How Grief Lives in our Cells.

“To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I live with my sister. We’re both in our 50s, which means we’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and we value communicating and checking in with each other.

We’ve learned accidents do happen and people we love sometimes die.

We balance these not-fun facts with our inclination toward optimism.

Last night, Jayne went out with a friend, which is also a treat for me, as I relish my time alone. I used it well last night.

I skyped with an advanced editing class from my old alma mater (Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN). The students asked me thought-provoking questions about my blogging process and purpose.

After the meeting, I took notes about what I learned from them and how I’ll implement some of their ideas.

Inspired by virtually being in the classroom, I dove back into a book assigned in my first politics class: American Democracy in Peril: Seven Challenges to America’s Future. How far-fetched that felt in 2002!

After reading, hunger overtook me. I noted the time: 10 pm. My sister would be walking in the door soon.

I made cauliflower rice with sautéed kale and cabbage and plopped in front of the TV.

Around 10:30, I texted my sis just to make sure she was ok. It’s not typical of her to stay out late on a “school night.”

On Scandal, the old Olivia Pope had returned—or had she? The President was going down—or was she?

My sister still hadn’t texted back. Again, not like her. She’s an IT manager and the constant bing of work messages is her norm. She’s the prompt texter backer.

I told myself she was fine, as fear felt its way into my body, the kind that says saying things are ok doesn’t make them so if they’re not.

After all, the day my boyfriend Kevin was due to arrive but didn’t, when worry hung in the air, my sister’s boyfriend said, “It’ll be ok.”

I even tried to convince myself Kevin would burst through the door, larger than life, wrap his big arms that felt like home around me, and spin some crazy story the way only he could do.

But, we were wrong. He would not be walking through my door or anyone else’s ever again. He would never tell another story with his Lentz-man vocabulary.

Everything was not alright.

My beloved died in his sleep of a heart attack. That cruel fact cannot be overridden by my mind.

The news, the truth, the day my life transformed lives in my cells. My body knows.

So, until I heard back from my sister, I suppressed the possibility of a reality I’ll never be ready for.

I didn’t even know where she went to dinner, some Mexican restaurant. She could be anywhere in the city.

God, please let her be safe.

How would I find her if she didn’t respond? I could find her friend on Facebook.

Would I call her son, the cop in Michigan to ask him what to do? Or the one here, who called the police for me and got them to search the freeways Kevin intended to drive on, and then his home where they found him in his bed?

I wouldn’t want to worry my nephews without reason, but what if my sister was in a situation where time was of the essence and could possibly save her life?

Silly, these thoughts, I tried to tell myself. I’m not a worry wart, but my mind played the sport while I simultaneously resisted the churning in my stomach.

Until Jayne’s text: “I’m sorry. I’m good. Coming home soon.”

Ah, the message of peace. I crawled into bed unscathed, tired and happy.

This morning, on her way to work, Jayne apologized again. I’ve done it to her, too. It’s no big deal.

But, then I cried because I can’t bear the thought of going through that again. And because I don’t have to.

Not now. All is well.

My sister admitted she’s been pierced by grief’s arrow threatening the worst repeating.
After all, her husband determined to beat cancer, but that day never arrived.

Like our brother who didn’t make his destination from California to Tucson and died on the side of a desert highway (car accident).

Still, I believe in the power of prayer and positive possibility.

Beautiful memories like falling in love, dancing under the stars, and splashing down water slides also dot the map of my life.

I refuse to live in the worry zone, but sometimes I take a trip there, making me grateful to return home to my current safe and sweet realty.

 

How I Broke up with Guilt.

“Guilt is not a very good motivator.” ~ Psychology Today

Dear Guilt,

You and I have been friends for as long as I’ve known Procrastination, Drinking, and Television. Guilt, we’ve become too close.

I’ve taken for granted that you’ll always be a part of me—not because that’s what I want, but because you’ve been by my side, dancing in my head, and draped around my neck for decades.

Your theory is if I’d take action, you’d leave me alone. You taunt me trying to make me act or not act a certain way.

If you inspired change, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d be busy doing all the right things in the ideal time.

Instead, you’re like a sinus infection I can’t shake. You clog my head and slow me down.

Guilt, I don’t want to deny you your purpose. Some say you’re a wasted emotion. That’s not totally true.

As a child, when I had the habit of stealing, you and Shame showed up and helped me quit. Thank you for that.

When I ate my feelings more than speaking to my ex-husband, you guided me back to my truth.

When I worked retail and called in sick, but the only thing I was sick from was working retail, you sat with me and we had that heart to heart. You gave me insight about doing wrong and still not feeling you, Guilt—because I was striving for something more right. Thank you for the lesson.

So yes, I’ve done things and there were times your presence provided a wake-up call.

However, you’re not my true companion. I don’t need you in my life as an umbrella over everything thought, action, or nonaction.

Stop embedding yourself into my every move, from how I manage my time, to what I eat, to the gifts and opportunities I’ve been given.

Your intention is to help. But, remember when I was readying to tell my ex-husband I was leaving him and then I needed to pack all my belongings from our house? Guilt, you showed up in full force.

You were with me first thing in the morning and throughout the days. You even crawled in bed with me, pointing out everything I hadn’t yet done. You brought Shame and Judgment into my home, the one I was losing, as if I wasn’t challenged enough.

Here’s what you didn’t do: help. You didn’t help me feel better, speak clearer, or pack one damn box.

It was my readying time. I needed to gather myself, talk to God, and get grounded. But, you should all over me every day for months.

Not helpful! I may procrastinate (gather my forces), but I accomplish what needs to be done in my own time.

Deadlines help. Your constant yammering takes me farther from myself and the life I choose to live.

So, here’s the deal, Guilt. You’re welcome to visit on rare occasions, only when called for and only when I’ve actually done something worthy of your presence.

Otherwise, let’s take a break, okay?

I know you’ll be checking up on me from the sidelines. You’re like my spotter—making sure I don’t sleep with people incompatible to my soul or speak words to puff up my ego at another’s expense.

However, for the most part Guilt, I’m good. I’ve got this. You can go.

You’re welcome to visit if I collude with Russians, sleep with subordinates, or kick my dog.

But for the days I don’t do yoga, post on my blog, or get my home perfectly organized—for these types of parties, you’re no longer invited. In fact, you’re banned.

I know you want to be helpful, Guilt. So, go help somebody else (maybe a politician).

From now on, I’m hanging with Peace. We’re becoming quite close.

So, see you around, Guilt. Best wishes. May you be of benefit elsewhere.

Thoughtfully,
Alice

How to Own Your Destiny.

“We have to stop waiting to wake up.” ~ Sarah Entrup  (Inspired by 30 Days of Meditation)

I am my destiny. When I came into my mother’s womb, I restored hope.

I radiate the fullest source of my being. I always was my destiny.

I float in a lavender bubble and sparkle from within whenever I let my light shine.

When I almost died as a baby, but didn’t, I showed the world resolve. Even the nurses were amazed; I had a remarkable destiny.

I learned to ride a bike, color, climb trees, play hide-n-seek, spend time alone, and write stories about this crazy, beautiful world. I was always my destiny.

I wrote stories about squirrels, stole money, and broke rules by ditching Camp Fire Girls. I got into trouble for living my destiny and being free—and I loved it!

Later, I attracted men and love and left them to be my destiny, not my karma or drama. I had sh*t to do!

In my last life, I learned the price of contorting myself and playing it safe. Now, I live into my destiny.

I’m health and nature and joy.

I’m bringing sexy back over and over as many times as I like.

It’s my destiny, like laughter, the woods, words, and even getting hurt. Those are my growth spurts!

I am my destiny. I’m not resistance or stuckness. I’m F*ck yes! and Hello, life!

I’m knocked down; get back up.

I’m: here’s what I learned when I was down there, in there, back there, over there. Now, I’m here.

What? You say I look different? I sound different? No, baby, I’m the same. I’ve always been my destiny.

I dance with my history and lineage. There are no limits, only gifts.

The opportunity to shine into the full line of me.

You thought I forgot who I was? Ha! I tricked you! Tricked myself, too!

But, I’m back to my destiny, twirling and swirling and smiling.

Through all my lifetimes, I’ve screamed delight flying on the swings with my sisters.

And lovers? Boy, have I been lucky!

This time, I experienced the legendary love I longed for in my last life—the one I gave up my life force for, back when I went dark.

I had to make a choice then with what I knew and the times I lived. That’s when and how I made a vow to my divine destiny.

The me that I kept hidden away behind the protocol of that time protects me now.

When I walk down yesterday’s path or slip into somebody else’s destiny, mine whispers, “Not that way, this way.” Suddenly, where I was once unsure, I’m certain.

I am my destiny, not my habits or quirks. That’s just personality.

I’m royalty walking as a commoner, kissing the sweet sunshine of freedom. Incog..neato!

I breathe deep. I do Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Destiny Dog.

I’m my destiny the way my Black Lab Phoenix is the full loving expression of herself without apology, pretense, defense, or need to analyze.

I know people need love, light, laughter, and listening. Hello, destiny arriving! No problem. Pure joy. No inconvenience. And if it is, I’ll tell you to get the f*ck out.

My destiny is not to be mean—even to myself. I’m kind and cool and lean into joy.

I let sadness flow through me when it comes, knowing it’s part of my destiny to fall and rise and realize new insights about myself and life.

This is my nature: to be transformed, shaped, and radiate today’s femininity.

Beyond definition. The divine feminine ignites birth, braves motherhood, raises people, owns beauty, and beholds grace. She makes way for messy blood and medicinal hugs.

Feminine spirit is raw, as destined as the apple seed to the apple.

She respects and dances with, but will never bow down to masculine musculature.

Because she’s not supposed to! That’s not her destiny.

That’s not my destiny. I am my destiny. My destiny is change and transcendence.

My destiny is growth, wisdom, and light. If we have to light this world on fire with hope and spirit and compassion combined with sisterly and motherly love, so be it.

We are here. This is our destiny.

We are the firefighters of our time.

We are willing to burn for better things.

We’ve been here all along. Oh, you just noticed? Well, welcome to the party.

Destiny is always on time, even when she’s late!

I am my destiny. I am words and footsteps, connections and creations.

I’m poetry and art, travel and speaking, books and teaching.

I’m as loud as hawks squawking, quiet as sunshine, and vibrant as a song called Life.

Destiny is as undeniable as the color purple, as heavy as gravity, and as well-designed as a hummingbird.

She is me and I am nature.

I smell of lavender and sway my hips like a front porch swing. I sell you truth smoother than Tennessee whiskey and make you forget time before you knew me.

I am destiny. I arrive with the current of the ocean and all the treasures within. You can pollute me, but never contain me.

I am my destiny. I am fulfillment.

I’m stories told for generations and values held by women around the world.

I’m education, expertise, respect, and truth.

I shall not yield. I need not fight. Watch me rise.

I am destiny. Unstoppable.

I storm in like winter and blossom like spring—just when you thought I was in the ground.

I am life. I am death. I am peace and anger. I am hope and happiness.

I’m the first time I roared down a dirt road alone on a four-wheeler, dust everywhere and a grin so big I caught bugs in my teeth.

Nothing you say matters, but I hear it all. Clearly. So clearly now.

I am destiny. I always have been.

 

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

“I want to express gratitude to all the millions of women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, Golden Globes Speech

Generations of American warrior women
Standing up for what’s right
Against tyranny and bullies
At the risk of…everything.

Things could go real bad real soon.
Or, we the people, could consent
To some sort of reset,
Like a ship off course.

Like adults.
Like Americans.
Like now.

How We Can Create a Respect Movement.

Will you meet me on The Respect, Compassion and Action Bridge in 2018?

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist…but when the law undertakes to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions… exclusive privileges to make the rich richer and the more potent more powerful, the humble members of society have a right to complain of the injustices of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evil exists only in its abuses.’ ~ President Andrew Jackson

Hello 2018,

We greet you with raw and ready hearts. 2017 challenged us.

For me, not like 2016 when my beloved died. That year almost broke me.

Still, I limped through most of 2017. Is it true for the collective? Are we all in this together?

What’s worse than being knocked down or crawling through the struggle is starting to believe stagnation, or even backsliding is normal.

When we get smacked down with too many triggers or linger too long in a season that’s meant to be temporary, grief becomes us.

Bombarded with too much danger, too much rhetoric, too much power wielded illegitimately and selfishly at the expense of people’s souls, too much fake patriotism, fake Christianity, and fake politicians leading us, we crave a break from what’s happening in our country and the world.

Sh*t! We almost want to watch fake reality shows!

This is us. This is our country, The United States of America. Acting divided.

Our 2017 experience included Mother Nature sweeping with her hurricane broom. She’s cleaning up. And we came together in times like that. Thank God.

Chaos. Catastrophe. Disaster. Scandal. Death. Lies. Corruption. Collusion.

All this made my personal grief feel minor next to the collective mourning over our country’s pandemonium.

But, hello 2018! Welcome to the shift.

Listen, we’re Americans. We’re stubborn. We’re independent. We don’t like to be told to come to the table; we like to be invited. And, we expect there to be food for all when we arrive.

See, we like things running smoothly. We want to believe in our justice and electoral systems. We prefer our Presidents act Presidential.

We want people to be treated with respect, dignity, fair pay, and opportunity to compete for the American dream—so we can focus on our own lives.

Yeah, we’re a little self-centered. We’re used to being entertained.

Things are changing. The 11th hour is upon us. We might be a little out of shape, but we won’t stay out of the big game. Not when it counts.

In 2018, we do not like greedy men manipulating our democracy.

We’re not British, but we Americans have a certain decorum.

It does not include crass and violent actions against women or crazy boys with bad hair banging drums for nuclear war.

In our hang-loose American society, we still care about the least among us.

Education, health care, environment are the seeds we sow for our children and our children’s children. These are the safety nets of civilized society.

Hey, we might be slow to the table, but don’t think just because you didn’t invite us, we won’t show up.

We go when we feel called. Truthfully, we didn’t think our voice was required. We thought we had systems in place. Geez, gosh! We never thought it would get this bad.

But, now you arrive and enliven us, 2018. Now, we hear the call.

To save our democracy, decency, decorum, respect and kindness. To restore the dignified character of our country.

Truth and advocacy.

We’re opening our eyes, thinking for ourselves, researching facts, and reaching a boiling point in our individual minds and hearts.

Collectively, we move toward the good. We consider our neighbors. We’re Americans, in the best sense of the word that some have tried to pervert.

There’s a shift, like when you’ve been dating the wrong guy and you’re trying to see the positive, but he keeps doing stupid things and so you’re in the in-between… until he crosses some nonnegotiable line you may not have even known you had.

Suddenly, it’s game on.

You stand up and speak truth. You remember who you are. This isn’t it.

Like when you’re searching for a new job before you’ve told anyone, and one day your lips tell your boss you quit. Scary. This is a time for reckoning.

Like when you start packing before you even know where you’re moving.

Taking in the ridiculous scenarios of 2017 packed our bags and mentally readied us to move. Forward. With the heavy baggage.

Or, for some of us, 2018 may slap us awake like the day I witnessed a teenage girl beating the crap out of another at the park across the street while other kids laughed, cheered, and videoed the fight on their phones.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing? I called the police,” I said, even though my leg shook like Elvis and in my panic I forgot to hit send after 911.

Our democracy is the girl being beaten. What’s going on is wrong. People are applauding. Others hide in our houses and pretend what we clearly see is not as bad as it is.

No more.

In 2018, we speak. We question. We consider. We make noise. We show compassion. We listen to what’s behind the rhetoric. We research.

We bring back a little thing called FACTS.

We avoid violence and name calling. We focus on shared values and ideals.

We find common ground on which to restore and strengthen our communities, society and country.

We’re not fools; we know there’s a lot of faking going on.

Let’s be real. We can create the kind of country that offers fulfillment for all.

Not prideful. Not egotistical. Not my-hands-are-bigger-than-your-hands charades.

What about a Respect Movement? Respect yourself. Respect your neighbors and fellow citizens. Fellow humans. You know, God’s children.

Kind of like Jesus did in the Bible, if you believe he was a good example. When the times called for it, like when religion was perverted and money was worshipped, that dude got mad!

Blind belief after the truth has frayed is ignorance waiting to be revealed.

We’re not blind. Now, we speak from our hearts and minds.

Profit isn’t the only bottom line. There’s a cost to pretense.

This moment in history can be the blip or this can be the blow-up. We’ve got to show up.

Let’s peak behind the curtain and see what’s behind the political reality show because we might just marry one of these fellows.

Do we respect these folks? Do we believe their words? Very few. Regardless, we, the people still regard the United States of America and our ideals.

Here’s a few words from THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE:

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed, that when any form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Those framers gave us the manual: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—not Power, Greed and Inequality.

This isn’t the beginning of our country and this isn’t Selma, but these growing pains call for courage.

I haven’t been as brave and actionable as I liked to believe I would’ve been if old enough during the intense 1960s.

See, my generation has enjoyed the good fortune of not having to be involved. We’ve been riding on the work of generations before us.

This isn’t about politics. It’s about civics. Doing our civic duties. Yep, all of us. We’re a family and we all have chores.

Let’s not let our American house and family go down in shambles.

Let’s not be the naïve child who believes her parents will never divorce, although she’s witnessed her family’s splintering all along.

We insist our children get an education. It’s not just to get a good paying job, is it? What have we learned? What were the lessons?

Civil rights. Vietnam. Suffragettes. Authoritarianism. Journalism. Voting Rights. Environmental Protections. Dictators. Authoritarian regimes. Rhetoric.

Gosh, what about the bomb on Nagasaki that was a baby compared to the ones we’ve created now?

Oh, please. The time is late, but it’s ours. It seems big, overwhelming. I know.

Let’s start small.

Let’s start with respect, the kind of self-respect that calls us to step up.

Respect is a bridge we can walk toward tomorrow.

Let’s do this.

 

What I Learned from Buying a Homeless Man Breakfast. #bloglikecrazy

What I Learned from Buying a Homeless Man Breakfast. #bloglikecrazy

“But we progressives have done our share of offending, in ways we sometimes don’t even realize are insulting.” ~ Van Jones, Beyond the Messy Truth

My sister had a work conference in Denver. I drove out from our home in Ohio with my dog Phoenix to meet her.

During the days, I wrote and took breaks to take my dog the four blocks to the patch of grass called a dog park.

On these walks, I saw an abundance of homeless people. Normally, when a privileged gal like me crosses paths with homeless souls, it’s a brief encounter.

Often, I’m going to a concert or play. I see sad eyes, a sign, or a request for help. I often give. I often don’t. I move on, back to my car and my comfortable home.

In this case, it was back to our Marriott Hotel room. My schedule and mind were open. I was on vacation!

I felt both guilty for making my dog stay on the 11th floor of a hotel and kind of giddy to see her riding elevators and indulging in city smells.

I felt safe with Phoenix’s 90-pound Black Lab body beside me. If alone, I might not have ventured out at all. Typically, I’m confident, but I wanted to be invisible to any danger, which I sensed in the city air.

Witnessing so many homeless people several times each day weighed on my heart. I felt helpless, but what could I do?

On day two, at a breakfast spot that allowed me to order at the door and wait outside with my dog, I doubled my order and asked for two bags.

I set out on a mission to give a hungry person the same delicious breakfast I indulged in. I asked God to lead me.

What about that guy across the street? I thought. Oh, poor guy. He doesn’t even have any shoes. Oh, wait, he’s got one shoe on.

Something happened to my body as I watched the man spread his toes and inject a needle between them. Heroine? I felt drenched in sadness. Some things are best left on TV.

Well, he’s not a candidate for the food. I felt defeated and walked back toward my hotel, still searching. There were some guys in a group who said hello as Phoenix and I walked through them.

As I neared the Marriott, I saw a man digging in the trash. As I approached, he moved on.

From behind his back, I hollered, “Hey, guy!”

He turned, as if he was in trouble. I said, “Are you hungry?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Here, I got you breakfast,” I said, handing him the bag.

He grinned the most beautiful smile a toothless man could.

Happiness. Relief. Gratitude. His. It all hit me like light from God.

Hours later, as I was leaving the hotel lobby, I grabbed a second cup of coffee. Off my dog and I went so she could practice crapping on a city sidewalk.

It wasn’t long before I saw another man digging in the trash. I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned with a defensive look of anger and shame.

“Do you want a cup of coffee?” I asked, as I held the cup out to him.

Relief. Humility. Grace. He nodded and took it. I moved on.

A few yards away, another man stopped me and said, “I saw what you did. That was really nice of you.”

“It’s the least I could do,” I said.

I didn’t expect to be noticed, but neither did the guy digging in the trash.

Shouldn’t we notice each other? We look away, not because we don’t care, but because it feels overwhelming.

Yes, I did something nice.

To give to someone in need, scrounging for the basics you and I take for granted, is a tremendous high.

Because I slowed down and looked, one simple act entered my mind and was easily delivered.

Sadness seeped into my soul as I tried to imagine being homeless and hungry.

I’ve actually never been hungry—not like that. Not where I’d abandon my pride and dig for something to eat with people watching. That’s hunger.

I’ve rarely gone hours on any morning without a cup of hot delicious coffee. It’s a little thing, my morning routine.

How lucky am I?

On my last morning there, the table in the lobby was loaded with pastries. As Phoenix and I headed for the dog patch, which happened to be where a group of homeless folks hung out, I loaded up what I could carry, stuffing coffee cups with croissants and Danishes to feed my new addiction.

I saw a few young men huddled in a group. I thought they were homeless, but I was afraid to go up to them directly and I didn’t want to be insulting.

So, I set the cups of croissants and coffees next to a light post, tried to make eye contact with one of the guys, pointed to the cups and then at him to convey my message.

I turned and headed back to my easy life.

I tried not to turn to look back to see if they’d gone for it and for the brief second I did I saw no movement. Eyes forward, I told myself.

Even if that guy didn’t grab it, whoever was meant to find it would.

No, it wasn’t as fun as the face-to-face light show, but I felt good.

I felt good, doing something little. Of course, the problem is bigger than me, breakfast, or a cup of coffee.

I was on vacation. I’d get in my car, travel on, and head home to my comfortable life with a soft bed and warm coffee to greet my mornings.

But, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that toothless smile.

 

How Grief Helps Us Grow. #bloglikecrazy

“Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.” ~ Wikipedia

Grief is a truth teller when we like to believe the lies.

Grief slays us from our easy chair and smiles at our idea of control.

I thought her evil, pointing out my deficiencies, even stealing joy and freedom.

Grief speaks the loudest at funerals, but that’s not the only place her voice is heard.

She whispers throughout our lives and we resist her presence repeatedly.

She says: He’s got another woman (when he does). Your mom has cancer and will likely die. (Sometimes grief sounds like a doctor.) Your parents are divorcing. You hate this job. You’re going to lose the house. The doctors had to cut off his foot. He’s unresponsive.

We think grief is the b*tch, but she’s more like my new stepmom when I was a teenager: introducing rules which felt restrictive, but showed me what it meant to be a family.

Grief is strong and no doubt she can be harsh, but she’s loving.

She’s like the junior high school teacher who made my brother read in front of the class. Except Bill couldn’t read; so he slapped her.

That teacher revealed a truth my brother had been denying.

That’s the kind of teacher grief is—willing to be hated, even abused, in order to remove the mask.

A friend of mine told me he was sexually abused, by more than one person, starting at age five. He told me he doesn’t feel sad or angry. He says it didn’t affect him. In fact, he’s fine.

I recognize that mask. It’s the I’m okay mask.

I wore it for almost a decade after I was raped. I not only denied the pain, but avoided it entirely (actually how denial works).

I thought I was brave. I thought I was strong. I thought I was fine.

Actually, I didn’t think much about that night at all.

It wasn’t a #metoo campaign that made me face my pain.

A qualified therapist knew it takes more than just listening to a client like me paint pretty pictures so she feels better.

This therapist encouraged me to take off my I’m fine mask, look at the truth, and allow the tears to break where my trust had been violated.

She helped me face what I hadn’t known how to. And to move past it.

It’s not only the experiences we want to avoid; it’s the grief.

Grief says, “Yes, you were raped.”

What a b*tch. What a truth teller.

It takes courage to face our pain. That’s why so many women don’t come forward until years later, if at all. It’s easier to deny.

Our ego convinces us to be “strong” and in doing so, we often end up lying to ourselves through minimizing.

I have friends whose fathers left them or never showed up when they were kids. For years I’ve watched them dismiss the impact of an event like that.

Then, as adults when they get conscious and courageous, they can cry in the arms of grief. It’s the beginning of releasing that mask they all but glued on their beautiful faces.

When they finally take off the mask and let the grief in, the light comes. too.

When we face people’s (including our own) imperfections, manipulations, and violations, at first we’re hit with grief. But then, we’re set free.

We’re no longer captive to the actions of others. That’s why society applauds so many women and men coming out of the shadows and saying #metoo.

We’re witnessing their individual healing and society’s collective awakening.

We minimize our pain not because we’re strong or brave, but because on some level, we believe the grief could devour us.

She won’t. She waits like a patient parent or teacher. She helps us remove our I’m fine mask and the illusion of being in control.

Grief invites us to lay our hurt and humanity at her feet.

She holds us in our raw pain.

Then, like my stepmother and my brother’s teacher, grief helps us grow into more conscious and compassionate human beings.