Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Lack of Something

"Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? Move outside the tangle of fear thinking." -Rumi
I spent decades of my life in prison and when the door was finally opened it took me years to walk out of my cell. (Today, I still sometimes gaze longingly outside from behind the bars on the window of my house, just to experience that reassuring feeling of confinement.)

Once I made it out of the prison I slowly expanded the spaces where I felt comfortable existing. From my bedroom to the kitchen to my car to the café where I sat for hours suspiciously eyeing strangers who didn't care to hurt me or even steal my food.

When I was locked down I grew to like being alone. the sounds of coughing and clanking and cursing assured me that someone was always nearby, and solitude was consistent and enforced; an opaque wall that kept me unnoticed and unscathed.  When I gained the choice to fraternize, loneliness crept in like a slow growing mold, filling my expanded space with stark, empty, uncomfortable silence.

This year, I tried to find one word to describe what I want to accomplish but there's no antonym for "loneliness." I've finally settled on the word "unlonely"because my desire is so intangible  it can only be expressed by the lack of something. Maybe I need to stop chasing it as if it were something I could tackle and lock up for safekeeping.

I think this is a good year to stop expanding. I think I will finally give up the handcuffs and even the prison bars in order to become the lack of all the things that have prevented me from letting people in.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Life repeats itself.

A visit to a poetry slam this evening inspired me to look through my old writing. I found this poem that I wrote in 2008 during an internship at a Rochester city high school. The amount of violence I witnessed was new to me and I wanted to find a reason for it and a way to stop it. 

Four years later I understand the reasons a little better but I still don't know how to stop it. Because the topic seems to fit with what's happening in the world lately I'll share this again, even though I want to fix it up in some places. I welcome your feedback and responses!

"Call to Action"

It was a normal day for the affected students;
Beginning with math and english and history
And ending with one fist to the teeth
And a head through a window
On the second floor; shattered glass
Spread at the feet of a crowd
Who scattered as the blood began
To flow from above someone's left eye.

To students and staff who know nothing else
The consequent spitting out of teeth and the
Bright red trail from the window to the ambulance
Was like a scene from a movie watched too many times:
A repetition, boring and meaningless,
Failing to disturb its desensitized viewers.

In such a way the realities of lasting hatred
And fear embedded in hot blooded veins
Are brought forth regularly and laid out
In drops of blood on high school stairways.
They scream to remind us that we are not doing enough;
That we are only scratching the surface of this monster called violence
And that we will never end the fights unless we reach deeper
Beneath its skin; beneath its bones and into its veins
To find the origins of the diseases that allow
This hatred to thrive and survive.
But these blatant exhibitions are conveniently
And consistently ignored.

If such young bodies can regularly
Burst through barriers and break open the skin
Why can't we?
What is stopping us from recognizing
Our own fingerprints in the blood left on the walls;
From admitting our role in generation after generation of failure?
Why do we shield our eyes when the injured are led away
In handcuffs, spitting out cries for help
In the form of angry words and empty threats?

Just as there are layers of veins and cells
And bones beneath the skin
There are years of pain
Abandonment, confusion and ignorance
Beneath these brawls.
In these stale scenes a solution waits to be found;
Begs for us to dig deeper and try harder;
Pleads for an end to apathy and a
Stronger commitment to healing the diseases
That make violence a chronic part of life. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Sassy Pet Store Cashier

A few weeks ago, I was joking with a friend who also works in the behavioral health field that we often find ourselves "behavior coaching" and analyzing the behavior of people in our daily lives. What we do and experience in our jobs often applies in a practical way to what happens outside of work.

"If someone is mean to me." I explained, "it's hard for me to take it personally. I always assume there's something more going on. I just want to say to them, 'Who hurt you?'"

The statement elicited laughter but it holds truth. The truth is, when someone gets upset and acts out it's usually because of something that's happened in the past that they haven't been able to let go of. They are not mad at me; they might really be mad at their abusive mother and something I just did reminded them of that.

I saw this idea in play last week while buying some hay at the pet store. The young man behind the cash register asked if I had a store perks card or a phone number. I started looking for the card and said I thought I had one but couldn't find it.

"How about a phone number?" he asked.

"I don't think I have one connected to a card,"I replied.

"Just give me a phone number."

I obliged. He typed in my phone number and magically a discount was applied to my purchase.

"See?" he said. "Ï told you it would work. Why don't you just listen?"

I blushed and became flustered. How dare he talk to me like that! I am a customer and I am always right and he wasn't clear in what he was asking etc. etc.

Then his last phrase echoed in my inner dialogue. Why don't you just listen is not a phrase that one normally hears during a routine monetary transaction. It's a phrase I've heard numerous exasperated parents use with their disobedient children. It's a phrase that, many times, causes the child to feel guilt and shame.

It's a phrase that, maybe, the Sassy Pet Store Cashier heard too many times.

I don't claim to be able to know, after one small interaction, what is going on with a person or from what past events they might be suffering. Maybe I'm completely wrong about the reason behind their sassiness; maybe they're just having a bad day.Maybe the Sassy Pet Store Cashier just enjoys being sassy. Either way, taking their words and actions personally will only make things worse for everyone involved.

Maybe what I should have said was simply, "Who hurt you?"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Obviously, I'd be played by Kristen Stewart

If I were a character in a movie, my theme would be loneliness. I would probably also be one of the most obnoxious characters to ever grace the screen because a script based on my real life would have me talking, pondering and complaining about loneliness every five to ten minutes. Yet somehow, like a sexy young heroine in a horror movie, I don't figure out the obvious truth until the end of the film:  loneliness is a reoccurring problem that isn't fixing itself.

It dawned on me this week, while reading an old journal, that I seem to have a cycle of complaints. Over and over again throughout my life I've dealt with the same issues from different angles, always thinking that it's something new. Right now, I'm fixated on loneliness again; loneliness in the sense that no one understands me and I can't connect with anyone. Sounds adolescent, right?

That's because loneliness is not something that I can blame on the unwillingness of others to reach out to me; it is, at this point, a trait that I developed at a young age and never took responsibility for. I've allowed myself to participate in year after year of 1) disliking myself and 2) subconsciously sabotaging the efforts of others who are trying to like me. I'm hiding behind walls that I blame other people for building.

The truth is that I will never become un-lonely unless I learn to love and accept myself.

I write about this now because I have been talking a lot lately about moving back to the east coast to be closer to family and friends and I think I give the impression that I believe this will solve the problem of my feeling alone. I know that will not be the case. I know that, as long as I've convinced myself that I'm not good enough for other people, I will carry loneliness with me like a security blanket and no amount of loving people will be able to change what I feel.

I will probably return to the east at some point in my life for the sole purpose of being closer to people I love. In the meantime, I am rewriting the script to bring to life a more open and loving character.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Let's Hang Out! Part 2

I've been going on a few dates as well as meeting new friends lately and I'm starting to get bored with the usual going out to eat or get coffee or a drink that is the standard for new meetings. So I started a list of creative things to do with other people that aren't specific to Tucson. Your suggestions are welcome for this list, too!

Some of these are pretty cheesy, and I'm okay with that. Sometimes the cheesiest things are the most fun :)

Things to Do

  1. Visit all of the cities in Arizona that have cool names (like Tuba City, Surprise, Why, etc) and take pictures in front of the signs.
  2. Ghost towns
  3. The Zoo
  4. Planetarium
  5. Stargazing
  6. Yoga
  7. Biking
  8. Hiking
  9. Ostrich Ranch
  10. See a play
  11. Wine Tasting
  12. Trolly Ride
  13. Salt River
  14. Experimental Travel Book
  15. Geocaching
  16. Watch the sunrise and/or sunset
  17. Write a piece of fiction together
  18. Fun photo shoot
  19. Make homemade bath and beauty supplies and have a spa day
  20. Birding
  21. Rock Climbing
  22. Horseback Riding
  23. Caving
  24. State and County Fairs
  25. Dinner theatre
  26. Dance lessons
  27. Hot air balloons
  28. Burlesque Show
  29. Paint your own potter
  30. Leave suprises around town for people: on their porch, in their mailbox, in businesses
  31. Get a role of quarters and have a contest to see who can get the best and most creative item from the 25cent machines (maybe in a shopping mall)
  32. Go to the thrift store with 5 dollars; have a contest to see who can get the best item Or--buy clothing for your date – wear the clothing on the date
  33. Blanket fort
  34. Paint twister
  35. Make a list of outrageous things on a Bingo card like mullets, scrunchies, spandex pants and hiking boots, etc and walk around Wal Mart trying to find people sporting the items on your bingo cards.
  36. Ideas from the guy who writes XKCD
  37. Shooting range
  38. Play on a playground
  39. Fashion show
  40. Watch B movies
  41. Grab a friend, dress up like tourists & go & do all the really schlocky things on offer in your city. Take LOTS of photos, & be sure to flash the peace sign in 70% of them.
  42. Scavenger Hunt

Let's hang out!

I've been telling myself for a long time that I need to get out more. Tucson has so much to offer and I've seen so little of it. So I made a "bucket list" of sorts with many of the things in Tucson I'd like to try. I'm left with the feeling that I'm missing a few things here and there so I'd love it if anyone who reads this suggests their own favorite things to do in Tucson!

  • Restaurants/Coffee Shops (Tucson has so many cool place to eat and drink coffee; this list is definitely incomplete!!)
    • Cafe Poca Cosa
    • Shot in the Dark Cafe
    • Seven Cups
    • Planet of the Crepes
    • Boca
    • World Sports Grille
  • Tourist Attractions
    • 4th Ave Trolly
    • Biosphere 2
    • Tucson Oddities (This refers to two books that were written about all of the strange things to see in Tucson. I want to visit them all and take pictures!)
    • Bisbee
  • Museums/Galleries
    • Center for Creative Photography
    • Mini-Time Machine Museum
    • Postal History Foundation
    • International Wildlife Museum
    • Titan Missle Museum
    • Museum of COntemporary Art
    • DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
    • Etherton Gallery
    • Ft. Lowell Museum
    • Santa Theresa Tile Works
  • Hikes (I want to get more specific about these. I know there are a TON of awesome trails throughout the mountains around Tucson. What are your favorites?)
    • Saguaro National Park
    • Madera Canyon
  • Outdoors
    • Kartchner Caverns
    • Colossal Cave
    • Horseback Riding
    • Hot air balloon rides
    • Rafting
    • The Arizona Trail
    • Organ Pipe National Monument
    • Patagonia Lake State Park
  • Events
    • First Thursday Art Walk
    • Tuesday Night Bike Ride
    • Summer Saturdays at the Desert Museum
    • Open Studios Tour
    • Gem and Mineral Show
    • Tucson Poetry Festiva;
    • Cyclovia
  • Other

  • Stuff I’ve Already Done That I’d Like to Do Again:
    • 2nd Saturdays Downtow
    • Tucson Meet Yourself
    • Festival of Books
    • Something Sweet
    • Ostrich Ranch
    • The Loft
    • Salt River
    • Meet Me at Maynard’s
    • Ostrich Ranch
    • Tombstone
    • Botannical Gardens
    • Tohono Chul Park

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Jesus said the truth will set you free, so I'm opening my prison door.

As many of you know, I have been dealing with some pretty severe anxiety problems for most of my life. Over the past three years I've come to recognize that a large majority of my anxiety comes from self hated and being afraid to be who I really am. I've been afraid to be honest about what I believe and what I want and who I want to be. I've been afraid of being wrong, of being judged, and of going to Hell. Because of that fear I conformed to a mold of what I thought I should be, even though that mold made me miserable.

This fear and self hatred reached a climax in October 2009 when I purposefully overdosed on anti-anxiety medication and ended up in the hospital for a week, in a place where I wasn't allowed to have shoelaces or pens or freedom.

The overdose was a true awakening. I am a good person, I realized, and there isn't a good reason for me to be hiding like this and pretending to be someone I'm not. Over the past three years I've chipped away at that stupid mold and allowed my body to stretch and reshape to its true form.

For the first time in my life, I know freedom.

Unfortunately, there is still an aspect of my life that is causing me to feel panic and fear. I have still been hiding from the people who have known me the longest: family, friends from college, people from church, Christians in general. For the sake of my mental health, it's time for me to be completely honest with everyone, not just the people who I know for sure will accept me. So, without further ado, these are some things that you should know about me:

  • I don't want to get married and I don't want to have children. Ever.
  • I believe it's okay to have sex before marriage and, in fact, I have done so myself.
  • I believe it's okay to be gay.
  • I don't want anything to do with church or religion. (This is something I haven't talked about a lot, but there are many, many aspects of Christianity that were harmful to me and I want to distance myself from them)
  • And (here comes the hardest one to admit) I am queer. I am not a lesbian, but I am truly sexually and romantically attracted to women. I fought this truth back for years and it was torture. I'm done with it.
I'm nervous as I post this, but not anxious. I need to take care of myself and love myself and I can't do it with out being honest. I would rather deal with backlash from people who don't approve than stay in hiding. I am confident that I am a good, beautiful, and amazing person and I no longer need the approval of others to continue to believe that.