A friend of mine recently asked why I decided to write. My thoughts immediately went back to my childhood. I remember when I was a little kid and my parents had guests over. They always said to my brother and sisters and I that “kids should be seen and not heard.” While I’m grateful that they taught us to be respectful and well behaved, I learned early on to stifle my voice. Coming out as a lesbian during my teenage years in the early eighties further closed off my ability to say what was in my heart. No good came from being honest about that having grown up in a religious small town in the Midwest. So, I chose to say nothing. Maybe that’s why my time in the military was easy for me. No one asked, and I didn’t tell.
So, where did all that quiet get this 44 year old woman? One day, my heart opened up and the words came pouring out. My first novel, “My Soldier Too” was published this past year, I’m close to finishing a second manuscript and I have my own blog site. What I’m discovering with all this writing is that it isn’t about the words or the privilege of getting to say that I’m an author, but rather, finding the voice inside hidden under years of silence. We all have something to say that matters if we let it come from a place that’s authentic. I don’t write for the sake of writing. I won’t write to some preordained script or model and I’m no longer afraid to rattle a few cages with my voice. To do otherwise is just tepid noise.
But, with that comes the responsibility to own what I say. I’m not afraid to turn my heart inside out to reveal my own truths and I respect the truths of others who do the same. The answer to my friend’s question is that I write to discover and free the voice inside me that has something to say that matters. Peace.
The idea for this blog sprang from a discussion about starlings, the badass bullies of backyard bird feeders. A wise woman made the point that starlings were merely engaging in survival of the fittest. As much as those greedy birds and the equally obnoxious gray squirrels annoy me every time I look out my window to see them hoarding food or destroying feeders, I have to agree. It got me thinking though about bullying in the context of human beings.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a bully as “one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.” Unlike their animal counterparts, human bullies aren’t in the game merely to survive. I have no doubt that there may be an array of complex reasons that drive why a person becomes a bully. Notwithstanding, their objective is simple, power. How they go about obtaining it also straightforward. Target the weakest individuals and make their lives so miserable that bystanders are paralyzed with fear to do anything about it. No one wants to be in the cross-hairs of a bully. They’re a vicious lot.
Most of us have a known or maybe even been a victim of a bully somewhere along the way from the playground to adulthood. Small person that I am, I was no stranger to bullies who picked on me for my size when I was a kid. As a woman in the legal profession, I tangle with my share of bullies on a regular basis. Here’s what I’ve come to learn about them. They all have the same Achilles heel. The quickest way to bring a bully down is to aim for his ego. Remember when Ralphie in the movie, A Christmas Story, beat the living daylights out of the bully, Skut Farkus? Being beat up by a little kid half his size threw a giant monkey wrench into old Farkus’ ego. He didn’t bother Ralphie again after that.
Unfortunately, pure adrenaline like Ralphie’s isn’t enough most of the time to bring a bully down a notch or two. You better have your game on if you intend to get in between a bully and his power. Plus, the law frowns on punching other people in the nose. Instead, one has to be strategic, brave, patient and relentless waiting for the perfect moment to strike back. I guess that’s why so many times we don’t have the energy to defend ourselves or others against bullies. It’s easier and safer to stay out of their cross-hairs. However, among our sense of self and all those complicated emotions that we humans are equipped with is sapience. At some point, our wisdom about what is right and wrong speaks louder than our own self-preservation. This is the moment that bullies fear. It’s the little fist that comes at them out of nowhere hitting them square on where it counts most.
I hope someday that we humans will evolve away from some of our more nefarious traits such as the desire for power and greed. Maybe if enough of us can find the energy to take on a bully or two that will be a positive step in the right direction. Peace.
I saw a post this morning on FB in which the author took issue with someone for the comment, “I’m straight, with bi-tendencies.” It bothered me so much that I decided to blog about it. I’ve spent thirty years of my life having people begrudge my right to define my own sexuality, and ultimately whom I’m allowed to love. Among the things I’ve learned along the way is to be true to myself, and not ever be anything less than proud of being a one hundred percent woman loving woman. I don’t begrudge others the same experience, especially when it’s not the same as mine. The truth is that sexuality and love are sometimes complicated. Human beings are complicated. Where a person falls in that knotty continuum of sexuality is for them to know and for the rest of us to accept. Sure, there may be negative reasons that drive a person to define herself one way or the other, but at the end of the day, the definition is hers alone. Maybe if we spent less time judging others, we might find a whole lot more happiness and contentment in our own hearts. Plus, wouldn’t it be so much easier for people to figure these things out without all the negative chatter flying at them?
So, to the person who defines herself as “straight with bi-tendencies,” good for you. At least you’ve thought about it enough to recognize your own complexity as a human being. Peace.
January does not represent a fresh start or new beginnings for me. It’s more like a menacing mountain that I have no choice but to climb if I want to get to the rest of the year. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, my motto on January 1 is to just keep moving, one step at a time. It wasn’t always this way for me. Winter used to conjure up fun thoughts of sledding, snowball fights, snowshoeing and skiing. However, sometime during the biologic changes that took place during my forties decade, winter morphed into a physical and emotional battle against the darkness of the days, the dreary cold, the absence of flowers in my meadow and leafless trees. I can feel the weight of winter in my heart every bit as much as the cold against my skin. Notwithstanding, I couldn’t be a happier or more content person. Half the battle has been to recognize this change in my body’s chemistry, and not beat myself up over it. The other, more important half of the battle is what to do about it.
I wholeheartedly believe that a positive attitude, a strong will, gratitude and kindness go a long way toward finding happiness and peace. Instead of letting myself be pulled into negative thinking, I struggle against it. On the days that I fall to my knees in the struggle, I get back up and keep going by examining all the things that I’m grateful for. There are so many to count that I don’t have time to wallow in my winter blues. Even when all I want to do is curl up in the fetal position and hide out in my cave, I force myself to exercise. There’s nothing like the endorphins produced by running or boxing to wash away all those nasty brain chemicals that bring on sadness. I eat a healthy diet so that I have the energy to exercise. I surround myself as best I can with music, books, and friends. I kiss and hug my spouse every chance I get. I take time to watch the wildlife outside my window go about their busy days just trying to survive. It gives me perspective on how lucky I am to be alive in such a beautiful world. To show that gratitude, I reach out to friends to give a hand or encouraging words. Being nice to other people is one of the best things a person can do for their own soul.
Finally, I remind myself of the good that comes from a cold snowy January. Among the many things, it gives rise to all the lovely trees that are among my favorites in New England such as the maples and birches. The snow replenishes the rivers and lakes that I spend so much time playing in during the warmer months. It’s a time for some types of wildlife to hunker down and take a much needed hibernating rest. That includes us too. How nice it is to curl up in front of the wood stove with a good book on a cold snowy day. As for spring, it wouldn’t be nearly as sweet if it didn’t come on the heels of winter. Just like happiness, the joy of it is attenuated by the colder sadder times in our lives. Would we appreciate as much the feel of the thawing ground, the smell of spring flowers, the rebirth of the trees or the warmth of the sun if we didn’t go through a time when our world wasn’t frozen by winter? I know I wouldn’t.
So, as I move through the remainder of January, I’ll do it one day at a time with an eye toward keeping a grateful heart, being kind to others, gentle on myself and always taking care of my body and soul. Peace.