A thousand me toos tossed into the light

The man who gives you a back rub without your permission. The guy who stands a little too close to you on the bus, so close you can smell the alcohol on his breath. The boys who joked and the men who joked and so many jokes but you were never laughing. The jokes you didn’t understand because you were too young to understand. The gut punch when you were old enough to finally get what they meant.

The prayers not to be raped by the guy who was angry you wouldn’t have sex with him. The relief when you weren’t. Rage over feeling relief.

All the winks. The condescending sighs. The “hey baby”s. The talking, always the talking, louder and over and in between and beneath. The drive-bys and the phone call after phone call after phone call. Will he stay or will he go now? If he stays it will be trouble. Another damn fork in the road. So many forks in the road decided by someone other than you.

All of it a catch in the throat, a drop in the gut. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. An entire lifetime dictated by fight or flight. Learned at an age when you couldn’t spell rape but lived it followed by an entire lifetime of repressing, running, hiding, cajoling, negotiating with it and then finally healing it. The slow release of a fist when you heard the first me, too. Healing when you utter your first me, too, into a microphone into the dark to mostly strangers because they all have me toos or have loved ones with me toos and they don’t know you so that makes it even better. Healing healing healing healing so much healing you are so tired of the healing please can I stop the healing? And the relief when you suddenly wake up one day and it’s three-and-half decades later and you discover that your life is no longer a series of fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. You didn’t know it was possible.

So much healing mixed with a little bit of telling. The telling is mostly over and above around and beneath. Yes you spoke into the microphone and in circles of women in social workers’ offices and in therapists’ offices. But part of you is afraid and you are not sure why because you have already lost the support of so many and how could you lose more by speaking? How is that even possible? Anything is possible. The walking rape-trigger might become president and this, this is what finally does it. The walking-trigger at a microphone about to become president and this feels like another fork in the road. You decide you want to have a say for once in these forks in the road so you tell it like it is, not above or beneath but through the middle, a straight arrow of truth. And the world doesn’t crumble. And you realize this whole time you were afraid it wasn’t about them. It was about you seeing yourself,  standing in the light the in truth of it all, the full unadulterated whole entire truth. All its horror and strength and despair and rising above.  A thousand me toos tossed into the light. An arrow of truth pointing toward a future no longer full of too many me toos.

Thank you for reading. If you are a survivor and need someone to talk to, the most up-to-date information on services in your community can be found here (on the right hand side of the page). 

Sunrise, sunset! Wherein I (quietly) proclaim the genius of lesson #3

The kiddo was up very early today which meant one thing: I had to blog, just like old times! All those early mornings where I wrote as the sun rose. The days where writing daily was a necessary part of my routine.

I got to thinking about it all. How writing was a daily ritual of healing. Only now can I see what a courageous and life-sustaining act it truly was. Day by day, scrubbing away pain and loss. Transmuting the pain. And now, today on August 2, 2017, the fact is that there is so much less pain to transmute – the main reason I don’t feel the need to write as frequently. A good problem to have, no?

In hindsight I have so many questions for my former self. Why did you, former Sarah, take so long to start writing?  Why didn’t you start using anti-aging face cream sooner? And why oh why did you sit in that suffering place for so damn long?  (Ever notice that “why didn’t I let myself suffer longer?” has been asked by nobody ever.)

There are a lot of reasons. But mostly it is because I hadn’t learned lesson 3.

Memes, Pain, and Truth: I. You must let  the pain  visit.  2. You must allow  it to teach you  3. You must not  allow it to overstay.  Ijeoma Umebinyuo  three routes to healing Truth from @thisspirituallife

This is from the incredible Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo. I remember the day I discovered this – I wanted to shout from the rooftops: “THIS! THIS!!!! LESSON NUMBER THREE! THIS IS WHERE IT’S AT PEOPLE! Don’t let it overstay!

(Thankfully I did not proclaim it from the rooftops. Probably good since my neighborhood is full of highly suspicious retirees who would likely bring such an incident to the attention of the HOA.)

Touch and release. Touch and release. So freaking hard. Feel the feels but don’t succumb to them. Swimming without wearing a huge heavy backpack. (It just weighs you down and plus everything inside gets wet. Who wants that?!)

It takes a helluva lot of courage to set down the backpack full of feels. Once you do, you realize what a heavy weight it had been. Really, it doesn’t need to overstay its welcome. Bye Felicia.

Anyway where am I going with this post? OH yes, sunrises, sunsets! Sunrises full of writing and healing and transmuting pain. Sunsets of saying goodbye to the pain. Lesson number three. Touch and release. Healing. Dropping the heavy backpack at the shore so you can swim. 

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Without you . . .

This blog wouldn’t have happened. Healing would not have taken place. And the art that came after all the loss — well, that would not have flourished. Your love and encouragement is what propelled me forward on the darkest, hardest days. Thank you.

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My new etsy shop, The Joyful Hummingbird. A labor of love! 

With sweaty palms and joy, I’m excited to announce that I’m finally launching my etsy shop! You are the first to know–not because I am trying to sell you anything (and I truly am not, and I also promise not to use this blog to promote the shop beyond sharing today’s news!)–but because this is as much yours to celebrate as mine. I firmly believe that nothing creative, healing, or heart-driven can be done in isolation. This community has been everything to me.

Thank you, dear readers, and people who click “like” and people who post notes of encouragement! Every single darn one of you is part of this becoming manifest.

xoxo,

Sarah

P.s. If you *would* like to be in the loop about the Etsy store, text JOYFULART to 2393-03-4330. (You will get a special thank you and will be notified of other special promotions! But not more than twice a month, if that. Pinkie swear.)  This has been a promotional message. This is the last of the promotional messages. Thank you for your cooperation as these will no longer interrupt your Mourning Dove Motherhood blog reading experience. 😀

 

Let’s use this fire-breath to bring down the patriarchy! (Or something…)

Something in me cracked open.

It seemed to come out of nowhere. But let’s be real, it had been building for weeks. (Precisely three weeks and five days…if you get my drift.)

Like all fine Americans, I got angry reading something on Facebook. But it wasn’t the orange one who set me off, or the skinny-tied-one or the gum-chewing-one or any of the other underlings. 

Yes, it wasn’t Trump per se that had me fired up. It was the response to the crazy. People I knew to otherwise be kind, loving individuals–it was their defending of Trump that seemed to be the final straw. mountainsmove

Something in me snapped. Actually, no. Snapped to seems to imply a reckless breaking. This was a crack. A crack like an egg hatching. A crack of shifting tectonic plates.

I’ve been fuming so much that I’ve written three draft posts in three days because there was SO MUCH FIRE in me that, well, I needed to let it simmer down a tad before I could hit publish.

We have this man (orange) who is the archetype of a predatory male. The embodiment of patriarchy. The creepy dude from the office who forwards racist, sexist conspiracy theories and is the guy whom we generally can all agree is unhinged.

But wait, maybe we can’t all agree on that fact. And there is the rub.

I’ m not different than so many other women whose body and psyche have been deeply harmed by someone who resembles Trump. To be a female in this world is to at some point feel unsafe in our bodies because of a predatory man.

Yes–this anger goes deep and is a fire breath I want to use to bring down the patriarchy! (Or something.)*

I understand that part of this anger is about my own deep wounds. My own story of harm by a mad man–and the perceived betrayal of the otherwise sane people who knew better than to believe a madman and ultimately align with a mad man.

This is also what I know about being wounded: there is no greater pain that not being seen. We don’t expect a mad man to see or understand our pain. He’s not capable of it. But the ones who we know are capable of empathy and love? We except better.

Yes, something cracked open in me the other day.

This anger feels deep.

Like the women of all the ages were standing as mountains within the earth, holding me up.

Who knows, maybe they are.

The question is, what to do with the fire-breath? We can’t keep it in–to do so will burn us from the inside out. No, this fire must be expelled. Unleashed. Art. Story. Dancing. Resisting with joy and humor and yes, righteous indignation too. Who knows? Maybe in the process we will burn down the patriarchy

*(Huh, maybe my daughter does get some of her flair for the dramatic from me after all…)

Are you ready to roar? Breathe your fire-breath with me!

A list of 20.16 gifts from the year 2016. No for real, I’m done bashing 2016. (For the moment.)

I have decided to take the high road with 2016. I’m done whining. Here is my attempt to make peace with the worst year ever.*

20.16 lessons and gifts from 2016

[amended: this is only parts 1-10 because my kid is mixing paints and that spells trouble.]
  1. A YEAR of this blog!

  2. Discovering the show “Jane the Virgin.” (A true blessing indeed.) yiyjlx05aq0fo

  3. Continued health for myself, my husband and daughter. (Wow, that is a big one. Probably should have put this before Jane the Virgin.)

  4. My husband watching my daughter so I can write right now, which involves keeping her and her toy drill out of trouble. It is much harder than it sounds.

  5. ALL OF YOU READING THIS. Because for real, the greatest joy is when people care about what you write and then, to blow your mind even more, care about you the human too. Which you do. Which is freaking amazing.

  6. Rediscovering my artistic passions and painting lot’s and lot’s of birds.

7. Singing in my church choir with the greatest bunch of people you could ever meet. I am surrounded by wise, loving elders who cheer me on and lift me up. I LOVE IT.

8. My husband who is still entertaining a child who is now trying to make potions out of toothpaste and dear god I think I’m going to have to split this into two posts.

9. Using my writing to heal.

10. Muddling through the year with tears and laughter– including surrounding myself with Peter Gabriel hugs, by taking cathartic swims, swinging from palm fronds, and leaning on the kindness of strangers like Jeanine.

Items 11 through 20.16 will come tomorrow because my kid is causing ruckus!  

*but also I can’t wait to burn this list. Come Saturday night I’m doing a ritual I just learned about. I will write on slips of paper all the things from the past year I want to leave behind. And then I will burn the papers. (My favorite part!) And then I will write on slips of paper what my intentions are for 2017. I will put them in an envelope that I can open in six months or so to see where I’m at. I’m told my mind will be blown.]

The Winds are Slowly Filling our Sails

Solstice came! It occurred to me that while I am rejoicing the return of the light, others are like really Sarah?!  This means winter has started. In Iowa that means the frigid below-zero temperature winds will make it undesirable to leave your home. Not that it matters because the nearest Starbucks is AN HOUR AWAY. (Oh, I have so many great Iowa stories. Another day.)

So yes, solstice. A slow creep toward light, with cold winds thrown in for some of you. I promise to send you some Florida sunshine okay?

Yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office and despaired. About how horrible this year was, how everything in my life is so uncertain, and all hope was lost. I think that maybe, just maybe I saw my therapist’s eyebrow make a tiny movement upward as if to say, for real Sarah ALL HOPE LOST? but she caught herself and later we laughed when I pointed out that perhaps I was being a bit…dramatic? Yeah.  Just a tad. (I love when I realize it even as the words exit my lips but I hold on to the story I’ve created in my head, not quite ready just yet to let it go.)

But I need to tell you about the sailing ships. There is a point to this post you see. I told her how it feels like a great large ocean liner in my life is slowly changing directions but it feels so damn slow and laborious. And then her eyes lit up and she said, have you ever sailed? (Maybe once? A very long time ago.)

She told me how when sailing, when you go to change directions you must get the sails adjusted (I am forgetting all technical sailing terms) and there is a moment where you are jostling around getting it just so, and there is a pause. You must wait for the winds to fill the sail, which can be jerky at first, before you can move into the new direction. But once the sails are full of wind, WHOOSH you are off!

But that isn’t all. To change direction, you don’t just take off with those sails full of wind and zoom in the direction of your liking. No, you zig-zag back and forth for some time, forward and back. Forward and back. And little by little you go the intended direction, hitting your stride after just a bit.

We both agreed that this wonderful analogy should be tucked away for future reference for any and all clients. I mean, it is pretty brilliant right?

She told me: your sails are slowly filling with wind. I can feel it. I can too.

But there is more! Last night I read a post on Facebook about how winter solstice is a pause–not here or there just yet–like when suspended in that one moment at the top of a roller coaster where your stomach drops before the moment you rush back down again. Or, the post continued, how it is like a dead calm sea between gusts of wind.

Well, I’ll be. I love when themes and symbols pop up again and again my life.

There you have it folks. I reckon we are all in that pause right now. Heck, our country most certainly is. The world most certainly is.

Remember: our sails will continue to fill and we will soon be off to the races. It might take a little bit of backtracking at times–but don’t despair. It is necessary to get where we need to go.

 

 

Stitching it back together with love

I am sitting here in my favorite oversized sweater that smells a little bit like beagles, but maybe that makes me love it more. I wore this sweater while studying for exams in law school. I wore this sweater in the drafty farm house in Iowa as my belly grew larger and larger when pregnant with my daughter.

I don’t get to wear this sweater as often anymore in Florida, but I woke up chilly and even the dogs are snuggled together in a puppy pile. It is a brisk 58 degrees (seriously I am not trying to rub this in–I know that everyone else in the US is dealing with arctic temps) and my first thought was, at long last I can put on my favorite sweater. And more importantly, at long last I can write.

I don’t even know where to begin with what has unraveled these last few weeks. Unraveled has a negative connotation but I mean it as a neutral term. Merriam Webster defines unravel as to disengage or separate the threads of :  disentangle b :  to cause to come apart by or as if by separating the threads of; to resolve the intricacy, complexity, or obscurity of :  clear up <unravel a mystery>.

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That has been my last few weeks. Resolving the intricacy and complexity of challenges and clearing up mysteries. It involved a coming apart in the sense that it is no longer longer knotted up.  It has been untangled and laid bare so I can see it for what it is and begin to slowly and lovingly stitch it back together. It turns out that my healing and my daughter’s growing pains seem as intertwined as the DNA that we share.

The way I write makes it sound so dramatic. It isn’t. Nothing large or scary happened. It all felt large in the way that things often do when we are triggered or afraid. And the stitching back together felt large, but it too was not. It involved daily acts of love (which makes it sound easy but it was anything but easy), done in minutes and hours and days.

Those small things done with love are the hardest parts of parenting. It is a slow slog that surrenders to trust in the process. Trust that many small steps will add up and make a difference. They do and it is beautiful.

I will write more about the untangling and the stitching back together. But for now I will wear my oversized sweater and drink hot coffee on the lanai. I will prepare to go Christmas shopping with my husband, and then later I will listen to my daughter sing Christmas songs at preschool. My heart is full.

Thank You for Sitting on My Bench

Can I hug you all? Seriously, consider these words a virtual hug traveling from WordPress to your computer or smartphone or tablet or smartwatch or whatever device connects us. Because THANK YOUS are in order.

I wrote a post yesterday about how crappy things have been lately and how crappy this YEAR has been. I felt better after writing it (writing heals me, always), but I didn’t fully expect what would happen next. Holy macaroni you guys rock. I was flooded with messages of love and support (and some commiseration too—apparently I’m not the only one who had a bad 2016!). It was absolutely beautiful.

It also confirmed what I already knew, which is that sharing our vulnerabilities in a safe way, with people we trust and whom have earned their right to hear our story, can be truly transformative.This blog has shown me how writing is only half of the puzzle. An important piece for sure—writing is powerful and healing in and of itself. But the second piece, sharing that writing with a tribe who loves and supports you, has the capacity to heal in ways I never fully understood until this year.

Writing + Community (virtual and real world) reminds me of those recycling plants that make benches out of old milk jugs. Writing takes the broken pieces and builds something new, and if you are lucky, that something new might end up being a bench. And if you are luckier still, friends and strangers will SIT on that bench, hold your hand and say, it will be ok.

From my heart to yours, thank you for sitting next to me on the bench. And when you need someone on your bench, because we all do from time to time, you know who to reach out to.

The Final Push (This Might Hurt)

I’ve had a huge amount of crap healing work surface this past week. The kind of stuff that a year from now I will look back on and muse, that was so powerful and worth every painful moment. But when you are living it? Total and utter bologna.

In fact, I have decided 2016 has largely been a very difficult year and I’m quite ready to ring in 2017 thankyouverymuch.

Let me list the reasons why 2016 royally sucked:

  • Miscarriage (for a pregnancy due on the day my mom died….ouch.)
  • Continued grief for loss of my mother and ripple effects from that loss
  • Gawker went under (this was a big one)
  • Trump was elected president
  • and, saving the best for last, a ton of unexpected childhood trauma healing work.  (Ok, maybe not totally unexpected. I decided to break my silence and share my story publicly for the first time, which meant that ten people who read my blog saw it, but trust me even that was a huge huge deal for me. So let’s just say the gates had cracked open a bit.)

Now, since I’m an optimist and someone who makes an effort to choose hope, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I could easily list all the beautiful transformations that occurred this past year. A list that is longer than that craptastic list. But for today, I want to wallow a little.

So wallow I will. Stomp my foot and raise a fist to injustices. Grrrr!!

Oh, but the point of this post (other than a little bit of poor me) was to tell you about my dreams I had this past week. They are little sign posts keeping me going. 

The first dream was about a week ago. In the dream I was giving birth and up until this point in the dream the whole process had been so effortless–dare I say easy and painless? (clearly this is a dream)–but suddenly in the dream I felt stalled, and I knew that I was going to have to make one final push, and endure some pain, to give birth.

WELL I’M PUSHING NOW AND IT DEFINITELY HURTS.

And then last night, a dream where I am in a high school type of science classroom. We were all at seats with a microscope. Our instructions were to inject ourselves with some type of shot and then we were to examine the wound under the microscope.

I was reluctant to do the shot to the arm because I was afraid it would hurt, but it didn’t! And then I examined the wound up close. It was fascinating.

So hear we are. Enduring some pain, examining old wounds. Fun times.

But boy, (metaphorical) birth is close, I can feel it.

The Pine Tree (But it’s Not About the Tree)

The neighbor’s pine tree was removed today. It stood several inches away from our property line. But it felt like my tree.

The large crew of workers cheered when the tree came crashing down but I stood and cried. Oh I had plans, all internal mind you, to talk to our neighbors about my their tree. They told my husband they were planning to remove it because it was too messy. I was going to tell them about the woodpecker that lived in the tree. I tried to imagine their faces when I told them to save the tree for the birds, and well, I kept avoiding the conversation. And now my tree was gone, rolled away in an orderly pile of mulch.

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The pine tree that is no more. It is the tree pictured behind the bird feeder. Sniff.

Why am I fretting so much about the tree? It’s not the tree. I know this even though all I want to do is rant about the tree. No, I am crying for all the damn pine trees that have fallen in my life without my permission, disrupting the peace of my birds, leaving me helpless to fix. As if there was ever any fixing to be done in the first place!

Instead I will go for a run. I will drink a cup of hot tea even though I want coffee, because goodness knows more coffee will only make my heart quicken and I don’t need that.

I will fold laundry. I will pick up messes. I will write–first a dark poem about my tree on my private blog nobody knows exists (I will spare you the poem) and then this post. I will yell at the beagles when they find half a churro in my purse, and this sentence alone will make me laugh out loud for the first time since the tree was felled. Then I will chuck the churro away in the trash when I discover it is covered in ants (alas, I do live in Florida after all). Finally, one problem I can fix.

I will put away some dishes. I will drink more tea and keep avoiding coffee. I will let myself cry at the bright sun pouring down on grass where a tree once stood even though I know it’s not about the tree.