Weekend Treats

I am slowly coming back to the practice of reading blogs again, and actually engaging with links online. What is below is about half of what I have, but I want to make sure that this is posted on time. You’ll get more next week. Enjoy.

Links to Share

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police by Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous
“The issue is yet another unnamed Black teenager murdered by the police. His name was Mike Brown.”

America’s Not Here for Us by AddyeB at Butterfly Confessions
A beautiful, heart-rending post about race, America, and truth-telling. (Also one of BlogHer’s Voice of the Year winners.)

Late by Anna Meade at if i had a voice
A reminder (to me) that what may be perceived as late is learning to grow into the brave.

Silence by Bethany at Midwife of Words
One woman’s leaning into the question of silence, what it holds, and how to find it.

give voice by Amanda at Persistent Green
Some fantastic questions about one’s voice and gentle encouragement to use it.

Just Keep Going by Laura at I Fly at Night
The reminders of (and messages to) the past are sometimes still relevant.

Tales from the Groundskeepers: Real Self-Care by Mara Glatzel
Beautiful beautiful look at self-care and it’s not just bubble baths and massages. Nor is it simply because “we have to.”

just some yoga thoughts by Krissie at My Radical Commitment
Really inspiring look at what practice can bring to the forefront, and help us settle into our own lives.

Why You Should Solve Your Own Problems by Jeff Goins
I know, it sounds like a crass post. But… there are some really thought-provoking statements… like “our greatest assets are the things we tend to overlook and ignore.”

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain by Daniel Levitin at NYTimes
A good look at breaks and resetting your brain from information overload.

the truth of a discouraged artist by The Story Unfolding
Learning how to love the harder parts, to love the soft tender parts.

There is Still Some Time by Jamie Tworkowski at To Write Love on Her Arms
Beautiful, hopeful reminders.

Writing is a Risky, Humiliating Endeavor by David Gordon at the NYTimes
A bit of truth about the writing process. “A need to speak the unspeakable thing. The very thing you most do not want to say, even to yourself.”

A Circle that Can Hold Anything by Mara Glatzel
This… a thousand times this. Accepting one’s self and the ways that community helps, hinders, and challenges all of that.

How to Gracefully Reenter Life after a Retreat or Vacation by Jennifer Louden
Super duper helpful, and one that I will be thinking about as I prepare for a four day retreat next month.

Motivation and Bravery by Hannah Marcotti
This
felt like a holy yes, a holy breath of fresh air around one’s relationship with her/his body. “I had to sit with myself and ask if I would be able to handle to emotional component of losing weight. Would I be able to lose weight and feel proud, strong and beautiful? In control but not controlling?”

Apologia by Lindsay King-Miller at The Hairpin
I
 wish this one didn’t resonate so closely with me… but it does, and it gives a lot of thought to what King-Miller called “stop hitting yourself feminism.”

Musical Interlude

This has been on repeat in my head and on my radio for the past few weeks, after mentioning to my therapist that standing in my own power and strength felt like I was about to shatter apart. She asked if that was a good or bad thing. I said I didn’t know.

This world makes no sense to me: One of the reasons I tell my story

I’ve been thinking about what matters in our culture and what it means to be open to the hard stuff that goes on in this world. I’m taken back to a conversation I had with some clients when Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of an overdose. I was in charge of leading group that week, and the news had hit earlier that month. So, I brought an article, which ended with the statement that addiction is not inherently selfish, that there are a lot of factors at work. I wanted to talk about what they thought about that, given their own experiences.

What comes to mind now is the comment from someone that people die from overdoses every day. That just because Hoffman was famous didn’t make him better than the struggles other people faced. In the moment, it was a sense of “Yes,” but also my own struggle to “stay in control,” to go back to what I had meant to talk about in group (which, as an aside, you learn in Counseling 101 – don’t do that. It’s not helpful.) And yet, that thought keeps coming to mind today – of who is allowed to matter, what is allowed to count, and how we talk about the hard things? Who do we give voice and attention to? And what happens to every day experience, when there are those who struggle with the same thing(s)?

And I’ve been thinking about Robin Williams’ death in similar terms… but there’s more than that. I think one of my friends on Facebook said it eloquently, that part of what resonates is that the story (depression, suicide, hopelessness) is not one unfamiliar to so many people. It’s getting press coverage because of someone famous – but we also want to say, “Me too!” because it’s important stuff and perhaps, this is a time we get the forum.

And when it hits close to the heart (if you’ve read even a few of the posts, he was beloved of many – probably because he DID make us laugh and see the world in new ways), we reach out toward our own experience. It’s our way of understanding… it’s a way to make sense of the fact that someone who was best known for joy and laughter was feeling such pain and struggle. There is no sense in that. We pull in closer to our experience, to share so that others might not feel as lonely. Because depression, thoughts of suicide – all of that is a lonely, hopeless place to be.

And so, we hold on to the things that we can – our experience, our loved ones, the ways that our story does matter. To share our own experiences and bring to light the ways that we have shown up on this planet, whatever that looks like. We tell stories to make sense of a world that is so senseless – with children being taken, unarmed people being shot and killed, with good people dying and taking their own lives. Stories help us feel connected, whether to others that we know or that we don’t. It allows us the opportunity to find even a sliver of hope.

Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
– Stephen King (Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption)

 

Breaking silence: When bravery has nothing to do with “fine”

(Note: Unlady-like swearing for heartbreaking national news.)

So often, I allow my desire to not make waves get the best of me. I wait wait wait until things are at a breaking point to express what I’m feeling. That’s rarely helpful or pretty. In honor of brave, in honor of truth-telling, you get today’s post.

My heart is breaking over here. There are the news reports from Ferguson, Missouri about 18-year old Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American male shot to death by police… and the police response when the community understandably protests this. And all that comes up when thinking about ALL of the non-white population that lives in fear of this, because the presence of racism is real.

As hard as it is, I will admit that current events like this are not often on my radar. I see them on Facebook, I know the headlines, but I rarely talk about it. I don’t want to think about it, because it’s HARD. And so, I read the eloquent status posts of friends, and then move on. Because I can’t be that eloquent. I can’t think about it – and yet, there is so much pain and uncertainty… because this shit goes on every. single. day. And not engaging with it is as much of the problem as the actions that are happening – because not speaking about it, not engaging? I bear silent witness to it and my silence is my consent.

I’m tired of consenting to the shit that happens, on a daily basis, and think that my silence has no consequence. Because I recognize myself in a friend’s perplexed status asking “I get that Robin Williams’ death is sad, but where is the outrage for what is happening in Missouri?” and knowing the layers of meaning behind my silence.

And, probably like everyone, there are the overwhelming responses to Robin Williams’ death, including the potential for suicide. The thought that someone who is one of my favorite actors is no longer in this world. That there are so many people who are hurting out there – who have dealt with (and continue to deal with) depression, and dammit, we don’t talk nearly enough about mental health. Or, if we do talk about it, it’s in unhealthy terms about trying to “fix oneself.” (Great web comic – If physical disease were treated like mental health)

There is stigma around what is felt to “someone’s own problem,” and the ways society (myself included) are sometimes so fucking unhelpful. I think about times my own depression got the best of me and my own ways of trying to cope with it (healthy and not so healthy). I often say of those experiences that I learned so much (about a lot of things) but would never ever wish that on anyone.

And this is a stark reminder of why I am going into the work I am, and yet, reminds me of the weight of it. Silence, my friend, you are no longer helpful in these situations.

****

I am, by nature and personality, someone who wants to make everything okay. I want to wrap everyone in a great big hug and shout – STOP IT! I want it all to stop. I want so badly to not see these things, to know these things. I want to not think about them. I don’t want to understand the status updates going around Facebook about what a lying liar depression is. I don’t want to admit any of this. I want to put on my super happy face and say “Things are FINE!”

And yet… they aren’t. They are so fucking far from fine. These two are only a drop in the ocean of the heart-breaking realities of this world.

And just as I start to pound my hands on the table, as soon as I start allowing the heartbreak in, I distract myself. Then I come back. This is part of the practice. The coming back, when it is so hard.

This is the back and forth of learning how to be brave. Because brave is not just “I am fine.” Brave is showing up, snotty nosed and full of bubbling emotion, and knowing that it has to go somewhere. I can’t keep letting it build until I explode.

It is choosing to tell this truth, rather than hide underneath the covers, rather than hide behind the other post ideas I had for today. It is showing up and saying things that are hard… that racism is alive and well and I have participated in it – at the minimum via my silence… that mental health needs to be talked about, and I am just as guilty as others in not responding compassionately, which breeds more stigma. It’s time to own my stuff and live from place that feels truer to who I am and want to be.

{This brave shit is hard. And so so necessary.}

If you are struggling with the bravery of staying in a world that is hurting so much – please reach out.

Lifeline is always available, including a chat function if you’re like me and don’t like the phone.

1-800-273-8255

Weekend Treats Returns!

Has it really been almost a year since I’ve done one of these? Holy macaroni!

In honor of trying to be more present, in honor of building community and bearing witness to the journey for each other, I am hoping to spend more time engaging with and sharing the great reads that I find throughout the internet. I’m hoping weekly. We’ll see how it goes.

Links to Share

Everyday Acts of Courage by Beth Morey (via Secret Rebel Club)
I love the reminders that, a) things don’t need to be perfect for us to start, and b) showing up every day requires its own courage.

Signing Off, Broken Process, and a Writing Experiment by the Jotter’s Joint
Oh, this one hit home… definitely got me thinking about process and persistance.

Fiercely Being by Jonathan Fields (h/t to Jill for sharing on her Something Good post)
An interesting look at how we might measure our lives – not about what we are building or becoming, but something a bit deeper than that.

31 Benefits of Free-Writing by Cynthia Morris
A good reminder on why writing practice/free-writing is so important (and why I want to re-incorporate it more regularly into my life).

On Illness, Belief, and Saying Yes by Andrea Gibson (via The Body is Not an Apology)
This poet always has an amazing way of framing (and reframing) the world. This is no exception.

What I Would Say if You Were Here with Me by Jennifer Louden
This one? After I read it, I printed it out and pasted it into my journal. That good.

Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck, Still: How to tell if you’re doing enough by Carla at Living Wild and Precious
This was a wonderful reframe of how the same activity may actually be doing different things for you… and learning to recognize it.

This cookie “makes” me feel by Krissie at My Radical Commitment
This was a really accessible way to understand “intuitive eating,” and has given me a practical way to work with food.

Hot Palms Pressed to Today by Mady Steward at Messy Canvas
You know that talk about showing up and being awake in one’s life? This is a post that shows the beauty of that process.

Musical Interlude

My love affair with music has been returning. It’s time to start sharing some of the gems that are getting a lot of play time for me right now.

This is the group Mediaeval Baebes, a wonderful medieval music group I have seen a few times at the Maryland Renaissance Faire. This is my current favorite by them. So much fun.

What links or music have been lighting you up? I’d love to hear!

Bearing witness to the journey

Last week, I was reading a zine by a friend of mine that spoke to the power of having another bear witness to the journey we take around this planet. He wrote about the painful realities of losing that person and how little the surface evidence shows the depth of connection.

Since reading it, something inside of me cracked open around bearing witness, around having others bear witness, the power that holds, and the ways that we do (not) bear witness for ourselves… and the ways that shame saps our courage to show up and tell the story of the here and now.

How do we allow ourselves to be seen, even to ourselves? Are we willing to be awake enough to let the truth shine through? Because sometimes, that truth isn’t all too pretty, but it’s the reality of our lives. I’ve been working with Mara Glatzel through e-courses this summer and earlier this week, she (re)posted a blog post that was about finding the beauty in our daily lives – including the rough edges – and the power of building community around that truth telling.

meditation cushionAnd that’s the clincher – the ways that people come into our lives and help us to see, understand, and experience the world with us. Even in their own versions of it, they may be able to be closer to that truth than anyone else. There’s power in being able to show up to our lives… how much more powerful to have someone stand in that with you.

Perhaps this is part of all of the practices I hold and try to create containers for… meditation, writing, art journaling, yoga, running. To find ways to build space to bear witness and allow the truth of life to bubble up, rough edges and all. If I can’t show up for my own stuff, how much harder is it to do so for others?

Recognizing that this act of showing up, being honest – this is bravery in action. And that that is the practice I practice for. Because I can’t do it out of nowhere.

I practice to bear awake witness to what matters in this world. Myself, others, good things, hard things. This is practice.

The power of story: Drawing in or drowning

Over the past few days, I’ve been diving into Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, after a requisite reread of The Shining. (NB: Doctor Sleep follows one of the main characters from The Shining.) Diving in as in having a hard time putting in down to do what I need to do – make dinner, get out of the door to make a lunch date with a friend of mine.

fca6410e73713976eef90ae0f3a3a911While I was driving to said lunch date, I was thinking about storytelling, as I am wont to do, and realizing… the power of storytelling isn’t just in giving us voice. It has the power to draw us in – show us new things about our world, give us new perspectives, or put our lives into a perspective we may not have been able to see before. Stories allow us the opportunity to be seen, as well. (More on that later this week.)

The other power that storytelling has is to serve as places we drown in… As a bibliophile, and as someone who likes to stick her head in the sand when she doesn’t want to deal with something, stories written by others have often served as a way to drown. In those times, I compulsively reach for more (usually fiction), devouring it and then moving on to the next one. There is no absorption, there is no thinking about how this may expand my perception of the world.

In the past few years, I’ve come to realize this tendency to drown in stories, rather than allow them to draw me in and learn from it.

What does this matter, honestly? Isn’t fiction for fun? Isn’t it just mind candy? I guess, for me, the answer is more complicated than yes or no.

It’s both.

One of the ways I am trying to learn stay awake is to learn the ways I fall asleep at the wheel of this life. How do I numb out, rather than be drawn into my life, so that I may stand in my own truth and allow myself to be fully present? I think about Natalie Goldberg and the writing practice that I am drawn back to, time and again. The line I’m thinking about is in reference to not identifying with one’s own work, but … perhaps it is relevant here.

Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture. (from Writing Down the Bones)

Good writing allows me to see my world through awake eyes, when I am drawn into storytelling, moments those writers were awake, too. Good writing also has the power to allow me to drown, just be swallowed into world and fall asleep (bad writing can do the same thing, but that’s another post all together).

That is the power of good writing. And it’s part of my responsibility as a writer and a human being to stay awake enough to be drawn into this world, to witness others’ moments and to share my own.

The power of truth-telling: The sum of awe

photoTo say that I was uplifted by the response to Doing everything wrong last week is an understatement. Thank you, for your comments on Facebook and here, for seeing me and for honoring where I am.

There is power in being seen. That power is full of awe and helps move us forward. And yet, there is the fear of being seen – all the edges and uncertainty and struggles.

I am in awe of our perseverance and commitment to this life – whatever form it takes in this moment for each of us. The ways we stride forward, full of courage, or scrabble forward, trying to not to stumble on the jagged rocks, or the ways we simply hang on with the ragged edges of nails. The burdens we bear and the ways we learn to work with it or let it go.

The paths we take are varied, and to know that there are spaces where we can let our hair down, shake it out, and tell our truth…

All of this to say – thank you. For seeing me. For allowing yourself to be seen. For sharing this space with me.

For reminding me that our stories and our voices matter.