How to Find Your Way out of the Valley.

“So, it will come to pass for all of us—for all couples who stay with each other in love—that someday… one of us will carry the shovel and lantern on behalf of the other.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed

You’re strong. You’ve seduced Hope and slept with Faith.
You carry compassion across your body like a bullet-proof vest.    You’re a woman who loves fuller because you’ve lost.

When your earth splits, you strengthen every muscle,
So as not to fall into the pit of desperation.
You balance yourself, on all fours if you must.

You invest in people and experiences,
Recognizing the impermanence and
Declaring gifts in the midst of grief.

Against your will, you know
You’ve grown more authentic,
Wise, and alive in the aftermath.

You think back to your selfish, smart-*ss, 20-something self: invincible.
Until your brother’s car accident that made him leave the life he
Partied, worked, and loved his way through for 27 years.

Now, you’d live for two.
You’d put the joy back in your mother’s eyes.
Oh, the yearning for yesterday’s light!

I’ll learn from this, you said, as if
That could prevent repeating
The lesson: Live! Love!

You were living large and loving your
Mom well when cancer kicked her *ss and
You saw the strongest woman you knew fall.

You stood taller.
You made better choices.
You even got comfortable again.

Before life’s forces shook you
To the core, emptying you of
Possessions and identifying labels.

Once again, you were free
To fall. Or celebrate and
Recreate your life.

You did. You found your
Purpose in a pen and your
Power in an ever-expanding heart.

You even danced in sacred love—
You allowed it to capture you and
You’d never been so thrilled

To submit to its forces.
It felt like flying. Like
You’d earned your wings.

CLIP!

Like that. Your beloved’s death
Slammed you into the valley
And you began to crawl again.

Deeper love. Deeper valley. Deeper woman.
Wiser. More understanding.
Humble and fierce. Transformed.

Maybe you’re the clay and
God’s the potter and the
Punches shape you for the better.

You may not love life’s forces, but you honor
The evidence of metamorphosis in the eyes of
Those who’ve walked through grief’s valley.

No, you’re not clay. You’re free will.
You choose to merge with the mystery and
Some magic manifesting the new you—again.

 

 

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.

 

How I Regained my Mermaid Status.

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” ~ Anais Nin

When my boyfriend Kevin died suddenly in his sleep from an unanticipated heart attack, I was like F*k all the positive thinking, healthy eating, personal growth crap! In fact, f*ck everything!

Kevin wasn’t a positive spin guy. But, he was a work hard, party hard, turn up the music, laugh out loud, storytelling, lovemaking fool for the juice of life.

He wasn’t a health fanatic, but he was a rebel.

So, when diabetes, cancer, and the long arm of the law tried to take him down, kick his ass, and reduce his freedom, Kevin, aka the Fire! revolted by coloring vibrant and audacious within the lines.

He worked out most mornings. He took me to his gym to meet his hot female trainer. Like, “Here, Icey (what he called me), come look around the corner and see me. There’s no reason to get jealous.” It was a cool gesture.

Kevin worked out and ate better for his health, but his motivation tuned up as we became Fire & Ice (as in Vanilla Ice and “Ice, Ice, Baby”—not because I was cold, though I could be.)

I turned up the heat in my life, too.

Because great relationships generate synergy. Isn’t that the purpose?

When our Fire & Ice synergy spun as smooth as a Ferris Wheel glides, when we were on top, holding hands, smiling like kids eating cotton candy, awash in peace, tickled by embracing all the world’s sparkles and the rightness of the moment, the ride shut down.

Like a curtain lowered, my life’s lights darkened the moment I learned Kevin left this world.

A crowd hustled, bustled, and moved noisily on the ground, but I was stuck up there, at the top, in the dark, solo in a car made for two.

I wanted to rock my way out, climb down, scream for help, and cry for Kevin. And my mom who died decades ago.

I didn’t want to get off the ride. I wanted the lights back on! I wanted my favorite person by my side.

Maybe that’s why our ride never stops.

Kevin and I were friends for two decades.

Then, we grew into our friendship on a whole new level.

Later, as lovers, we swam to the deepest levels in the sea of intimacy.

He dove in seeking treasure. I enchanted him like a mermaid.

I could go on with the metaphors, and we could swim in a few clichés, but the diver’s oxygen ran out.

There are innumerable ways to tell our story and I choose the meaning I make from it.

People die—even in the midst of a groovy love affair.

People who work out and eat healthy can be convinced to try a pharmaceutical that’s fine for 90% of the people who take it—and be the one it kills.

Life. Reality. Unfairness. Sadness.

Such wretched grief I thought it would eat me.

Then, I swam to shore. Finally, I stood and walked barefoot through time.

Although the diver no longer breathes air, my Fire still walks the sandy shores and swims the sparkly seas by my side.

I’m still a mermaid. And, I’ve still got the treasure.

 

Angel of Grief

“I now realize the Angel of Death would have to be God’s most tender and understanding angel, to be sent at such a significant, frightening moment.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Tried to hide in busyness,
Attempted to invite you in
At the appointed time, even
Determined to be done with you.

Until slapped straight.
You’re in control.

You’re not the minute
I thought you’d be,
Or the obstacle
I strived to surmount.

You’re not a season, like winter,
I thought I’d come to peace with.
You cannot be defined,
By me or others.

More than a visitor, as
Inappropriate as a stranger’s touch,
Deeper, you reach inside me
To places I hardly recognize.

Yet, you and I have been intimate
Many times over the years;
I find myself leaning into you,
Welcoming you to do

What you will with me.
You smash collisions of
Untouchable memories
Causing untold ache.

But, still…
Every breath with you
Conscious, clear, alive,
Trivial cannot touch me.

On my knees and
Simultaneously
Standing tall
Angel of Grief, you are not the Devil.

 

December 10th

Oh, December 10th,
Why must you stalk me like a bitter ex-lover?
I don’t want to remember you, to think of you,
To imagine how things could have been different
To reminisce and fantasize hurts too much
But here you are again,
Ringing the doorbell of my heart
Don’t you understand?
I have a new life now; I am happy.
We had our time. Let go.
But, still you cling and make me
Go back to when we were together,
Our phone calls, when
My brother’s car crash was fatal
And my mother’s diagnosis was cancer
Oh, December 10,
Why must you stalk me
Year after year?

Here’s Why Some Women Don’t Say Anything for Years.

 

“Denial: refusal to face unpleasant facts. PSYCHOLOGY a state of refusal or inability to recognize and deal with a serious personal problem.” ~ Encarta

There seems to be a commonly held belief that if someone is bothered or hurt, they’ll say so—to the person.

The flip side of that is when people—women, in particular—speak up about how they feel, they’re assertions are dismissed or disbelieved.

Or, women can be branded as b*tches or drama queens.

Add in our societal pressure to be rugged individuals, rise to the top, and “never let them see you sweat” (or cry).

Now, can we consider the multitude of simultaneous mental, emotional, psychological, career and family pressures a woman juggles after facing sexual harassment or assault as the answer to, “Well, if it really happened, why didn’t she say anything?”

Listen, saying something or going to the police may be the right thing, but that doesn’t make it the easy thing.

When I was 24-years old, my boss raped me.

As I wrote the previous sentence, I was tempted to write I was raped by my boss because we passively language around this subject.

Let me rephrase: My boss violently raped me.

I was just 24-years old. I was ambitious. Twenty-four hours before, I would’ve called him my friend. Twenty-four hours after, I still did.

That’s the power of denial. Some things we don’t want to tell ourselves.

Back then, no one would’ve called me weak or timid. Loud-mouthed and feisty would’ve been more likely.

So, who did I tell when my boss raped me? No one.

Not my live-in boyfriend who later became my husband. Not my co-workers. Not my friends. Not my rapist’s wife. Not my brother, sister or parents.

Not even myself.

It wasn’t some repressed memory that unearthed itself during the #metoo campaign.

I was raped. I dealt with it by denying the horrific event.

Denial is complicated. Denial is the bridge on which rapists and victims sometimes meet.

I may be wrong, but I doubt most perpetrators tell themselves, “Ha! I raped her and got away with it!” or, “You can just grab her by the…”

Oh, wait. I guess some do.

Some men rationalize and try to normalize their animalistic behavior.

Yet, you have trouble believing the victims?

Men like Cosby, Weinstein and Trump walk convincingly through the world. They first convince themselves they’ve done nothing wrong.

After my boss/friend (frenemy wasn’t a term yet) raped me, he said, “You know you wanted it. You’ve been coming on to me since we first met.”

No. And no. And even if I had, I would not have wanted to be raped.

But, I didn’t respond when he said that.

He raped me of my words. He raped me of my trust.

The following morning, I vowed he wouldn’t rape me of my career.

That was 29 years ago. I wasn’t an actress and he wasn’t famous.

I could’ve gotten another job, but I had my heart set on that company.

I didn’t think about how I could destroy his life and career. I thought about what the truth might do to his wife and sons.

You can call me weak.

I used my bravado to stand up and move forward—because I didn’t know what else to do.

Standing on the outside, things look clearer.

I didn’t want to be raped. I pretended I wasn’t because I think dealing with it at the time would’ve broken me.

It took a decade of denial and a skilled therapist to help me face the reality.

Denial is a protection mechanism. It’s not a conscious decision. It’s an instinct, the way the human brain is wired and often deals with trauma.

I wonder if it’s that instinct which allows perpetrators to face themselves in the mirror.

For, if a man (or woman) truly acknowledged and understood the pain he inflicted, his heart would taste the bitter, vulgar shame we victims try to spit out or be released from.

Sexual harassment, abuse, violation, and rape are shameful acts. For years, this has been true for victims.

Hallelujah to the men who are now being called upon to account for their heinous actions and stand in their own dark shadows: accountable, ashamed, and regretful.

They’re the only ones who know the true measure their sincerity, but I salute any truth which arises from divine souls and causes them to act differently.

Can we see that sexual harassment, violence, and violation are societal issues (in addition to criminal in many cases)?

I’m not talking about appeasement for perpetrators or disregard of victims, but I’m suggesting we applaud sincere steps to heal, on both sides.

Yes, let’s condemn the guilty.

But, could we also consider the same system that keeps a woman from telling is the one that lets men tell themselves their actions are anything but selfish and pain-inflicting?

Let’s face what we, as a society have created and passively condoned—because we’ve all been in some sort of denial.

Before I was raped, I used to joke, “If I was ever raped, they’d easily find the guy; He’d be the one missing a d*ck,” implying that I had a little Lorena Bobbitt in me.

I never imagined when I was actually raped, I’d keep quiet for over a decade.

So, unless you’ve had personal experience in this arena, I encourage you not to presume you know how you’d react.

Or that because someone didn’t sing in the streets about life-changing grief inflicted on her body and soul, it’s any less real or debilitating.

If you don’t know, don’t assume.

If you don’t know, thank God.

If you don’t know, listen.

The correct response is we listen.