7.03.2013

An Open Letter to the Democrats in the Texas Legislature

Hi guys,
It's me, a Texas Independent.  You know, that person who does not like partisan politics, who is both pro-life and pro-choice, who goes to church every Sunday and stands up for atheists, and who voted but otherwise stood aloofly by while ALEC bought my government and started spewing lies, junk science and bigotry through my elected officials.

Please forgive me.  I should have supported you more.  I understand that now.  I just had no idea - and I mean, NO IDEA - how completely out of control things would get in the Texas statehouse.  These guys are acting like they own the place, and thanks to ALEC, I'm afraid, for now, they do.

So here's the thing.  They got my attention.  I've had enough.  I'm ready to take my state back.  And in finally paying attention, I've come to realize that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.  I've woken up in the middle of freaking Armageddon and I don't even know how to tie a good square knot.  But you, you have somehow survived in the midst of this storm, overcome the gerrymandering, the lies, the personal attacks and venom, and you have thrived. 

And, I've noticed that you rock.  You don't back down from a good fight.  You will fact-bomb the shit out of those lying, self-righteous mouthpieces.  I want to take my state back, but I need you to show me how.

How do I get organized?  Where do I begin?  Do we need people going door to door with information?  Do we focus on get out the vote efforts?  Do we call the opposition out for their lies and manipulation at each and every opportunity?  All of the above?

Could you form a Take Back Our State political caucus for Texas?  Because, see, this effort needs to cross party lines.  I'm sorry, I know you've been holding the torch for Democrats and the dream of a blue state for such a long time.  And we may get there, but not if that's what we're aiming for.  It can't be what we're aiming for.

What we're aiming for has to be to remember that all Texans are reasonable people who make good choices when they are given good information.  People have been lied to.  Our churches have been infiltrated and used.  So long as we remain divided, ALEC and its next incarnation will keep picking us off.  This has to be Texas for Texans, period.  You know it, we're a little different down here. 

This will be a people's movement.  And I've heard you.  You are the only voice out there right now speaking - fighting - for the people of Texas.  I hear you.  Let independents come to your side.  Don't take the bait to turn this into a Democratic Party victory in Texas.  It will be a people's victory, and as long as you keep speaking for the people, we'll keep showing up for you, even if you're a Democrat, and even if it turns our state blue.

Let us support you now.  Show us how.

7.01.2013

An Open Letter to Texas GOP Senators (first of many, I'm sure)

Dear Hon. Texas GOP Senator,
I read your [column] [interview] [constituent email] [facebook rant] in the [Texas Tribune] [Austin-American Statesman] [shower], as I always try to inform myself of all views on an important issue.

You state that the purpose of the failed SB5 was to ensure that every woman received the best medical care possible in the event that she chooses to have an abortion.  And yet, every major medical organization that is an expert in women's health in Texas opposed this legislation, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Hospital Association.  They are concerned that by imposing restrictions so onerous and expensive (and, in their expert opinion, medically unnecessary) that the number of providers in Texas is reduced to a mere five facilities, that women will resort to dangerous and desperate acts (unlicensed providers, hidden back-door offices, border crossings to unregulated Mexican providers, self-inflicted poisons and procedures) to attempt to terminate their pregnancies, much like the horrors that existed in the decades leading up to Roe v. Wade. 

I was hoping your [column] [interview] [rant] would address their grave concerns over the impacts to Texas women's health that would result from this legislation, which has now been re-filed for the second special session, but you did not. 

Perhaps by "best medical care" you mean "no chance in Hell you'll be able to find a safe or legal provider within a 200-mile radius, much less save the money for travel and the necessary childcare and work leave since you'll have to be gone for at least 2 days to also get the state-mandated vaginal ultrasound 24 hrs. before the procedure itself." (Oh whoops, I forgot you have ruled that talking about existing abortion restrictions is not germane to discussing new restrictions.)

The only reasonable conclusion for your silence in the face of the medical experts is that you have no answer to the grave medical concerns raised by these organizations and are only using this reason as a thin veil to your real reason for supporting this legislation:  your desire to restrict as much as possible and against the best recommendations of medical experts the ability of a woman to exercise her Constitutional right to choice.

I believe in the Constitution and the rights that have been found within its text, including an individual citizen's right to privacy.  The Supreme Court cited the right to privacy as the right that was unreasonably restricted by government prohibitions against abortion in its landmark decision Roe v. Wade.  (Well shoot, there I go again, discussing things you have ruled are not germane to the proposed abortion restrictions.)  I am discouraged to find the Texas GOP is so cavalier in picking and choosing which constitutional rights Texas citizens should be permitted to access and actually exercise.  I had thought that the Texas GOP also loved the rights and liberties set forth in the Constitution, like one of those things you can always count on:  shorts and flip flops in December, fireworks on the 4th, and the GOP always defends the Constitution.

Turns out, not so much.

Please be aware that I am watching you closely.  While you fritter and divide the good people of this state on issues that weren't even our first priorities for you to solve during those precious taxpayer-paid-for days in Austin, while you neglect the real problems facing Texas for this ridiculous political charade that has only served to galvanize Texas liberals to do everything within their power to turn this state blue (thank you for that, by the way), while you brazenly insult our democratic institutions by skirting, bending, even outright breaking all the rules to force unpopular legislation onto Texans, while you insult my intelligence and my values and my Constitutional rights, while you place your political career ahead of Texas women's health and the men and families who love them, I am saving every penny for whoever runs against you at your next election.

See you at the ballot box, buddy.

5.05.2013

Birds and Anxiety

When the kids were very young, I made a habit of pointing out the beauty around us in ordinary moments - the white swirl of clouds larger than skyscrapers, the dramatic and also subtle hues of sunset and sunrise, the towering grace of trees, the ever-present chirps and songs of birds.  I would tell them that one of the amazing things about living on this planet was that its beauty was always there, right in front of us, at every single moment, and that no matter what was happening for us in that moment, no matter how bad a day they were having, there would always be this, here for them, and all they had to do was remember to notice and enjoy it.

I did this in hopes that I was giving them a tool, a means to cope, to find solace and balm.  I didn't realize how much it would take root for them.

The boy, now 8, has become a bit of a junior ornithologist and naturalist.  He knows things about species, particularly birds, that I had never known, and I'm 44, and I read a lot and have been a nature lover and explorer for years.  And he still stumps me, and also his stepdad.  When he first started to rattle off facts and information to us, some of it sounding a tad implausible to our skeptical grown-up know-it-all minds, we would say, Really?  Are you sure?  I don't know, that doesn't sound quite right.  And then we would look it up, and the boy would have been right.  About all of it.  So we've learned.  Tonight, DH couldn't help himself, because the boy was talking about the cookie-cutter shark.  I would have thought, with a name like that, I would have heard about it by now.  DH apparently felt the same way, and during dinner he whipped out his phone, looked it up, and sure enough, the boy was right again.

I now know things about birds that I would never have known if the boy didn't love them so much.  I know that the female cardinal is a warm, nutty brown next to her more flamboyant partner, and I can tell their song every time I hear it.  I have a deeper appreciation for the singing prowess of mockingbirds.  I never realized how many birds around us are marked with yellow.  I have seen and correctly identified a red-winged blackbird.  I have watched a woodpecker and its mate build their nest.  I have seen a green heron on the phone line, fluffing its feathers in the cold morning air.  And I love all of this, this amazing gift of appreciation from my 8 year old son, but it also scares the hell out of me.  Because, something about going through what we've been through, it leaves you with a large residue of anxiety.  Now you know that horrific things happen.  Not just on the news, not just to people whose FB page your friend "liked" and it showed up in your feed.  They happen to you, in your life.  And once one horrific thing has happened very close to you and ripped through your own life - and worse, the lives of the people you love most of all, it feels like the next horrific thing is lurking in the wings, hiding behind the furniture, waiting for its chosen moment to leap into your life and wreck you and what you love again.  So for every joy, there is a frame of anxiety around it, like the photo frames at Target that say "Friends" and "Love" and "Family", except yours says "The Next Disaster Could Happen At Any Moment".  And how do you argue with that?  It's true.  You know it. 

So along with my delight in all of this new-found appreciation given to me by my son, my anxiety has also stepped up, because I've realized that birds now will always remind me of him, like looking at a rock makes me think of my geologist dad.  I feel so naive not realizing how much my kids were imprinting my world while I was deliberately trying to imprint theirs.  Anxiety is a patient bastard, I have to say.  I'm fortunate not to be plagued by depression, that constant gnawing monster.  But anxiety, mercifully mild most of the time, is a regular visitor.  I believe this is part of what's to be expected with post-traumatic-stress-disorder.  I believe, with time, it is supposed to be self-correcting.  Sometimes I look at how much has passed in these last three years - half a lifetime for the kids, but sometimes just a blink for me.  And I tell myself, you're doing fine.  Keep moving forward.  Everyone's safe and okay.  Tomorrow will be beautiful and ordinary and good, even the feisty bits.  And then I notice all of the art from the kids hanging around the house, the many "I love you" notes, and I try to focus on that and ignore the frame.

4.25.2013

Why Separation of Church and State Means Churches Must Abide by the Laws They Don't Like

I guess there have always been attempts by churches to be excused from following the laws that go against their religious teachings.  I am being careful not to say laws that go against their morals, because morals and religious teachings are separate sources of what's right and wrong, that for some people are very connected, and for others - are not.  So I'm speaking here only about the church's interpretations, based on their particular dogma and doctrines, for what is acceptable conduct and what is not.

Recently, several churches, hospitals, universities and private individuals claiming religious belief have argued, and even sued the federal government, for their right to go against current legal requirements for allowing their female employees access to birth control under their health insurance (even if the insurer pays the full cost, which they're willing to do because family planning is much cheaper than the alternative), for example, or for recognizing the homosexual marriage of employees, patients or students who are legally married in states that recognize them (or the legal civil unions and associated medical power of attorney in states that do not).

There has also been a steady drumbeat from the very far right that Islamists in America are trying to create Shariah-law friendly zones and to implement Shariah law in jurisdictions across America.

I want to sit these folks down and explain to them very carefully that the one thing they are trying to do above, opens the door for exactly what they most fear and oppose.  I think most people understand this, but in case they don't, I'm going to spell it out, step by step, so that folks understand that when we stand up and say, no, the church cannot pick and choose which laws it will abide by, it's to protect them and the rest of us, not to harm them and not to disrespect them.

Let's say, for example, that a law is passed that says churches and organizations affiliated with churches may submit applications for waivers from local and federal laws that would otherwise require them to go against their religious teachings.  The way laws work, it would not be possible to say specifically which type of churches are allowed this privilege.  For example, it would not be okay to say only Christian churches could exercise this privilege, because that would be a state endorsement of a specific religion, which I think we all agree is a no-no under the First Amendment.  So the law would be written to generally allow religious institutions and their affiliates to be excused from following laws that go against their teachings.

All churches, of all faiths.

The effect of a law like this would be to create a massive loophole in democracy for all religious organizations to do as their holy books, cardinals, imams, rabbis, elders, etc. instruct instead of what the law requires.  A child denied life-saving cancer treatment on the basis of the parents' religious beliefs?  Excused.  Daughters denied education on the basis of the parents' religious beliefs?  Excused.  Polygamy?  Excused.  Chopping off a hand as punishment for theft within the community?  Excused.

This is the problem.  Once it is put into law, in any degree, that religious belief is allowed to override laws that conflict with faith or beliefs, the principle that religion trumps the democratic process has now entered the law and become legal precedent.  This is exactly what you do not want in a free country.  It is an extremely dangerous path to start down, and it opens the door to religion - any religion - to override secular principles of justice and individual freedoms and liberties, including most importantly the right of freedom of conscience, that are the foundation of our country's legal and political system. 

Those who follow a specific religion are already, right now, free to make choices in their own, personal lives to live as they see fit:  don't believe in gay marriage?  No one's forcing you into one.  Don't believe in science?  Then forego your own medical care and stop using the internet.  Don't believe in birth control?  No one's forcing you to use it.  But the examples given above are all cases where members of a religious organization would require others to also live by their particular religious beliefs rather than by the individual's own conscience.  You can't have it both ways, folks.  If you want freedom of conscience, which is the law right now, then you have to respect everyone else's freedom of conscience, too.  Even if you disagree with how they are living their lives.  It's their choice, their life, but most importantly, it's the law.  It's the result of the secular, democratic process.  And once we give special dispensation to avoid the law based on  religious beliefs, we open the door for all religious beliefs to avoid the law.  This is a sacred boundary, and it cannot be breached, for anyone, ever.

4.15.2013

We're On Your Side

My teenage years were hard.  I entered them with little to no resources for taking care of myself emotionally, for recognizing and protecting myself from people who would use me, manipulate me, disrespect my personal boundaries and treat me horribly.  I sought out attention from my peers, however I could obtain it, and was desperate for anything that resembled affection.  I was also in a lot of pain, felt isolated and worthless, and sought to numb all of those feelings with substances.

It's a wonder I survived those years. 

I came out of it rather early, and somewhat painfully, around fifteen.  I had a life-altering moment in which I realized, in a crystallizing epiphany, that the person who would ultimately live the consequences of all of my choices was not any of the people who were telling me what to do or that they knew better than I did what was best for me.  It was me.  I alone would have to live out the effects of these decisions.  And therefore no one - No. One. - had the authority to tell me how I should live my life.

This was the beginning of a long road of learning what it meant to be a successful, happy human.  A road I'm still discovering and building.

There's something important that I want my kids to hear, so I've started to say it to them, because the older one is eight, and soon things will start to show up in his life that carry more consequences, more traps, more risks for screwing up.  I want them to hear that their stepdad and I are on their side.  I said it to them the other day.  No matter what they had done, no matter how upset it might make me to hear about it, we're always here to help them.  They can count on us.  We will comfort them.  We will protect them.  We will be on their side.  Always.

One of my biggest fears as they grow older is the emergence of a space between us where I become on the outside of their lives, of what's happening to them, inside of them, and that I'm not even aware of how large this space has become.  I know that there will be some space.  It's a necessary part of becoming an adult.  But I want to be sure that if something happens to them that really scares them, no matter how ashamed they feel about it or how badly they think they screwed up, that they will come to us, because they will know that they don't have to carry it alone.  So I've started telling them now, and trying to practice good empathetic listening, and staying calm and non-judging when little things go wrong, so that when big things go wrong later, they'll still come to us. 

When I was a teenager, people already talked about how different and more dangerous the world was for my generation - AIDS, cocaine, gangs, and the explosion of pornography with cable tv and VHS recording all preyed upon the future of youth.  And that was before the internet.  Before this insane proliferation of guns in homes and purses and car glove compartments.  Before Mexican cartels moved into our neighborhoods.  Before human traficking and forced prostitution warranted their own budgets and departments in local crime enforcement.  Before organizations dedicated solely to protecting and advocating for child victims of sexual abuse even existed.

So besides keeping the computers in the family room, talking with them about how to choose their friends, teaching them bit by bit that there are dangers out there that they need to watch out for and avoid, I also want to add in, and if (when) you screw up, come to us.  Whatever pain you are in, we are your parents, we are strong, let us carry it with you and help you through it.  We will listen.  We care.  We will always be on your side.

I hope and pray that by the time they become teenagers, the bridge we have built will be strong and familiar enough that they will meet us on it, by habit, no matter how large the spaces between us have become.

3.24.2013

Where We're At

A reader posted a comment to the last blog entry, from May 2012, letting me know she'd followed the blog and was hoping the long silence was a good thing.  It's true, I've had a hard time writing here.  The continuity of this blog from pre-traumatic loss to post-traumatic loss is a little uncomfortable for me.  It feels as if it signals that somehow things have just continued on as they were.  Which is not the case.  And writing about our lives now, which is full of more blessings than I can count, somehow also feels disloyal to his memory, as if it diminishes the fact of his loss, the fact that the kids are still, and likely always will be one way or another, receiving professional help to grasp with and process the pain and grief and anger and bewilderment of questions that can never be adequately answered that is brought up by their dad's choice.  And that keeps registering afresh for them over and over again at new levels of maturity and emotional depth as they grow older and find that with their greater awareness and understanding comes deeper acknowledgment and confusion over how and why he did what he did.

At the same time, I don't want the blog to become solely about our ongoing process and progress in nurturing our innocence, joy and health in the shadow of their dad's suicide.  That feels horribly dreary.  And then I swing back the other way - how can I write about joy and blessing when he's dead?

So, yes, I've been stuck.  And I'm so glad she acknowledged it.  It was the prompt I needed to write this, to share my neurotic back-and-forth that has prevented me from being able to write anything here.

We had a family wedding this weekend, for one of my cousins whom I've known since she was born and whom I love dearly.  She had asked my son and daughter to be the ring-bearer and flower-girl, which was such an honor, and such a moment of pride and belonging for the kids.  And this week, seeing people who I haven't seen in a few years or more, I was told several times, "You seem so happy."  Like the kind of happy I was when I was much younger, in my 20's.  My brother made me all sloppy choked up by telling me he likes listening to how my husband and I talk to each other, because it sounds to him like a couple who are just seeing each other again for the first time in two weeks, after a long business trip. 

They're right, and I am deeply conflicted about being this happy.  I have to remind myself regularly, it's no disrespect to his memory that I am happy now.  Sometimes I feel wracked with guilt about it.  After all, we were separated and getting a divorce when he killed himself.  How do you separate those two facts and not take responsibility?  I have actually told myself that I do get to take some of the responsibility, and believe it or not, this is a relief.  But I also tell myself that I do not get to take all of the responsibility.  And I also have an internal conversation whether I know for certain that he would not have killed himself eventually even if we had stayed married.  And when I walk through what that would have been like, I end up having to admit that I'm not in control, that there's no guarantee I could have done anything, that he wouldn't have been suicidal regardless of what I'd done or not done, that I made the best choices I could for everyone leading up to it, that when he killed himself he was so, so mad at me, so deeply furious at me, thought I was the most reprehensible person he'd ever met for, in his view, walking away from our marriage.  And I remind myself that it was a very mutual disintegration of the relationship, that we both made mistakes, that he told me to leave.

So, three years out, I'm still wrestling with this.  The good news is, at the same time, we are doing really, really well.

My husband and I will celebrate our one-year anniversary next month.  Our progess to where we are now has been very incremental, and we've worked so hard.  Right after the kids' dad died, I had to deal with all of the debt of the estate, and I also had to find a new place for us to live because my horrible landlady was not renewing our lease.  So I bought a house the only place I could afford a 3-br, which wasn't an especially family-friendly neighborhood, and started the kids together at a private school nearby that I could afford and that had a pre-k class so both of the kids could go, so that they could stay close to each other all day.  My instinct was that they needed each other nearby.  And I was right.  My then-boyfriend and I had a set schedule of days that he came to be with us after work, and days that the three of us were on our own.  The kids liked the routine, and we had the space to find our way just the three of us, and yet also to grow the relationship with their now stepdad.  After a year of that, with consultation and approval from the kids, boyfriend moved in.  After about 8 more months, with enthusiastic approval from the kids, the four of went to a judge and made it official.  In the meantime, husband and I also found a very neglected home needing a huge amount of work that was in a great location for us, a great neighborhood for the kids, on half an acre, on a cul-de-sac, backing to a creek.  It was exactly right for us.  Eleven months later, the work was finally completed and we moved in. 

The kids love their new home, and they are looking forward to starting next year at the local public elementary.  I've found out that the nearby Episcopal church is a good fit for us.  The boychild's interest in ornithology has exploded, and he frequently spends hours down by the creek.  We have rehabilitated the lot to some degree, but there's still lots to do.  There's a large garden and chicken coop in the plans.  Husband and I get to rediscover with each new step forward what strong and loving partners we are for each other.  I told him it feels like we've built a new ark for us and the kids, while already in the river, keeping our heads above water, teaching the kids to swim, and in the midst of storms.  We're now safely on deck, living more easily, enjoying the benefits of all our work.  The kids have said several times how much they love the new home, how happy they are that we've moved here.  Everything is coming into place, to how it should be.  We had a garage sale a week ago and the kids got to keep the money from sales of their toys, which was such a great learning experience for them.  They hardly ever turn on the tv.  They're doing well in school and know that they have two grown-ups completely committed to their childhood, safety, well-being, nurturing and growth.  Despite the loss they suffered and still must face and cope with, they are also doing really well.

So, I think I can maybe resume writing here.  There's so much going on, so much to write about.  Thank you if you're still reading, and I'll get back on to it, because the adventure continues!

5.12.2012

C-Change in How We Eat

There have been significant changes in my life and in the kids' lives, good changes. Healing. Rebuidling. Love carefully, gently, patiently stitching a new family together. I got married. To a man the kids adore - they call him "Woogie". He's been with us through everything. About a year ago the kids stopped calling their Dad "Daddy" and instead started referring to him by his name when we talked about him. Sometimes it felt like they were making a point of saying something about him just to hear themselves call him by his name, to feel the word inside their mouths. And they didn't really know what to call my then-boyfriend. They had grown to love him, to the point that calling him by his name didn't seem right. But "Daddy" wasn't available. The person who was the one person who that name was for is gone. Painfully. They won't give that name to another, ever. So, Woogie. He's good with it. I'm good with it. We're all good with it.

Since our marriage, we have both lost weight. Not really trying, but we watched "Forks Over Knives". We have been flirting with going vegetarian, maybe even vegan, for a while now. We watched "Food, Inc.", and affirmed that we would only eat local, farm-raised, locally slaughtered and butchered meat. Then came "Forks Over Knives". The mountain of research and data demonstrating the terrible health effects of animal protein. The multiple cases of dramatically ill individuals, some whose doctors had given up on them and told them to prepare to die, recovering healthy, vital lives simply by changing to a plant-based diet of whole foods. It was stunning.

When you have your kids a little later in life, the idea of longevity changes from a nice thing to do for yourself to an imperative for your kids (and your grandkids, should you be so blessed). And if one parent has already died, well, you can't help but feel like you have to be that much more stable, that much stronger, that much healthier and present and available. Because you do. In addition to planning on running a marathon next February, I'm trying to change my body's chemistry. Not that it was bad to begin with. I had low blood pressure, good weight, excellent cholesterol. But I'm 43, and I want to live to be 100. Am I jinxing myself saying that out loud? I don't see any reason, short of the statistical things like getting hit by a drunk driver, why I shouldn't stay strong, active and healthy for a long, long time.

So we're making the change to being vegetarians with a view toward vegan, and I'm realizing that I'm having to start over in the kitchen in many ways. When you eat meat, making dinner is actually easier. Or right now it seems so. I could throw a piece of meat in the oven or the skillet, whether it was tilapia, chicken legs, brisket - add a quick salad, a veggie, and we were done. I didn't have to think about it much.

Now, because it's new, I have to think about it.  And it seems like there's more prep work in vegetarian cooking.  More things to chop.  More grains to cook.  Things to roast, blend, soak.  I'm following two guiding principles - not to rely on meat substitutes (I'm trying to stay away from tofu and tempeh), and not to put too many ingredients into any one dish.  There's lentil loaf and ratatouille, which necessarily require a lot of ingredients, but other than that, I'm trying to keep it simple. 

Tonight's dinner, for example, was a salad of cantaloupe and mango with vanilla soy yogurt, a kale-potato pie, and a carrot-quinoa side.  There were different flavors on the plate, which helps the kids, but each dish was very simple.  The pie had 6 ingredients (crust, kale, potatoes, bread crumbs, parmesan, olive oil), but was still very simple.  I plan to start posting some of the meals and recipes, as I've done before, but I'm realizing that there's a lot of room for creativity in vegetarian cooking, and I want to have a place to write down what I've cooked so I won't forget the dishes later.  The other night we had grilled grape tomatoes with a canellini bean sauce that came out very nice.  I don't want to forget that one either.

And, um, I know I have a few followers on this blog.  It means a lot to me to know you're there.  This is the place where I've put some of my most personal thoughts and difficult times, and you have been 100% supportive, and you didn't have to be.  We have been through a few more milestones and hoops that may help someone else who is a caregiver to a child coping with the loss of a parent.  But I just wanted to say "thank you".  And I hope I can give back here, hopefully sharing some bit of information or lesson learned that helps someone else.

There is nothing to do but love everyone.

3.02.2012

The Universe Has Answers

Every now and then I sit down, close my eyes, clear my head, and have a conversation with what I'll call my Higher Self. You can call it Joe. Or Edna. Whatever. Doesn't matter. The thing is, I have learned, if I ask questions, I get answers. One time I wrote the conversation down in a Word file, then forgot about it. I rediscover that file every few years. Today I found it again, and decided it was time to send these answers out there. Just because. Someone out there besides me is supposed to read this right now. You know who you are.

From May 6, 2003:

Will there ever be peace in the world?
Yes.

Why are there so many wars?
Because you have not yet found yourselves.

What do you mean?
You are lost.

How do we find ourselves?
Look inside.

Do you mean that we should be more introspective?
No. If you look inside you will find all of your selves there. Until you recognize others as yourself you are lost.

One day we will all find ourselves?
It is the inevitable destiny. It is not guaranteed to be peaceful.

So you mean that we could destroy ourselves to achieve peace?
That’s one way.

How do we achieve peace with ourselves individually?
Accept who you are right now.

What if who I am right now is a terrible person?
Then accept that.

Shouldn’t I try to be a better person?
Sure. And the first step is to accept that right now you are a terrible person.

How many lives do we have?
For your purposes, one.

Why have you qualified your answer?
Because you shouldn’t distract yourself with the possibility of other lives. Just focus on this one now.

Will you ever grow tired of answering these questions?
I have no concept for “grow tired”.

12.01.2011

Finally had "the dream"

One of the things I've learned in my group for survivors of suicide is that it's common for survivors to have dreams of their loved ones where they see them happy and whole again. For survivors, it's a way to somehow feel like they connected with their loved one from the other side, and got the information that their loved one was okay. The evening that we talked about this in depth I cried (heck, I cry most of those evenings) because I hadn't had one of those dreams, and because I felt like maybe it was because I still had quite a bit of anger at him for choosing to leave like that. And because I wanted to know that he was okay.

I had a dream tonight, that was very vivid for how early I had it. I was hanging out, unpleasantly but it couldn't be avoided, with his friends who had shunned and blamed me during the separation and after his suicide. And I saw some photos of some gathering that they'd had afterwards where they had set out things that reminded them of him that happened to have been things that they'd taken from the house after he'd died. I was a little peeved to see the actual photos of all of the stuff, because there was a lot of it, things that I'd forgotten about. Things that they'd helped themselves to and not asked or let me know they'd taken (this part is true). And it was very uncomfortable because, far as I know, they all still hate and blame me. I ran into one of them at the grocery today, and she made a little wave and complimented my new short hair cut. As if she were an old friend. Very, very weird. So dreaming of hanging out with them was strange and not something I'd dreamt about before. I realized that I was sitting at a table with some of his old friends from Reed, one of whom was getting married, and suddenly I realize he's sitting beside me, except no one else can see him. He's trying to join in on the conversation, making jokes, but I'm the only one who can hear him. And when I look at him, I see three of him, from different ages, sitting beside me, all of them happy and laughing and making jokes. He was yelling "Pop corducts!" and I finally said out loud to everyone, "he's trying to say 'pop corducts'. He's saying 'pop corducts'." I was laughing and crying at the same time because I was so happy to see him, many of him at different ages, happy. And also because what the hell is pop corducts? It was totally something random, slightly techie and obscure that he would make a joke out of. He was waaaayyyy funnier than I am. Everyone got quiet, because they either had no idea what I was talking about, or because it's just unacceptable to that crowd that I could still have any connection to him.

But I had the dream. I saw him. He was sitting beside me and he was *happy*. He was happy. I heard his voice, making jokes and laughing, and he looked right at me, like, See? I'm okay. This is how it is. I'm healed from every hurt from every age. It's okay. I'm okay.

10.26.2011

Seriously, How Do They Do It

Let me just tell you right now, folks. You families who work, have your kids in activities, volunteer, go to church, stay fit and healthy and keep up with your friends and families, I have no idea how you do it. Really. Do you have a personal assistant? Do you have bologna sandwiches for dinner every night? Secret robot clones?

If I were to map out how well I feel like I fill each of those roles, it would look like this (percentages reflect how well I'm doing compared to how well I wish I was doing):

Work: 73% (writing isn't getting the attention I wish it was; I'm having issues with procrastination, like right now)
Kids activities: 90% (they do plenty, but I feel like I'm a little low on the playdate scale)
Volunteer: 50% (I'm pretty active at the school, but I wish I was more active in my neighborhood and with at-risk youth)
Go to church: 5% (I'm eyeing the Unitarian church but haven't gone yet; I still get 5% for teaching the kids meditation and prayer and having conversations about God)
Stay fit: 10% (I still eat pretty healthy, but I'm not excercising at all right now except for the playing with the kids and Sunday family hike with the dog)
Keep up with friends: 20% (I don't even have time to keep up on FB; I'm not sure why I've given myself even 20% here)

When I pick up the kids at school I see other parents who have kids as young as mine, maybe one or two more than I have, and I know their kids are great and happy, I've seen them doing the heavy-lifting sort of volunteering around the school, I know they go to church, have careers, and active social lives to boot.

My hat's off to you if you're one of these people. You are a force of nature.