Pursuing joy

At some point this past year I decided I wanted my life to be about pursuit of joy rather than reduction of suffering. And to paraphrase Frost, it has made all the difference.

For me it looks like embracing my inner artist. I was born an artist but along the way morphed, conformed, forgot. It’s all good. The journey back to myself has been so sweet! I’m leaping into fear, taking an undergrad art class with students who are literally half my age. Fear and joy! Fear and joy! Even the smell of art supplies makes my heart sing.

Are there any small ways you can increase joy? Share you victories below!! I’m so happy to give virtual high fives to you brave souls.

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Feeling frazzled? To-do list too long?

Take heart. I bet you have it together more than you think.

For goodness sake, it’s not like you still have Christmas decor lying around in your shrubs in July!

In my defense you can’t really see it from the street. And I even unplugged it seven months ago! (Maybe six.)

Why Donald Trump Compels Me to Speak

Do you hear the quiet hum that is slowly rattling the china? The whistle that is building to a roar?

For some it was the bragging about sexual assault. For others, the name-calling and body-shamingFor me, it was Jane Doe’s story

Jane’s story was largely buried, for to speak of it was to admit it was possibly true and that defied comprehension. Her claim was universally viewed as so outrageous to be deemed a falsehood from the start. But in her fits and starts, her reluctance to speak for fear of life, and her silencing, I saw myself.

Our stories differ in the details, as they always will. Jane Doe was raped at 13 years of age;  I was raped at age four. Jane says she was held against her will after promises of a modeling contract and then was raped by strangers (one of whom is running for president of the United States); I was assaulted by a member of my extended family. Jane sought justice in court. My perpetrator is now deceased and was never held responsible for his crimes.

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Despite the differences, all Jane Does understand certain truths.

I understand how speaking can be or feels like a matter of life and death. My own memory of being held at my neck (certain I would die) followed by a verbal threat of death if I did tell. Every cell in my body screaming to never. speak. of. this. again. I didn’t for over three decades. Precisely thirty-four years of silence.

I understand the desire for anonymity. My childhood was a practice in hoping not to be noticed. My pre-teen years involved a sexual repression so deep that I endured homophobic slurs.

I understand the risks in speaking. I know what fall-out looks like. In the telling I have grieved the loss of an entire branch of my extended family, its limbs denied oxygen and light and left to wither in my hands.

I understand how others recoil, deny, and turn away. The blaming, the name-calling, the assumption of lies. Or simply the deafening silence. I understand how the act of believing a survivor is a radical act. How it requires bearing witness to another’s horrific, unimaginable pain. To face the shadow side of our families, our communities, our criminal justice system, our notions of masculinity, our religious beliefs. To admit that the people around us—family, friends, coworkers, strangers—could not protect us or did not protect us. there-is-know-greater-agony-than-bearing-an-untold-story-inside-you-maya-angelou

All of this begs the question: in the face of all of this, why speak? 

To speak is to evict the the panic and fear that were stored in your cells as part of your surviving.

To speak is to fuel a living, breathing rebirth.

To speak is to transmute pain, to alchemize fear. 

To speak is to write your own ending.

You speak for the silenced, muffled, mocked, and maligned.

You speak for the mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers. You speak for the sons and daughters. 

You speak to heal family, community, and yes, country.

You do all of this humbly, with the recognition that you are one of the lucky ones. With loving parents. With resilience built into your bones. With white skin, advanced degrees, conforming gender and sexuality. With the love and support of spouse and friends. 

You do all of this because the alternative is a repression of spirit and mind and body so extreme it is to watch your repressed truth manifest in disease, dysfunction, or yes, even dystopia.

You speak because if the shadow has been laid bare, then so must our truths. 


Thank you for reading. I couldn’t have written this without the loving support of this WordPress community. 

 

 

It was a SARAH kind of day

Where to begin! I have so many stories to tell and I haven’t posted in a few days, so there is a log jam. Must get words on paper!

First, I want to share that it is October 1st, and I have been called to write about BREAST CANCER PREVENTION. I am going to brew up some creative projects related to this topic, so STAY TUNED!

Secondly, I am possibly in the works to collaborate on a project for a pregnancy loss awareness event. Because guess what folks….October is also pregnancy loss and infant loss awareness month! So much to be aware of, am I right? Ha! Just poking fun at myself. I think awareness is a good thing, but I think speaking our truth is even more important because it is what ultimately connects us to others. I hope to speak my truth on this as well and more to come on what I have up my sleeve.

Thirdly, I had a really funny day yesterday. Epic.

It was a SARAH DAY.

What is a Sarah day? Well, I am Sarah. And there are things that only I am capable of. I have a knack for finding myself in absurd situations and it might have to do with the fact that I am known for being a bit, what is the word….flaky? Head in the clouds?  I have learned to laugh about this part of my personality. I AM OWNING UP TO IT.

 

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Let me set the scene.

Act 1. Sarah registers with Southwest Airlines with her full name – maiden and married name both. Her Rodham Clinton name, if you will. Sarah racks up points with her favorite airline.

Act 2. Sarah moves to Florida and goes to get a new driver’s license. They say, oh we cannot take your OLD license with your Rodham Clinton name nonsense as proof that you are who you say you are! Show us your social security card with your FULL NAME. Sarah says, well you see I technically never changed my name with the federal government (as if) and they say, well tough cookies. You are going to be listed as your MAIDEN NAME because bureaucracy.

Act 3. Sarah books flight with Southwest. They force her to use her Rodham Clinton name. Which now no longer matches her license. Sarah is pulled aside by TSA and interregated. Where are you going? Why would you CHOOSE to fly to Ohio? You have been married nine years and never changed your name? FULL PAT DOWN LADY. FULL. PAT. DOWN.

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Act 4. Nine years after marriage, Sarah supposes it is time to officially change her name with Social Security to her Rodham Clinton last name. The social security admin office is oddly efficient. The customer service guy teaches her daughter how to give the “OK” sign underwater while scuba-diving. This is her new favorite thing. He laughs at the stained marriage certificate with its envelope falling apart. Nine years huh? You laugh. Everybody laughs. THE CARD IS CHANGED. VICTORY IS SARAH’S.

Act 4. Sarah goes to DMV. Final step within reach…a card that matches her valued Southwest Airlines account. Because for real that is what created this cascade of events that should have been prevented nine years ago. I digress. Sarah has her picture taken but is sad she didn’t do her eyebrows because you see she was on her way to get them waxed and tinted after the DMV appointment. Man her photo looks bad without her eyebrows done. She considers how people are barely staying alive in Syria and she is worrying about her eyebrows.

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Act 5. Almost there. SO. CLOSE. Sarah gets out her wallet to pay. The woman is scanning the documents into the computer–and stops. Where is the seal on your marriage certificate. What seal? Further inspection shows that Sarah has been using (successfully, mind you! With DMV offices in other states! With the Social Goddamn Security Administration) the certificate from the DAY of her marriage, the one that lasts 24 hours, the one the officiant signed, and was supposedly filed by said officiant with the appropriate agency.

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The woman at the DMV says she has never seen this in her entire life of working at the DMV. You say, what, there are not other Sarahs in the world??

She says no honey, get your shit together.

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Sarah says I AM TRYING!! I AM REALLY TRYING.

Sarah leaves empty handed. She calls her husband and tells him, oh by the way maybe we are not officially married? HAHAHAHAHA. He laughs. She laughs. First ten years just a test run! We will “renew our vows” but actually really get married this time! HAHAHAHAHAHA.

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Act 6. Sarah pays exorbitant amount of money to have final marriage certificate sent via certified fast mail. Sarah is unable to speak to a human to verify that it ACTUALLY EXISTS.

Act 7. Sarah’s sister leaves her a message and deadpans, Sarah, this wouldn’t happen to anybody but you. Really. 

 

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LISTEN YOU ALL. THE INTERWEBS TELL ME THIS:

After your wedding, it is the responsibility of the person who performed your wedding ceremony to make sure the license is recorded with the county where you were married. Generally, a few weeks after your wedding, you will receive your marriage certificate in the mail. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I NEVER DID I SWEAR! OR I LOST IT. THAT IS POSSIBLE TOO.) That said, even if the officiant fails to file the marriage certificate, the two are usually still considered married.

Still legit y’all. Not living in sin! Not the parents of a child born out of wedlock!

CARRY ON. NOTHING TO SEE HERE.JUST ANOTHER SARAH DAY.

(P.S. My husband just chimed in, “I’d still marry you again!” Me too, hon. Me too.)

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I would ask if you could relate but I am pretty sure no, you can’t. Nope. Nobody can relate to this nonsense. Y’all got your names changed and put your paperwork in a safe like a month after you got married. I know you did. That is ok. We can still be friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweaty Palms and…Joy?

Yesterday I did something that made my palms sweat and my heart race.

I shared my story (the one I told you about yesterday)…publicly on Facebook. With my FRIENDS. AND. FAMILY.

I know. Can you even believe this?

If you are anything like my sister you are laughing a little. My sister is the yin to my yang. An open book to my locked diary. A heart on a sleeve to my hidden tattoo. (I don’t have a hidden tattoo but if I did I WOULD NOT TELL YOU ABOUT IT.)

My sister called me shortly after I posted the article on Facebook and our conversation went something like this:

Sister: “You posted your article! I didn’t realize your article talked about your miscarriage.”

Me: “YESIDIDSHAREANDYESITDOESBUTISTHATOK?HOLYCRAPDIDIOVERSHARE???”

Sister: “Sarah, anyone who knows you would never accuse you of oversharing.” Ok that is a paraphrase but essentially she reminded me of the fact that I am not exactly easy to read. 

She also pointed out how I wrote privately in this blog for a year before even going public. So yeah, baby steps for me.

I’ve been writing for almost another year on my now published blog (yay!) and those baby steps all led up to yesterday. I knew I was ready but still: sweaty palms. (Plus I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder so trust me, sweaty palms are basically my jam.)

So I shared it and…everyone was amazing. Overly amazing actually. And of course they were! But then something unexpected happened:

  • First I felt tears
  • Then I felt…joy?!

What was this? I work from home so I did what I usually need to do in situations like this: I talked out loud to my beagles.

“Beagles….I am crying but I am not sad. Am I relieved? Kind of. But, I think I feel joy. Yes, joy. And love. BEAGLES I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!”

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The beagles: great listeners, but not much for conversation.

Relief, yes. And the relief wasn’t even because people liked it and were being so kind and loving — that was wonderful but there was something else to it. I felt relief that my story had been told.

And joy, definitely joy.

I still didn’t get the joy bit. Frankly it took me by surprise. I did some googling for Brené Brown quotes about vulnerability. Because if you have a question about vulerability you have to ask Brené. (LOVE ME SOME BRENÉ.)

Well, lo and behold I found this little gem:

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Image source.

Yes, exactly Brené! When you are vulnerable and share your story about loss and grief and miscarriage, it is not crazy to feel joy apparently. Because sharing your story = connection = joy = being seen.

And then, because I am obsessed with Brené, I kept looking through quotes and found this one. And I was all, YES PREACH IT BRENÉ!

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Image source. .

That is it: I was walking inside my story. That is why it felt good. The sweaty-palm bit, well that is what happens when we put ourselves out there. I know that. But the joy from telling the story, from connection…I wasn’t expecting that. Icing on the cake, my friends.

(And, to those of you who read yesterday and have known me for a zillion years and were so kind and loving…thank you. I love you.)

Yours in sweat and tears and, yes, joy,

Sarah

Have you experienced this before?! I’d love to hear how your own sweaty-palm-moments led to joy. Because wow, right? 

 

In Memory Of: Ramon.

On the table was one paper with one name: Ramon. 

We had already clutched the tiny candles in foil holders. We’d sung We Shall Overcome and We are A Gentle Angry People. We had prayed with a rabbi, imam and pastor. We’d listened to name after name, so many young men, some women, but mostly men, spoken aloud into the sacred silence. Most of the vigil attendees had already filed into the garden, planting 49 rainbow flags into the earth.

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I was in the back of the church, empty now, standing near a table with white candles, yellow ribbons and tiny rainbow flags. There was a stack of papers that stated “In memory of:” for mourners to share the name of a loved one lost in Orlando. Most copies were left blank, except for one. The name Ramon scrawled upon it in blue ink.

I did not realize until I saw his name how numb I had become to this violence. To hearing about another deranged killer who killed four in a workplace, killed two in a university, killed thirteen on an army base. Killed. Killed. Killed. Over a thousand killed since Sandy Hook, nearly 4,000 injured. Sandy Hook somehow marked the turning point. We let those babies die, gunned down in a school (a school, God help us), but life strangely proceeded as normal. Deep in our being we knew that Sandy Hook mattered because we used it to frame the rest. Since Sandy Hook. Before Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook mattered, somehow, but we let our President plead and shed tears alone before a podium. We did nothing. I did nothing.

I read Ramon’s name and, eyes welled with tears, filed out of the church with my my husband and daughter toward the memorial garden. People stood around in small groups. My daughter, three, twirled a tiny rainbow flag. I hung back behind the crowds but overheard a young man thank our pastor. “I lost two friends in Orlando,” he stated simply.

I have the privilege of being on the periphery of this tragedy, both geographically (I live three hours from Orlando) and emotionally. I read Ramon’s name but did not know him. I overheard a young man, a member of my community, state that he lost two friends, but I did not lose any loved ones. I can sit and write about this because I am not gripped by grief and trauma like so many families who must cope with devastating loss, trying to process a loved one’s violent death. I am compelled to write because for too long my heart was surrounded by a wall that said, we are helpless. This is hopeless. Our country will never change. We are too divided. 

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Love wins. Image source.

Last week I listened to a Here and Now interview with an Orlando gun shop owner. I bristled near the beginning of the segment as the man tried to claim that guns have as much to do with terrorism as planes do, but I suppressed the urge to turn off the program. I was surprised to find out that I actually see eye-to-eye somewhat with the man who makes a living selling guns. He questioned how someone on an FBI watch list can have access to a gun. He said as a gun shop owner he wants increased access to information about whether someone purchasing a gun is mentally ill and violent.

I don’t know where we go from here. What I didn’t know until I attended the vigil was that it was important for me to read Ramon’s name. To cry publicly. To feel righteous anger. To call my Republican Senator (every day for five days) even if I didn’t think he would support reasonable gun control measures. (He didn’t.) To listen to people I don’t always agree with. To transform the righteous anger to real change so that someday we may say, since Orlandothings have changed.

 

Voice

This urgency to give voice. A story that demands to be told. In spite of fear, in spite of taboo, in spite of expectations and rationality and questions. In spite of it all.

A story whose time has come. Whose story.  Because it has a life of its own. It breathes. It carries memory. It wrestles to see light.

And when it does, when voice casts light on darkness, it transforms. Transcends. Becomes something all together new. Takes flight with wings.

We tell ourselves that this longing goes against all rational thought. We struggle to state what is. Our genes carry memory. Of a time not that long ago (even now, yes) where truth was met with sword. Where life depended on keeping secrets.

What if life depended on the telling?

 

For the Love of Family

I am most definitely emerging from THE GREAT FUNK OF 2016. (Unfortunately not a throwback ’70s band but a very sad and grief-y series of months.)

Making it through to the other side? Oh it feels so good.

When I was deep in the muck I drafted a post about family. How awesome it is and how I couldn’t get through hard stuff without it and omigod can someone please pass me some Kleenex?

Yeah I wasn’t quite ready to write that post. Too emotional. Too much love.

So here I am, back to finish what I started.

Family. THEY ARE THE BEST.

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Where is this chocolate you speak of? Photo source (creative commons license).

So far, no need for tissues. I will continue. 

Recently my brother-in-law, his wife and their adorable two-year-old came to stay with us for almost two weeks. This long-ago planned visit happened to coincide within days of me finding out I was miscarrying.

To quote my sister, the visit was going to be either really good for me or really disastrous. (Love my sister, she tells it like it is.)

Know what? It was really, really good. The polar opposite of disastrous.

They were awesome and totally in-tune to the situation, offering to give space and distance and I’m sure chocolate if I had asked nicely.

The funny thing is, even though I usually burrow deep into the ground during hard times, I didn’t want space or privacy this time around. I wanted family 24-7 to love and embrace me. They did and it was nothing short of wonderful.

During their visit, our kids played together and fought over toys and chased each other with balloons. Meanwhile us adults lounged around and caught up on each others’ lives. We shared meals, tucked our kids into bed and watched Community and Six Feet Under. We talked about the hard stuff. The challenges of parenting, marriage, and yes, even conceiving a second child.

For many years, burrowing worked well-enough when the goal was to shut out further pain. Unfortunately the same door that shuts out the pain also shuts out a lot of people who would have been more than willing to help me through the hard times.

It feels good to be up here in the sunshine, with family.

Plus, I hear they keep the chocolate up here.