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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Human Truth

I’m a globalist because we’re all stuck on a tiny rock in the middle of space. We have nowhere else to go and that includes immigrants displaced by corruption, war, famine, and climate change.

Currently, America has the biggest and one of the wealthiest countries going. That means we have a responsibility as citizens of the world to remain aware of how other people are struggling in our communities and on this planet. 

Not American vs. American or US vs. everyone else. But all people having access to living humanely. 

Since 9/11, the generosity of the global human spirit has been challenged by terrorism. The word terrorism says everything. Fear activates in the reptilian aspect of our brain. It does not allow kindness bestowed upon strangers but makes us wholly invested in survival at any cost. 

That is the intention of terrorism, seed the ground with hate and the target will dissolve in an acid bath of its own anxiety-inflamed bile.

Long ago, when food became easier to come by, tribes combined and created societies. The reasoning was that more people together with a combined self-interest would be able to take on Saber-Toothed Tigers or things unheard of at that timelike climate change.

Societies were the birth of humanity. This wasn't our intention, it happened without our knowledge of the possibility of concern for others. Self-interest slowly morphed into humanity with global awareness. In time we slowly learned how to care for people who were not related to us, had different beliefs, languages, and loved differently than we did. 

This enterprise hasn't been easy. Most of us aren't saints and some are not interested in altruism. Historically, we have hit long horrific blips in the climb toward humane treatment. Wars, gas chambers, segregation, racism, bullying, lying, murder, and subjugation are less than divine-like human creations. These ugly-ments rise to the surface when fear is either unmanaged or manipulated.

Like now.

Terrorism is real. So is climate change, immigration, racism, wage inequality, hunger, wars in the Middle East, international relations, lack of access to health care and national budgets. One is impacting our national and international ability to manage all the rest.

Ignoring or fueling the fear rotting our humanity is leaving us wide open for manipulation. Fear has become the motivator for governmental policy decisions. Fear has been primary in our interactions on highways, in line at the grocery store and on the internet. Fear is winning. A Saber-Toothed Tiger has us on the mat but we're fighting the wrong way and with the wrong tiger.

There are more people who do not subscribe to terrorism than there are who do. Just like there are more people who do not bully, lie, cheat or kill. More people are humane than are hate-filled. It is a delusion to believe there are more dangers than there are comforts. The odds of a terrorist attack are one in 20 million. You read that right.

The odds that global climate change will impact humans are 100%

The focus has been on the wrong tiger.

People have already been displaced. Add in ongoing wars in the Middle East and in 2016 there were more refugees than after WWII. 65.3 million people without a homeland, that's one for every one hundred and thirteen people. 

Terrorism needs a response, but the current response is creating more terror. It isn't working and it's not an approach that will ever likely work. It's whack-a-mole with weaponry. Bombs that hit civilians and displace survivors. When people are homeless, hungry and without options, they will do anything to find a safe haven. That's survival, that's real. What isn't real is to blame refugees and immigrants for what is happening. Their home countries are inhospitable for a humane existence. There is no place for them to gojust like in the end, there is no place for any of us to go. This is it.

Climate change, corruption, war, and famine are displacing thousands of people. Immigration, illegal and otherwise is going to continue to be a worldwide problem. It may not be long before we're in the same boat hoping there's a welcome mat on shore. 

And if we end up on that immigration boat, our chances of getting a leg up are significantly better if we've treated the rest of the world humanely.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ye'r Talkin' to the Wrong ME.

Photo by Bill Lecos

This picture of the dog, Blue, is a reminder—don’t take anyone else’s dysfunctionality. Blue’s essentially saying “You talkin’ to me? Cuz’ if you are…back off! Ye’r talkin’ to the wrong me.”

There are times this life feels like a thumb is planted on the repeater-button, dragging a nail into a synapse until reality matches history over and over.
          It happened yet againanother shit-bag found a way to make their allegiance to dysfunctionality more important than my life experience.
          If it’s not documented in a clinical trial it oughta be—predators find victims by hidden and occasionally displayed scars carried after human-made harm. I know this is true from experience. 
          I relate this awareness to a therapist.         
          “I’ve got a big neon sign on my chest… “Fuck with her, she’s already broken.”
          The young-old-man therapist sighs.
          “I can’t say that’s not true in some fashion. Predators do seek out people who have been victimized before.”
          I glare at the man for his expected response.
          “So basically what you’re saying is that because the original fuckwad broke me into pieces, the rest of them get an opportunity to do the same. That’s not—to kill a phrase from overuse—fair.”
          “No, it isn’t fair. But it doesn’t have to always be this way…that’s why we’re working together.”
          “We both know the neon sign the first fuckwad created isn’t ever going totally away.”
          “You’re right, that likely won’t happen. The best we can do is help you notice similar situations setting up and to respond quickly if it were to happen again.”
          “As if that’s possible. Last week the newest shit-bag got to maul my hand and talk with disgusting inferences. I sat there frozen. Did absolutely nothing.”
          “Not nothing. You made sure he didn’t get near you again, and you’re taking action now. You’re following up, letting someone in charge know what he did…In essence, making sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
          “We don’t know that’ll be the outcome of complaining.”
          “I suppose that’s true. But it is a step in the right direction.”
          “A step in the right direction would’ve been kicking him in the balls.”
          “Yes, but you weren’t in a position to do that. You understandably froze.”
          “Doesn’t make it any easier to accept…yet again I let it happen.”

          A few days after the session with the therapist, what I said is still on my mind.
          I let it happen.
         Those words are scratched into an abuse-sidebar synapse. We often do that, those of us thrown into de-composition by shit-bags. We own responsibility for a trespassing cretin's allegiance to dysfunctionality.
Going forward, my only recourse is to carry on with my allegiance to healing—despite fuckers trying to make it impossible. 
In Blue terms…“Back off! Ye’r talkin’ to the wrong me.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Grandma's House

Grandma’s house was a magical place.

When I’m three years old, for no reason I’m ever given, my father leaves his job as a policeman to move us from the cement-block house, across the country nearer to my mother’s family. With no waiting employment, we live with my maternal grandmother for a year. After a job is secured and I’m guessing the financials are in a better place, we move to an apartment an hour away, and every Saturday I ride the bus with my mother to Grandma’s house.
The drive takes over an hour with stops and traffic, but it is worth the jostling strangers and sitting squished against the window to see a giant donut sign signaling we’re nearly there. On the walk from the bus stop, there’s a small grocer where we sometimes get push-up sticks, a Mexican bakery selling gingerbread pigs, and gang-bangers in souped-up cars my mother hurries past. Turning off the main street, we enter a small neighborhood. There is an alley behind a car repair shop littered with broken bottles, hubcaps, and cigarette butts, and just past it is Grandma’s house. At the curb, there’s a medium-sized tree with the initials of every kid attached to my grandma. Opposite is the yard, barricaded by a gated picket fence, maintained by an uncle or my occasionally sobered-up grandpa. It is an island surrounded by a harsh part of the city, the gardens displacing honking horns, exhaust fumes, and gang insignias.
The gate creaks as it opens, the noise hidden under the barking of Shorty, grandma’s mixed bull terrier. When I see him, I shift sideways just behind my mother to avoid his sharp teeth. The commotion brings Grandma out of the oval-windowed door, her wrinkle worked hands wiping the front of a floured apron. Grandma’s face creases as she threatens Shorty with animal control, which he apparently understands since he retreats back to the porch. Calming, I step away from my mother and rush past rose bushes to fling myself into the soft, doughy woman’s chest. It has been a very long week. She cradles my brother on one side, I on the other, blooming with the smell of roses and bacon grease. I do not look back at my mother, but her unhappiness envelops me anyway. She tosses an instruction in case I’ve forgotten.
“Remember not to get your clothes dirty; we have a long ride home.”
This place is more like home. The swinging kitchen door I have to time perfectly so as not to get smacked on the backside, the bed in the master bedroom that tucks neatly in the wall beneath an attic closet, and the green Formica table where I eat Spaghetti O’s. Most of the day I spend playing with my brother and cousins in the yard. I make bridal bouquets out of puffy hydrangea blossoms, dichondra grass becomes a Matchbox speedway, and the small fruit orchard is a jungle—the kids turning into monkeys avoiding alligators in the swamp below. As we play, Grandma coos to her birds in a converted hen house. Her sing-song mix of Spanish and English floating over the backyard.
Hola, mis bellas. P├íjaro cantante. Cheep-cheep little one, cheep-cheep.”
The birds chirp and stutter-fly; landing on her shoulders, and the top of her head. They are a vibrant, noisy cluster of jewels to her worn housedress.
Cat-walking the edge of a small abalone-encrusted goldfish pond, nearly to the end, I slip on some algae, getting a green stain on my shorts. My stomach clenches into a small fist, knowing my mother will be unhappy. As has become habit, I out myself to her, having learned that waiting until she notices will make the punishment much worse. Sighing heavily, she says what she always says.
“Why can’t you just do as you’re told?”
Not waiting for an answer she continues to describe my failures to Grandma, who doesn’t respond. Then my mother turns to me.
“Go outside and sit on the step. Don’t move from there until it’s time to go.”
Grandma finds me with my chin on my hands, as the other kids run circles around the house. She whispers in my ear.
          “Mi hija, go play.”

As she nudges I think of what this will mean. For it will mean something. There will be a price to pay when the wheels of the bus take me away from here. I understand this, as Grandma must too. I leap into the race around the house with the sensation of my mother’s stare from the window until the sun makes shadows across the goldfish pond, and the smell of warming tortillas comes from the kitchen. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Do You Believe In God?

In the last couple of weeks, I've been asked if I believe in God at least three times. 

Life is harshly uninviting both on the exterior and the interior, and traditionally—as a generational baton in the handoff of trauma and pain. Believing in a God means accepting what is to me, unacceptable. There was not an invisible hero when abusers repetitively carved their mark into my child-brain, and yet the Unseen One somehow managed to come to the rescue when at eleven-years-old, I was drowning.

A bright afternoon sun torches the sand overrun with umbrellas, towels, and people; kids and adults yelling above the din of crashing waves. To bring awareness there is a strong, invisible undercurrent, a lifeguard places a riptide flag on the control tower. I am already chest-deep in the water. Not immediately heeding the warning, I wait for a big wave to carry me to shore. Before one arrives, I’m snagged in the current, hidden beneath the otherwise calm ocean. With increasing agitation, I make attempts to swim in, but the water swiftly carries me beyond an ability to touch bottom. Onshore, people become bits of moving color, more kaleidoscope than human. At this point, screaming would amuse passing sea-birds, but otherwise be a waste of energy. Not a strong swimmer, soon I am simply a bobbing head in the ocean. 
Panic sets in, my thoughts fixated on not going under.
Breathe, dog paddle, breathe
Inexplicably, I hear words over the thought-chant.
“Do not fight a riptide, ride along with the current until it lets go or you will drown.”
Trying to determine where the sentence has come from, in between salty gulps of air and frantic slaps at the water, I circle to see if there’s a surfer on a board or a boat nearby. The ocean is empty, everyone else having obeyed the caution flag.
Breathe, dog paddle, breathe...
The voice repeats the instruction.
“Do not fight a riptide, ride along with the current until it lets go or you will drown.”
Out of time, out of energy, there is nothing left in my suitcase but trust for a random bit of information I’d collected from a book or possibly a magic thought popping out of nowhere. Exhaustedly I flip onto my back, toes to the sun, the ocean filling my ears leaving behind only the sound of my heartbeat and breath.
Out loud I fearfully state to no-one.
“I’m going to die.
No-one answers.
Floating, overwhelmed with the possibility of drowning, the voice becomes a quasi-accepted fact. Under normal circumstances, it would be something I’d pursue like a rat-terrier, in the middle of the ocean it isn’t a primary concern. Instead, I consider what may happen next, picturing salt-water invading my insides, then more horribly a swarm of sharks swimming in my blood and dismembered appendages.
This anxious perusing lifts me outside of myself to watch what is happening, like an audience of one viewing a familiar actor living my life. The heartbeat and breath slow, softened by the mental distance this has created. I observe the situation with the mind of a scientist dissecting a squid.
Will my body be found?
Most likely not.
Will my mother cry?
 I lose the awareness of time, shriveling skin on my toes the indication I have been lost at sea quite a while. The strong surge continues to sweep along until finally, it runs out of steam.
A particularly large swell gathers me in slow motion before driving into shore. Tiredly stumbling out of the water I fall to the sand on shaking knees. Sounds of the crowded beach close the distance of the mind-body separation. I walk the couple of miles I’d drifted from family, who wouldn’t have become aware anyone was missing until sunset. Not wanting to encourage an addition of more rules, I lay down on my towel without informing anyone of the experience. 

"Do you believe in God?"
"Yes, but I wish I didn't."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Always-Almost-Dying Dog

Photo by Deb Lecos 

A terrier has rigorously clenched onto life, her flying-monkey passion to win a race a known personality trait. As the body of the tiny aging canine moves to quit, it has become a regular occurrence that the always-almost-dying-dog falls over, limbs limp, heart beat close to nothing, the eyes sending the determination that she remains in the game. A woman finds this behavior mystifying.
As the woman watches, the Yorkie displays she is a beast, lean-walking to the yard, pooping with purpose, and decorating the action with a choppy but intent stamp to seal a will to continue. Side-racing to the stairs, the always-almost-dying-dog stops, her body rippling in tremors continuously.
The woman gets a blanket for the Yorkie, wrapping her like a taco, only a small bearded face peeking out. The always-almost-dying-dog shivers and shivers, the woman’s lunch getting colder and colder, staring at the dog the entire time. Minutes pass, one after another, the Yorkie softening like cheese on a sunny day, until eventually the shudders drift away. The eyes of the always-almost-dying-dog have a some-thing in them. It is a not known, though wanted thing, a worth-it-no-matter-what zest that makes breathing and enduring matter-of-factly-always-possible.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bread Crumbs.

A carpet of leaves layers this way and that, imprinting one upon another, upon another, trailing back to the trunk of the tree, a reminder of where they came from, the origin of their beginning.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Bear Trap.

     Babies and animals have similar characteristics. They eat if hungry, roar when angry, and hide if frightened. It is instinctual to burrow into a corner and play dead when under threat, the action further verified if it works—the attacker leaves or is unable to do further harm. A baby, just like a prey animal, will carry these types of instructional memories with them as they age, running from predators, hiding when possible, fighting if necessary, and burning the experiences into the reptilian part of the brain to further enhance survival skills. By the time the baby becomes a teenager and morphs into an adult, this is no longer theory, but a hardwired truth. A + B = C. More easily grasped minus the algebra; if a bear trap snaps on the neck of a young girl and it finally releases after decades of existence, there is no understanding of being set free. The sharp talons of the mechanism feel embedded even when they are gone, nerve endings still sense danger and pain, terror coiled into a corner under a bed in the dead of night for eternity.
     A bear trap is used for hunting a prey animal, not to kill but to maim. The reason being that if a trapped animal dies too soon, the body will decompose and the meat will be useless. Similarly, an abuser ensnares a child and sets them up for repeat offenses. It is a bear trap snapping around a child’s neck, the pronged collar keeping them pinned for future use.

     Fingering the throat, an ache of decades of restriction is sensed from distant and unfamiliar places. We are still for a very long time, waiting for the sound of the snap to stop echoing in the wind.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Be Wild

     The heart of a young girl, one on the brink of flying is a wild thing, a frothy cyclone swirling on the edge of magnificence, her power un-leashed and un-contained. There is joy, rage, despair, exuberance; along with non-conflicted choice. Tastes are claimed and tossed with equal abandon for reasons that make sense to no one but the cyclone. If a bear trap snaps on the neck of this wild thing, it will thrash until the connection between mind and heart is severed, leaving emotional knowing impossible.

      An ancient bear trap springs open in the Great Sea of Nothing, rust flakes lay scattered across a gaping wound, as nerve endings stutter-flutter for reattachment. The wild thing does not move, unsure if the hunter is nearby or can sense motion. Inside, her cyclone is restrained, having been pinned for a very long time. The young girl hears two words through the ocean sound of nothing.

Be wild.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


     The brain of a newborn is an empty beach devoid of shells, seaweed, or plastic bottles; the sand pristine, no random etchings of screw you violence, nothing to lay claim to childlike wonder. It is the overseers, those tasked with socializing a child, teaching them red means stop and green means go that first and most significantly carve emblems into a blank surface. The privilege of mentoring a new human should have the same cautionary care necessary as artists carving the statue of David or painting the Mona Lisa, but often instead it is handled with the unthinking application of a weed-wacker and a jackhammer.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Broken & Lost Things

          Over the past few days, I’ve shattered a plate and two glasses and maimed the dishwasher. The items slipped from my fingers or jet-propelled themselves mysteriously onto the floor, the dishwasher merely collateral damage from flying glass shards finagling their way into the story. Yesterday, I compiled the totality of destruction, after sweeping up, vacuuming, and scheduling a repairman.
As an exclamation point to a life run amok, the keys to my office vanish. They do this when I am in need of a certificate in my files to renew the letters after my name, signifying to strangers I know what I’m doing.
          That’s hilarious today.
          No, it isn’t.
          To game myself into finding the keys I announce that I do not have to go to the office.
There’s still a couple of weeks before they kick us out of the letter club.
          Within minutes, I remember there is another pocket in my purse, it having disappeared from my understanding for over two hours for no reason at all. The keys are exactly where they always are. This spontaneous discovery of lost things must be similar to what happens when an unleashed memory appears with taste, smells, and feelings attached.
          Today, a decades-old experience rolled in like a swell in the deepest part of the ocean, consuming the sight line until the only thing visible was an ice cream cone. It might have been the three-year-old I saw as I waited in line, his eyes glancing momentarily at me while the rest of him focused on the angle of his mouth circling his vanilla ice cream. Or it was one of those random moments that are embedded in a taste bud and the essence comes to the surface when it sees itself in a mirror. However it happened, I saw her. I saw me at three or maybe four, little black shoes swinging on my feet, an ice cream cone the most important thing in the world.

          Lost things can be found, and what is broken may be glued if all the pieces are collected, and they are patiently held in place. At least that’s the working theory.

  • Last week I was interviewed on WBOM radio by InPrint Writers in Rockford. It may be listened to on YouTube and may be found here. Topics range through healing, meditation, and the creative process. Here are two links for meditation practices I discuss in the interview, Meditation For The Squirrel Brain and 10-Minute Time Out For Stressful Moments.
  • I've found that music lyrics are a way to begin to discern a healing path for broken and lost things. Here is a link to one that I've found helpful. More Than Life by Whitley.

Friday, September 29, 2017

An Unfortunately, Unfortunate Personality Trait.

A riptide containing the past brings what could be expected, an unpredictable current that is ordained by an unmanaged ocean—if one gives a passing thought to red caution flags. 
At fourteen I learned the truth of this standing chest-deep in the water waiting for the perfect wave to body surf to shore, watching as a lifeguard hung warning banners from the tower. I imagined the riptide would grace me with minutes before forcefully ensnaring my ankles. I remember the almost imperceptible sway as the power of what could not be controlled enveloped me into an unbreakable caress, bringing the realization that there was very little between me and an endless walk on the bottom of the ocean.

Several weeks ago I had a dream where I was in a deep sea station, and for no good reason decided to leave through a hatch without diving equipment. In the dream, I came to realize what walking on a seabed with an ocean of water above me meant. There was a crushing weight keeping me pinned, and the awareness that I should be drowning. My lungs were not gasping for air, but the idea made me gasp for air.
Similarly, with healing, I unknowingly knew that as long as I didn’t see the enterprise big-picture-third-person, I’d fair better with hope and intention. Underneath everything, I understood that once I really and truly saw the full-read, there would be a spasm of “oh no” that I could not control.
Oh no, what does this mean?
Oh no, will I always be somewhat or mainly broken?
Oh no, how is this impacting my life and the people in it?
Oh no, there’s pain and suffering.
Oh no, will it last ‘til I die?
Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no…
The full-read of an injury or illness is shocking, “oh no” is an appropriate response—unfortunately.
An “oh no” is powerful, it is awareness, it is a complete investment in whatever accident, trauma, environmental or DNA-infused, emotional thrashing a person is experiencing. And a full-read is unfortunately unfortunate.
Who wants to know everything?
I’m one of those who reads the end of the book to see if it's worth reading. I guess how a movie will play out to the consternation of people who watch with me. This is an, unfortunately, unfortunate personality trait. I have tried to hide from myself the big picture view of my own healing for decades.
It takes serious skill to play hide and seek in your own mind.
Which is why I dedicate this and most newsletters to healing. I get it. I get not diving in for the full read. No one wants to think healing will take longer than a couple of hours, a week tops. No one wants to walk on the bottom of the ocean without a diving apparatus for a single second let alone decades. But and this but is huge…healing is not just about a single person. It is never about a single person in the big-picture-full-read. It is about the tribe, the human population of this planet. If an aspect or aspects of the homo sapien organism is ill, traumatized, broken, depressed, stressed, or emotionally/psychologically not participating, then we are all at risk. Our children, our neighbor’s children, the children who are decades from being born are at risk of having lives that are less than what is possible.
I’m passionately invested in healing because it has been a life-long investment for me in time, money, and experience. Many of my days are spent pondering whether healing is a worthy use of a life…my life. And there are many of those hours that I believe it unfortunately unfortunate that I seem to need to tackle this beast of a question and walk beneath a mountain of water. As the one who reads the end of the book first, I am without a cumulative answer. Only the knowing that for some unfathomable reason I woke up on the bottom of the ocean and now I have to do something about it.

May healing be a guiding force for all people, and may this bring the endless possibility imagined by those who see the full-read-third-person-big-picture.

Sunday, October 1st @ 7AM I will be interviewed on WBOM Radio by InPrint Writer's of Rockford. The topics will range through healing, meditation, and the creative process. The link may be found here.

I've found music lyrics are a worthy way to discover a path on the bottom of the ocean. White Daisy Passing by Rocky Votololato is one of those. The link is here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pancake Girl Wins.

I had a long conversation with my twenty-something self today. She woke up after a decades-long boring coma and wondered why we weren’t eating pancakes. After listening to her rant for over an hour I gave up trying to explain that pancakes are a bad idea for someone prone to a wider backside than was on hand back in the 1980s.

Twenty-something girl was right. Pancakes make life a bit easier to deal with.

She’s also right that waking up dormant selves could be an unpredictable and wonderful way to spend the next fifty-six years.

A therapist once told me that every person has multiple people inside them…the worker, the parent, the lover, the kid, the friend, the pissed-off teen, and we bring them out depending on the circumstances we’re in. It would be interesting to test the theory and notice when an awakened aspect giggles in the background, allowing a more spontaneous existence. The creamer aisle at the grocery store would certainly be more captivating.

This practice might allow the inner kindergartner to seek new friends and want to know how stuff works, the teen to vociferously advocate for those less fortunate, the lover to choose passion rather than Netflix, the worker to stay confined to a thirty or forty hour week so the parent can remember their kid likes to play catch at sunset. It could bring forth the twenty-something imaginative and witty flamethrower, who wants to explore the world and believes that life is worth more than sleep-walking.

Today I had lunch with Freedom Girl and damn she’s a hell of a lot of fun. I was informed between bites that along with pancakes, there will be long driving trips, dancing with my dog Pi until we're both nearly sick, hilarious chats with creative types minus a choke-hold filter, deep and lengthy musings on song lyrics, and great big guttural laughs that won’t stop until everyone pees their pants.

May all the kids within us awaken their feisty wisdom, humor, and whimsy to inspire a life with endless possibility.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Eyeball.

          Healing comes with instigation and instigation comes from awareness.

An ophthalmologist decreed that I needed drain holes lasered into my eyeballs…if I chose not to do this I would likely go blind between now and the dark ages. The idea of losing my sight forced me into a chair and held me in place for every nerve-cringing zap of pain. It was as bad as I had imagined and as worth it as I hoped. Working eyes are an ignition of perception; taste and touch another two.

Eyes see the world outside, a conduit to what is happening on the other side of our inner shenanigans.

An eye does not use fillers, it does not promote a camouflage of what is true. Eyes send pictures to the central nervous system, where the brain grinds non-corrupted information with stale crackers—producing a life prism.
It is difficult to recognize what is in our mish-mash, an at times beautiful mosaic unless a person has remembered when or if a filler was added. Since life happens at a rapid and at times confusing pace, crackers become commonplace, as though they were always in the original product…even though they weren’t.

Our perception is not born with fillers.

Our perception is the quizzical look on a babies face when pureed plums are initially tasted. The flavor is cataloged into tart or sweet, good or bad and the taste buds remember until as an adult the information can be managed. “I should like plums…let’s learn to like plums.”

Removing fillers from a mosaic is not an easy task.

I know this because I’ve been doing it for over fifteen years. This has been an undertaking that is not enjoyable, nor has it always appeared to have an end-game. The last of the crackers have lain obstinately hidden, their essence having been ground into what I termed the dust of  “who I am…who I would always be.”
A few months ago the crackers began revealing themselves quite stealthily so as not to inspire more subterfuge. They hid themselves in plain sight, as metaphors in my writing, crumbs for me to follow until I could see the entire mosaic created from the harm that was done to me as a child. The view was and is startling, discovering who I am beneath all that was.
Without the layers of subterfuge, it is a new world…one I’m not even sure I like. It is the taste of plums for the first time.

Instead of telling myself what is good or bad, tart or sweet, I am waiting. Waiting until the waiting is over and I am ready to see everything for what it is—shells, sea glass, and pinkened-umber tulle…the spirit that exists regardless of the life.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hunting Snipes

Photo by Deb Lecos

          An uncle sent me on a nighttime hunt for a mystical bird called a Snipe. He said that no one had ever captured the elusive nocturnal creature, so the details on what it looked like seemed to change depending on who told the story. For years afterward, I listened for rustling in bushes when the sun lay asleep, peering into shadows in search of the graceful movement of wings. As with most childhood enterprises, I gave up hunting for Snipes letting them fall into the depths of the ocean along with the memories of monsters who walk upright and look like normal people. Decades later the forgottens suddenly surfaced and nightmares screamed.
     A seemingly impossible task befalls the broken, traumatized, and besmirched. The ability for full healing; a tantalizing glimmer sparkling just on the edge of awakening, only to be hidden once again dropping into a silent darkness. Gathering the shards of a shattered heart and mending it requires an understanding of what one looks and feels like whole. This may be found deep beneath the scattered pieces, without fault lines or whisper flaws, the full nature of an unblemished spirit waiting to rise to take flight.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Tattoo.

     “My son traveled from Baltimore to get a tattoo in Denver.”
     Annette’s statement comes late afternoon during a pause in our conversation as we’re crossing into Colorado. Since I’m the one driving, I sideways glance a surprised look and response.
     “No one knows how to tattoo in Baltimore?”
     “He Google-researched a good one and decided it was worth the trip.”
    Annette grows wistful as she continues.
     “I’ve always wanted a tattoo.”
     This is astonishing news. My Aussie friend doesn’t exude “tatness”.
     “Really? What would you get?”
     “the sun for my son.”
     Her giggle is contagious and we laugh for a while. Annette and I are a day from Denver on an epic journey through the southwest. A tattoo begins chanting in my fifty-six-year-old ear.
     Get one, get one, get one…
     My co-pilot must be hearing the same thing.
     “Do you think the tattoo place would have any openings tomorrow?”
     We must be mind-melded after only three days of one-on-one companionship, I’d already put the idea through the mulling station.
     “It’s a Saturday, anyone who’s available is probably not someone we’d want poking us full of holes.”
     Contrary to my words, I glance at the Thelma to my Louise.
     “What’s the name of the tattoo place?”
     Adolescent grin in place Annette contacts her son and the next day we walk into Ritual Tattoo & Gallery rubbing our sweaty palms on our behinds, telegraphing newbie-ness to Crystal, who warmly welcomes us.
     “How can I help you?”
     Curiously looking for a response, we grapple silently with the unspoken question—are we really doing this? As the non-elected pack leader, I finally cough up a reply.
     “We’re interested in getting tattoos if someone is available.”
     I’m hoping that the intensity of my eyes, hard emphasis on “someone” and our obvious oldness signals the additional descriptors I’ve avoided, pro, best of the best, and tattoo artist extraordinaire. Crystal must be telepathic too.
     “Ladies, you have perfect timing. David is one of our top artists and he’s completely open, which never happens on a Saturday. Do you have pictures of what you’d want the tattoos to look like?”
     We shake our heads in the negative, guts clenching with the reality of what is happening.
     “Let me see if I can reach him. He hadn’t planned on coming in today. While I do that why don’t you both go out for coffee and come back in an hour? You can use the time to decide what you want.”
      For sixty minutes, we caffeine up and freak. Annette changes her original design and goes with a Gingko leaf. I devise a vague description of a few feathers floating across my chest.
     Back at Ritual while waiting for David to arrive, we anxiety-chatter with a young woman who’s appointment is about to begin. Annette fast-talks questions from how much it hurts (that depends), to the reasons for getting a tattoo (across the spectrum). The pretty girl shares how she reached her own decisions, a few we see peeking from behind her summer clothing.
     “I probably got my first one to annoy my parents. But after that, getting a tattoo turned into a statement. Something to me about me.”
     Annette follows up to get more information.
     “Can I ask if they each have a different meaning? And what do other people think about them?”
     “Well my parents just don’t ask anymore or at least pretend not to notice and my boyfriend, though he doesn’t have tattoos, gets it. And other people outside those who know me? ...who cares what they think.”
     Her tone quiets before finishing, one hand resting on the low half of the other arm, the place she’d mentioned that a collage of flowers will soon exist.
     “Each of them represent a piece of my life. At different times it just felt like I needed a tattoo. I’m not sure that answers your question.”
     Another young woman walks up to our companion. Her arm is bandaged with clear cellophane and she appears euphoric, the two women apparently know one another. The new arrival speaks first.
     “Hey there, how have you been? So funny to run into you when we’re both getting tattoos again.”
     “I know...right? Can I see?”
     The girl rotates her arm and a colorful design is easily observed through the plastic protection.
     “Oh wow...that’s awesome. How long did it take?”
     “All morning. Now I want to go home and let it sink in...let everything become real.”
     As the stranger’s words prick me with their depth, a heavily tattooed man roars up on a motorcycle and parks close to the floor to ceiling windows. I assume correctly that this is David. Annette and I grip each other’s hands while drill-staring the person who will soon perforate our skin at our behest.    
     David is tall, early thirties, and serious or at least that’s how he presents himself when greeting two women who are a couple of decades older than he is. David asks what we want him to create. As he studies the images on my phone, I ramble on about a breeze blowing two or three feathers from my left shoulder toward the right and when it’s her turn, Annette goes back and forth about the sun or Gingko leaf. The artist has opinions, which he shares.
     “I think the leaf will present better than the sun in the hollow of your shoulder.”
     Annette nods her agreement and David turns to me.
     “As for feathers, I don’t think they should look too Pinterest, more natural and less contrived. How about I draw them free hand and you decide if what I come up with works.”
      He leads Annette and me toward the back of the busy room and I’m led to sit for the sketching process. David doesn’t speak for close to twenty minutes, his paint marker motioning across my chest without rest. I wonder about the detail he must be including with the few feathers I requested. Annette’s wide eyes reflect that perhaps detail isn’t all that’s happening. When he’s finished, a spectacular succession of feathers swirl on my shoulder and gracefully float across my chest. Stunned, I am unable to count them. David silently watches my face in the reflection of a full-length mirror.
     “It’s beautiful David.”
     “It’s a lot more than you asked for.”
     I low-breath respond.”
     “Yeah, it sure is.”
     “We can leave off anything you don’t like. I’m not sure how this came up, but the breeze grew from your shoulder. I could sense the feathers…I don’t know. It just happened.”
     David stares at his artwork thoughtfully as though wondering if it erupted from my skin on its own. Spontaneously, I grin.
     “So, can we do this today? one session?”
     Without smiling, he replies.
     “That depends on you. This is a big undertaking for a first timer, it would be hard for someone who’s gotten tattoos before. They can get intense, especially during the fill-in process and when we’re at the sternum and collar bone. How are you with pain?”
     Flashes of physical trauma methodically troop from the archives, each shouting that they have prepared me for anything. Odd that old hurt would consider itself a badge of honor once wounds have scabbed over and the shock waves have diminished into ancient air. My eyes meet David’s in the mirror, a serious undertone, contrasting with more colloquial word choices.
     “Pain tolerance is one of my mad life skills.”
     The artist catches the current beneath the conversation. A couple of beats pass in silence as a rare connection between strangers converses incognito. Neither of us notes anything aloud, shifting on to the business of changing the outward appearance of my skin forever. I warn my family via text what is coming, my daughter and husband applauding long distance while my twenty-three-year-old son calls me instantly.
     “What the heck are you doing?”
     “Getting a tattoo.”
     “Obviously. Are you out of your mind? You’re fifty-six years old and you’ve said that you ‘know’ you’re going to live to hundred and thirteen. That’s a long time to have a tattoo. Can you imagine what those feathers are going to look like in fifty-plus years?”
     I laugh.
     “Probably not too good. But neither will the rest of me.”
     “Come on Mom...I’m serious. Why are you doing this?”
     “I don’t really know yet.”
     “Then why not wait? Do it when you’ve thought about it more.”
     “That sounds’s something I’d probably say to you, but I’m still getting tattooed today.”
     Sighing heavily, like an exasperated parent that has realized an adult child isn’t going to take well-rendered advice, he finishes with one of my time-worn favorites.
     “Well...then it seems like you’ve made up your mind. Hope it turns out like you want. I love you.”
     “I love you too. I’ll call when I’m on the other side.”
     Bewilderment resonates in his last sentence.
     “I can’t believe my mother is getting a tattoo.”
     Giddy, I laugh.
     “Me either.”
     David and I begin. At first, the pain is not much worse than a minor burn or scrape, though the continuous nature is something new. When sixty minutes pass, I’m confident I can make it through what David says is likely to take the rest of the afternoon. Two hours later I’m not so sure. Closing my eyes I coach myself.
     This pain is short term. You’ve been through worse. Isn’t there a meditation practice that can override nerve receptors?
     The high-pitched whir and barrage of tiny jackhammer pricks from the designing tool disrupt my ability to go into a meditative state. I breathe deeply, pressing a fist in my side to distract my awareness like a magician holding a hat in one hand while the other plucks a bunny from a cage. It’s necessary to continually increase the indentation to have even a nominal effect. A moan-groan perches on the edge of escaping.
     On top of a tattoo, I’m going to have a huge bruise. A kidney is surely going to squirt out and smack David in the face. Holy shit...this hurts.
      Perhaps everything reaches a particular intensity or the three-hour mark closing in has absorbed all sense of a timeline, whatever the case memories begin erupting without volition. These are on a pain scale ranging from a seven to ten million, four hundred and six. I see events from childhood and adulthood, each sharing what it was like when my body experienced trauma, an invasion, a blow or something as seemingly innocuous as a pregnancy exam by a thoughtless doctor. Some are events that I remember, while others arise from a place I cannot name, but once present are easily acknowledged as having happened.
     When David starts imprinting my sternum I swiftly suck oxygen past my lips, pressing myself into the table so as not to thrash.
     Stay still or the feather will look like it's screaming. Well, maybe that’s what it should look like. Oh, my God.
     Just as I am about to lose my ability to stay still, a space magically opens up. It is a quiet spot, behind what a day presents, a closet or a cave, back where the unconscious and the conscious chat. A familiar voice speaks.
     “Don’t move.”
     Are you trying to be irritating?
     “This is what you asked for.”
     Is that a statement about being a masochist?
     “You asked to know what it felt like when you were hurt.”
     I know what the Voice is referring to. I’ve said plenty of times that my memories are often flat, hazy, and without the filling and if I am truly choosing healing, I need to know all of it.
     During therapeutic recovery from trauma I’d discovered that bad stuff I’d experienced had occurred while conscious me rode in the backseat—I’d “apparate” minus Harry Potter’s Floo powder and wait until the coast was clear. In the psychology field, they call this “dissociation”.
     The Voice is still waiting for a response.
     Is this tattoo recreating the past?
     “It is giving you the option of fully knowing.”
     Option means that I can opt out. As the staccato vibration of the tattoo needle drives into another bony protrusion, I decide that it is only appropriate there is choice when there once was none.
     I cannot change what happened to me or how I coped in the past. I can only do what is right for me in this moment.
     Instead of asking David to stop, to finish the tattoo on another visit, I settle in to be present with what I wasn’t able to handle as a child. Unfettered, memories and emotions instigate a light brush of tears. David respectfully stays silent until we take a break so he may change tools and get something to eat.
     “Are you okay? Do you want to continue?”
     I nod without speaking.
     “You’re doing great, it’s making my job a lot easier. There are people who get tattoos regularly who can’t stay still in these areas.”
     Not sure if this is something to be proud of, I remain silent as David rolls his shoulders and stretches his back.
     “Are the feathers about something important?”
     I repeat the question to myself.
     Why am I doing this?
     Ten years of focused, intentional healing reflections fan out like flipping through the pages of a calendar.
     “It’s about overcoming a not-so-nice childhood.”
     “So this isn’t just some wild idea to stir your life up.”
     “No. It’s a statement about a long healing journey I’ve been working through.”
     David sighs and is quiet for a few seconds before speaking.
     “Tattoos can make a statement about what life means and help make sense of shitty things that happen.”
     As he stands I reply.
     “I think you’re a tattoo shaman.”
     David laughs.
     “A what?”
     “A shaman. Someone who pays attention and then helps people realize their own healing.”
     “That’s a stretch. I paint on skin.”
     “Anyone can be an artist, David. What you’re doing is much more than putting a drawing on my skin. Somehow you’ve connected to what my spirit wants to say. From now on I’m calling you the, Tattoo Shaman.”
     His laughter exits with him into the backroom. Annette and I whisper like schoolgirls until it’s time to resume and David motions that he’s ready to continue. An hour later, well beyond what I imagined my pain tolerance, the whine of the inking tool stops. David helps me from the table, my legs unsteady and my head swimming a little. I wobble over to the mirror, Annette close to my side. Her inflection gentle, the Australian accent more noticeable than ever.
     “That lewked like it huhrrt.”
     I know she’s asking if it’ll be the same for her. Not wanting to frighten or dissuade my courageous friend with a backwash of wails and grimaces, I keep it light.
     “At certain points, but overall not intolerable.”
     Which is true if the value being considered is laid against the nightmares I have carried since childhood. When I face the mirror I see my history behind my eyes. I also see relief for having survived. Eventually, a smile envelopes the old pain. David comes to stand beside me.
     “What do you think?”
     “It’s pretty awesome.”
      He stares at the feathers as they seem to imperceptibly motion across my chest.
     “When a tattoo is absolutely right it seems as though you were born with it. This one suits you.”
     Ten days later, the epic driving trip to the Southwest comes to an end and as the tattoo is introduced to daily life I come to the realization that the spontaneous impression I’d purchased resonates in ways that go beyond an image on the surface. The awareness begins when my daughter comes to see me.
     “Can I touch the tattoo?”
     Her hands gently move across the feathers, relating the second-hand impact of my choice.
     “I had to see it in person. I remembered as a little girl putting my face on your chest and now it’s not the same.”
     As I tear up she leans in and places her cheek against my tattooed skin.
     “It’s beautiful, Mom.”
     Later, when we’re alone, my husband adds a more spousal comment, whispering that he’s never had sex with anyone sporting a tat and while I’m out in public I receive several long sideways glances and pursed lips that state there are quite a few people with judgments about skin art.    
     Four weeks after walking out of Ritual freshly splashed with feathers, I feel I’ve assimilated the experience, but am still a little surprised at my response when someone asks if I know that "instead of looking at my face people will be unconsciously drawn to the tattoo."
     Instead of leaving it there, a stream of words tumble out, each vying to be heard first.
     “These feathers speak more of me than the DNA reflection of my face. When I walk up to someone I want them to know who I am...not what my parents look like. This tattoo tells the story of how I got to be in the place that I stand. Nothing represents me more than feathers floating on a gust of wind.”    
     Nearly breathless as I finish, a sweet sense of calm stays with me. I know that when I’m asked about the tattoo, I’ll answer with a swirling hand motion across my chest and “This represents who I am.”

     I’m not certain when I stopped looking into a mirror. It was long enough ago that I’ve forgotten what I used to look like as a younger woman. I wonder, on the very first occasion when my eyes looked down instead of straight forward, what was I attempting not to see? Was it the normal avoidance of newly born silver hair and slow slide of skin escaping the structure of my body? Or did the sight of my DNA ripple old wounds like the screech of an owl on a moonless night?
     I cannot say because now that I have resumed bringing my eyes up to their reflection, all I see is a splash of hard-earned feathers floating from here to there, a declaration that I am finally ready to claim my life as my own.