Thursday, March 8, 2018

I am woman

Today is International Women's Day.

It feels complicated and heavy this year.

Maybe I don't feel like celebrating because no matter how many strong women are highlighted in my Facebook feed, we still have so far to go.

A misogynistic rapist in the White House. Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Mario Batali, Sherman Alexie.

Dick pics and demands in my inbox, her inbox, all the inboxes.

None of it new, none of it stuff I haven't written about or been considering for months.

It's... discouraging.

The climate right now for women seems as grey as the Washington sky today.

My inspiration gland must be out of service for the day.

Maybe I don't feel like celebrating because just when I've kind-of-maybe-sort-of figured out how to be strong, and who I am, things are changing.

It seems I've reached a certain age and my endocrine system has begun the transformation from lazy river to roller coaster.

I noticed recently that I'm more bothered by violence than I used to be.

Criminal Minds has been one of my favorite shows for years, and I haven't watched it in months.

I watched a preview for Red Sparrow, typically the kind of movie I'd be into, and all I could think was that it looked really violent.

I am tired. It seems like so many people are hurting.

Things with a capital T going on at work have left me to sit in on interviews with employees, then re-live them, re-re-live them as I transcribe.

I thought I was finished, but today there were two final interviews.

My empathy on overdrive, I return to my desk with a heavy heart and zero spoons.

I suppose it is my day.

After all, I am woman.

You may try to hear me roar but today I think my throat just sings the low sweet melancholy chords of rainy afternoons.

Still, even on this muted Thursday, I carry within my heart a deep and indescribable love for the dozens of women in my life who inspire me, whose words and breaths I absorb. 

I ingest the things their eyes convey- strength, love, pain, power, like a gift from so many goddesses.

My ambrosia.

Life is complicated, and so are we all. 

I am not sad.  I am not happy.  I feel... matte.

I embrace my lack of shine just for the day, for the evening. 

I don't worry.

The glimmer always returns.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Strange Bedfellows

I used to be a great sleeper.  I would slip into a light snore almost before my eyes were completely closed.

Now I find myself laying in the dark at 3 AM, confused at the lack of heaviness in my eyelids.

My dreams are strange.  They aren't nightmares, but I wake unsettled.  My mind and body don't leave dreams behind upon waking.  Sometimes they linger beneath the surface for hours after waking.  I carry this nameless muddy confusion with me into  Danny's room.  He is back asleep within moments, his breathing even and slow.  I carry it back to my bed and will my body and mind fruitlessly to just be more tired.

I am a stranger to insomnia, and I am not enjoying this newfound relationship.  I try to use The Secret- reaching into the universe calling for the Sandman to come, but it seems that method works no better in the dead of night than in the daytime.

Time passes and anxiety builds, I think about my alarms, knowing that the more time goes by, the more difficult it will be to wake again.

3 AM comes and I give in, I admit to myself that sleep may come but it isn't close.  I pick up my phone, this double edged distraction.  For a few minutes I let my mind focus on Facebook housekeeping and Instagram photos of faraway friends and fat-positive feminists.

Just as I finally begin to feel that weight creeping into the corners of my eyelids, my blinks coming 3/4 speed, a heat crawls across my chest and down my arms.  I guess it shouldn't surprise me as a woman in my late 30s to finally become acquainted with these flushes, night sweats like the younger, flightier sister of the menopausal hot flashes all women hear about and steel themself to expereince everything - not if, but when.

I used to be a great sleeper and now I wake to a quiet house, the short hair at the nape of my neck sticky and my thighs slick with that skin on skin hot blanket hot flash sweat.  The blanket off, cold air feels like relief from the suffocation of the same covers that felt so cozy two hours ago.

The most unfortunate part about these strange bedfellows is the absolute quicksand feeling of 6:30 AM.  I have never been a morning person, and these new nighttime roommates exacerbate my aversion to the morning alarm.

Some days I nap after work, the exhaustion catching up with me, and wake to bedtimes and cuddles and wondering how many times I'll be awake tonight.  Some nights sleep returns, relief like the summer rain after a drought washing over me.

I used to be a great sleeper, now irony is my love being the one snoring first, as if your bed can only tolerate one good sleeper and a time and it's not my turn anymore.  He snores and I lay next to him, wondering how long tonight, how many minutes, and will they turn into hours and will I sleep deeply and how many times tonight will that familiar click open and padding down the hall of little feet interrupt my no-pattern sleep patterns?

Nighttime now means something else, a hot-cold-awake-asleep dance of dreams and waking.  I stumble, pirouette, trip and spin through the hours between twilight and dawn and as I dance I remember that I used to be a great sleeper.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another One

I regret opening even as I type the address into the browser.  I regret it as it loads.   I regret it as I read the headlines.

Trump pledges to 'ease pain' but offers few specifics

President says no one should feel in danger at school, but does not mention gun control

There are bodies still inside the school

School massacre: 17 dead after gunman targets former school

19 of the 30 deadliest mass shootings have taken place in the last decade

Another one.  

Another one.  

Another one.

I already gave up on the paper, the article describing parent after parent receiving terrified texts from their high school children. 

I return to my desk and I can’t think about anything else.  I try to work, but it's hard.  This is a national tragedy.  An epidemic.  A nightmare.   I open a dozen tabs, each article spinning and loading, waiting for me.

I will read them all.  I will watch the footage.  I will look at the photos.  I will obsess.  I will cry and I will rage and I will feel nauseated and I will look away, but then I will look back.  My heart will creak and buckle in the disbelief as I read the tweets and firsthand accounts and watch video footage, the gunshots so loud as children, terrified children, hide under their desks and hope they aren’t next.  My soul clenches in on itself as I watch an ex-FBI agent cry on national television, pleading with… all of us.  "We cannot accept this."

A part of me will wonder why I am doing this to myself. 

But I will keep looking because my reaction is human and it is right.  This IS enraging and sickening.  There is no excuse.  I will keep looking because no matter how shitty this information makes me feel, it is NOTHING compared to the feelings of the hundreds of people who had the worst day of their life yesterday.  I will keep looking because I am trying to understand something that cannot be understood.

So much of the coverage from Parkland, Florida is numbingly similar to Columbine, Virginia Tech, and numerous other shooting sites. We're all too accustomed to seeing videos of students fleeing campus; interviews with eyewitnesses; reunions with parents.

But we're not used to being transported to the crime scene through the cell phone cameras of the victims. This is new and blood-curdling.

In one video clip, we see that some students had to walk by several lifeless bodies while being evacuated from the building.

In another clip, we hear gunshots and screams, then more gunshots, more screams.

Perhaps these up-close views -- through the eyes of the victims -- will force Americans to see these shootings in a new way. Perhaps.

CNN and other television networks showed a video that a student took from the floor of his classroom, capturing the sound of the gunfire. Anchors warned viewers in advance that the content was disturbing.

"This is what kids and their teachers went through. This is how it looked, how it sounded and how it felt for them," Savannah Guthrie said on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning.

Does a part of me hope that it will somehow change people's minds when they put themselves in someone else's shoes?  This is a new brand of news.  

Screenshots of texts - a girl texting her sister - call 911, call mom and dad, send help.  Telling her that she loves her, to please tell their parents she loves them.

Teenagers live-tweeting the most terrifying day of their lives.

Snapchat videos from inside the school, gunshots louder than I could have imagined.

Video of children weeping as SWAT enters their classroom with guns.

I vacillate wildly between anger and despair, rage and complete heartbreak, and when I feel like I might vomit, I minimize the window, and then I feel lucky that I can even do that because it wasn’t my child – not this time.  And then that thought makes me want to vomit all over again.

Once again, like every time, Facebook will be full of arguments about guns and about people's RIGHTS.  I am DONE.  Fuck the NRA.  Fuck your "right to bear arms."  Fuck allowing people to own guns they never use and never need.  Fuck having guns just for fun to target shoot.  You know what is more important than you having the privilege of a hobby?  HUMAN LIVES.  I would gladly give up any one of my hobbies if it would contribute to people being safer. 

Someone named Carrie Schreck posts this status on Facebook:
Let's take a moment to honor the sacrifice of our brave schoolchildren who lay down their lives to protect our right to bear arms.
It goes viral.  It is true.  And if your first reaction is to bristle and somehow defend your guns or say that this isn't true?  You are part of the problem.




Fuck your arguments that people always kill people, that there is still the black market, that people can probably 3-D print a gun.  So. Fucking. What?  That doesn't mean that restricting guns won't help.  It's not an either/or situation.  If guns aren't the problem, then how come no other countries have this problem?  How come people are dying, how come there are mass shootings every 2-3 days, how come?  

Fuck the argument that we need to start somewhere else.  Restricting guns would buy us time to deal with other issues.  Not only that, but perhaps shifting our culture's focus from "people deserve to have their guns" to "people deserve to keep their lives" could start a serious shift in paradigm.

I'm done being "civil" and "rational" and trying to have "reasonable conversations."  My question is simple.  Do you value your right to own a gun over my child's life?

How dare you?  How dare you try to convince me of your right to bear arms when there are 17 sets of parents who will never wrap their arms around their children again?  How dare you tell me that you deserve to own a gun that you use to shoot for fun when there are parents in Florida right this second whose children’s cold, lifeless bodies still lie in the halls of their high school?

Paul Ryan, how DARE you say that we need to look at the “gaps” in gun laws.  Fucking, really?

Rick Scott, how DARE you say that you are going to have conversations with state leaders about "how to make sure individuals with mental illness do not touch a gun."  Your state, the state you GOVERN, does not even require a license to purchase a semi-automatic weapon.

My mom comments on one of the many posts I share - my Facebook feed will be full with this - and she says what we should all be thinking.

There really is no moral ambiguity.  It's inexcusable that we are not protecting our children.


And that’s just the school shootings.

I’m not even thinking about the fact that in addition to the 18 school shootings that have already happened in 2018, there have also been 12 other mass shootings this year.

I could go on for 50 more sentences, 100 more paragraphs, 10,000 more words.  I could write until my fingers cramped and my body was dehydrated.  And I would be no closer to understanding, no less heartbroken.  So I will stop and try to think about something else, despite the futility.  And my mind will return to this:

WE. ARE. FAILING.  Miserably.  And until something changes, there will always be another one. 

And another one. 

And another one.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vice Grip

I can't tell whether it starts in my head or my heart or somewhere deeper and unnamed.  After hours of general unease, the dark quiet of my babes room at bedtime gives it the opening it needs to overtake me.  I can feel it welling up, bubbling silently until suddenly I'm under it and I know I can't fight it anymore.

I close the door behind me, careful and silent, then pad down the hallway. I go into my bedroom instead of back to the living room where the others are.  Into the dark cool of my room where I pick up the stuffed seal that fits perfectly in my arms, the one Scott bought me on our mini vacation in Seattle.  I am not even fully onto the bed before the first hot tear leaves its trail on my cheek.

I need hugs.  I text him knowing he will come and I doubt he will be surprised when he finds me shuddering with the weight of it all, but he may be just as confused as I am.  The tears overtake me fully and my soul writhes inside me, pushing against the vice grip of raw, unfiltered emotion.  I breathe hard, crying into Bowie's spotted fur, my fingers clenching and my body expanding and contracting with the power of it all.  My muscles hold their breath with each slow motion sob.

He puts his arms around me and asks me what is wrong and I helplessly answer that I don't know.  He understand and it doesn't matter, he holds me and reminds me that I am safe.  He shows me without words that the why is unimportant, that my feelings are okay. 

His arms tighten around me and I am not afraid but my brain thinks that maybe there is something either scary or frustrating in the not knowing.  Sometimes when this happens, it is obvious where its coming from, a burst pipe under the kitchen sink.  Other times like tonight its like water bubbling up through a storm drain.  I don't know where it came from, how long its been building, how deep the trigger point is.  A million reasons and they run through my head as I cry.

Is it that the go go go of the week is finally done and I can let go?

Is it the out of the blue text from a friend I haven't talked to in years?

Is it that dream I had last night about those people who I had to see last Friday after months of getting over it?

Is it Danny's on-edge behavior, the tears that well up so easily in his eyes, that tell me he is going through one of those crazy mental/emotional growth milestones kids go through?

Is it frustration and sadness about my cat who I love more than I admit and who won't stop peeing outside the box?

Is it that Scott is working tonight and tomorrow after all and we aren't really any closer to his sleep patterns being normalized yet?

Is it the chores I know need to get done this weekend?

Is it hormonal, some wild burst of estrogen giving me a perimenopausal run for my money?

Is it the frustrating email exchange I had today with someone who assigned tones I didn't intend and wouldn't just accept a graceful ending to mismatched desires?

Is it all of these or none?  Is it some other deep rending inside me that I can't name?  Does it matter?

I am a crier, always have been and always will be.  Whatever started it I also know these tears need to come, and 37 years in there is some comfort in surrendering and embracing their purpose.

I think there is a part of me inside, in some closet with the door just cracked, where I am still surprised that I have a partner who supports me so fully, who empowers me to feel.  He reminds me to always feel, unashamedly, without reservation, his eyes whisper to me that moments are what make up our life together and in the most raw, vulnerable moments his love gently nugdes me back to solid ground.

Later I am putting Sam to bed and he asks me what was happening when I was in my room.  I tell him I felt sad and needed cuddles, and he asks why.  I say I don't know, sometimes I just feel sad and it helps me feel better if I cry.  He tells me that sometimes he feels sad too, like in the book he just read when a girl was messing up her friendships.  She almost broke one of them, he says, but she fixed it.  I hope he always remembers that it is okay to feel sad sometimes and to share your feelings with people who can help you find your way out from under that cloud.

I feel better once the flood has subsided, like a boiler that has let off steam I am back to a mostly inert state.  I go to bed early, knowing I will wake up with puffy eyes, feeling tired, but most of all feeling thankful that I am so surrounded by love and that I am so able to just be who I am.

Monday, February 5, 2018

These Dreams

It has been 120 days since my feet carried me to my car which carried me to the ferry which carried me away from Orcas Island away from winding sunny roads away from Doe Bay away from the retreat house.  How is it possible that three days, 72 hours amongst hundreds and thousands lit such a spark in my soul?

I try to concentrate at work, try to focus on what needs to be done and my fingers are jittery, my skin crackles with the electric hyper-awareness of my own thoughts and dreams and aspirations.  I could let my passion overtake me.  In my mind this chorus repeats

These dreams go on when I close my eyes, every second of the night,
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside, every moment I’m awake, the further I’m away

I can write anywhere.  Intentional practice builds routine in such a short period of time, and already 2018 is bringing words and ideas more easily from my fingertips.  I am excited, I am devouring voices that empower me, teach me, show me that there is a path to the place I want to go.  I feel like I’m finding direction, and the ideas are good and they are plentiful.  The hardest part is knowing where to begin.

Life brings us sacred spaces, sometimes when we least expect them.  If you have never been in a room filled with 20 other people who share your passion, do whatever you need to do to make it happen.  I have found these sacred spaces in hotel conference rooms, in volunteer trainings, in board meetings, even carved out of small corners of the internet with women whose hearts melt into one great pile of heaving, living, loving support.

These dreams

There is something about it.  Something about an island, surrounded by the peace of the waves, that relaxes your soul.  Shorelines and ocean breezes give way to glowing warmth, to acceptance and understanding.  Everyone in this room appreciates that words are not a hobby, they are a part of our souls and we couldn’t give them up any more than we could give up breathing.

There is overwhelming relief in being understood when the words that spill from your lips about passion and intention and creation grow loud and overtake like brambles.  To be physically touched, to speak my truth of being less than and to touch someone’s heart; to be looked in the eyes and told my words are powerful, my voice is strong… these are not just memories.  They are sparks.

I can write anywhere, but that room… the mark it left and the way it grew in my heart in the days after I left it is some kind of magic.  A seed planted that whispers things like you are not just pretending and you belong in this company and your words mean something.

In sunlight, in darkness, awake and asleep, every second of the night and day, these dreams ferment, maturing and rounding as they come into their own.

These dreams go on

Nearly two hours pass in the middle of the night as I lie awake, trying to stop my mind from racing.  Every corner of my brain is filled with the soft, sweet call of it all.  I hear the words like whispers, that Pacific Northwest oasis lures me like a siren in the mist.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Heart and soul and skin
so tender and sensitive already
that there isn’t even a buildup,
and when triggers snap,
the pain is instantaneous and
extremely intense.

Sometimes agony,
it builds and builds and
then a crest, a blessed hilltop
and suddenly I breathe again
and solace comes in bits and moments before
the pain starts to build again.

Not this time.

This time, from the beginning,
I’m not sure if I can bear it.
There is no retreat,
nowhere to catch my breath.

Everything becomes blurred,
I lose myself in the depths and
for the first time I lean towards pure pain,
away from what is easy.

I so want to see if I can push through,
find out if we
arrive on the other side changed;

I have never been here before,
body and mind fully exposed
electricity coursing through me.

Stop it,
over and over,
impulses fire, I think it once, twice,
I never stop thinking about it.

But I don’t.
I hold on, I bear it.
The truth is
I don't know how long I can hold on,
I was already past knowing that
the moment it began.

I am surprised that this is inside of me.
That I would submit fully to
experience to the
opposite of fear, to
pain inflicted upon me.

Pressure builds and I bend with the torture of it.
Moist eyes close and
I can do nothing but hold on and whimper.
Voices swirl inside my head,
the only sounds are
my exploration of this side of myself
exposition of the mist left behind
when fear is gone.

I couldn't have imagined trusting myself
so completely.

I trust for it to come to an end.
And it does.
And it is amazing.

Who knew that my mind could expand to a place
of knowing that pain ends -
if you just hold on.
Suddenly, you are changed
from coal to something stronger.

Relief, warmth, endorphins and
self-awareness, pride and  immense love
for myself and for those who
catch me.
I am ensconced.
I am pulled against them,
folded on myself
into their arms.

Let it go,
you’re okay,
we've got you, we’re right here,
soft whispers of love
as the sun rises once more.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I Believe in Divorce

I believe in divorce.

I believe in it unapologetically, with my whole heart, and with every fiber of my being.

When I ask "if you're unhappy, why do you stay?" I get answers about children, about how the relationship is good "except for..."  I deflate, because living in the place of "except for" isn't really living at all.

I absolutely don't think it's decision that should be made lightly.  It is a heartbreaking thing to know that you are better off ending something you commited your heart to permanently.  If you have children, deciding that it is a better idea for them to have two homes is... nauseating.  Four years after my divorce the memory of the gut-wrenching thick sickness of those decisions is still enough to turn my stomach.  The memories of dealing with the feelings for which they had no words in the months after we moved out are still sharp enough to take my breath away.

In many cases, the innacuracy of talking about giving up is immense.  If you think about it, the fight put into trying to salvage an unsalvageable wreck was the opposite of giving up.

I also believe that breaking the promise you made is not the end of the world.

I believe that you deserve happiness.  You deserve a full life and dreams and plans and futures that you reach not in spite of being held back, but because you are free.  You deserve not only to be happy, but to be well, mentally and physically.

In the beginning, thoughts may start as seeds, tendrils creeping slowly into your thoughts like sprouts that haven't surfaced through the soil quite yet.  At first it seems entirely ludicrous.  You turn the word over in your mouth, silently, whispering in your brain.  divorce  You wonder, what does it really mean?  What does divorce actually feel like?

It feels like failure.  It feels like admitting that you are not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough to figure out how to make something work that you are supposed to be able to make work.

It feels like giving up, because you really meant it when you sat there and looked into each other's eyes and said, that won't be an option for us, not ever.

It feels like a bad dream, like a black hole pit in the middle of your being, sucking up all the things you always knew to be true.

It feels like grief.  You have lost the you that you thought you were, and the you that you thought you were becoming.  You have lost your partner.  You have lost the dreams and plans you'd made for the years to come.  It feels like your heart is breaking, wrenched in two right inside your chest.

It feels like being not enough, and it feels lonely, despite the fact that half of marriages end this way.  We marry young, we marry ideal, we marry for many different reasons and years gone by can erode those reasons until we see that life is full of so many other options.

The grass isn't greener on the other side, not right away.

But... it also feels like relief.  And day by day, week by week, month by month, it gets better.

Days pass, and the balance of dark to light starts to tilt.  You figure out how to give yourself a little bit more grace, a little bit more acceptance, a little bit more love.  Things are hard, but over time they get easier.  You figure out the new normal, and how to make things work.

You find that your body feels lighter than it did before.  Without that heavy burden of trying to make something work that couldn't, you are able to move more easily.  The stress of taking on the responsibility of someone else's happiness dissipates, and you remember what it's like to base your decisions more on your own needs.

Some people believe that divorce isn't for them.  They believe that divorce is for people who have been cheated on, lied to, abused, or deceived.  It's just not that simple.  All relationships are complex things, put two complex beings with hearts and minds and souls and wants and needs and beliefs together and how can it NOT create something even more complicated?

Of course no one deserves to be mistreated, to be hit, talked down to, beaten, gaslighted, called names, shamed, assaulted.  Even then, the decision to leave can be indescribably hard to make.  Because people are complicated.  But there is another group out there, stuck in this middle-ground purgatory of marriages that are just... meh.

When I was considering the future of my marriage I bought a book called "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay."  In hindsight, and as time went on, I realized that in my particular situation there was no "too good to leave" at play.  However, relationship ambivalence is a real thing, and I think we all deserve better.

When I was married, I used to hear stories of people who were still in that stomach-flipping, heart pounding, take-your-breath-away love after years together.  I would hear about people who loved their spouse more with each passing anniversary, who looked forward to the rest of their lives together, and who still found each other irrisistable.  I didn't believe them.  I scoffed, thinking that there was no way those things were true.

Now that I am in the after, I see.  That kind of love is possible, and I want it for everyone I know.  I want to shout the the world, especially to the women whose hearts I feel connect to mine.

You are beautiful, and you don't have to settle for okay, for good enough.  Life is too short to give in to what is easy when you could be experiencing things in full, glorious color.

You are worth more.

You are worth everything.