Complaisant & Complicit

Memoir

How often we proclaim “I would have…” and then launch into a fantasy narrative in which we shine as the brave, bold, outspoken hero in a situation that demands action and justice.

The reality is that it’s easy to say; not easy to do – we’re often blanched and quelled in the face of adversity or confrontation.

There was a particular situation years ago in which I was frozen with inaction… I’m still working on forgiving myself for not speaking up; I’m still working on releasing myself from the subsequent shame.

I was in the private banquet room of a restaurant, dropping by for a few minutes to see a young man who was going to be married that weekend. All of the guests were men except for myself, a collegiate woman, and her mother. I didn’t know the groom or anyone else gathered there – I wasn’t even introduced to them. I was the “plus one” of the groom’s cousin, so I only knew him, his parents, and his siblings. I felt awkward and uncomfortable, an outsider stuck within this raucous fray.

When the group of men discovered that one of their friends wasn’t coming to the lunch, they called him on speakerphone and when his voicemail picked up, they all chanted Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! repeatedly before hanging up and laughing proudly at their brazenness.

I was stunned..

Incredulous. Disgusted. Furious.

Silent.

I looked at the young men’s fathers – they were laughing too.

I looked at my date’s parents – they shrugged their shoulders.

I looked at my date’s young siblings – they looked uncomfortable, but said nothing.

I looked at my date – he was composed, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

We left shortly afterwards and I felt sick.

My date told me sharply not to say anything; that I was hypersensitive and overreacting.

So I swallowed my feelings and my words.

The disgust I felt about the behavior I witnessed turned inward, as I berated myself for not speaking up with the group and not speaking up with my date.

I felt so dirty, so disappointed in myself.

I continued to smother my thoughts and feelings in other situations with this man and his family, repressing and burying my truth, dignity, and self until I could no longer bear the weight of the mask and armor of feigned normalcy – the day this man told me he was “a victim of the matriarchy” was the end for me, and I severed all connection and contact.

Though all of this happened years ago, my silence haunts me – I failed to act, and that absence became a gaping hole of shame.

I discussed this recently with my partner, exploring the deep roots of my aversion to feeling passive, submissive, weak.

I’m working to wash myself clean; to forgive myself for being complaisant and complicit in situations when my spirit struggled and my integrity ached to be actualized.

My partner kindly suggested that I “acknowledge the Being within that is doing good now” – and that filled me with tenderness and warmth.

I have learned from this experience, and through reflection and self-compassion I can unshackle myself from the past to focus on the person I am today – strong, steadfast, never again to be silenced.

Negativity & Gratitude

Memoir, Photography

It’s so easy to be swept up by all the negativity; to feel crushed and drowning in the undertow.

Every day there is fresh pain erupting from wounds that have not yet had the chance to scab or heal.

Every day the lines of division and hatred burrow deeper trenches; erect higher barricades.

Every day The Other becomes a more dangerous and loathsome enemy in the ongoing war against anything perceived as different, opposing, threatening.

Every day the justification feverishly escalates to polarize, condemn, attack, conquer, and eliminate.

I recognize that much of my thoughts, moods, and expressions are reflections of my exposure to this negativity, and I’m committed to being responsible about how I project this in my mind, communication, and interactions.

The practice of gratitude keeps me from being completely overwhelmed by the disgust, hopelessness, frustration, and fear that I feel in response to all this madness in the world outside my home.

There are many things for which I am thankful, including that I am healthy and privileged enough to be creating and sharing this message.

I would like to honor the blessings that have been shining a light in the darkness of recent days, filling my heart with happiness and gratitude.

To start this series, I’ll carry on a tradition that I used to enjoy years ago in photography forums – Caturday.

Leto is a constant source of joy, wonder, and love.

I am so thankful to have found him, to be able to provide him with a healthy, safe, and loving home, and to spend each day marveling at his beauty, mischief, tranquility, and sweet affection.

Remember

Memoir

I write in a private notebook constantly.

It’s cathartic, therapeutic, and creative.

Often my journaling will take the form of addressing myself directly, and this includes reminders to help strengthen and guide me in challenging times.

Here is one of those entries, which I believe can apply to all of us…


Remember to be clear and honest with your intentions, expectations, and actions.

Remember to zoom out and look at the whole picture with clarity of focus and honesty.

Remember that you can trust your intuition about what matters and what should not be dramatized, fretted over, or inflated with inaccurate importance.

Remember that integrity is doing the right thing even if no one is watching.

Remember how you do not want to feel, and that means not choosing the options / actions that result in these unwanted feelings.

Remember that you know your triggers and can use that awareness to control yourself.

Remember that you always have a choice.

Remember that you have the power to be a person that you look up to.

Remember to practice the qualities that you admire and appreciate in others.

Remember to keep it simple by choosing kindness and good orderly direction.

Remember that you are enough, right-now-as-you-are.

Remember that you are worthy of love.

Empathy & Honesty

Memoir

I have put off writing this.

Put off, put off, put off.

I have avoided, delayed, distracted, made excuses.

First it was about privacy; my discomfort with sharing my thoughts and experiences with strangers – justifying to myself that sharing my poetry was different because I was somehow removed from those words and the feelings they expressed due to the form and structure of the writing; that the writing was abstract and not too personal or revealing.

Next it was about my state of mind; my depleted energy – the despair, loneliness, sadness; the anxiety and uncertainty. I couldn’t find the will to write, not after a full day of having to keep it together for my job; for my daughter; for my partner. Hours and hours of having to find a way to interact, to smile, to normalize, to strategize self-care, to avoid the feelings of entrapment and resentment and hopelessness that were closing in on me.

Then it was about comparison – who am I to bemoan my situation when I am still healthy, employed, sheltered, fed, and loved? What is my suffering in light of the agony of the sick, and their loved ones, and those who are abused and oppressed?

Finally it was the guilt of privilege that kept me silent. The privilege of having the access and technology to share this post; the privilege of having the education that afforded me the skills to be able to write it. The privilege of having steady employment, income to pay the bills with money left over, a safe home, a vehicle, a phone, clothes, food, entertainment. The privilege of having access to a library brimming with free books that can slake my thirst for imagination and information. The privilege of options. The privilege of safety. The privilege of not having to fear or fight, or my child not having to fear or fight, cruelty, discrimination, hatred, injustice, systematic oppression, violence, murder because of our beliefs, ethnicity, orientation.

But the words refuse to stay bottled up and pushed down inside of me.

The words are in my blood and my breath and my hands now.

I search for a glimmer of promise that a world ravaged by a pandemic will soon find and distribute a safe cure to end this illness; that a world ravaged by fear, hatred, and intolerance in all its disgusting forms will actualize true reconciliation and reform to uphold the right to dignity, equality, and safety for all people; that apathy, greed, and selfishness will be replaced with compassion, generosity, and serious, sustaining action to heal and protect animals, the environment, and humanity.

Let us honor the experiences and feelings of others – amplify the voices of those who deserve and need to be heard. Consider the causes that stir your spirit and take action. Help to influence and implement growth and improvement – in your life, your home, your interactions, your community, your country, your world.

If you are reading this and feel angry, depressed, frightened, hopeless, but desperately wanting release, relief, and progressive change – you are not alone.

Share your story; I will continue to share mine with empathy and honesty.