How Good News Ignites Us.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8

Our family received some lovely news yesterday. It’s not mine to share, but I can tell you joy rose in me like it does in a child at Christmas.

We seek to grab the good, get on our mats and stretch into it, get on our knees and pray it in, work, affirm… It all helps.

Nothing like Kundalini, but that’s just crazy me.

Yesterday reminds me: Sometimes the best gift someone can give is their own good news.

Joy over another’s fortune is as pure as music that moves us.

With the announcement, I felt surrounded by our families’ ancestral lines smiling and celebrating. Happiness fell on us like confetti.

These days, we need good news to compensate for our outrageous political and chaotic social climate, and the bombardment of media and technology we’re addicted to.

As a female citizen in the United (now acting divided) States of America, it’s my civic duty to pay attention to the occurring conversations and decisions affecting us culturally, while aligning my activist inclinations with truth, compassion, and action.

There’s an allegiant mindset determined to fix our problems. First, we must face them. Yuck!

Recently, a girlfriend said, “I don’t watch the news. I like to stay positive.”

That’s how I felt in my 20s and 30s. I suppose some people weren’t rivetted to the news as Watergate unfolded, either.

In our 50s, in these #metoo times, women (and men) can’t afford to go back to sleep. And the young people are showing up fully awake.

I don’t want to be the person who isn’t paying attention while history is making a solid mark on humanity.

For decades, through helping myself to personal growth and positive thinking, I learned the art of positive denial.

I rode it like a skateboard. Then, I crashed and came face-to-face with all I’d refused to look at.

Positive denial is still denial.

Now, I’m into facing life head on, because I may not have time to circle back to see what I left under the bed.

There’s a balance, isn’t there? In previous scenes in my life, I practiced playing Pollyanna, but I’m not her.

I like being educated and informed, and yet information, understanding, and truth-seeking can be heavy.

Oh, but that good news! It ran through my blood like a happy drug. I want more.

In turbulent times, joy still dances.

People fall in love, get married, and have babies. Promotions are granted, new jobs landed, homes purchased, and travels taken.

Sometimes, when we talk about our own joys, it feels like bragging. Sometimes, I hold back–as if my joy diminishes another’s or dismisses their pain.

We must share our good news—in spite of and because of the personal and collective challenges of our times, which we must face with courage and character.

Although serious, let’s not be joyless. Let’s share good news like juicy gossip.

The #MeToo Movement and The Cost of Keeping Quiet.

I am my mother’s daughter, as she was her mother’s daughter. In an age when women stayed home, my grandmother took nontraditional jobs like welding.

My mom embodied the fight for women’s rights. She also believed education to be the great equalizer. When I was in elementary school, my mom earned her master’s. While I entered college, she completed her PhD. Her checks read Dr. Sandra D. K. Kelley.

She could shred me with one look of disappointment and shoot me into unwavering determination with five words: “Honey, you can do it.”

I rose as a national sales trainer just as she lost her job. We lived together in Denver while I travelled for work. She made sure I got to the airport on time and picked me up when I flew in. She took my car in to get the oil changed, ran untold errands, and made the mundane easy for me.

My mom set aside her pride and took jobs that were beneath her, like doing administrative duties on an oil tanker and selling encyclopedias.

Sandra Kelley was a woman warrior, but even warriors succumb to cancer. She died on April 28, 1995 at age 56.

For years, I danced for the affections of a woman now gone from this world.

It took me decades to see what my mother sacrificed in the name of women’s rights: her femininity. She couldn’t afford vulnerability. All that pushing down of emotions—propelling forward when two marriages fell apart and her only son died—ravaged her on the inside.

In many ways, I’ve marched behind my mother—two marriages in my wake, a couple of degrees earned late, and grief that threatened my desire to fulfill my destiny.

I carry my mother’s strength and I’m meant to be, do, and own more. Be more at peace in my own skin. Do what’s right for me, not just to prove my power. Own my feelings and truth.

Own this moment in history—mine and the collective. We’re our mothers’ daughters, but we’re so much more.

A friend of mine told me her mother wasn’t on the front lines of the fight for women’s rights. In fact, she advocated for no change and thought women like my mom were insane for trying to shake things up, jeopardizing the sweet position her mother held at home with the kids. She loved being a housewife. What?

I’d never considered that mindset. I didn’t know this friend when I was a child in the 70s.

I believed every woman felt the calling to rise out of her current circumstances.

I also couldn’t fathom that my friend’s mother would feed her scraps of judgement on homosexuality and therefore invite my friend to hide hers—even from herself—until her mid-30s.

We’re our mother’s daughters, but we’re not our mothers.

Every movement, every step of progress, brings challenge.

To compete with and find our place in the workforce dominated by men, we often became like them, never letting them see us sweat or struggle or cry.

That “never send a boy to do a man’s job; send a woman” still implied the job belonged to the man.

We’ve journeyed far enough down the historical line to prove a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be and works her way into.

However, along the way—maybe as backlash to the women’s movement or maybe a salute to Disney’s influence—little girls weren’t told they could be President or queen, but that they were princesses. Pink became the perpetual color of a generation of women who could be my daughters.

Too many either didn’t know or forgot the lessons of our mothers. I heard young women in my own family laughing off flirting bosses and other men who were clearly crossing the line.

I know educated women in their 30s and 40s who chose to vote with their husbands and invested less time researching issues and candidates than researching their next vacation or home decorations. Because their husbands knew better?

Use it or lose it applies to our voices and our votes. Just because you showed up doesn’t mean you voted your conscience or what’s good for your kids, especially your daughters.

The Me Too Movement was born after we individually and collectively tried to brave the worst of circumstances.

Here’s the sickest truth I know: the man who raped me likely raped my mother.

I can’t prove it and since she’s deceased I can’t ask her, but I’ve never seen my mother shaken like I did after the night she went out with him.

She was a woman warrior—the kind who would’ve sworn before that she would make sure a rapist would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Many years prior, she’d won a discrimination law suit in my hometown when a less qualified man was hired into a job she’d applied for with the school system.

In 1988, I continued a friendship with my manager and continued working for him after the night I tried to forget—the night he raped me.

Shortly after my brother died on December 10, 1989, this man—let’s call him Dick—called my mother’s house to speak to me and ended up talking to my mother for over an hour.

I didn’t know then, but I can see it now. Dick began grooming my mom in the way a career criminal and master manipulator grooms a grown woman who’s fresh into the storm of grief over the death of her only son.

I can’t go on with that story because even now I want to deny what I know is true—how my trying to be strong was wrong.

I did my best. Still, I think: what have I done?

What have we done? Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too.

Men are the culprits (typically), but have we, at times, been complicit by keeping quiet?

No longer. This is our time. I applaud Andrea Constand, Victoria Valentino, Ashley Judd, Dr. Ford, and too many others who share all-too-familiar stories.

Every voice matters because truth matters.

Because Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby, and other men who abuse their power can’t be taken down by just a few women.

However, the collective rising is a mighty force.

We’re feminine and fierce. We’re vulnerable and strong.

This is our time. We collectively call out the BS so the Me Too Movement can move us into honest, challenging, and courageous conversations that pave the path forward.

Now, we’ll scream if we must. We will be heard. The daughters of future generations will be treated with respect and dignity.

Women have the power to change society. Like the women who came before and the women who came before them.

We say Me Too. We call BS. Enough. Times up.

No more princesses. Now, we rise as warriors and queens.

 

(#2) Dear New Man.

“Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.” ~ Leo Tolstoy 

(#2) Dear New Man,   

I’m sorry to tell you, but whatever you do, you’ll fall short. Not because there’s anything less about you, but because my broken heart insists on comparing you to my deceased beloved.

With him, sacred love sweetened my everyday into ecstasy and then, in a blink, I was brought back to normalcy.

To you, Kevin is a name, a man who loved me, someone who died and left his mark on my life.

To me, he’s everything. Still. It’s unfair. It’s wrong.

He was the most right thing in my entire life—not just in hindsight, but while we lived our love and relished each other.

He proved the reward for my fortitude. He ignited my authenticity, welcomed my weirdness, and still encourages my joy, happiness and success, wherever I may find it.

I can’t stop looking in the rearview mirror. I ache for yesterday.

I strive to move forward with you, New Man. I see your character and kindness. I’m awed by your congruency.

I yearn to feel with you the way I felt with him. I only know I can’t force it.

Damn, if it doesn’t hurt that you’re like a dessert after a delightful meal, but I can’t taste a thing.

I have a friend whose taste buds have gone awry after her sister’s death. Maybe my feel buds have gone numb.

I try to put myself in your position and imagine how you feel. I think I’d be gone. Part of me wants to say it’s your own damn fault if you stay, but please don’t go.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, what I offer you. Only truth. It’s all I have.

The truth is I don’t trust my feelings and sometimes what I feel is nothing.

I see you. You’re here. I’d like to celebrate. Lucky me.

Instead, I contemplate. I try to remember my resistance to Kevin in the early days, but our early days came decades into our friendship after dozens of phone calls and a history of conversations.

When he called to tell me his mother died, he cried his vulnerability into me and I drank it full.

I called him on road trips. There were many between the time I left my ex-husband and after I landed in Ohio to live with my sister. Kevin and I talked about divorce and death, his ex-wife and current girlfriend, the guy I was seeing at that time, and how our lives had changed since the early days back in Champaign, IL when our friendship formed, in spite of me.

I took Kevin for granted for 20 years. I don’t want to do that again—to anyone.

However, as I did then, I must trust my gut. I only know that I’ll know when I know. Right now, I don’t know much.

Maybe the resistance isn’t about my deceased boyfriend, any more than it was about my sister or the distance with Kevin.

Maybe it’s just my nature. Maybe you and I don’t have a future. Maybe we do.

Right now, all I know is you’re the new man and I’m still undeniably in love with the old one.

He may have died, but my love for him didn’t. People tell me to stop looking back, but that’s like telling a girl at the beach to stop watching the waves.

Yesterday blocks my view. Yesterday also taught me we can’t imagine the packages love will arrive in.

So, I remain open to surprise. I’ve always found it by feeling my way.

If you choose to go on yours, I get it. This is new to you, too—building a relationship with a woman who’s in love with another man, a dead one.

Oh, New Man, I feel for you. That’s compassion. I care for you. That’s appreciation and gratitude.

Still, every time I go to unfold the map to my heart, it points to yesterday. Where there lies a sacred love that was blown out like a candle in the dark.

The only thing I can swear is I’m looking for light.

 

 

Let’s Restore Peace to the Playground of Life.

“When we turn on light, darkness disappears.” ~ Marianne Williamson

We want black and white, good and bad, light and dark. We want to choose sides, draw lines and know we’re right—in the church we’ve chosen, the political party we’re affiliated with, and the side of the law “our” people are on, as if DNA hasn’t exonerated hundreds of falsely convicted.

It takes courage to examine the gray.

Personally, I like to draw a line and call Donald Trump the devil. Maybe, but maybe he’s the wake-up call our society has served itself. Maybe there’s some good there.

That thought is quite a stretch for me, but I actually like trying to understand, even when I disagree with other sides. I’m curious how people come to their conclusions.

While I’m a thousand miles from sharing certain ideologies, I can sometimes see, stretching into openness, how someone arrived. Sometimes I can imagine maybe if I was born to those parents, with that DNA and raised in those circumstances, with their challenges (or wealth and opportunities), I might conclude things that given my particular path I can’t fathom.

Curiosity is a start. Not just what do you believe, but how did you get there?

Maybe if I understand another’s journey, I can simply honor—for them—the seductiveness of a philosophy that’s foreign to me.

And yet, this consideration scares me, due to the rhetoric and bullsh*t I like believe I’m immune to. How many of us like to think I’m smarter than that?

Well, I’ve seen intelligent women fall for deceiving men (and vice versa), smart businesspeople fail, and good family members and friends vote for a charlatan.

I myself have been manipulated, multiple times. Then, I awoke.

Things I believed in my 20s and 30s no longer serve me. That doesn’t mean I was wrong. I was on my path.

Maybe that’s the best I can do—respect each has a path and invite light on mine. What I can’t do is become so understanding of darkness I go there.

I cannot condone hate. I cannot stand idle to the fall of our democracy, to mistreatment of children, animals or marginalized groups.

But, maybe I can say, “Yes, I see you there” because people want to be seen. I see you in your darkness. I won’t make you defend it.

I hope and pray with everything I’ve got that I may shine light. Not me alone, but together with other women and men walking in the light.

The truth is I’m afraid of the dark: violence, anger, hatred, judgement, self-righteousness. Screaming is enough to shake my soul. I’m a peaceful warrior.

For so long, I’ve been walking the path of peace and believing that was enough. Now, it’s time to awaken the warrior and spread the light.

I’m little in a sea of opposing forces. But, still I swim here. I live here. I love here. Collectively, I’m part of a new path. I’m walking in spite of my fear.

Why show up at all? For one, I have a beautiful little niece named Madeline who’s dancing in the light of childhood and innocence. Life will teach her many hard things. My hope is she doesn’t have to grow up into a world welcoming her with proof that darkness prevails.

Second, my mother fought for women’s rights. I witnessed that fight and naively believed it had been mostly won. No, the baton has been passed. I’m called to continue.

Third, my stepmom marched for civil rights. Doesn’t the name say it all? What happened to civility?

We, as a country, have turned cruel. We’re not embodying the basic principles most parents teach their children—kindness, fairness, decency, respect, showing up, not being bullies.

My God, I saw a group of middle-aged adults engaging in fist fights at their children’s high school graduation, over someone saving seats. Really?!

This is the playground of life. Some swing on the swings happily oblivious.

But, there’s a bully beating others to a pulp while a crowd chants, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” Someone runs to tell a teacher/leader, but they don’t want to jeopardize their comfort. So, they hang in the lounge pretending not to hear.

We must walk through the crowd of instigators and pull the bully off our democracy. We must say: Stop. That’s enough.

We don’t care who threw the first punch. We care about stopping the fight and restoring peace to the playground.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Or is it?

A New Language

Speak to me, entities
Beyond the clouds and trees,
Those who live in the other
Room and alternate realm.
I yearn to learn
Your language.
Whisper secrets
Into my soul.
Shout truth beyond
The human struggle.
Help me dance my
Days on earth, and
Be of benefit
Where I can.
Show me color
In darkness,
Life in death,
Humor in seriousness.
Overcome me. Overwhelm me.
Rearrange me. Introduce me.
To light. Sway me like
The ocean waves. Take me
Under. Throw me into new
Waters. Tumble my yesterdays
Into something that shimmers.
Let me see anew.
Limitations be gone.
Expectations expire.
Hope renews.
Mind ignites.
Body moves with grace.
Gratitude seeps from
My very being.
I am here. I am there.
I am aware and willing,
Open, steady, rocking my
Way into something more.
No plan. No demand.
Soaring like an eagle.
Unquestioning.
Prevailing.

 

Grief is my Advantage.

Dear New Man,

If you want to be with me in this chapter of my life, it’s a package deal. Some women have children. A man needs to know that going in.

Well, know this about me. I have a boyfriend; he just happens to be dead.

If you tell me to put the past in the past, you communicate a lack understanding and compassion for the depth of my love, the richness of my relationship that was ripped away from me, or the ongoing agony of grief.

Maybe you’ve been dealt the death of loved ones, too. So had I before I lost my beloved. I’d experienced the deaths of my brother, mother, and brother-in-law. This is different.

Maybe you’ve been in love before. I, too have been blessed with that heart-expanding experience a handful of times, including two marriages.

However, the kind of relationship I craved to create out of each of those previous relationships never came to pass.

Until Kevin. As I neared 50, I found everything I’d been looking for.

Not that he was perfect. And I was the other part of the equation. So, you know, not perfect.

Yet, somehow we shaped a world in which the two of us danced free, passionate, happy, open and engaged.

That relationship continues. He’s the Fire inside me that never goes out.

Some people think it rude to talk about previous partners once you’re with a new one. I say, until someone can convince me of the benefit of holding back, I’ll continue speaking Kevin’s name.

If you listen, you’ll hear my soul speak, loud and proud and feminine.

If you want to fall for me, take all of me.

Grief isn’t my baggage; it’s my advantage.

See, I’ve inhabited that space where wondrous, life-enhancing love exists. So, I know I can go there again. I just can’t tell you when, how, or if it will be with you. There’s much I don’t know.

I see you standing before me, saying you want to walk with me. It may be a hard road for you, as it may never be just us two.

Kevin is my constant, still. He’s the music in songs, the flavor in foods, and my mind reels with memory like the ticker tape running across the bottom of the TV screen.

Here’s the breaking news: I have no desire to dismiss my past.

The reality that I’m with another man—any other man—feels foreign to me.

It’s not that I feel I’m cheating on my beloved. It’s that a part of my heart lives outside this world and a part of Kevin’s remains in me.

It’s—to quote Glennon Doyle Melton—a brutiful thing. You can wish the brutal away or deny its existence. You can even disappear for fear you can’t compete with a dead man.

Trust me, there’s no competition. And no, I didn’t put him on a pedestal in the aftermath. I rose into love like a bird swoops on the wind.

Better than fantasy. it was my reality.

Good. Pure. Right. Until his lights went out. Out of this world.

You tell me not to dim the lights on us because of my past. I refuse to pretend to feel any more or less than I do.

How dare you accuse me of wallowing? Oh, not that you did, but that’s how it feels when you seem to insist I’m letting my past get in your way.

I honor my grief and if you respect me and want to get me, you will too.

You’ll understand Kevin’s love for me is an essential ingredient that goes into making me the woman you want to make yours.

Here’s the cool thing about my boyfriend being dead: I can take on another man if I choose. I can take on you.

I can take your hand and your kiss. We can date and I can appreciate your presence, even while missing him every single day.

A while ago, I would’ve told you I miss him every moment. So, progress!

It’s like this. When I was in junior high, my friend’s dog bit me on my face. I was rushed to the hospital for stitches. It left a scar on my lip, one which people felt compelled to comment on for years.

A boss once assured me I could get my scar fixed by a superb surgeon. When he saw me wince, he tried to convince me it was hardly noticeable.

As if I didn’t see my scar every time I looked in the mirror. As if I couldn’t see people staring and suppressing the question: What happened?

Now, it’s been decades and people rarely ask this adult woman, What happened to your face?

This happened: I got hurt. It left a scar on my lip, just as Kevin’s death left a scar on my heart.

Do you know scar tissue is stronger than the original skin?

I think Kevin knew. Only one scar shows on my body, but Kevin loved them all. By doing this, he made way for me to love what I once considered my inadequacies. He insisted they were all a part of the ICE (his nickname for me) package—unique and beautiful.

His love opened the door for me to be more of who I am.

I’m the woman who you, new man, now claim to want. And yet, you want me to close that door?

Not happening. I’m still healing. The scar forming on my heart doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be seen.

If you really believe I’m the one for you, see my scars. See the pain, but look for the beauty.

This scar sews together the seam between where I got hurt and where I need to be loved.
My dead boyfriend isn’t an obstacle or a hurdle to leap. He’s not your competition. He doesn’t stand in the way of anything you and I might create.

My grief is a gate.

It opens to all of me—my wisdom, resilience and feminine essence. It lives in my heart. Do you have the courage to go there?

I promise only this. I offer you no less than my real self, the scar upon my broken heart and the sagacity born from my soul’s searching.

So new man, don’t be afraid of what happened to me yesterday. Lean in. Love my scars.

 

Behind the Mask

I wish to rip off your mask and talk deep with ease.

If you wish to know me, see me. If you wish to see me, look beyond the maintained by the manmade.

If you wish to make your way into my heart, open yours. I’ll look past your label, your name, and my subconscious assumptions I’d rather deny.

Please don’t put me on a pedestal unless your destination is disappointment.

I won’t dismiss you—today, but don’t book your expectations on me. I offer you no promises and tell you I’ve broken plenty in the past.

I promised forever and failed—twice.

I’ve also lived in the moment and given full-on, exercised-in-delight love.

I’ve changed men. Some woke up and others shattered.

With men, I’ve both expanded and become completely undone.

I’m the phoenix. I fly into the fire and come out transformed.

That’s why I leaped off a 50-foot telephone pole and walked across 40-feet of hot burning coals. Metamorphosis is what I do.

It’s my chosen path even when I attempt to avoid it, which I do less and less as I age. I welcome change because it’s coming.

I’d like to invite you with me, but I don’t know how long your destiny is meant to intertwine with mine.

Some main characters of yesterday are no longer on the page.

This isn’t a novel. I’m the author of this true story.

I have a say, but how many actors and factors come into play in a life? Prediction seems preposterous.

I’m a risk taker, but today I cling to certainties.

You’re on my path. That’s all I know.

I want to know more. I want to know: who flung those arrows into your heart, how did you escape the pain, and what have you learned about walking in this world? How did you learn to sing and what drives you to get up in the morning?

I want to know the answers below the answers. I yearn for soul connection.

It starts with the eyes. Yet, sometimes I turn away from yours. It’s the intimacy I crave colliding with my protection mechanisms.

I want to ask, why are you still here? And, thank God you’re still here.

Yet, I look away. I look away? Forgive me.

I’m afraid of the unknown, disappointing one more man, and death—yours—even though I don’t know you that well yet.

Only beyond words. From that other lifetime where we meant something to each other that’s been carried over here—in coincidences, synchronicities, habits, and conversational patterns.

So, lean in and tell me the color of my eyes; I’ve forgotten.

Maybe I need to go to the mirror before I can meet you where you are.

I wish to know you, to see you. I wish to rip off your mask and talk deep with ease.

See, I’ve got a thousand hopes, but today, I only offer you my hand.