Tag Archive: Being the Change

Soooo… hi.

Hey there… I can’t believe it’s been SIX months… How have you been?

Yeah, me too. It’s okay, I understand, we can just sit and not talk for a bit if you like.

Here, check out these sweet puppies while we sit here.

Oscar and Oliver

We’re fostering these two little bottle-fed Dachshunds, orphaned at birth. They’re not yet 4 weeks old. We’re tired, but that’s okay, we were tired anyway. They’re doing great. We’re all coping the best we can, you know? For us, helping the puppies is also helping ourselves.

Oh hey, I have some good, rather astonishing news. My daughter came back into my life after nearly four years. She’s 16 now. She was 12 when, well, when I lost her. It’s been… amazing getting to know her again. I hold back though of course, we both do. Self-protection is a healthy thing, and we’re trying to work forward slowly. I took her to the Women’s March with my step-daughter. Life-changing, really.

What a year, huh? You never know what’s going to happen next.

I think though, it’s really important that we remember some things we do know. There is hope. This world is full of good deeds and redemption and puppies and people who will literally give you the shirt off their back should you need a shirt on yours. Kindness is still a thing, maybe THE THING. We still have each other, well many of us do I guess. I had to burn some bridges, maybe you did too. I miss the easier times when I could just pretend everyone thought the same way about human rights that I do. I wish I could unsee the hateful things I’ve seen, and pretend when I see these people that I never saw those things they wrote.

I think respect is hard for people, I don’t know why really. There isn’t really a benefit of doubt anymore. No benefit at all. So much certainty, so much disrespect. In November a friend posted something like, hey empaths, shields UP! It was wonderful and needed advice. But I don’t have shields figured out yet. I can’t understand how people can’t understand what other people go through. I can’t grip it in my loose and wandering brain. But still, there are moments when you just have to draw a line. And so I drew lines. But I’ll never be the cool one walking away from the explosion without looking back. I’ll always look back. Mindfulness is a practice, and I’m solidly out of practice.

Still, I wish these people who I called friend well, in spite of all the declarations I read about how we’re enemies now. I’m nobody’s enemy, I just can’t take the hate. It vibrates at a painful frequency, I think many of us can feel it now in the air. Or, well, at least on Twitter and Facebook. It smells bad, and it stains our fingers and tongues. I want no part of it. No, I’m not naive, it’s just a choice I get to make every moment of every day. And every moment that I’m capable, I choose kindness and love. That’s exhausting sometimes to be honest. It’s hard to stay in your own movie when the horror films start rolling.

And so yes, puppies help. So does laughing, and thankfully we can always find humor these days. Maybe it’s dark humor, but hey I’ve always liked that anyway. Also, fresh air is good, and feeding the birds, and taking walks out in nature, batteries not included. And moving your body. I forget to do that when I’m glued to the couch, poring over things I simply can’t control. Getting off the couch at all is getting something done some days, and don’t let anyone tell you different. In fact, making it to the couch counts too. Breathing, that’s the place to start. In and out. Repeat with me, there’s more good than bad. We just notice the bad because it’s loud and smelly. We aren’t helpless, but I think we have to help more when we can. Even if it’s just holding the door for someone, or smiling at a beleaguered customer service worker.

Okay, so yeah, this was a nice visit, but I’m a bit tired now. I think I could use a nap or a shower.

It was good to catch up. Let’s try to do it more often, shall we? We really do need each other in these times. I’ll be thinking of you. Look me up, I’ll be here when I can.

A different way

My counselor told me I’m doing things a different way. It was the best thing she could have said in that moment, where I was calling myself a coward or a doormat or whatever. Rewriting my oft-rewritten history. Being incredibly unkind to myself.

And she’s right. The path I’ve chosen can sometimes feel like giving up, and when I look back I cruelly decide I haven’t grown at all and I’m still just letting bullies kick me without standing up for myself. No, no bullies ever actually kicked me, ouch. It’s a metaphor – stick with me here.

When my son was little, he started taking a school bus for the first time, and reported to us, his parents, that he was being picked on by some kid on the bus. Simultaneously, his father and I responded with advice.

“Tell the driver. Try to talk it out.” I said, believing in a system that has really never worked in recorded history except in pamphlets.

“Hit him as hard as you can!” said the father of our already far-too-interested-in-violence 5 year old.

And here folks, you can see the deep cracks between parenting styles that exist regardless of divorce, but of course would become much wider in that inevitability. And while I realize that the short answer, hitting back, would likely be more effective than my own sad little peaceful entry, I just can’t bring myself to call it right.

Over the last 8 or 9 years, I’ve been called crazy by that man, and by my children. I’ve been called abusive. I’ve been kept from my children and lied about, hated and ignored. And you’d think that with all my heart I would be ready to fight back, to hit him as hard as I can. But that’s not me, and knowing this in my heart has been a gift and a curse beyond anything I ever expected to know on this planet. Sometimes I see it as weakness, and I call myself names like pathetic. Sometimes I need the people who know me best to snap me out of it. Sometimes those people tell me to hit him as hard as I can. Nobody likes to see a loved one getting bullied, it’s a natural reaction.

But, and maybe it’s from all that Sesame Street I watched, all that Mr. Rogers, I just know where it goes when you meet ugliness with ugliness. You become ugly. It grabs hold of you and spreads across your skin and eventually into your heart, and you become a different and harder thing. I don’t want to be that thing. I choose not to, again and again. This isn’t weakness, friends. It’s actually incredible strength. It’s character, and it’s solid, not a quivering thing like I sometimes believe. I’m not quivering, and I never have. I mean, sobbing sometimes, which makes me shaky, but no, no quivering.

And so because I haven’t fought back, I’ve allowed myself to “lose” the last thing I was holding onto from the recent post-divorce part of my past, the house I bought to raise my children in through high school. True, my last child is still in high school, but I haven’t seen her since she was in, what, mid-7th grade? It’s not likely she will return to me before she’s done. And really, I’m mostly okay with losing this house. We made so many compromises, my new husband and I, when we bought it – a few short months before our wedding date. We bought enough bedrooms for all our kids, in a school district that would be the least trouble for my children’s father to get to. A lot of bad moments happened in this house, the struggles with alienation, and the loss after, the fighting we did when we had no idea what was really happening to us all. But so many great things have happened here too. We fell back into love in the quiet, began gardening, making the space our own inside and out. We began to foster homeless dogs, and threw parties, and built the fire pit of my dreams – simple, like camping. And we set stuff on fire!

And now, we’re ready to move on, looking ahead in spite of the low blows we’ve been dealt again and again. There is no real loss here, just regaining who we are, who I am at my core. I am doing things a different way, the same different way that has seen me through all of the tragedy a life of 50 years will bring, and all of the wonder too. I am proud as hell of myself, my strength, and my husband too. We are excited about the future, and the amazing new fire pit we will build, the gardens, the warmth of our crazy life together.

No, make no mistake, this isn’t a gift, it’s not a blessing in disguise. WE are what make the good that comes from ugly things. We are the blessing, and we aren’t in disguise. We’re right here beside you, the people who choose every single day to make the best of things, to act in kindness, mindful of the lives around them. To do things a different way. This way works. I hope you try it.

Oh, and, um, wanna buy a house? It’s got a magical fire pit out back…

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We are drunk on horrible things

newtown_victims_700Someone told me we’d forgotten Newtown. I don’t think we have. Someone told me we will never learn. I don’t know if that’s true, but I worry. Someone told me that the “other side” just doesn’t care. I know that’s not true. We are all still carrying the pain of that loss, of all the losses. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We’re drunk on it, the whole nightmarish thing, and we’re stumbling around lost, striking out at anyone who chooses a different way to believe this craziness can be solved.

I’ve been saying “When we’re living in fear, the terrorists win.” I say it a lot. Fear is controlling so many people, and there’s so much anger too. In fact, we can find all the stages of grief, alive and well in how people talk about the Sandy Hook shootings, and all the shootings since then. There’s even conspiracy theorists, literally stalking some of these parents, bent on proving it all to be a hoax. Denial taken to a sick extreme.

We haven’t forgotten. We’ve drunk it in, absorbed it into our beings. We’ve become tired, angry, and less willing to pause and breathe before we react. We are weary, we are sad, we are so very pissed off. And we are helpless, in spite of the arsenals and the concealed carries, in spite of the research on mental health, in spite of the walls and divisions we fight over. In the end we can’t change what happened, we can’t go back to that time we remember when our children were safe. We are lost.

The heartache of that day is mixed up inside of me with the certain knowledge I had then that I was losing my second child to the hatred and fear of parental alienation. I was coming to terms very slowly with the fact that someone I loved with all my heart, and who loved me just as much, had learned to hate me, had become so involved in that hatred, that nothing I did had the power to change her mind. I was already in the dark of depression when the news came about the shootings, and my lack of hope was already life-threatening.

Maybe the shock of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary saved my life. Maybe that’s why three years ago this week I finally told my doctor the truth about how bad it was, what had been happening, how I’d decided the best way to die so that my family would be sure to get my insurance money. I wanted to disappear, to let everyone off the hook. I wanted my children to stop feeling like they had to hate me in order for their world to make sense. I felt they’d be better off in mourning than moving into a life of lies and paranoia. Sometimes I still wonder if that would have helped them more than the choice I made. But I chose to ask for help. Then I chose antidepressants and therapy, and I’m utterly grateful I had that choice.

A few weeks later, I did lose my daughter, and she hasn’t been back in my house or my life since. More to grieve. And the shootings have kept coming and coming. We are a broken nation with no doctor. We are at war with ourselves and everyone else. The unimaginable has become, almost literally, a daily experience in this country. And instead of recognizing the pain and fear that overtakes us all, instead of helping one another grieve and recover, so many of us have grown ugly and isolated.

We are full of inner conflict, loaded with misunderstandings, and a bravado around those misunderstandings that has people not even wanting to try to see things a different way. We call each other libtards and morons and worse. And a lot of us seem to be enjoying the vitriol, which is the really scary part. We’re all a little sicker than we used to be, and I think that’s part of the Newtown legacy. We think we’ve forgotten, but really, these things have become a part of us, malignant and growing. Newtown and all the other towns – I don’t think we’ve forgotten, I think we have drunk it all in and become some new Mr. Hyde version of ourselves.

In the last three years, I have climbed mountains in my own soul, and come out stronger and better in almost every way. I have faced demons, myself, and learned how to keep doing so every day while loving this amazing life I have now. My wounds are healing, but just like this country, I have scars. I’m a different person, just as we’re a different nation. To pretend we can go back in time and create a better past is the worst kind of torture we can inflict on ourselves. It makes us take sides, look for someone to blame, to hate. But it isn’t that simple. We have to find a way to try to heal ourselves instead of tearing our country apart.

What I have found in the last three years of emotional heavy lifting is my center, my balance, my ability to pause, think, and react with generosity as often as I can. Do I screw up? Only all the damn time. Sometimes I can be mean too. Apologizing is my new friend. But it’s the trying that matters, the fixing what we can fix, and letting go of what we can’t. I still have trouble with the letting go. I can’t fix politics or hatred or gun violence or race relations. All I can do is speak up and ask people to reconsider what they’re doing and saying, maybe pry open their minds just a centimeter before spouting off. I see the closed-mindedness on all sides, the belittling of the “other,” the cutting down of people who are really just grieving in a different way, but still afraid, just like the rest of us. We all long for safety and belonging. We are all drunk on horrible things.

I can’t fix this. I want to so badly. All I can do is tell you that this world needs kindness more than ever. You can’t fix this either. I’m guessing you want to also. We can’t heal until we realize we’re hurting, and give ourselves room to become something better. So maybe, can you ask yourself a few questions for me? Or at least think about it…

Are you helping people, or calling your friends names for not agreeing with you? Can you do better? Do you really need to pass on that “clever” meme that insults those who think differently? Is there another way to make your point? Are you willing to honor the victims of Newtown, and all the other towns by not giving in to your basest fears without thought? If you truly believe that you can’t convince anyone of your side of things, is there anything else you can learn for yourself? Those “morons” might know something you don’t. At the very least, can you allow that everyone here on this crazy planet is seriously just trying to do their best? The gun-nuts and the libtards, all doing their best! You may think some were dropped on their heads as babies, but does that then mean it’s okay to belittle them? Oh, please, for my sake, and for yours, don’t say yes.

Today I’m still grieving for all that was lost in Newtown and in ourselves. We will always hurt, and we simply can’t forget. But we really can get better than this.

 

NaNoWriMo, Incoming!

NaNoWriMo badgeHere’s the thing about the truth. We think we know, but we don’t really have a clue what it is. We can only do our best, groping in the dark with what little light our perceptions can cast, naming the shadows we make and claiming them as our story. In the beginnings of great loss, the shadows are strong and terrifying, and of course we cast ourselves as the hero of the piece. It’s us against the villains. But if you sit there long enough in what you thought was your story, looking around, letting your eyes adjust, you start to see things you didn’t notice before. The shadows adjust themselves to accommodate your clearer vision. If you’re curious, you start to see places where you made assumptions, or maybe took some shortcuts. You start to see the grey areas. Eventually, you see your own shadow, and you have to face the truth you see, the one that’s closer to the real truth, hopefully. And maybe you even learn to understand the villains too.

I’m learning to hold myself accountable for my shadow, while not blaming myself for having one. We all have shadows after all. So, I have to say to myself, after all this time, after all the blaming and the shame and the honest vows of innocence: “Hey self! Welcome to the human race. You messed up. You fell on your face, but you’re okay. Let’s get you cleaned up.” What, were you expecting a bunch of self-loathing? I went there for a while I suppose. But really, what would I tell someone else who was suffering? Don’t I deserve the same acceptance and forgiveness I’d give to you? Of course I do! Of course I do. We all do.

And now, I think I’m ready to tell the story that is my truth. Because my heart is open, my mind is open, and I’ve forgiven myself and others for the pain we’ve caused, the damage done. It doesn’t mean things are better, they aren’t, in a situational sense. But I am. And I’m ready now, in time for NaNoWriMo, that glorious, torturous month of writing 50,000 words. I’m ready to write about my life as an alienated parent, keeping the goal of helping other people in my heart, and with the idea of casting light on our shadows. And hopefully mixing some joy with sorrow, some hope with loss. I’m starting a book, called (for now) “Mom, redacted.” It’s non-fiction, memoir I suppose it’s called. I know, I know, it’s not a novel, but they’ve changed the rules at NaNoWriMo to accept rebels, and even if they hadn’t, I’d move into this project because it’s time.

As usual with this crazy month, I won’t see much of my friends, but I am already building in a little time, because of that whole needing other people thing. I expect to cry a lot, but in a good way mostly. I expect to make up as many excuses as I need to for avoiding phone calls and requests. I expect not to update this blog much (hell it’s been a month anyway!), but you never know. Please know that I’d really love your support. But if you want to tell me I shouldn’t, or it’s a terrible idea, or any other nay-saying stuff, just shh. I’m doing it. I just am. Happy almost-November.

If your cup is full

Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow.

Long ago, I went to Dead shows with the man who became my first husband, and danced. Always, I hoped to hear this song. It makes me happy, in that connected to music kind of way. I’m not sure if it’s a deep song, or the total opposite. It’s just Jerry, you know? I miss that dude as if we were really friends. I guess that’s what music does, and writing, and art. We want to make it all complicated, but what it comes down to is connection. It’s a hug across time and space, an extension of a hand for a friendly shake, or a smack on the back of the head. It’s a reminder that as alone as I sometimes pretend to be, I’m not. There are others.

I forget. I fall into the deep holes and think I’m the only one who ever had to climb my way back out. I sometimes want to paint the story of me on my face, so people can see, and know what I’ve been through. But there’s not enough paint, and that’s okay, because it’s not like I’d be the only one with face paint, we’d all be covered, and maybe that’s what tattoos are for. Maybe that’s the point, telling our stories on our bodies, in our music, words, anything, everything. Life is stories, and mine aren’t more special than yours. They also aren’t less special. That’s what art is, stories that remind us we’re connected.

I’ve wondered since I was just small why it is that most people can’t see that we’re all the same inside. Ask a shark who’s bitten us, we’re the same inside! This crazy existence connects us, and we’re born knowing that, getting it on some basic level, and then we spend most of our lives convincing ourselves that we were mistaken. And the world, the human world, just gets more and more whacked out every day with all these people trying so hard to forget that we are all alike inside. It’s so off-kilter now I don’t know how it stays in orbit.

People tell me to lighten up sometimes, when I tell them something isn’t funny when it’s not. Like rape jokes, race jokes, hate jokes, mean jokes, and stuff that separates, stuff that makes someone else smaller. And I tried for a long time, because like Amy in Gone Girl, I wanted to be Cool Girl. It meant so much to me to be Cool Girl, I was willing to step into someone else’s outline and try not to push it out of shape. It took a long time to see that it was a chalk outline, and I was dying inside. So I want you to know I’m not cool, and I’m okay with that. Those jokes suck, they’re a way to tell yourself that you’re better than, above it all. And you’re just not. Even if you own a thousand hotels, you’re not. You’re just one of us, living on this crazy spinning marble that somehow keeps making trips around this wild, hot, fierce star without burning up. And ever since I was little, I’ve known on the most basic level that we are so lucky to be here. Even at my lowest, I’m grateful for the trips around the sun.

I’m grateful, also, for the connections. The musicians and writers and poets and painters and thinkers are part of all of us. I wish I could live long enough to hear it all, see it all, read it all, write it all, and to just watch things unfold. So two lines from Ripple for you:

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again.

(full lyrics)

I wish you full cups of life, say a toast to all your neighbors on this planet, and suck that stuff down.

Remedy

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You must practice this please,

At least three times daily.

Now repeat after me,

Because these words will change lives.

They will change the world.

And they will make you better.

Are you ready?

Steady now, here goes.

Remember.

Repeat repeat repeat.

“Me too.”

 

~ Liesl Dineen

(5-day poetry chain challenge, day 2.)

It’s 14 Words for Love time again!

Yes, yes, time again! Things are happening on the 14Words site and Facebook, come visit and write some short poems – it can set you free! If you want to read more of me gushing about this month-ish long event, step this way!

I’ll put up some I’ve done so far, but there will be more installments!


I promised you my best

Then wrecked the coffee

And snapped at the dogs

 

You aim your words

Just over my head

But my heart catches them

Instead

 

I understand you hate me child

But that’s what gives me hope.

You care.

 

You are my night sky

I am your moon

Let’s knock the stars loose

 

Love’s simple really

Take my hand

And let me show you

How it’s done

 

And when we let go of our fear

Volcanoes erupt

Tsunamis crash the shore

 

Remembering that little hand

Clasping mine joyfully

I thought you’d never let me go

 

The sun warms me from a new angle

Since I learned to love myself

 

I will know I’m healed

When I finally allow him

To trace my scars

 

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

November Poem-a-Day: Day 4

Prompt: Thank you for continuing to rock this challenge! I approved many comments yesterday–so if you’ve been having issues with commenting, I hope they’re cleared up now.

Today is our first Tuesday of the challenge, and I like to do a Two-for-Tuesday prompt on Tuesdays. You can write to the first prompt, the second prompt, both prompts, or whatever tickles your fancy. Here are the prompts:

  1. Write a super hero poem.
  2. Write a super heroine poem.

Heroic

A hero is a sandwich and heroin is a drug
One tastes quite delicious
And the other makes me shrug

The point is I’m not buying what our culture dishes out
That winners are heroic
And the rest should go without

I think that in this world of ours, awash in disregard
That the simple act of caring
Earns us all the hero card

~ Liesl DIneen 2014

Please, Siri…

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This morning at 9 am, Siri sent me a message reminding me to write about why I say please and thank you to “him.” I’m new to asking Siri for reminders and other things, but I think it’s a new favorite feature. I’d been sending one to myself about going to the bank on lunch, and I realized that I always say “please” before asking Siri to do something menial for me. And it struck me that this may not be how everyone works…

Then I got to thinking, which, well, is mostly what I do pretty much all the time, and I realized that I don’t want to NOT say please and thank you to Siri or anyone else. Yes, it’s just software with no actual feelings, but if I start issuing commands, I may soon begin to feel rather superior, and then I could start just issuing commands all willy-nilly to my friends, or the lady at the bank. And then I’d be a bitch. And that’s not what I want to be.

It seems to me that the more we practice being decent, the more likely we are to be decent. I have a temper. I’m working on that. Really really working on that. But it’s something only those unlucky enough to love me really see. Now, once I did snap at a lady for calling my phone number instead of her OB/GYN, but wait – I hung up first! See, I’d been given this OB/GYN’s old number and women called me daily about their yearly schedules. I never once snapped at them in real life. I calmly told them what I knew, which wasn’t much, but at least they didn’t think they were all set for March 3rd. Anyway, this one time, I shut the phone and then snapped “And don’t call this number again!” I thought it was funny. Because, I’m twisted like that, and you should hear the things I say to drivers on the road… My (former) sister-in-law thought it was intervention-worthy later on, mainly because she didn’t think I’d actually hung up, so that was awkward… But anyway, the thing is, that was just venting with humor. I’d never speak to Siri that way. Or that lady on the phone, duh.

I think it’s okay to be nice when nobody’s watching. I think it’s okay to hold the door open while 20 people stream out, apparently not realizing that “leaving the theater” etiquette requires them to take the door from me and pass it to the one behind them etc… [Note: I don’t think it’s okay to stand there for 20 minutes, but there were times I did that back in my doormat days.] I think it’s more than okay to pick up litter on the sidewalk even when it’s not something I dropped. I mean, within reason. There are some things you just need gloves for though.

Oh by the way, I also talk to many other inanimate objects. I mean, I bump into a streetlight (which happens more than you or I want to believe), and I say “excuse me” or “oops, sorry” before stepping aside out of its way.  Of course, I also tell lamps and tables to be still when they wobble. I mean, it’s only polite for them to behave well too, right?

As a kid, I had some kind of OCD-like thing where if I kissed one stuffed animal goodnight, I’d have to kiss them all. I didn’t want anyone feeling left out. Now, in therapy, I learned that this may have come from feeling left out myself (Okay, I didn’t actually need therapy for that realization!), but even though I’m (mostly) over that, I still care that nobody gets left out. This can be a problem when having social gatherings and wanting to keep them small, but that’s a blog for another day.

The point is that while I know, I swear to you I do, that Siri is not my friend, I’m going to keep on saying please and thank you and other sweet things. Maybe it will catch on, and people will remember how to say these things to one another, too. Maybe then we will have paradise right here on Earth and rainbows will flow from my coffee cup and sprinkles will rain from the sky, and… anyway, it’s not the worst kind of crazy to be. Join me?

July is for poems…

So in honor of Camp NaNoWriMo I’m doing another month of poetry writing, I’m not limiting it to one per day, so I’m just going to label each entry by day.

They’ll be just next door on the Poetry tab. Happy July!

Also, I wrote this one a day or so before July started and I can’t cheat, so here it is…


Hail

Hail to the hippies and drop-outs and drop-ins
and has-beens and seekers and mystics and sinners.
Hail to beginners and winners and losers,
to boozers and dosers, to artists and posers,
to starving musicians and chaos and cowards,
to mathematicians and the under-empowered.
Hail to the poets and potheads and freaks,
to the geeks and the meek and the ones who check Other,
to mothers and queens and in-between teens.
Hail to protesters and graffiti art vandals,
to scandals and weirdos and schemers and dreamers.
Hail to the artists, to buskers and roadies,
to the lonely and bullied and mostly forgotten,
to the rotten and punks and those on their ass.
Hail to the students who don’t learn in class,
to newbies, cosplayers and first-time-offenders.
Hail to transgenders, peacemakers and bakers,
to the dredded and shaved, to the pierced and tattooed,
to the crude and the rude and the uncomprehending.
Hail to the masses, and hail to things ending.

~ Liesl Dineen 2014

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