Equal to the love you make

[FB post from yesterday, 8/27]

This morning at 5:04 AM I got an email via my yelp account from a recently-homeless woman who wanted to get a quote on how much it would be for me to board her two “beautiful” adult cats in my home.

It was already a weird morning because my friend Graham sent me a link to my old Garfield house which is now for sale again and seeing the interior sterility and the back yard–which the summer after James moved in 2007 was the site of a “healing through manual labor and sunburn”–with its huge tree gone and most everything I planted looking dead really put the punctuation on the end of that chapter in my life. It was the punctuation you typically see after “you stupid fucking idiots; what the actual fuck.” 

And so it was that I started my day. Sunday. An easy work day before the madness starts up tomorrow and moves well past Labor Day; my life not yet recovered from the July 24th madness, and my sick dog, and bug treatment, last foster kitten/group, etc., to where all the madness has started melding while laundry mounds to dangerous proportions, and every text is an agony over whether I should accept or decline more work or accept or decline the next group of foster kittens, etc. when I’m sleeping on the couch in my clothes because it’s easier to rouse myself to another workday when I don’t let myself get too comfortable.  

And as I drive in the darkness towards Capitol Hill–the ever-so-slight tension in my body already existing as I imagine Stella’s upcoming glucose test, and what if I don’t get a prick of blood the first time, and what if her values are really low or really high, and what if she doesn’t eat, and what if something happened to her in the night, etc–I’m thinking about this email. 

Because yes I struggle; yes I’m overworked and exhausted. But she’s living in her two-door car with her two kitties and it’s gotten “extremely difficult and she’s worried.” And while one part of me still holds the visceral memory of getting to the tipping point upon which I had to either start caring for myself properly or die, another part of me doesn’t know where that point is anymore. For as you live and grow, you get stronger, and as I’ve cared for myself over these last few years, I’ve become more capable, and while I know it’s not my responsibility to superhero all of life’s shit away so that no one else has to feel pain, at what point does non-action in the face of suffering actually become cruelty? At what point does saying no become me living a life of fearful, self-indulgent, privileged hoarding? There’s no glucose strip for this; there’s no manual.  

As the thoughts paraded, I drove west on 13th south and when I neared the freeway, something dashed across the street in front of my car. There was really no one else on the road so for a second I thought it might’ve been a wild animal but it wasn’t. It was a lost dog, a pitbull who looked scared. So I pulled my car to the side of the road and rolled down my window to talk to it, wrestling with myself. Because the desire to lure it into the safety of my car conflicted with the knowledge that Stella had to have her test and shot spaced almost exactly 8 hours apart, which was just a few minutes away, and as the dog slunk away–pausing and glancing over at me, unsure of itself–my heart broke in grief just a very little bit before falling into acceptance.  

For as the damned thing looked back at me with eyes like it would’ve gotten in my car, I thought of how in just the eight months of 2017 I’ve earned as much as for all of 2016–making a one year pay increase of $21,000–and how I was going to make another catio for my cats anyways, and dictated into my phone a response telling her that I don’t board animals but have a catio in the back of my house she can put her kitties in during the day. knowing she might abandon them, knowing she might be addicted to drugs or otherwise unstable. Knowing that this improbable situation may work out to be a total Garfield House.  

Because I get something from a world in which someone like me would still be willing to offer what they could to help someone like this lady. I get something. WE get something. And sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I make things all about the other person or all about compassion or all about an animal when really it’s about all of us. For I get something from this. 

And even in the darkness at the end of the night, I didn’t get to see that scared dog move into the safety of my car but I did get to see it look back at me, and even in its fear, curiously wonder about the love and concern for it held within a human heart.

And I guess that’s enough.

A Gift of Dark Days

I’ve never cried so hard as that day in 2007 when James drove his moving truck down the street.

He was moving from Salt Lake to live with his office assistant/girlfriend and her son 2000 miles away, just weeks after we told the girls we were divorcing, a divorce which blindsided me, James and Sarah probably beginning their relationship that summer we dug out our basement, when I unknowingly insisted James stay with Sarah and her husband Ryan near the Virginia Vitech office rather than come home to the stress and unpleasantness the girls and I were living with.

“James, no: really. It’s horrible here; just stay with Sarah and Ryan and I’ll take care of stuff here.”

Naturally, he didn’t tell me Ryan had moved out.

But on that epic day, Livy had lost her first tooth (in a bowl of popcorn!) and when he drove off in his UHaul, both girls chased the truck down the street, and he noticed, stopping at the end of Garfield Avenue–next to the orange house he’d eventually move into after the break up with Sarah—getting out of the drivers side to swing around to where Julia and Livy waited on the sidewalk. And there was this moment in my mind—this lovely flash of hope–that he would hug his daughters so tightly, he’d never want to stop, and would recover who he was and become the dad they needed.

But he didn’t. And that night I cried with the force of eternal heartbreak, as if something in my body was already living the future–the sense of rejection my girls would feel, the way they’d blame themselves as faulty, believing if they’d only been different, he wouldn’t have left–instinctually knowing this archetypal loss and what it meant to us all, rolling myself into the fetal position on my bed in the darkness of earths night, convulsing from grief, and the unrecoverable knowledge that the hill was far off and way too high, and that my daughters–my most beloved ethereal connection to both this earth and my own soul–might never be whole again. And that neither would I.

But I was wrong.

I have said goodbye to many things in my lifetime—so many versions of myself and what I thought I needed to be happy— and while it is true that the girls and I were never the same again, the events from that time changed us, scarring us with an experience that gave us no choice but to reach out to one another and (eventually) to go more deeply within. For I never wanted that day to happen–and even now, don’t want the memory of it–and begged God so many times to make the pain go away.

But the Universe in her wisdom did not listen, knowing that one day there would be a stronger, calmer me for the trial, knowing that the evolution of a more sacred human requires unwanted experiences so as to better understand and connect in compassion and grace with our world and our fellow beings. Knowing that it is often our own tears which baptize us into better versions of ourselves.

And absent the human-centric aspect of Time, it becomes possible to witness even the most-emotionally cold day of your life as something you wanted.

Because I’ve been struck with reverberations of that day each moment of the ten years since, and it is within the now that I can see–just adjacent to the sometimes still-intense feeling of loss–that there is a “me” that is actually bigger than such times. For the momentary relief of pain that I desired cannot compare to the joy of knowing I’m now better for it, and you do not even know how beautiful you are until you have had to fight for yourself.

And when you can take something shitty and use it to make something beautiful, there is no fear or need or want anymore: there’s just one opportunity then the next to embrace yourself as a sacred space and learn how to power your way into a more redemptive world.  

And dark days then become sources of strength, powering us all to a better version of ourselves.

Contrast

img_2163
USA Today from 9/12/2001
img_2162
Salt Lake Tribune I kept from 9/12/2001
img_2161
Today, 9/11/2016, different flag, different house

 

Fifteen years ago to the day, my ex and I were in Reno.  We’d driven the 8 hours with our then-2 year and 10 month old daughters, Julia and Livy, to combine James’ business trip with a visit with my mom, who’d driven from California to meet us.  Courtesy of my sleepless daughters, we were awake early that morning, TV on, and when the South Tower started crumbling it looked—at first–like a puff of dust, and I can remember thinking the very same thing that Katie Couric(?) was saying:  “What is that?”

“What is that?”

And fifteen years now, we know what it was and know what it is, and America became humbled by a hate so palpable we celebrate the anniversary of collective trauma together because none can bear this burden alone.

That day in Reno, my daughters played at a park, that had well-tended equipment placed in a garden setting with those little animals on springs that go back and forth and that spinny thing where you sit on a platform and hold onto bars as you’re spun into sickness, and while my daughters smiled and laughed, mom and I straddled two worlds, which almost seemed too incompatible to coexist, and when I returned home, I held my baby in the calm of night, sobbing as I rocked her in grief for the world she had already unknowingly relinquished.

 

But many good things come from tragedy.  For it’s in the removal of false divisions that strength can be found and in contrast that we can see beautiful things more clearly.

 

James and I divorced in 2007 amid an epic shitstorm in which he broke hearts as if we were Sims, but when his brother Steve was deployed to Iraq that same year, our American flag got placed outside 1531 Garfield Avenue and remained there for the duration of his deployment (a year plus), becoming weathered and tattered and faded, a hole developing on the bottom, front corner as even the slightest wind had made it catch on the thorny bushes that edged our lawn.

 

When Steve returned home, the girls and I took the flag down, folded the frayed fabric as best we could, and gave it to James to give to his brother.  James was a dick, but I sure as fuck wasn’t going to return fire.   For the hate of 9/11/01 showed us how not to be and how not to live, but people died that day holding onto one another and heroes ran up stairs to save the lives of people they knew nothing about, and if they can be that, then so can we.

 

If we don’t see anything beautiful, we must make something beautiful.  If we don’t see a helper, we must be the helper.  If we don’t see the love, we must be the love.

If we make judgment against another, we must try harder.

 

For we can’t forget what happened that day wasn’t just about hate; it was about sacrifice and love and overcoming your own feelings in order to help a perfect stranger.

 

Conformity

beale-street-march

Bernie Sanders is a great man who fought for justice in our nation for 30 years (only to then be cheated out of it with regards to justice for himself), and — even after the now-admitted corruption by the DNC — some Dems in the resulting anti-Trump panic are referring to his angry, protesting supporters as “inappropriate”, “classless”, and “overly emotional,” (not to mention the classic “ridiculous”) and condescending to our grief as if they alone can tend to the faint and flickering pulse of our nation, so I jotted down a few things in case it could help clarify the mindset of Sanders’ supporters through all of the armchair psychology and utterly-useless “calm down”’s I keep seeing:

In the course of human history, significant changes in the flow of society haven’t occurred when its individual participants have “calmed down” or conformed to the societal demands of etiquette; societal change has happened because large groups of individuals have somehow collectively come to similar realizations simultaneously, and while this can be an uncomfortable sight for those not also experiencing those realizations, I feel certain that it doesn’t benefit a society to allow conformity to dictate the broader direction it moves in, for I’m sure there were many who thought the participants of the civil rights movement and Vietnam war protests were overly emotional, and that the impolite tactics often instituted during major reforms deemed distasteful and inappropriate; a godforsaken slope that led to such things as slaves being beaten in the barn out of sight of the houseguests it might upset. For even this recent American history tells us that sometimes “passion” looks like “emotionality” to those on the outside of a movement looking in, and some could even make the argument that it is the lack of emotionality in the form of malaise that more quickly leads to the moral and ethical downfall of a civilization.

In the big scheme of things when you look at these people who you’re describing as overly emotional, it doesn’t actually matter if you understand why they act that way, why they’re emotional; it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their feelings; the fact of the matter is is that this is the way they feel. Period. Whether you personally feel the same or understand it at all is not the point. Because the bigger picture is why any of this is happening at all, and the questions that should be asked when 13 million of your fellow citizens fuel a presidential campaign with their own time and money, is this: Are they all just fucking nuts, or is there something legitimately upsetting going on that is making them fight so hard for a common cause?, and if at any point you find yourself trying to answer the former, then welcome to “Societal Anesthetization.” For sitting in your chair acting like Dr. Spock talking to Captain Kirk doesn’t help, and the reality right now — whether you like it or not — is that the Dems are going to need a huge portion of Bernie’s demographics in order to beat back the almost-certainly certifiable Republican candidate so please go-ahead and take your dose of “shut the fuck up” right now. Because you’re going to need it to get through the next 99 days.

Because Bernie Sanders has taught us that you can be strong in the face of a society which isn’t quite “there” yet if only you hold to the broader goal of reducing the suffering you see in the world, and, in the end, your derision and condescension mean little except as an admission of your own sedation, and take it from us Berners: if you can’t allow yourself anger in the face of admitted corruption and injustice, then you are basically allowing yourself to cower in the corner and die the enormous soul-death that comes when you give up striving for what’s right. So forgive me the fuck ever if I take a pass on that, and stand up and fight and embarrass your “polite society” by being what is — in your opinion — an overly emotional asshole.

[Postscript, for complete clarity:

I’m not crazy and would vote for Clinton if I wasn’t in a deep red state which will most likely go to Johnson (it could be a toss-up though actually–the Mormons hate Trump–so I have to revisit this topic periodically; don’t want to inadvertently give my vote to Trump).

This isn’t about Hillary personally (for me, at least): it’s about the insulation that the elite/the system have been afforded for too long at the expense of broader society, including extremely vulnerable populations which literally grow by double digit percentages every year. This year, for example, the Salt Lake City homeless shelter served as many people by May 26, 2016 as it did for the entire year of 2015. Students are coming to school hungry and traumatized because our lifestyles are on the razors edge, and I’ve personally seen parents repeatedly pick up their kids up totally high and in clear sight and awareness of school admin and nothing is done because there is no one to call to help these addicted parents and no beds anywhere for getting them mental health assistance. And people aren’t recognizing it or are blaming the vulnerable for character defects that usually aren’t there or blame Republicans for their inability to be reasonable when really this is a problem with the system wherein money is being hoarded and populations held at bay with excuses and justifications. And society can’t go on like this.

There will be a tipping point; I already see that we are getting close to it. And it is scary. When people have nothing to lose and when inequality becomes normalized, they take their frustrations out in ways which harm the stability of our society as well as our own mental health (insidiously, so as we don’t even realize) and there has to be a better way than what we’re doing now. Because mowing people down with firearms has now become de rigueur, and when a Donald Trump is the figurehead for millions of angry citizens, we have to acknowledge that we are clearly living within a failed system.

Anyways, don’t worry: Hill will get my vote should it come to that. You aren’t privy to my Facebook posts which outline my views on this situation but I go into the fact that Trump is clearly dangerous, and a third party vote pointless so, in spite of my rage at the lawlessness that our democracy has become, I know where my truth lies.]

America, I’m yours

I’ve been listening to this song all day and thinking about America.

I remember sitting in a car with my mother circa 1993, and being called on to defend my ex-husbands adopted Korean sisters because to mom all Asians were forever tainted by Pearl Harbor, an action of the Japanese government (rather than an entire citizenry/race) which was more than atoned for by dropping nuclear bombs onto innocent people but it didn’t matter. She just couldn’t let it go.

How did we get here? How did it happen? How are there people in this country who can believe a liar who spews hate is a “straight shooter,” accept as speaker at their political party’s convention a filthy troll-wannabe who tweets to the world the word “c*nt” to describe our female candidate, and accepts the platform of a party who wants to register and ban all members of a certain religious faith?

How did this happen?

I agree that we are not where we want to be. My (old) political party is itself a disgusting shitshow of entitlement and buyouts, and that the admission of failure rests on the backs of the now-disappeared middle class who have found themselves now on the corners holding cardboard signs asking for “any amount,” but we won’t ever get to where we want to be through irrational fear, including of fellow human beings who just happen to be different than us, because we’ve already done this–hated indiscriminately–and it still resolved into peaceful coexistence, and will again because hate is unsustainable (google it) and we can’t keep repeating the same behaviors and pretending it’s not insanity. Because it is. It’s insanity. And those who want to preserve an entitlement, income-inequality, non-Muslim America aren’t even preserving “America”.

Because America is better than this. America is better than our individual grudges, better than looking past homeless people, the addicts, the mentally ill; it’s better than knee-jerking into non-compromise about gun control, better than bombing the shit out of the world and allowing ourselves to look away from feeling some measure of responsibility for sheltering some of the refugees that we helped to create.

So let’s just all have a good cry in the corner, arms hugging our knees, rocking back and forth, until the anxiety and disappointment subside, and we finally remember what love and acceptance feels like.

Because even as the curtain has been pulled back to reveal both puppetmaster and bogeyman, I know that I can’t give up on this.

I will stand by the values that were injected into me as part of this beautiful social experiment–constantly trying and failing then trying again–because I know even as I watch this video and see the American in admiration for a Korean, and the Korean audience singing along with the American’s song, I know that America is bigger than me, bigger than my own desires and my own individual catastrophe. Bigger than them, singers, audience, nationalities. She belongs to the whole world.

And with my heart and soul–and with the hearts and souls of so many before me–she is an entity worth fighting for.

So, America, I’m yours.

❤ you..

Diary of a 4th of July

Worked (all felines: Izzy, Jack, Piper, Clark, Lucy, Darko, Todd, Burt, Mica—love them all); Graham and Lauren, Ellen and Julia, Ellen’s friend ending his Ramadan today; kittens; hard lemonade, shitty Malbec, salsa, chips, guacamole, ohdeargodwhydidIeatsomuch; girls to little park with pepper gel and caps; neighbors’ fireworks go far above parched trees; walk to Sugar House Park, American “pride” bittersweet: injustice, racism, homelessness, hopelessness, the fantasy of believing in a dying “dream”; cars, cars, cars, boys singing to “Get Low”, fleece blanket making me sweat, can’t reach Julia who’s already there; see James and Indy, find a spot, then another; see Kerry; fireworks start, music starts, same old music, same old American livefeed; so many people, so many many people, fireworks into the sky, blankets, glowsticks, children, drones; weed smoke; a baby is handed to his daddy, who hugs him and lifts him into the air; boom, sky lights up, silhouettes of so many people, so many many people; why not watch from down the street? Why sojourn to the park?; Livy and Lauren lying down, friendship, the new generation, complicated, wise, do they feel pride?; people gazing up, booms, lights, pictures in the glow; the daddy speaks to his group, another language/Middle Eastern?, the group laughs, mostly men, on blankets, two feet away, the baby handed back to mom and she is dressed in a matching outfit to the baby; and I’m staring at them, and can’t look away, for there is love of their culture mixed with forgiveness of xenophobes, braving traffic and crowds and heat so that they came to share “America” with their baby; and the mom in tan shorts and the baby in American flag Navy, and we all sit and it’s gorgeous, and there’s hope, and the men clap as the last of the fireworks fade, and the Dream lives, and we walk home.

[Postscript: The blanket I took said “Dream” which was unintentional and not designed to make a statement on America in spite of the picture I took of the words while simultaneously feeling those feelings, but it perhaps BECAME a statement because, while we were walking home, I was stung by a bee that had hidden inside the blanket when I’d lain it on the grass of Sugar House Park.   Making the ending to this story “A bee stings from hidden inside the American Dream blanket”, the subtitle of a bigger story titled “America the Bittersweet.”

(And it’s still beautiful.)]