It is nothing but the first

This is one poem in a series from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read. I add nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of three participants who were writing on the prompt, “A gift…”

sunrise

First sun —

Primal shine of first —

Floating in a pink paradise,

It will always be the same sky.

.

Trapped in my own mind,

Silence covers everything.

I push back, rush forward;

Expecting mind be gone!

I am fearsome!

(Not fear-more or fear-less.)

.

Nuggets of joy, nuggets of time,

It is nothing but the first.

Gaslighting, not just for women anymore

lamplight-6That’s not what you saw! That’s not what you heard! That is not what I said!

Sound familiar, America?

Yes, we residents of the United States are being subjected to what is known in the psychological world as gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. (Wikipedia)

You don’t mean that!

That’s not what happened! You’re delusional.

You’re over-reacting (Why so angry? Raging woman! Shrill. Screaming. Over-emotional, hysterical…)

I’m going to go out on a not-so-long limb to say that every woman has heard statements similar to these to some degree or other. It is the dismissal and undermining of our own experiences, emotions, and intuition. Quoting Carolyn Heilbrun in Writing a Woman’s Life, I wrote in my graduate thesis:

Women haven’t traditionally been allowed anger, ambition, or authority and that they are denounced for shrillness or inappropriateness, which denies them power and their place in “whatever discourse is essential to action.”

Even our education, our learned and personal knowledge, can be explained away by what has been come to be known as “mansplaining.”

Mansplaining describes the phenomenon of someone (usually a man, but not always) behaving as though he has superior knowledge to someone else (often a woman) who actually knows more about the topic in question than he does.  (flavorwire.com)

In a Psychology Today article, we read:

Gaslighting can take many forms but it is a twisting of reality that turns a person into a true victim. It’s about second guessing yourself or getting so far from reality that you don’t guess it at all, you just accept someone else’s interpretation of reality.  […]

Gaslighting causes you to think that up is down and down is up. Gaslighting is sowing very real seeds of doubt in your ability to believe in you and what you are experiencing. Gaslighting takes away your ability to think rationally and critically in almost every situation.

Congratulations! We are all now experiencing what women have dealt with for far too long. Sad!

He-who-shall-not-be-named is attempting to gaslight us all. While he constantly changes his mind, his opinions, his version of events, he expects his Followers (and the rest of us) to go along with it. Urging us to deny facts and even our own eyes and ears, he wants us to blindly accept his Truth of the Moment.

He believes his authority, his rules of how the world work, which can change from minute to minute, are to be followed with no questions asked. Unfortunately, many are happily trotting along, wagging their tails as their “master” tells them what to do.

And to continue that analogy, it is well known that loyal dogs will continue to love a master even when beaten, even waiting to be hit, thinking it is love.

It is a form of abuse!

Again from Psychology Today:

Gaslighting is now recognized as psychological abuse whereby a perpetrator manipulates a victim into doubting his or her own sanity or reality.

It is an experience that happens to many who are involved with very dysfunctional or personality disordered people. The perpetrators are most likely sociopaths or narcissists.

Our President-Elect is attempting to manipulate — to abuse — an entire population.

We are being asked to not know what we know!

(And I am also very aware that the dismissal of his sexual assaults is all part and parcel of this manipulative, disrespectful, contemptuous, self-serving behavior.)

Those of us who choose to believe our eyes and ears are gob-smacked, often lacking words to explain the upside-down, bizarro world we have entered wherein we are being asked to dismiss what is clearly before us.

In my graduate thesis, I wrote on this very topic — the dismissal of our experiences — that of women and men — to be replaced by the “rules” of so-called Authorities. Patriarchal systems, including organized religion,

… can be merely a system of rules: a code to live and believe by handed down by an external “authority” who answers all questions for its followers… even taught [brain-washed? Think Fox News, etc.] to believe that they need to be told all the answers.

He-who-shall-not-be-named believes he can Speak and It Shall Be So. Like those who rely on a,

religious text(s) of choice, it sets in place a hierarchy, a pyramid of those who have an “exclusive line to the Word… [and] an exclusive right to interpret that Word…” (quoting Eisler).

BUT!

It’s not going to work! While we listen to the Words — the lies — spewing from his mouth, we are also watching the videos, listening to the audio files, reading the tweets, reports, emails, news reports.

We’re not buying it! We are smarter than that. We don’t need an outside Authority to tell us what we know. We don’t put any faith in His Words. We don’t need to believe in fantasies just because he is our new leader.

Unfortunately, like the generations of women who have been denied anger or the acceptance of their own experiences and emotions, we are being told we are “whiners,” “cry babies,” “snowflakes” for our out-cry. In response to the election of a new leader whose vitriol incites violence against “The Other,” whose sexism undermines half the population, whose cronyism could dismantle the structures which are helping to ensure the rights and well-being of many, whose thin-skin and narcissism could lead us into war, our outrage is mocked and demeaned.

But we will continue to stand in our truth, the truth we see and hear and know.

An entire country cannot be gaslighted. We know the flickering gaslights are just caused by an ill man looking for something he will never find in his golden “attic.”

 

 

 

Happeningness

This is one poem in a series from the “Write to Recover” group I facilitate. I put them together from phrases that resonate with me while participants read. I add nothing but punctuation and the occasional conjunction. This one is comprised of the words of three participants who were writing on the prompt, “This I Know…”

flagstone

I am an insoluble riddle,

A caught thought.

A merging, a happeningness.

.

I am the strong and aware one

With a solid world view of the river.

I am strong among the crazies.

.

But at mind’s length, I am a

Wandering consciousness.

I flounder,

I have fear.

I am solid fluidity, a skin sack of ego;

Multiples of movement in an

Entanglement of influence.

.

Abundance?

Let’s find out.

Realize the truth.

Authentic Voice Project (revisited)

This is the first of series I started five years ago (to the day). A lot has changed for me personally and in the world since I wrote these posts, so I’m curious and excited to re-visit them.

For redefinition, I was thrown back to myself, to my inner knowing… Marilyn Sewell, Cries of the Spirit

Words.

Manifestations of our thoughts. Creators of our internal messages. Words have and continue to shape history and people – not always positively and sometimes with devastating consequences. Words have an affect on us, more powerful than we can rationally understand. The words we have heard all our life, depending on the context in which they were originally and/or continue to be delivered, shape our emotional response to them.

If a word has a negative effect on you, it is time to change it. Change its personal meaning — change your (unconscious) emotional reaction. Make it have authentic meaning for you.

So, with the dawn of a new year I am announcing a new writing project: The Authentic Voice Project.

Every two weeks, I will write a post based on a word, starting with A and proceeding through the alphabet. The words will be “trigger” or “loaded” words (or phrases in some cases), either according to society, women, or to me personally. I will attempt to sum up the general or accepted “meaning” of the word and then re-work it to be more personal, more positive, more helpful, more meaningful and authentic — in my own voice.* (And if you have suggestions for any of these words, please leave a comment.)

Obviously, my personal take on a word or phrase will not speak to everyone. But my hope is that it will get you thinking about your own definitions of words you may not even realize have an unconscious affect on you. Please feel free to comment with you own reactions and re-definitions (or possibly guest blog here or in response on your own blog)- every person’s experience is different and equally important, and may resonate with someone else on a level I may not have reached.

Please join me on this quest for Authentic Voice!

* This idea is loosely based on Kathleen Norris’ book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith.

Please do surrender to your nature! (Or Life, Photoshopped)

I wrote this post four years ago. Over the past few months the still pronounced sexism of this country has been thrown into the spotlight, so this post seems just as appropriate today.

To suppress or disdain women (or any “Other”) is to “posture,” as one article I read recently put it. To posture, to pretend, is to be inauthentic. This takes mental and emotional energy — it takes a psychological toll. This is from a recent study:

“Men who see themselves as playboys or as having power over women are more likely to have psychological problems than men who conform less to traditionally masculine norms, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.”

Similarly, I would assume, women who allow men to have power over them or belittle them as sex objects, would suffer emotionally. (I know I would!)

We are not born hating another; it is learned behavior that goes against our natural need to belong in community and be loved and to love. Our “traditional” roles are not necessarily “natural” and if we insist that we and others play them, we are hurting everyone involved. We have to stop photoshopping our society to supposed ideals intended to keep the hierarchical, “power-over” status quo in place. It’s time for “power-with”!

wisdom within, ink

I’m usually not one to jump on a bandwagon. If everyone’s doing it I tend to turn the other way. But this one could not be ignored. I, as other angry men and women already have, must respond to a certain backward-thinking op-ed article. (A particularly good response is here.)

I recently read Suzanne Venker’s article: The War on Men in which the author blames us liberated women for upsetting the “proper” way of the world by forcing men to compete with us instead of doing what they all prefer, which is, apparently, look after us incompetent creatures. Apparently we’re just not womanly enough anymore and – poor guys – they’re so confused. But, the author, happily concludes: “there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender…

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This is not a political post, it is a processing of grief

This morning I woke to find that the nightmare developing when I finally went to bed at 1AM, the one where the map turned increasingly red, was real. I immediately broke down sobbing. I haven’t really stopped since. My children have never seen me like this; it scared them. I tried to gain control of the whirling weather-map of emotions surging through me, but they were too much.

So, I will try, now that I can see through my waterlogged eyeballs again, to break down these various emotions:

  • Sadness

For my country, for those who had so much hope that “Love Always Wins,” and for those who believed we were finally going to see a woman in the White House. That people have experienced rifts in their friend and family circles during this election.

  • Shock

That which I, and so many millions in this country and around the world, couldn’t even conceive happening, did.

  • Despair and Disillusionment

That half – half! – the population of this country voted for a man who has been shown over and over again to be a crappy — and dangerous — human being. That many of these voters (other than the ones who supposedly voted for him because they felt they had no other choice) don’t believe in love or compassion, don’t believe in equity, don’t believe in diversity, and instead believe, as a bumper stick I saw the other day declared, that what makes America great is God, Guns, and Guts. People who favor above all their whiteness, their sexually-aggressive maleness, and their so-called Christianity; those who prefer a leader who parrots their worst fears back to them and, like some orange fairy godmother, tells them their greatest dreams will come true.

“The charismatic or hypnotic leader who successfully rallies his followers… exhorting Americans to go out and battle the ‘heathen and immoral humanists, feminists, and communists [or socialists or liberals or Muslims]’ — whom they blame for all our world’s ills.”**

It is in despair (and utter bafflement) that I witnessed a man stand in front of the world spewing hatred, fear, and lies, and have his repulsive, illegal behavior excused away or completely ignored by even the smartest of his supporters. I despair that people I know, who I know are fundamentally good and not stupid, can vote for a person who could well take our country to war while denying people healthcare and equal rights — human rights.

  • Fear 

That violence will rise. That hate crimes will increase. That white supremacy will surge. That our Middle-Eastern and Hispanic friends and neighbors will be targeted, including the Syrian refugees who are arriving in my town soon. That families will be separated through deportation. That our gay friends, friends of color, our liberal friends will take verbal or even physical abuse.

“Elites of fascist and communist totalitarian state hierarchies … impose [their word/law/ideology] by force or the threat of force… Obedience and conformity are the supreme virtues. And in both, violence is not only permitted but ordered if it is in service of the officially approved ideology.”**

Fear that our children will see a rise in bullying and name-calling. That our sons will grow up continuing to believe females are inferior and objects for their enjoyment. That sexual assaults will continue to be dismissed as female over-reaction to a male’s right.

That the advances we’ve made in women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, healthcare, etc. will be over-turned. That we will be looking at a country (once again) governed by archaic patriarchal/religious laws. (Sound familiar, Sharia-law fearers??)

“The first policy priority in a male-dominated system has to be the preservation of male dominance. Hence, policies that would weaken male dominance — and most policies that offer any hope for the human future will [i.e. reproductive freedom and equality for women] — cannot be implemented.”**

Fear that this presidency will lead us to war. World and/or civil. That the gun culture will make our country a tinderbox.

That the “hoax” of climate change will endanger our planet to the point of extinction.

  • Anger and Frustration

At all the above. (Plus some at the DNC, the non-voters, the 3rd party voters, the uninformed voters, and those who wanted the country to go to shit to prove some point. And a lot at the electoral college which have gave us a president the majority did NOT vote for.)

  • Love

In times of group grief, love surges. I am so in love right now with the people of my “tribe” who are reaching out over social media to give virtual hugs and inspiration, who are meditating for personal and communal peace, who are taking this as an opportunity to speak out from a place of compassion. A friend on Facebook, after I had posted of my despair, wrote, simply, “I love you.” In those three words I felt the circle of connection tighten, my heart lurch. I began crying all over again but this time it wasn’t out of desperation, it was because of love.

  • Hope

I believe what has happened today is the death rattle of a mindset/heartset which is will no longer be tolerated. The fear-focused individual has a heart in which love cannot flourish. For a long time the worst of these fearful ones have been hidden away. But Trump has drawn them out and legitimatized their fears and hate. They are out in the open now.

While we have been living for a few decades in a world of advancing rights for minorities and human-beings in general, what the majority of us have been able to deny or file away as the point of view of a few disturbed, angry individuals, is staring us in the face. And we are not going to ignore it.

Women have bravely risen up to tell their sexual assault stories — by the millions. People are demanding their human right to healthcare and freedom to make their own choices regarding their body. Women are determined in their right to career options and advancement, and equal pay. The working class are asking to have a living wage and students to be able to be educated without drowning in debt. Activists are working on the behalf of the incarcerated. Bernie will continue to lead us in a fight for social reform and environmental restoration. I could go on and on.

The point is, inequities created in our society by old, tired patriarchal, religious, aggressive-capitalist ideals are no longer tolerated by the majority. As a friend, who just stopped by to give me a much-needed hug, put it, the boil has festered into a pustule. It will burst — and that’s when the healing begins.

Our world is changing. Indeed, writes Riane Eisler in Chalice and the Blade, during a historical period of greater gender equality, when “women obtain relatively more freedom and greater access to education… one of the most telltale signs that the pendulum is about to swing back is the revival of misogynist dogmas.”

Apparently it took a major, uncomfortable kick (and it might be a longer lasting and more painful kick than we would like under the inflammatory rhetoric of our new president) to jump start actions that will get that pendulum swinging the other way. But swinging it always is.

According to Eisler, Cultural Transformational Theory shows that, “following a period of chaos and almost total cultural disruption,” when there are unstable states, “a shift from one system to another can occur.”

“What may lay ahead is the final bloodbath of this dying system’s violent efforts to maintain its hold. But the death throes of androcracy [form of government in which the government rulers are male] could be the birth pangs of glylany [partnership society based on gender equality] and the opening of a door into a new future.”

And in that frightening yet hopeful assertion by Eisler, I will hold my hope — a tenuous silver lining — that today wasn’t the end of the world, but the beginning of a new one.

 

*This isn’t intended as a political post. However, I will say this:

I love Bernie. I supported Bernie. I trust Bernie. Reluctant as I was to have to support someone else, I trusted he knew what he was doing despite any corruption which may have/probably forced him out of the race. And to see a woman as candidate, was, despite my love for Bernie and his message of change, inspiring and exciting.

I was elated that my children would see a woman break the last glass ceiling. And that woman would, I absolutely believe, have continued facilitating positive change for the equal and human rights of women, LGBTQs, people of color, immigrants, children, the sick, the poverty-stricken, the working-class, etc. etc. No, she isn’t Bernie but she is a mother, and an educated and experienced one at that… and, above all, NOT Trump.

I don’t intend this to start a political dialogue. I am too raw to engage right now. But, all other discussions are welcome!

**From Riane Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, which read today like all-too real-right-now prophecies.

 

Path to Publication, pt 16: It’s happening!

Wow, it’s been a looooong time since I last wrote, especially on this publication series. And here’s one of the reasons why: I’m about to get published!

Quick background: Over 18 months ago I was hired — as a history buff, writer, and someone with some graphic lilian-scrapbookdesign skills — by a historical society to put together a biography/memoir on a local historian — Lilian Baker Carlisle. This required traveling regularly 90+ minutes to Lilian’s former home (now owned by her daughter) to go through 80 years worth of scrapbooks she kept starting in 1925 when she was in 8th grade. Now all these months later, the text is written and the layout (which looks like a scrapbook itself) will be finished next week.

And let me tell you! For the past few months, since I have been able to see the end of the tunnel, I have been like a woman possessed. Having dropped all other freelancing projects so I can give this one my full attention, I have nothing else to occupy my mind (oh, don’t worry, every once in while I remember to take a shower or feed my kids).

I go to sleep thinking about the book and I wake up thinking about it. Like this morning, a Saturday, I was awake at 5:30AM worrying about the details — I wonder if the table of contents page get numbered? How do I know what goes on that very first page where the publication details go? Will I EVER finish?! And even when I’ve put in a “full” day of work (“full” for this intensive work is at most six hours, but I can usually get in four hours before my eyeballs start to shrivel and shoulder muscles go into full spasm), I am thinking about what and when I will do next, sometimes forcing myself to stay watching TV instead of escaping to my office to put in a few more minutes.

When the book committee first told me the details of this project, passing over a large file book smelling strongly of stale cigarette smoke (Lilian was not a smoker, it was from the researcher before me), the stage at which I am now seemed an impossibility. How to pull 94 years of an extremely active life into one book with a theme without it sounding/looking like a long run-on sentence of “and then she did this, and then she did that…” felt like a monstrous challenge.

Did I doubt I was up to it? Of course I did. Almost every day. But I didn’t let that stop me. I kept doing what I had to, believing the next step and then the next step would become clear. And they did, step after step through the stages of the research and the compilation.

lakeviewAnd every step was fabulous! I carefully skimmed crumbling scrapbooks from the 1930s and ’40s, guided the photographer through shoots and scanning photos and brochures and newspaper clippings and articles in huge binders from every decade, all while looking out over the most amazing view of Lake Champlain from Lilian’s house. I visited museums and the state historical society. I enjoyed a comfy bed, good food, and good conversation provided by Lilian’s eldest daughter and I oogled over carefully preserved clothing my grandmother might have worn in her younger days. AND I will have a book with my name on the cover at the end! I feel like I hit the jackpot of freelancing.lilian-suit

But here I am, just weeks away from having a completed manuscript in my hands and I feel like I will never make it. All the details are swimming in my head and I have never felt quite so overwhelmed. I’ve never put together a book before and so I don’t know all the details, and I don’t have to (*she reminds herself as writing that sentence*); the members of the historical society have done it many times and the printer we are working with is ready to help in any way. But that doesn’t help my obsessive thoughts. Even on weekends (notice I am writing this on a Saturday), I can’t leave it behind my office door.

This is, I realize, a lot like a pregnancy. At first you’re in disbelief that one day there will be a new little person (book) in your midst but you just go along doing what you’ve got to do, eating right, mulling over names. Then it starts getting kind of uncomfortable, your belly (manuscript) and thoughts of the new arrival get bigger and take over your life. Then the reality of it all takes over and you begin to think, I can’t do this! But you know you have to. This book is in its last month of gestation and soon it will enter the world. When it does, I will be exhausted but ecstatic.

When I began this Path to Publication series, I never, ever thought it would veer off in this direction, that the path would take me to publishing someone else’s book before my own (but that’s next!). But I’ll take it, happily. It has been — and continues to be — a fantastic ride.

I will be very glad to be done with it though. I’m tired (obsessive thoughts are pretty tiring), I’m ready to sleep for about a month. I’d also kind of like to (don’t laugh) clean my house and start paying my bills on time. And shower on a regular basis.

In January 2017, look for news about the “birth” of this book. I will most likely be doing some book tour-ish type things at local libraries, bookstores, and museums, mostly in the Burlington, VT area but hopefully in my hometown too.

So, I’ll be off — back to my worrying, er, I mean, pondering pagination and ISBN numbers…