Sunday, July 2, 2017

Grief Post-Its

I almost need post-its around the house. 

On the sliding glass door inside: “Don't look for him. He’s not coming home ever again.”

On the outside: “Don’t bother to pull the screen door shut and prop the box fan just so when you go out to weed and water; he’s not here to open the door and let the kitten out.” 

On the bathroom mirror: “He’s never going to be sleeping on the bathmat or in the tub again.” 

On my bedroom door inside: “He will not be waiting in the hall for his breakfast.” 

On the outside: “He’s not on the bed taking a nap. Go ahead and turn the overhead light on.” 

In the writing shed: “He will not need a bowl of fresh water ever again.” and "Don't look for him napping in the big chair.  He'll never be there again."

On the front door: “He is not lounging on the deck waiting for you to look for him here.”

In the office: “Don’t look out the window-he will never leap on top of the fence out there and stalk across the field, never again.” and "He won't interrupt your writing by jumping up, sticking his butt in your nose and stretching out across the keyboard ever again." and "He won't nap in Jim's chair again."

For the kitchen:
“Don’t put an extra spoonful of yogurt in a cat dish and take it in the office. He will never have it again.” and "When saving the tenderest, fattiest bits of chicken or salmon carefully unseasoned, only put a tiny bit in the tiny dish for the kitten.  Bob is not here anymore."

In the garden: “He will not meet you today to lie in the weeds and watch you.” 

And at night, before storms: “Don’t call him like you're calling your cub home. He’s never coming home again.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Magnificence of Creaturehood

How you taught me that, over and over.

The way you hid when we first brought you home, then were seduced slowly, treat after treat, finally into my arms.  The way you would glare at me when I offended you.  The way you rewarded me with the fur of your back under my nose and the swish of your long, thick, lush tail over my eyes when you were pleased with me.

The way you'd mount the 6 foot wooden fence like it was a speed bump, pause up there on an impossibly narrow edge gripped in your big paws as you surveyed your domain of fields and woods, your territory.  The way you would slip gracefully down and then stalk through the tall grass, the muscles in your shoulders rolling under your glorious black and silver coat as you set out for adventures.

The way you would join me in the garden and lie a few feet away, available if I needed you and always reviewing the action.

The way you would climb heavily onto my chest in the middle of the night, your whiskers pressed to my face as your purr thundered, and make biscuits with your huge claws digging into my flesh; you were so beautiful that I tolerated it as long as I could, wincing and finally rolling you gently off, which sometimes got me bitten.

How you could BITE, leaving the puncture wounds rimmed with bruises.

And how you could love.

And how you maintained your pride and magnificence to the last moment, bearing your agonized breathing as casually as if it were some new fashion accessory.  The way you refused to get in the carrier one last time.  Even while gasping for every breath, you could fight.

There was so MUCH of you.

You leave a gaping sinkhole for us.

We'll try to bear it with the pride, the pride of your creaturehood.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Cave

I've spent the last few weeks in what I call the cave, because it feels like the Degobah cave.

Processing trauma takes a lot of energy.  Tara Brach wrote, "Even years after the actual danger is past, the trauma, undigested and locked in our body, randomly breaks through into consciousness."

I'll be strolling along through my life and suddenly come upon the cave again. Sometimes it's triggered, and that has happened several times, but sometimes it just appears on its own. When it does, I have to go in there like Luke into that cave.

Integration of trauma and abuse takes a lifetime, but it's not your whole life.  You can go years functioning at a pretty high level and then suddenly be pulled into the deep dark undertow of the injury and all the other injuries incurred because of the first injury: the shame, anxiety, sleep disorders, mood disorders, flashbacks, panic attacks, harmful coping strategies and the additional injuries from people who don't get it and worse, presume to judge, which adds insult to injury and often ignites rage and sorrow and feelings of isolation, depression, and then anxiety; and then the cycle is triggered and starts all over again.

But if you don't do it, if you settle for half-life, it's like being half ghost.  You have to plunge into the cave, fight the fight, accept what's unacceptable, and then emerge.

I'm emerging again now, and still dragging tangled vines and tracking mud, but stumbling into the open air.

And hopefully, getting back my word count.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trigger Mocking

Triggers are only real for the people who are triggered by them.

This is why they're mocked.

In one description I read, "Tragedy is: I have a hangnail.  Comedy is: you fall through a manhole cover and die."

Mocking other people's pain is a way to cope with our own.  That's why you see the term "triggers" used in a lighthearted or cavalier manner.  I'm sure there's a large portion of the population who would have seen my 80-something WW II veteran father dive for the ground at the crackle of thunder as the most hilarious thing they'd seen in at least a week.  And I've had many people telling me, throughout life and also lately, that I'm overreacting, being too emotional, being a victim/martyr/whiner or "giving my power away".

This form of casual brutality is like poison.  No bruises are incurred, no guns go off, but there's injury on the inside.

Just an FYI.  Mocking a trigger is in itself a trigger.

Please remember that before you fire off a little lighthearted snark.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Permission to Tell

Auspicious Tibetan chatra from

Culture is not an umbrella.  So if you're a white writer and you want to write a story in, for instance, Tibetan culture, then asking one person of Tibetan descent is not gaining permission to tell your story. That kind of permission is unattainable.

 You can be a responsible writer and do your research, resist stereotypes and get sensitivity-checked.  But you'll never get permission.

Permission is an issue with oral storytellers as well, but they take a different view.  Like some of my friends who are artists and writers who happen to come from the non-white perspective, storytellers see great benefit in "borrowing" stories.  Sharing stories across cultures is the great connecting force of the planet, because it's the shortcut to empathy. Once you've heard a story from the people, you relate on some level to the people.

As Margaret Reed McDonald states in The Storyteller's Start-Up Book, "Now is not the time to freeze all story into pockets of ethnicity.  Now more than ever we need each other's stories.

Storytelling is folk art.  
We are the folk.
Storytelling belongs to us."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Other Truths and Where To Find Them

The Great A'Tuin by Stephen Player. Sir Terry Pratchett Discworld

The doubt-tormented priest in Terry Prachett's Carpe Jugulum painfully juggles faith and facts.  His struggle reminds me of many of the news headlines I've been reading lately about alternative facts, alternate facts, and how we're living in "post truth".

Taking into account that no one knows the complete truth, nor ever will, I still found the priest of "OM" (one of the most powerful religions in Prachett's books) to be a familiar and sympathetic character.  We were all raised with certain ideas or tenets and, like good loyal children, struggled to protect them or to be faithful to the spirit of them.

 Faith for the faithful is, according to some research, a source of shame and also of redemption, hope and security-in equal measure.  There's a lot to defend there.  As someone who's tried to console "bad" Catholics I can tell you nothing makes them leap into the Christian Soldier stance faster.  Faith is (seen from the perspective of one raised atheist), like a third parent.  And no matter what our parents do to us, we'll defend them to some extent.  It's primal.

I want to quote a passage from Carpe Jugulum about the schism of faith:

"...he was, he knew, in two minds about everything...even when he was small there'd been a part of him that thought temple was a silly boring place...(yet) it had grown up with him...(and the part of him) that read avidly always remembered the passages which cast doubt upon the truth of the book of Om and said, 'If this isn't true, what can you believe?' and he'd reply, 'Other kinds than the kind that is actually true, you mean?'"

Doubt tortures faith with information, or, the other kinds of truth.

We have small brains and big hearts.  We're not thinking machines; we're feeling machines that think.  And when our beliefs are challenged we stop thinking and fight, while yelling at each other about the truth.

And the winner is not the person with a truer truth.  The winner is simply the one with the most power in the fight.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Inner Transcript

Mike Myers as Dr Evil

I have many faults as a communicator, particularly in personal conversations.

I overload my listener, I interrupt when I'm not careful, and I tend to barrel ahead with my own points.  But those are only three of my worst traits.  I do work every day to change these habits, and to become the listener I want to be.  But awareness is the first step.

I was talking to a friend once as we listened to a public radio station and had realized I needed to shut up and listen to her when the announcer broke in and said, "For a written transcript of this broadcast..." and I realized that would be a good way to keep track of my verbal belligerence.

Imagine the transcript.

If I've been going on for paragraphs and the person who's company I'm lucky enough to share has had no blank space, I do a quick assessment and sound the Shut Up alarm.

Conversation isn't score-keeping.  But for a verbal monster like me, a safety measure is necessary.

If the transcript is all me, it's time to zip it.