(circa 1998) purple people don't try to fly they just do except, of course, when they are lost in the parking lot of Pennsylvania and especially when they are tracking the elusive folk singer shhhh!! be vewy vewy quiet when the storm comes reach out your hand to me and lift me into your boat together we are aimlessly floating through a sea of thoughts and fears until the sun comes up once again too early in the morning i must tell you that i love you with every double bonded oxygen atom in my body ...and then some sporadic bursts of words appear infiltrating my sleepy brain until nothing makes sense and i'm not quite sure why everything seems so clear
I pull myself up by my bootstraps
down the sidewalk
courage by my side
fear at my heels
waiting for me to stumble
I hold my head high, but
don’t stretch my neck out
what the onlookers
as they watch me acquiesce
with their own
my nudity shocks their senses
and fills their hearts with
and i keep marching
down the sidewalk
Our world is possibly more polarized and divided than ever. Being a person that values diversity and inclusion, who strives to try on as many perspectives as possible, and who wants to build bridges, make connections, and expand beyond the limits of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, I find myself torn between groups of friends, afraid to speak my truth, afraid to be different. I find myself more temperate on some issues than friends from either side. I find my growing edges around racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, cultural appropriation, genocide, constitutional rights and freedoms, different opinions and experiences, and so many more, being engaged and challenged – willingly. And sometimes awkwardly and painfully. Almost always, I find myself passionately back in the middle – not on the fence, rather between the worlds.
Rarely have I ever considered a different perspective or point of view because the person sharing it started off by telling me how wrong mine was. My natural inclination to that sort of approach is resistance and defense. I remember once at Diana’s Grove, Cynthea Jones talking about getting a group of people to the energetic level you want them to be. “Start where they are,” she said. If they are loud and you want them to be quiet, start loud and progress to quiet. If they are quiet and you want them to be loud, start with a whisper and move to a shout. I don’t think that means start with hate and move to love – I think that means start with connecting, then with moving.
If someone tries to rip away the foundation of my belief system, pull the rug out from under me, or otherwise upend everything I stand on – I am going to cling to those beliefs and defend them. Because of that instinct I am less likely to entertain a different perspective. For that reason, I think between the worlds is a great place for healing to happen.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Extremism probably isn’t the antidote to extremism, even when it seems like the only natural response, or the only thing the ‘other side’ can, or will, understand.
I’m not suggesting we not dive deep, be passionate, thorough, or fully engaged. Extremism, to me, isn’t about how far we go; it’s about how narrow the road gets as we travel. For me, the ideal path gets wider and wider; more inclusive, more diverse. The path builds bridges, makes connections, and weaves a beautiful tapestry of understanding, compassion, and connection – even when it’s hard, even when I don’t want to. When common ground isn’t obvious and I want to attack or defend – ideally, though not always, I pause and keep looking. I can find a way to connect and through that connection, that crack – well, it’s where the light has a chance of creeping in.
(The following TED Talk, included as part of the blog post)
Photo credits: http://uumediaworks.tumblr.com & The High Priestess Tarot Card by Brigid Ashwood
Brene Brown says, “The less we talk about it [shame], the more we have it.” I have heard conversation after conversation around domestic violence, rape, gender, sexuality and other areas of human struggle and shame. I am not for one second suggesting that means we have healed the shame around these realities. I can’t even confidently say there’s been much healing at all. People are still so isolated from the help and connection that could begin the healing process – still bearing the burden of shame alone.
What I am saying is, we’re talking about them. That surely suggests some kind of movement, however imperceptible, away from shame. How long ago was it that we didn’t even talk about domestic violence? 50 years? It has not been very long since these topics were not discussed – not even in the safe arms of our friends and family. In every venue silence fueled shame and isolation. Only since the late 90’s have we had Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s been even less time that we’ve been publicly talking about gender awareness and sexuality openly. Fraught with fear, we remain silent.
What I desperately need to know is, when will the grassroots movement effectively abolish shame altogether? It starts with me. It starts with talking about it. A friend just shared with me her courage around publicly talking about the shame of childhood sexual abuse, and how through doing so she discovered that the shame wasn’t even hers. I venture to say it never is. Where the hell does shame come from, anyway??
I can tell you where my shame comes from. It comes from 1,000 – or 1,000,000 –overheard negative comments about some situation, condition, or belief that I find myself unable to escape. It comes from covert, and not so covert, messages from the media about the definition of pretty, successful, woman, desirable, acceptable. It comes from the judgments falling unconsciously from the lips of people around me – judgments about things they don’t understand, or they fear. It comes from those same judgments falling from my own lips about things I don’t understand and fear.
I don’t think people intentionally breathe fire on the hotbed of our cultural shame. I didn’t. I didn’t comprehend the weighty impact of my small-minded opinions, shared openly and so resolutely – about EVERYTHING. Even comments said in jest penetrate the cultural subconscious and are the breeding ground of shame, disconnection, fear, and self-loathing. They come back to haunt me as I find myself, through some life circumstance, falling in to the categories I previously judged or mocked.
We have diligently cultivated a culture of shame with every judgment. I have diligently cultivated a culture of shame with every judgment. Every judgment. I believe the only way we – I – heal this, and cultivate a culture of connection, of enough, of love, is to stop openly expressing our value judgments; to hold them in suspense and question until they dissolve back in to that space of alchemical possibility and re-emerge as grace, connection, compassion. The dissolution of shame will happen when we start making space for every experience, every circumstance, every nuance to be held with compassion. We. Me. It starts with me.
I wish I could speak the source of my shame – right now, to you. I wish I were a courageous pioneer who would at this moment name my shame publicly and create space for others – you – to do the same. I’m not there. I’m still tethered to my shame by fear: fear of judgment, fear of rejection. The source of my shame is something I rarely hear talked about. There is no public platform for awareness, and, even among friends it is highly unlikely to be a topic of discussion. I want nothing more than to bare my soul, untether from my shame, and connect wholeheartedly.
Can we talk about this some more?
And in the meantime, can we be so care-full with our words that we create enough space for every struggle to wriggle free from the prison of shame we wall each other in?
Photo credit: http://www.indiatimes.com/india/indias-shame-world-reacts-to-fb-post-arrest-47788.html
Dear Secret Parts of Me,
The scared. The wanting. The waiting. I know you have been waiting a lifetime for someone. A mother, to do and be the things that mommies do. A father. Someone to affirm your worth. A lover, to see the depth and breadth of your beauty. A friend, loyal and present and completely sold on your absolute divinity. A mentor, to cultivate and sculpt all that you are from all that you’re not. A boss, to recognize your invaluable contribution.
Someone – anyone – to see. And, to do more than see. To shout from the rooftops and preach to the choir about your innate, unshakeable value; your unwavering beauty…
even the ugly parts.
And oh, those parts. You’ve been waiting for them to be understood, held with grace, honored for their dutiful allegiance, held as if they were the same beauty as the rest of you – because they are.
You’ve been waiting for someone more than dependable – to do more than they say, to outshine themselves in your – and their – honor.
I have witnessed your waiting. I have felt your desperate longing, your utter loneliness and total helplessness. I have shared your secret fear that they will not come – that you will be waiting forever.
I have seen how that waiting has translated itself in to an inability to wait – fierce and unyielding independence which allows only the god-like closer than arm’s length. Learning skill after skill/trade after trade so that the need for help from another would be driven further and further away.
Dear Precious, Secret Self – I have witnessed your pain, your waiting. I have added my longing to yours; waiting a lifetime for someone – someone I was convinced was everyone else – to show up.
Really, you were waiting for me.
[Form inspired by a recent letter from Gerri Ravyn Stanfield in her “Extraordinary Healing and Leadership Arts” newsletter (you can learn more here)]
Photo credit: https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/heart-drawn-window.html
I find great comfort with my hands in the dirt, the earthy musky scent feels like home and carries me away to some place that never was and always is. You know, it never occurred to me until today that my love of mud might be inescapable. I have a Capricorn sun and a Cancer moon/rising. Both strong in their element, Earth and Water combine, their life force the essence of who I am.
No story about the love of mud would be complete without the rain-soaked gardening-turned-mud-fight expedition. It hadn’t rained in forever. Honestly I was tired of they dry. I was also tired of watering the garden with chlorinated city water. One evening, while cultivating, as all good gardeners do…pulling weeds, trimming back dead foliage, and communing with the dirt, I decided to do a rain dance. And dance and pray I did. Such was my conviction, my ecstasy; my husband couldn’t help but join me. As we danced the skies darkened. Bree (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) came out to join us….she was 8 or 9 at the time. The rain came, and boy did.it.come. Instead of running for shelter we continued to dance and play, and in our play we became muddy messes. Once we were already muddy it didn’t really matter, the mudslinging began.
I am so tempted to say “ and it wasn’t your garden-variety mudslinging either….”, but that would be cheesy, so I will refrain.
We laughed and threw mud, dodging and hiding around the various garden florae. I think Bree was in a state of wild shock. Not only were we letting her play in the rain and mud, but actually encouraging it. As our fun and laughter found its way to a natural end, we shed our mud and rain soaked clothes and streaked for the house.
Maybe it started when I was a kid, I don’t even remember how old. I spent some time growing up with my grandparents, and even after I was re-united with my mother and we moved to Pennsylvania, I spent many summers in that small Arkansas town from which I hail. My cousins and I loved to play in the dirt….no, not dirt. Mud. I have no idea how we did it, but we convinced my grandmother to carry a 5 gallon bucket of water out to the edge of the driveway, where we spent many afternoon playing in the mud.
My grandparents, on my mother’s side, lived outside of town. In fact, when I was a teenager we lovingly called it BFE. If you’re not sure what BFE stands for:
Urban dictionary says it means: Out in the middle of fucking nowhere. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=BFE
It took at least 30 minutes to get to town, and doing so was a grand adventure. We traveled several miles down a dirt road, the old wooden single car bridges, with boards barely wide enough for tires, always enchanted me. Ah, but I digress.
My grandmother would carry buckets of water, when we could convince her to, out to the edge of the driveway. My cousins and I made all sorts of mud beings, but our favorite was mud pies. Not the mud pies your mother warned you about….these were completely organic made only from the freshest ingredients, by hand, that day. Sometimes we even taste-tested them. One day we thought it would be a wonderful idea to rub the mud over our entire bodies.
Being from a very unaware and racist south, it wasn’t such a big deal to do what we thought of next….our grandmother and my aunt were walking back from the garden just as we had finished adorning ourselves with the finest mud a 5 gallon bucket of water and a dusty driveway can make. We ran up to them, so excited about our clever idea we could hardly contain ourselves.
“Look grandma! Look! We are little colored children!” “Hush your mouths!” my grandmother and aunt admonished, half laughing and desperately looking around to make sure nobody heard. Looking back I’m not sure if they were more concerned with the unveiling of a family’s racist mindset, or embarrassed that we would associate ourselves as such people. Either way, nobody could hear! Remember…
We were in BFE.
Thank goodness I’ve outgrown the mindset that sees nothing wrong with having fun at someone else’s unthinkable expense, and being totally oblivious to the attitudes it perpetuates.
Dare I tell you the story about camp??
I was an adult this time, still just as full of wonder and adventure and silly desires as ever, on a wild adventure in southwest Missouri. A group of folks gathered to unpack the story of Mary Magdalene, to use it as a magnifying glass, blowing up some piece of our lives so we could see ourselves more clearly. There were many paths to follow, many aspects of the story to embrace. I chose the Sex Path. Don’t giggle. It’s not what you’re thinking… It was a path about finding our authentic “yes” and our emboldened, honest “no”. It was a path about shedding culturally indoctrinated norms to find the values that were really ours. It was empowering and liberating at the same time.
We did Mud People.
Mud People is an exercise involving cosmetic mud, varying degrees of nudity, and the practice of asking for and giving permission. We gathered tentatively and excitedly by the mud that had been strategically placed in a small grove of trees near the back edge of the land, ideally located next to a cool, flowing creek. The instruction was to be as clothed or unclothed as we were comfortable, and to have fun creatively, tenderly, playing in the mud…always asking for very specific permission before we painted anyone else. “May I rub mud on your left shoulder?” And as the recipient, taking a moment to notice what was happening within us, was there a gentle discomfort? A slight unwillingness? Or did our “yes” come from a place of desire for connection, authenticity, playfulness? It was so empowering, so vulnerable to ask and be willing to hear the answer, not as a message about me rather as a message about the other person’s comfort or trying on their newly empowered “no”. When we were done, we went to the creek and, in the same caring, tender, boundary-honoring manner, we helped each other wash the mud away.
And honestly, it was so much FUN playing in the mud!
And that, dear reader, is the story of my secret love of playing in the mud.
Photo credits in order of first appearance: