A Supposedly Straight Woman’s Process for Grieving after Orlando

My name is Jessica. I recently graduate with my doctoral degree so, in some spaces it is also likely that I am referred to as Doctor Williams. I am 5’9″ with an undercut and kinky, curly natural Black hair atop my head. I weigh somewhere between 250-350 lbs at any given time depending on what is going on in my life but I always identify as fat. Today my shirt is a “Large” and my skirt is a size 18. My preferred gender pronouns are she/her and I consider myself heterosexual, though my affect and affinity for the Queer community has made me curious about how much of my sexual identity as heterosexual is socially constructed. I am a feminist who believes that people have the right to define themselves for themselves. I identify as Christian, though feel my union with God to be unable to be contained within one religion. I see religion as sociocultural and not necessarily indicative of one’s faith beliefs. I grew up in a middle class, though some argue upper middle class home in Atlanta, Georgia a majority minority city and later Douglasville, GA a middle class suburb of the city. I have minimal physical ability barriers, but am currently managing PTSD and an anxiety disorder stemming from sexual assault. I would describe myself as a beautiful mess.

Fresh off the high of learning my dissertation had been published the mass shooting at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, FL happened. It knocked the wind out of me. First because my younger cousin who identifies as lesbian had snap videos in the club in Orlando the night of the shooting. I reached out to her immediately after finding out about the tragic incident yet once I learned of her physical safety, the sense of comfort did not come. Days later I would find myself in a lesbian bar celebrating a friend’s birthday. A place I’d frequented for various reasons over the past few years in San Diego now had a coldness to it that had nothing to do with the temperature. The mood of the space–set by the additional security  and rainbow flags at half mast–had shifted.

“I’m sorry I haven’t said anything about Orlando to you,” I found myself texting to a dear friend of mine who both identifies as Queer and manages an LGBT resource center at a university, “I honestly did not have the words.” My research conducted on fat women and identity highlighted the kinship between the Fat and Queer communities. In my dissertation I wrote:

Borrowing on the popular “We’re here, we’re queer!” mantra of the gay rights
movement, Fat activist Katie LeBesco (2004) recalls chants of ‘We’re here, we’re
sphere!’ from the fat community. LeBesco details Pam Hinden’s “fat coming out story” noting that “coming out” as fat was akin to “coming out” as queer in that it meant that one was going to intentionally and unapologetically forego traditional social norms; “coming out meant mustering outrage to engage in activities usually thought proper only for thin people (Lebesco, 2004, pg. 95)…”Queer language such as
“outing” or being “in the closet” further illustrated the bond between these two
marginalized communities. Says Margaret Wann (1999) on her last day “in the closet”, “living in the closet [was] not working…[I] decided to come out as a fat person and tried to do it really publicly and really loudly because [I] wasn’t going to put up with exclusion” (pg.95). In this instance “coming out” was strategic to indicate one’s acceptance of self be it our sexuality or our bodies. While it may seem paradoxical as a person is conspicuously fat where queer may be harder to visually assume, the idea of “coming out” refers to an individual proclaiming an internal truth to an external audience. Being “here and queer” or “here and sphere” was less about queer or sphere but in fact, it was about “here” and the acknowledgement of one’s self which in turn calls for acknowledgement by others.

marsha-p-johnson1If it were not for the research I had quite literally just completed, I am not sure I would have felt like this tragedy was mine to own and ache for, like this was a hurt that I had the right to publicly express. However, my connection to this community, my community was undeniable. I look at a leader like Marsha P. Johnson who just went out to dance and ended up making history at the Stonewall Inn. PULSE nightclub could have been any night club in any city at any time and that is what chills me to my core. As a woman, going out requires careful calculation. My heels must be high enough to make my legs look good but not too high that I could not run at the end of the night. My dress should be short enough to move in but long enough to make it clear that I am not public property or for public consumption. The flowers in my hair invite conversation, even adoration but not objectification. The love made between me and the music is our own and sometimes it is a threesome with a man of my desire, but sometimes it is not.  Nearly every woman, and every single fat woman I know frequents “gay bars” because it is a space where we, too, feel free.  The space was not created for us, the space is not ours, but yet we are welcomed and accepted in this space.

For someone to violate such a sacred space…it’s the chill. It’s the kind of cold you feel after trauma that requires swaddling and circles rubbed across the entirety of your back. It is the hurt that you cannot put words to and you cannot describe to anyone who has not also felt this sort of violation. I shared with a Lesbian friend of mine that it felt like rape all over again in some ways. The feelings of confusion, helplessness, loss of safety, loss of comfort, need for closeness with your community and also a fear and hesitancy to put yourself out there again for fear of repeat violation. You try to make sense of the hurt, try to understand why and not one single explanation makes sense.  All you know is that it happened and now having lived through it, you are different and everything you knew before you know now in a different way. You become more attuned to shadows. You grow more suspicious, more cautious, more timid, more “safe” and you try your best not to close off from the whole world. Only that does not help either. It only leaves you alone with your pain to fester and rot. God damn this curse of survival, I do not want the memories, I do not want the pain, I do not want the scars, the tears, the flashbacks, the loss, the confusion, the sadness, the worry.

Then you remember something. For me it was Marsha and it was Audre my two heroines who, in my mind, could just as easily beat a face, speak in couplets, as they could fuck up systematic oppression. I remember them and I said to myself, No one is going to ask you if you’re gay in a nightclub if they are coming to shoot. You cannot escape the pains of the queer community through semantics and uncertainties, this is your fight because otherwise you are turning your back on an entire population that has opened their arms to you, loved you when you did not know how to love yourself, shown you the importance of self acceptance and self expression, given you the freedom to express your impulses and explore your inklings and held you in a way that only someone who has been there can hold you. I not only gave myself permission to fully grieve Orlando, but I made myself accountable to action to respond to the needs of those affected by Orlando–not just now, but always.

This year, San Diego Pride will mean something much different to me. Being in attendance will not be just dancing and drinking in lavish and colorful outfits. It will not be just a celebration of love and acceptance, I imagine it will also be very emotional. Cathartic. It will terrify me to be in a crowd knowing that at any moment someone could inflict pain on myself or others around me for reasons that will never make sense. However, there really is not an option to not go, to not participate and to slip quietly into the “safety” of supposedly “straight” clubs. The first pride was a riot; says Michael Fader,

Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back [after the Stonewall riots]. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.

And we won’t.

How to be a writer

Step 1. Live. You must live life. My favorite writers have lived fully and intentionally themselves (Liz Gilbert) or in a world of their own making (Lewis Carroll).  I, myself, will often say I am a feather in the wind.  Being blown and tossed about experiencing things I could have never even imagined. Talking to people and hearing their stories. Meeting with angels and all the hosts of heaven right here on earth, I’ve lived a life of both my own and my own making. If not for living, the words would have no weight. They would float off the pages and fall into the sea never to be heard from again.  If not for living, the words would taste like dirt on your tongue, dry and brittle.  If not for living, the words would not elicit the fragments of the human experience we continually try to capture in language. Always falling short but never for a lack of trying and never discouraging the next effort. Tomorrow we live and we try again.

Step 2. Read. Fill yourself with the syntax, the metaphors, the alliteration and prose of those writers before you.  Swirl Hemingway around in your mouth like aged scotch and swallow him whole feeling the burn all the way down.  Breathe in Morrison and her sticky southern summers fragrant as honeysuckle growing near a clay-bottom river.  Sit quietly with Dostoyevsky in your own pain entranced by how beautiful it feels to experience such sweet suffering.  Contemplate with Gladwell, fly with Rowling, hid under your sheets with King, fight valiantly with Tolkien, just be with them.  Allow them into your life and let them change you, mold you, mentor you, show you how to sit and be and leave all at the very same time.

Step 3. Take off your cool.  It is making love.  It can be done in the cover of night, with layers of dressing and safety precautions. However, the best love makers will tell you it is better nude and raw.  With no hang ups. No insecurities. No thoughts of how you look or how you are viewed. No concern with judgment, fear, doubt, or cynicism at least not in the moment.  In the moment you are in it. It is the most blissful spiritual energy exchange and you give yourself over to the moment.  And yes, the climb is slow and agonizing, the climax is bliss, and the refractory period is torture as we wait to climb again. And we always climb again.

Step 4. Write. Write when you are overjoyed. Write when you are woeful. Write when you feel as though your life is in disarray and you’ve sunken to a place you will never find your way out of. Write when you dance on top of clouds, are drunk in love, and filled with purpose. Write in the morning before the sun peaks its head over the eastern sky. Write as the vast dark cradles the moon in its arms singing lullabies with the ocean tides.  Write incessantly. Write as if it were your breath. Write as if it were your nourishment. Write for safety. Write to scare yourself. Write even when you don’t know what to write about.  Write wordlessly. Write silently. Write every single day even if its only your name. Make it say something else. Make it say your story. Write your story in every word.  Every day.

Step 5. Leave it.  And at the end of the deep hurried breaths of a mind-altering writing session you will feel a calm. It will have taken out of you what it needed and your use at that moment will be done.  Walk away.  Put a period and sign your name. Let it be the you for right that moment and be okay with the fact that tomorrow you may hate it.  I hope you don’t. I hope you understand that everything you write is a piece of you. It is proof that you have lived as you have in those moment.  It is your fossil curled in amber protected as only time and space could protect.  Let it be.  Let it be. Let it be.

Step 6. Repeat.

50 years of dreams, and Oprah and Brene

I have written three journal entries about meeting Oprah and Brene Brown Monday. What I realized was that I needed to get out of the way of the post and let it come.  The words were ready but per usual when things go awry, I could not let go.  I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to attend a taping of not one but two Lifeclass shows.  The first Brene talked about her book Daring Greatly and the 4 myths about vulnerability, and the second show she talked about shame and becoming shame resilient.

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I thought my arm looked HUGE in this photo on the top and I remember looking at the photo and saying, “Dear arm, you will not be allowed one ounce of the joy of this day.” And I posted it on every social media site I am on. When I see the photo even now, I think of the moment and then of my declaration, and I feel immensely proud of myself.

Who is Brene Brown? I suppose that is easily google-able but I can tell you who she is to me.  She is someone who put her heart into her work. She is someone who defies antiquated mindsets in “The Academy” which do not always prioritize the accessibility of research to the non-academic. She is one of my professional heroines. The thing that I can appreciate most about her is that she is relatable. I know she is a PhD but she does not lead with her degree, she leads with her heart and it is that which allows so many people to be touched and changed by her work. When I think of the kind of impact I want to make both professionally and as a person, she is someone that I can look to and say, She did it and did it well. I have shared my apprehension about being too “academic” or too “poetic” and wondering how the two could possibly exist within the living breathing dynamic creation that will be my dissertation.  What I came to understand is that if it is coming from me then it will have both because both are of and in me.  I am a poet, and I am an academic not always in equal measure, but certainly always both simultaneously, and what I can now acknowledge is that: We cannot help but to be ourselves, even if we do not wish to be.

Everyone knows Oprah, except for that one salesperson in Switzerland, and ever since I first told people that I was going to get to attend the taping I have been getting all sorts of requests of how to let her know just how much she means to people. In reality, I probably said 5 words to Oprah and none of them were life-changing, I’m sure. What I can take from the experience is this: you cannot chase Oprah.  When you look at Nate Burkus, or Dr. Phil, or Suze Orman, or even Brene Brown these are people who allowed themselves to be naked, or on fire, or whatever metaphor suits your minds eye illustration of “in it”; passionate in their own fields and surrendered in their work.  These are not people who wake up saying, how can I be a celebrity? How can I be successful? How can I get Oprah to notice me? That is chasing, and Liz Gilbert bless her beautiful soul has haunted me with the idea that the things we chase like thieves run like thieves.  So why “Chase Oprah?” I think…when I look even at myself and my own goals it is not so much that I want to meet Oprah, it is that I want to be recognized as being a passionate and dedicated educator and leader. What I believe Oprah has come to symbolize in our country and arguably in the world, is the definitive arrival at such a place. If you are meeting Oprah, as a guest in the capacity that Brene is meeting her, then Brene has “arrived”. And, don’t kill me but…Oprah is just a person. I have written before about this, but the things we feel about ourselves, the things we know about ourselves when we see her is what makes her who she is.  The thing I wish we really acknowledged is that we are JUST AS SPECIAL as she is, she just already knows it.

And while I absolutely am thrilled for Brene and her successes that have come and are sure to continue, for myself I see, there is work yet to be done.  When I got home from the taping that night I wrote thoughts of how to make small changes in my classroom as both student and teacher to be more present and apparent in my work.

dreamI am a person who believes whole-heartedly in the power of dreams, and it is no wonder that this post did not show up in me fully until today, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s I have a dream speech. I believe that dreams are blueprints for the type of world that we are capable of creating. I believe that anything that comes to me (or anyone) in a dream is not only possible but that it has come to us in particular because we have everything that it takes to bring said dream into fruition.  I believe that more often than not we get caught up in our own self doubt, shame, and then the projections that other people place on us of their insecurities.  Somehow it has become far easier to believe the awesomely negative rather than the awesomely awesome. I am a person who anticipates extraordinary.  I wait for it like I wait for the sun to set, and I am person who does not think small of tiny miracles.

When I announced the Brene/Oprah opportunity, I had many people asking how this “stuff” always happens to me.  Honestly? I wait for it to.  But not without work, faith without works is DEAD! I practice gratitude daily, all day beginning with my first morning thoughts, and I pull goodness to me with absolute intention. I foolishly believe that I am deserving of amazing things and experiences and the universe conspires on my behalf.  It is a simple and as complicated as that.  How can we dare to expect extraordinary if we cannot find the beauty, the joy, the grace in the so-called ordinary?

I think Dr. King had to have been one of those people as well, who despite all the negative that other people may have seen in his struggle was so fixed on the end goal, The Dream, that the other things did not mar his spirit.  Did he say to himself, I am in jail but Thank you God, I am not hurt, my family is safe, and my purpose is not lost? I think he must have been because he persisted. Not only that, but it did not tarnish the spirit of the movement. This summer, during the conference one of my group members said, “Sometimes I’m grateful for anger, because it makes people get honest. People get angry and they really show up.” Non-violence did not mean that people were not angry or that they numbed themselves to the human experience of feeling humiliated, angry, frustrated, worn, or deflated. But the absolute belief in this dream of equality, of being Seen, of being Heard…it refocused the energy of an entire generation.

That is where I can draw a parallel in what was happening 50 years ago and what is happening right now on Sunday mornings on OWN across the world.  There is this…space where acknowledgement for the full human experience is not only present but encouraged.  We are invited to be in community with one another as our whole selves, and what Brene’s work speaks to is the challenges we have in doing that and how we can overcome it for this dream…the same one Dr. King had, where people–all people– felt worthy enough to show up and the collective was accepting enough to say, I See You, I hear you, you exist.

It is a beautiful thing…and I see my own place in it all as well. I know that my own work in concurrent individual and systemic development has a lot to do with how people “show up” in groups. It has a lot to do with authenticity, with values, with vulnerability, with shame, with doubt, with trauma, with fear and with judgment.  At the end of the day I want my research to show that, I could not get there myself, but damn it, we got there together.

I wish this for everyone; for everyone to find something that gives them absolute peace and fire at the same time.  Something that keeps you up at night thinking, something that you want to share with your spouse, your neighbor, your children, something that makes you want to live a better life and help others to do the same.  I wish for everyone to find the thing that gives them purpose and to DO THAT THING. Take the time to find what fills you, it is absolutely worth it.  Ask yourself the hard questions, co-conspire with your imagination, indulge your wildest dreams because we are SO worthy to create a beautiful world.

Lastly, and these two I got from Brene explicitly, the first is to give yourself permission to be uncool.  It is why I had to take a step back from social media a few weeks ago, because I found myself becoming increasingly more concerned with other people’s lives, and not only that but I was beginning to define my own life by the standards set by others. My outfit was only as cute as the number of ‘double-clicks’ I received on instagram.  I had to take a pause and say wait, “Does this matter? How does this matter to your life? How does this feed you? How does this nourish others?” It didn’t. And while I did get caught up in it, I also caught myself, and really that is all I can hope for, is to stay aware enough to catch it and to reset.

Second, was that the world needs to hear what YOU have to say and in YOUR voice. Brene said this to an 8-year PhD student who had lost her voice and was deferring to the voice of her faculty members around her.  It is not easy to be yourself, and so many people don’t want you to be.  It makes other people uncomfortable when you are too honest, because it gives them guilt for all the lies they tell daily. The thing is, you cannot carry that with you. I cannot. I cannot write for my advisor or my committee. I cannot teach for the one student who loves me or the one that hates me. And I cannot build my career around trying to meet Oprah.  What I can do, is to follow my heart. I can listen to my inner voice and create a life full of intention, purpose, love, and connection.  I can do my best and forgive myself when I give any less.  That is all I can do.  I think of the quote Donald Miller said of his future wife, “I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer.  I will love you, as sure as [God] has loved me.  I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God’s own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me…” and that is what I feel in large part of my work. I will give my voice to it, in language only I have been equipped to offer but it will still remain vastly unexplored yet I will keep it in all in my heart as mine and as me.

It is a bizarre thing when you realize that even when you’re pretending to be someone or something else, you are only–at best– a very good imitation.  I do not want to live my life in costume. I do not want to exist in elaborate baroque garments of society convenience, couture fabrications and designer illusions.  I want to be one-hundred percent me at all times in all spaces. How can I expect or want someone to see me, to acknowledge me, if I am not willing to step out and be who I am?  I have to be willing. We have to be willing because I cannot do it by myself. You’re scared? I am too, but I’m ready.

I prayed this prayer to the night after, I said:

God,

Your will terrifies me. But I trust you, completely. I hear you. I’m ready. Let’s go.

Sincerely,
Jess

Because for as much as this opportunity was about Brene and her work, it was also about me and mine–and everyone else as well. We were chosen to awaken to our own potential and to be in community with one another. We were shown what is possible and because I know of the absolute connection between us all I know that if greatness is possible in one of us it is possible in all of us.  Yes, it may look different for me than it does for LeBron James, but believe me greatness is greatness.  So I said to God, lets go. I say the same to you.

The Lifeclass featuring Dr. Brene Brown will air on Oprah’s OWN on September 22nd, and September 29th, for more information check out Oprah.com. 

Everything under the sun

I have a month almost exactly before I board a flight to Jamaica. I set the goal to lose 20lbs before takeoff like a week and a half ago. I have no clue how much weight I’ve lost because I don’t own a scale nor do I desire to…but I bought a pair of jeans a size down from what I normally need. Typically, I am an 18 (in jeans)…but Old Navy recently did some funky stuff with sizing so I was actually a 20 in their jeans and in skinny jeans even that was pushing it. However I comfortably slid into an 18 on Saturday. I decided that was worth it. That and zipping up a size 16 dress. Plus all the water I’ve been drinking has curbed my appetite TREMENDOUSLY. If I only had to offer two pieces of advice I’d say drink more water and keep filling snacks! I’ve leaned on pretzel thins, fruits, almonds and the like for my between meal snack attacks.

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All that to say…I’m heading to an island that celebrates curves and I can’t wait. I read an old Fluvia Lacerda article where she talked about having 2 drawers worth of bikinis and her adamant refusal to be obsessed with what other people thought of her body. She was going to “let it all hang out under the sun without the hang-ups.” I loved that so much I made her picture my ipad desktop. Not because of her body…but because of her love of her body. Its not “not giving a Eff” its quite the opposite. Its loyalty and care to self.

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I went without makeup last weekend. Something I never, no really…never do. And I had that same feeling Fulvia described; freedom, love, and sunshine. I just wanted to feel the sun on my bare skin. That was my only thought. And I didn’t want to not be able to touch my face for fear of messing it up. I just wanted to be.

I guess I say all that to say, when I head down to Jamrock I want to leave insecurity stateside. If it feels like a day for bareskin I don’t want to think twice about the decision. I refuse to obsess about bathing suits or outfits or anything of the sort. And if you know me, you know that is not me, at all. But I just want to live. Live in the moment and soak it all in as best I can. I just want to feel all I can feel without the barriers or veils of fantasy between us.

View from high horses

Its been a week riddled with judgment. In my classes as student, in my classes as teacher, in my life outside of academics. A friend of mine asked me how, as a teacher/counselor, you stop yourself from being reactive. I said, you get comfortable with being uncomfortable…and you make peace with looking at yourself this close, and I held my hand inches from my face. I may not be perfect, but I certainly know my flaws.

Sometimes judgment takes my breath away. As in, I am literally gobsmacked and the things that come out of people’s mouths. My knee jerk is always shock, and then I ask myself why am I surprised and then I consider their context. Being who they are, is it any wonder they hold these opinions? If I had lived through their life experiences, perhaps I would feel similarly.

I think I have gotten better at not necessarily internalizing other people’s judgments. Especially their judgments of me. Probably my harshest critique is my dreamer tendencies. And yet, its something I love about myself. To me, if its the difference in an imaginative beautiful fairy tale that exists only in my heart or a crushing reality bemoaning a Jean Valjean solo…I’ll take my fairy tale.

Developmentally speaking, its quite difficult for most people to find value in others who do not “operate” according to the same rules and values as them. Admittedly, I have been one of those people especially when I was younger…I had a very opinionated moral compass. However, as I’ve gotten to know myself better I can definitely say that it alone has changed my view of the world.

Yesterday I went to a luncheon and we had to write on nametags a strength of ours. I wrote loving. When asked why I said, because I’ve noticed that people are mean or rude or judgmental when they are starving for love. So I try to remember that and always answer every call with love. And truly, that is my continual work.

So in those moments where I am seeing intolerance, judgment, whether its directed at me or not, I take a moment and send love to that person. That comes from being able to love myself, though my own mess, through my own scars, through my own flaws. Not in spite of, but because of.  My mom always reminded me of this. She always says everyone has a story. She never writes people off. Whether she would admit it or not, I can see she is all heart. I’m glad of all the things I got from her that I got her heart. Fiery, passionate, and clumsy but love nonetheless.

It is a true challenge to, when you feel triggered by someone else, think about why. Why does the idea of someone living life differently than I’ve chosen to live mine upset me? I had a reaction to a classmate once where I got angry because she placed women of color in the role of the victim. Something, upon later reflection, I realized I’m venomously averse to. I had to apologize to her for my reaction and explain to her and the class where my anger came from. It was a humbling moment for me. But significant because I took the time to figure out why. Mastin Kipp says, the truth is in the trigger. I strongly believe that. When someone else’s life choices upset you, you’re really upset at your own life. How dare they live audaciously when I did not have the ______(courage/means/access/knowledge/support/love)______ to do the same. The truth about ourselves lies in the things that elicit an emotional reaction from us. Study it. Learn from it. Love from it.

I came full circle with a friend last night after an argument we’d had months ago. He understood what we had triggered in one another and he said, you made me realize its not about right or wrong its just about validating the other person’s experience. It was such an endearing moment, but so spot on. None of us is really a foremost authority on anything, and all of us just want validation that its okay to be who we are. Some need it more than others. But we all seek it from one another. And I guess that’s good. Because it means we need one another. To be accounted for, to exist.

Ubuntu indeed. From Archbishop Desmond Tutu: a person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or dimimished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

Just like earth

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I’d been asking the question all week and weekend, “what am I missing?” “what am I not seeing?” “what is it that you are trying to teach me, God?” Over and over again I posed the questions or some variation of them only to fall on deaf ears and to wake up day after day with the same knots in my stomach and pain in my lower back. Why am I always being forced into this corner of financial strife and having to rely on absolute faith in its purest form just to get from one moment to the next, clearly I am missing something, but I was ready to learn the lesson and move on. WHAT IS IT THAT I AM MISSING I felt like I was demanding the answer now. So naturally, I pulled cards.

In the midst of my current financial mess I thought I’d get some spiritual insight and suffled until it felt like I was done. I asked two questions, the first was, “What do I need to learn?” and the card I pulled was “keeping still”. The second question I asked was “what am I missing?” And the card I pulled was the “taming power of the great.” I go to read about the 2nd card and got to the 1st line b4 I got a total chill and tears came. It says, “the taming influence here is the ability to remain aware while being “tested” by circumstance. How able are you to hold firm to your ideals and maintain your integrity in the face of challenges that threaten to break down your resolve?” I curled over and began to hug myself. I’ve been sharing with my best friends how awful I’ve been feeling. Not even the situation itself, but the cyclical nature of these issues. I am missing something! So when I read this I was shaken.

Last night I told my Person that I worry so much about trying to be responsible and this makes me look frivolous and messy. The card says, literally: once you begin to sweat the small stuff its likely that you will cling like crazy to something and have started to think that thing is part of the definition of who you are.” That was exactly it. I was so caught up in needing to be responsible. Grown up. That even when things happened beyond my control I experienced it as a blow to Self. However, the truth is I am not my checking account balance. I am not my credit score. I am not my weight, my height, my gpa, or any other number.

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Mass Elle wrote to me and said, “it’s almost silly if you think about it – *obviously* you are more than your bank account!” Isn’t it the truth? Then I read my i’ching

It said I would literally have to uproot this belief because the corruption was so engrained. Uproot…to unearth, to literally dig out from the very foundation. What an opportunity. To burrow deep within my own soil to uproot this belief that numbers define me.

And then to do as my first card suggested and keep still. Stand tall and erect like the mountains whose peaks reside in the heavens gazing out on all that surrounds us but doing so in stillness.

Listening the first time

I am horrible at that. Full disclosure, I have a hard-head and have to be told things more than once before I listen.  To my credit, as I have gotten older the number of times I have to be told has lessened to an inordinate amount to just a handful, but I am aiming to listen the first time.  That requires a level of trust that I consciously work towards, daily.

I was reading this book recommended to me by Nama called Astrology for the Soul by Jan Spiller which explores the North Nodes.  My North Node is in Gemini, and among the many very insightful things I read the one that made me laugh out loud the loudest was this:

One of the best ways Gemini North Node people can experience the integration they’re seeking is through the process of writing–a journal, books, articles, etc.–on a regular basis…Writing calms their internal restlessness, releasing the tension and anxiety in a form that brings them peace.

These folks are extremely talented writers, though they may not recognize this until much later when they look back over what they have written.  They have an ability to clarify thoughts on paper in a simple way that actually communicates far beyond the words.

Fitting, right?  I mean, honestly tell me something I didn’t know. Though it was funny to see it written on paper.  Validation is a sneaky little thing.  The next thing was this:

In this incarnation, Gemini North Node people are here to teach.  They are here to bring Truths, principles, and practical application of ethics into society…If they let go of their ideas of Truth and really listen, they will automatically tune in to the other person’s belief systen and spontaneously say–through a sincere question or a new piece of information -those words that will shift the perspective for both of them to a fresh recognition of Truth…As teachers, these folks have to divorce themselves from prejudicial viewpoints and allow the other person to think freely, without trying to guide the other to a conclusion that’s identical with their own…When they act as true teachers, these folks behave in a way that creates a win/win situation for everyone.

This was something I closed the book on.  Not literally, but it was one of those “okay okay, I’m listening,” moments.  When I was in high school my step-dad first told me, “You’re going to go to college, major in psychology and be a college professor.” To which I scoffed, at the time I wanted to be the editor of a fashion magazine–I can say that writing has been a constant for me since I was about 8 years old.  Then, when I (of course) went to college and majored in psychology I hated that he was even a little bit right. Hard head.

After college, I sought opportunities to develop my creative impulses with photography and event planning, but the attention to detail worked against my natural ability to see the big picture and I hated it.  After working at Verizon and having people yell at me all day, I figured I should be getting paid for being a damn therapist. So off I went, to be a therapist.  Got my masters and decided, well hell why stop there?  Once I got to my doctoral program, I do not remember at which event it was but Dr. Nash told me that I should really consider the full-time faculty route–to which I scoffed. I.Am.A.Practitioner. I am not an academic.  I keep saying this, but at this point I’m talking to no one because clearly…I’m in a doctoral program, I am (at least partially) an academic.

Then, of course, there is the obvious fact that I am teaching right now.  Two classes.  Then today, the sign of all signs, after just reading this book and that passage about teaching, and just having a conversation about it all with Mass Elle, my Assistant Dean comes down to my office to tell me that I was approved to teach with Dr. Nash in a Global Study course (Multicultural Counseling) in Jamaica next summer.  Need I say more? Hard head.

So at this point, I feel that I have to stop saying what I’m not going to do, because clearly God has had plans for me since the beginning.  Psalm 139.

I will say this, its amazing to me how things fall into place.  I know by now I should not be surprised or even the least bit dazzled but it is still so amazing. As I have further affirmation that “shutting up” is not in my plans, I will continue to be as open, as expressive, as gracious as ever.  And of course, never shy about the knowing and sharing from whom all blessings flow.  (According to the book, in my past life I was one of those religious gurus on a mountaintop–lol, I doubt anyone is surprised by that either)

Academic propensity and other such orange

Yesterday while I was out shopping for things to furnish my new place I got final feedback from my Adult Development class I just took. I glanced over it but was not in the right frame of mind to truly digest it. Nevertheless, I read what was written and simply thought it was curious. I continued to think on it sporadically until I got home. After I built my bookshelf, hung curtains, rearranged rugs and lamps and closets, I sat down and read it again. In particular these words seem to slice through me like a warm knife through butter:

While from a technical and academic perspective there can be little argument with your work, it seems to me that there is another level available to you that you continue to silence.

My dilemma is that if I acknowledge this work as sufficient for your true capacity then I am also rewarding your propensity to hide out. My deeper concern is that you may continue to fall prey to a persona – perhaps even a false self – that has no doubt served you well thus far but does not honor the depth of capacity that you have.

Anyone who knows me well, especially via this forum knows how poignant this is. I have not been shy in expressing my tendency to “hide out”. Its funny that in most classes, academic programs and universities, this is not a conversation to be had. I am not ignorant to the fact that I do exceptional work; however, I do not work particularly hard at it. When it was clear that my professor saw me, it felt like complete exposure and then a huge sigh of relief. “He” I thought, “is going to hold me to a higher standard.”

I think I even use this space to hide. Though it is a public forum, it always surprises me when someone from my “real life” says they read and then reference something I said. It is far more difficult to have the conversation. My professor later on mentioned academic survival methods. I believe it to be survival methods in general. To be honest, I’ve found most people…
Sidebar, in what I am about to write my Self just started talking to me…I will make that voice bold. Most people don’t really want to have real conversations. Some people do, find them. I know and feel more than I admit to openly as I’ve found doing so can be lonely. You’re eating chocolate for dinner. Being surrounded by unfulfilling people is 1/10th of the comfort of a few select people you truly connect with. Dulling your shine serves no one. There is only so long that even I can operate in such heavy space before the ease of the world is appealing. This is curious. That somehow the world of attachment, and uncertainty is more fortress than the heart. What makes this so?

About 9 or 10 months ago I shared my gifts with Terri. She immediately suggested that I find a community. Her solution for sifting through a true and befitting community for me was to ask. While I found her simple solution to be profound and wonderful, I have yet to follow her advice. However, I am feeling that perhaps now is that time.

What really happens when you throw the shutters open on yourself?

A look at where I’m standing

I went card shopping. Well, I was out this weekend with Mass Elle at Balboa and incidentally bought a ton of cards. I love mailing them out to people, because in my head everyone loves to get mail that isn’t a bill.  Not only that, it is important to me that my loved ones know I love them. So I send cards. Beautiful cards filled with beautiful words.  That’s just me.

As I picked them out, I thought of the people I wanted to send them to.  I bought one, however, and I was not sure as to who it was for, but I knew it was for someone.  Yesterday as I sat on my sofa, writing and addressing, I held this card and wondered who it was for and when I would send it.  I left it wrapped up in the plastic on the coffee table until this morning.  I woke up, and went to my google reader to catch up on life, east coast life, and read BrownBelle’s latest post.  I saw that she’d tweeted me, “I let go of the consequences of telling the truth today and it felt amazing!”  I was elated that someone else was experiencing what I found to be the key to absolute peace, and I knew the card was for her.

I read a tweet this morning, right after my blog/news reading that said, “Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” It struck me as novel because why wouldn’t we be living our beliefs? Then I thought of how dichotomous my thoughts vs. actions are: I will openly say that I do not believe in consequence yet my first inclination is to wonder how or why something came to pass.  I say that limits are imaginary and impossible is a matter of opinion, then curse weight or money for holding me back in certain ways.  Do you see the trend?  What would happen if I began to truly live my beliefs?  It is always my intention to, but old habits die hard and this new life built entirely on faith is a difficult one to lead. Well, its only difficult because every day I must let go of something old I thought was true.  This series of unlearning is all about letting go and letting be, and that is what changes our world, that and standing in our Known truth and a congruent life.

A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

A perfect depiction of Part II.  I talked to Caro last night and told her about the reading and she asked me if I believed any of it.  I told her that I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already Know.  She asked how to reconcile readings with Catholicism. I told her I was taught that readings only give you back the energy that exist at the present moment.  I still believe in divine will, but this blog is proof that the things I heard saturday are really not far off from the things I have predicted for myself.  Perhaps that is why I could recognize it as true.

So right here, right now, where I stand is in a place where I am spreading my roots in Knowing.  I meditate. I visualize. I dismiss negative thoughts, and I work to do everything from love. I constantly correct my language because it is a snapshot of my thoughts and those are projections of my energy.  I work and work and work on me and staying close to god and everything falls into place.  That is my present reality.  I believe that it will only get better, I will only become more centered and clear.  And I will live in a way to ensure that.

Paikea and a stolen love letter

A few weeks ago I went to the doctor. Nothing major, but while I was in the waiting room I was reading O magazine and saw a “What I know for sure” about body image. I quickly skimmed the article but got called back. I very quietly tore the page out of the magazine and stuck it in my bag where it stayed for weeks.
When I finally thought to pull the article out I read it, fully, and I was so happy I stole it. In it contained the following:
Sixteen years ago, when spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson was first on my show to talk about her book A Return to Love , I asked her why she thought I was having such struggles with my weight. She wrote me a letter saying this: “Until you accept the magnitude of your function, your unconscious mind will sabotage any attempt to show your full magnificence. In fact, if you diet and lose weight, your mind will either put the weight back on or trip up in some other area. In order to lose weight on a permanent basis, you want a shift in your belief about who and what you are. This is the miracle you seek.”

I read the yesterday as the stolen article is now taped to my refrigerator and I thought about it. The magnitude of my function…what does that even mean?
Tonight, I watched the movie The Whale Rider–the story about a little girl who proves herself to be a leader when no one expects her to succeed because she is a girl. As a matter of fact, she’s thought to be born a disgrace because her brother died at birth instead of her and her people began to suffer as she grew.  Her name was Paikea (pie-kay-ah) and she is the most beautifully written character ever in the history of film. Maybe I’m bias. The first time I saw this movie I cried…and I chalked it up to Pai resembling my sister. But tonight was I watched and cried again this time even harder, I found myself saying to Pai, “nothing is wrong with you…I know what it feels like to wonder what is. Nothing is wrong with you, you are enough.” It was tonight I realized how much Pai resembles me.

I can feel people, their energy, in my body.
I can see things before they happen.
I can see energy around me.
I know when something is wrong.

Admitting that. Saying it outloud with no judgment, and full acceptance that those things are all my truth–that is beginning to acknowledge the full magnitude of my function.

I have a way of talking so that people listen.

I have struggled and overcome just like the next guy, what makes me special? I’ve asked myself this question across the table in a cold, dark interrogation room. I’ve been my own skeptic.  I can’t begin to tell you all the things that I am or all the things I am not that make me unique. I can only show it by being me. Unabashedly. Like Paikea.

I’m not sure what the full magnitude of my function is but I know I will never find out by denying my gifts. I must step into them. I must own them, they are mine. I will not make excuses or pretend to believe in consequence. I will not call myself weird or a freak because of my gifts. I will be proud of that which I’ve been blessed with. There is nothing wrong with me.