the narrative mode, she is masterful in reading life around her. Kyrian possesses the sensitivity, insight, and soul of the true poet. Her writing provides a primer on how to compose meaningful poetry.”—Lou Jones
Please let me know if you are interested in obtaining an advanced review copy or if you’d like me to notify you about any upcoming giveaways. There will be a few chances to win a copy in the forthcoming months!
“The rationale seems to be that we keep people as victims by validating them, empathizing with them, and fighting alongside them for equality and the dignity they deserve. I don’t think people are kept down by that. I believe what keeps people down is the constant dismissal of their pain, the degradation, the humiliation, the fear of injustice, and the continuous crushing of their will, their faith, and their hope. This type of oppression kills the self-esteem people need to empower themselves.” ― Kyrian Lyndon
“The world is getting too small for both an Us and a Them. Us and Them have become codependent, intertwined, fixed to one another. We have no separate fates, but are bound together in one. And our fear of one another is the only thing capable of our undoing.” ― Sam Killermann
The following article by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes resonated with me. I found it very uplifting and beautiful. With all the unsettling events as of late, I wanted to share it. (For me, it doesn’t mean we won’t call attention to the problems we face or fight the good fight but that we don’t have to feel hopeless or powerless. Of course, too, we may have different perceptions of a higher power or the highest power, but the message is the same.❤️)
We Were Made for These Times by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall.
When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”~Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
During the George Floyd protests, online activists listed book titles that would help increase black history awareness. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley was among those recommended to me.
With this writing, Malcolm X hoped to shed light on how growing up in the black ghettoes shaped his life and character. And he knew it would require a great deal of objectivity on the reader’s part.
Indeed, there are harsh truths—painful and soul-crushing truths that justify every bit of anger black people feel. There arealso misogynistic generalizations along with expressed anger and vindictiveness particularly toward white women, but, as he stated later in the book, “Anger can blind human vision.”
It works both ways.
With the “Black Lives Matter” movement, I saw an inability to comprehend that people of color merely demanded the same due process, dignity, and justice given to white people. Those enraged by the protests could not put themselves in those people’s places or even imagine being in that position themselves. They were above it all, and facts didn’t matter. My impression was that they don’t understand because they generally don’t deal with black people personally, Generally speaking, their knowledge of black people is what they see on the news. Or they base their conclusions on the actions of a few, something they wouldn’t do with people of the same race and ethnicity.
There’s been an obsession with “sameness” that has baffled me since I was a child.
Interesting analogy—when my child was born, I had to get an Rh immune globulin shot because I am Rh-negative and didn’t have the Rh factor marker to mix with Rh-positive blood. If I hadn’t done that, and my son was born Rh positive, my immune system would have made antibodies to reject what it detected as a foreign invasion by attacking his red blood cells. That foreign invasion response. The impulsive instinct to reject what isn’t the same, not close enough, and thereby threatening. It’s part of humanity’s defective design. I don’t recognize you, plain and simple. You don’t belong here. Get out. It’s like a bad science fiction movie where you can’t get through to the people affected and can’t save them.
Malcolm X said that, in writing this book, he hoped to help “save America from a grave, possibly even a fatal catastrophe.”
I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
I remember, years ago, while dating a biracial man, a black woman said to me, “He’s a black man, honey. You can’t possibly understand a black man the way he needs to be understood.” I didn’t know if she was right or wrong. Sure, I realized, from an early age, that discrimination and oppression were completely unacceptable. I was always willing to understand. I’m certainly a lot more aware now than I was then. Yet there is still more to learn.
Responding to speculation as to why he was the way he was, Malcolm X said, “To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.”
He talked a lot about how reading forever changed the course of his life. “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book,” he said. (And although women were hardly a second thought in the time that he lived, this applies to them, too.) 😉
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley has that ability to change lives. Mr. Haley did an excellent job with it. The pacing was slow—at times, a little too slow, but I’m glad I was patient. It is an important book to read. It proves, as far as I’m concerned, that reading is a must. It has been one of my saving graces in life, and it is what pulled Malcolm X up from the dark, deep, underground tunnels that kept him in the oppressor’s grip, a cycle of self-sabotage and self-loathing that his oppressors created for him and so many others like him.
Exploring works like Native Son by Richard Wright and The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley is a great start for people interested in learning why this great divide continues to exist.
However, according to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, “As of 2017, Americans spent an average of almost 17 minutes per day reading for personal interest (as compared to almost three hours watching television and 28 minutes playing games and using computers for leisure). Younger Americans (ages 15 to 44) spent, on average, less than 10 minutes per day reading for personal interest.”
I firmly believe a lack of reading and exploring is one of the many problems we have in this country.
The truth is, you don’t have to like a person to learn from them, but I ended up liking the person who told this story. The tragic end to his extraordinary life saddens me. Malcolm X was open-minded and remained teachable. He came to understand we are not all alike, all of us white people, and it’s the same thing everyone needs to realize about every other race and ethnicity.
His conclusion was, it isn’t necessarily “the American white man who is a racist, but the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man.” And that “it takes all of the religious, political, economic, psychological, and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the human family and the human society complete.” He felt certain if this weren’t the case, we’d have a humane, empathetic society where all of us, rich and poor, could be treated with dignity and respect. He liked the idea of not seeing an inherently evil “enemy” but rather a society that “influences him to act evilly.”
Even Christianity—a religion black people clung to for comfort and hope—became part of that racist psychology. He noted that “The Christian church returned to Africa under the banner of the Cross—conquering, killing, exploiting, pillaging, raping, bullying, beating—and teaching white supremacy. This is how the white man thrust himself into the position of leadership of the world—through the use of naked physical power.”
I so admire the spiritual courage this man had in his search for the truth.
And the truth is, essentially, what makes sense to you after all your exploration and your quest for authenticity. I say it all the time, no group, no matter who, what, or where is perfect. We always have a mix of good and evil. Or, to be kinder, some have seen the light, and others have yet to see it. Let’s hope they keep looking.
“The most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. All too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” -Martin Luther King, Jr..
MORE BOOKS RECOMMENDED TO ME
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn along with Malcolm X
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois by W.E.B. Du Bois
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Negro History by Carter G. Woodson’s by Carter G. Woodson
We’ve seen it with the COVID situation. Mocking, taunting, and terrorizing people who adhere to the restrictions is a thing now. The perpetrators don’t value your life. To them, it’s all a big joke. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of selected compassion reserved for people who are like them and agree with them, or an issue of not having empathy at all.
Of course, it stands to reason then, they would rather not hear that black lives matter or that we need racial justice and equality. It makes them angry or uncomfortable, and maybe they will despise me for talking about it. But this problem is so much bigger than them or me or even George Floyd specifically. It’s not something that just happened or something unusual. It’s not a situation where there are two sides.
Believe me, the people who were not outraged by what happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black victims of police brutality were indeed outraged about the riots. When they mention George Floyd, they refer to his death as a tragedy and not a cold-blooded murder or lynching, which is what it was.
Some are quick to say, well, he had a violent past. Yes, that’s true. It’s also true that he served his time and was trying to turn his life around. But that’s beside the point. There was nothing—absolutely nothing— that justified excessive use of force in his arrest, let alone murder.
The truth hurts. But we have to deal with it. We have to talk about it because we must change the system.
Let’s talk about the riots.
Most of us don’t want to see others get robbed or shot or suffer a devastating loss. Speaking for myself alone, I’m a humanist. I can’t stand to see anyone suffer or live in fear. We hurt people enough unintentionally because we are human. Still, when you harm others willfully and maliciously or wish it or condone it or ignore it, I don’t see your humanity at all.
And if you are willing to break the law during a COVID pandemic— defiantly putting others at risk so that you can buy a donut in person or get your stupid ass nails done, you don’t get to complain to me about any of this. You are willing to harm others because of your rage, yet you cannot grasp why some protesters may cross the line and seek to harm because of what anger they feel over something that actually matters.
In other words, it’s okay to be an angry white person, but it’s not okay to be an angry black person. We can deal with those angry white people armed to the teeth. But we can’t deal with a scared and unarmed black person who doesn’t want to get arrested. Violence isn’t the answer. Neither is breaking the law. It shouldn’t matter who you are.
Similarly, freedom of speech should extend to all. However, when we start speaking up about racial injustice, people want to shut it down.
And, as we know, many of those incensed over the riots were not okay with any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise. They are the same people always clamoring about a civil war and threatening to start one. What the hell do they think happens during a civil war? It would be far worse than anything we’ve seen play out during these protests.
They fear tyranny so much that they won’t protect themselves and others in a pandemic. Still, they don’t mind police using excessive force on protesters, and they don’t see a problem with deploying the military against its citizens. Isn’t that the reason they are always harping about the second amendment? Isn’t that why they fear the government is coming for their guns? Or do they think they will never be brutalized or killed standing up for what’s right because they are white? Think again. Power and greed continue to corrupt our government. Oh, wait, you already know that. It’s why you won’t give up your guns.
By the way, do the people who keep blaming Antifa for everything even know what Antifa is? I admit I didn’t know myself until recently. What I now understand is, Antifa stands for antifascism and is not an entity. It’s a movement, a stance you take. Anyone can claim to be Antifa. Didn’t Twitter recently close down an account of white nationalists pretending to represent Antifa and calling for violence? Why, yes, they did! There are also links to information about white supremacist groups showing up at protests and wreaking havoc attributed to Antifa and the protestors. The FBI supposedly investigated “Antifa” and came up with nothing. My guess is, most of the protesters are legitimate. Others have another agenda. I don’t know anything for sure. Neither do you. But I will say, it does make sense to me that white supremacists would sabotage a protest for racial justice. They know how to get their base outraged, and it’s not by murdering a black man in cold blood.
Let’s talk about the police.
Police have a difficult job to do. I know that. We need them, and, to enforce the law, they have to be tough. I get it. You’re talking to a huge fan of detective shows here. In the book I’m currently writing, my main character is a detective, and though he’s flawed like every other human, he’s been one of my favorite characters to write.
I always say it takes all kinds. I’ve met very kind police officers, and I’ve met some nasty ones. Believe it or not, I want to understand them, too.
According to the National Center for Women and Policing, “Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent, indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.”
Women in these situations are often terrified of taking action because their partners have the backing of their fellow officers.
Hazelden Betty Ford.org notes, “In 2010, a study of police officers working in urban areas found that 11% of male officers and 16% of female officers reported alcohol use levels deemed “at-risk” by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Also noted is a “high prevalence of psychological and pathological stress disorders such as PTSD when already stressed officers are exposed to traumatic events.”
Police Psychology.com has information on its website about the problems and difficulties that unexpressed anger can create. They cite “pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile.”
My question is, are we doing enough to help police officers, or is the system failing them, too?
We have outreach programs and resources, but, as explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Law enforcement officers are often reluctant to seek professional support for a variety of reasons. Officers, who have been trained to act independently and maintain constant emotional control, may view the need for support services as a sign of personal weakness. Even if they recognize that they would benefit from it.”
Police officers must get the help they need.
We all want to believe most cops are good, many of them as brokenhearted as we are when they see what is happening. If that’s true that most are good, then they outnumber the bad guys whose actions harm them as well. I get why they may be afraid to stand up to the others, but enabling them can’t be the answer. It makes them part of a toxic environment that could not exist without their cooperation or their silence.
One thing I’ve learned is, with all the fake videos and misinformation floating around, we need to fact check. A lot of people don’t bother. They pretty much parrot what everyone else is drilling into their brain. If you don’t have a mind of your own, you can easily get lost in all the bullshit. That’s why we are where we are today.
Lucky for me, I stubbornly decided, many, many years ago, to follow my heart. To determine what I believed based on my experience — not what others told me. I’ve wanted no part of the hateful, self-righteous, self-entitled anger that crushed my spirit almost every damn day, growing up. It was like a poison doled out to everyone in the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t drink it.
The sun rises with
Foreboding crow caws,
While the day brings
Sirens of uncertainty.
Well, for the lilac pansies,
And the daffodils…
Oh, and the tulips in all colors,
Beautiful and bold.
We see the sun
From behind the glass.
We hear the rain.
Upstairs, there is music.
Below we talk like survivors
Of dystopian madness
Taking shelter in a cave.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Are you?”
The days are longer.
Open windows let in the breeze.
Outside, the trees are tall and proud.
With all their flowers,
We are powerless,
Our illusion of safety
Violated once more.
Oh, but the birds chirp in a frenzy!
The earth is alive!
We need to laugh and
Everything is tragic
But some have no one to talk to,
Little, if anything, to eat,
No way to get well,
And nowhere to hide.
Others rise to an occasion
They never could have fathomed,
Working toward their lifelong dream
With infinite empathy.
Does it wreak desolation?
We don’t even know the extent
Of how harsh life can be.
People die for greed.
Dreaded knock on the door now.
No one should come here—
Maybe not for a while.
Behind masked faces.
Down the stairwells then,
One flight at a time,
I go beyond the door,
Where the world is.
Experience it once more,
For a short time.
The sun is bright
Across a vivid blue sky.
There’s the scent of fresh-cut grass
And the sweet caress of the wind.
It’s like a summer day
With pillowy clouds
The world’s magnificent beauty.
Then it’s back to the safe place.
Do you have one of those?
A safe place to be?
I hope you do.
Because the stars are still there at night,
Like the glorious moon.
I watch them as I hope
Things get better.
Like they always did before,
At least, for a little while.
“How Are You Feeling These Days” poem by Kyrian Lyndon
So, here is the story of what happened this weekend.
I had a stereotactic guided core needle biopsy scheduled for Friday, August 16th. The place where I was having the procedure is affiliated with a good hospital.
Before the procedure, a nurse told me they would be using a local anesthetic called Lidocaine to numb the biopsy area. They cautioned me about driving. I live, maybe, four blocks away from this place and said I would walk. She thought that was a long walk! I don’t know, but I am from Queens, and we walked all over the damn place—nearly a mile, no sweat. Some people out here on Long Island are the same, but others think even two blocks is too far to walk. 😲
For the biopsy procedure, they had me sit in a chair, so they could take tissue samples to test. I didn’t feel a thing. It took a while and then even longer for them to come back and tell me they had biopsied the wrong area and had to do it all over again. I was reluctant because, at that point, I didn’t even know if I wanted to use their facility again. They told me my insurance would cover the second procedure. That was ridiculous because my out of pocket for that procedure was $600. I told them that wasn’t happening, and they suddenly decided I wouldn’t have to pay the second time.
I left then, and no one asked if I was okay. I’d forgotten all about the Lidocaine myself, to be honest. I made it about ¾ of the way home and then just fell like I was sliding into home plate. A woman came along and helped me to stand, but I couldn’t without her assistance. Then a second woman and two men came over and tried to get me to sit. They called an ambulance for me. I heard the EMTs talking in the back, and one said, “She was given Lidocaine for a biopsy. That could have made her dizzy.”
Once in the hospital, they took a bunch of x-rays. That was almost the worst of it, getting slung from bed to table and back again a bunch of times, but you hear people saying all this nice stuff about you. They were like, “Oh, this one’s easy, she’s light.” And, “You’re young.” Don’t know how many times I heard that, but okay. My son is thirty-four, but if you think I’m young, I’m not going to argue with you.
According to the x-rays, I fractured my left hip and also have something they called an impacted, nondisplaced left transcervical femoral neck fracture. The for-sure worst thing had to be the spasms that would shoot from my thigh down the leg, making me want to jump out of my body. The doctor said the nerve does that when the bone is broken. They did a hip pin where they placed a screw in there to hold it together. That stops the nerve from spasming like that. The surgeon did a fantastic job.
By now, however, I am an old hand at this fracture stuff. I sprained my arm at 15 when my friends and I got drunk once. I sprained my ankle twice as an adult and fractured my foot a couple of years ago. Maybe I am just too preoccupied with everything around me, always processing. HA! That’s probably not the reason, but life seems to fascinate me, no matter what is going on. I’m in the ambulance, I’m fascinated. Being wheeled into the OR, I’m fascinated. Giving birth, talking to people, eating, walking, listening to what happened to the patient next to me, I’m fascinated. It’s all so fantastic when you think about it. I know I can’t be the only one. There must be kindred spirits out there who feel the same way.
And things just amuse me so much.. Nurse: “When you go from walker to chair, just make sure the chair is under you.” Don’t know why I should find that so funny after what just happened to me, but she said, “You’d be surprised!”
I was thinking then; now I will be picturing that all day and laughing.
One of the doctors told me it could take almost a year for my hip to be 100% back to normal. When my physical therapist was here, I asked him about that, and he was shaking his head. He said, “I know you only five minutes, and I can already tell you’ll heal a lot faster than that. It isn’t going to take anywhere near that long.”
He is super kind, and the home care nurse was, too. She was at the door, all nervous, saying, “I’m the nurse.” I was like, “Well, hello, the nurse.” She laughed then. They must always be apprehensive about what they’re walking into because they deal with a lot of nastiness, people who are upset, angry, and scared. I’ve witnessed that with other people receiving care. I’m sure the home care team has to cut those people a lot of slack because they are patients and they’re sick, but these empathetic healers deserve way more appreciation and respect than they get.
Anyway, every experience, whether I want it or need it or deserve it or not has taught me so much about myself and others. And also, what to do, what not to do. It reinforces for me, too, in a divine way, really, that there are angels out there with beautiful hearts, and that most people do tend to have kind hearts.
What helps me, too, is everything I learned in recovery. Like the idea that you must accept the things you can’t control, control whatever is in your power to control. And then, there’s the part I added where you step up and embrace the challenge. If I hadn’t been able to do that in my life, I wouldn’t be here today.
Oh yes, and I have since looked up whether it’s common for a doctor or radiologist to biopsy the wrong area, and the truth seems to depend on who you ask. I found this cancer forum where laypeople thought it was unacceptable and would never go to that facility again. Medical professionals seemed to have more of an understanding of how that kind of thing can happen. One thing for sure is; you always get a second opinion, especially with biopsies. I knew a woman who thought she had ovarian cancer. I told her to get a second opinion and then a third if the second was different from the first. She did not have cancer.
If you are defending the rights of others who
are denied whatever privilege you enjoy, does that mean you have a savior
It’s one of many questions I ask myself, given the fact that I’ve been doing this since I was twelve. It was instinctive then, and it’s instinctive now because I don’t want to live in a world where bigotry seems to be the norm. Whether people were happy or unhappy about this stance I’d taken has never made a difference to me.
I have also questioned my own motives at
It’s not about being politically correct. As far as I’m concerned, it is simply right, and I’m so confident of that that I’ll stick to it no matter who or what I stand to lose in the process.
Is it about tolerance? Nope. I would not even list that trait among my qualities, since there is much I can’t and won’t tolerate, including things that may seem unreasonable to the culprits, and yep, one of those things is the cruelty generated by prejudice. So, in choosing friends and partners, there are plenty of deal breakers, sure, but their origins will have nothing to do with it.
Who am I to merely tolerate people anyway because they weren’t born with my skin color, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic status, or happened to be taught some other religious philosophy? There is simply no part of me that believes whatever I was born as makes me superior to another. Nor is there any part of me that wants to deny people justice or the rights and equality they deserve.
That’s my two cents’ worth, and I’m not claiming to be the bigger or better person than anyone who opposes because I’m simply hardwired this way. Besides that, I have plenty of faults. Barbarity just isn’t one of them.
I’ve accepted, too, that impartiality doesn’t help you win popularity contests. Gaining acceptance and fitting in are often about forming alliances based on race, gender, religion, orientation, ethnicity, political beliefs, and so on. There are those who consider me naïve for stubbornly hanging on to this neutrality like a Pitbull with a pork chop. Others may chalk it up to me having this willful, rebellious, antagonistic nature. Either way, some individuals feel I am wrong and are perplexed by my fierce defense of the “other side.”
I can honestly live without such flimsy alliances. Most of those alliance-forming factors are not a basis for forming an opinion. And when people come back at me with, “Stereotypes exist for a reason,” I say, “That is still what they are, stereotypes. You don’t know someone until you do.”
Anyway, here’s my story.
My father was born in Campochiaro, Italy. He came to the U.S. with his family when he was fifteen years old. They lived in Woodside, Queens, which was a predominantly Irish neighborhood. Italians were not welcome. They were called everything from dagos to greasy meatballs. Italians had initially been greeted in some places by “No Italians Allowed” signs and had to change their surnames before anybody would hire them. My dad always worked, rarely taking sick and vacation days. He married a woman of Spanish descent, born in Havana, Cuba. She also came to the U.S. as a teenager, and they met in a class where they were both learning to speak English. Like him, she made sure she remained employed and dependable. While they were still newlyweds, he fought for our country, on the front line, making the rank of Sergeant, and he received a Purple Heart.
By the time I came along, there were plenty of Italian families in Woodside. Italians had made the acceptance cut. Spanish people were the new threat, committing the crime of paving the way for other Hispanics. Because of my mother, my siblings and I were told to “go back to Cuba,” a place I’d only visited once when I was three. They called us spics. And the main culprits of this bullying were, surprisingly, Italian.
My mother lied about being Spanish to strangers, saying she was Italian. She thought she’d be perceived as another one of those wetbacks coming over to the U.S. for a handout when she, in fact, came here legally. She also refused to speak Spanish at work to avoid being judged.
Some people will tell you it’s all about paying your dues, earning your place. Irish people experienced oppression and persecution before the Italians did, and once everyone got over the Spanish neighbors, they were directing their venom at the Indians, Pakistanis, and so on.
Regarding black people, I’ve often heard the argument, “Well, we did what we had to do to earn respect.” My answer to that was, “But you weren’t brought here in chains and forced into slavery. You’re not being discriminated against anymore. They are.”
Understandably, people of cultures that have been oppressed feel a kinship with their own, especially when the oppression continues. Who could blame them for supporting and defending one another?
If you go through life as a member of any oppressed group, which includes women, you see the global and systematic imbalance, the unfairness, and the cruelty. One example is women believing other women when they share experiences about rape and abuse. Some men hate these women for making their gender sound like monsters and feel they’re being blamed because they are also a man. The thing is, we should all want the truth and due process, but some must adamantly defend their “group.”
What I’ll never understand is people being okay with anyone facing the type of scorn, ridicule, and discrimination that tore their own hearts out. I don’t understand anyone being okay with it period.
My extended family on both sides had their own prejudices, to say the least. Meanwhile, my curiosity in wanting to get to know all these non-white people was insatiable. I kept seeing that I had beautiful experiences and encounters with them. When I was twelve, my favorite bands were The Temptations—five black soul music vocalists and dancers— and Santana, featuring a hot Mexican-American guitarist. (Santana’s music is defined as Latin-infused rock with salsa, blues, and African rhythms.) On The Temptations’ Puzzle People album, there was a song called “Message from a Black Man,” and God knows what my parents were thinking when I amped it up and sang along with the lyrics. But I really wanted to hear that message. I felt compelled to.
During my high school days and later on in other community-like settings—even recovery circles—it was apparent to me that some people showed a preference for making friends with people who shared their background. I certainly got the impression that they felt superior to anyone who was not “one of them.” And to this day, when I go to the doctor, and I’m sitting in the waiting room, white people look delighted when I sit beside them. Maybe if they knew all the details of my ancestry, they’d scoot away. Who knows? 🤷
It’s all part of the world’s obsession with
sameness—feeling safe, secure, and comfortable primarily with people they
believe are exactly like them. The common assumption seems to be that whatever
a person was born as, whatever belief system he or she inherited, that is the
right one and the best, and the only one that matters.
It’s right up there with other concepts I
don’t understand—like the enjoyment of shaming people or delighting in
someone’s suffering because revenge is supposed to be sweet.
And the idea that we’re supposed to feel more
outraged or upset when something happens to someone who was born in the same
country we were born in or who shares our ethnicity, race, etc. As if bad
things happening to people in Syria or some other place has nothing to do with
Suffering is unbearable, no matter who
suffers. I hate to see it.
Hey, I’m all for the celebration of culture, but people who share my origins don’t have an immediate edge with me. Heritage is fascinating, including my own. I enjoy listening to people talk about it. Accents are intriguing. I love seeing all these fantastic places and trying out different cuisines. But I identify with being a global citizen and human being more than being an American or anything else. That’s crazy and even awful to some people, I know, but I can’t help that, and I’m not sorry about it. I’m glad.
People go to war over bias and entitlement.
They discriminate and violently target others based on the very same.
I will admit that as a white female, or a female perceived to be white anyway, I’ve had experiences where black teen girls started fights with me for no apparent reason. But so have white women! I’ve also met some nasty-ass gay people, but I’ve met even nastier straight people. And while I was raised as an Italian/Spanish Catholic white girl, the worst incidents of sexual trauma, harassment and assault throughout my life were at the hands of white, Italian Catholic males. It’s never meant that every white, Catholic Italian guy was going to be like that. As far as I’m concerned—no matter what group you’re talking about—it takes all kinds. There are good and bad people on the right and the left, good and bad men and women. What I see with a lot of people though is, when someone not like them hurts, appalls, or devastates them, it is a reflection on that group culture. They won’t stop to think of the people of their own kind who have done the same thing or worse.
People caught up in the opposing mindset don’t like to hear that there are good and bad eggs in every bunch. They have this blind loyalty to their kind. When it comes to others, they often know only the stereotypes or what they’ve read in the news or saw on TV. Without having any real relationships with the people from whatever culture they shun, their impression is based on limited experience.
Not having shunned people who weren’t like me gave me an advantage in life. I always had that frame of reference. Even the people I agree with politically are not necessarily people I like. People I don’t agree with aren’t always people I can’t love.
To be honest, though, whenever there is a reunion, high school or whatever, I know by now not to go because nothing changes with most people. For me, there is no joy in seeing people hold on to this ignorance, these old ideas, and this hate for certain cultures. The end result is, people you love with all your heart say the most appalling things without batting an eye and think there’s not a thing in the world wrong with it. It’s their normal, and it’s heartbreaking.
Bigots, for one thing, are people with inferiority complexes who flipped the coin and developed superiority complexes instead. It’s an unconscious or subconscious survival strategy. At every turn, they have to prove their superiority and so refuse to be perceived in a less than flattering light. If you represent them or are a part of their group, you have to measure up to their standards which means looking, acting, and thinking like them because they need to believe that everything about them is right—better than anyone else, even perfect. If you are their child, sibling, niece, nephew, whatever, your job is to fulfill expectations or be mocked, rejected, and shamed. They resent you for causing them shame.
So they’ll make fun of the kid with the lazy eye. They’ll tell someone he or she is retarded because they don’t understand the kid’s behavior. They’ll shun someone for not being pretty or call somebody fat because they think it’s the worst thing anyone can be. Since they are so into their own standards of beauty and perfection, they quickly find what they perceive as imperfection in others. Yet, they don’t notice their own shortcomings.
I once heard a child ask this about one of my
adult relatives. “Why is (so and so) always making fun of people?”
Some will defend the behavior, saying we’ve become weak as a society. Those individuals believe being mocked toughens you up. It doesn’t. It makes kindhearted people forever sensitive, insecure, and self-loathing. The ones who did get “toughened up,” so to speak, are merely bullies of the present day, bullying their own kids and the other adults in their lives.
Their values were handed off to them by their parents, and there’s an ingrained belief that their parents could never be wrong. They’ll say, “Well, they raised me, and I didn’t turn out so bad.” (In many cases, they didn’t turn out so good either.) But the evil they know is less frightening than uncertainty. It’s the perfect justification for passing this crap onto their own kids. It’s worse, too, when the parents are deceased because then they feel they can’t say anything unflattering about the dead. (Maybe the fear is the ghosts might hear you, but don’t quote me on that.) Whatever the deal is, you have to pretend these people were not only good—they were perfect. And the stuff they did wrong, which had been previously acknowledged, will now be denied.
In these families, you either get on board, or you take your broken heart someplace else.
I’ve talked about all of this with my own child, who attributed the lockstep mentality to a fear of not belonging, not fitting in—most importantly, not having that total acceptance from their loved ones. I can’t answer for why my own convictions became more critical than that acceptance, but they did. I can say I chose my soul over their acceptance, rejecting their mentality no matter the cost.
Getting back to those people who say they
turned out just fine, well I did, too—after clawing my way back, inch by inch,
step by step. After fighting to learn and grow and heal for many, many years.
That doesn’t mean that my parents or someone else’s parents wholly screwed up. No one is perfect, but if each generation learns from the one before, we can not only do better, we should.
Here’s the thing. We can all be wrong. At a
certain point in my life. I had to question whether everything I knew was
wrong—everything I was taught. Because
ultimately, only the truth serves me. Denial has cost me, and many others, I’m
sure, way too much already. It’s self-destructive to allow it to continue.
We can never take things at face value or
count on what other people teach. Children must be allowed to think for
themselves and form their own opinions. They need to know they will be
unconditionally loved and accepted without buying into your total mindset,
without having to live the life you have envisioned for them.
So, to wrap this up, I believe that every culture should be celebrated. Certain people get tired of hearing it, I know, but we are one, big, beautiful, and colorful family, and, no matter whose heritage we are celebrating, I’m in.
Some photos of Woodside Queens, New York
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this video!
“We all have a divine mission on earth. Let that mission be to inspire love and embrace the light within. Let that mission be to have peace in our hearts as we create heaven on earth. Let that mission be to seek empowerment through transformation and to breathe joy into everything we do. If we allow these things to be our mission the golden light of the sun will shine on our souls and change our world forever.”~ Michael Teal
People run from life in many ways. We can want a hug so desperately and yet recoil from it. We can crave love more than anything and build fortresses to keep it away. There’s this idea that the more bridges we burn, the harder it will be to go back to the things that caused us pain. Sometimes, that is true, but, at the same time, we keep looking for that place where we belong, and, in some situations, trying almost too hard to fit in, until we accept, with a great deal of shame, that we need to move on. Reaching out to people is overwhelming and terrifying, but we try it, and when we feel unheard, we vanish again. So many goodbyes––until we don’t want to do the relationship thing anymore or the intimacy thing or ask anyone for help or love or whatever the hell we need. Intimacy doesn’t seem worth any of that, and we lose interest. We shut down, close our doors for business, and thrive in our safe, predictable worlds.
We wonder if we are crazy, but people tell us only sane people question their sanity. Sometimes we think we’re monsters, but we come to learn that monsters feel no guilt, no shame, and no love. We do love, from a distance and we absorb the world’s pain.
In my twenties and beyond, I kept changing my name, my hair color, my address, my phone number, my job–you name it. It was as if I couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t hide in a safe enough place. Without realizing it, I was running away from the trauma of childhood and teen years.
At some point in the healing process, something tells you that you don’t need to hide anymore. You don’t need to run, so you try not to. What’s unsettling is how far you can come in your healing and still get thrown back there in a heartbeat.
Progress can seem slow, but it keeps happening. I’m not a patient person, but I’ve learned to be patient about healing. I’ve had to, and I love healing because I’ve reaped its rewards. Often, I look back and ask myself, “How did I survive, being such an idiot for most of my life?” That may seem harsh, but in light of how far I’ve come, it makes sense. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t benefit from learning the truth about ourselves until we feel safe in rejecting the lies.
As survivors, we want this healing for everyone while needing to learn, too, that people are only ready when they’re ready. And it’s painful when we love people who need desperately to heal but remain trapped in their fear. Sometimes we wish we could absorb every bit of their agony; even it means holding on to all of it ourselves because we know we can handle it. We have.
We can’t get stuck in that inability to forgive either. It’s understandable because we witness so much unnecessary cruelty toward ourselves and others, and we don’t know what to do with that. For instance, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone willfully tried to destroy another person, or that person’s reputation, or his or her life, that they did everything in their power to annihilate another human being?
What I realized, quite a long time ago, is that revenge and punishment are not up to me. Divine retribution happens without the least bit of my help—no matter how we interpret divinity and even if we are divinity in the sense that we represent it in the universe. It works that way because we can’t destroy people without destroying ourselves. If it’s destruction we want, it’s destruction we’ll get, and it’s never one-sided.
A better solution is to keep following our path and goals and let go of the burdens people give us to hold. The weight comes from feelings of not belonging or being worthy and accepted as we are. It comes from others mischaracterizing us or our actions to suit their agendas and punishing us for not being who they need us to be, not wanting what they require us to want.
We have to find our own happily ever after. It’s undoubtedly not the same for everyone, and that’s another place we can get stuck—wanting what we don’t have and realizing it’s not even what we want but what we think we’re supposed to want and have. Most people want to find that special someone, get that dream house and job. From the time I was eight years old, what I wanted was different—maybe, in some ways, the opposite of what everyone else wanted. It took me a while to realize that I have everything I’d ever wanted or needed in my life and, while I may have moments of feeling sad for another or sad for the world, I am happy.
One thing I’ve always known is to never give up. It does get better, a little at a time, but it gets so much better. Our survival not only gives hope to others but sharing our experiences allows us to help in their healing. We help each other, yes, and we give each other the love that’s been so hard for us to ask for or accept.
I’m not a religious type, but the prayer below has always been my favorite. It can certainly get you through it. ❤️
Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.
For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.
For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.
Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!
We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.
In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:
A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.
The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.
Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.
For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.
We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.
Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.
We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.
We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at email@example.com.
If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.
For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.
Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!
When you try to look at something from all angles, you make no friends, but I’m compelled to do it anyway. That said, I hesitated to write this because as others have wisely pointed out, horrible things are happening all around us every minute of every day, and here we are battling over a comedienne and the “right” to see a TV show.
Many seem to think this controversy is about one person insulting another. They’ve brought up Joy Behar, Jimmy Kimmel and other liberals who have “gotten away with it.” I don’t watch The View or Jimmy Kimmel, but I do agree that anyone who has made bigoted statements or who does so in the future, should be called out the same way and, if necessary, face appropriate consequences.
I didn’t defend Michelle Wolf for roasting Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kathy Griffin and her decapitated Trump photo. I did notice, however, that the same people who were appalled by those two incidents are okay with Roseanne’s crap and Ted Nugent’s crap. So, it’s kind of like pot/kettle. There’s a lot of, “but he said, but she said, and hey, he started it.” It all seems rather childish, except the anger we feel toward each other knows no depths, and the venom feels poisonous.
As far as comediennes go, I have always liked the ones who target institutions, government, and politicians. All of that to me is fair game. I’ll admit, too, there are people I don’t mind them poking fun of, but those people are usually guilty of offending us and putting themselves out there in such a way that you kind of feel they deserve what they get. They are comedy gold, and I understand that.
But this issue is not about insulting someone. It’s about destructive and divisive hate speech, i.e., racism. There’s a big difference.
Some people claim that what Roseanne said is not racism. Let’s see, there was the “Roseanne didn’t know Valerie Jarret was black because she’s light-skinned” argument. Except she knows damn well who Valerie Jarret is, enough to still be talking about the woman when Obama is not even in office anymore. Roseanne follows politics obsessively and knows all the players. She has made a run for President. At the very least, she didn’t know Ms. Jarret wasn’t black, but the ‘ape’ reference was not a coincidence. And it wasn’t the first time Roseanne tweeted something racist.
Then there was, “Why are they offended if they believe humans evolved from apes?” “They” includes all liberals, I presume, because, of course, they must all believe the same thing when it comes to creation, right? Wrong.
People who make this argument don’t seem to understand what it means to evolve. Per Merriam-Webster, it means to undergo an evolutionary change. It is “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state.” So, you don’t evolve from something and still appear to be that something.
But the people who make that reference know this. They know full well that the ape reference is used to dehumanize and to subjugate. They did it to Michelle Obama. In fact, they were downright merciless in describing Mrs. Obama.
Those who make this reference believe they can pass it off as an innocent joke, or harmless insult, and that the rest of the world will be stupid enough to believe it. Sorry, but no.
Alas, there is the freedom of speech cry! That is a good one when all else fails. People don’t seem to understand the First Amendment either. They think it means there should be zero consequences regardless of what we say, that no one should react unfavorably or reject it or use his or her power to handle the situation. These same people feel differently, however, when someone is saying something that they don’t like. Yes, double standards, indeed, but we’ll get to that.
Let’s get to that right now, in fact, because double standards exist everywhere between genders, parties, religions, races, and more.
And, of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but when some celebrity gets caught with his or her pants down, as many have, I don’t care about their politics. It is not about left or right, and it shouldn’t be. It’s about right or wrong.
Yes, sometimes Democrats get away with things. Sometimes Republicans do. Just look at the “C” word argument. Both Roseanne and Ted Nugent have used the word against Hillary Clinton. That was way before Roseanne got a TV show and before Ted Nugent got invited to the White House.
The president gets away with saying despicable things all the time.
Similarly, people call out the predators and pedophiles in Hollywood, as they should, but then turn a blind eye to predators and pedophiles in the Catholic Church. They think because there are predators and pedophiles in Hollywood, all Hollywood celebrities are predators and pedophiles. No, wait—all liberals, according to some. Imagine if anyone said that because of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, all Catholics, or all Republicans must be pedophiles? Yes, it is absurd.
FFS, must everything be a competition?
Now, I am not here to defend ABC. Roseanne was the same person when they hired her. They knew who she was. Apparently, she also knows who she is, as she had serious reservations about doing the reboot in the first place.
It would have been one thing if she’d come on playing the character she played in the 90s, and the show didn’t have plans to explore and possibly heal the divisiveness with a real-life Trump supporter as the star pretty much playing herself, and liberal producers and writers. On the one hand, they were trying too hard to appease both sides. On the other hand, they were encouraging the series star in her belligerence and paving the way for her downfall.
Yeah, it was a bad idea.
And many won’t like this, but I do feel empathy for Roseanne. I can’t help that. I do believe that this fallout has been hell for her and that she is not doing well. Besides that, something is clearly wrong with her.
Conservatives who watched her screech the national Anthem hated her then, and they hated her for many years after that, as she wasn’t their physical ideal or very ladylike, and they probably figured, on top of all that, she was a liberal. They pretend to support her now, but if they genuinely cared about her, they would not encourage her bad behavior.
The smartest tweet I’d read about this whole thing came from White House correspondent April Ryan when she tweeted Roseanne, saying, “Just stop.” Ms. Ryan told Roseanne to go on a retreat or something, stay off Twitter, off the phone, and stop listening to the enablers who are defending her mess. It’s easy to see that people are exploiting her in a way that will only make things worse.
She needs to fix this not dig a deeper grave.
And, okay, I couldn’t help laughing at the Twitter backlash she got from the Ambien excuse. She walked right into that, but I still feel bad.
Her “supporters” say she should not even have apologized. I say she should have stopped with the apology, no drama like, “I’m leaving Twitter,” only to come back and begin defending herself, justifying what she did with excuses.
It’s not a good feeling, watching someone self-destruct. It gives me no pleasure to see another human being crushed, humiliated, and used this way. There is that part of many of us, where we can’t look away from a train wreck, but it is no less awful.
And personally, I couldn’t keep quiet about any of it. I’ve hated racism and all forms of bigotry from the moment I was old enough to see it for what it was. I was a child then, but I’d seen no evidence that any one group of people were superior to another and I’ve firmly believed that we are all entitled to dignity, justice, and respect.
Still, I don’t claim to be righteous and tolerant. I can’t because I am genuinely happy to coexist with people. I don’t claim to be tolerant because I am not a nice person who is just being politically correct. What I do or say along those lines is not for the sake of pleasing anyone. When I speak out against racism, I am not defending the people targeted because they are more than capable of defending themselves. I’ve seen it. I am defending myself and what I believe. I’m fighting for the world I want to live in. Lastly, I don’t claim to be tolerant because there are things I can’t and won’t tolerate. And, yes, racism happens to be one of them. It is crucial that we call it out when we see it, and it’s about time.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Yes, I’ve heard that, too, but I agree only in part. We still have to be accountable for our behavior, and it doesn’t help to stubbornly insist we are fine—and that whatever we do is okay regardless of how many people say otherwise.
It doesn’t mean we have to believe every negative thing anyone says about us. It’s more about the willingness to consider what others have to say, whether we like what they’re saying or not. It’s about our responsibility to learn, grow, and evolve.
Everything comes back to balance for me, but when you’re able to set aside ego and keep an open mind, discernment about what to take personally and what to blow off becomes easier.
You can surely tell if something is malicious or plain stupid.
For example, and speaking as an author now, we put our work out there before a world that seems divided on just about everything. Everyone has opinions, not all of them based on reality or given by someone who has a reasonable frame of reference. Someone may read about a tragic event and say it isn’t an accurate portrayal. You can write something that did happen or describe someone that was very real, and someone might see it as a misrepresentation because that’s not what they’ve experienced. People also have personal biases and triggers. And, yes, sometimes the reason they don’t like something has more to do with them than you. I have seen fellow writers get two-star book reviews for reasons that had nothing to do with the book. Some trolls will say negative things merely because they can.
But most of our antagonists or legitimate critics in life, personally and professionally, are people with their own agendas who may or may not have a vested interest in us. And sometimes, they are right on the money.
Unfortunately, however, some people fear criticism so much that they’re not able to live their dreams or find true happiness, They may put a toe in the water but never dive in.
What I have to say may help. It’s worked for me.
Change Your Relationship with Criticism
Years ago, I grappled with panic attacks and debilitating pain. I read somewhere that I could change my relationship with pain by changing my perspective on it.
That helped tremendously, and I soon realized you could do that with just about anything.
Criticism, like pain, isn’t comfortable. It feels horrible, and we don’t like feeling horrible, so we tell ourselves we can’t handle it.
Take yourself out of fear mode and the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness. Acknowledge that you’re not comfortable. Tell yourself you can handle it, then decide how you will do that. You want to find the solution, control whatever it is you can control, and let go of whatever you can’t. Stress only makes things worse.
You’re not alone. What’s happening to you is happening to others, maybe even at the same moment. So many people have been through it. You are no different from any of them and no less capable of handling it. Maybe it seems so much worse because it is happening to you.
Take Yourself Off the Pedestal
On a professional level, people could tell us a thousand times about all the famous people who’d been rejected over and over before the world realized how amazing they were. Many will say, “Well that won’t be me. Oh, but, what am I going to do if it is? How can I control that?”
You can’t, and it’s not easy to get past all that righteous indignation you feel. Someone is criticizing or rejecting you or your behavior or your work, and you instinctively want to defend yourself. You become angry. You feel sad or ashamed. It hurts.
Understand first, that you are not the exception to every rule.
In recovery circles, we laughingly refer to ourselves as “just another Bozo on the bus.” It may sound a bit harsh, but it’s a way of humbling yourself, and taking yourself off the pedestal. I like to think of myself as just another writer, another voice in the choir, and mostly just another person trying to learn and figure things out. That’s an accurate description. We are babies in this astounding old universe, and it’s okay to accept that we’re all vulnerable—not only to the force of nature and random happenings but to each other.
When we respect that, we don’t see people as enemies and haters. We see them as people struggling to survive, like we are.
You are not this person the whole world is watching, and with ridiculous expectations, all the while hoping you will fail or die. I know we meet some nasty people in life that make it seem that way. It’s not surprising that we end up seeing people through such a negative lens. But let’s refuse to believe anyone is that obsessed with us or that petty.
No matter what’s happening, we need to believe that the world is with us, and that the universe supports us.
And with this shift in perspective, there’s little need to be competitive or combative, no need for drama or denial or damage control.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to do than spend my time and energy doing damage control for the sake of my ego. It’s a full-time job, really, with plenty of overtime—controlling how the world sees us and everything that we do. In fact, the business of hiding an inferiority complex behind some shield of superiority is downright exhausting. It becomes impossible to admit you are wrong and say you are sorry. It has you taking credit for all the good in situations and relationships but none of the bad.
Listen to Learn
Do you enjoy a challenge? Do you love to overcome problems and obstacles? I know I do. Understanding that you can do better helps. Wanting to do better can save your life.
Sometimes, we are lazy about fixing stuff. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much work. The reality of life is harsh and can bring unbearable pain. Denial is much more comforting.
I can tell you that, in the past decade, many people have praised me for things I once sucked at, and that’s because somewhere along the line, someone provided me with valuable insight. I was willing to work at it, and so I benefited in the end.
Every critic is a teacher, planting seeds for our improvement and healing.
As far as I can tell, we have to keep listening to learn. On both a personal and professional level, there is always room for improvement. I am obsessed with learning more and more about things that have affected me in my life—things that tripped me up when I had to deal with them in others or myself. I want to learn all I can, not because I’m looking to point fingers but because awareness is everything. I’ve loved those big hallelujah moments where I’ve said, “Hah! So, that’s what’s been going on!” Those were game-changing, life-altering moments. I can’t help feeling grateful for every one of those opportunities.
So, fall in love with the process of learning, growing, evolving, and recovering. It helps us to succeed more and suffer less. And do it with the understanding that this is precisely how it’s supposed to go. Everything is an opportunity for growth, and even shitheads can make valid points. Embrace it. Accept it.
It’s all part of a divine process that is always happening, and we are both a part of and a child of that divinity.
Not everyone likes to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing.
Some deliberately avoid it, or they scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper.
People like us, though, we want to keep digging.
We’ve already been traumatized and shattered, you see, and, in those moments, we learned some of the best lessons of our lives. So, we know we’ll be okay. We know, too, that we are learning to love with our whole hearts.
Amazingly enough, we’ve been walking away from people that have exploited our vulnerabilities. We’ve been doing it for a while now, and we’re getting better at it. Maybe we were condemned for it, too, at one time or another, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. You see, we know we are vulnerable. We know how vulnerable we are. That is good because before we understood this, it was easy to lead us, to fool us, and to enslave us.
We’ve become patient with our healing process, and we’re trying hard to become more patient with the healing processes of others. We’ve been around long enough to wonder what is worse— dealing with our own fears or the fear that motivates the masses.
It often seems that people don’t truly want to understand each another, or they simply want people who are different or feel differently to go away.
Letting go is easy for some; I know. For us, it is painful and confusing. Maybe the energy needed to explain isn’t there, or we’re tired of explaining, tired of the world, tired of ourselves. We examine our motives, our expectations. We don’t always like our motives. We don’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll just keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
So, yes, the world can overwhelm. It makes some of us want to keep our worlds a little smaller, and, in our broken moments, we need time to fix things in our hearts.
We will work through the sadness. In a poet’s heart, anyway, it has its honored place. We’ll embrace it, feel all of its intense beauty, and we’ll let it run its magnificent course.
Those of us who do this work and this digging do it because we’ve had it with being terrified, with trying to protect our hearts and our secrets—the image, the illusions, the payoff. We’re tired of the denial that was our sole comfort, our only way to survive. When we came to fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to compete and control began to dissipate.
We kept replacing false with real, and we’ve hung on to hope. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better.
For what it’s worth, as I see it, the truth is never one extreme or the other. There’s a lot of gray, and we always need balance.
But just so you know? When we shut down, when we distance, when we go deep or even go away, we don’t hate you. We don’t want to hurt you. We’re grateful that you have been part of our experience. We’re grateful for what you’ve taught us. We’re grateful for every blessing we have. Our hearts are bursting with love and often joy, and we still care. We continue to root for you, no matter what, and we’re always ready to listen, ready to resolve, and ready to heal.
When the ‘Me Too’ campaign went viral, some people spoke up just to say that the anger of the women coming forth made them uncomfortable. They felt bullied, and that they’d done nothing wrong. Women were dismissed (by some) with counterarguments, justification, comparisons, etc. None of that makes what we are saying less true, but it’s clear that certain people don’t want to hear or accept what’s being said.
I support the “Me too” campaign because people are talking and listening. I want to weigh in, not because I want anyone to feel bad for me or what’s happened to me, but because I want to advocate for awareness. If speaking up helps anyone at all, then it’s worth it. Shame not only keeps us from talking ; it keeps us from listening. It keeps the culprits or would-be culprits from acknowledging their mistakes. Nothing changes.
It’s sad but true; we are conditioned to feel ashamed. Some people even fear to go to the doctor for problems having to do with private body parts. I’ve seen that over and over. People are ashamed of their bodies and how they work. People can even die because of shame.
Not only do they hide behind their shame; they take on the shame of others. Like their family members, their gender, their ethnic group or race, their religion. Here is my motto, if I didn’t do it, I don’t have to get defensive over the people who did. I just have to listen to the heartache and the grief. I have to want to understand, and I have to do what I can do to help fix it.
Indeed, shame has kept us from believing and supporting each other. I’ve heard, “Well it never happened to me, so why would it happen to you?” People start comparing and justifying.
They don’t get that it has more to do with being vulnerable in the moment than being attractive, or that vulnerability alone is attractive.
It’s particularly disheartening when women join in the chorus of saying that someone may have been asking for it. Rape means there was no legitimate consent, so nobody asks for it. There are no circumstances where anyone deserves rape, and that includes prison. I don’t care who you are.
As for the counterarguments:
“Men are also sexually harassed and abused.”
“Women can be predatory, too, and often their harassment or abuse is not questioned.”
Yes, it is unacceptable and appalling that anyone would dismiss male rape and abuse or expect men to suck it up or enjoy it. That’s just bullshit.
I agree, too, there is no limit to the amount of damage some people, male or female, are willing to do to your psyche, to your reputation, to your body, and to your soul.
The thing is, if someone of either gender were to come to me and tell me they were harassed or abused, I would listen. I would give that person the benefit of the doubt. I would feel empathy and offer validation, support, or comfort. I wouldn’t sit in silence, attempt to dispute their claims or get defensive because, hell, I am a woman, too, and I don’t do that. Nor do you need to justify to me that you felt threatened or abused. I will not dismiss you. I won’t stand for your being mocked. And I’d like to think many others feel the same way I do.
I’m thinking back now, and it’s hard to remember every single incident of sexual assault and harassment in my life. There were many.
I escaped two rape attempts by fighting and getting away. Another time, I fought and lost. I was groped on the street twice. One of those times, the guy told me if I didn’t like it, I shouldn’t wear a tank top. Not that it matters, but it was over ninety degrees. He followed me for blocks taunting me, and no one did a thing. For the rest of the summer, on workdays, no matter how freaking hot it was, I wore a jacket when I went out to lunch. I was followed several times in the streets of Manhattan by men talking to me about sex. I was fired twice for rejecting my boss’ advances. There were elevator incidents with higher-ups, train incidents with sleazeballs. Male doctors have often felt entitled to say or do things that were highly inappropriate. And I must include emotional rape. Predatory narcissists excel at it. They devote a lot of time and effort to perfecting their game. It can leave you feeling traumatized and violated, but a lot of people don’t understand emotional rape, and the narcissist, ever the charmer, can come out smelling like a rose.
These things didn’t happen to me because I was a perfect ten, as someone suggested that most victims are. I’m not—never was and never will be. I wasn’t dressed provocatively beyond looking pretty good in my clothes. Evidently, it doesn’t take much to provoke—especially when you are young. It seems you can do that without even trying.
So, for those who feel uncomfortable when this issue comes up, know that many of us feel uncomfortable walking on the beach, going out alone at night, wearing shorts, wearing tank tops. And we are used to being uncomfortable. We’ve been uncomfortable about all of this through most of our lives. We’ve felt bullied, and we’d done nothing wrong. To this day, I am uncomfortable having to pass any group of men whether on the street or in the office, especially if it is a confined space.
A thing I hear often is that men worry about being falsely accused. They say the “catcalling” complaints confuse them because many women like compliments from strangers and to have men flirting with them. They assume women like feeling sexy, and that the response from men makes women feel good about themselves.
First, let’s not confuse the issues. Catcalling, like rape, is about power and control, not desire, and it may also be about anger or hate and deeper issues. With catcalling, there is often an assumption about what a woman wants. Both groups prefer to target the vulnerable, like someone who is alone or someone very young, etc. One man put it to me this way, “How are we supposed to tell the difference between women who like it and women who don’t?” He said he thought that the way a woman dressed was the signal.
Catcalling is usually more than one guy, often a group of guys hollering at you, among other things. Their “compliments” are extravagant, although the goal, for the most part, is not to get to know you. You can shield your eyes, walk faster, refuse to respond, and they won’t stop. Your discomfort either amuses them, or they are clueless about how you feel and don’t care. It’s particularly confusing for young women. They may want to be pretty but not be the center of attention, and they are scared of what these men may say or do.
People are often of the mindset that a busty woman or a woman who happens to be sexy is a good target and probably looking for it. Being well-endowed does not justify harassment, and while it is normal to want to feel sexy and attractive, it doesn’t mean sexy and attractive women are open for business to all.
A lot of time, too, overt sexuality stems from having been previously victimized. That includes feelings of unworthiness and a need for attention, admiration, and validation.
I get that some women may enjoy the attention simply because it feels good, just like some women enjoy rough play and manhandling. Whatever two consenting adults enjoy is their business, and that’s why it’s good to get to know people and what they like. We can’t assume.
Flirting, to me, is a mutual thing. People smile, say hello, and they take their cues from each other. There’s no assumption, no disrespect. It doesn’t dehumanize anyone. I think people who flirt with one another genuinely like each other, and they care about one another’s reactions. Making someone blush is different from making someone cringe or fear for her life. For that reason, flirtation can be flattering. No one is saying a woman should never feel complimented by a stranger finding her attractive.
Most of us don’t want to make false accusations about harassment or abuse. It is hard enough coming to terms with these things when they do happen, and we share your concern about false reporting. Many of us are mothers. We have sons. We don’t want to destroy innocent people. We know a little something about that. And we want people to believe true victims who come forth.
Anyone who would falsely accuse someone simply isn’t normal and, unfortunately, you have to learn how to spot the toxic people, like we’ve had to and watch for the red flags. In addition, ego and obsession will cloud your perception and impair your judgment, so it’s important to work on that, like we must. I feel you.
The answer, as I see it, is empathy and mutual respect. We must put ourselves in the other person’s place and observe and respect boundaries. It’s not a contest if we’re all on the same side.
Most of us are not turning over cars, damaging property, or advocating violence, and most of us would not be doing that regardless of the outcome. Yes, some people are doing it, just like some people threatened to overthrow the government in a bloody revolution if we had the opposite outcome.
But revolutions are not usually peaceful. They are ugly, and I have no doubt it would be just as ugly or worse if Hillary Clinton had won.
People pretend not to understand why protesters are so alarmed.
Here’s a short version.
White supremacists are celebrating! They believe this is a victory for their agenda. They feel validated in their narcissistic delusion that they are superior to other races. They can hardly wait to begin intimidating, bullying, and oppressing minorities. Others are happy as pigs in shit because they believe apathy has won, and they don’t even have to pretend to care about or acknowledge the rights of others. They can lay their head down on their pillows every night and take comfort in the belief that they will be safe and protected.
Many of our fellow citizens are not feeling safe and protected right now. Only a week ago, Trump supporters didn’t feel that way either. It’s why they voted for Trump, so though they pretend not to understand, they should.
Instead, they tell us to get over it.
How about this— we will get over bigotry about the same time people get over their need to discriminate, oppress, and devalue others. Does that sound fair?
Were they crybabies for the past eight years every time they spouted off about President Obama? People constantly made disgusting racist remarks about our president, his wife, and his children.
It amazes me that many who felt they’d been denied free speech simply because others responded unfavorably to things they’ve said are now telling us, just shut up. Yes, just shut up, even though they will never shut up about things that don’t meet their approval. No free speech now, unless it is for me. Me, me, me, that’s how it seems to work. Make America great for me and the hell with everyone else.
Those who abhor political correctness now want you to be politically correct in showing nothing but admiration and support for their candidate, even though President Obama could not get that throughout his two terms in office. It is the constant double standard.
You don’t get to tell people to unite and support the president-elect if you are mocking and shaming them for how they feel. Your attitude is not unifying. Nor is the president-elect’s choice of a white supremacist wife beater as his chief strategist. He needs to be a unifying voice, not someone crying on Twitter about the unfairness of the protests. We’re not going to allow him or anyone else to normalize bigotry. It’s not normal, and it’s not acceptable.
One commenter on a forum said the people have spoken, thus proving they don’t care about the rights of women and minorities. The truth is, the people have spoken, and Trump did not win the popular vote. His opponent was over a million votes ahead at the last count. So yes, a lot of people do share our concerns and, sadly, we still have a country divided on whether we should treat everyone with kindness and decency.
Generally speaking, do people even want to get along with those who don’t share their views, their race, their religion? If we look back throughout history, it’s always been a battle of egos or madness propelled by fear, men willing to risk everything for dominance in the world. I suppose this will continue until there is no more world left to conquer.
Think seriously, too, about whether you want to go back hundreds of years to when people were a thousand times more callous toward anyone with an affliction or anyone they considered beneath them. Ignorance was no excuse even then. No one is above anyone else. With ego and apathy run amok, we could devolve once again into a world of barbaric savagery.
So, yes, this is devastating. It’s heartbreaking. It sucks. Many of us felt we were moving to a higher level of consciousness, and we are stunned.
We have made so much progress in advocating awareness, in fighting to end the silence, stigma, and oppression, yet our leader will be someone who mocks the oppressed and the afflicted. One of his supporters told people concerned about rape culture to “grow up.” The president-elect has called soldiers with PTSD “weak.” Unfortunately, narcissists can’t see this as a problem, because they lack empathy. So, what are young people learning about how to treat women, minorities, and the disabled? I hope their parents will teach them what consent means since many are eager to point out that sexual assault is okay because Beyoncé dances around in skimpy clothes and women use foul language. I lost track of the excuses. These young males could be the future Brock Turners of the world who will one day shockingly discover the world does not revolve around them and their needs. Except they may not escape justice as easily.
My belief has always been; when fellow human beings share their excruciating pain about injustice, assault, or oppression, we need to listen. It’s not the time to talk about yourself or other things going on that you feel deserve attention. It’s not the time to get defensive or feel resentment. It’s not the time to talk about when it doesn’t happen or all the other wonderful things the culprits do. Simply put, there is injustice in the world, plenty of it, and when it’s there, we can’t ignore it.
As far as coping, we’ll put one foot in front of the other, and we’ll take it one day at a time. We won’t waste our time arguing with Internet trolls. Trolls don’t care about the points you concede on. They won’t appreciate your being fair-minded and open to debate. Trolls will not have compassion for your heartfelt statements or your disappointment. Simply put, they don’t care how you feel. They just want to torment anyone who does not fully support what they wish to believe.
Yes, we got thrown back, but we’ll move forward again. Let’s lead by example. Continue to love hard, love fiercely, and be kind. We are warriors, and the fight is never over.
In Catholic elementary school, one priest admitted to our eighth-grade class that none of the Bible stories we’d learned in the lower grades were meant to be taken literally, that they were just “examples” to give us an idea. I had to ask. An idea of what? What the church wanted? What God wanted? What men who were writing this book thousands of years ago wanted? He wouldn’t say, and though I went on to Catholic high school, there continued to be mixed messages from adults regarding religion.
At first, I took what was worth keeping and dismissed the rest. I read that in a quote somewhere, and it sounded like a good idea. 🙂
Someone later told me if I didn’t believe and support 100% of what the Bible said, I was a “cherry picker.” It ruffled my feathers at the time; I was young, but, in truth, most of the people I knew were cherry picking right alongside me. They wanted to believe in a higher power, in eternal life. They wanted to feel safe and protected, be loved unconditionally and always forgiven, and to know they could always count on prayer. We wanted to be loyal to our faith while having empathy for others, realizing it isn’t all or nothing, one extreme or the other. We knew that fear-based worship had nothing to do with love.
Since then, I’ve watched many of the most faithful people suffer— not just from financial difficulties and health problems but feeling lost, feeling down, fearing they’d never get what they wanted, what they needed. Despite their praying and continuous efforts, their unmet expectations continued to disappoint them. They often repeated the adage that if you don’t suffer here on earth, you suffer in the hereafter (something like that). Well, we all suffer, but I don’t believe there is a loving father of all creation who wants his children to suffer continually and mercilessly.
Granted, a lot of the time, too, we cause our suffering, thinking everything is about us. Because we can be such masochists, we don’t want to confront certain things to find out that what we’re torturing ourselves with has no basis in truth or that, much of the time, whatever it is doesn’t matter. Some people, too, while vulnerable and suffering, want others to suffer with them. They want to punish and destroy, harm where they might have helped, and I don’t believe that is part of any divine plan. We have the capacity to cause ourselves and others so much pain. 😦
Stopping negative thoughts, for so many of us, is often easier said than done. Even a simple concept like staying in the moment so that we won’t worry needlessly about our past or the future often eludes us. We need a constant reminder to do that! We have our distractions, our obsessions, things that may impair our judgment and distort our reality, and all the time we spend living in false realities, people can take advantage of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and keep us in bondage. But that’s something we have to fix. No one can fix it for us. No one can even help us fix it if we’re not willing to do all the work. And it’s hard work. 😉
This aside, there were many reasons I questioned what I’d been taught as a child. My indoctrination had sorted me into a belief system that worshiped a patriarchal god whose texts subjugated women, enabling a patriarchal society where that subjugation could continue to varying degrees across the globe.
And the funny thing is, for the longest time, I still wanted to believe much of what I’d been taught in my younger years. I was so desperate to believe that, at one point, I sought out devout Christian friends who had what I saw as unshakable foundations. I thought they could say something that would convince me I was wrong. Those people shut me down or shut me out as if I could corrupt their thinking.
You know, it was okay at one time (even cool) for people to go on their little spiritual journey, and the outcome mattered only to the individual. Mine went all the way from Siddhartha and The Prophet to Way of the Peaceful Warrior and beyond. I read about Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Pantheism and more recently the beautiful Bahá’í faith. Everything I learn fascinates me. Back in the 90s, I befriended an Egyptian family who passed along much of what was good about Islam and talked about some of the things they struggled with, not unlike many Christians with the harsher truths of the Bible. These days, however, people seem to get upset when you don’t believe what they believe. Even the word journey seems trite.
Exploring is important, though—especially having that freedom to explore. When you do it extensively, the outcome, whatever that may be, brings you to a much higher level of authenticity. You can embrace whatever you choose to believe with less concern about whether someone is going to try to prove you wrong, mock you, or corrupt you.
Still, when you dare to conclude that you don’t believe what your parents and teachers taught you, you find yourself struggling to figure out where you do fit in and what you do believe. You tough it out without your happy place in moments of distress, without feeling safe or protected, and you listen to people make harsh judgments about people like you—that you edged God out, that you don’t have a moral compass, that you are egocentric.
And yet, in my own moment of truth, I became a better person than I ever was, an increasingly more authentic and less narcissistic person, because I wasn’t trying to believe something that didn’t make sense to me or fit in where I didn’t belong. I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t, without realizing, and I had stopped building the false self I continually needed to expand on with the accumulation of more shame and feelings of inadequacy. I’m not saying this is true for everyone. It was true for me because I lived in a false reality about everything, including who I was.
While I never believed there was anything about me—ethnicity, religion, color, socioeconomic status, that set me apart from anyone else or made me better than anyone else, I did start out in life believing I was on some mission empowered by God. And without realizing, I had disconnected myself from others.
Of all I had learned, one of the things that stuck with me above everything was the whole love one another thing. Yes, I really liked that part. Isn’t it a basic theme in all religions? But it wasn’t the non-believers I’d see hating and punishing one another without conscience.
And there was that perfect love hath no fear business in a society that seems overrun by fear. It began to seem as if allegiance to a god was some way of feeling righteous and superior enough to justify atrocious behavior toward one another—all fear-based and with this tunnel vision about getting to this perfect place called Heaven where we never have to die. Of course, we are human, and as humans, we often fail, but at some point, we have to look at the bigger picture, realize what’s happening and start looking for answers. Because we want to do better.
One of the biggest problems in this world is that people don’t get along, don’t respect each other, and often don’t regard one another as fellow human beings. They can’t understand one another because they don’t listen to each other. They don’t put themselves in someone else’s place and say, “That could be me.” Instead, they look for reasons why that wouldn’t happen to them because they always behave the right way, or they are the “right” sort of person their god wants them to be. It enables them to detach. It’s always this idea that people reap what they sow until tragedy hits home. And it’s easier for some to believe what they want to believe without further exploration because they can be like the child who has to hide and protect his or her cherished toys so that nobody can take them away.
I would never want to shut down people who don’t believe what the holy books say or the people who don’t know what to believe. I don’t want to dismiss the cherry pickers trying to find a safe middle ground or silence the faithful. They are all entitled to their beliefs, as long as they are not committing or condoning crimes against humanity.
I believe, too, those who bring hate into the universe, using it as a weapon, and a divisive tool, these people are significant only at the moment because their time is over. People advocating hate, violence, and oppression serve no divine purpose in doing that. Our higher power is not a means to bury others or to condemn them. That power would connect us not divide us and bring us all together in the end. No loving deity would send some hateful bully to fix what is wrong in our world, and no one who carries that much hatred will go very far, because hate cripples and ultimately destroys. We have defeated that before, and we will defeat it again.
We can fight with a warrior’s resilience and never fight alone.
Our job is to keep resolving things internally, so that we continue to evolve as humans, deepening our understanding, our empathy, and our compassion. Suffering can be a beautiful thing when we are constantly evolving, but not if we’re stuck in the same place emotionally without learning from everything we endure. Every one of us can enlighten as we evolve, heal, learn, grow, and transform.
I truly believe the continuous goal is healing—not simply individual healing but collective healing. We each have our gifts and our tools for contributing to the greater good, and it’s one big, collaborative effort, during which time we need to remain connected as part of a larger entity.
If we must keep influencing ourselves with thoughts, let those thoughts be reminders that we are divine, created by the divine, and divinity surrounds us, and in that way, we have much more power than we know.
We have that power for a reason.
We don’t see everything just yet, and we don’t know everything, but we are creating the future, the world we want to live in, and the world we will leave our children. I’m also daring to believe we can keep evolving toward a much higher consciousness and create the idyllic world we envision.
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It’s easy to get pulled into a state of terror these days. There is deliberate fear mongering and propaganda, so it’s often hard for people to know what to believe.
They want accountability and honesty from their leaders, and they deserve that. It is understandable that people are tired of oppression by corrupt and manipulative bullies who don’t care about the people they serve (and yet many turn to other deceitful and manipulative bullies to fix it.) But I don’t blame hardworking people for saying they’ve had enough of their tax dollars spent on benefits for others that they don’t even get for themselves. I’ve worked in law firms, too, where attorneys boast about getting disability benefits for clients who are not disabled. So yes, many of the systems we have in place do not work, and we need leaders who will reassess them—whether it be border control, gun rights, our welfare system, or disability eligibility.
What I can’t relate to, however, is all the tribalism, elitism, and hate. None of that is necessary or important in achieving our goals, and it’s just devastating. This behavior has sickened me to my core since childhood.
People say things like, well how can you not get defensive when you hear that there is white privilege, or “they” accuse white people of doing things you don’t do and never did? They also argue that white people also find themselves in difficult circumstances.
Okay, well, here is why I don’t get defensive.
1. It is obvious that I don’t do those things.
2. I have seen other people do this stuff, and it breaks my heart. The injustice is my primary concern in addressing the matter, not my defense. So I feel that speaking out against it is the very least I can do and, believe me, it’s not much and not enough.
3. As a person perceived as white, I have experienced white privilege. It’s something we take for granted, and it’s not simply about socioeconomic status, but about justice and human dignity denied. As only one example, people see me and assume they are safe, whether it’s a cab driver, an employer, a coworker, and so on. Overall, they treat me better, and I can make the comparison because I have always had relationships and friendships with black people. If we look at it as women, we should be able to understand it on some level, since women are often not treated the same way men are in the workplace, walking down the street, or in social situations.
The white privilege defensiveness is similar to men’s defensiveness when women talk about rape culture. Many men know that they are not guilty and feel no need to defend themselves but feel compelled instead to stand up for the people who do have to deal with the trauma, the abuse, and the injustice.
I do get defensive when I’m talking about rape culture, and someone has to point out something like women can be mean and aggressive, too. Um? It’s not that I don’t know that, but what does it have to do with anything? Don’t take attention away from the issue at hand. It would never justify anything anyway.
With white privilege defensiveness, the rationale seems to be that we keep people as victims by validating them, empathizing with them, and fighting alongside them for equality and the dignity they deserve. I don’t think people are kept down by that. I believe what keeps people down is the constant dismissal of their pain, the degradation, the humiliation, the fear of injustice, and the continuous crushing of their will, their faith, and their hope. This type of oppression kills the self-esteem people need to empower themselves, and it’s flat-out terrorism.
And please don’t tell me that those of us who want to help in this ongoing crisis support laziness and everyone getting free stuff. As someone who worked in the corporate environment for nearly a quarter of a century, almost half of that time with chronic illness and disabilities, I can attest to the fact that so many out there are doing their utmost to cope. We don’t know their stories, their circumstances, or what challenges they face, and it’s not always the narrative we hear over and over.
Enough with the stereotypes already. Just like all the gun violence—a white man is evidently the good guy with a gun, while the black man with any type of weapon is a threat. Honestly, I don’t mind any mentally stable, rational person owning a gun. The problem is everyone thinks they are stable and responsible until they’re not, and so many apparently are not. How do we even address that?
But for so many, it is all or nothing.
I see a lot of middle ground, which is an impossible place to be in these days. You cannot form alliances like that, and yes, people want allies. We are the same color. We have the same ethnicity. We agree about who God is and what he wants from everyone. We have the same political view. We hate the same person, so we know who the enemy is.
Here is my question, though, all or nothing people, where is the balance? Because life has taught me, it is always about balance, and the truth is often somewhere in the middle. Extremes are inflexible and maybe even a little insane.
And it’s the apathy that kills me.
Even today, as the nation mourns the deaths of brave police officers and two more young African-American males, we have people out there trying to divide and spread hatred—blaming Obama, Hillary, liberals, etc. I may be a little more of a Centrist, but I highly identify with liberals and their concerns, especially these concerns, so if you are blaming liberals, you are blaming me, and I am not okay with that.
Hey, I’m sorry that some people who are feeling terrorized now think “Kumbaya” is for hippies on drugs, and that it’s not popular anymore to ask that we love one another. Fear has everyone in a panic.
I guess somebody turned the tables when we weren’t looking. Those of us advocating compassion, kindness, and acceptance are the enemies. We have a far religious right believing there is an eternal reward for elitists who lack empathy because it’s part of their “religion” to do so and because they want all the power and control.
“The devil made me do it” defense applies only to priests.
And I don’t care what they say. When people shame and scorn you for speaking out against pedophile priests, that’s part of the problem. When the Hollywood community conveniently ignores the child abuse, sexist culture to avoid discrimination, that’s part of the problem. Anytime we close our eyes to horrific things happening because it interferes with our agenda or someone else’s agenda, that’s part of the problem.
Some people go so far as to say that empathy is Satan’s new agenda.
Well if that’s true, Satan has an army of candy-ass peace seekers who feel the pain of humanity and speak out for dignity and justice for all. Kind of like Superman. Except we are no more superior than the next guy. We just care about other people, and when they suffer, we suffer, too.
So let me tell you; Satan’s bad-ass, powerful army includes honest, law-abiding citizens who cry for this world—not the proud, greedy, gluttonous, and covetous bunch of bullies, or those merely in bondage to cognitive ease.
And I’m just going to say this one more time. Love and acceptance are what feels healthy and right to me. I want that for everyone, along with plenty of peace, happiness, and success to go around. Is that too much to ask? If so, what is the point of this life really?
“The world is getting too small for both an Us and a Them. Us and Them have become codependent, intertwined, fixed to one another. We have no separate fates, but are bound together in one. And our fear of one another is the only thing capable of our undoing.” ― Sam Killermann
Here is something else I’d like to share.
The police officer in this video talks about much needed change, and it’s worth watching.
There are a few reasons I often choose to write about the difficult things I needed to learn the hard way in life. One reason is to create awareness and to advocate for people in similar circumstances. If I’m able to achieve that, I feel fortunate, and it’s one of the rewards of so many missed opportunities or hours spent in isolation. Then there is the “writer” perspective that every experience in our lives is good copy. Nothing should go to waste in this effort—no pain, no joy, and no humiliation. If it can’t be insightful, it just might be entertaining. 🙂
Now and then, someone will read what I’ve written and think, oh, that’s about me. The truth is, it’s probably about a lot of people. In certain life predicaments, you’re bound to encounter individuals with the same issues. You attract them and may even cling to them for a while because it’s familiar.
Personally, I’ve had to take inventory of my behavior over the years in order to heal, grow, and evolve so that I could do better. I’ve had quite a bit of healing to do. Even with a ton of work, there’s always much more to do. And I know why people get stuck where they are. I understand that it’s never hard to go back there in a moment of weakness. I realize, too, that the culprits of our frustration come at us from a place of pain and fear, and that they’re suffering, too. 😦
As trite as it may seem, the main reason for writing what I write is to help myself and others heal and triumph in the process. It’s become a passion since I believe we can’t possibly have enough willing contributors to global and collective healing.
Sometimes, however, we don’t know how much more we can take. We’re already dealing with the world’s latest and ongoing horrors. We’re trying to achieve our goals, live our dreams, and at times face overwhelming disappointment. Meanwhile, the relationships we have with people, through all of these circumstances, often determine whether we have the strength to continue or not.
Conflict resolution is important. To save myself a lot of time and energy, not to mention a whole lot of anguish and pain, I’ve had to learn the telltale signs that there is no hope for resolution. And you can bet it’s a lost cause when you’re dealing with emotional manipulators who will exploit your vulnerabilities.
It happened to me about eight years ago in a recovery group. Not surprising, since people in recovery are learning to reign in ego and recognize character defects so they can become better people. It’s more often about helping one another do that rather than tear each other down, but it doesn’t always work that way. I’m still, on occasion, dealing with the repercussions of that. But it’s one example. Emotional manipulation goes on between people in many different scenarios—work, home, social media, yeah, just about everywhere and all the time.
These people won’t tell you the truth no way no how because they don’t trust you (and that’s because they know you can’t trust them) or because they have too much invested in the opposing perspective. They don’t want to understand you or make allowances or hear explanations. They make assumptions rather than ever ask what the deal is, and they won’t disclose those assumptions. That would make it too easy for you to correct their misinformation. They would rather not argue than admit they could be wrong and deny you the privilege of ever confronting them about anything. You don’t have the right to see them as anything other than the generous martyrs they perceive themselves to be. They’re doing you a favor by being in your life, and everything they do is out of the goodness of their hearts (because they are so nice and so much better than you). And they don’t even realize this is what they are saying in so many ways.
They might even align themselves with people who want you to fail and withhold support for your efforts. Why? Because the naysayers, well, that’s usually the bigger group. That’s the group they want to belong to, and fit in, reaping the attention, admiration, and approval they so desperately need. In light of that, you are expendable. Not that they would see it that way. It’s a heartbreaking thing to come to terms with if you have an ounce of empathy. It brings more guilt and shame no one needs.
You can try asking outright if you’ve done something wrong, but they’ll say no and then continue to demonstrate that they have little regard for you. The ones who are conscious of what they’re doing will use aggressive behavior if that’s what intimidates you—become a combative bully or enlist one to do their dirty work. Whatever they learn about you, they will later use it against you. Get ready for the smear campaign with people playing both sides. You don’t need the drama, mama. Run.
Now, while I may want to extend the same compassion for them that I extended to myself in making peace with the past, it’s hard sometimes. Nothing stings more than being part of someone’s self-serving charade. They value their image and their pride more than they value you, and I believe we should be with people who do more than tolerate us but celebrate and cherish us as we do them.
There is no good reason for allowing anyone to shatter our self-esteem, undermine us at every turn, and shake whatever faith we’ve managed to muster in ourselves. It’s futile, it’s painful, and it destroys us. We don’t owe anyone that. It’s an absurd self-sacrifice. It’s codependent, and they wouldn’t likely do it for us. Who can afford the constant message these people impart to us, that we are not worth it? Many of us have spent decades fighting to get rid of that message, and we don’t want it back.
So we have to let it all go with love. Walk away with our dignity and self-respect, and protect ourselves from further harm. Because to resolve anything, we need two people who care enough about each other to listen, both willing to own their part in whatever happened.
Bottom line—we have to take care of ourselves. And those times when we feel like giving up are the times to be especially nurturing to ourselves.
We tend to think, in moments of distress, so many people have it worse, far worse, and we’re lucky. We have so many reasons to be grateful. Yes, that’s true. It’s relative. Perhaps the guilt alone, thinking of what people around the world have to endure while we’re merely battling egos, makes us feel selfish in complaining.
We’re not, though. It is tiring. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating and at times, devastating. Those feelings don’t simply go away because we feel we’re not entitled to them.
I can say, what’s helped me most, through everything, is seeing life as a challenge. Whatever I had thrown at me, I wanted to rise to meet the challenge and thrive. Sometimes I didn’t want that immediately, but give me a little time, and I’m stepping up. That works incredibly well. If I didn’t know when to shut down, when to preserve, protect, back the hell off and breathe in some self-love, I could assure you; I wouldn’t be here.
At the same time, I don’t blame people who feel they’ve had enough and want to give up entirely. I hate when people call them selfish. I’ve said for years, especially if you bring a child into this world; you just stick around. You have no business bringing a child here and then giving up. I clung to that in the worst possible times, and it was a no-brainer. I wasn’t going anywhere. It remained the number one reason I never quit my dreams or my life or gave up the hope that things can and do get better.
Still, if that doesn’t work for another person, my first thought is, I’m not in his or her shoes. I don’t know how hard they tried. I didn’t feel their pain, especially not the way they felt it. I don’t know their threshold. I don’t know how frightening it was to be inside their heads. I do know it can be terrifying to think you are losing it and can’t hold on. Sometimes it’s selfish to expect people to go on while they’re in so much pain so that we can still have them in our lives.
And I wholeheartedly want everyone to go on. I want everyone to heal, to succeed, to live their dreams, and to find their happily ever after. No one asks to come here. No one who sat giggling and gurgling on the rug, playing with their fun little toys, had any idea what the future held.
I do believe, though, there’s enough success to go around, but I’m not always sure about love. Many things get in the way of love—unrealistic expectations, rivalry, ego, and I tend to think if everyone gets enough love from the start, we wouldn’t have all these problems, especially with each other. Maybe fewer people would go wrong in life. I don’t know. But I think, we’d be less inclined to give up on people, because they’d be less inclined to give up on us.
I know there is an established difference between empaths and highly empathetic people, but I prefer to discuss this topic without suggesting where I or anyone else might be on that spectrum.
To be honest, I remain skeptical about the paranormal. I question the metaphysical aspect of having the high level of empathy that makes you difficult to be around at times. Please bear in mind, when you have been that way since childhood, it feels like the most natural response one could have, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s instinctive and, in my estimation, shouldn’t be at all peculiar, except that we live in such an apathetic world.
Some people have even linked a high level of empathy with codependence.
As far as I’m concerned, codependency is not about empathy. It’s about obsession. In the relationship between a drug addict or alcoholic and a generally sober enabler, both people are suffering from addictions. Both have their agenda, and what contributes to the endless cycle of repeat behavior is due partly to the codependent’s lack of empathy, however justifiable in many instances. The pressing needs of a codependent will consistently override any desire or need he or she may have to be authentic. They may believe what they do is simply out of love or out of concern, but it’s always about their dysfunction. Dysfunction gets in the way of any healthy response.
Very empathetic people can become codependent, but anyone can. Does being very empathetic put you at greater risk? I’d say so. And I think people who have suffered trauma and abuse are more likely to be very empathetic or codependent. But codependence is at odds with empathy, in my opinion, and can ultimately destroy it. I say this as a recovering codependent, and I will say, too, that as people learn to manage and overcome codependency, empathy returns like a long-lost son and in glorious triumph.
As for the whole empath/empathy deal, I can’t speak for all, but I can relay my experience and that of two other people I know.
We get angry at people who display a horrific lack of empathy, because we’ve experienced this on some level, whether it was a lack of empathy for us or others, and we continue to experience it happening to us and others. Every incident, regardless of who suffers has an unshakable impact that stays with us for a lifetime. So, yeah, don’t look for a sweet little halo-sporting cherub. Think dragon.
We never feel we can do enough, and yes sometimes the overwhelming realization may shut us down for a moment or a lifetime. I have seen people completely shut down, and it’s very hard to reach them, to break through the wall.
Waves of energy we feel in crowds and group settings make us want to bolt. We notice everything with people—every nuance, every change of tone, the body language. Certain situations can be excruciatingly painful. We can’t shake the feeling of distress after the person is gone or after we’ve gone, and can become physically or emotionally ill for hours, days, sometimes weeks.
We learn that we may need to avoid some people and we often feel sorry for those people, and we feel guilty, even if it’s a situation they created and continued to perpetuate. Setting the boundaries we need to set hurts them—the last thing we want to do. So, quite often, we feel like horrible people. We feel selfish.
By the way, codependents would remain in those situations, thinking they are doing the right thing. They’ll be the martyrs but for all the wrong reasons, and they’ll fully expect their rewards.
Anyway, back to the empaths or the empathetic, our acquaintances (and sometimes our loved ones) get sick of us feeling genuinely sorry for everyone. They get frustrated with our childlike wish that everyone can be happy and healed. They might find it laughable that we could never take pleasure in ‘karma’ even if we know someone deserves punishment. They can’t believe that we shudder to think of what might happen to these people, that we couldn’t witness it if someone offered us a front row seat.
Is it more human to be this way or less human? I don’t know, but I realize some people have had their humanity stripped from them, thanks to the abuse of others. While they may make me angry and in certain circumstances, hate them, there’s no real desire for revenge. I just hope the problem gets resolved so that they can’t hurt anyone again.
As for me, I feel fortunate to have been able to hang on to this empathy thing throughout all the madness of life, I wouldn’t trade it. And I don’t know if it’s admirable or absurd, but we are the lucky ones. Our empathy won in the end—the empathy that makes us believe we need to keep getting better as people. We continuously seek to heal and to evolve. We forever try to learn about others, and ourselves, and we share our discoveries. What’s wrong with that? It has saved many others and me.