This is the first time I have written in my blog in quite a while. It seems that over the past few years, I have been learning how to live and how to implement everything I have learned from time in treatment. I was so focused on learning how to live, that I made little time for writing.
As I am writing this, a pandemic is spreading across the world. It is taking even medically advanced countries to their knees. Many are in fear and desperation. In some countries, dead bodies are piling up faster than they can be buried.
A little about me, I have a lot of both mental and physical health diagnoses. I have asthma, and a chronic version of the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus responsible for mononucleosis), which leaves me immunocompromised. I have learned that last bit just this year, when the illness left me sick twice, after training for big races. I am a runner. I lost 115 pounds in 2016, and started running after. I started small and have since run 4 half marathons (13.1 miles) and 1 ultramarathon (50k-31 miles). I learned over the past year that running these distances was a trigger for the illness, and had to make the decision to stop. Although my distances now top out at 6 miles, I do continue to run, despite the illness. And I am doing everything I can not to allow the illness to take running from me entirely. I do a lot daily to ensure that my body is in peak physical health, including a wealth of supplements, drinking both 67 oz of water and including electrolytes, and getting all of my fruits and veggies and also whole grains, as well as meditating to reduce stress. I do all I can so as to best equip my body to fight something that periodically attacks my system for no particular reason.
This new pandemic is especially tough on the elderly and the immunocompromised, or those with underlying heart and lung conditions. I am all of these, except elderly. I started paying attention to what was going on with the virus when it first began, and I have followed the developments closely, until the virus arrived at our doorstep. We, the United States, are amongst the last to be inundated with this horrible virus. And unfortunately, our government and our health care system are ill-equipped to deal with any of it. Our people are, regrettably, also obstinate and definitely not the brightest crayons in the box.
I started warning people early on, and no one listened. I was laughed at and ridiculed, called negative and alarmist. But I knew I was right, and it wouldn’t take long for them to know that. I also knew they would learn most tragically.
Right now, the population is split between people heeding the warning, and those ignoring it. We are all waiting to get sick, basically. Some won’t believe it until we do.
I made my regular Friday trip to my favorite grocery store, and the scene was insane. I’d never seen anything like it. By the time I was done, I was certain that while I had not been exposed to the virus prior to that trip, I most certainly had in the grocery store. I cried for my 45 minute trip home, thinking I was probably about to start the last of only two healthy weeks I had left in my life. Even now, the thought brings me to tears. I thought a lot of things. “How do I want to spend it?” “How do I make the most of it?” “Do I loaf around and eat whatever I want? Or work hard to equip my body for this fight?” “I want to make sure I run as much as I can.” “I want to find the beauty in all I can. All the little things we take for granted everyday.”
But of all the things that crossed my mind, one stood out the most. “I wish I had written more” The thoughts that followed were, “I still have so much I want to say. I have to say everything I can while I still have time. I have to write.”
That last realization struck me the hardest. Of all the time I wasted, when I could’ve been telling my story, and all that I’ve learned. What if I don’t have enough time now to say everything I want to say? I told my sister that if I do survive this virus, that moment will be my greatest gift. I had not even realized that was how I felt until I truly believed my life was about to end.
So, that is why I am here. I am starting now. I made a daily schedule for quarantine, and this is a part of it. Thank you for joining the journey.
Don’t give up on me
While I am busy
giving up on myself
When I see myself in the mirror
And can’t recognize
Who I am
Through the tears
When the days
Are far too heavy
To give my lungs
And the nights
Are an open-ended silence
That, in the shadows,
Will swallow you whole
When I am planning my escape
When I am left hoping
In the darkness
That maybe, just maybe,
God will flood me in his mercy
Take me home
It is warm there
And full of light
Colors we cannot fathom
With the echoes
Of angel voices
In a lullaby
But do not give up on me
Though my mind and soul
Are already there, in that place
For my body is still here
For as long as it is given
And I need someone to believe
That I can muster up this journey
When I cannot, for myself
I haven’t much time to write tonight. I must go to bed early. Tomorrow I am running 18 miles for the first time ever and since I’m not on Facebook, I’m requesting prayers here. After this, only two more long runs (20 milers) until race day, which will be 31 miles/50k. My last long one was 2 weeks ago and that was 15. So, tomorrow is only a 5k more. No biggie, right?! Heh heh heh
Please and thank you. Goodnight.
You thought I forgot, didn’t you?
I didn’t. Here is what I wrote today:
I have moments when
I can imagine myself
Laughing over morning coffee
About the little
Jabs we poke
Back and forth
The way we do
And I can’t imagine what it is
You see in me
Or I see in you
That makes this stupid
Little thing we have
The way it does
All I can guess
It may be best
To just not
Ask any questions
Or search for any answers
And to simply
Let it be
The lovely little
Thing that it is busy
I have unplugged from Facebook for Lent. Being someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder, using food as a means for fasting is never a wise choice. Because, you might not know this about people with eating disorders, but we can nail the depriving ourselves thing really really well. Too well. That’s not helpful, nor is it spiritual and pardon my French, but it sure as hell defeats the purpose. That is straight up (but figuratively) feeding the devil that lives within us. We can out not eat anyone. Huh?
Anyway, I notice a few things immediately when I put Facebook down:
- I look at my phone less. Well, first it starts with staring at my phone, but finding nothing useful to do with it. Then I start getting caught up on current events (the ones that I can stomach), but that gets old quick. And, eventually, I’m not picking it up as much anymore, because I’m not nearly as attached to it.
- Facebook has given me a need for validation that did not previously exist before. Well, I think we all need validation on some level, but Facebook feeds our validation need, until it becomes a monster. Think circa 1980’s musical Little Shop of Horrors. The need for validation gets all “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!” And so we do, because its like… right there, so we can. There’s no real reason for it aside from convenience. We were fine without it before. I mean, those of us who lived without it. Y’all are on your own who grew up with it. That shit is wired in you. Good luck and God speed to you, my friends.
- There is a lot of writing in my brain that gets wasted in one liners on Facebook posts. I could be elaborating on that stuff, and writing books, and making bank. But instead I’m all witty and hilarious in two lines on Tuesday that will quickly be forgotten until the same date rolls around next year and I repost being all, “hey, y’all, I was funny once. Look! See?” And at that point no one cares anymore.
- All that time I save. Seriously. Facebook is a time suck. You are flushing a lifetime down the drain. Stop that shit. Life is precious and short. Go live!
- Unplugging from Facebook makes me want to unplug from TV too. Eventually I realize that, while some TV is useful for relaxing, it can be as much of an addiction as picking up our stupid little phones. I have the urge to turn it off more, and go do the valuable things Facebook was keeping me from too. Like writing.
So, here I am. Writing. I am also going to try to write daily. I was going to do that privately, because not all of my thoughts need to be published, but then I decided to do it here, for accountability.
Down to the main reason I take part in Lent. We all have those things. Those things we turn to that are unhealthy for us. For many of us, Facebook is one. Think about the things you’d like to get back to. Knitting, meditating, reading, biking, running, crafting, writing, reading, praying, volunteering, playing with the kids, singing, music, painting. Whatever it is, we all have valuable things we could be doing with our time other than checking out mentally and arguing with strangers on Facebook. Things that feed our souls and feed the good in this world. Heck, maybe something that literally feeds the needy. That is why I choose to give up something in my life that has been robbing me of my living. Something that has become a crutch.
It doesn’t really matter what it is, what matters is the way we use our time doing something more valuable. THAT is what gets us closer to God. That is living. I cannot think of a better way to challenge the things that steal our joy, and to learn what rewards we will discover waiting on the other side. It is indeed the epitome of spiritual nourishing.
I have written
a thousand and one poems
About the trails
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
Woven into beautiful
Long, enchanting braids
Echoing of a tapestry
Written into my life
Against my will
Like a massive
With a cheerful
And suddenly now
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
Of bending over backwards
Like an Olympic gymnast
Who’s been training for this event
The one who makes it feel
Like you’ve actually been
Super easy to love
All this time
The glaringly obvious
that only he could reveal.
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.