Category Archives: Anger

Self-Care in Painful Times

This page is not partisan, I’ve made that very clear.

I address issues that are not left/right, issues that are simply about human decency and morality.

Ripping children from their parents is not a partisan issue.
Putting children and little babies into cages, physically and emotionally abusing them, scarring them forever, is not a partisan issue.
Gunning down African Americans on our streets is not a partisan.
Looking for answers to stop gun violence and spree killings is not partisan.

I woke up this morning to find that there has been another mass shooting, 13 hours after the last. Nine irreplaceable humans are dead. There have now been more mass shootings in the United States than days in the year.

On the Nightmare and Laughter Facebook page, I offered soft words for Gilroy and encouraged self-care.
Six days later I did the same for El Paso.
And now, 13 hours after El Paso, we have Dayton.

My page is becoming a testament to barbarity, to hopelessness, to death and crippling pain. I don’t want people looking at it and, instead of finding comfort or laughter or interest, finding themselves scrolling through tragedy after tragedy.

All of this affects everyone, and I am no exception. I want to be a comfort and a refuge for my readers, that is the mission of this page. But I have to take care of myself before I can do that. And posting what will later be reminders of atrocity after atrocity is already compounding the nightmare for me.

Put simply, I’m getting depressed.

I don’t want anyone coming to my page and finding themselves in the same position. I want you to come to my page and not find only condolences. I want you to come to my page and find hope and comfort. Of course in the heat of it, everyone will know what I’m referring to, but my page will read like an affirmation, rather than an obituary. That is what Nightmares and Laugher is, that is what I set out to do. It will keep the page a safe place for you and honestly, for me as well.

self care proactive 2

 

So please know that should you be affected by a future event, (I wish I could say if there is a future event) that the affirmation is with you in my mind and my heart. Should you be adjacent to this tragedy, the affirmation is with you in my mind and my heart. And if you are a human in the United States or anywhere and this hurts you, the affirmation is with you in my mind and my heart.

Life many of us, my heart breaks and I cry with every bullet spent, every irreplaceable life forever gone. I am now crying as I type these words. It is simply overwhelming.

This is not a partisan issue. This is a national emergency that affects all of us. I will not hear any anti-regulation arguments, I will not hear any defense of what is happening, which is what an anti-regulation argument is. We need solutions, we need think tanks.

I do not have the answers. It is not my job to come up with the answers. We need the people we elected to do their damn job.

It’s easy to feel helpless but there are things we can do.  Here is a list of five things that any of us can do to help, to be proactive.

My beautiful, talented, irreplaceable niece hid from the shooter in Gilroy, while shrapnel flew beside her. I watched my dear friends receive a text from her, with no idea if it would be her last. My friend, her father, who is comfortable with guns, and knows how to use them safely, texted her back to remind her what to do in that situation. This is not acceptable. This is not normal. And this is not something I want anyone else to go through.

But it’s likely they will. So I want to remind you, and myself, to exercise self-care and watch your mental state, especially if you suffer from a mental illness. You can’t take care of others if you are broken. It is not selfish, quite the opposite. The consequences of ignoring and not treating your pain can be dire, and your family would suffer horribly.

I’m including resources that can help. It is not selfish to accept that you can’t do it alone. You are important, you are irreplaceable, and you are in my heart, even if I don’t know you.

 
National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

Home

When “You’re beautiful” is not OK.

I have an article for today that is nearly finished, but something just happened that got under my skin, so I want to talk about it instead.  You see me at my best, now here I am pissed off.

Ok.  I am not young, I’m 51, so I have a pretty good handle on how to deal with nonsense of all kinds, how to slap it down hard if necessary, and how to, as my dad would say, “consider the source.”  My days of worrying about unwanted advances are behind me, I thought.

I’m unemployed so I’m signed up with the usual suspects, Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.  These are professional job boards. There’s a social aspect to them as well,  but people are there to get connections and find work, get better opportunities, that sort of thing.  So when I get a connection request on LinkedIn, I always take it, you never know what might lead to a job.

So shortly after I accepted one, I got a message.

“Hi.” Oddly uninformative but ok.

I replied, “Hello, how are you?”

“Are you at work?” Odd.

“I’m not working right now, I’m home writing.”  I answered reflexively, even though I was feeling uneasy, because I thought it would be rude not to. Clearly, I have more work to do.

“What do you write?”

Now I did listen to that inner voice.  He did not introduce himself, “are you at work” was abrupt, I just had an uneasy feeling.  In context his next comment was a logical question, “what do you write,” but it made me give my laptop the side-eye.  Put together, this all seemed off.

“Can I ask how I know you?”

“You don’t, I asked to connect.  I’m xxxx. I’m just looking to socialize plus you are beautiful.”

Pardon my French but, oh fuck no.

I replied that this is putting up alarms for me, LinkedIn is not a dating site, I am not interested, and removed the connection. That’s all well and good; I was firm, had my boundary and enforced it.  But the very next thing I did is turn to Chris and say, “Maybe I should change my profile picture.  Is it sending the wrong message?  I wanted to look friendly for employers to see that side…”

“There is not a damn thing wrong with that picture.  Are you going to change it to something less attractive because of one man?”

I cannot believe it even crossed my mind.  I’m so disgusted I was about to give him power over me.  Which is what it would have been, power over how I choose to present myself.  I love my profile picture, it was taken in the garden of a beautiful Victorian in the Haight.  I look happy, my unpredictable hair was cooperating, I think it looks nice.

No means no 3
 I’m upset, so here is a picture of flowers I took at a friend’s house.

But this one man made me second guess it, made me wonder if I brought this on myself for smiling in a picture.  Do you know what I would say to a woman who told me that?  “Are you kidding me?  Don’t give him that power!  You have total agency over your body, you don’t owe anyone anything!” But I did not say that to myself. I worried for a few minutes, I considered changing my photo to something stiffer, in a blazer, an uber-professional no-teeth smile.  You know, a picture that doesn’t look like me at all.

So many flashbacks. “Hey baby, gimme a smile.  Fine then don’t bitch.”  “I’m just trying to be nice, you don’t have to be so uptight.” “If you didn’t want the attention why’d you dress like that?”

No means no 1
Here’s another happy picture in case you’re getting upset too.

I did not expect to still have to deal with this idiocy at my age.  I did not expect to have to deal with this idiocy on a professional job board.  And I did not expect this idiocy to still knock me for a loop.  I’m not as self-possessed as I thought.  That’s a bad realization.

Shortly after this, I got another connect request, another man trying to flirt. Now I will not accept any connections without mutual friends and a note from their mother.  This is sad, because who knows, that one random person may have found my profile and said, “Say, let’s hire her and give her legal currency.”

Ladies, I want to be clear.  I am not talking about all men.  Please recall that the one who pointed out that there was nothing wrong with my photo and that I should not take it down was my husband.  I have no men like these in my life, not one.

Gentlemen, if you don’t pull this kind of crap, I’m not talking about you.  If you respect women and the concept of boundaries, then I am not talking about you.

If you are reading this saying “I don’t get it.  What’s the problem?”  then I am, most definitely, talking about you.

This is really more of a rant I suppose, but it just happened, it’s fresh in my mind, and I think it is worth visiting.  We have to put up with this bullshit all of our lives, we have to learn to wear armor and how to respond or not, how to walk down the street and not look like a victim. We have to learn how to respect our bodies, and not respond the way women are trained to.  We have to learn that it is not our fault, that we are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of another, and that we have every right to firmly say no, and if that is not accepted, to be more forceful and absolutely clear, no means no.

No means no 4
Time to laugh.  I need to laugh.

It never occurred to me I would have to deal with this on a job board.  It simply never entered my mind.  I thought that adults would behave like adults, but I was incorrect, and now this is just one more place where I have to keep my guard up.

chicken nike feet
I don’t know about you, but I need a chicken in Nikes right about now.

One last thing, ladies, if a man is making you uncomfortable, if you are in person and he says something that hits you wrong, trust your voice and get away.  You do not owe him anything.

Trust your voice, use your voice, get up, get out.

You are worth everything, and you have the right to say…oh fuck no.

Note:   I used the cisgender words “Ladies” and “Gentlemen” for the sake of a narrative, I mean no offense to my LGBT or non-binary readers.  It’s the next day, my head is clearer, and I realized that could also hit a button.  I see you.

Trolls and Censorship – or – My Rules, and Please Look Up the 1st Amendment

My first trolls have come a’calling.  A friend told me I should be proud because my message is getting out there enough to attract them. So, yaye I guess?

I have posted 15 times on Nightmares and Laughter’s Facebook page, topics including Mental Health Awareness Month, abuse, Close Encounters, regret, writing, etc.

I’m extremely open about my life, to a fault perhaps; I reveal a lot of personal information for the sake of an article. I knew at some point the trolls would shake the gummy worms off their fingers and start to mash their hands against their crumb-encrusted keyboards, and that was a day I was dreading.

So when I put together a quick post for Pride Month and wrote it to reflect the mission of Nightmares and Laughter, I figured it would be the one that would attract trolls.

I got an “Angry” reaction pretty quickly.  Then another.  It had begun.

troll 1
The Angry reactions don’t show on account of all the banning. Why don’t these people worry about their own damn lives?

This was inevitable, so I had already set up a policy for myself; I will not engage trolls.  Period.  Any ugly, irrational, or combative comments will be deleted.

Some shook their grimy fists, twisted their faces in righteous indignation, looked up righteous indignation, then accused me of stifling free speech and being filled with hate for other opinions, etc., the usual projection.  As badly as I wanted to explain for the billionth time what the 1st Amendment is and is not, who can stifle free speech and who cannot (please, I beg you, look it up) I kept to my own rules and did not engage.

trolls 2
This is a good start for learning and things. https://xkcd.com/1357/

The spittle-spewing rage though did make me think that it’s fair to explain why I’m doing this.

Here is the page description on FB:
“Nightmares and Laughter is a peek into my life living with bipolar disorder. It’s a place to laugh together at life’s joys and absurdities, an occasionally painful, unflinchingly honest look at the struggle through my lens, and support around issues of addiction, abuse, and mental illness.
I also write about goats because goats are hilarious.”

trolls 5
Can we take a moment to enjoy this?  Because look at him!

I thought that was pretty clear.  This is a place of support, which is why I include resources at the end of heavier articles.  (There are resources on this one.)

It’s a place of laughter because that’s important.

And it’s a place of community, whatever you happen to call yourself.

You are welcome here, regardless of your political views and religion, as long as you keep things civil.

It is not, and it never will be, a place for trolls to poke at my readers or me and take cheap shots.

I will not engage with trolls, I will not allow others to engage with trolls on my page, even if I agree with them, because that is not what Nightmares and Laughter is about.

Am I censoring them?  Yes. Yes, I am.

Am I stifling their right to free speech?

No.  I am not able to stifle their free speech.  Only the government can stifle their free speech.

trolls 4
 In the name of all that’s holy, look it up!

Look, the LGBT community suffers hatred and violence to the highest levels of government. Transsexuals are told which bathroom they must use, they are accused of being pedophiles, they are forbidden to serve their country, they are murdered, because of fear and hatred.

Teachers are fired, doctors refuse to treat their children – their children – because there are two loving mommies or daddies.  If you condone that, you do not belong here. There are appropriate groups on 4Chan for you to enjoy.

There is no “both sides” one some things, there is no compromise.  How do you think we’re going to “discuss” the right to take someone’s freedom and humanity?  Where do you think reasonable debate comes in?  I will not “discuss” putting children in cages either.  Some things are binary.

Given all of that, on a post about Pride Month, a snide and hateful comment can be dangerous. Not everyone lives in an LGBT accepting city like my San Francisco. Their religion may call them abominations, their families may have disowned them.  They see a post telling them they are worthy of life and happiness, and then someone with serious pathological issues comes in and says something hateful.  Maybe that’s the last straw, maybe someone breaks.

Maybe someone commits suicide.

I realize that the trolls do not care. I’m hoping to reach people in the middle who may think I’m being unreasonable and not allowing discussion.

I absolutely allow discussion.  I welcome it.  If someone doesn’t understand and comes into the comments on FB or this blog and engages honestly, I will too. That is also part of why I started this blog.

So, trolls have been banned, comments deleted. (A couple of those comments were hits at my City. Some people really need a hobby.)

My readers are important to me, my mission for Nightmares and Laughter is dear to me, and I will not let it be shit on by damaged people.

Sometimes I write when something horrible has happened, and those articles can be angry, but they are not partisan. Some things are beyond politics, or they should be. This is not a political site. It is not a provocative page meant to start flame wars.  This is a place of comfort or laughter or movies or goats, but most of what I post has some underlying connection to mental health and/or addiction; abuse and trolls will not be tolerated.

The bottom line here is, I welcome you with open arms, as long as you’re not an asshole.

Here are some resources in case anyone needs them.

 

PFLAG Support Hotlines

 The hotlines listed below provide services to callers across the country. If you’re looking for a local support network, also contact one of PFLAG’s more than 400 chapters in the United States.

https://pflag.org/hotlines

 

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

 

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

Free, confidential, 24/7 support.

https://www.rainn.org/

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

 

Abuse and Memory – Finding Our Truth

My sister and I have a shared memory that one of us remembers absolutely wrong.

Bev is five years older than me, but we would still do things together growing up.  One of the things we loved to do was put a record on the console hi-fi, (ask your parents) play a song and sing into hairbrushes, because hairbrushes are microphones, naturally.  This would be to a song by The Beatles, or Journey, something we both liked.

I have a vivid memory of singing along to AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds,” a fairly graphic song released in 1976 about a killer for hire.  Our mom came in disgusted that they were glorifying murder like that.  Bev looked at her and said, “Three words, mom.  Mac. The. Knife.”  This is a fairly graphic song released in 1959 about a killer for hire. Realizing she had no comeback to this, she turned and left the room.

I told that story to a group of friends recently, Bev among them.  We all laughed because the opportunity to zing a parent like that is very rare and very funny.

But Bev frowned, “No, that’s not what happened.”

“We were in the car singing along to The Beatles, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” on the radio.  Everything else is the same, mom said that, I said Mac the Knife, all that, but we were in the car, and it wasn’t Dirty Deeds.”

I was flummoxed.  “It absolutely was Dirty Deeds.  We were in the living room like we always were.”

Then Bev made a very excellent point.

“I hate AC/DC, that’s your thing.  I would never have sung along with them.”

I do a lot of research for my articles.  Sometimes it’s scholarly texts, sometimes it’s Facebook Messenger.

Memory 1Memory 2Memory 3Memory 4Memory 5

 

She is 100% correct, she does hate AC/DC, (on that point anyway, she is grievously wrong) so it is very unlikely my recall of this is accurate.  But the thing that bothers me is, even after she described what likely happened, even after the completely reasonable argument of why it could not have happened my way, I still see it how I always have – living room, hairbrushes, AC/DC.  One of us is simply wrong.

But neither of us is lying.

I am 100% certain that my version is right.  I can see it, I can hear the song, our painful adolescent attempts to copy Bonn Scott’s un-copy-able voice, I can see the hairbrush in front of my mouth reflected in the living room window.  I can see my mother pound into the room and angrily interrupt, and I can see Bev’s raised eyebrows and grin as she delivered the verbal body-blow that ended the argument.

I remember it exactly like that.

Except I am more than likely, 100% wrong.

It seems like a contradiction, but it’s really not.  I’m not lying when I say I see that scene play out exactly as I describe.

In preparing this article, I spent some time talking to my psychiatrist about the implications of memory fluidity. I had to come to peace with my own issues around this before I could try to offer any comfort to you.  But she has, as always, helped me work through it.

Because that’s really the thing, isn’t it?  That’s the easiest way to dismiss an accusation, to devalue an experience, especially if it happened long ago, in childhood, teenage years, is to simply say, memory is fluid, you have a vivid imagination, you saw a TV show and made it real in your head, etc. until no one believes it, and eventually, maybe you don’t even believe it.

Memory is fluid, eyewitness testimony is one of the least reliable, that is a fact.  But what does that mean for survivors?

Memory and doubt 12

I used the example with my sister because it’s funny, and I wanted to work into this a little gently.  But it is also apt.  I remember it exactly as I always have. I don’t remember being in a car.  I don’t remember Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.  I remember the living room, hairbrushes, and AC/DC.  I am likely completely wrong.

But, and this is important, I am wrong about the details, the where, when, what song, but I am right about the important part of the story.  A taboo song, a mother trying to shut it down, Bev winning the argument before it even started. We are in complete agreement about these details.

The actual, important event, is correctly remembered.

This is important to me because memory has played such a critical role in my “story” and even my identity.

I was abused by various people, including a brother, throughout my childhood.  I have no memory of not being angry, of not feeling rage and fear and blinding, white-hot hatred, for him.  I remember specific events.

I have identified as a survivor since my 20s.  When the book “The Courage to Heal” came out, it was a revelation.  I was validated, seen, and I was not alone.  I remember going to an all-day event and watching women much older than me walking from lecture to lecture carrying stuffed comfort animals.  I remember wishing I’d thought of it, and realized that I would not have had the courage to carry it in public if I had.  Allowing myself the self-care I needed was nearly two decades away.  But here I had a community, a large group of kindred spirits who had been victimized to one degree or another, all equally valid, all worthy of love and care.

I remember sitting alone at the lunch break and falling to pieces.  All of these women are here for each other.  All of these women are here for each other, because all of these women have been brutalized and broken, to some degree or another.  I felt hurt, wounded, exposed, and heartsick.

In the coming years I came to terms with my alcoholism, my depression, and finally landed the correct diagnosis of bipolar II, which became bipolar I a few years later.

But the abuse, that was first.  That was in the late ‘80s with the release of that one book, the first time I heard the term “survivor.”  And I am forever grateful to Ellen Bass for that.

When my father confronted my brother after I’d spent a horrible afternoon telling my parents what had happened, dad asked him why he did it.  Dad told me later that he hung his head and said, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know.”  These are not the words of an innocent person.  The words of an innocent person are, “What are you talking about?  How dare you!  How dare you accuse me of something so horrific! So vile! How dare you!”

With that tacit confession, I should have no longer doubted what I recalled.

“I hate AC/DC.  It was in the car, not the living room.”

It’s not only a single detail being confused here.  It is the entire scenario.  Except for the “punch line,” every single thing I recall is wrong.

Memory and doubt 8
How would you describe this in 20 years?  Are there stairs leading to a doorway?  Chipped paint on the ceiling?  What color was it, what color was the sky?  But it took your breath away, that you won’t forget.

I have my memories, and more importantly, I have an admission of guilt and diaries and poems that go back to nine-years-old.  I have “source material,” if you will.

And even still, I had doubts sometimes.

What of the women who don’t have anything but their memories?  What of the women for whom this is a “he said/she said” situation?

What of the women who completely and utterly disassociated while it was happening, to the point that it’s a black nothing in their memory?  Don’t think that’s possible?  Here’s another story.

When I was 16, I bought my first vehicle, a yellow Toyota truck with a camper shell.  I took it out for a spin with several of my friends, laughing and having fun in the back of what was basically a playhouse for teenagers.

I was on a four-lane street with a large grassy median.

Here’s what I remember next.  A car swerved in front of me within inches of my fender.  I remember seeing the jackass in the back seat turn around laughing as I tried to keep control.  Next, I was on the median, the entire left side of my truck on the curb, my rims had bent and ripped my tires to shreds.  My friends were trying to open my door and get me out.  When I came to, when I started to get my higher functions back, my hands were so tightly gripped on the wheel that I could barely remove them, and I was aware very slowly of the shooting pain up my arms as I had apparently used them as shock absorbers during the crash.  My friends finally coaxed me to unlock the door.  I got out, lost control of my legs, fell to the ground, and just…shook.

My friends said I was amazing, I kept control of the truck, I had no choice but to crash the way I did, but I skidded along on my rims and came to a safe, controlled stop.

To this day, I have zero memory of any of that.

My brain simply went on some sort of autopilot, I guess literally this time.  It was so horrible that my memory said “Well, I’m out.  I’ll be back here with Smell until this is all done.”

This happened during a car accident.  Imagine what our brains can do when we’re being raped, abused, beaten, molested, imagine how far away we can leave our brains and hide, or even rewrite, something life-shatteringly horrible.

Memory can get muddled, that’s a fact.  Those of us who are survivors become extremely good at disassociation.  I have been a pro since I was a child; it’s an escape, it’s a world you control, you are essentially a god.  It can also make for a rich creative life.

But these things can be, and are, used against us.  How do we know what is real?  How do we know what really happened, was is AC/DC or The Beatles?  Is it a total blackout from mental self-defense, did it spring from a vivid imagination?

I can’t answer these questions for you but I can tell you this.

My memories are real.  Maybe not minute details, maybe not the room, the surroundings, the time of day.  But the events – what actually happened – are drilled into my head.  The more traumatic the event, the more likely we remember.  Or sometimes it simply never writes to memory.  Like my accident, that 3 or 4 minutes is not there.

I have the details surrounding the event wrong.  It was The Beatles, it was in the car, this could not be more different from my memory.  But the core of it, the actual, meaningful event, was correct.

Friends, men and women alike, if you have a memory of abuse, if that memory causes your heart to hurt, I suggest that it is probably correct.  At the very least it should be examined, try to find a therapist to help you work through it.  I’m including some resources you can use as well.

Please, do not let anyone tell you it’s not true, you are misremembering, or worse, that you are lying.  If it hurts to think about, look at it.

Memory is foggy and imprecise.  But it is not to be ignored because the curtains were blue and not yellow.

Please take care of yourselves.  Be gentle with yourselves.

Carry a stuffed comfort animal if you need to.

 

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

Free, confidential, 24/7 support.

https://www.rainn.org/

 National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

National Poetry Month – It Matters

April is National Poetry Month.

Does it matter?

It matters to me because I was first and foremost a poet, from my very early days. I was proud to call myself that, it was a title for me, an identity, something that set me apart from others.  I could play guitar, albeit poorly, I could sing, and I wrote poetry. I put my heart on paper and bled my very soul.

I was a bit dramatic.

I don’t remember not writing, hunched over notebooks, scraps of paper, diaries, recording my life and joys and traumas in one of my only outlets.  It was the only power I had, creating worlds, recording events, finding some escape with a skill that, as far as I knew, not many others had.  The fact that not too many people understood it, or valued it, made it somehow more enticing.  They didn’t like it because they didn’t understand it.  They made no effort to understand it.  I still kind of feel that way, actually.

Years later I would major in Creative Writing, with a focus on poetry.  One of the worst mistakes I ever made, by the way.  It placed a watcher on my shoulder I never had before, it silenced my voice, took my muse, and left me a shell of a person.  In fairness, the watcher was the gasoline, but the excessive, crippling drunkenness and black depression was the match that blew it all up. I did not get my degree.

It was not all bad though, it gave me stories I managed to write to long term memory.

I transferred to UC Santa Cruz from Ohlone Junior College in Fremont, CA.  I was accepted with the understanding that I complete in summer session two courses I missed, astronomy and statistics.  Math and I are not friends, it’s just a jerk, actually, so this was not a good thing for me.

Sitting in my seat, I  looked around the room and saw 40-some people, all of them artists, staring at the professor like deer in the headlights, trembling slightly and clutching a copy of “Leaves of Grass” all of us simply not wired this way, all of us taking General Education classes in the summertime.

Poetry Month 3
They were not clutching copies of Leaves of Grass.  I lied.

That fall semester, UCSC canceled Creative Writing and I, and all the other poets were lost.  We sat under the shade of a tree, dressed in black, shunning the sun the Math majors were prancing in, chain-smoking and silent.  In hindsight, this is a pretty funny picture.

So a quick romp in and out of San Francisco State, and that was that. No more hope of a degree, no more poetry in my heart, a whole lot of booze.

It took 25 years to get this back.  Twenty-five years later I finally got my muse back.

And now, it is National Poetry Month.

Does anyone still care?

I was just at City Lights bookstore here in San Francisco for the 100th birthday party of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  It was packed with people, blocking the streets, crowding the store, an entire day of poetry readings and positive, glowing, happy energy.  People just beaming, surrounded by like minds.

Some of those people were poets, I’m sure, some not.  It doesn’t matter.  What brought them there was poetry and the celebration of this amazing man and the haven he created.  He just released a new book, at 100.  I have released one in 51 years. I’ll get right on that.

Poetry Month 1
City Lights Books – A haven for poets and everyone else.

Poetry does matter.  It matters like the air we breathe, like laughter, like tears, like fire, like rage.  It matters to every abused child who uses it to escape.

Worlds are built.  People are created.  Flight and magic and vengeance and mirth made real.

It matters.

Do you write?  Do you want to?  Then write, for crying out loud!  Who cares if it’s good?  Does it make you happy?  Were you filled in some way by writing it?  Then write more. Keep it private if you like, or show it to only those people you trust to hold it gently.

It matters.

If you write and you would like to share it, do put it in the comments.  I love to see poetry proudly offered.  I love to see art of any kind.

I’ve included a link to my book as well.

My advice to you, for what it’s worth, whatever you do, whatever your plans, for fuck’s sake don’t take a poetry class!

Life Songs – Discussions with an Angry Child

When Gallows Humor Triggers

One of my first articles was an attempt to explain Gallows Humor

Now, I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea, I acknowledge this and have seen people respond poorly to it before but, well…

Let’s set this up.  A friend posted a picture on Facebook that was unpleasant.  I responded as I do, a comment that was so over the top, so fantastically inappropriate, it did not occur to me that someone would take it seriously.

Someone took it seriously.

Now, I don’t know this person, nor does she know me.  Rather than give me the benefit of the doubt and ask what I meant, I was attacked with burning poison darts right out of the gate.

Shocking no one, there was no discussion to be had.

This woman decided I was evil incarnate (seriously, she called me evil) and in a block of text ripped apart my character, motives, and worth as a person.  I suggested that might just be a bad idea, with a reminder that she had no idea if I was in a serious depression and if that might be the last straw to cause me to take the 15-minute stroll to the Golden Gate Bridge.

A laughing face reaction and a “Poke” were my replies.  Did you know that Facebook still has a “Poke” thing?  Neither did I.

gallows misfire 1
Neat!  Now please tell me I can still throw snowballs.

She made a fine point that she was 70.  She’s 20 years older than me, and therefore I have no voice?  Something like that. She was sputtering by that time.

My point is simply this, you don’t know what’s in a person’s heart.  You cannot read their mind.  If an offhanded comment hits you the wrong way and your response is to go on a spittle-spewing, hate-filled, character destroying attack, maybe it’s time to go ahead and glance at oneself in the mirror.  Maybe a response that is juuuuuust a tad over the top is trying to tell you to look inside, instead of ascribing hideous motives to someone you know nothing about.

This brings me to triggered.  Like so many other things that started off with good intentions, this has become a means for some to behave as our not-at-all-irrational 70-year-old did.  To expect the world to cater to their specific issue or pain, for the world to be sensitive to them or they’ll be hell to pay.  Something there seems kind of incongruous to me.

The likelihood that I would have been in a depression is good, the way the world is, a recent death in the family, I well could have been unable to handle such an attack.  What if I had taken that walk? Why am I not afforded the same consideration she demands?

Well, because she was triggered.  Because I hit something deep inside her and she lashed out.  I get that intellectually, but it doesn’t excuse it.

Now, I was not in a depression, and I just found the exchange surreal and annoying.  I tried to explain my joke, explain gallows humor, but that just made her angrier.

Triggered is being misused.  It is not meant to be cover for potentially dangerous behavior.

It was meant to be a tool for healing oneself.  Someone says something, it hits a button, I get triggered.  OK, I get to a safe place, and I try to examine why that statement hit me so hard.  What should I be looking at?  What should I work on, speak to gently, and try to heal?

What is the triggering trying to tell me, about me?

What I said was from the way that I cope, the way I survive, I was not setting out to hurt anyone.  Her comment, on the other hand, was intended to hurt me, was intentionally vicious.  There was simply no discussing it.  I am evil, and she is the victim.

Oh, it’s not real easy right now to give the benefit of the doubt, I get that.  Nerves are frayed, tempers on edge, and patience is wearing real thin.

But this is all the more reason to practice kindness whenever you can. Smile at someone in passing now and then, say something nice to someone, anything at all.  Tell your best friend you are going to bake brownies for them and wrap them up with a Hello Kitty plushy.  Hypothetically.

But try, really hard, to keep that hair-trigger venom in your pocket.

I hope this woman is able to see and address these unknown issues, I really do.  But they are not my issues, and my voice is not going to be silent on the chance that something I say will hit someone the wrong way.  My humor is my humor, my voice is my voice.

OK, I love the show Family Guy (and The Orville is the only Star Trek on TV right now, and if someone can get this to Seth McFarlane tell him he has a group of geeks who will forever be grateful for that show.)  Anyway, Family Guy sets out to offend just about everybody at one point or another.  For the most part, I think it’s hilarious, but there was one little throw-away that got to me.

It’s one of the cut-aways he does.  Margo Kidder comes to dinner and then is depicted as going “crazy” screaming and gibbering, flailing her arms around and leaping out the window.

For those who don’t know, Margo Kidder was bipolar.  She was homeless for a time, lost everything, and died very young.  I am also bipolar, so this hit me hard.  I actually had to turn the channel to regroup.  I was angry, how dare he make fun of her!  How dare he make light of mental illness!  Fuck that guy!

After I calmed down it occurred to me, I think “Prom Night Dumpster Baby” is hilarious.  I expect that song hits some people very badly.  I think it’s damn funny.

So how is my pain greater than someone who had a miscarriage, or stillbirth?  I cannot imagine a worse pain, I cannot imagine being in that position and seeing cartoon babies swinging around their umbilical cords like canes as they dance.  To their eyes and hearts, that must be unspeakable.

But I thought it was hilarious.

Not because I have no sympathy for them, I have a dear friend who lost her little baby.  It just struck me as funny.  But I totally understand someone else hating it.

As I hated the Margo Kidder bit.  I hated that with every fiber of my being.

But do I think Seth McFarlane is a heartless asshole?  Actually, I have no idea, he might be.  But I know that that bit hurt because it is specific to me and my pain.  But my pain is not worth more than people offended by any other of the thousand inappropriate bits in Family Guy.

gallows misfire 2
“It’s like that time I put on my fanciest hat and took my crate for a ride.”

The point is, I don’t know.  I don’t know if he’s doing these things to be hurtful or if he’s just super juvenile and dark like me.  I don’t know his intention or his heart, all I do know is that he’s smokin’ hot…sorry, trailed off there.

gallows misfire 4
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth McFarlane.  There is still hope for the world.

Taking it back to the woman in question, she intended to hurt me.  She was attacking based on no information and was not interested in getting it.  She didn’t listen when I tried to explain it, she didn’t have an ounce of compassion when I told her I well could be suicidal, all that mattered was that she was offended and hurt and seemingly thrilled to have someone to unload on.  My husband and I refer to that as sitting on the edge of your chair in cat-like readiness hoping to be offended.  Offended as a drug, as a shield, the opportunity to be better than, more righteous than, more adult, (I’ll give her that one, I am shockingly immature.)

gallows misfire 3
Halloween decorations, or as I call them, decorations.  <adult!>

If I can offer a takeaway, it would be this.  If you are offended by something, if you are “triggered,” please use it as an opportunity to look inward and see why.  Maybe you can sit with it, embrace it, speak to it softly, and try to heal it.

Come back after you calm down and ask if you can talk about it.  Maybe you get rejected, maybe not.  But you tried to be heard.

I know one way you will not be heard, and that’s when you call someone you don’t know evil.  That’s likely to shut down any consideration for you.

One last thing, in all of the interwebs someone reading this must know Seth McFarlane.  Just sayin’.

 

 

When the World is on Fire We All Burn

The shooting in New Zealand has ripped open wounds that never seem to have time to heal, do they? The pain for these families, for the people who left their homes seeking safety and a new life, is indescribable. People murdered for being dark, foreign, Muslim, whatever the excuse, people murdered. Black-hearted people committing black-hearted deeds.

I cannot imagine. My heart is with you, all of you.

New Zealand cartoon
Credit: Ruby Jones

Every news alert, every Breaking News banner, every other Facebook post causes me to clench, what the hell has happened now?

I don’t know what to say anymore. It just never stops.

Yet I write this as I sit on my couch in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I write this with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I write this on a sunny, lovely March day, my husband and cat with me, a cup of good coffee beside me.

I can hear the two little girls next door right now having the sibling squabbles that I’m so familiar with. I like these girls, I’ve known the younger one since before she joined us. Are these pretty white girls more precious than the Mexican/South American children being torn from their families to be placed in for-profit foster care?

I do not have children, but I have children in my life. I love dearly. I cannot imagine what it is like for their mothers to have them ripped from their arms, and possibly never see again. I cannot imagine that crippling, existential pain. Can you?

20190317_140101_HDR
Credit: Sue St. Blaine

How can people be that absolutely cruel and hideous?

I am a white, grey-haired, middle-aged female. I leave my home and know that generally speaking, I’m in no danger. There is no bravery or fear or admonitions to children to watch themselves when I walk out my front door.

I have white skin, I have that privilege. I am very aware of that. In the U.S. we are safe, and we are civilized. Really?

Here is a link from last March of black men killed by the police. It needs to be updated.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/29/police-killings-black-men-us-and-what-happened-officers/469467002/

How many need to die or be completely dehumanized before we say enough? Black Lives Matter is shouting loudly, but too many dismiss it. The videos are devastating, but we shouldn’t look away. Their families can’t look away. They do not have that luxury.

Can you imagine, my U.S. readers, leaving a war-torn country and take a backbreaking journey to a country that has been held up as a place to find safety, where the great lady and her torch welcome you, as they have my family, your family, all families that aren’t native, only to be torn apart, raped, abused, and dehumanized? I sure as hell can’t.

Statue of Liberty

I’m not suggesting that we are in the same position as countries fighting civil wars, countries bombed on a near-daily basis. I am finished with my coffee, and wondering what my husband and I will do with our Sunday. Listening to the sweet little girls next door make the memories they will laugh about later, as my sister and I do. I have no fear that a bomb will drop downtown and wipe out all I know and love.

But I am afraid. I am afraid because the anger and separation in this country are getting exponentially worse because the rhetoric is becoming more pointed, more specific, more bloodthirsty.

I’m terrified because it appears to be coming to a breaking point, and I fear there will be more blood.

The shooter in New Zealand specifically called out Donald Trump. The person who strode proudly into a mosque and murdered 50 irreplaceable people with glee and a sense of purpose, cited Donald Trump as “….” a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,”

Did that make your blood run cold? It did mine.

Yes, I’m white and privileged. I am very unlikely to be shot by the police because I twitched. I am in a country that is not being bombed from inside or out.

But I am in a country where people inside and out cite the highest office as an inspiration for mass murder. Where beautiful children are forever scarred by what has been done to them.

The little girls are in the hallway fighting again, sounds like there is a debate about who gets to push the elevator button.

I hope with all my heart that this is the height of their drama.

For my readers who have a mental illness, remember, this sustained pain, this constant fear, the unknowable future, can hurt us. I have been deeply depressed off and on. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

As always, please take care of yourself. Acknowledge that your pain is real and legitimate.

It’s not a contest. Nobody “wins” pain. Your pain is valid and worthy of nurturing.

New Zealand lotus
Breathe – and honor your feelings

But we cannot allow the black-hearted people committing these horrible acts to win. We cannot give them what they want, we cannot take ourselves off the earth and give them victory.

We can bend, we can even break, but we put ourselves back together, and we fight. Get back up and fight, when you are able to. Fight like your life depends on it.

Because it might.

You’re worth more than that. Don’t let them win. I’ve included the links to organizations that can help you if you need it.

In an earlier article, I wrote that I would not discuss politics or partisan issues, and I keep to that. This is not a political or partisan issue. It is a human dignity issue, a war crimes issue, injustice, un-Constitutional, horrible black-hearted people doing horrible black-hearted things. I have not mentioned I left vs. right, not once.

So let me ask you something. If you read this article, and you get angry, and you decide that I’m describing the right with these factual statements, maybe you should ask yourself one thing.

Why?

 

National Helpline
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
1-800-273-8255
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/