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.

The Debate Is Over

ABC World News Tonight has a feature each Friday called ‘Person of the Week’ about someone who had done good or made a difference in the world that week. One week in 1989  it was called ‘Persons of the Week’ in honor of the people of Pulaski, Tennessee. Shortly after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was founded there and every year on the anniversary of the founding the KKK and other Neo-Nazis descended on the town to spew their filth and hatred to the people that lived there (and who were nothing like those monsters). That year in 1989 the townspeople did something very different: they closed their businesses and went into their homes and closed their doors to these bastards parading through their town. They gave these monsters their freedom of speech and assembly, but in return they gave themselves the freedom not to listen to this filth or see the Nazi salutes and other symbols of hatred. It was a powerful image to see a bunch of Nazi’s and KKK-limp dicked assholes parade around to nothing but silence.

I tell this story because it wasn’t just a powerful example of non-violent counter-protest. It was also a way of showing the world there is no debate with people who put their own hate-filled lives above all others.

When I saw the debate is over it’s not just stopping debate with right-wing neo-Nazis and their filth. It’s also stopping debate over policies, or lack of policies that have been proven not to work. Arguing with someone who refuses to accept the truth of their failures or of their support of failed policies and positions is pointless. But worst of all, someone who refuses to acknowledge or accept that something doesn’t work won’t budge from that position. Instead, they’ll keep you coming at them until you wear yourself out, get tired, and back down instead of standing back then turning and walking away.

Now at this point I’m sure some reader here will be wanting to ask me: am I saying to give up on people?

Yes.

By yes I mean I’m not going to argue with someone who won’t admit to failure, or someone who holds a position or belief that causes harm to others, or lets harm to come others without working to stop that in some way. I’m not going to let anyone like that batter me into submission because I have in the past and all I have to show for it are a lot of scarred-over wounds.

But this doesn’t mean I’m retreating into silence and running and hiding, far from it. It means that I am going to continue speaking out in truth, but also asking questions out loud and working to find the answers and share them. Because as I’ve said before here, my purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass, nor is it anyone else’s purpose in life either.

Instead, I’m going to talk about problems and solutions, ask questions and find answers. And I’m going to work on providing a happy and pleasurable respite from the pain and darkness of this world. It’s been said the Universe likes balance so I think we need to start working on bringing that balance to life.

I’m not going to back down from sharing my thoughts and feelings, and I’m not going to back down from sharing other things like facts and figures, too. And I will keep telling readers here to ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can though I will warn readers they may not like the answers they find and that they will have to deal with them sooner or later. And I’m not going to stop telling people they are so much stronger than they will ever realize, either. But if someone just comes at me like a battering ram, I’m not going to let them batter me into submission ever again. I will resist and fight with every ounce of strength I have in me against that battering. And I will not tolerate nor listen to any attempt to manipulate me or gaslight into doubting myself, and most of all, I will not let anyone heap shame and guilt onto me for things I haven’t done wrong.

I will not ‘debate’ someone over things that clearly cause harm or don’t work. If someone wants to listen to me I’ll listen to them in turn. But if I don’t agree with them and they can’t accept that and try to batter me into submission, I will walk away in silence.

I’ve lost more arguments than I’ve won simply because I gave in rather than hold my position. I won’t do that anymore. But life is not an argument to be won or lost. Life is about living, and not just living in fear and pain. Fear and pain will always be a part of life but it is no way to live, and neither is living in fear and outrage. I’ve felt a lot of anger and rage in this past week and I’ve had to let it run its’ course. But I’m working to focus instead on action that will result in change for the better. I’m not going to stand around and debate with someone when there are things that can be done to make things better for the future.

Now let’s get to work.

God Is Love

Many years ago I read about a Nazi-occupied town in Europe during World War II in which a group of Resistance Fighters were hung in the town square. The group of fighters included a young boy of about twelve or thirteen. The story goes that there were two men in the crowd watching the hanging when one asked, “Where is God? Where is He?” And the man next to him replied as he looked at the young boy as he was dying, “There He is.”

I’ve thought about this story a lot over the years since I’ve heard it and the idea that God was a single omnipotent being watching over us and meting out judgment, punishment, along with mercy and divine intervention just didn’t work for me. To me, God is a singular reference point our tiny human minds use in order to try and understand the infinite vastness of the Universe we live in. To me, The Universe is all that we are, all that we were, and all that we will be. It is all of our lives, our souls, our consciousnesses, our thoughts and feelings, our dreams and our hopes, and our pain and suffering. But in that vastness is one thing that drives the direction we all go in: free will.

My father used to say ‘free will’ was a tricky concept and I understand why he thought that way. Because if we have the freedom to make any decision we want to, how do we know which decisions are the right ones?

I believe the Universe, God, has provided us with the guidance needed to choose wisely and choose well. From the Prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles in the New Testament, to other religious faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and countless others, and also from countless men and women throughout the history of humanity. The guiding belief is to love another, to do no harm, to care for those in need, and to change the world for the better. I believe all these teachings come from conscience, empathy, compassion, and love. So in turn, teachings of hate, harm, and oppression come from teachings with no conscience, no empathy, no compassion, and no love.

So why are the voices of hate, harm, and oppression so loud, loud enough to cower people into silence? My answer is they are loud because they are without any restraint of conscience, empathy, compassion, or love. When a person is devoid of those things, the only holding them back is their own decision to do so. I’m willing to believe that some who talk in an awful way or who have caused harm to others may have tiny shreds of conscience, empathy, compassion, or love inside them. But I don’t believe that’s for other people to reach out and find in those people who live their lives by hate and harm. In the spirit of free will, I believe each person has to find their own way in this world through the good and the bad. Therefore I say to those who have done harm and continue to do so: ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can, but I will warn you that you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them.

I believe the Universe runs more on good than evil. I think our planet here is a good example of that because good has triumphed over evil by the fact that we haven’t nuked our planet into oblivion, and that this little blue ball is still hurtling through space full of life. Yet in order to save this little blue ball of ours, we can’t give up hope for a better life. We can’t choose evil over good. We can’t back down in the face of hate or be drowned out or cowed into silence by voices of hate and harm. We must always strive to live our lives with love, and the reading below shows us the way:

From the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a):

Brothers and sisters:

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have

love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all

mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to

move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over

so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own

interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood

over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but

rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

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

Grief Into Action

Earlier today a gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and murdered eighteen children and three adults. I will not say the gunman’s name nor ever write it out here, and I will not speculate as to what his motive was. Instead, I will try to address a question so many people asked yesterday: what can we do to stop this from happening again in the future?

The following are based on my own observations, research, and beliefs that I am trying to put into action.

1) Take a stand. By this I mean take a position and stand on it. You don’t have to go public with it like I am. All I ask is that you make your position known in the voting booth. Your vote is now literally a matter of life and death. Choose wisely, and choose well.

2) Vote for candidates for any public office who have solid plans to address gun violence in our country. And if they are rated by the NRA (National Rifle Association), make sure their grade is F for this means they support sensible gun legislation and they don’t take any money from the NRA or other gun lobby groups, groups that are nothing but greedy butchers. The NRA and other groups like them have only stoked fear and outrage to enrich themselves. These groups have no conscience, no empathy, and no compassion for anyone.

3) If you want to give financial support, support organizations that are working for sensible gun control legislation. Two groups I recommend are Everytown for Gun Safety and former Congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Gifford’s group. These organizations have been campaigning tirelessly for years to save lives so if you have the means to support them, please do so.

4) In the coming days, weeks, months, and even years, crackpot conspiracy-theorists like QAnon adherents will accuse the families in Uvalde of being ‘crisis actors’ and that the murders didn’t happen. The families of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School have been battling these monsters for years, so much that some of these crackpots are in prison for threatening the families. If anyone speaks to you like this, shut them down as hard as you can, so badly it hurts. There is no compromise or tolerance for these views.

5) If you are a gun owner, be a responsible gun owner. Know how to safely handle and store your weapon. Keep it away from children and other people at all times. And hope and pray you never have to use it because if you boast that you could shoot someone, know that if you do you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Don’t ever speak of being a gun owner in a cavalier way or be irresponsible in any way.

Most of all, be there for those who are grieving now. You don’t need to find words to comfort someone. To comfort someone all you need to do is be there and listen with an open heart and an open mind. Cry and share emotions such as sadness, pain, and grief. But also share emotions such as joy, and remember their loved ones, their hopes and dreams, and the lives they lived, even those lost at such a young age such as the children in Uvalde today.

This evening President Biden addressed the nation and talked of turning grief into action. Before President Biden has talked about turning grief into purpose but we already have purpose in our lives, and that is to live well, love well, and do no harm. Now we have to take that purpose and turn it into action.

I will tell you here that if you take a stand against gun violence there may people in your life who will not agree with you on this. You will have to agree to disagree though in my experience that is not really done. I have been told that if I don’t back down there will be no peace because I have to be silent in order to keep the peace. I say to that: there is no peace in silence. I have also been told if I am too outspoken that people will not want to be around me, or like me, or love me. I have been told if I am outspoken I will come off as hard and cold when I am anything but. To those who would seek to isolate me for my beliefs and my actions I will say this: I am alone here in front of you now, and if I have to live my life alone I will. But I don’t believe that being outspoken will isolate me like I have feared for so long. Because most of all, I still have hope for a better world, and a belief that our world is worth saving.

Turning grief into action will not be easy. Doing this may have you accused of being a troublemaker, of making trouble where there shouldn’t be, and that now is not the time to take action. To that I will respond with a quote from the late Congressman John Lewis:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

– John Lewis, tweet from June 2018

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.

%d bloggers like this: