In Search of Subtitles (for my books)

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Ever since I started my non-fiction book projects, I’ve been in search of a subtitle for each one that fits the book. Why? Because I feel like the subtitle gives the reader an expectation about what they’re going to be reading about. The title is like a summary and the subtitle is like a bit more detail. Today as I got out of the shower, five subtitles came to me and I scribbled them down onto a piece of notebook paper before I updated each page here with the subtitle. Now here’s the story and meaning behind each one:

Breaking Radio Silence: A Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid

In the Fall of 2016 when I first conceived of what would become ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I simply labeled the file ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’. The goal at that time was to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did and to use my own experiences to illustrate anything I learned in the process. The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ wouldn’t come to me till the Spring of 2018 and it fit perfectly from the moment it came to me. But for the last four years this has been a book project in search of a subtitle until today. And as I start writing this book in earnest now, I need all the focus I can get so this is why a subtitle was so important for this project.

Stand or Fall: A Rebellion of Hope

After the US Presidential Election in 2016, I (along with millions of other people) went, “What the hell just happened?” I came up with an idea to use writing to try and figure out how things got so fucked up. Now of course I didn’t know what the next six years would go nor could I have imagined what’s happened even in my worst nightmares. At the time I first came up with this project-idea, I simply labeled the file, ‘Untitled Political Book’ because at that time I knew this book was going to be seen as political. Like, duh but I’m not a scholar so I thought I’d make it personal and tell my own story alongside what’s happened in the last forty years or so in terms of politics and the world in general. I was searching for a subtitle for this book because I kept asking myself what the purpose of writing this if not just for myself? And then the quote from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind, “Rebellions are built on hope.” That’s what I want this book to be, a statement of rebellion and hope.

Behind the Story: How I Write and the Stories Behind My Writing

This book’s origins are a bit murky though I think I came up with this one sometime in 2018, I think around Fall if I remember correctly. Initially I wanted to do a straight how-to book but then I realized for me writing is more than just how-to. There’s a lot to my writing and I think my story in regards to that is worth telling. Now the title of this book was a struggle for me as the title just came to me a couple of months ago but without the subtitle until today.

Uber Tales: Stories and Observations From Behind the Wheel as an Uber Driver

Not long after I started working as an Uber driver in 2017, I began to post on my personal Facebook page stories and observations from the road that I titled ‘Uber Tales’. They took off and people really like hearing my stories and observations so I began to think there was a book in there. As of right now, I don’t have any really crazy or outrageous stories from the road and a lot has happened and changed since I started driving. Also, I’ve read a lot of news articles about Uber driving and I don’t really think a lot of these journalists have talked to a lot of drivers, or any at all. So I want to tell my story and it’s just my story because each driver has their own unique experiences and observations though over the years I’ve talked with other drivers and we do share some common thoughts and experiences.

Dirty Thoughts and Stories: Talking Dirty About Sex and Other Naughty Things and Fiction Inspired By My Dirty Thoughts

This is in its’ earliest stages right now mostly based on my blog here though I think over time I’ll have enough material for a book. This is a mix of non-fiction blog entries that might get expanded into longer essays along with fiction stories. The title is sort of self-explanatory as talking about sex is seen as dirty by a small yet very vocal segment of our population who really just need to learn how to get over their hang-ups and have some fun in life instead of trying to control every aspect of everyone else’s life, especially their sex lives. And naughty fiction is just fun to write and I’m not going to back down on that.

So this is where I’m at on these projects just to give out an update. It feels good to have subtitles I like and that fit well. Now I just need to get my ass to writing, which I will be doing in addition to everything else I need to do (like earn a living, eat, sleep, bathe, take care of my pets, etc.).

Breaking Radio Silence – Mistakes

One of the biggest issues I’ve been trying to deal with in writing this book (‘Breaking Radio Silence’) is trying not to come off like I’m totally perfect and I did nothing wrong and all that bullshit. I don’t want to come off as holier-than-thou and woe-is-me, too so I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of ways not to do that when a thought came to my mind: where were my mistakes made?

Recently, I’ve begun to ask myself where mistakes were made in my past. I’ve been looking back at decisions I made and trying to think through them. As I’ve been doing that, the question of whether or not a mistake was made came to my mind. Now of course hindsight is always 20/20 as the old saying goes so looking back isn’t easy because of it. Looking back means I know how my decision played out and I don’t know how my other decision would have played out at the same time. Most of all, I realize I made a lot of decisions out of fear, pain, and for other people more than myself. And that I really didn’t take the time, or I didn’t have the time to think things through before decisions were made.

One example of this that came to my mind recently was the decision twenty-seven years ago this August to sacrifice a lot of my own life to help care for my mother because I knew she was going to die of cancer. I made a decision back then not to talk to anyone about my decision or that God-awful moment of clarity I had because my words would have been torn to shreds. Maybe not right away but it would have happened because no one would have truly understood the magnitude of what I was trying to deal with back then. And a lot of people when confronted with something they don’t have any idea of or any knowledge of tend to react badly to people who are carrying around that knowledge. Also, sacrifice is not an accepted way of dealing with things despite being told sacrifice is noble and good as I found out back then, too. I think I made the right decision to keep all that to myself and try to deal with it on my own just because I don’t think anyone else was ready to deal with it.

Another decision I’ve looked back on is not pursuing more of a social life and building friendships. That was a mistake that I won’t make again. At the time, my rationale was that I felt like people would have mouthed off even more to my parents and tried to convince my parents that if I developed any kind of a social life I would abandon them. I knew my parents were already taking shit for me living at home and pursuing my writing so I didn’t want to add to that. The mistake was not believing my parents would have stood up for me even more than they did and that I also had the right to stand up for myself too and tell a few people to fuck themselves to Hell and back. I think if my parents and I had stood up and done that I think a lot of people would have slunk off with shit in their pants because my parents and I would have called their bluff. That decision was also a mistake because it kept me from potentially finding people who could have provided the comfort and support I desperately needed back then, too. Again, I won’t make that mistake in the future.

At the time any decision is made, no one knows how it will work out. I know I can overthink something to within an inch of its life and things can still go sideways and down a mountainside. I look back on those decisions in my mind and I can say I could have made a different decision and let things go sideways all to hell and still survived it. But in the end, I made the decision I did and I’ve with the results since then, too. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn from the decision and I’m beginning to think the word ‘mistake’ doesn’t really apply here either. I say that because I made the decision at that time based on what I knew and what I felt.

This is why the phrase ‘everyone else is just as full of shit as I am but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person’ changed my life so much. It was admitting I wasn’t perfect but that no one else is either even if they say they are or act like their shit doesn’t stink at all, too. As the concept behind the book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ has evolved and continues to do so, I realize it’s a book of lessons learned. I’ve begun to learn you don’t have to do things like you did before just because you did, or because you think people won’t take it well if you do things differently. If someone doesn’t like the direction I take with my life, that’s on them and as long as they keep that shit to themselves and don’t get in my face about it, we’ll get along with just fine. And yes, that does include me going at it alone.

I’ve heard that we learn more from failures than we do successes. And that is true because success just teaches you that something works. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work and why that is then gives you the knowledge to move forward in a different direction. And sometimes a mistake is subject to interpretation.

Conversations From the Road – Long Time Coming

Today, June 24, 2022 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The Court’s majority opinion said that abortion was an issue to be left to the individual states to regulate in any way they choose to. Almost half the states have laws in place to outlaw and criminalize abortion and other forms of reproductive care. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that two other Supreme Court decisions, Griswold vs. Connecticut which legalized access to artificial birth control and Obergfell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage need to be ‘reviewed’. ‘Review’ is a thinly-veiled code-word for potential decisions to be overturned.

I’ve known this decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has been coming since the early 1980’s when I came of age under the Reagan administration and saw the rise of the Christian Right. The Christian Right has said since the late 1970’s that their goal was to outlaw abortion, access to artificial contraception, and outlaw all rights for LGBTQ Americans. The Texas Republican Party on their platform in addition to this also called for the overturn of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These people have been telling us what they were going to do and they got just enough voters along with a serious amount of dirty money from here and abroad to put enough Supreme Court Justices into place to over turn Roe vs. Wade and put the other laws in their crosshairs.

For forty years I was told not to make political or social issues personal. I was told I had to learn how to agree to disagree with people and tolerate them even if their beliefs were horrible and evil.

SILENCE IS A TOOL OF THE OPPRESSOR

Oppressors and abusers demand silence from their victims. Oppressors and abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them if they speak out against oppression and abuse.

The Christian Right are the oppressors and the abusers here. They have said for the last forty years they were under attack but that was NOT true. They have been on the attack against the rights of everyone who is not exactly like them: white, heterosexual, and Christian (only in name but not in practice).

Thirty-eight years ago, I began writing. Back when I started writing it was because I was in love with the magic of words. What I didn’t understand back then like I do now is this: I started writing to put my thoughts and feelings into words, to find words that didn’t hurt me like those that were said to me. Back then, I knew I wanted to say so many things yet I knew if I did it would not be taken well. I knew back then if I spoke out against things that hurt me and others the oppressors and abusers in my life would try to silence me. They did silence me by making me feel like I had no words that would break their power over me.

Six years ago, I came up with the idea of using writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. I then added using writing to figure out what the hell was going on in our world and what we could do about it. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with those answers. And I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to ask those questions and deal with the answers. Most of all, I know there are people in this world who don’t want to hear what I have to say. But my words are not for those that don’t want them, but for those that do listen to me.

Six years ago, I didn’t realize that I was going to do was break my silence. Back then, I didn’t realize how much silence I had lived with. I had retreated and hidden in silence in order not to be hurt by the words and actions of others. That’s a survival instinct but not a way to live. Running and hiding didn’t take away the pain inside of me, or the fear that if I came out of hiding that I would be forced back into that hidden place if I spoke out about my thoughts and feelings.

Right now, I know many people are feeling pain and fear at the rights being taken away from so many of us by our lawmakers and court systems. And they are asking what we can do to regain these rights. My first answer is BREAK YOUR SILENCE. Breaking your silence starts in your mind when you put your feelings into words and let those thoughts flow through you.

After you break your silence in your mind you can then find ways to break it in your daily life. It can be as simple as casting a vote that is the opposite of how you are being told to vote. And yes, I think it’s more than okay to lie about that if you have to because I understand the need for self-preservation.

If you can find the strength and courage inside yourself, you can then break your silence out loud. You can speak out against people who speak with hatred, contempt, and tell lies. You do not have to let hate-mongering and lying go unanswered. You can stand up for yourself and stay true to who you are.

I started by breaking my silence in my mind then I moved on to the written word like I am doing here. Now I’m getting ready to move on to the next stage of breaking my silence, which is creating a podcast so my voice can be heard out loud. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and like the other ways I had to learn to break my silence, this one involved a lot of hard work through fear and anxiety that created doubt and uncertainty in my mind.

But I keep thinking one thing: I have nothing left to lose. I have nothing no one can take away from me. I am a broke, middle-aged woman living on next to nothing. Yet I have found peace and happiness like never before in my life. I found that peace and happiness by finding my voice and breaking my silence. And most of all, I found peace and happiness by being on my own, not alienated and ostracized. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know no one else is either even if they profess to be perfect.

As a child, I found word could take me away to places far away from the lonely and painful reality I lived with. Then I found words that provided knowledge and showed me the wonders of the world. I found words that told of pain and suffering, and how to overcome that. I found words that provided comfort when I had no other form of comfort for myself. Most of all, I know my words and the words of others have meaning, and can be used for good, and can provide comfort and strength to those in need.

Today may feel like a dark day even though outside the sun is shining high and blazing with summer heat. And I know this day has been a long time in coming, and that knowledge is what has given me focus today and kept my heart from trying to pound its’ way out of my chest. Because I’ve lived with this knowledge for so long, I realized I have lived with the words inside of me, too. And now I have the ability to share those words and hopefully give hope to others, and to provide a plan of action.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Breaking Radio Silence – The Silence of Unspoken Conversations

We weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now.

This phrase came to my mind a few years ago and it was in response to any questions about why write about things from the past. It’s also my response to the silence of the past, too.

When my parents were growing up, there was NO talk about what was going on other than what was considered ‘acceptable’. There was no talk of the violent alcoholic behavior of my mother’s father, or the rigid expectations in my father’s household. Thoughts and feelings weren’t talked about at all, and in my mother’s case, weren’t to be had at all because any thought or feeling that deviated from the fanatical Catholic norm would get you sent to Hell. And for my dad, men did NOT talk about their feelings at all.

For my generation, we did talk about some things but the expectation was that even if we did talk about them, things weren’t really going to change. Or better put, if you told someone they were being an asshole to you, it wouldn’t change them. But our generation was silent, too about the turmoil so many of us grew up with. Divorced or battling parents, bullies, expectations, pressure to fit in, etc. But if we kept our shit together and didn’t commit suicide, we were told we had good coping skills.

I’m glad young people today are more open to talking about their thoughts and feelings, and that more people are seeking mental health treatment. But not everyone is on this bandwagon and too many suffer in silence thinking nothing will change if they deal with their mental and emotional well-being.

To that I want to say this: you will change when you find answers to why you think and feel the way you do. And in turn, you can change the course of your life and your future. You can learn how to do things differently and do them better. I will tell you it won’t be a popular decision with some people in your life. There will be people who will not like the fact that you’re trying to change yourself. But your purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. Each person has to figure out how to do that for themselves.

For the longest time, I felt like the world wanted me to be silent, to be hidden away and not have to deal with me at all. Then one day I asked: why? Why would people want me to be silent? Is it because my mere existence challenges their fragile bullshit-leaden egos? Their suck-ass version of reality? Makes them feel shame and guilt for the shit they did? If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’ that’s on them, not me.

I used to think that line of thinking in the above paragraph made me a cold-hearted bitch. It doesn’t. I have stayed silent and out of people’s lives because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my bullshit. I didn’t want anyone to think they had to take on my problems and try to solve them. This is what I have felt for a long time and I’m trying to figure out how to change this pattern of thinking. I’m also working on the fact that by writing and publishing my story of how I found answers to my questions that may not be welcome in some circles. I have to tell myself that’s not for me to determine and that all I can do is tell my story.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m doing it to help other people who have been through things similar to what I have and have the emotional wreckage to work through. My work is not about trying to figure out why shitty things happened to me or why people treated me like shit when they shouldn’t have. I spent way too many years trying to figure out why people reacted to me the way they did. I know why I acted the way I did and the image I projected so I will take responsibility for that.

As I begin to write this book, a lot of things come back up. And although I’ve been through these waves before it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them. But I have found one thing that does help me work through these shit-storms: talking about them. So I’m picking up the conversations again and pushing forth.

I’m having the conversations that should have been had before but can be had now and in the future.

Breaking Radio Silence – Writing As Therapy

The topic of writing as therapy has always been a difficult one for me to address and I’ve had six years to think about it. Why? Because there is still a ton of opposition to people seeking therapy any way they can. Despite all the conversations we seem to be having about therapy and mental health along with self-care and self-help, it still takes a lot for people to pursue therapy.

I think the opposition to people pursuing therapy is two-fold: that it will reveal secrets that people don’t want spoken out loud even if they’re spoken in confidence to a therapist, and two, that people in therapy will learn how to stand up for themselves. In my experience, people who hurt others whether through insensitivity or worse, cruelty and refuse to take responsibility for their actions will do everything to keep someone silent and submissive. I know I used to believe that if I was just silent and hidden that people wouldn’t treat me like shit, or that maybe they would accept me if I was quiet and submissive to their bullshit. Neither one of those is true and no, I’m not being mean right now.

So why pursue therapy? Why work through your pain and shit when you can just bury it and become just like the people who hurt you? Because most people aren’t built like that. The vast majority of people in this world care about their fellow human beings and don’t seek to hurt them and if they do hurt someone they take responsibility for their actions and apologize and try to make amends. The people who refuse to do that are the loud-mouthed shit-heads who will cry like whiny little wimps when someone calls them out on their heartless cruelty. But like I said in a previous blog post here, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them. And the thing is, that’s not what therapy is about. Therapy is trying to figure out why you think and feel the way you do and learning how to do better and try to find some healing for your wounds.

Healing isn’t just about easing pain. I think it’s also about breaking free of living in pain and fear and that’s not a popular thing with the heartless assholes in this world. The constant outrage some people seem to live on creates more pain and suffering and no matter how often you call them out on that, unless they let go of that constant outrage they’re not going to change. But one thing I’ve learned in my therapy journey is that I don’t have to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety in return. I used to think if I lived like that people would leave me alone but the heartless assholes of this world don’t give a shit how you think and feel or why.

Another thing is that therapy is seen as ‘weak’. No, it takes real strength and courage to doctor your wounds and build up armor-plated scar tissue to keep from getting hurt again. And yes, this is deeply personal for me because all my life I’ve been told I’m weak and can’t handle anything ‘normal’ or ‘painful’ when in reality I was left all alone to deal with enormous responsibility and pain. So one part of my therapy was learning that I’m not weak and I’m sure that pissed someone off. But if I piss someone off for proving them wrong then that’s on them.

I always said the most courageous thing I’ve seen in my life was when my mother sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. My mother had so much bottled up she could have filled up an Amazon-sized warehouse with her stuff. Instead, she worked through as much as she could before she died. I like to think I’m taking my therapy further than she did because I have the opportunity that she didn’t get.

If a secret is kept simply to keep someone from facing the consequences of their actions and the pain they caused, then it doesn’t deserve to be kept a secret to help them. Breaking my silence over things I’ve kept to myself is very difficult because I’m not breaking my silence as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. I’m breaking my silence in order to bleed the poison of that secret out of me and heal the wound caused by that poison, and to show other people how that’s done.

I believe you can choose how you pursue therapy, whether or not you speak about it out loud, and how you deal with any opposition. My way of pursuing therapy is writing about it, speaking out about it here, and as for any opposition that’s dealt with a simple, ‘go to hell because this isn’t about anyone else’.

I’ve called ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ my ‘therapy’ book and that’s because as I went back through my life I learned how things shaped me in how I dealt with them. And most of all, I learned that just because I dealt with someone one way didn’t mean it was the only way, or the best way. And yes, someone might not like that but like I just said, this isn’t about someone else. Therapy is about yourself and no one else.

Grief Into Action, Part Two – BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Silence is the tool of the oppressor.

This is a thought I had some years ago as I dug through the wreckage of my heart and soul and that was because the people who hurt and oppressed me demanded my silence more than anything. They lied to me and said if I was silent they would stop hurting me, and that if I was silent I wouldn’t be hurt anymore. But the damage was done and they didn’t care to repair the damage they caused. They were the ones who walked away from me and left me to deal with everything up to and including death and the grief that followed it alone.

During the last few years, I realized how much shame and guilt I felt for things I didn’t do wrong. But that shame and guilt kept from doing the things I should have done so one set of shame and guilt has been replaced by another. Now some may say I shouldn’t feel shame and guilt over being driven into silence by fear and grief and pain, but I feel shame and guilt for my silence. I know how deep a hole inside yourself shame and guilt can dig so I remember what my late father always used to tell me, “The easiest way to get out of a hole is to quit digging and start climbing.”

Digging yourself out of a hole is not going to be a popular decision with some people, whether they be stranger or someone you know. Having you out of sight and silent keeps them from dealing with their own feelings of contempt, cruelty, and lack of compassion. Being silent keeps people from facing their own failures and accepting responsibility for them. But their feelings are not yours to deal with. And another thought I had in regard to this recently was this: no one is responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass for them. If someone has their head jammed up their ass and is refusing to take it out, just walk away from them.

If anyone reading this feels like I’m backing them up against a wall, or is feeling uncomfortable, or maybe even feeling pricks of guilt, shame, or remorse, those are your feelings to deal with, no one else’s. Your discomfort means NOTHING in the face of so many people grieving in pain. My feelings of shame and guilt mean nothing in the face of those grieving in pain but I will not drive anyone into silence simply because I’m feeling things that are painful, such as shame and guilt. Instead, I will try and turn my feelings into a plan of action to try and save lives and keep other people from going through the absolute hell twenty-one families in Uvalde, Texas along with thousands of other families in this country whose grief has roared back to life with a terrible vengeance.

To those of you reading this who have felt helpless and full of fear and anxiety over speaking out against the oppressors of this world both near and far from you, I understand your feeling and where they come from. I want to tell you what my father used to tell me: you are so much stronger than you will ever realize. I want to say that you have the courage and strength to break your silence and stand and fight for what’s right and true in this world. I want to say your compassion, empathy, kindness, and love for others are your greatest strengths.

When I first started blogging again recently and became active on social media I had a fear to work through: the fear that I would have to deal with someone coming at me and trying to silence me. But as I continue to break my silence and work through the thoughts and feelings that come with that, my fear had begun to recede. And it continues to recede every single day I write and live my life. Breaking my silence is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. And I know the day will come when someone will try to come at me over something I say here or elsewhere. But I know I can choose how to respond, from a simple ‘agree to disagree’ to a blunt ‘fuck off’, or silence and block, the choice is mine. And the choice is yours, too.

To all of us feeling shame and guilt over the decades of active-shooter drills for our children and teachers, let’s tell the truth about what these do and don’t do. Break the silence around this horror and let’s work our asses off to end the need for these types of drills and give future generations of children a safe environment to live and learn in. Let’s break our silence on gun control legislation and speak out about it even if someone tells not to. Keep talking, and don’t stop talking. And let’s turn grief into action once and for all.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Breaking Radio Silence – Strength Isn’t Cruelty

I was driving along yesterday and got to thinking this: being mean or cruel to someone doesn’t make them stronger. My late father in his manic phases, and especially after he had his stroke and part of his brain got fried, said things to me that I won’t repeat to anyone. The gist of his tirades against me was that I wasn’t ‘strong enough’ or ‘mean enough’ to deal with what life was going to throw at me or had thrown at me. At the time, I just sat and took his shit because I didn’t want to escalate his temper any worse than it already was. And sometimes he apologized for what he said and I wrote a lot of it off to fried brain-circuitry. But hearing from him that I was weak, stupid, and not strong enough to deal with the world like a so-called ‘normal’ person hurt like hell.

This got me thinking about all the shit people have spewed at me simply because I’ve spent my life being as quiet as I can be, trying to be a good person, trying to be kind and encouraging, and most of all, trying to keep my emotions under the tightest control possible. Being treated like shit for being ‘different’, for being clumsy and awkward, fat and ugly, didn’t make me stronger. If someone thinks that silently taking shit is someone who is strong I want to tell you right here and now that’s not true. In reality, words of hate and cruelty create wounds that will never fully heal.

My mother never spoke to me like this. My mother and I were very similar in that we were both quiet and shy, awkward, and got treated like shit because of it. My mother grew up being told she was ugly and stupid and would never amount to anything. She decided to raise me differently and I’m forever grateful for that. One of the very first things I ever remember hearing from her was this, “You are a very pretty girl.” She would also compliment me on doing things well, would listen to me talk, and always wanted to spend time with me. My mother wasn’t one to say ‘I love you’ very often and she wasn’t very affectionate but I understood she wasn’t raised to say to those words or to be affectionate. But she spoke the truth so when she complimented me or spoke to me with encouragement, I knew she meant every word. Even though it’s been twenty years since she died, I miss more than ever sometimes. I miss her because she knew strength didn’t come from cruelty, but from love even if she wasn’t one to say the word ‘love’ very often.

No one really wanted to be around my mother when she got sick with cancer. No one wanted to deal with the ugly reality she lived with every single freaking day of the last seven years of her life. I tried my best to be there for her in every way I could. I doctored second-degree radiation burns. I cut her hair when it started falling out. I let her talk about how awful cancer was. And I sat beside her in a darkened bedroom willing her to stay alive as she battled the depression that was trying to kill her. And I did my best to support her when she sought help for that depression. So when the tumor in her brain robbed her of her ability to speak at the end of her life, my heart broke in a way that will never fully heal.

If I had told my mother to stay strong, to think positively at all times, and to fight no matter what, I would have destroyed my relationship with her. I would have hurt her in horrible ways and truly isolated her. Instead, I worked to create an environment where she could let her guard down, talk shit when she needed to, and just know that I would be there for her no matter how bad it got.

And my mother wasn’t perfect and neither am I, and both of us (if she were alive she’d be saying this right along with me here) would be the first to tell you we weren’t perfect. And we didn’t try to be. We tried to just keep our emotional shit together and not be a burden on anyone. We tried to do what needed to be done and be there for people when we could. Yet we both felt like that was never good enough and we dealt with that in our own silent way.

My mother broke her silence when she sought help for the depression that tried to kill her. And I’m breaking my silence by telling her story alongside my own. One big part of that is this: talking to someone in way that’s cruel, insensitive, and ugly doesn’t make someone stronger. It just drives them into silence more often than not and makes them feel like they’ll never be good enough for anyone. My mother never made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for her, or that I couldn’t do anything right at all. I hope that she knew I felt the same way about her.

If someone ever tried to talk cruel to me in order to ‘strengthen’ me I’d say one thing to them: “Go fuck yourself.” Then I’d walk away and leave them stewing in their own shit. And if anyone reading this has ever talked shit to someone thinking that’s going to toughen then up, stop doing that and ask yourself why you feel justified in doing that. You might not like the answers, but they’re yours to deal with, not mine. I’ve always found my strength without cruelty.

Breaking Radio Silence – Yet Another Realization

As you’ll read in ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, the first part of the book is a series of realizations as I call them. These realizations are thoughts that helped me see things in ways I needed to in addition to lifting weights of shame and guilt I had no business carrying around in the first place. But to my surprise, it seems I still have realizations coming to me.

My newest realization came from a memory that surfaced when I was dropping off some passengers about a week ago at a hotel across from a restaurant that was the scene of a memory that surfaced as I looked right at the site (the restaurant where my memory happened was razed to the ground and a new restaurant is being built on the site). I’m not going into any detail about what happened but the conclusion I came to as I worked through the emotions of that memory was this:

My purpose in life is NOT to help someone pull their head out of their ass, nor is that the purpose of anyone else in life. If someone has their head jammed up their ass, it’s their responsibility to pull it out.

For the vast majority of my life, I felt one of my biggest reasons for existing was to manage people’s moods around me. I felt like I had to do everything in my power not to piss people off, or burden them with my bullshit, and worse, not let my control slip to where I came off as an opinionated selfish, know-it-all bitch. That was quite a burden I placed on myself though a lot of that was placed on me by being a middle-child because most middle children become ‘managers’ pretty early on in life. It’s like the expectation of middle children is that we’re the responsible ones who won’t cause trouble for anyone. For me, I felt like I couldn’t be ‘normal’, that I couldn’t be goofy, or do stupid shit, or worse, get into a bit of trouble. I had to deal with people coming to me wringing their hands telling me I shouldn’t do this or that because I was too damn fragile or some bullshit like that.

I know I’m not fragile, and anyone who comes at me wringing their hands and telling me not to do something is wrong. And if someone is in a shitty mood and unwilling to work through it, or put it aside for a while until they can work on it later, I don’t need to walk on eggshells around them. And I sure as hell don’t need to feel like shit about myself if I’m not in a shitty mood when someone else is.

Because I have spent so damn much of my life trying to contain my moods both good and bad. Yes, I’ve held back good moods because I’ve been in too many situations where that made me stand out like a bloody wounded thumb. I felt like I had to try and manage someone out of their shitty mood and now I realize that’s not my damn responsibility. One of the biggest things I’ve been working on for the last few years is trying my best to work through my feelings and personal shit. I have not always succeeded but NO ONE does this perfectly. And I will NOT let anyone make me feel like I have to do anything perfectly when perfection is only something that happens for a brief moment in time.

On that day I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, everyone with me was mired in their own shit and unwilling to put it aside for me. For the longest time, I thought I was wrong to think they should have put their personal shit aside for me and that I wasn’t good enough for anyone to do that for me. Or at least I used to think that but now I don’t. If someone doesn’t want to be around me all they have to do is find their tits or balls and come right out and tell me. Trust me, I won’t make any fuss over it. I’ll just say okay and walk away and be alone. I can be on my own just fine and be happy in the process. But here’s a revelation for you: I like being around people. I actually like talking with people and being in social situations. I just don’t like it when people are projecting their shit onto me and other people and expecting me and other people to just suck it up and deal with it.

And if I had said anything about being miserable on that day years ago, it wouldn’t have gone well. The situation would have blown up in my face and I would been raged at or guilt-tripped into thinking my timing sucked. In my experience, when people get called out on their shit they dig in. I don’t regret staying silent back then but now… I’ll stand by my realization: I’m not responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass. And if someone doesn’t want to be around me, all they have to do is say so. And if anyone reading this has dug in instead of listening to someone calling them out on their shit, ask yourself why.

Breaking Radio Silence – Writing About the Dead

For most of my life, a big thing in my life was being told not to speak ill of the dead. When I was a kid I thought that was because if you talked smack about dead people they’d come back and haunt you. As an adult, I realize that if the dead have a problem with how I talk about them now, they know where I’m at.

I wonder if that belief in not talking ill of the dead is because the dead can’t defend themselves. I don’t buy that argument because I wasn’t aware every discussion about the dead was supposed to be a group debate session. Now I realize this argument is just to shut people up in talking about things they have every right to talk about.

I’m going to hang myself out here with an opinion that might not be very popular: the dead don’t need their legacy preserved without honesty. A lot of people keep things to themselves because they don’t want to hurt people’s perceptions of their long-gone loved ones. I will respect anyone’s decision whether or not to talk about someone who’s dead but I don’t feel you have to venerate the dead for the rest of eternity either.

As I begin to write my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I will be talking about the dead and some of what I write might not be ‘nice’. When it comes to my parents they would be the first people to tell you they weren’t perfect. They never claimed to be and even after they’d gotten pissed off and raged hard, they were able to apologize when they’d been wrong and said and done things they shouldn’t have. NO ONE IS PERFECT (I put that in all-caps here to make a point) so I don’t see any need to treat people as perfect just because they’re dead and gone.

My mother has been gone for twenty years so I’ve had twenty years to live without her. I’ve had to learn to live with memories and memory is a tricky thing because you want to remember good things but you also get the bad stuff with that. My father once said he chose to remember the good because the bad was always there. And he was right on the mark with that so that’s why I will talk about the bad stuff, the painful stuff, the stuff that’s taken me years to put into words. And if this makes someone uncomfortable, that’s on them and not me.

Many years ago, I heard people say that I was too comfortable with death. No, I wasn’t ‘comfortable’ at all. I just had to learn how to talk about it because I was watching it slowly advance on my mother first, then my father. And in death there’s a fair amount of paperwork involved so there’s that to deal with and if talking about that makes people uncomfortable then that’s on them.

Not long after my mother got her cancer diagnosis, my parents asked me to sit and talk with them about what to do when my mom died. I got up and walked out of the room. The thought of death slammed into me I couldn’t think or speak at that moment, but I eventually bucked up and started having those conversations with my mother and father. There was no comfort in those talks at all. They were just about working out the details that were going to need to be taken care of. And again, if anyone has a problem with that now, I’ll say to them like I should have said back then: go fuck yourself. My parents trusted me to take care of things for them because they knew how good I was at keeping my shit together and that I’d found the guts to face those damn details and get things done the way they wanted to. I’m not talking about this with pride, but I will not talk about it with shame or guilt either.

I know it might be hard for people to understand grief and pain when they haven’t experienced it themselves. It’s not an experience I wish on anyone though I know most people will have to go through it at some point in their lifetimes. If you haven’t gone through it, don’t judge people who have. If you have to, just walk out of the room until you can deal with it. My parents didn’t hold that walk-out against me in any way. They told me they’d understood why I had done that and knew that I would come and talk to them when I was ready. I talked to them because I knew that’s what they wanted me to do, and that they believed in me to shoulder the responsibility they were giving me.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in the process of working this book project here is feeling shame and guilt for things that I didn’t do wrong. I took on too much bullshit and insecurity from people I never should have. Every single person deals with things in their own way and anyone who insists on conformity in dealing with shit is an asshole. For in the end, there really isn’t any control over things. You just deal with them as they come and work through the fallout in the years after.

Conversations With My Mother Through Time

“You are not required to carry the pain of your mother.” ~unknown

I saw this online a few days ago and the explanation is that you don’t have to carry the pain of your mother as she projected it onto you. This is about people who project their crap onto others without dealing with it. My mother did her best not to do that and I’m forever grateful for that. But if I could have taken away any of her pain and carried with me for the rest of my life, I would have done so without a second’s hesitation.

It will be twenty years ago this October since my mother died and not a day has gone by since that I haven’t thought of her in some way. Recently, I have begun to feel like I’m having a conversation with my mom as I begin to write my book, ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ and other things I’m writing, too. I feel like she would understand better than anyone why I’m writing and what it means to me. And I like to think she’d have a bit of fun with me looking back on the good times we had together.

My mom was raised in an extremely conservative old-school Catholic home with a violent alcoholic father and a religious fanatic mother. I think my grandmother clung so tightly to religion to deal with being married and dependent on an alcoholic but it wasn’t the right way to raise children. My mother grew up thinking she was ugly and stupid and was going to Hell no matter what she did or didn’t do. My mother wasn’t ugly, and she wasn’t stupid, and she definitely wasn’t going to Hell because my mom did the right thing more often than not. Sometimes she paid one hell of a price for her decisions, but she knew how to persevere and survive.

My mother used to talk about the possibility of not living to a ripe old age. Looking back, I wonder if she had some type of premonition that she wasn’t going to make it, especially after her breast cancer diagnosis. If so, that was a hell of a burden to live with and one I suspect she did. It’s hell to think about, and much more difficult than anyone can imagine, to talk about being a given a glimpse of a future cut short.

In fact, one morning not long after my mom got her cancer diagnosis I was sitting outside on the back patio while she fussed with her plants. She asked me why I was outside with her when I could be doing anything else. I said this in reply, “Do I have to tell you exactly why I’m out here?” And she said no and let it drop. Because if she asked for an answer it would have been this, “I think you and I know you’re living on borrowed time and I want to make the most of the time I have with you.” That is a decision I have never, ever regretted despite the painful memories I carry because of it.

Previously I talked about my mother’s ‘rebellion’ back in the 1980’s and how she brought me along for the ride. It was then that we began to really talk to each other about anything we could. But what that time did was lay a foundation for the last seven years of her life when I could give her a space to talk freely. Because when she was first diagnosed with cancer so many people told her to be strong and think positive and she’d be cured. That is complete and total fucking bullshit. It’s hard as hell to fight when you’re exhausted all the damn time and to be positive when Death is staring you in the face. I realized this early-on so when we were alone, I made it totally clear to her she could let it rip and bitch and complain all she wanted to. It was a pain I willingly took on as best as I could though she I don’t think she thought of it that way.

I know if she had lived my life would have taken a very different path. I might not have been the silent and broken-down person afraid of her own shadow but I also might have had a lot of other shit to deal with. I might have gotten into something that would eventually have gone to Hell like a shitty marriage for example. Instead, I persevered through my silence like she did but have broken my silence in my own way as she did, too. Grief never ends. It ebbs and flows, and sometimes it goes off inside you like a ‘grief bomb’ as my father called it. For me, grief over the years has given me an ability to see things in new and different ways and be able to put those things into words. This is where the conversation with my mother has come from and when I write about my mother, I feel like I’m talking to her again. Her responses are memories, thoughts, and feelings I’ll never forget. And because of that, my conversation with my mom will never end.

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