Why Don’t You Sleep On It?

I have written 

a thousand and one poems

About the trails

Of heartaches

Left in the wake of reckless souls

Who’ve waltzed into my life

To take what was theirs

And leave what was mine

As though pieces of me

Were belonging to them

 

The way you could

Surf along the waves

Rolling through the rivers

I’ve built tirelessly

With my tears

 

So

Many 

Words

 

Woven into beautiful 

Long, enchanting braids

The shades

Echoing of a tapestry

Written into my life

Against my will

 

Like a massive 

Colorful

Doormat

With a cheerful

Welcome

Sign

 

And suddenly now

There’s you.

And I’m at a loss

About what to say

For the one who stays

 

The one who deserves all the honor

And the praise

To be painted in elaborate colors

And illuminated by the light

 

The one who demonstrates

The ease

Of bending over backwards 

Like an Olympic gymnast 

Who’s been training for this event 

For years

 

The one who makes it feel

Like you’ve actually been 

Super easy to love 

All this time

 

The glaringly obvious 

secret 

that only he could reveal.

On the Wildly (Un)popular Subject of Racism…

If this title made you cringe and roll your eyes, I dedicate this post to you.

In recent months, I have both read and listened to the literary arsenal of Brené Brown. I have devoured every word she has said and taken it all to heart. I find what she has to offer in Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone most universally relevant in our current political climate, however, it was everything else she has written on shame and vulnerability (similarly wildly unpopular subjects) that I found most relevant to tackling the difficult subject of racism.

Perhaps, because I read (and reread) Braving the Wilderness first, I started to think critically about the political tactic of dehumanization, and face the agonizing truth that both sides are equally culpable of this. This meant, as thoroughly opposed as I was to admitting this, I was just as guilty of dehumanization as the people I dehumanized for dehumanizing others. (Did you get that?)

Point is, I started to realize that you can’t dehumanize a group because you think they are the ones who deserve it. Because both sides thinks the other one deserves it. I had to face the truth that all peoples are just humans, trying their hardest to make it in a terrifying world. And admit that we are all capable of both good and bad. The only real monsters are sociopaths, and truth is that even now, they are pretty rare.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been coming to grips with the pain and divisiveness enveloping the world. As someone in recovery, I had to address, on a national and global scale, what exactly I was capable of changing. Where is my power? How can I make things better? We have to recognize our powerlessness in order to find our power. I cannot control governments. Fixating on the news cripples me from acting. We are so consumed by the powerlessness that we forget there is anything within our power at all.

I started to realize that my journey towards bettering the world had begun when I worked on myself. I started to realize that I impact, on a daily basis, those I talk to or cross paths with. People hear my words. They see my Facebook posts. They see what I do for my community and for myself and others. They are touched by small acts of kindness. I have an impact, one person at a time. I can choose to spread love, hope, and joy; or I can choose to spread anger, pain, or divisiveness.

This is what I came up with in the journey: LOVE. It sounds of the utmost absurdity to everyone screaming at each other and ready to fight, but truth is our power is in love. I had a friend fight and abandon me on this. And when she told me every horrible thing she could possibly think of about me, and why it made me a horrible human being, I simply told her that I understood she was going through a lot and that I loved her anyway. The only response she could muster before walking out of my life was, “I love you too.”

Right now, as much as we want to take up our weapons and go at each other’s throats, the MOST disarming thing you can do to oppose your opponent, is simply to love them.

Look them in their hateful eyes and tell them you love them anyway.

When it comes to the difficult subject of racism, I have experience with both sides of the coin. I am half Mexican. To the world, I am white. You cannot look at me and tell that I am even the least bit Mexican and as a result, I have sailed through life as a white woman, without the racists having a single clue. I have benefited from white privilege and in the years since becoming aware of it, I have wrestled with what I can do about it.

This is where Brené Brown helped me find my power.

Having placed racism into the frame of shame and vulnerability, I have realized quite a bit. And I wanted to share it, specifically for the white people out there, aware or unaware of their own racism, so that it can help us tackle an issue that is most largely ours to tackle.

I, very specifically, remember what I was taught about racism in elementary school. I was taught about the painful history of racism and that we are all equal, and the the color of our skin is irrelevant. And that, my friends, was where the conversation ended. And that, my friends, is where white people would like to leave the conversation. But ah, there is so much more too it.

In recovery, we learn about the peeling away of the layers of an onion. In the beginning, it also seems as simple as getting sober. But getting sober is just the first step. There is so much more work to be done if you are to STAY sober. Truth is, getting sober is but a small step in an ongoing journey of endless work. Self-betterment is not a destination, it is a journey, that we take one-step-at-a-time…. one unlearned negative way of coping at a time.

Our level of education on racism in school was “Racism bad. Colors good. The end.” Problem is, the story ended there… for white people. People of color are finding their voices and saying, “Oh, but there is so much more.” And the large response to that has been, *plugging ears* “la la la la la I don’t want to hear you, my teacher said ______ and teacher is always right.”

The problem with how it was taught, aside from no perspectives of people of color being included in the telling, was that there is so much more to the story than this. You cannot cover it in February and leave it at that. For fuck’s sake, February is the shortest month of the freakin’ year!!!!

I started to realize, reading Brené Brown, that we are dealing with an issue of very deep shame. The only thing white people were taught is that racism is bad. Developmental psychologists are starting to realize the deeply debilitating impact that being called “good” or “bad” can have on a child. It is inextricably linked to shame. The majority of racist people are hard working people trying their best to be good people. So, if you tell them that they are taking part in something as shameful as racism, the response is uninhibited rage or flat out denial. They are hearing that everything they were taught was wrong, and they crumble under the weight of shame. But at the end of the day, all they hear is the worst thing a child can hear, “You. Are. Bad.”

I’m sure if you pose this to anyone who claims to not be racist, they’d deny it. Brown talks endlessly about people who talk to her claiming shame or vulnerability doesn’t apply to them. And again and again, she reiterates that these two things are UNIVERSAL Everyone experiences them.

I learned very early on that you do not appeal to someone who is delusional, by simply telling them their delusions are delusions. That can, in fact, make their entire reality dissolve, which can lead to a total downward spiral.

So, let’s address real quick the “Racist=bad” and “Not racist=good” dichotomy. Here’s the thing, those equations simply equal to “Not white=good” and “white=bad,” and let me explain why. There is not a white person on this planet who has not partaken in or benefited from the system of racism. There is no such thing as a non-racist white person. It doesn’t exist. There are only those who are aware of their racism, and those who are not. Those who are actively seeking a solution, and those who are not. In the current national conversation, there is only the racist/not racist binary. While I am sure, as a result of the frustration stemming from obliviousness of white people, some don’t see a problem with the second set of equations I listed, my opinion on that was back in my paragraph on dehumanization.

Let’s all try to find our power here.

Being told you’re partaking in racists things is not an attempt to say, “You’re a bad person.” Its an attempt to say, “There’s more to this story. The ones who’ve experienced it should be the ones teaching about it.”

Whenever anyone asks me about the traumatic experiences of another person, I simply reply with, “That’s not my story to tell.” I would not want someone else explaining what happened to me when I was raped. No one else knows what I went through. No one else knows how it made me feel. I get my voice and my power back, when I tell my story. It is my healing, and no one else has that right.

And for years, white people have been the ones teaching about racism. But how would a white person know?

All I know is what happened to my grandmother, the history that was passed to my dad. I know how racism affected her, because she told my dad, and he has told me. And I will keep her story alive. It not only wrecked her life, but the lives of my father, aunts and uncles, and cousins, brothers, and sisters. The trauma she went through played out in her alcoholism, which in turn affected them, and now affects me.

That is how racism or terrorism or abuse work. The impact lives on for generations. THIS is why this is still important. This is why, in 2019, slavery is just as relevant of a subject as when it happened. The impact did not end with the slaves or the slave owners. Families are still reeling from the impact.

But do I have firsthand experience of racism? No, I do not. I cannot tell this story. All I know is the impact its had on my family. All I know is what I was taught and what I’m still learning.

There is nothing, I mean NOTHING, more rage-inducing, for me, as a victim of violence than to not have my voice heard. If you want to see me turn red fast, silence me, talk over me, address me like you know my story better than I do. I can go from 0 to 100 faster than a candle flickers if you do these things. So, take that into consideration if you are a white person who denies the experiences of a person of color. The most healing thing you can do for someone is to listen. Or, as they say in the recovery world, “take the cotton out of your ears, and stick it in your mouth.”

White people, this is a call to action, a call to vulnerability. Yes, realizing you are culpable of racism is a deeply painful and shameful feeling, but it doesn’t have to be disempowering. I’ve grappled in my years since coming to understand racism, and coming to understand what I’m capable of changing in this world, how the two work together. I’m living proof that change is possible. Brené Brown has taught me to challenging my fear of vulnerability spits in the face of shame. The only way to combat the shame of realizing your racism is to get working on vulnerability.

You are vulnerable when you admit you’ve benefited from these systems. That’s a success! You are vulnerable when you listen to the stories of people of color, without the need to say something. That’s a success! You’re vulnerable when you see something racist happening, and you challenge it, despite the risk. That’s a success! You’re vulnerable every time you get a chance to say to a white friend, “listen, you said something the other day that I want to talk to you about.” Its a scary thing, especially when you’re committed to maintaining a relationship, or paralyzed by people-pleasing, to have a compassionate talk with someone about what you’ve learned about racism, but the main thing missing from the conversation on racism is compassion and empathy.

Here’s your chance to change that.

Because truth is, you’re a part of this conversation whether you want to be or not.

 

 

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When People Don’t Like You

So here’s a hard pill to swallow: not everyone has to like you. And the truth is, not everyone is going to. You can be Mother frickin’ Theresa and someone will find fault in something you say or do. They may not like your mannerisms, or the car you drive, or the way you dress. They might like you a lot until you say one little thing in particular. They might notice a habit of yours that drives them absolutely mad. They might not like your hair, or your face, or your body, or the way you talk. They might think you’re generally an okay person, but your personalities just clash. You may have too little in common, or even too much. The list could go on ad infinitum.

This can hurt. Especially for people pleasers who vie for the approval and validation of others. Or if you happen to quite like or admire the person who just doesn’t like you. Rejection is hard, no matter which way you slice it.

The secret to navigating rejection is in checking yourself and knowing yourself.

First, Checking Yourself: We always need to be considering our part in things. If you think you cannot be objective in this task, seek the guidance of mentors. You need to identify if you are being toxic, or if you have done some harm in the situation, and take steps to make that right. A lot of times in life, offenses are assumed to be on the part of the other person, when in reality, more often than not, it is a two-way street. Your responsibility lies in keeping YOUR side of the street clean. In any given situation, that is all you can do.

Next, Knowing Yourself: After you have done the first part, the second is in knowing yourself, and knowing your worth. The first part certainly helps with the second. Once you have done the right thing, you can rest in the peace of having done what you could. Honestly, that is often far more than most people do. You have taken a huge step towards integrity. Integrity is the most important characteristic a person can have. Are you the same person behind closed doors that you are on the outside? Do you make an effort in every situation to be honest, and genuine, despite fear of vulnerability or repercussions? Do you admit and apologize when you are wrong? Do you love others and offer compassion? Do you lift people up, and refrain from tearing them down?

Its important to know that no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be perfect. The important part is trying. The most important thing we can do in our lives is to continuously learn, grow, and improve. We didn’t come here to stay the same our entire lives. We didn’t come here to develop resentments and take them to our graves. Let that shit go.

Your expectations for perfection from yourself and from others is toxic.

All we can ever do is try. If you’re doing that, you’re succeeding. If you’re constantly trying to be a better human being, you are a good person. Try to understand and learn from people who don’t like you. Their disdain for you says far more about them than it does you. People do not exhibit hate, without it being built on a foundation of pain. These people hurt. And part of being a good person is offering compassion to the hurting.

It is important also to not judge these failings in others. Gossiping, laziness, emotional instability, etc. Try to avoid judging them in others, because I promise, if you do, you will find yourself doing the same exact things. Realize you have no room to judge, before you ever have a chance to become exactly what you are judging.

At the end of the day, having done all that you can, there will still be those who don’t like you, and that’s okay, because you’re okay. You are enough, whether or not anyone else has the ability to see that. And as long as you rely on others to decide who you are, you will never realize how valuable you truly are.

Dying to Wake Up The Child Within

Saturday, September 22, was the 3 year anniversary of when I was raped… most recently. Let me explain. This was not the first time. I have a long history of surviving these experiences, starting as early as the ages of 3 and 5. And this is not uncommon. Many people, especially those who started their lives as victims, are victimized again. Predators have a keen sense of who would be a good victim, and those who were victimized in their formative years know no other way of being. It has taken nearly a decade of intense therapy to unlearn the things that I was taught as a child victim.

I hear a lot of people substitute the word “survivor” in place of “victim.” In the years that you are just surviving, this is very accurate. You’re a victim when it happens, and a survivor in whatever you do afterwards to keep yourself alive, moving forward. I developed addictions, an eating disorder, and other self destructive behaviors to survive. My brain could not cope with reality. How could it? Reality was a living nightmare. Pure hell. These are the things I did to survive. To kill this thing inside of me. To get by despite it all. I thought I was doing pretty well. I didn’t realize the extent to which these experiences were destroying my life, until my behaviors came to a head. It was life or death from there. Keep doing what I was doing and let it kill me, or fight and as a result, live. My problem was, I didn’t want to live. I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which is why I nearly died numerous times. But there was some sort of secret spark in me. It was the bane of my existence, and it wanted me alive, when every other part of me wanted to die. It was my incurable hope. And thus, this blog was born, to document it. To explore it.

Today, I don’t see myself as a survivor. I am beyond that. I use the terminology, because it is what people are familiar with. Today, I am a thriver. My life, my success, my flourishing, is my big “fuck you” to everyone who hurt me. Though, today, I’m not angry or bitter. I let that go. It was too heavy. I punished myself with it long enough, believing that I was somehow punishing them by doing it. All I knew was someone had to pay. But I forgive myself for that now. I didn’t understand. I forgive most people, but contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not necessary for healing. Some things, only God can forgive. I am only human. Today, my heart hurts for that little girl, for every little girl still living and suffering. Not just those who are still being abused, but those who are now grown women, with little girls still trapped inside, reliving it daily. Punishing themselves for the acts of others.

Look, I’ve come a lot further than a lot of former victims ever do. I’ve been blessed. But I do know this: I am supposed to share my experience so that the others know it is possible to not just survive, but to thrive. To use the pain as fuel. To live your meaningful lives. These are things you CAN overcome. As a matter of fact, there’s now even a name for that: posttraumatic growth. And you can achieve it. I promise you, you can.

I don’t want to make it seem like these these things won’t affect you for the rest of your life. They never go away. They will always hurt. At times, they still haunt me. But it is possible to get to a place where they no longer control you. Where they do not shake you. Where you can observe them from a distance that will prevent you from broken by them every. single. time. You’re heart can hurt for the child within, but you will be equipped to comfort her with the compassion you never received. You. Can. Heal. And you can help others do the same. Once you find that love for yourself, you will want to share it with others. ALL of us who were victimized deserve that.

The shirt I made in treatment in 2012 for The Clothesline Project.

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My Sister and Me at a local suicide prevention race. 🙂

Hey You

Stop trying to hack my blog.

A Day Like Any Other

Something shifted today

And I could feel it

Ever so slight

Like the way you can feel fall

Approaching

In the tint of the sunlight

Or a simple breeze

When warmer days

Are still close at hand

And I can feel myself falling

Like the autumn leaves

Away from you

Into the arms of someone new

And this heart feels torn

Between the wild

Unbound spirit of a stallion

And the well-trained

Companionship

Of man’s best friend

And both have their perks

And both have adventure

And safety

And danger

The warmth of an embrace

As it keeps you steady

Or draws you in

Like inhaling the smoke

From a summer campfire

Both burning

And warming

And taking you back

The scents surrounding you

But I don’t want the summer to end

I never have

Because I’ll never get it back

You can never get it back.

But isn’t this exactly

What the trees whisper to us

In their wisdom

Each year

As they show us how to die

And be reborn

Into something new?

And I will forever be

Something new

And this cycle

Shall never cease

Ku Okoa Ana: Seven Years Sober

SEVEN years…. wow.
 
You know, I never really sought out recovery. I didn’t know I was capable of a life like this. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t capable of living like THAT anymore. Either something had to give, or I had to die. I just always assumed it’d have to be the latter. 
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I had been depressed for so long, I used to kid that my first words were, “I wish I was dead.” I also told people the most ironic job I could ever have was motivational speaker. Today, it has been seven years since my recovery began. Today, I can’t even remember what it was like to live like that. The only times I get glimpses are when I meet someone first starting their recovery journeys. And today, I have been a motivational speaker. I’ve spoken in meetings, and gone back to my treatment center and spoken there. That could be a legitimate career path for me.
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I would say I stumbled into this life, but the truth is it was chosen for me, and I was led into it. I’m so grateful that, at a point when I was so blind, I was still able to follow God down the path to what I had been meant for all along. My heart breaks for those who never answer the invitation. It wasn’t easy, but it was simple. I’ve been given directions, and I’ve followed them. Not perfectly or right away, but nonetheless, I’ve followed them. Those I’ve accepted guidance from have yet to steer me wrong. 
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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

My story now is one of endless gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion, not only for others, but for myself. I am able to see how our choices and actions have a history behind them. They aren’t random or meaningless, they tell our story. How people love me or hate me; embrace me or reject me; speak to me or silence me; says so much more about them than it does me. I don’t always make the right choice, but I am far more swift to clear up the wreckage, if ever I leave any in my wake.
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Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Spiritual growth is never painless, but my God is it mighty, mighty rewarding. Some days, I revel from my view from here, wishing others could see it. Most never will. Most people go to their graves harboring bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. There are things they never said, or things they wish they hadn’t, and they die with that hidden in their hearts. There’s a list of things they always wanted to do, but never did. I don’t have to hold on to any of that anymore. I am perfecting the art of letting things come and letting things go, riding waves, and conquering my bucket list. I am free.
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At the end of July 2011, I got a glimpse into hell. I died and was reborn. I was caught in a tug of war between satan and God, and I witnessed it all unfold. I was unconscious, but the moment I came back to myself August 1, 2011, I realized a great truth about our existence. When I woke, I wrote these words, “Dearest father, from the depths of my soul, I yearn to know that those days have ended; that each gift you so graciously present me with from here on out will be welcomed with an unmatched gratitude.” I ended it with, “Allow me to use the gifts you have granted me to share your endless love, hope, and acceptance to all in this dark world who feel forgotten and forsaken.” I gave my very story away to be written by a different author. And this is the story he has written since.
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