wisdom

Getting Better

So, this past month has been crazy busy. Just last weekend two of my favorite people got married. No, I'm not talking about Kate and Will. Two of my dearest, Patt and Jaileigh, tied the knot with humor, grace, and delicious desserts. Other than the coughing fits, I went to be quite blissed out that night. I saw the single most powerful force in the world at work: human connection. Joy. Laughter. Love. I'm not saying this to gush, I'm saying something I truly believe - being able to connect to someone else, to empathize, to share tears and laughter, to talk, to unabashedly be with one another ...these are powerful things.
I'm glad that I have a coffee mug and some pictures to go with the memories of Saturday night's festivities because over the course of these past days, I've seen a lot of ugly things spreading about the internet.
Rage is a strong drink. There are several brands on the shelf, some more potent, more distilled than others. Thing is, though, that no one is a happy drunk when imbibing rage. Rage makes us all ugly. Just look what it does to your face. It twists it about, scrunches you up. If you're crying, you get all red and puffy. Rage is never a pretty thing. Sometimes, though, it is necessary. And it's natural. It's part of being human. Cut deeply enough and you'll get rage from someone: anger, passionate vitriol, sadness all mixed into one cocktail.
For more than 10 years, Americans have put a particular name to some heinous crimes committed against ourselves and against others in the world. We've put a specific face at the bullseye of our dartboard, blaming him and him alone for the horror of one Tuesday. We were hurt that day, as a country, when 3000 innocent people died. When first-responders were buried in rubble. When we watched live footage of people jumping to their deaths. Since that day, more people have died to find those responsible, to try to undo what was done, to make sure it never happens again. I have friends who have served. All have come home, so far, and goddammit, Matt Tydings is coming home, too when all is said and done. Some of my friends missed years of their children's lives. Some left a piece of their soul over in the desert. All of them sacrificed something to bring justice to the world.
That man we've named as the architect, the man cursed by so many is now dead.
There is relief in that statement. There is hope that my friend Matt and his brothers in the service can come home and stay here, hold their families and live with joy. There is hope that now, 10 years after the event itself, we can rebuild rather than tear apart the Middle East in an angry man-hunt. I would be lying if I said that a part of me didn't take a bit of wrathful glee in knowing that this hateful fucker has finally (FINALLY) been brought to justice.

But....

...I'm seeing something that scares me more than conspiracy theories or zombie scenarios. I'm seeing good people go the way of the mob. I'm seeing my Facebook and Twitter feeds flooded vile sentiments like, Pics or it didn't happen. Why did we give him a proper Muslim burial at sea? He didn't give that respect to his victims, why should we give it to him?
 
First of all....do you know what happens when someone is shot in the face with a high powered firearm? It's not fucking pretty. It's gruesome. What you're asking to see isn't some special effects make-up, computer imaging or a scene from last week's episode of CSI. It's real. It's the honest, ugly truth about what happens when physics meets flesh and bone. I've never seen such a thing and I am thankful that I haven't. I'd like to keep it that way. What good would it do for you--Joe Schmoe who works in a cubicle farm in the middle of Indiana with a wife and two dogs--to see the postmortem photos of a jackass genocidal fuckhead? You want proof he's dead? Fine, grab a scuba mask and head for the Arabian Peninsula. Otherwise, I'm wondering if all you want to see is some blood and guts. You want that? Take the place of any man or woman in the military and you'll get a similar view.
And why give him the respect he couldn't give his victims? I'll tell you why. Because we're better than him. Because we aren't the monsters we're fighting. He may not have respected others' religions, cultures, lives...but we--the same people who boast that Superman fights for the American way, the same people who believe we are the voice of reason on this planet--we say that we believe everyone has a right to choose how to live. We say that people can worship as they will and that we will honor that. Sure, our hypocritical nature is showing in that we don't give that same respect to our neighbors, but we'll give it to our Most Wanted felon...but if we forget for one second that this poster boy for terrorism was a man with a mother, a father, children...if we forget that Osama bin Laden was a human being, we join him in his ideology.
Come on, guys. We're better than this. The bickering over who got the job done, Bush or Obama? Navy SEALS got the job done, let's just go with that, okay? The conspiracies that he's actually still alive and this was done to boost Obama's numbers and provide an excuse to interrupt the latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice...the lists of how Obama screwed this up, too...the dancing in the streets singing "Ding Dong the Dick is Dead"...the bloodthirsty throngs wanting to see photographic proof (which would then, at the very least, be scrutinized as photoshopped)...just stop. Please?
Let's not spend a moment longer glorifying that bastard with airtime. Take his picture down and erase his name. Let him serve as a lesson of what NOT to be because he embodies what is sick and twisted in humanity, not as a lesson of what happens when you "mess with Texas". Let's move on, heal and take care of our wounded...the men and women who have been working so hard for these past 10 years. Let's take care of each other and the challenges we have at home. I dare you to do better. WE need you to be better.
Seeing the news these past few days is enough to drive anyone to drink. It's hard to find something pure and good to hang onto. Thankfully, I have that coffee mug to remind me of some of the simplest, most powerful joys. I have a husband, daughter, and friends who laugh often. I have enough around me to remind me that humanity is greater than the lowest common denominator. There's more to life and the world than some dead terrorist.

 

Messages

So, in my on-going series "Reasons I Freaking Love My Daughter", I submit our experience today. We went for a walk. Pretty commonplace (when the temperatures aren't in the triple digits, that is) in this family, and today was a perfect day for it. Low 70s, breeze. Good times. So, we're walking and my 5 year old daughter stops, leans on a rock wall and gazes into the front yard of a house. Some rocks, couple of cactus. Nothing much. After a bit, I said, "Come on, kiddo, let's keep walking."

"Wait, Mom," she said. "I'm looking at the world."

After that, we continued our walk. We were almost home when K started to get giggly. She yelled to scare some pigeons. Then she asked, "Mommy, can everyone in the world hear me when I yell? People in France and stuff? Can they hear me?"

I laughed. "Oh, I don't know if we can be THAT loud."

She took a deep breath and said, "HELLO! I LOVE YOU!!"

When she thought she had the ears of the world, what did she choose to say? "I love you."  I'm so bloody proud. I hope she never loses that.

When you step up to the mic, what do you say?

Hashtag Wisdom

So, I'd like to talk about one of the trending topics on Twitter today. No, I'm not talking about the CooksSource debacle (although, I am proud of my comment on the matter that the stolen recipes always taste better. Zing!). Nope. I'm talking about the #TweetYour16YearOldSelf posts. Some of them I've seen have been high-larious! 

@LordVoldemort: Choose NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM! - classic!

@CadyTruckeeDon't stop practicing guitar in your room, but when the girl asks you to meet her after school to makeout... do it.
@HeffMania:  Rethink James Van Der Beek. 
@PaulAndStorm: [P] If you *must* buy a Members Only jacket, don't buy it in purple. (And no, it's not "burgundy") 
 
But, there has been some real gold in those hashtags. Who knew that in 140 characters you could say so much about yourself?
 
So, I started putting together a few of my own. To give you some perspective, my 16 year old self was an awkward kid who was really concerned with marching band and whether or not the boys that I liked liked me. Sounds familiar, I'll bet. I thought I was fat and ugly because all the popular kids told me I was fat and ugly, so I dressed in baggy clothes hoping to just hide my body away. (PS: Didn't work. Still got made fun of.) I listened to Nirvana, Type O, the Beatles. I watched MTV when they still had music videos. I worshipped Aersosmith and had posters of Jonathan Brandis or Christian Slater on the ceiling. Yeah. 1996 was good times. 
 
But it was also weird. It was high school, dammit, and that's just a painful time for everyone. At 16, I was just coming off of my second bout of depression. A second storm of suicidal thoughts. This is when my little habit of self-injury was born. (Haven't cut in 10 years, woot!) This is the girl I'm talking to when I tweet something to my 16 year old self. She's fragile, she's got this whole life ahead of her that she has no clue is going to suck as much as it will. These next few years are going to hurt and be weird and rocky and at times they're going to be fucking brutal. Part of me wishes that I could just hold onto her and spare her that shit. That I could tell her to avoid this pitfall or to take a completely different path because it's one that I never got to explore.
 
But I can't do that. Because there is also beauty there. There are gems mixed in with all that shit that went down in my teens/twenties. Sure, i could save myself a whole shitload of drama if I just told that 16 year old self, "Hey, I don't care if he's cute and a damn good drummer. Just say no!" I can't tell her that the future she has penciled in isn't even close, because I don't want to ruin the surprise. 
 
In fact, as I sit here thinking about those times, I find myself humbled. Filled with nothing but gratitude for the people that were part of that life. The first boyfriend...how he trusted me with his heart, even though I broke it later. The ones who broke mine in karmic retribution. The lovers and leavers, the friends who are still around and others who are just memories...I'm so damn thankful for that time with them.Those years when things were so chaotic? Those were the primordial sludge of this existence, this life I always say is awesome. I needed those experiences to get HERE. While this is by no means the destination, it's still an amazing place to be. Each of those trials and joys and relationships gone bad or mistakes or successes... all of them are a chain that leads here. I can't rob that girl of this.

 
Call me selfish.
 
So, instead, I tweet the following to my 16 year old self. 
 
Work on your posture NOW and go easy on your back later. You'll thank me and save money.
I won't spoil any surprises by warning you off of certain people. Go with it and enjoy it. Even the bad times. 
These next few years are going to suck mightily at times. But at 30, you will look back and be glad you stuck around
Also, those puple shiny pants are a bad idea. Just sayin'. You'll wear them once. 
Dude, stick around. You're going to love this.
 
 
I hope someday that I can remember this when my daughter is going through her teens. I hope I can tell her. I remember what it was like then, though, when mom or my aunts would tell me, "it gets better" or "it's just high school". I didn't believe them then, so I don't expect my daughter to believe me. But, I can hope.
 

Heinous Fuckery Most Foul

Okay. Whilst perusing Twitter this morning, I found a link to this blog post about some of the backlash that Molly Wei is feeling after her involvement in the actions leading to the suicide of Tyler Clementi. Now, if you read the link, you'll see that the author, a gay woman, feels quite strongly about the situation. And who wouldn't? Tyler Clementi's suicide, and the other suicides of LGBTQ youths, is a staggering wake-up call.

As a society, we've got a long way to go. We're still divisive, no matter how enlightened we think we are after the 1960s. Kids are still cruel. KIDS. But they're learning this from bigoted parents and from societal cues that tell them this is okay. It's okay to make fun of the fat kid. It's okay to push other peoples' buttons online...because online they aren't real. Online you can block someone, delete them, ignore they exist. You can create your own little world with you at the center of a blogosphere.

Public humiliation has escalated as technology grows. Your pants didn't just rip in 3rd period French class. Now it's on Facebook. You didn't have a bad day at school...now, it's happening at home, too, every time you turn on your computer. High school and college are bad enough, finding yourself is tricky as it is. Now, you get to do it with constant criticism. Getting dumped feels like the end of the world when you're 15. Now, everyone knows about it? Losing your virginity is always a little freaky, now it's broadcast live on the web?

The world our kids live in right now is far more than I had to deal with at their age. I cannot imagine the pressure that is on an outcast kid right now. I was a band dork, the fat kid, a smart kid... I was always on the fringe and I was made fun of constantly because of my weight. But that was just people saying things in class. I had a safe place at home. I had support.

The true tragedy of Clementi's suicide and the others like him....? These kids--KIDS--felt like they had no other choice. They felt that they had no support, no safe place to turn. What the hell is wrong with us when we can't give each other a safe place?

And, that safe haven is open to the bullies, too.

Yes, you heard me. The above blog post? NOT HELPING!

Molly Wei feels attacked? Well, yeah, you just called her a murderer. I still live in the US where due process is a Constitutional right and until she is convicted of murder, she is not. She is an 18 year old kid who made a heinous mistake. She treated another human being like shit. (Happens every day and you're bitching about this one in particular?) She and all the other bullies out there have forgotten that their victims are human beings with feelings. They have forgotten that their actions have consequences. Blogs like this are just as guilty. Yes, what Wei and Ravi did was horrible. But it's a symptom.

Treat the cause. Don't become it or perpetuate it.

Evolve. Be the best version of yourself, the you of legend. Remember. Remember that other people are just as fragile, fallible, confused and insecure as you are.

It gets better, but only if we work at it.

Changes

So in the past couple of months, my life has undergone some very subtle changes.  In March, Sean and I got married. Woo! A couple weeks later, in April, I turned 30. Last week I had my wisdom teeth wrenched out.  Kiara, my four year old, is getting ready to start school in the fall. We went to check out the Montessori school we want to put her in and we loved it.

All in all, nothing earth-shattering, but changes nonetheless.

And in it all, I've been thinking. (I know, terrifying.) I've been thinking a lot about my daughter, about life, about the different things going on in the world. (Come on, I live in Arizona and I'm not insane, so I do have some strong opinions about all the bullshit our legistlature is doing.) You'd have to be blind to not think that Dylan was right, kids. Things, they are a changin'. And I don't know if it's for the better, the worse, or none of the above. There's always a third option.

And, as a parent, I think of these changes and what they mean for my daughter. I think of the quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Now... I saw this excellent blog yesterday wherein a woman tells the world that there isn't a weight limit for skinny jeans. I posted this on my Facebook and a wonderful discussion blossomed from women speaking out on their right to be happy in their own skins. It was brought up that it can't be a double standard...you can't just have "fat acceptance" and call the rest of the world skinny bitches. It doesn't work. You need "body acceptance".

The flap that's going on over immigration and the kids who were asked to leave school for wearing American flags on Cinco de Mayo...gay marriage...all of it is rooted in similar places in our culture. Places that like to single out the differences among us, places that would rather bitch and pass the blame along rather than DO something to solve a problem. As a culture, we like to think we're enlightened. We don't (publicly) have slaves and look at all the leaps and bounds civil rights have made. But looking around, that's, frankly, bullshit. Because while we've changed laws and some of our societal jargon... it's all still there. We haven't changed something very important.

The way we think.

We are so rooted in this cycle. Our culture repeats itself in our minds over and over again. It's in everything we see in advertising, in the foods we eat, in the movies we watch and the music we buy. It's in our gadets, in our books (e-and-storebought), our blogs. It's everywhere. And I know that sometimes it feels as if we're spinning inexorably, stop the world I wanna get off. That kinda thing.

But I was thinking about it today.

I think a lot of people think that it starts with our children. That they will do better than us. That they will be the changes we want to see in the world. And that's partially true. They see what is going on now and they will change the world they inherit just as we are changing what our parents, grandparents et cetera lived. It's evolution, it's change, it's natural. But how will we break out of this cycle if you expect the next generation to do it?

You want to get out of this cycle that constantly pressures us to live up to some societal ideal (white, heterosexual, 9-to-5 worker with abs of steel and an ass you could bounce quarters off of, perfect skin and gleaming white teeth with tits like rocks and a wrinkle free face, spending your money on American cars and processed foods and processed music and remakes of old movies or television shows) ... you want to break that cycle of bigotry that keeps gays from marrying on one side and paralyzes people with political correctness on the other?

Then BE that change.

Live it.

Stop listening to the recording, stop giving into the fear that our media spouts at us. Stop giving in to the self-loathing fashion industry that tells you a woman can't have curves. Stop giving in to the idea that a man is just a seething lump of testosterone watching football. Stop giving in to the notion that zero fat/calories but an ingredients list you can't pronounce is "healthy". Just stop. Stop buying all the bullshit and make your own choices, your own decisions, your own opinions on what your life should be like. Stop listening to the voice of our culture and change the way we think.

It can't start with our children, it has to start with us. They are learning from us. They see what we're doing and if we perpetuate the broken record of our culture, so will they. They may legalize marijuana or gay marriage, they may have a society that isn't fatphobic... but there will be something else. There always is. In the 60's, America patted itself on the back by tearing down Jim Crow. We were so happy when the Berlin Wall came down. But, there's always something else... something else will rise in the place of our current issues to pacify our children and make them think they're doing a good job with the world.

Teach your children to think for themselves, to not be bullies, to not criticize differences but to embrace them and take joy in the diversity of our world. Teach your children not to focus on color, creed or sexuality, but on humanity. Stop bigotry before it can start and you can change the flow of the river. You can slow the cycle, and one tooth at a time, you can grind the gears to a halt.

Change the messages that are repeating over and over. Change the way we interact with each other. Change our focus from fear to hope. From negative to positive. Stop processing everything from food to music and live.

No, this isn't hippie bullshit. And it's not from a world that eats unicorns and poops rainbows.

This is something we can really do. It takes time. Results won't be instant. (And the voice of our culture wants it now. The voice of our culture says it's hard, that it will take too long to show a profit, that this way lies madness.) Tune out that voice.

Be yourself.
Love yourself for who you are TODAY, not who you could be or who you want to be.
You don't need to be afraid. Find a tribe... friends, family... a group of people that you can support and be supported by. This works. Tribe Ohana has done amazing things over the past few years and will continue to do so.
Live.
Not out of fear, but out of wonder.
Be the change and you will see it. Our children will see it. And the world will change.

I'll step off my soapbox now. But I just want you all to know that you don't need to be afraid, you don't need to live in and out of fear. There is much to love in the world, including you.