Life of Trees

Life of Trees

we talk about putting roots down deep, branching out. our arms, our hair, our feet, our legs – we are tree trunks, we are tree branches, we are tree limbs. some of us have root systems that are intertwined, we are extroverts. Some of us are introverts, islands, distantly reaching for one another, but not actually touching. We are swamp trees, grabbing onto each other, just to be able to stand up. We are shelter for one another. We are shelter for others. We are sustenance. We are light suckers. We are air givers.

we are dying. We are living. We are aging. We are ubiquitous.

we burn.

we are aspens, willows, Oaks, birches, Pinetree’s, giant sequoias.

we are flexible and inflexible. We bend and we break. We blow in the breeze. We drop our leaves. We change colors.

What the fuck am I even talking about? You can’t tell me you haven’t heard at least a few of these things. Did you get a bingo yet?

we are not trees. We kill trees. We abuse trees. We use them up. We don’t replant. we burn them down. we don’t value them the way they ought to be valued.

perhaps we are trees.

I see a stick on my driveway. I imagine it is a wand, I am a wizard. I can wield power. But my power is not in magic, it is in words. my tongue is magic.

how easy it is to break someone with words and to be broken. And like the tree, the dead branch cannot be grafted. once broken, there is no remedy. It is done. It is finished. It is kindling. But kindling has its uses.

we are piles of dead branches, waiting to be put to use, waiting to be a source of warmth, and perhaps also waiting to be warmed, waiting to be together, made into more than we are on our own.

We are campfires waiting to happen, bonfires waiting.

We used to be trees.

Now we are dead things.

But seeds die before they grow again.

We can grow again.

We will grow again.

We will die again.

What is meaningful in my life today?

What is meaningful in my life today? Literally today, not figuratively “today” as in “at present” or “lately.”

I haven’t posted a blog in several months. That’s okay, of course. But as I’m sitting at my laptop, it’s my day off, and I have actually signed in to my WordPress dashboard, well, it seems like a good time for a check-in.

What is meaningful in my life today?

It’s probably an easy and not so easy question to answer. My knee-jerk, easy response would be, “nothing, probably.” Because so far today, I’ve answered some work e-mails (yeah, on my day off), I’ve unpacked a couple more boxes, I’ve had breakfast, I’ve washed my face, I’ve brushed and flossed my teeth, I’ve taken my medication, I’ve played silly games on my phone, I’ve read a few Facebook status updates and a blog post.

Those things don’t seem meaningful on the surface or at first thought (or glance).

But the easy answer is also a cheap answer. I deserve better than that from myself.

The not so easy answer is that all those mundane things have contextual significance. It isn’t easy to do those things when I’m struggling with Depression and disordered eating. It’s no small task to get out of bed and be productive. Eating breakfast is an accomplishment. Taking my meds and taking them at the scheduled time is an accomplishment. What some might consider basic hygiene (which is a privileged viewpoint) is an accomplishment. It’s meaningful that I choose to get out of bed and take action to live life today, however life looks today. It’s meaningful that washing my face always reminds me of my sister, Myshelle, because that’s one of the last things we did together. Washing my face today also reminds me of Mama Mary, because I have some of her things, including still-packaged face-washing sponges, in my bathroom.Face Mask

It’s meaningful to eat breakfast because I’m hungry, when ED might tell me otherwise. It’s meaningful to do simple things that I enjoy and in moderate doses, like play silly games on my phone; giving myself permission to do them, to enjoy them, and to keep them to a fairly small portion of the morning — these are ways that I take care of myself. It’s meaningful to check Facebook, again in moderation, to have some social connection to friends and family and to read blogs and articles that encourage and challenge me. It’s meaningful to unpack a few more boxes and tidy up so that this time in Madera starts to feel less surreal and bizarre and more like home for now. It’s meaningful that I haven’t put myself into an existential crisis today just by checking in and asking what’s meaningful, honestly.

There’s meaning today among the mundane, and I’m thankful for this time spent checking in with myself in a meaningful way.

What’s meaningful in your day? What are your easy and not so easy answers?

Benediction and Invocation

I’ve spent days trying to find the words. I forgot again that it’s up to me to choose them. I forgot that they don’t need to be perfect. I forgot that the words don’t need to be lyrical to be valid. I forgot that there are no perfect words. Perfection would be terrible anyway.

On this birthday eve, I choose to christen the year to come with these words.

There is grace and self-compassion for the roads taken and the roads not taken. For the bankruptcy that will take another two plus years to pay. For the abortion more than seven years past. For broken friendships. For the yet-to-be spoken. For all that I’m holding onto and all that I’ve let go of.

For what has come before, a benediction: it is what it is. There is grace.

As life beats on into another year, an invocation: May I be more and more who I am and less and less who I’m not. May I continue to learn. May I continue to realize wellness. May I lean in to the hard places. May I be resilient. May I be mindful. May this year be rich with meaning, whimsy, and adventure. May I set and enforce healthy boundaries. May grace and compassion abound. 

Faces of 34

Grief is a tricksy little hobbit

Alright, you got me. Grief isn’t a hobbit at all. But it’s like a hobbit’s hunger, sometimes, insatiable. It keeps coming back, second breakfast, elevenses, all day long. Grief does not run according to schedule, though that’s what our society would prefer. Grief does not run its course. Grief is perpetual. Grief may shift, may cycle through stages, may lodge in multiple stages all at once. But grief is not a track and field event.

Grief, like the hungry hobbit, returns again and again, because our loss is continual. When we lose a loved one, we do not lose only a loved one. We lose all the potential futures with that loved one. We lose all the choose your own adventures with that loved one. We lose all moments-to-come with that loved one. And again and again, the grief is hammered into our hearts with the reminders of absence. The absence is its own gnawing hunger.

Grief transmutes from one hunger to another, from one heaviness to another, from ubiquitous, all-encompassing to, oh, I forgot for a moment about my grief and now it is back and, oh, the searing loss of its return.

Grief has its own poignancy, aka distress, aka sorrow. Time does not mitigate grief. But perhaps time transmutes grief, like a wizard with a gift for alchemy, or like the pressure of the earth on minerals, turning carbon into diamonds, turning ashes and dust into hardness of the soul or to beauty or to surfaces that reflect a deeper, more faceted being than what we once believed we were.

Grief sneaks up in moments, a laugh heard from a distance, a song lyric, a meal, a photograph, a name, an inside joke. Grief is a tricksy little hobbit, stealing not the one ring, of course, but mindfulness. Grief sucks us into its vacuum of memory, of longing, stealing the present, steeling us to the present.

And grief moves us along, grief has its own energy, its own wherewithal. Grief is warranted. We have suffered a loss and we continue to suffer. We continue on, alive to grieve and alive to grief and alive through grief. We carry on, wayward sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends, loved ones. Grief is no three-act movie with a catharsis or a moral of the story. Grief is the story. Grief is the catharsis. Grief is the moral.

Holidays remind me of my grief, and so I decided to honor my grief by allowing these words to bubble up. They are probably messy and imperfect. And I honor that, too.

Remind Me of My Melody

Sometimes…

I feel like

no one knows me.

I can’t find the words

to explain who I am.

I retreat

to the safety and comfort

of being alone

rather than taking

the risk to trust someone

to be there for me.

Yet I long to be deeply known,

down to the core of all

my contradictions and

imperfections,

my bitterness and fear,

joy and sorrow,

hope and grief.

My soul cries out in the wilderness,

is anybody out there?

Can anybody hear me?

Do you know this song?

Will you sing it with me?

And when I forget it again,

will you remind me of my melody?

Depression — How Can I Help? Hint: Educate yourself.

Disclaimers: This is coming from a person who has experienced depression for more than half her life and still encounters it regularly. I’m not a therapist, though some have said perhaps I should be. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t have enough money to go to school to become one.

That being said, I’m stunned sometimes that, even with the Internet in our pockets, some people seem at a loss to know how to help a loved one, acquaintance, or even a stranger who is experiencing depression. So, a few simple tips.

Step 1: Actually care. Don’t just pay lip service to caring. Show up. Communicate. Be available. Listen. Reach out. Build a support system for the person experiencing depression. Find resources that can help. How do you do that? I suggest the…Internet. *GASP* I know, right?

Step 2: Educate yourself. Admit what you don’t know, then do something about it. There’s no legitimate excuse for failing to educate yourself. There’s a wealth of useful, informative, worthwhile information on depression, what it is and isn’t, how it feels to some people, how it varies from person to person, and “HOW NOT TO TALK TO SOMEONE WHO IS DEPRESSED.” I swear if you Google that exact phrase, you’ll find some helpful articles.

Step 3: Pay attention to how you use language.

  • Use person-centered language. Don’t refer to a person as their diagnosis. There’s a difference between “depressed friend” and “friend who experiences depression.”
  • Try to avoid adversarial language. Use “experiences” rather than “battles.” Use “encounters” rather than “fights.” Use “will overcome,” “will triumph,” “is surviving,” “is living with.” It matters how we speak of and relate to depression and people who are in the midst of depression.

Step 4: Keep well-meaning, empty platitudes to yourself. Do not, I repeat do not offer platitudes. Under no circumstance should you say “I’ll pray for you” UNLESS THE PERSON HAS ASKED YOU TO PRAY FOR THEM. Do not imply that depression is a mood that someone can “snap out of.” It is not. Confused? Go back to step 2 and educate yourself some more.

Step 5: Don’t say that you understand. It will sound fake or insincere, 99.9% of the time. You don’t and you can’t, because no two experiences of depression are the same. The same person experiencing depression at different times in life doesn’t have the same experience each time. Say “I don’t understand.” Say, “I’m working to understand,” or “I want to listen.”

Step 6: Figure out ways to help, keeping in mind what you know of the person experiencing depression. Don’t ask the person experiencing depression how you can help them UNLESS THEY SAY “DO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU COULD HELP ME?” Maybe they need help doing chores, help getting to appointments, help with accountability, a regular phone call, a meal…figure it out. For help figuring out ways to help, yes, I said it, see steps 2 and 9.

Step 7: Follow through. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say you want to help, help. If you say you want to listen, listen.

Step 8: Don’t say you’re going to be there unless you mean it. Don’t offer help that you can’t give. If you can’t help and can’t be there, then be honest about it. Don’t pretend otherwise just to make yourself more comfortable.

Step 9: Did I mention educate yourself? You’re not a therapist, no. But are you a human being? Because we’re in this human condition together, and we need each other.

Step 10: Take care of yourself. Sacrificing yourself on the altar of “helping” is not helpful.

This isn’t meant to be exhaustive. I think educating yourself covers a lot of ground, really.

What would you add to the list? What are things that have helped you when you’ve experienced depression? What are things that were hurtful or harmful while you were in the midst of it?

On being fat & othered

The world we live in, you and I,
was not made to accommodate these
hips or thighs.

One of these things is not like the other,
and woe to we, the other.
I am fat, yet I am made invisible, and it is done as though it
were some kind of favor.
Better that you not have to see me
than be offended by the sight of me.
It’s all about you.

Your narrow aisles, your armed chairs,
your armed words, your narrow minds,
Your narrow hips, your one-size-fits…
most.

You are fashion and beauty and
business and family and health.
You are advertising and marketing
and glitter and glam.
I am, if I’m “lucky,” the object you react
against.

I am a headless body seen in a
newscast in a story about — gasp
obesity.
I am the enemy in the war on obesity.
My body is a disease.
My body is your target and your cannon
fodder.

Because it doesn’t fit.
Because it costs you somehow.
Because it offends you by existing
and not fitting in…
To your narrow ideals.
To your skinny heart.
To your privilege.
But there’s plenty of room in your
judgment
To make me the punchline of the joke.
To erase me from your TV screen
except as a prop, an object lesson,
a patient.

As a patient, even with a broken bone
sticking out of my skin,
you see only my fat,
and your reaction, lose weight,
your chorus, your panacea,
cure, palliative, indictment.
It’s like you think shame is a
prescription
.

In church, you co-opt even scripture.
Your body is a temple,
mine an abomination.
Created in my inmost being,
knit together in the womb,
yet my body is still not good enough
for your men, for your women,
for your visible roles.
My visible rolls obscure me.

You shout at me when you drive by in
your car, “Go home, fatass!
You offer me unsolicited dieting advice.
You fear me and fear becoming like me.
You hate me as though hating me will make you happier with your own body.

Your waiters laugh both when
I order the salad
and when I order the cheesecake,
as though it were a moral failing
rather than a meal,
as though it were any of their business.
Oh, wait, it’s exactly that, your business.
You profit off of the othering you manufacture.

And God forbid that you see
a fat person in a relationship
with a skinny person.
God forbid that someone dares to
get naked while fat.
Even the slightest hint of fat is
more than enough to upset you.
As though you were the victim.

The voice crying in the wilderness
saying fat is OK,
love yourself,
be yourself,
you can be healthy at every size,
is silenced by those
who can’t even stand to hear our voices.
Those who want to erase us so much so that they sign and distribute petitions,
troll and terrorize and traumatize,
because our bodies are their problem.

And there are those reading this who will say, not all
We don’t all feel that way.
As if their exception negates the rule
of privilege
As if their special circumstance
is the point
I am other, hear me roar,
or just keep on excusing yourself
and look away,
leave me invisible.

From one headless fatty to another,
one chunky kid on the playground to another,
one fatass on the sidewalk to another,
one other to another other —
Fat is not a feeling.
Fat is not the worst.
Fat is not a cross to bear.
Fat is not a cause celebre.
Fat is not the problem.


Synchroblogging with SheLoves Magazine on the subject/experience of being Othered.

Room to Grow and to Die

I have sharp edges, shortcomings, past shames. I am deeply flawed, entirely imperfect. I am terribly prideful, sometimes too quick to speak.

My roots and branches are stretching, reaching for nutrients, for light, for fresh soil. The old things pass away, falling leaves as autumn drifts on. I grow and learn. I am not stagnant.

Give me honesty, yes, tempered by kindness, patience, grace, as much as is possible, but let the ground between us be free of eggshells. Don’t tread lightly. Trust me to take care of myself.

Let us bare our wounds matter-of-factly, admit our resentments, and confront our hurts readily, to diminish the risk of poisonous festering or amputation later.

May we be the sky to each other, allowing room for endless possibilities. May we be morning glories, unruly, bold in our growth, and the trellis underneath the climbing rose, supporting, bearing weight, offering direction and shape.

I am being pruned and parts of me thrown into the fire. I stubbornly cling to pieces of me that are long dead or severely stunted or no longer producing flower nor fruit. Do not take your axe to me, friend; Pruning shears will do just fine.

And as new branches grow, as old branches wither, as new rings layer around the core, as roots dig deep and deeper, as we flourish and falter in our own unique seasons, may we grant each other room to grow and to die.

What Invitation Awaits

(c) Trey Ratcliff, Creative Commons License 2.0

(c) Trey Ratcliff, Creative Commons License 2.0

Elegantly scribed calligraphy, gilt embossed,
On a golden platter, it awaits.
From its face, your name beckons.

Enveloped in royal hues,
Delicately opaque,
From its face, your name shines.

Too beautiful to open,
Too fine to spoil,
From its face, your name stares.

Later, covered in dust,
Unmarred by fingerprint,
From its face, your name whispers.

Obscured and untouched,
Passed over, passed by,
Its face now silent.

A monument, a memorial,
A time gone by,
Its face solemn.

What invitation awaits,
Had you only opened it,
What delight?

What invitation have you left unopened?
What invitation do you long for?
What invitations still await?

Rip open the envelope,
Embrace the page,
On its face, your name emblazoned.

Yield to the whimsy,
RSVP for adventure,
Your face reflects glory.

The date and time are set,
They are now, always,
Their face a mirror, your face shines.

You are most cordially invited
To the dance of life,
Have a ball, dear one.