Thursday, August 20, 2015

Positively speaking, this needs to change

Recently I ran across a meme with words worth pondering:

Ever known a narcissist? They will verbally and emotionally abuse you, using put downs, criticisms, and insults. Then when you stand up for yourself, they come unglued and say you are the toxic one.

That really applies to the pattern of emotional and verbal abuse as a whole, not just to narcissism, and it is exactly spot on. It got me thinking about the times, from childhood on, when I experienced bullying and abuse, and about the pattern I saw more often than not: When I would say or do something to protest the abuse, I was the one who got in trouble for "making a fuss" or such like. From what I am told about the experiences of others, that is the typical pattern.

Why is this? Why is the tendency to blame the victim rather than the bully/abuser? Why do people tend to want to sweep it all under the rug, or say, well, you must have played a part in provoking the bully/abuser, or just look the other way and say nothing? Why do we shame the child for pointing out the truth that the emperor is buck naked?

A part of me really just wants to live a quiet creative life in peace and solitude, making nice writing and nice art and having no ripples in my pond, and chasing away those who would disturb my peace. Then another part of me remembers that disturbers still disturb, whether it's my peace or someone else's, and that part of me wants to speak out and use my considerable voice to help effect lasting social change.

In any case, whatever my particular role on Planet Earth, we as a society need to change the messages that ignore or excuse abuse. Positive thinking means recognizing our power to create positive and permanent shifts in our lives and in our culture. It does not mean pretending everything is fine just the way it is.

So I am positive that the simple act of speaking my truth is one step towards creating the vision of a safe and healthy society for all of us.  And so it is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pride Arises, After the Fall

Can you be proud
    of me
for having survived abuse,
    for growing to become
confident, strong, secure?

Can you be proud?

Can you be proud
    of me
for making the best of
    a bad situation,
a night I never wanted,
    a life-changing detour
of my dreams?

Can you be proud?

Can you be proud
    of me
for finishing college
    with an honors GPA
while raising a child
    all on my own?

Can you be proud?

Can you be proud
    of the hours I worked,
    the persistence that paid,
    the betrayals I endured,
    the judgments I overcame,

the triumph
    that, in spite of the mudslingers,
    became my life?

Can you be proud
    that I spoke out,
    that I still speak,
    that I keep speaking
    with the strength of

my loud, proud voice--

Can you be proud?

Can, or cannot,
    I suppose,
es macht nichts.




Sunday, August 2, 2015

Blue Moon Ascending

When at last I saw
    what I saw
not what I thought I saw

When I recognized the mind
    field of ridicule and shame

--not the way

it had to be

When I tired of getting
    shouted down
       put down
          held down
            let down

When I spoke
    and they would keep speaking
    as if I never had spoken

monkey in the middle
    of words to which

I was denied admission

When at last I admitted,
    allowed myself to


Someday They Will See
    is a fairy tale
    with no happy ending

Then I said,
    to the only one who was listening:

What AM I
    holding on to?

And I let go.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bullying serves a purpose

In recent years there's been a lot of awareness raised about bullying and abuse. Many voices are saying they want to put an end to the cultural acceptance of bullying and create instead a culture in which everyone feels safe and respected.

I wonder if that's really what everyone wants.

Bullying involves keeping people feeling powerless, afraid, intimidated, and lying low in hopes of avoiding being targeted. Such people are much easier to control than people who feel fundamentally confident, strong, secure, and safe. If some people have a vested interest in maintaining that culture of fear and control, they will not support efforts to transform that culture into one of safety and respect.

Think about it.

All through my school years I waited patiently for everyone to grow up and grow out of that pressure to take cues from everyone else and to fit in with everyone else. At midlife, I am seriously considering that maybe the real, unspoken point was for those of us who didn't "fit in" to realize that we were "supposed" to learn how to fit in, and to hide whatever about ourselves persistently did not "fit in."

Peer pressure, in this light, is not a mere adolescent phase but an essential element of our culture and the institutions of our society.

Think about it.

And then decide if that's what you really want to see, and to be, in the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gender Whatever

Growing up in the Seventies, I used to sing, "I am woman, hear me roar," with great gusto.  Stereotyped sex roles were a thing of the past.  Bring on diversity!  Free to be you and me.  Do the work you love, wear the clothes you want to wear, and if anyone insists that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, tell them to bury those outdated views with the rest of the dinosaurs.  "Feminine" and "masculine" were now considered purely subjective social judgments about neutral personality traits; being a woman or a man simply meant you were born in a female or male body, regardless of what you liked to do or how you liked to dress.

And I thought that was the last word on sex, gender, and freedom, until transgender people began to raise their voices and speak out more and more often, taking their place on everyone's radar screen, invisible no more.

And I found myself challenged to reconsider, again, the meanings of sex and gender and society.

That some people born with a male body preferred to live in "feminine" ways, and some people born with a female body preferred to live in "masculine" ways, I could easily understand.  I've never understood why so many other people made such a big deal about strict gender roles that are totally arbitrary and totally made up.  As long as you do no harm, do what you will.

What I couldn't grasp was how it was possible for people inhabiting the body of one sex to have an internal experience of being the other sex.  To me, being a woman simply meant my inner self--soul, spirit, psyche, what-have-you--happened to inhabit a female body; being a man simply meant a person's inner self happened to inhabit a male body.  Free people were androgynous souls who happened to land in whatever bodies they landed in and didn't particularly care which body as long as the soul was free to be what it wanted to be.

I don't have an internal sense of being gendered.  And for much of my life, influenced by the zeitgeist of the 1970s, I thought that when people claimed to have an internal, intrinsic experience of gender, it was nothing more than societal conditioning and stereotyping.

Reading and hearing the experiences of transgender people challenged that assumption.  At first I dismissed it as a case of Old Stereotypes Die Hard, that men simply didn't feel free to adopt "feminine" traits as men, and women didn't feel free to adopt "masculine" traits as women.  But eventually, with more reading and more listening and more pondering, I realized that the matter of gender identity runs more deeply, at a biological level, than "what society says," whether conforming to or contradicting those social norms.

And it finally occurred to me:

Maybe my experience isn't everyone's experience.

And I think, if one by one each of us can begin to grasp that simple idea--that maybe our personal, individual experience of life on Earth is not necessarily a universal norm shared by all--then we just might come a little closer to peace on earth and goodwill towards all.

We don't have to understand everything about every human being to accept them as fellow human beings.  As long as you do no harm, do what you will.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Aging happens, when we're lucky

I suppose there's nothing terribly remarkable about it:  Having passed the half-century mark, I find myself comparing myself to others around my age.  How is it that some of the people my own age are starting to "look old"?  I don't feel old.  I don't look old.  Even if I no longer pass for twenty, a combination of lifestyle choices, genetics, and sheer luck do help me look young for my age.  One person recently suggested that my generally cheerful, optimistic outlook contributes to preserving a youthful appearance.  I can definitely agree that it helps to preserve health and well-being, whatever the effect on my outer appearance may be.

But why do I give a damn in the first place?

Like many people who reach life's midpoint, I find I still have many things I want to do, goals I want to accomplish, visions for myself and for my life that I have yet to fulfill--visions that, as with many of us, I thought already would have been fulfilled by now.

And yet I also intend to live to be at least ninety.

Here's the thing:  If I intend to live into my nineties, I have four decades waiting to be filled.  If I had already accomplished everything I wanted to do with my life, what would I be doing with those four decades?  Rocking in a rocking chair griping about how things ain't the way they used to be back in my day?

The secret fear, of course, is that I won't actually make it that far.

Fair enough.  Life certainly throws its share of curve balls.  Yet on reflection, I'd rather plan and prepare for more years than I have than sit around for decades waiting to die.  A truly successful life, however long it lasts, should always end with some business left unfinished.  I want my life to be a work in progress right up until the end.

And if I plan to live into my nineties, I need to make peace with the fact that I will not always look forty--and that a well-earned, authentic old age is indeed a beautiful way to be.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Economics is futile. You will be assimilated.

One of the biggest myths in our culture is that economics is governed by immutable laws.  Any action to change one aspect of the ways we create our economy, the ways we do business, is ultimately futile, we are told, because the Laws of Economics will kick in and neutralize our efforts.  Hence, we have no choice but to accept that The Way It Is really is the way it is.

Don't buy it.

Economics is a human creation.  What humans create, humans can change.  While it may be true that taking Action A tends to result in Reaction B, that does not automatically imply that Action A is not worth taking.  Alternatively, we can choose to see that yes, people tend to respond to Action A with Reaction B, and we can go on to conclude that we can therefore take Reaction B into consideration and counter or minimize its effect with Action C.

If you notice, for example, that accepting returns without a receipt tends to lead to some people stealing high-priced items from your store and then "returning" them for cash, you have options other than saying forget it, no returns without a receipt, period.  You can limit which items, or which dollar amounts, in a return will be accepted without a receipt.  You can keep a record of returns without receipt and track which people always seem to be making returns with no receipt.  You can make it a policy that returns not accompanied by a receipt will be granted or rejected at the store's discretion, encouraging the honest people to retain receipts until they are certain they will not need to return anything from that purchase.

On the broader scale, we don't have to simply accept such tropes as, "If you raise the minimum wage, that will just push prices up and employment down, so it's useless to raise the minimum wage."  Who wants us to believe that?  Who benefits from our meek acceptance that a substandard standard of living is An Immutable Law Of Economics?  Think about it.  Question it.  Question why it's supposedly impossible to pay a few more dollars an hour to food service and retail workers, yet very possible to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars as "bonuses" to executives.  Yes, the work of running a business is real work and should be rewarded, but is it really that much more worthwhile than the day-to-day work at the ground level of keeping the business in business?

And do we feel safe even considering that question, let alone asking it?  Or have we internalized the belief that our security and safety, however modest and tenuous they are, rest in keeping silent?

Perhaps the biggest deception of all is to prevent us from seeing our own power:  to think, to question, to create alternatives, to effect change.

Don't buy it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Indeed, I AM

Celebrate awakening:
     You have seen the day.

The sun has risen;
     the snow, melted,
nourishing a symphonic spring,
     a cantata in the key of
     survival, gold and green:

I AM !

Celebrate your own
from the realm of the dead.

When the ones who
     buried you
poke around the old
     whitewashed rot,

Send an angel
     to declare:
You are not there.

You are risen, indeed.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

I don't get lonely, or maybe I do

As an introvert, I don't think of myself as someone who gets lonely.  I enjoy solitude.  I thrive on solitude.  I need solitude to ground and center and balance myself.  I can and have spent entire days alone, entire weekends alone, reading and writing and listening to music and simply enjoying the restorative power of peace, quiet, and inward focus.

I never get lonely.  Or do I?

Yes, upon reflection, I do know how it feels to feel lonely.  When I do feel lonely, however, it is not when I am alone.

When people ridicule me and belittle me, I feel lonely.

When people treat me as a thing not worthy of respect, I feel lonely.

When I am shamed for expressing my point of view simply because my point of view doesn't "fit in" with the rest of the people in a group, I feel lonely.

When people mock my words and dismiss my ideas, I feel lonely.

When people ignore that I have spoken, I feel lonely.

When people talk around me, playing the conversational equivalent of "Monkey in the Middle," carrying on among themselves as if I have not spoken, I feel lonely.

And I feel angry.

And manipulated.

And hurt.

And violated.

And voiceless.


I do have a voice.

I have every right to be heard, and to have my voice respected, and to be respected in speaking my truths, whether or not anyone else sees the way I do.

And when I remember my own dignity and worth, derision and shame cease to have any real power over me.

And I am no longer lonely.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Elton John in concert: He's still standing, better than he ever did

Thanks to the generosity of my son, who surprised me with a ticket for a FLOOR SEAT in the 16th row, I got to see Elton John in concert for the the first time in over a decade.  I wasn't close enough to even think of angling for an autograph, and unfortunately I have not yet upgraded to a phone with zoom-lens capability, so I didn't get any really good pictures, but I was near enough to the stage to get a good view of Elton* as he sat at the piano doing his Elton Thing, singing with power and expression and playing piano with the sureness and virtuosity of someone who's been doing it, and doing it well, for four and a half decades.

Yeah, that's something to think about.  The man who still rocks "Rocket Man" and belts out "I'm Still Standing" better than he ever did, the man who amazed us time and again with his agile shifts between making the auditorium reverberate with the power of his vocals and moving us emotionally with deeply soulful ballads, is sixty-seven years old.  Why did that sound so much older when I was just a kid?

And yes, he did sing "Candle in the Wind."

Elton performed many, many 70s classics for his older fans (though I heard from at least one twenty-something fan that they, too, love Elton's early work) mixed in with a few tunes from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, including a couple of pieces from his latest album.  Elton introduced "Oceans Away" with the observation that next year marks the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, along with remarks about the horror of war and the courage of those who, for whatever reasons, find themselves in the midst of fighting them.

As one of the many people in this state who worked and advocated for marriage equality, I found Elton's performance of "Believe," from one of my favorite albums, Made in England, especially moving.

Love is simple
Hate breeds
Those who think difference
Is the child of disease


Without love
I wouldn't believe
In anything that lives and breathes
Without love
I'd have no anger
I wouldn't believe
In the right to stand here
Without love
I wouldn't believe
I couldn't believe in you
And I wouldn't believe in me
Without love

For me, the highlight of the evening came not from hearing this or that favorite song, as much as I enjoyed hearing and singing along with my favorites, but from something Elton said several times over the course of the evening:  "I am the happiest man on Earth.  I am the luckiest man in the world.  I am blessed."  This sentiment was echoed in the slide show accompanying "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road," an artistic overview of Elton's life and career, culminating in a wedding cake with two tuxedoed grooms and, atop a blooming flower, a photograph of Elton and David's sons.

This is a man at peace with himself and with his life and with his work.  Being there to see that, to feel the sincerity and happiness in his words, seeing Elton as happy offstage as he is amazing onstage, really made the concert a memorable experience for me.

Here's the playlist for the November 22, 2013 concert at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota:

  • Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
  • Benny and the Jets
  • Candle in the Wind
  • Grey Seal
  • Levon
  • Tiny Dancer
  • Holiday Inn
  • Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
  • Believe
  • Philadelphia Freedom
  • Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road
  • Rocket Man
  • Hey Ahab
  • I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues
  • The One
  • Oceans Away
  • Someone Saved My Life Tonight
  • Sad Songs Say So Much
  • All the Young Girls Love Alice
  • Home Again
  • Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  • I'm Still Standing
  • The Bitch is Back
  • ? - An Elton John song I didn't recognize?! - Okay, the man's developed a considerable body of work over the past 45 years.  I suppose it's possible. ;-)  Anyway, Elton rocked it, whatever it was.
  • Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting


  • Your Song
  • Crocodile Rock

If I find good videos from the concert, I will post them in the comments on this note.  Meanwhile, you'll have to take my word for it that the Captain is still FANTASTIC.

Also, I do plan to upgrade to a smartphone sometime soon, so if anyone knows of a Bic Lighter app for smartphone, suitable for waving in the air at a concert during the slow songs, that'd be great.

* That is, when everyone in front of me wasn't standing and dancing and singing along with Sir Elton.