Saturday, April 28, 2018

Meta Mix-Up

One of my favorite personal lessons from last year was becoming aware of the messages I'm sending about what I need, want, and intend to manifest.  After I read the line, "Stop sending mixed messages to the universe," from a piece of Denise Duffield-Thomas' work, I started seeing them everywhere.  You know the whole, "I want this, but I'll be happy with that," or "I need, but I'll settle for..."

When we make bargains with ourselves we don't get our highest desires, or needs met, and I quickly realized I'd been low-balling myself, and when I'd get exactly what I asked for, it wasn't the universe's fault that I wasn't happy with the results.  Okay, no, I'm not so daft that I believe if the words are spoken, that things will just magically materialize in my life (or not), I do believe in the power of suggestion, and that our subconscious mind has a funny way of taking us to task, and shaping our behavior, but stay with me, because never has this lesson been more clear than when I watched it playing out before my eyes on social media.

As I was becoming increasingly aware of my own mixed up habits, I ran across a glaringly vivid example at the beginning of last year when an old college pal was desperate to find a kidney for her mother.  Apparently, the mother's blood type coupled with a rare condition, it makes finding a match incredibly difficult.  So her daughter (my friend) went on a social media crusade to find this organ of mythical proportions.  She went so far as to hire a photographer to shoot her toddler holding a sign advertising the family's plight -- because we all know nothing grabs attention or sells quite like babies and animals, and all the stops were to be pulled out for this -- picked the perfect photo, wrote a long, emotional letter, and after many sad, and alarming posts, published her masterpiece with the rallying cry for all of her friends to make it go "viral".  The problem was, every post she begged for her audience to "make viral" was set to private, or for her friends only ... A few hours later, after no shares and hardly any likes, she posted one of the nastiest rants I've ever seen, calling out all her "phony" friends and family, and berating everyone for their lack of support.  Soooo, I kinda had to (gently) mention that the privacy settings she'd chosen coupled with the site's algorithm had the potential to obscure the post's visibility, and asked her if she didn't want her posts public, if she'd mind if we just circulated the photograph of her child ourselves that displayed all of the family's contact information, and if she didn't mind us spreading it on other platforms (twitter, ig, etc.) thinking that in all her (understandable) emotions she'd forgot to adjust her settings.  Several people had agreed with me, and were rallying around her to show their support in the thread, encouraging her to guide us to do whatever she needed.  The next day the rant was gone, and none of the settings on the posts advertising the need for the new organ were changed.  Flash forward to the winter of 2017, and the long suffering mother is STILL no better off finding her organ.  Even so, they were able to miraculously find 28 potential donors who were all rejected due to her condition, but I imagine her donor list could've been much longer had the daughter not been sending out these incredibly mixed messages.

Not that her friends list is the entire Universe, but thousands of friends and contacts who, in turn, each have hundreds, and thousands of their own contacts, and so on?  We were perfectly poised to canvas a rather large swath of the population, and yet none of us really knew which were the appropriate steps to take, and with no true communication with the woman organizing the effort very few of us, if any, took steps at all.  Many people have no qualms circulating tricky posts via copy + paste or screenshots, but when it comes to publishing photographs of another person's child when the main privacy settings are confused, I'm always going to err on the side of caution, and I think that attitude is pretty common among most grown folks.

Moral of the story:  The Universe can't make a private post "viral".   

Monday, April 23, 2018

Beware the Bad Guru

Remember when I said earlier, anyone who wants the job probably doesn't deserve it?  You know, I think after Jonestown, David Koresh, and Heaven's Gate the obvious cult-leaders are easy to spot, but what about the casual-controller?  I think they can be much more difficult to pin down.  I know I've certainly run across a few recently who currently have astonishing popularity, and sycophants who will defend even the most despicable practices seemingly right down to their last breath if need be.
I'm always a little bit amazed by how many people need someone else's permission to live their own lives ... 
But if I'm honest, I think we all do it to varying degrees, and most likely unbeknownst to us, even!  I know I like a good daily horoscope, but if I examine that a little bit closer, what exactly is that?  I always treated it as a bit of fun, putting about as much stock into it as a fortune cookie cracked open at the end of dinner, but is it really that something inside me is searching for a little guidance? 

Not that long ago, I found myself following an Instagram Astrologer who did in-depth "readings" for each sign in the zodiac several times a month.  For quite a while, everything was going just fine, I was intrigued by how eerily accurate many of the posts had been for me, but it wasn't all readings all the time, she would share happy milestones in her life with us as well -- moving, and setting up house in a beautiful new location, etc. until there was a certain feeling of familiarity forming, and then one morning there was an announcement made on her profile to her tens of thousands of followers that she had died.
*Cue the outpouring of love, and grief from devastated followers*
Several hours later, the post was edited, and she began leaving comments explaining that her "guides" had instructed her to make the announcement, and further told her that her followers needed to experience the feeling of "loss".   Later still, she came back again to say that maybe her guides had just wanted her to feel the incredible torrent of affection and adoration she was receiving, after everyone had spent hours leaving comments expressing their deep sadness, and reverence for her.
Wait.  What?  
Okay.  First of all, who or what exactly is "guiding" you, and secondly, the fake-funeral scene in the cult classic, Empire Records, for an angst-y teenager is one thing, but faking your death on Instagram when you're a middle aged shill is just a sick level of emotional manipulation I won't support.  One of the things I found most disturbing is how she really didn't seem to learn much from the feedback she was getting over that stunt.  Believe me, not everyone was amused by the fake-out, and they kindly, but firmly let her know.  The result?  Just make your account private for a little while!  An account that is (as of this post) 54.4 thousand followers deep, and newly reopened to the public.  Hopefully her followers wise up, or she cuts the crap and sticks to frivolous parlor tricks moving forward.

Watching people fall prey to this kind of behavior is one of the many reasons I'm so passionate about people empowering themselves, staying away from "thought leaders," and taking the time to seek out the reluctant teacher -- mind you, this is not to disparage those amongst us who are called to teach and share, this is about paying attention to who is in it just for the ego boost, and who is actually walking their talk -- as well as becoming aware of those around them who use their experiences (spiritual or otherwise) to manipulate, or condescend, and to be careful that we don't become one of them ourselves.  In fact, one of my favorite article titles of all-time sums it up rather perfectly, I think:


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bathroom Lessons

A mirror is useless when your eyes are shut.
It doesn't matter how many mirrors you have, if you can't see who's staring right back at you.

Shower curtains go inside the bathtub.
Preparation is the key to success, they say.

Do not place anger on the drain for what is circling it,
when the plug has been in your hand the entire time.

Air freshener, a window that opens, and a fan are all nice things to have,
but ultimately you still have to flush the toilet.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Three Things Cannot be Long Hidden:

 The Sun, The Moon, and The Truth.
Can we know the truth?  What is truth, anyway?

This conversation keeps finding me, as I've been asked in a handful of ways what truth is to me, which leads me to believe the people in my life either think I'm the biggest liar on Earth, or it's just a barometer for where we're at as humanity trying to wrap our heads around fundamental, yet oft over-complicated concepts.  The latter of which, I happen to view as a worthy, if sometimes exhausting, endeavor.
I think truth is the only thing we ever can know.  Everything else is a song & dance of conjecture, and assumption leaving us constantly questioning.
Truth is incorruptible.  The same as both the sun, and the moon, the truth is there whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether we understand it or not, and definitely whether we like it or not.  It does not depend, or rely on our perceptions or opinions in order to exist.  Truth.  Just.  Is.

Much like love, I believe it is something meant to be felt; to be inherently known someplace that resides within us much deeper than the thinking mind.  By putting too many words to the topic we run the risk of muddying the waters, and disorienting ourselves along with anyone else who happens to be trying to follow along.

I believe there is no your truth ... my truth ... his truth ... her truth.  There is only the truth.  Adding qualifiers to it somehow distorts its singular wholeness.  I do believe they were added by well-meaning people trying to help others find the power to exercise their voices, and for that I at least applaud the attempt, but I feel that by inventing these phrases, we've created a big ol' mess.  My favorite description of "your truth" is found over at Feld Thoughts where Brad elaborates,
"When I say 'your truth' I’m not referring to opinions. I’m referring to your deeply held beliefs. Your truth is the set of ideas that forms the basis of your view of the world. It requires a huge act of will and introspection for you to change your truth."
I think this is a pretty great explanation, but the problem as I see it is that the phrase "pronoun + truth" doesn't come with an asterisk, and a footnote everywhere it is printed or spoken, and so leaves a lot to interpretation, and too much room for bastardization by those with a mind that loves to flex creatively with the notion of truth.  I know I can't possibly be the only person out here who's witnessed a tirade of brazen lies in the name of someone telling their truth,  "I WILL NOT BE SILENCED.  I AM TELLING MY TRUTH!"
Uhm, okay sweetheart, you wanna go ahead, and let us know when the true part begins, or nah?    
I haven't been this put off by a word or phrase since it was popular for school girls to scrunch their eyebrows together and smugly declare, "Random!" at everything until the New Age community firmly colonized this one, and spread it like a freshly imported virus.  By doing so, and making it ridiculously easy for liars, and drama queens alike to co-opt it for their own personal gains, I strongly feel that this abuse of the term dramatically weakens it for everyone else who may be trying to impart a significant morsel of wisdom to the rest of us.  Like, if we listen to an African American woman speaking the certainty of her daily existence, or in other words, her truth, we learn it is incredibly different from my own, and that both of our experiences that have shaped who we are have been vastly different from that of men, what's more, the LGBTQ folks each face their own set of unique circumstances and reality that the rest of us are not forced to confront with the same frequency, and still all of us experiencing something wildly different than those of other nations.  Just in that alone, I see and value the weight, and importance of the concept.

It's tremendously difficult for me to come to terms with the actuality that something created to further our understanding of one another, life, and our connection with all life envelopes has had its authenticity corrupted by those too willing to spin tales for validation, entertainment, or whatever other void they feed with deceptive practices.  Especially when truth itself can not be mistaken.  We may not always be aware of the absence of truth, but we undeniably know it when we are in its company.  Truth is experienced by the entire body even if the mind is unable to recognize it.  You feel it in your gut, your bones, your cells, your soul.
There is nothing more obvious or profound than when you are in the presence of pure truth.
The truth exists (period) but it is up to each one of us to uncover it for ourselves if we choose to live wholly in accordance with the natural order of things in our universe.

Monday, April 9, 2018

I'm Just a Girl in the World ...

...That's All That You'll Let Me Be

I've seen a lot of talk lately about the trouble with keeping women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers, first of all, why there are so few to begin with, why they drop out, and why they quit the work they love in an industry they should be thriving in.  A lot of people argue that getting in the door isn't the problem, it's staying in the room once you're there.  But, pretending that sexism only occurs, or is recognizable once the woman is inside the industry is not helpful, or honest.  Many women, and young girls experienced sexism (especially casual-sexism), and discrimination as students.  It might be a little bit different for the generation coming up behind me, but I can't imagine it's changed all that much for all females across the board, in every classroom in America.  The ones lucky enough to have incredible, and fair teachers and professors who encouraged and supported all students equally were riding for a hard fall when the reality of how women are treated in these fields finally presented itself.  I was aware of it well before it happened to me, but even when it did finally happen, I was still only a child of thirteen. 
Let's not get it twisted, I was never a genius at mathematics, but I could at least hold my own, and in seventh grade with a midterm GPA of 3.9 I certainly didn't feel like anything in the Junior High curriculum was completely beyond my grasp.
That's why I was surprised at the end of the year when I was called to the front of the classroom to receive my recommendation for which class to take the following year, I heard that I would not be recommended to move on to the advanced Algebra class being offered for Junior High students, with the majority of my friends.  Instead I was told that another year of basic math would best suit someone in my situation.  Unsure of what exactly that situation was, I stood there as he reassured me in a friendly tone (that still confuses me today), that if my parents, and I disagreed with his recommendation that we were welcome to take it up with the school's guidance counselor, and that I would be placed in the class I preferred.  I said, "okay" and quietly made my way back to my seat wading through a sea of muffled snickering, and taunts of "stupid girl" and other hilarious insults thrown my way by some of the worst-performing male students in the class, all the while wondering what was so terribly wrong with my B+ that it should keep me from qualifying to get into Algebra.  Adding insult to injury, one of the boys who carried a C-average for the duration of the school year, and having failed more than one test was actually recommended for the very class I wanted to be in!  Was he just a closeted prodigy who wasn't applying himself?  Hardly.  That's when it started to become clear what was going on.  Only the female students who earned damn near perfect A's were being recommended for the advanced class, while most of the male students regardless of grades (with very few exceptions) were being waved through with flying colors. 

When my mother took our concerns to the guidance counselor, the math teacher was actually at the meeting to present a case against my advancement.  Yes, the same man who reiterated the school's policy that if anyone was unhappy with his recommendation, they would be allowed to still move on to their preferred class with no obstruction.  Let's be honest, it's not like he was saying that one more year of basic math would make me an unstoppable math-monster going forward.  Every time my mother expressed that it was her wish for me to have the opportunity to take the classes I wanted and was capable of taking available to me, he had a retort or an excuse that had nothing to do with my academic ability.  He literally said, "she'll never keep up, she's too sickly," even though I hadn't missed over the allotted absences in the year as per school requirements, and continued to do the actual work.  His final attempt was a pathetic "... Well, she'll never get an A"  (this guy wasn't trying to derail me, he was doing his best to keep me out of the train station altogether!).  Like getting a B in math was some kind of terror, or trauma my little lady-brain could never cope with.  I give him credit, because it DID work on some of my girl friends from other class periods.  One was so obsessed with getting a 4.0 from 7th - 12th grade I don't think she ever enjoyed a day of school in her life!  She refused to push the advancement issue, because she and her parents decided that settling for the easier class would guarantee her an A with less pressure ...  

A lot of good that did! 

All I had ever really wanted was the option to be able to graduate with Physics under my belt if that's what I desired when the time came.  I knew that the sooner I started checking off my math requirements, the more electives I could choose later in high school, and I wanted an eclectic educational experience.  I was also aware that something as subtle as what classes you leave high school having completed at the time dictated which college placement exams you were allowed to take, and just simply asking for and completing an advanced math test meant you were automatically placed in a higher math level class at the university I was eye-balling than those who took the regular test, even if you didn't ace it.  This meant you could complete your math requirements faster, without having to waste your time drudging through prerequisites that wouldn't count toward anything really, and in turn frees up your schedule to take other, more interesting classes in areas you actually want to study.  That's a hell of a decision to put on a 7th grader's shoulders -- something that can potentially effect my future self as a senior in college?  All I knew is that I was going to university, and I wanted to pave a smooth road to get there, and I wanted to have a cool experience once I was there, and here was this dude with legendarily atomic coffee-breath trying to dictate what my academic life would look like long after I'd left the hellhole we were forced to inhabit at the same moment in time?   

I don't think so.

By the end of the meeting, the counselor was not impressed with what my teacher had done.  Honestly though, he never gave me the impression that he was overly enthusiastic about how most teachers at my school conducted the business of teaching, and after he reviewed my grades, and couldn't find any reason why I shouldn't be welcome to at least try the class, I was allowed to go forward with my plan.  The thing is, if I couldn't hack, I could always drop the class, and slip into the one I had been recommended for, but no matter how well anyone did in their second year of basic math no one was ever suddenly ushered into the higher class via red carpets.  The door was only open once, and if you didn't get the chance to go through, it closed, and that was it.  And that was my mother's battle cry on my behalf, "she's worked for, earned, and deserves the chance to go for it!"

Of course it didn't end there.  The teacher's attitude toward me completely changed after he found out my mother and I weren't the type of women to be bulldozed over.  His icy, and dismissive behavior toward me continued until the end of the year, and I think it's important to remember that how adults act often dictates the behavior of children in their presence, so the environment in my math class was hardly a welcoming one, or one that encouraged my enthusiastic participation.  By the time Algebra started the next fall, some kids remembered that I hadn't been recommended, and liked to remind me that I didn't belong there -- The Whiner who had stolen someone else's (read: another male's) spot, and so it was from the moment I had been given my recommendation in front of the class in 7th grade I was treated like an outsider, and almost tourist inside my own education.

It's pretty ridiculous and lazy, but all too often summed up as:
male + nerd = sexist pig

First of all, it's been my experience that men who are truly excellent in subjects stereotypically reserved for "nerds" are the men who are NOT the problem.  These individuals seem to have actually developed as a fully functioning adult human beings with a grasp on their actual emotions, and understanding.  Problems I've witnessed have always come from those who are mediocre with very little drive, and a rather magnificent chip on their shoulder, and severely arrested emotional development who overestimate their own intelligence. However, I've often seen the conversation reduced to exactly this, countless times.  The truth remains, that sexism, and discrimination do not happen in a vacuum.  People are taught these things, both overtly and covertly.  In time, they learn if they push hard enough, and behave badly enough other people will be forced to change the course of their lives around them, and the idea of children learning that kind of power-manipulation is absolutely repulsive to me.  But learn it they do, and the very same children who'd taken it upon themselves to be my personal (un)wecoming committee in math, were the ones also sexually harassing me in band, but instead of making them mind, the (male) teacher tried everything he could to make me switch instruments from the one my parents had shelled out serious cash for only 2-3 years before.  Now it was up to me to scrap my plans, and learn something else all because some men, and boys refuse to learn how to behave in society side-by-side with women?
Why on earth must it fall on women, and girls to completely reconfigure our lives to suit this bullshit?   
In the end, I did finally get an A in math (three years later) in Trigonometry, the first A I'd had in the subject since third grade ... My B's were certainly nothing I was ever ashamed of, especially because I had earned them completely on my own, unlike the kids whose parents would do their homework for them, and make the children copy the assignments in their own handwriting in order to keep their grades up in case they performed terribly on any tests. I may not have ended up a complete math scholar, or even going into STEM fields, but I can look back on my experience and be proud of not only how I conducted myself, and advocated for myself, but how I earned my grades myself thanks to the support of a mother who refused to let me give up on myself. 

P.S. I held on to my spot in the trumpet section in band as well, and I haven't stopped making noise since! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

At What Cost?

Last month over at Mythos and Marginalia my pal, J.G. Lewis published a little something I clacked my keys at as part of his Words for Someone Else series, and this is it:
Image courtesy of J.G. Lewis
I learned early on, I'm the kind of bitch people don't worry about ... Probably because I was raised by one, or maybe because very little escapes my attention, and I rarely find myself playing the fool.  I don't coo, and giggle like a baby-doll come to life, I don't have a tiny voice and a vacant look on my face that begs someone else to "write my story for me," and I definitely don't play small to make other people more comfortable.  I have a big, loud mouth, and a head full of ideas that I believe should be used for more than just adding to the collective cacophony of noise.

When I was a young girl, I sometimes wondered what it would be like to be the classic damsel in distress that the quintessential, handsome gentleman would rush to save from whatever peril I found myself in.  But I was different, and always had been.  I didn't cry when I was scared, I had a calm, clear head during emergencies, I didn't shake at the flood of adrenaline coursing through my system, I didn't shrink from blood (at most, my worst thoughts were of staining my clothes) ... I was not the woman from the black and white movie who needed to be slapped in order to "snap out of it," and I certainly never wilted into the nearest man's hands in a dramatic back-of-hand-to-forehead-faint.  No, that woman was never going to be me.  And if she was, it would require the abandonment of everything it had already meant to be me, in my most natural state.  And frankly, not only had I never quite learned how to be that fake, but it sounded like an awful lot of work for a payout that didn't seem equivalent, or greater to the required price.  Not interested in being short-changed, my days continued on as they had before, with me growing each day (more in fiestiness than size, I'm sure) until I overheard the conversation between my parents after one of my dad's friends was killed in a workplace accident, leaving behind his widow to now navigate life on her own, newly discovered, terms ...

"That poor woman," my dad said, "I just don't know what she's going to do without him; she needs so much help, and doesn't know how to take care of anything.  It wouldn't be as hard on you because I'm gone all the time, anyway.  I don't worry about you."

"Yeah, I know.  I have to do everything myself, so I just pretend like you're dead, it makes it easier to get through all of the tasks on my own without being perpetually furious about it," my mother quipped ... A wife who, for a time, slept with a pistol in a sliding compartment in her headboard in case anyone from the rabble of weirdos, and peeping Tom's swarming our home decided to up the ante, and force entry in the late night hours.  Our houseful of women left to fend for ourselves which comprised of two teenage daughters, a runt (me), a toy poodle, and a mother with no concept of backing down didn't have the luxury of catching the vapors every time a man couldn't magically solve our problems.

And so it is, my sisters and I never learned to be women who would trade our souls for the illusion of a man's safety, and all of the counterfeit comforts that comes with.  I've seen her, though.  I know who she is, and I'm not judging her, I'm wondering which part(s) of herself she had to kill to get here.  This place where she washes her husband's patronizing insults down with another gulp of boxed-wine bought in bulk (which is incredibly economical, and an obvious choice I finally understand considering how much fluid it must take to drown oneself everyday) that has become her home ... cage ... prison.  Ever the perfect hostess, she (again) offers me another glass, secretly hoping I'll get drunk enough not to notice, or remember her humiliation -- not just that of her husband's actions, but how she betrayed, and continues to betray herself, for what we've been told we all really want.  I don't accept, and we sit awkwardly in her shame.  She is painfully aware of how aware I am of it all, and part of me aches for her.  Do we both know the money, the property, the expensive gifts, jewelry, cars, new family, and upgraded husband are meaningless when you're dead inside?  Does she ever visit her own grave?  Did she leave any markers behind to find it again?

We can pretend that heartbreak, and shattered dreams are avoidable, but they truly are commonplace happenings that are not exclusive to one type of person, and yet each one of us has the power to decide whether we will be defined, destroyed, or just slightly detoured by it.  Cloaking ourselves in the bubble-wrap of artificial-stability does nothing but suffocate. 

"Don't be delicate, be vast and brilliant."