Failure of Courage-

For the second time I’m watching Super Soul Sunday with author Sue Monk Kidd. This woman is speaking to my soul about being a writer. But she’s said something that I completely disagree with; “Becoming a nurse, for me was a failure of courage.” I will agree that for her this may have seemed like a detour on her path to becoming a writer. That she chose a safe, traditional path because becoming a writer seemed scary or impractical to her, but I don’t see that as a failure at all.

I am a writer. It is my calling to write stories about survivors.

In my own life I’ve chosen many different paths away from becoming a writer in the traditional sense. I didn’t go to college to become a writer, until recently. I didn’t choose jobs that allowed me to primarily write, until recently. I didn’t choose to be of service as a writer in all my volunteer positions, until recently. Yet I have always been a writer. There was never a time in my life that I didn’t write-even if no one ever read it. What I believe about my path is that I never detoured from being a writer. I was born to be a writer. My path wasn’t a straight line from birth to writer, it was a winding path that lead me through so many different experiences, places and relationships toward finding my voice.

I am a writer. It is my calling to write stories about survivors.

I couldn’t write these stories if I hadn’t experienced all the places, relationships and what some may call failures. I had to become a survivor, I had to learn to survive, I had to be surrounded by survivors in order to be worthy of telling these stories. If I hadn’t been raped, I couldn’t write about rape survivors. If I hadn’t been in the military, I couldn’t write about military survivors. If I hadn’t been in abusive relationships, I couldn’t write about abuse survivors. If I hadn’t followed those “detours” toward becoming a writer, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

I am a writer. It is my calling to write about survivors. Beyond just writing these stories I’m meant to share them with others. The times I’ve felt most connected to myself, to others, to the world around me is when I’m sharing the moments that connect us all. I remember studying acting in college. There were times when I was on stage and it wasn’t Amanda or who I knew to be me, but the character who was present. It wasn’t about setting myself aside in preference of being someone else, although that did happen, it was deeper. It was preparing myself through practice and hard work to connect the character’s story with the audience. It was as if I was connecting the energy of Amanda, with the playwright’s concept of the character, to the audience. It is an intimacy that can’t be easily described if you haven’t experienced it. It is as if at the core of each of us, there are emotions we all feel. We can label this as empathy- when you feel what I feel we have a moment of empathy. But there is something deeper than empathy that I believe writers, actors, artists, musicians, anyone who creates in that space connects with that can heal us all. The true power of survivors is in connecting that energy to others which causes healing.

I am a writer. It is my calling to write about survivors.

I am gripped with fear. I struggle daily with the thought that I am not worthy to tell these stories. Some of them aren’t my stories. Some of them are my stories and I’ve hurt others in the retelling of them. Survival is filled with fear, weakness, doubt, insecurity and anger. But survival is also hope, love, vulnerability, responsibility, laughter, and happiness. You can’t have one without experiencing the other. We all fear the negative emotions-I especially fear being stuck in the negative emotions. I’ve heard and said myself-I’m afraid if I let go of this pain, if I start crying about it, I’ll never stop. When the reality has been for me that until I let go of it, I don’t have room for anything better. I can’t go back and change my past…but I can reinterpret, I can forgive it by being someone with the courage to write it out. “The keys to your happiness are no longer in somebody else’s pocket from the past, they’re in your own.” Adayshanti

I am a writer. It is my calling to write about survivors.

That statement that I keep repeating is important. I can flower it up and say, I’m a writer, I’m called to give voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless, hope to the hopeless. But what I’m meant to do is very simple. I am meant to tell a story, that shows someone who may feel voiceless, powerless or hopeless that it is possible to survive. I may not change the world. I may not become a wealthy author like J.K. Rowling. I may not even get everything I write published. But I can’t stop writing. I can’t stop trying to connect those stories with the people who need to hear them. That is my calling- that is my purpose- that is who I am meant to be!

My courage has not failed, but my path has not been straight. I AM A WRITER. IT IS MY CALLING TO WRITE ABOUT SURVIVORS!

there-is-no-failure-ralph-smart

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Monogamy

I’ve heard a lot of discussion lately about monogamy. It seems that there are celebrities out there who simply believe that no one is capable of being monogamous, that it’s an unnatural state of being. Some of these celebrities have gone as far as to state that everyone cheats-so why get upset about it? 

According to this logic, it’s a natural imperative for every human being to have sex with anyone at anytime, and the unnatural constructs of marriage, family and fidelity should not be affected by this natural imperative. So-in another context, everyone poops-so why get upset if someone poops in another bathroom aside from the one you and your mate usually poop in. Because according to this logic, you shouldn’t be penalized for pooping somewhere else, because you just can’t hold that in! Right?

Well here is my personal opinion on the matter- it isn’t about the act of sex or the natural imperative to have sex, it’s about the values we place on it that cause the upset. In other words, you can poop anywhere you want, as long as you aren’t betraying any agreement you’ve made with me not to poop where  you’ve said you’d never poop. 

I understand that sex is a natural imperative. I understand that some people don’t feel they should have to control their urges, some people feel that multiple partners is more satisfying, some people are only comfortable with one partner.  I’m not expecting anyone to curtail their natural tendencies, if what turns you on is acceptable to your partner and it doesn’t cause anyone else harm-go for it! 

Here is the part that I think most people misunderstand about cheating… it’s not just about the sex. For me adultery, it’s no more about sex than rape is about sex. Adultery, like rape, is about one person controlling another. Maybe for some people it is about the sex, the idea of their partner being with anyone other than them is one they can’t tolerate. I have a more practical approach.

I’m comfortable with my partner being involved sexually with another person-until they promise monogamy.  Once that promise is made, anything other than sex with me and only me is a betrayal of that promise.  If my partner came to me and said-I’m interested in being sexual with this person, and we discussed how that would affect our relationship deciding as a couple the outcome of it, I could see myself continuing a relationship with my partner if we determined together that our relationship could survive-before it happens not after. I don’t subscribe to the school of “Better to ask forgiveness rather than permission.” For me it isn’t the sex that would cause me harm, it’s the sex that is lied about, hidden and destructive to the trust we’ve built as a couple, that causes harm. So when a celebrity says something stupid like, “Everyone cheats, why get upset about it?” They’re obviously the ones doing the cheating and expecting a free pass. 

When you enter a relationship, as a couple you come to terms with the parameters of that relationship. If you and your partner make decisions concerning your sexual relationship, it’s nobody’s business but your own. If you betray the parameters of that relationship you can’t dismiss it with a simple- “Everybody cheats.”  Not everybody does, some people feel that trust, fidelity and honesty are more important than the urge to have illicit sexual affairs.  

So for me, adultery isn’t about sex, it’s about the lack of communication between partners, and that comes from one partner having a lack of skills. If you can’t express your needs to a partner who is willing to accommodate them within their own needs, then you don’t deserve that partner to begin with.  

An Open Love Letter to — ME!

I believe with my whole heart that we’re brought into this world for one reason and one reason only.  That reason is to love. To be loved, to love in return, to find love, to lose love, to discover love, to miss our chance to love, to revel in love, to despair in love, but above all to be LOVE. It’s not an easy path, being human and knowing love is our purpose, especially when everything tries to bring us away from love. But if we embrace love in all it’s forms, we can know our soul, our God, our purpose.

I was put on a difficult path when I was born. The love that surrounded me came from people who were broken, beaten and bruised by love. I felt that my task in love was to love them back to wholeness. There were people who misunderstood my love, experienced my love by hurting me the way they had been hurt.  I know now that they didn’t understand how to love any other way. Their darkness, their pain, their abuse was their way of expressing love. Without me in their life, they would never have known love could be something else. They were a gift to me, just as I was a gift to them. And that kind of love has taught me some of my greatest lessons. The best lesson has been that it is my choice to either live in the darkness, the abuse and the pain–or to rise above it in real LOVE.

My dear friend, someone who loves well, Alisa suggested that I write myself a love letter. To remind myself of the loving things I have accomplished. Her exact instructions were; “Remember all the good times you’ve had with your self. Tell yourself what you appreciate about your self, mention your talents, qualities, anything that makes you smile. Then make some plans for your self. Talk about your aspirations, dreams and hopes for the future. Buy your self something she really can cherish, a lasting reminder of what a great person she is.”

The truth is I always follow Alisa’s instructions because she is a very wise and beautiful woman! So here it goes-

The good times I’ve had; There have been so many good times, it’s hard to pick just a few.  I’ve had a really good life. Despite the trauma and losses, my life has been filled with laughter and love. The best times I’ve had has been in making new friends, traveling, and working hard on things I’m passionate about. If I had to pick the top three happiest memories of doing something with just me, they would be; Dancing alone in the street at Valley Junction, visiting Blarney Castle in Ireland, and meditating at Parliament park in London.

My friend Darren and our friend Mike went to Valley Junction years ago. We stumbled upon this street festival with a band playing The Guess Who songs. I wasn’t familiar with their music, and they started playing “Undun”- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLMF5GM0Kt8  I got so caught up in the moment, I found myself dancing like no one was watching! I was one of the few people who just started dancing in the street where they were playing- which caused a bunch of other people to join in. I have never felt so free–so carefree really.  Nothing and no one mattered, it was just me and the music.

Blarney Castle in Ireland was a revelation. It all came together because I relied on friends and family’s help. I was deployed for Bosnia. As my birthday approached I made tentative plans to take leave and go to Ireland. I didn’t expect that this long held dream of visiting Ireland would come to pass. Getting military leave was difficult, it was going to be expensive, and I’d be doing it alone. Three strikes against me. But my leave came through. A friend had won an airline ticket to London that he gave me which cut the cost in half. With everything conspiring to send me, I decided to go alone. I spent my 30th birthday in Ireland, kissing the Blarney stone. My happiest memory to date is lying on the branch of a tree in the castle grounds. This tree is ancient I’m sure, probably as old as the castle. Several of it’s branches are large enough to hold a full grown person, so I lay on one near the ground and just stared up. It was so peaceful and beautiful–I’ve decided when I die, my ashes should be spread in that exact spot.

More recently I found myself in Victoria park near the Parliament building. I was having an existential crisis, feeling as though I were adrift on the sea of my life. Not sure where to find safe harbor or what would anchor me in my new reality.  So I decided to meditate. I had just learned Vedic meditation and thought I might be able to get some answers through it. There is a statue there by Rodin called the Burghers of Calais. I’ve told this story so many times, but it truly inspired me. As I’m looking at this statue, the faces are so hauntingly familiar. I begin to realize the reason they’re so familiar is they are the same faces of the men and women I know who’ve been in combat. When you ask for a sign, don’t be surprised when it comes. I had meditated and asked for a sign. The sign I got was a beautiful poem left at the feet of this haunting statue. That poem, along with the statue, inspired me to write a play. One I hope to get produced very soon.

So there have been some really great times, alone.

Which brings me to my qualities I admire in myself. I’m not perfect, by any means. But I believe in my good qualities and I’m working on the not so good ones. I’m smart, book and street smart. I easily adapt to new situations and keep calm in a crisis. I’m beautiful, in my own way. I have a positive attitude about most things. I’m a great mediator–my greatest skill is being able to see things from all angles and using it to bring people together. I’m an awesome cook. I’m artistic and can translate that into practical things like decor, costumes, words, and photography. I’m a hard worker. If you give me a task to complete, I always do my best and don’t quit until it’s done. I’m capable of great passion, compassion and love. Most importantly I do my best to see the good in everyone and make sure they see it too. I am or have been, a good sister, a good daughter, a good cousin, a good wife, and a great friend. Not always perfect in those roles, but I’m pretty freakin’ awesome!

I have made plans for myself–tomorrow. I’m calling it “Take Back Valentine’s Day”. It’s always been a traumatic anniversary for me that I’ve spent years ignoring. So instead I’m going to start embracing it, for me. I’m going to rise early, take the dogs for their morning walk. Either go to my favorite restaurant for breakfast or come home and make myself breakfast in bed. Then I’m scheduled for a manicure, pedicure, massage and haircut. After that I’ll have a relaxing afternoon watching my favorite romantic movies. Then I’m taking myself out to a murder mystery dinner. Which I’m really excited about!

As far as my future; I still believe it’s possible to find my soulmate. Yes, make fun of me, but I believe in soul mates. I don’t believe and I’m not waiting for someone to complete me. I’m complete as I am. I’m waiting for someone to be better with me and make me better. I’m waiting for someone to make me laugh more than he makes me cry. I want someone to remind me everyday that I’m beautiful, passionate and worthy of honesty. I want someone to dance with. I want someone to cook for and who will do the dishes after the meal. I want to wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that the person lying next to me is honest, caring, and thinks of my needs as equal to his own.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to me! Despite being alone, despite going through this messy divorce, and despite it being a traumatic anniversary, I’m going to take it back. Valentine’s Day is going to be for me to show me, how much I love me!

bright and shining heart in the trees

bright and shining heart in the trees

Put the glass down-

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” Remember to put the glass down.

I think I have a few glasses that need to be put down.

1. my marriage-I did absolutely EVERYTHING I could to make it work… but I was completely alone in that work.

2. my past sexual history-I was raped.  I was abused.  I was given a disease by my ex that will now color everything else I do.

3. my failures- there are a lot of them.  I haven’t had a relationship or a job that worked out for very long.

4. my personality-according to the day I’ve had, I’m an idiot.  Or I’m condescending to the point that I make people so defensive that they can’t listen to me.

5. my needs-those are far outweighed by others.  I should just rearrange my life to accommodate others, because that’s what I have always done.

I’m spinning today.  And I know tomorrow will be better. I’ll get back on track, I won’t feel abandoned, lost or afraid.  I’ll find a way to be strong, to muddle through-to fake it until I make it. But today it feels like I’ve been holding that stupid glass all damn day!

Hand-Holding-Glass-Of-Water-by-photostock-292x318

Defying Gravity

ELPHABA: I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!

I started this blog awhile ago, and then left it.  I felt as though it had to be perfect, one part Jane Austen and one part Nora Ephron.  Until I realized those two women were really great at being Jane and Nora, but neither was very good at being Amanda.  For a good portion of my life I lived in the shadow of self-doubt, believing I was meant for something great but convinced I was somehow unworthy of it.  I became an expert on making everyone else good while I was trapped in this wicked circle of limitations.
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!

I’ve faced my fair share of tornados, the kind that rip your soul from it’s foundations.  As a woman of my age, I have loved and been loved in return, both given and lost.  I’m currently facing a major life change.  After being married for 16 years to someone with a mental illness, I’ve decided to stop being a caretaker, and become someone who cares for herself.

I’d sooner try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down.

Like many women before and after my time, I have experienced the violence of being a woman in a man’s world.  I found myself struggling to prove my worth by standards designed to disprove my value.  I’ve sometimes been accused of riding the broomstick of bitterness in the wake of tragedy.  I’ve lived through personal tragedy like sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence as well as serving in the military and as an Emergency Medical Technician, all of which have contributed to my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and I have a story to tell to anyone who’s willing to listen.

 So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
“Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly!”

This isn’t a blog about tragedy or dwelling on my past mistakes, I’ve shed enough tears. And it isn’t to say that my life wasn’t filled with grand adventures or major accomplishments, there were those too.  As someone said of me recently, when I set my mind to something it happens, almost as if by magic! But for those who are privileged to peer behind the curtain, nothing in my life happened by magic- blood. sweat and tears were shed. But if you knew me, you’d know that my strength, my determination, and my passion is what helps me defy gravity.

And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I’m flying high
Defying gravity

Lyrics from “Defying Gravity” by Stephen Schwartz 2003 Wicked the Musical

So the structure of this blog will be simple.  I’ve promised myself I’d write at least every other day.  I want to absorb what I’ve learned, hear from you about your take on issues we all face, and hopefully share a few laughs! Here is how it will look, although it could change.

Soulful Sunday- I’m a gatherer or a spiritual seeker.  Every Sunday I want to have a conversation about how you and I feed our souls.  Maybe it’s through an organized religion, maybe it’s through a connection with nature, maybe it’s by doing something creative.  However you feed your soul- I hope you’ll share in mine.

Mindful Monday- I’ve spent a long time doing for others above and beyond what I do for myself.  That’s not healthy! So on Mondays I’m going to find a way to do something just for me.  I learned years ago as an EMT never to run to the scene of an accident… not that helping others isn’t an urgent priority, but if you get hurt you can’t help others. So by giving to myself I can better give to others.

Work through it Wednesday- I’m in the midst of some major life changes.  I’ve recently graduated from college at age 46, going through a divorce, and potentially moving out of state. Plus I suffer from PTSD, which is a daily struggle to overcome.  Life is not always easy, and sometimes I need to document the struggle.  Not for the purposes of succumbing to the negativity or depression, but to find a way to work through it.  I might start a diet, exercise routine, or new project and need advice or support. You might find inspiration or give some advice to help me through it.  Only light can dispell the darkness, but the darkness has to be known.

Food and Fun Friday- Fridays are going to be dedicated to fun.  I’m always having to push myself out of the house to overcome my PTSD urge to isolate.  It may be something big like going to a concert, photographing a special event or seeing a play.  Or it might be something small like cooking myself a special meal. If you are one of those people who are annoyed by Facebook or Instagram photos of people’s meals… avoid Fridays on this blog!  Okay, I have to confess that I love to cook almost as much as I love photography.  So Fridays may be the time that I post photos of really great meals! Sorry if it makes anyone hungry! I think Fridays will be heavy on the photography as it is my passion!

So that’s where this blog is headed.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey.  I want to bring abundance, positivity, love and success into my life.  I plan on defying gravity as often as possible.