"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

I sometimes watch people swim from my balcony. I swim, too. I swim when my work week ends. I swim to process all the stories I listen to. I file them away with each lap so that when I emerge I can live my own story.

One woman I watch swims to alleviate her sciatica. She's told me that. One man swims with a friend, every day at 9:15AM. Some swim to play, some to romance a lover, some to escape, others to exercise. They all have a story I know nothing about.

A terrorist attack in Paris has made me aware of other people's stories. People whom I would never have met. People who in their death we know better than in life. The American who died in Paris was a Hispanic woman. She was in Paris studying design. What was her story? How hard must she have struggled to get there?

Whether we are grieving those gunned down by a white, American young man or a Muslim, Syrian; love is what always shines brightest in the aftermath.  But love is not enough. The Facebook temporary profile change. The hashtags of prayers and thoughts. Nice gestures, yes, but just not good enough.

We have to do more than tweet our pain and disapproval.

We must say "No." Loudly, and with our ballots.

No to Politicians [and their supporters] who flaunt their rhetoric of isolationism, sexism, and bigotry as patriotism.

No to the lack of a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. 

No to the Anti-Semitism we passively permit, in our lives and our politics.

No to political correctness policing out of fear rather than empathy.

No to police brutality and lack of accountability.

No to the legislating sexuality and my sex life.

Just. No.

We can fight, we have to, but we must respond in French. A response of more freedoms, equality, and humanity, granted to each other and ourselves, not less. This is the story I want to be a part of.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fighting for Love

Every so often all couples will spin the big wheel. We'll either have that fight about spending money... or the ongoing trial of toilet paper replacement responsibility...how one of us really wants to relocate, or still struggles to see the importance of text notifications when they are late.

Those are our big ones. The topics that bring us to anger. The peace accord never obeyed because a resolution is neither final nor fair.

Money was the latest spin, after the covert smuggling of shopping bags into the home (I) ,and the subsequent silent treatment that read "chocolate is not "essential?!!" (He)

"Says who?"
"It wasn't on the list"
"Don't micromanage me."
"I'm not, I'm managing our budget!!"
"I know what the budget is!"
"You do?"
"Oh, give me a break. Are you seriously...." and so it goes.

We figure it out. We kiss and make up quickly. We rehash it a week later and expect our Therapist to Referee. It's all very benign and functional, yet ever so predictable.

When I think about what basic BS can bring on a fight it does sometimes make me think of the alternative. Of not knowing. Of having to figure all this stuff out with another person.

The temptation of new and easy appeals to all of us, be it in phone, job, or lover. The illusion is in the expectation. The insistence on a laundry list of qualifications now expected in a partner.

On-Line dating has made us very specific about what we require and reject in others. The reality, however, is that we would never meet, much less rub our bodies against anyone, if their transgressions were read before us.

Before you swipe right, I am required to inform you of the following: I have an Asian Massage Fetish, I struggle with sharing my food, I never remember to buy milk, I smoke too much weed, I don't like kids, and I still resent my sister, which makes the Holidays an absolute nightmare for everyone involved.

Clearly not the way to keep our species alive.

What we are losing is the stuff you find between the darkness: The way porn awakens a passion in you. The cute way he guards his food like a 3rd grader. The practical jokes you get to play on her when she opens the fridge in the morning. The graceful struggle of trying to become a healthier person. The heart opening pain of acceptance. The inside jokes about each other's families that sustain you over dry turkey, year after year.

It is a street fight. I won't ever tell you otherwise. Yet to love and be loved is what we do. What choice do we have? Too many cold nights out in the wilderness demand heat.


Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far
we are learning to make fire
                                         by Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Rude!

Manners are a lost art- said someone, annoyed

We live where people vacation. One accepts that as part of making a life in South Florida. I am very grateful for the ocean and warm weather most days but complaints about Florida are well documented and my latest gripe involves the migration of French Canadians.

In the winter we expect it. The aging population of our neighbors to the north have long enjoyed their golden years on our shores, but in July it came as entirely unexpected. Our peaceful building was overrun recently and children screaming in French is not nearly as charming as one might think.

My man and I huff and puff as we peer over our balcony at the swimming pool they have colonized. "It's 8:00pm - go inside!! They've been here for a month- aren't they bored by now?! Why aren't they at Disney World already?!!

It is not their presence that bothers me as much as their manners, or lack thereof. Basic parenting and self-awareness seem lost on them--your children screaming, in a community without any other children, is going to be a problem. How is that not obvious?

Anyway, hopefully whatever public holiday which extends for four weeks in Quebec will come to an end and I can have my 9:00am swim back soon.

The problems of privilege, indeed.

This trivial inconvenience did get me thinking about manners though. On a macro level. On a Trump size level.

Why is he ahead in some polls? Is he qualified to be the leader of the United States? I would say no, emphatically, based on resume alone. But he is ahead and people who support him remark at how much they appreciate his "tell it like it is" attitude. Many say the same of Chris Christie, also running for the 2016 Republican ticket.

So what is it about loud, brash, insulting men- because that would never work for women, except on Fox News and only if they look like Pageant Queens- that some people respond so well to?

It could be the Twitter and Facebook driven culture that allows us all to opine in isolation. Every vile thought can be validated and debated but getting the last word in is really the only goal of any of it, solutions be damned. Donald Trump calling people weak, stupid, or pathetic may mirror the snarky bitch in your head but that doesn't mean he (or you) are right.

It could be a reaction to Politically Correct culture that exists more so now than ever. A whiff of offense ignites reactive Tweeting which has caused many Comedians to opt out of their College Tours, and other engagements, because of the sterile parameters they are forced to abide by.

Having consideration for others, however, is not the same as being easily offended.

Emily Post, the Grande Dame of etiquette, and who's grandchildren continue to promote her work today, was quoted as saying “Good manners reflect something from inside- an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.” She is also credited with this: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Please, take that into consideration: on Twitter, in the voting booth, and especially at the pool.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To Be or Not To Be...a Mother

They've left. Returned safely home to their mother and father, who are my younger sister and brother-in-law. The last three hours of their visit I always yearn for their absence, the next three days I mourn it.

We are knackered. Our home a mess. There is Nutella in my carpet, chlorine in my hair, and four loads of laundry to do.

To be an Aunt to these two gorgeous, smart, funny, and adorably challenging children is a huge part of my life, a source of so much joy.

They stay with us for a few days every couple of months, usually when they are on school holidays and in conjunction with time at my mum and dad's. An arrangement that has provided free child care to their parents, quality time for my parents, and a gut check for us, non-parents.

Those two little people monopolize our television, Wi-Fi, meals, and sleep. Yet I cherish their cuddles, giggles, insights, and sleep. All Joy and No Fun , as Jennifer Senior wrote about on the subject of  Modern Parenting, attributed from the sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer, ."..describing today’s children as “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”"

In the exhaustion that precedes my niece and nephew's absence I resolve to make my uncomplicated life even better and bigger. In the emotional tailspin that follows, however, I can quantify the void that is left, analyzing everything from my relationship, to my caloric intake.

I look at my sister and her husband and see the demands of being really good parents etched onto their faces. The sacrifices made every day, preventing their own individual talents and dreams from being the focus. I admire and worry about them, the way both can be felt about people who reflect our ambivalence back at us.

My man and I are child free; by choice until a year ago, by fate, biology, unknown, et al., since.

While I yearn for the experience of motherhood I also question my ability to commit to a child's needs every day. I doubt the fragile state of my own mental health- fatigue, stress, noise--- all too real triggers for darkness and despair to apply for openings inside my head.

As we have endured 12 cycles of disappointment, we now must enter into the whose fault is it (?) phase and the Doctor's appointments required. I'm not able to comprehend the science experiment that my uterus could become nor the implications of a child-free life just yet, though.

All I can do is write. I don't know what I think until I write about it. Even then, it's murky, but that might be the Mimosas I just had at a very relaxing, child-free brunch.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Wins

What a week for Progressives. The Supreme Court made their decision on the side of justice, equality and kindness. The world seems like a better place.

Also in the news: Islamic Jihadists conducted attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait and nine peaceful souls were lain to rest near a church in South Carolina.

We couldn't even have a minute to celebrate, unburdened by the reality of  hate.

Why is the good and bad always a trade off?

The yin and yang of life makes me wonder just how much is the law of the universe- the rough with the smooth- the balance of nature. And how much is us, struggling with change, clinging to what we know with a vice-like grip?

Change makes people scared. People can be scary. People live in piles of garbage, or hurt their own children, just to avoid change and stunt their own growth.

I've written before about the need to be right, and that arrogance certainly smacks of religious zealots of every denomination. But the sad and pathological acts of individuals, the hate rhetoric spewed by Republicans and Gun Rights advocates, that's not arrogance as much as delusional fear.

The killer in South Carolina, Dylann Root, was quoted as saying to his victims "You (Black People) are taking over this country." Clearly that opinion was not formulated with data. That was a point of view shaped by his community and family, by the common interest groups he aligned himself with, who portray the world through the lens of blame and paranoia.

Is it getting better? In so many ways it is.

Check this out, care of the Astrologer Rob Brezsny:

Big dairy company refuses milk from farmers who mistreat animals.

New Green Overpass Will Let Wildlife Cross 6 Lanes of Highway

Houston Nearly Halves Homeless Population In 4 Years

Or do you feel the same? Just turn on the TV or drive through Harrison, Arkansas with a rainbow flag and Hillary 2016 bumper stickers on your car. 

It's a blessing and a curse, this life of ours. As so many voices said today: "Love Wins"-- I just wish it didn't have to come at such a high cost to our humanity.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

African American

When my sister applied to college in 1996, I cajoled her into an experiment: choose one application, keep every detail exactly the same, but one - check the box for 'African American'.

She never stated that she was black, just African American, which she, well we, both are. We were born in Lusaka, Zambia and moved to America as children.

My sister was actually accepted to a great school, but my parents, aware of our stunt, made her refuse their myriad offers (scholarships, housing, clubs) so she went to the same average, commuter school as I did.

I wasn't trying to make a point about Equal Opportunity back then, just the limitations of political correctness. Especially in the mid to late 1990's when we, as a people, were struggling to accept Madonna much less Obama.

Almost 20 years since, the system is still flawed. Some areas of the country have achieved huge gains; a child born (in a major city) in the 90's probably sees race in a different way than I do, albeit through a screen. Yet my sister could apply for Grad School today and still receive far more benefits as an "African American" than if she applied the same semantics to a job application.

While some areas of society bend and shape shift to accommodate minorities, mostly in education; from gifted programs with a different "under served population" criteria, to colleges, desperate to meet their diversity targets. The world around us, however, still sees a black man as a suspect, a mixed race president as foreign, and a white lady with a passport stamped from Africa as a "Missionary or something?"

African American in title alone, I will never understand the experience of driving or job seeking while Black. I won't even pretend like I do. But I do know that opportunity and equality are not found in polite language alone.

I am African American: I moved to America from Africa when I was five. Trayvon Martin was from Florida. Eric Garner was from New York. Tamir Rice was from Ohio.

It's time we stop using African American as a polite salve we place over an American wound that has yet to heal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Even Therapists Get the Blues

Depression is a predator, patiently stalking for the right conditions to strike: stress, fatigue, loss. Somehow it always knows.

Ruby Wax understands. She is an American who has made her success in Britain as a Comedian and Writer. Like many funny people, the laughter comes from a dark place which she recently wrote about:

...Some part of your brain is trying, as it always does, to find a reason. For other illnesses when you feel sick there's an explanation - you might say to yourself, "Of course I feel terrible I have an infection, a virus, cancer" (pick one). With dementia at least you might be the last to know that something is wrong, but with depression you're completely aware and cognisant that you're gone and what's left of you is on auto pilot that tries to steer you into the bathroom and find food and that's about it.

I'm a Mental Health Professional. I know the patterns, chemistry and treatments, yet it still catches me off guard. Depression doesn't care about a wall of certificates and diplomas.

Sometimes I sit across from clients and want so much to say "Me TOO!" Of course I don't. I'll never say how much I understand but I do know it gets better and how to make that happen. I just don't always follow my own advice. When I feel this way I resist the same insight I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, volunteering, support. I try to deny, numb, or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.

While our own experience does make us more relatable to others, if we insist upon shared experience (as a condition for accepting support) we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered.

A professional doesn't have to experience something to know about it-- many male doctors have delivered babies-- but we all have our version of struggle, even those who help and heal.

Get help: