Be true.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

If you summon your courage to challenge something, you’ll never regret it. How sad it would be to spend your life wishing, “If only I had a little more courage.” Whatever the outcome, the important thing is to take a step forward on the path that you believe is right. There’s no need to worry about what others may think. It’s your life, after all. Be true to yourself. ~Daisaku Ikeda

I first saw this quote in the November 2012 issue of Living Buddhism magazine. Sae Chonabayashi said it encouraged her to pursue her dreams. It encouraged me to do the same. At the time I read the piece, I was at a crossroads; I was unsure about quite a few things. That quote resonated, and I got clear on next steps in a hurry.

Life is short and no one wakes up in my skin every morning except me. I have plans and dreams, and it’s quite possible they won’t work out as I’d like…but I have to try.  I’ve always been one to play it safe. But safe isn’t always satisfactory, and time passes way too quickly these days for me to waste it in any state of dissatisfaction. So whatever the outcome, in eleven days, I’m moving forward on a new path.

I embrace possibilities and love.

To thine own self, be true.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

What do you want? #rapeculture #vaw

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence

NaBloPoMo March 2013People who have witnessed the recent steps on my journey have sent me good wishes and hopes for the outcome I want. Truth be told, the healing, the outcome I wanted for myself, happened long ago. But I’ve started to talk publicly about it. And I recently told my ex my thoughts about our past. This has inspired the following question from many corners:

What do you want?

I want to agitate.
I want to make people feel uncomfortable.
I want to counter rape culture.
I want people to stop blaming victims.
I want to add my voice to the chorus of survivors.
I want partners to question their entitlement over another’s body.
I want people to talk. Especially men to their friends and brothers. To their sons and lovers.

Rape culture is allowed to fester, in part, because of our silence. So I am speaking up, speaking back. I want to speak more often and with more eloquence. I want to help survivors speak, too.

I want to make a difference.

Just asking. #rapeculture #vaw

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence

Is it possible he really forgot?

It’s been twenty years. I’m the one who was traumatized. I’m the one who said nothing. Did nothing.

Well, that’s not really accurate.

I buried it. Allegedly got over it and got on with it. Honestly, I tucked it away from sight, but it was never very far. I carried it with me into each new year. Into every new relationship. It colored every subsequent encounter. Every single one.

So it leads me to wonder: is it possible for someone to inflict such harm upon another and not recognize it as such?

Apparently it is.

On family narratives. #NaBloPoMo

30 Day Blog Challenge

The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

This line comes from a recent New York Times piece about the importance of understanding from whence you came.  The more you know about the characters, settings, and other elements that contribute to your life story, the better prepared you are to make intentional choices about your own life.

You can be a more sophisticated author of your life if you have a strong sense of your biography:

Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

Both of my parents are deceased, but as child and young adult, I did have a lot of access to family history. We had dinner table conversations as I was growing up, and I spent quite a bit of time around relatives in various cities. I had a good sense of who we were as a family on both sides. But I didn’t find out everything. There are gaps in my knowledge, some of which may never be closed.

Gaps aside, Drs. Duke and Fivush speak about the importance of a more global understanding of the family’s development over time. Specifically they mention three types of narratives:

  • the ascending narrative – think rags to riches, or nothing to something;
  • the descending narrative – we had it all and lost it; and
  • the oscillating narrative – we’ve had good times and bad times, but here we are.

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

What about you? Do you know your family narrative? Do you have a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself?

Excerpts from The Stories That Bind Us.

Justice, conflicted. | #vaw #abolition

30 Day Blog Challenge, Abolition & Justice, Feminist Thought, Sexual Violence

The defendants in the Steubenville rape trial were found guilty yesterday. My initial reaction was elation. Jane Doe was sexually assaulted, then publicly humiliated, and despite the attempt to cast her as consenting to the abuse, her violators did not get away it.

Only that’s not exactly true. The chain of complicity in this case is long and tightly woven with bystanders who refused to intervene, friends and acquaintances who felt the ongoing assault of another human was worthy of laughter and sport, and still others who felt the need to rally against Jane, for the sake of young men who ostensibly had the rest of their lives ahead of them.

These complicated factors aside, two people were found guilty, and for that I was glad.

But I was also conflicted.

They were going to jail. That was the solution, you see. The end of the road. You do the crime, you do the time, and all that. But I felt, in a word, unsatisfied with that outcome. I tweeted:

I shared my earlier musings on alternatives to prison and restorative justice. Then I tweeted this:

I sat with my thoughts and feelings on the matter as others began to engage. For instance:

I am glad there was a trial and guilty parties were found to be so. But I felt the resolution was not a good solution; it solves nothing at all except to remove the offenders from the community. And then what? How does healing begin? Is this truly justice? Does a punitive approach really challenge rape culture? What else can be done?

Prison Culture held these same reservations and offered a thoughtful response. A poignant excerpt:

Do we believe that these two young men are going to unlearn rape culture in prison? How about all of their friends who seem to believe that the young men were unjustly convicted? Who will intervene with them to help them unlearn rape culture? The vast majority of our resources have been diverted to criminal legal approaches while rape crisis centers are being defunded and don’t have the capacity to do any prevention work with young people. Some will say that it isn’t either/or; That we can focus on criminal legal remedies while also doing community-based intervention/prevention work to eradicate rape culture. Yet it’s been decades and we still haven’t found the proper balance. Our primary focus on a criminal legal approach has in fact seemed to crowd out other interventions. More importantly, it has let community members off the hook from taking responsibility to interrupt or intervene in preventing or calling out rape. The social problem becomes the criminal legal system’s responsibility to solve and not ours as community members.

I am a proponent of restorative and transformative justice because I believe that they offer the best prospects to eradicate violence. I believe that survivors of violence should be centered in all interventions. Let’s focus on listening to survivors and on really engaging their claims. I want spaces for authentic and survivor-directed healing. I believe that our communities often enable harm and that therefore they must be engaged in addressing these harms. I believe that prisons are constitutive of violence in and of themselves and therefore are not viable anti-violence tools. I believe that perpetrators of violent acts must understand the impact of the harms they cause. Let’s create a context within which we encourage perpetrators to assume actual responsibility for harm. Let’s provide them an opportunity to be transformed if they will accept it. Finally, perpetrators should be expected to actively participate in repairing the harm that they have caused to their victims and by extension to our communities.

Yes.

Read the whole piece here.

Yes, yes, yes. | #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence

In rape culture, “no” is not always honored as “no.” No was an important aspect of my experience of sexual violence, because I had initially given consent. I said yes. The problem came when I changed my mind, and my “yes” became a “no.” I was alert, angry, and unambiguously vocal in my “no.” Sometimes the situation isn’t as clear.

In Steubenville, OH, two high school football stars were convicted of raping a teenage girl too drunk to give consent. She was too drunk to say yes or no. By taking advantage of her inability to respond, the perpetrators broke the law. This case and the discussion around it, has broadened the national discourse on sexual violence and rape culture. One idea getting more expansive coverage is the importance of “yes,” in sexual encounters rather than simply the absence or presence of “no.” Jessica Valenti asks,

If a woman doesn’t say “no” to sex—is that the same thing as saying “yes”?

She elaborates with more pointed questions:

Are all women really to be considered willing sexual participants unless otherwise stated? If we flirt with someone, or even kiss them, does that give them permission to do whatever else they want to our bodies until we strenuously object? 

With this framing, it’s clear that women are not in a perpetual state of consent. Therefore, assuming “yes” in absence of “no” is inadequate. Coercion is a very real part of rape culture. Sometimes partners acquiesce:

But acquiescence is not the same as active consent:

Writes Jessica,

The only way to know that sex is consensual is if there’s a freely and clearly given “yes.” This may sound radical to the uninitiated, but don’t we all want to make sure we’re only having sex with people who are actually interested? Ensuring enthusiastic consent requires only the most basic respect we all owe our partners in the first place: paying attention to how they’re doing, and asking them if we can’t tell.

In other words, only yes means yes.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Sun goddess.

30 Day Blog Challenge

9 p.m.  contemplative. quiet.

slumber soon come and then

morning.

glorious gift.

first light –

stirring.

stretching.

deep sighs.

promises made in silent darkness.

black skies give way to lavender wisps.

daybreak –

salutations.

skies warm and brighten,

heralding crimson dawn.

20130316-214044.jpg
—-
I took this photo just after 7 a.m. I had planned to write a short missive on morning, my favorite time of day. Well, the day came and went before I had the chance to write. Here it is, nearly 10 p.m., and I’m looking forward to morning again. 

xoxo

Midpoint check in! #NaBloPoMo #amwriting

30 Day Blog Challenge
all white salsa
Jorge and me getting our salsa on!

Cue the salsa music! Let’s dance!

I’ve made it to the halfway point. I committed to writing 30 blogs in 30 days, and so far so good. I’m amazed and inspired this time around. I’ve wondered why it feels so much easier than August. I think it’s because:

There’s no angst. It’s something I’ve accomplished before, so I began with the foreknowledge I can definitely be successful. Whether stream of consciousness, quick check-ins, or other short entries, I can blog every day.

I’m wiser. I discovered a lot about my writing process, so I realize my morning brilliance may or may not be written (much less published) by afternoon. Sometimes thoughts need time to germinate. Related to that…

I’m more flexible. I thought I would work through some heady topics in August, and I found it too much pressure to write on them publicly every.single.day. Now I write whatever I feel moved to write, which is why I have a blog in the first place!

I was ready. In August it was someone else’s idea to write 30 in 30, and I took up the challenge. This time I was chomping at the bit to do another. In fact, I was planning to start April 1st, when my schedule slowed a bit, but I couldn’t bear waiting another month. I missed the structure and thinking space daily writing creates. I’m glad to have it back.

I’m proud of myself because I’ve taken more chances this time around, and I’ve been consistent, without stress. Regardless of what happens over the next 15-16 days, I love myself for the effort.

Here’s to the second half!

NaBloPoMo March 2013

On ironing and grief. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

I remember when I stopped ironing.

As a young girl, I ironed all the time. And to some degree, ironing suited me. I’d iron shirt after shirt, and soon enough I’d be in a mindless rhythm. My thoughts were free to imagine new scenes for my current short story, or remember favorite scenes from a Judy Blume in progress. Usually I’d iron in the den on weekends. Daddy stretched out in his easy chair watching sports of some sort, momma half-watching, half-devouring a novel. It was easy, ironing was.

As I grew older, I continued ironing as needed. Didn’t think much of it. Maybe I no longer ironed clothes on weekends. Maybe I simply ironed the night before, as I laid out clothes for school.

In college, ironing happened decidedly less often. Using that mini surfboard on the bed proved neither effective nor fun, and it was college. Everyone knew you just needed to get your clothes out of the dryer while they were still warm. Ironing was reserved for the really stubborn creases, and only then at the last possible minute.

I entered the workforce and ironing again became a regular occurrence. Sometimes it was the evening before, yet more often than not, I saved it for my morning routine. There wasn’t much to it, after all. It was just ironing.

I remember when I stopped ironing.

Months after momma died unexpectedly, grief became stress became a fog. Life was thick. Heavy. Clouded over. Every morning it was time to get dressed and go teach my 4th graders, yet it got harder, not easier. Where was it? Where was the outfit I could just put on? I didn’t want to think about ironing. I couldn’t bear the thought.

I was near tears one day, trying to figure out tomorrow’s outfit and the requisite ironing, when cousin big sister suggested a radical idea: dry cleaners. I had only associated dry cleaning with my dad’s work shirts. Momma and I dropped them off early mornings before school and picked them up in the afternoons.

Neatly pressed clothes sans stress? Sign me up. I sighed away 10 pounds.

And thus marked the beginning of the end of ironing. Soon enough, through geography and professional choices, I all but eliminated the need for pressed clothes from my life. For years I donned sarongs and sundresses, jeans and fitted t-shirts.

As of late, the iron is no longer content to make cameos. It seems to be pushing for a more starring role. Yesterday’s sheath dress required a tap from the hotel iron, as did today’s button-down and slacks. And it was easy enough. There isn’t much to it, after all. It’s just ironing.

But I remember when I stopped ironing.

A word on hope. #NaBloPoMo #Buddhism.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Spirituality, Temple Building

NaBloPoMo March 2013What is your philosophy of life? Does it involve action, momentum, value creation and good cheer? Is it passive, reactive, somber? Quality of life is more about how we decide to live, rather than what happens to us in the living of it. There’s risk in choosing to live optimistically. We can’t predict or control the hurricanes or floods, the disappointing diagnoses, the betrayals. Sometimes we don’t see that knock out punch coming, and there we are dazed, contemplating the wisdom of standing. The decisions we make in difficult moments are grounded in our approach to life.

I advocate a philosophy of hope. It’s funny, because I’ve often said, “hope is not a strategy.” But that’s incomplete. What I mean is hope is not going to write your paper, deliver your presentation, or mend strained relationships. Hope doesn’t take the action steps required for living day-to-day.

But having hope can keep you facing forward, looking on the bright side of a dark moment. It can feed your courage so you can regroup and try again tomorrow. Hope ensures you don’t give up at the crucial moment, when time is still left on the clock.

Hope is for the living.

We must face each issue that crops up, without flinching, solve it, overcome it and move on to the next. That is what human life is really about. That is what it is to be alive. When you triumph over your sufferings, they will all be transformed into joy. And you yourself will grow and expand.

“Despair is the refuge of fools,” goes the saying. As long as you hold on tightly to hope, as long as you take earnest actions to fight, you can be sure that spring will come again. A Russian proverb says, “There is no winter in the kingdom of hope.”

~Daisaku Ikeda in Goya