I’m Angry–and I Don’t Like It

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2017 has started off with a lot of noise, largely political. I am center-left politically, and I am more distressed than I can ever remember being about an administration. So much so, that I participated in the Seattle Womxn’s March the day after the inauguration (you can see pictures at my Instagram if you like https://www.instagram.com/elkaydee66/ ). I’m not a marcher–I haven’t protested anything since 1985 when as a student at Georgetown University I protested Apartheid–another regime I felt was so far out of line everyone needed to screech at it. Yes, I did just call this current administration a regime. The way they have been acting, it’s appropriate.  The march in Seattle took place on a beautiful sunny day. The atmosphere was friendly and positive–everyone there was there to say you know what? It’s not ok to say just grab ’em by the pussy. It’s not ok to mock a disabled reporter. It’s not ok to foment racism at your rallies and to say you’ll pay legal fees should anyone of your followers choose violence against minorities. Not ok. Not ok at all.

I then participated in Seattle’s rally for immigrants and refugees to protest the ban on immigrants and refugees from 7 nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia). To me, this ban is as unAmerican and unDemocratic as we can get. No, wait. It’s not. But it is close. The tenor of this rally was not as friendly as the women’s march. People were feeling directly targeted and angry. I firmly believe in open borders and that the words on the Statue of Liberty are not just a nicety, but  doctrine.

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

This means, to me, we let everyone in. All the time. (Yes I realize that our immigration policy has since the early 1800s been wildly exclusionary towards non-whites–even more specifically non-Northern Europeans. It has always been wrong.) Does this mean that people who wish the US ill will come in? Of course it does. But first of all, people who wish us ill are here, born and bred here, in all hues of skin tone. And secondly, by welcoming those who are in need or who are seeking a better life, we are  negating the  ill rhetoric being spouted by our “enemies”.   Let me just be clear about something–nothing we as a nation can do, NOTHING, will prevent 100% of infiltrators who wish us harm. Nothing. It is simply foolhardy to believe this to be true.  Instead of spending money on futile attempts to block individuals, races, religions; spend money on better communities. Communities that care will know when something is amiss. And then, actually listen. There’s so much screaming going on by both sides that nobody is listening.

The number one killer of community and of caring is greed. What we have in our nation is an infestation, an epidemic of greed and it is running rampant through government, through business, through religion. We are governed by those who have the best interests of the highest paying special interest groups at heart, not the best interests of the nation or the people they allegedly represent. I sound angry, I sound callous, I sound cynical and I hate that I sound this way and feel this way. I resent like hell that the actions taken by both political parties have led us to a situation where an individual who represents NEITHER political party has bought his way into the highest office in the nation. A person who actively dislikes the very structure he serves in–and a person who does not value service at all. He has treated this office with contempt and as if he were not an elected official, but one with a divine right to do as he pleases without regard for anyone but himself and his friends. In my opinion, we have a gross miscarriage of democracy playing out in front of our eyes, in front of the world, and what we do now will reverberate for generations to come.

What I see, is a shocked party system. I believe that the Republicans, although bearing a large chunk of blame for this) do not really want this person in power. He holds no Republican values dear. He is crass, he is not Christian, his personal life is not consistent with Republican ideals. His fiscal history is equally checkered–he is not a good businessman. He scoffs at unions and utilizes the very undocumented workers he would toss out of the country as labor for constructing his buildings. He refuses to pay bills. The hypocrisy here is tangible. And the Republicans appear to be clinging to tradition thinking that it will all somehow come out all right. I believe they are sadly mistaken.

On the Democrat side, I see familiar disarray. I see too much hand-wringing and not enough standing up and demanding a cease-and-desist to the blatantly unconstitutional actions taken. I see lukewarm responses when political fire demand to be met with fire. I see searching for a level playing field when it is abundantly obvious that not only is there not a level playing field, there isn’t even a field. This is not a party ready to grab any reins.

What we desperately need is compassion, empathy, and strength. There is clearly a severely disenfranchised hard-right wing in the country. Why? What can we do to fix it? We cannot tolerate racism. We cannot tolerate hatred. But we can fix basic needs that are going unmet. Ironically, the ACA was doing that.  We haven’t had civil political discourse for decades. I believe it really fell apart in the 90s with Newt Gingrich and his frontal assault on everything and everyone who had in his view wronged him. It could be traced back to Watergate and the then insatiable desire the media had to break the next scandal. A big part of the media problem came in the Reagan administration when entertainment companies were allowed to purchase news outlets. Competition for ratings then led us to the bullshit of  Fox news making wild accusations with soundbites gobbled up by conservatives. There is no reason for all of the nastiness that has ensued and that came to a vicious head this last election cycle. At least I hope it did. If it gets worse, our nation will fail.

Why can we not have room for differences of opinion? Why must liberals and conservatives call each other stupid when there are disagreements? Why must we peg far to the left or right on an issue and refuse to budge? This is political toddlerism, and has no place in a truly democratic society. Saying if you don’t get all of your way, all of the time or you won’t play is just unacceptable.

I feel as though I’m beginning to rant. OK, maybe I’ve been ranting for a while. But this is important to me. I love this country. I have a lot of friends in my life that have different political views than I do and I don’t think they are stupid, or racist–I know they aren’t. I don’t understand how my nation got to this point and I’m angry. And I hate that I’m angry. I shouldn’t have to be angry.

What I want, is the middle to rise up and say enough. Enough to the far right and enough to the far left. No, you don’t get to give businesses the same rights as individuals. No, you don’t get to give a splinter socialist party the same level of seat at the table when they flat out don’t have followers. No. We take care of each other. We take care of the planet. We take care of the environment. And we make money while we do it. But we don’t let money take over and become the most important thing. And we don’t let good legislation get derailed by bullshit side issues. We do not. We rise up. We pull the best from people. We innovate. We move forward. We create. We are a nation of doers and thinkers, workers and planners. And most of all we dream and include and  do it all with great joy. That’s the America I want. No, that’s the America I demand.

Western State Cemetery

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I am not afraid of the dead. I love cemeteries, the older the better. I find them peaceful and if there are restless spirits, they likely belong to the living. A visit to an old cemetery is my idea of time well-spent.

Near where I attended high school is Ft. Steilacoom park and within that park is the cemetery for Western State, a hospital for the mentally ill. Buried in the cemetery are over 3000 patients, their graves originally marked with numbers to spare the families the ‘humiliation’ of mental illness. In high school there were dares to go to the cemetery at night–visions of deranged ghosts in teenage minds. I was never afraid. I thought the falling down, grown-over stones in the moonlight were beautiful.  I didn’t know that in the early 2000s a group called Grave Concerns Association had begun the work to match up names to the numbers and mark the graves more fully.

We have come a long way from the days that Western State was named Insane Asylum of Washington Territory (for the care of insanity and idiocy). But still, there is stigma attached to mental illness. This cemetery was utilized from 1876-1953. I was struck, as I wandered around, how many woman were buried there. That even with the matching project, many of the deceased had incomplete records, such as a date or even year of birth. I saw a couple marked with “Indian.” I wonder how many of the ‘insane’ were depressed, or anxious. Or if their insanity was being not white. First homesteader of Des Moines, WA John Moore is buried here. He had Alzheimers. There is a Civil War Veteran. I wonder if he had PTSD.

The entire time I was aware that had I been alive during that time, I would likely have been a patient there. That one of these gravestones could be mine. It renewed my commitment to be open about my struggles with depression and to continue to belligerently insist that mental illness be openly discussed. It is not shameful. It is not something to be embarrassed about or to hide. It simply is.

Please peruse the gravestones I photographed.

Mirror

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Dozens of tiny white scars surround my nose and mouth
Invisible to all but me
A larger zigzag scar
Lightning boltish
In the middle of my face
When gravity won

Deeper slashes
Thicker white lines
Mark my belly
Surgical remnants
Of life

Quarter inch white gash
Tear repair
Permanent reminder
Of balance lost
And life divider

The mirror shows me all of these
But cannot show me the
damage
of
neglect
Being ignored
Voiceless
Scars on my body tell a story

Scars on my soul mark
Where my story didn’t end.

Violated. Betrayed. Pfft. Rising.

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2017 is off to a less than stellar start. After spending several wonderful days with my sister and her extended family on the Oregon coast, I returned to work today to find that a coworker has complained that I get preferential treatment because I have a flex schedule to accommodate weekly doctors’ appointments for my chronic depression, traumatic brain injury and (latest addition) ADHD. A doctors’ note will put this to rights yet I am annoyed that a colleague would first of all have an issue and secondly then tell our HR that I “don’t really have any disability.” It’s a problem many with ‘invisible’ disabilities face, but this is the first time I’ve had it smack me in the face like this.

And then mid-morning my housemate called, upset. She did not have work today, ran out to do a couple of errands and came back to find the front door kicked in and cash and gift cards stolen. The police were called. Evidence collected. The door frame repaired thanks to a handy brother. The house was not ransacked–hinting that the burglar knew where the cash was hidden. It doesn’t really matter. The fact is, somebody felt that they had the right to break in.

It’s only the second day of the year.

And so while I could wallow in betrayal and violation–because these instances are serious occurrences– I will not. I will not allow a petty, bitter person to steal my joy. I will not allow someone bent on vengeance take my peace.  As a dear friend says “They throw rocks at things that shine.” I will not allow my shine to dull. I lift my head and I continue on my journey, more determined than ever to Rise. To Create. To Love. To Live Ferociously.

Breathe

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Rhythmic. Nearly monotonous.

Rise and fall. Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

Simple. Unthinking.

But you can not; you are not.

I want to give you my breath. I have plenty. Take it. Breathe my breath. Fill your lungs. I will do it for you, forever for you.

Breathe me in so I can breathe for you.

Rise and fall. Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

If you will not take my air, my breath

Then I want it not

If I cannot breathe for you, I don’t want to breathe for me

Cursed lungs that never cease

The breath never stops

Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

Except yours did.

 

Smudge

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Imprinted in my brain is an image. An image I have tried to recreate with crayons and pencils to no avail. I’ve seen this image in my head for years. But only recently have I actively tried to unlock it. It’s no secret–no hidden meaning. It’s me.

A red smudge is at the bottom, like a gash, with one side sharply edged, almost harshly defined. the other side fades, ungathered, uncollected.

The smudge is at the bottom of a series of containers of some sort. They are all textured and off-angle, overlapping and cattywampus with no discernible pattern. They get progressively but not exponentially larger the higher up they go. I can’t tell if there’s a lid, or a lock, or a key or any way out. I can’t move the edges of the ones I can reach. But I know I can figure out how to make this work, how to get out. There’s a trick. I know there’s a trick. If I could just focus and if I’m smart enough I can solve this puzzle.

I can imbue the smudge with my essence and make it work on getting out. Sometimes it doesn’t want to get out. Sometimes the smudge is perfectly content to lay at the bottom of this shaft and hide. Sometimes the smudge craves escape so deeply it feels like crawling out of itself. Sometimes it’s helpless. Sometimes it’s strong. But always, always, it knows there is a trick that it hasn’t yet figured out.

The textures of the containers vary. Some are smooth. Some are woven like a basket and will snag at the edges. One is bumpy, feels like braille. Several are thorny, but it is possible to grip without being impaled on the thorns if you are mindful about placement. There are sandpaper rough textures and spongey moss-like textures. Temperatures vary from chilled, to warmish but a visual inspection will not reveal temperatures.

The smudge will coalesce. It will learn. It will reason and suss out the trick. It will get out. And then I will be free.

 

You and Me and Never We: A Series of Complicated Almost Interactions

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She had known him for sixteen years.  And although everything about him was perfect for her, their timing had never been right…or even close to right.  So she enjoyed him for what he was, and continued hoping that all of his characteristics would arrive in the form of someone she could be with.
She had been quite young when they first met.  She was newly married and already pregnant and working full time in a field dominated by men.  She was, however, an expert in her field, and it was in this capacity that she met him.  She waddled into a meeting prepared to make a presentation to a roomful of guys who would be taking on a huge project overseas.  She was not at all prepared for the effect he had on her.  She could not drop the gaze of his deep blue eyes, and she found it odd that she was noticing her heart rate.  She was vaguely disconcerted that she should be having risque thoughts about a man other than her husband, even though her husband was already disappointing in many ways.  She tried to concentrate on the business at hand.  It was not uncommon for smart-ass comments to be exchanged and this was no exception.  It was sort of a rite of passage…a test to see if she was ‘one of the guys’ or if she would puddle into female offense.  She rose to the challenge and earned the laughter–and attention–of the room.  He smiled at her quick wit, and listened to her presentation, asking insightful questions.  They worked together closely over the next couple of months, and she could tell he was taken aback that he had strong feelings for her, despite her marital status.  She kept telling herself that it was just the nature of the project that had her thinking of this handsome, single man so many hours of the day and night.  The project launched, and he was off.  She continued on with her life, but continued to think of him fondly and ever so slightly inappropriately.Eight years later, they were assigned to another project together at work.  This time he was in the leading role, and she was support, having scaled back her hours significantly as a working mother.  Her marriage was now in its final stages, although she had not yet accepted that in her heart.  She walked into a meeting and there he was.  Her heart raced as it had all those years previously.  She was thrilled at the ease that they slipped into a close working relationship.  He was as smart as ever and had that same wit she remembered.  They could seamlessly switch from serious, in-depth work strategy sessions to reviewing the latest rock album they both enjoyed.  But while her personal life was crumbling, his was perking up.  He had a serious relationship, although he rarely discussed ‘the girlfriend’ with her.  Once, she met ‘the girlfriend’ and had a difficult time handling the jealousy.  How ridiculous was that?  Jealous….and he wasn’t even hers to begin with!  The easy camaraderie…the give and take…this THIS is what she had thought a marriage would be like.  How could she have this with a colleague??  But life intervened again, and she left the project due to family considerations.  And he ultimately took another project elsewhere as well.

And now 7 years after that, he had reappeared.  Only this time, she was divorced and he was married.  Happily too, from all outward appearances.  And yet again, she immediately slipped into a very familiar and close working relationship.  She could tell that both of them felt the tension, and they both knew that if they gave in, it would be the end. The end of their friendship. The end of his marriage.   So she kept her feelings to herself, worked with him, day in and day out, hearing tales of his Perfect Family Life and wishing that she could find his clone….to keep for herself.

For all these years, he had been The One that she had measured all other men against.  He had everything she wanted and needed–he was intelligent, funny in a twisted way, had an edge revealed only to his nearest and dearest, handsome and deliciously male.  And still, unavailable to her.