Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Full of Grace

I am pre-posting this as I am officially on vacation this week.   And I am incredibly grateful for

1.  having the financial means to take a vacation.

2.  having an employer who allows me to take time off . . .  whenever.

3.  having trusted back-up staff who will cover my ass while I'm gone.

4.  having an amazing friend on the other side of my travels.

5.  that my health is still holding on, allowing me to do some bucket list travelling.

I will see you all next week.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Boundaries.  Everybody’s got them.   I seem to have a lot of them.  Or, as one person, not so very kindly told me - my boundaries are like landmines.    It has taken me a long time, and a great deal of therapy, to finally become friends with my boundaries.

The first boundary that I remember, and still have to this day, is “please don’t touch my feet.”   I don’t know where this came from, but for some reason, my feet are incredibly sensitive.  It is painful to me to have them touched.  

In my college debauchery days, I would ask a lover not to touch my feet.   It was then that I realized that there are 3 kinds of people - those who respect boundaries without question, those who totally ignore them, and those that seem to respect them, but take them as a challenge to be conquered.     It was an easy way to separate the good, the bad, and the ugly relationships.  

After the rape and assault, I was left with a shitload of new boundary issues.  The very public loss of control over my body left a permanent and indelible mark on my need for safety and privacy. This played out in mostly in being very sensitive to how people approached me and once they were close, how they respected my need to control my private self.   

In the beginning, I couldn't have anyone physically close to me.  Even my closest friends had to approach very slowly and cautiously lest I start to trigger and freak.   I was basically untouchable. Fortunately therapy helped correct that extreme reaction, but I still to this day need to know that someone is approaching.  I startle easily and have a lot of anxiety around this issue     And I continue to be a very private person.    I never want to be in the spotlight, I never want my name or info out there, and I want to be in control of my own story.  

Still, I have always had a feeling that my boundaries made me different, and more than anything, I wanted to shed the “differences” of trauma.   How could I ever feel that I had conquered the trauma and the PTSD and “not letting them win”, if these boundaries were still dictating so much in my life?  And so I fought against these boundaries for a long time.   I tried to ignore them.  If someone violated them, I always felt that is was my problem to fix.  I always felt guilty for having this weirdness.   I apologized to people . . . a lot.

Until this year.   

This has been a pivotal year for me in terms of growth and overcoming PTSD and having healthier habits for myself and with others.   I think this growth has come as a result of years of therapy finally seeping into my pores, and also dealing with cancer, which quickly, and most effectively, rearranges one’s priorities.

This year I had an on-line friendship fall apart.   Most people who know me, know that I will do almost anything to make relationships work.  I hate when relationships end, even if they really should.   But for the first time, I actually let this one go.  Willingly and with much relief.  There were many reasons for this, but the one big reason was that this person could not, or would not, respect my boundaries.    And I thought my on-line boundaries were pretty simple - please only email me through this one address, and please do not share my story with others.  At first when she violated my wishes, I would be upset and question why she would do that.  She would apologize and ask for better guidance.  But then the violations continued, and I no longer felt safe or respected.   She said my boundaries were too much.  And I finally said, no more.

I have been doing a great deal of work around this issue with my therapist.  Because, once again, I started to feel guilty and sad that my issues seemed to be ruining a once nice relationship.  Here are some of the lessons I've learned  -

- Your personal needs are valid. It is not necessary for you to defend, debate or over-explain your request.   Do NOT feel guilty about it.

- You create a healthy boundary for yourself, not for other people.  What they do/how they react to your boundaries is up to them.

- Boundaries need to be effectively communicated along with the consequence for violating the boundary.    If someone makes a mistake and earnestly wants to to do better, it’s okay to work with them.

- But when someone routinely breaks your personal boundaries, the message is that your own needs and feelings don’t count.   This is not a person you want a relationship with.

- People who have no respect for personal boundaries will only enhance your PTSD.  

- The other person is free to complain about your boundaries, but you don’t have to sit there and listen to it.

- Do not ask the person that crossed your boundaries to validate your observation.   It’s like asking the person who sexually harassed you to help you file your complaint.   (I printed and posted this where I can see it everyday)

So , yes,  I have made friends with my boundaries.  They are like guardian angels for me. They protect and serve me well.  I need to be thanking them rather than cursing them.  I may have more boundaries than the average person, but I am not, nor ever will be, average. I have experienced a traumatic event and require a little space and privacy to cope.  That’s all I ask.   I do not wish to have me, or my story, passed around to strangers, as I once was.  I do not wish for you to use my personal phone numbers or emails, unless I have given you permission to do so.   If you cannot honor that, than I will never be able to feel safe in a relationship with you.   And if you have a foot fetish, please do not even apply.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Full of Grace

1. Coming home from an extremely exhausting and challenging week at work, calling a bowl of ice cream dinner, falling into bed at 6:30, and not waking until 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning.   Heavenly and much needed rest.

2. The Goldenrod has bloomed.  A gentle reminder (where I live) that summer is coming to a close and to go out and thoroughly enjoy it.

3. Steamed lobster, corn on the cob, grilled asparagus, watermelon and tomatoes fresh from the garden.  Ice cream for dessert.   I love summer food!

4. Frequent visits from my mom in my dreams.  I'm not sure what that means, but I am enjoying the time I get to spend with her in the land of nod.

5. A new grand niece.  That makes four grand nieces/nephews in the last 12 months.  And three of them are local so we get to have babies a lot.   What is it about babies that makes them smell so good ?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Full of Grace

1. Binge watching Orange is the New Black.  

Are you folks watching this?  I don't watch much television but my daughter turned me onto to it and I couldn't stop.    I particularly enjoyed Lia Delaria as Big Boo.  Many, many years ago I met Lia a few times through a friend.  She was doing standing up comedy on the lesbo circuit back then and was hysterical even in our casual meetings.  She is also a phenomenal jazz singer, something I wish they had showcased some on the show.

2. Shark week finally over.  While I watched Orange on my computer my family was watching the sharks.   I am so tired of looking up to see severed limbs, bloody water, and teeth.   So grateful that only happens once a year.

3. Birthday parties for 1 year olds.   So cute.

4. In this the last week they will be together for awhile, my girls have taken to sleeping together at night.  I love that even though they are so different in temperament and personality, they are still so close.  I hope they always remain this way.

5. That my favorite restaurant by our lake house has changed their pizza menu to include this last item!

Another gift from the universe.

Life is just so damned good!

Friday, August 9, 2013

On Closure

I recently read an interview with Frank Ochberg, a pioneer in trauma treatment. He was asked the question, “Is there such a thing as closure? Does grieving ever end?

His answer:

Closure is a bad word, overused five or 10 years ago, and people in my world are not using it anymore, because it falsely implies an end to something that doesn't end. You don’t get closure on trauma, tragedy, the impact of human cruelty, but you do grow, you do get sadder and wiser and you do, more often than not, get the opportunity to help fellow travelers. Closure is a myth, but progress is not.

Wow, does this resonate with me!

To read another great interview with him discussing PTSD go here

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Full of Grace

A long weekend with just the four of us:

1. Al fresco dining.  Still so much to talk about, and laugh about, and spill.

2. Wandering downtown and seeing this

3. Carousel rides

4. Doing jigsaw puzzles on a rainy day at the lake.

5.  Bonfire chats while toasting the perfect marshmallow.  

Oh how I will miss them when they return to school

Friday, August 2, 2013

On Race and Other Isms

I don’t normally write about political issues on this blog.  I am however, a very political person.  I have degrees in political science, public administration and urban planning.   I work in the political arena as a public official,  and have made it my life work to move a progressive, humanist and environmental agenda within my local sphere and in state, federal and global circles.   Today I am absolutely fed up with self identified  white, privileged, Christian people on the internet telling other people about racism and pontificating about how to fix it.   This is my rant.

People call me a WASP.  A white, Anglo-Saxon protestant.  Well, technically, I am now a WAS since I gave up on religion.  Or religion gave up on me.  I’m still not sure which.

Anyway, I don’t like labels but I am white.  Really white.  The blond haired, blue eyed, very fair skin kind.  I can’t help it, I was born this way.  I am of English and Swedish heritage.   The only WASPy thing I am missing I suppose, is that my family never had money.  My parents grew up dirt poor and worked hard years to reach middle class.  

My parents never spoke ill of anyone.  The only prejudiced comment I ever heard growing up was my dad cursing  those “Jersey drivers” and my mother complaining about selfish people.    She hated rich people who made their money by climbing over the backs of others.   She hated greed.  My parents  respected people who worked hard, and they always helped those who were experiencing tough times.

My earliest memories of anything racial was seeing brown skinned people at the beach and wondering why they were there since they already had a tan.   I remember my mother explaining that everyone loved the feel of the sun on their skin, building sand castles, and catching a great wave.   All I remember thinking what a great thing it must be like not to have tan lines.  

As I got older I began to realize that I too was different in many ways.    We did not belong to the yacht or tennis clubs, as many of my friends did.   And my religion was different.   I was the only Protestant kid on the block and spent many a lonely Saturday afternoon while all my Catholic friends had to go to confession and my Jewish friends observed their Sabbath.    However,  I don’t recall being overly oppressed because of my differences. Just different.

High School was the first time I saw racism as an issue when the middle school from the predominantly white part of town got blended with the middle school from the predominantly black part of town.  But while I was aware of racial tension within the school, (it got so bad we had armed guards and dogs at the entrances) it never impacted me directly.    I was always part of the athletic group and there race didn’t really matter.  Sports are the great equalizer in many ways because no one cares the color of your skin or how much your daddy makes, as long as you can put a ball in a hoop or goal.  Or so I thought at the time.  

In college I became much more aware of other isms - capitalism, socialism, classism, feminism, but mostly heterosexism.   Although I never had any serious issues coming out (except for the loss of some friends), women expressing their lesbo sexuality kept it very secret and guarded within the safe walls of our Sapphic tribe.  That was when I had my first real sense that being different could be very dangerous.

I got my first job and moved away from my home to a city where I knew no one.  I made such little money that I qualified for public housing.  It was here that I got my first real view of serious poverty and also where I made my closest friends.   Poor helped poor and getting through the next crisis was what drove life.   Everyone chipped in what they could because skin didn't seem to matter much when someone’s kid was sick and needed medicine.  Or so I thought at the time.

Then I fell in love with a woman with chocolate skin and I suddenly saw the world through different eyes.   I was shocked by how differently she was treated.   We would go out to a restaurant and the wait staff would talk to me, not to her.   Once we were out driving and a cop pulled me over just to make sure I was “okay.”    Even at the university where she was a brilliant medical research fellow, she would be treated like the help by people who did not know her.  

Sometimes I didn’t know if the behavior was based on her skin or our sexuality.  Although we never held hands publicly or shared any other public displays of affection, sometimes some person (always white) would just randomly spit at us.  More often than I care to remember people (always white) would make ugly comments just loud enough for us to hear - effing dykes, where’d you get the nigger?, look at the queer oreo,  don’t you need a leash?

I was appalled and sickened.   She just took it and moved along.  I would be angry and confused. She would say “you can’t change people who have ugly in their heart.”    To me it was an abomination.  To her, it was her normal.   

And then came the ultimate in humiliation and violation.   Sharing a romantic picnic in a very secluded wooded area, five white men hunted us down and beat and raped us.   I do not remember all that was said and done that afternoon.  I do remember the language of domination and superiority and arrogance.   The biblical references and  the “lessons” we were going to learn from these men.  I saw the purest expression of evil- the desire to utterly ignore and destroy the humanity of another, by turning us into nothing but a label, a thing to be used and thrown away.

I believe the root of racism, homophobia, classism,  etc.  stems from one person needing to feel superior to another human. This air of superiority then gives them some imagined entitlement.  Many have been taught this since birth in subtle and not so subtle ways.  Their skin is better, their religion is better, their educations are better,  their politics are better, and so on . . .  ad nauseum.    Some people are so insecure that the only way they can elevate themselves is by making others feel "less than."

This arrogance plays out in physical and sometimes deadly fashion as Daphne and I, Matthew Shepard, Trayvon Martin and far too many others have experienced and continue to experience everyday.  Sometimes it plays out in little niggling ways, in what my therapist explained to me are micro-aggressions - you run like a girl, bi-sexuals are never faithful, you could not afford me, or when I told someone what she had said was offensive to me as a gay person and her response was “well, my other gay friend was not offended” totally invalidating my feelings. But of course you know gay folk . . . we all think alike.   

In order to feel superior you have to feel that you belong to a special class.  To do this people use labels.  They label themselves in ways they think are superior.  And they label others in ways to make them inferior. Liberal is good, conservative bad - depending on what side you’re on.  (Yes, it always depends on what side you’re on)      Labels are what racial profiling is all about - white is safe, black and brown is dangerous.    Labels almost always set up an US vs. THEM mentality.  Labels make it easy not to know someone as an individual thereby making it easy to hate an entire group  (Republicans are all greedy slime who don't care about the poor and only want to get richer.)  Actually I know quite a few really good people who are registered Republicans.  In fact, I live with one.  And she does more to help disadvantaged youth through sports and education, than any progressive blogger I know sitting behind a computer telling everyone else how to live.

It is by using labels and stereotypes that children are taught to hate.    And this is what burns me most of all.  Children are actually TAUGHT to hate.  And I don’t just mean white parents teaching their kids to hate black kids or any other prejudices.  I mean parents who do not allow their kids to think for themselves.   Kids are indoctrinated into their parents political beliefs, religion, and ideologies at younger and younger ages.  I actually saw a blog by a 12 year old girl talking about how she didn't want Republicans in her vagina.  Really?  That’s a 12 year old talking?   Kids are confirmed into their parents' religion long before the age of consent without ever learning what other religions might offer them. And privileged kids are taught to feel superior at very young ages by the clothes they wear, the cars their family's drive, their skin color, their educational opportunities, etc. One must have the proper labels. Is it any wonder that bullying usually starts in elementary school? I truly wonder what kind of world we would have if children were allowed to form their own opinions about people based solely on their own experiences.

Which brings me full circle to recent things I've read on the internet.  Many people who self identify as white, Christian, liberal, socialists for Jesus (seriously)  writing all about the travesty of the Zimmerman verdict and how Paula Deen should be publicly shamed and how they were once racists and probably still are because they grew up in a culture of hate but now, oh yes NOW, they are trying to rid themselves of such evil.  They don’t know ALL the answers to racism but, oh Lord how they all need to start listening!   (they say as they belittle any commenter who brings up a different perspective)  They are the allies and supporters of the marginalized and downtrodden! Oh, thank god for them!

These are people who have never experienced an ounce of oppression, exploitation or cruelty in their lives, and are, in fact, the perpetrators of the stereotypes and name calling that is the root of all oppression.  They are so awash in their academic arrogance that they can’t see how hypocritical they are.    And personally, I agree with Yoda - “there is no such thing as trying - you either do, or you don’t.”

It is these people who make me want to scream.   It is to these people that I want to say - the answers to your questions, to all your hand wringing and self flagellation, is quite simple.    You learned it everyday in your churches and Sunday schools.  It is the very basis of the religion you think is superior to all others.

Love one another, as I have loved you.

Treat others as you wish to be treated.

It is so effing simple.  It is so basic to the sanctity of life and society that every religion teaches it in one form or another.  It transcends race and class and sexuality and all the other made up crap that people use to separate and rank.   It is not meant to be a theory.  It is meant to be put into practice. Just do it.  

People ask me if I hate my attackers.  I can honestly say I don’t.  I do hate the culture of racism and homophobia that allowed, and continues to allow,  this behavior to breed.  I particularly hate the use of labels and stereotypes and generalizations and name calling that feed this culture.   I will always work toward eliminating them when I can.   

People also ask me if I identity as any labels - are you a feminist?  are you a liberal?  are you religious?    My answer is that I am a person.  I believe in the sanctity of all life, a power higher than myself,  in caring for each other and our environment, and the virtues of equality for all.  I believe in love.   And I can’t tolerate hypocrites.   

Do you have a label for that?  

End of rant