Culture is like Traffic

I haven’t had a car for over ten years – I gave up my 1986 Volvo when I moved to Seattle and have been reliant on public transit ever since – but even I know how bad traffic has gotten in my city in the last few years. I mostly know because everyone is constantly complaining about it. Public transit is subject to traffic, too, though, so I also experience the rush-hour-levels at 1:30 on Sunday afternoons or at 8 o’clock on a Monday night. I was thinking about this on the ride home recently; it’s actually not that we “experience” traffic, we are traffic. And the same is true for culture.  Continue reading Culture is like Traffic

I think a title is supposed to go here.

black whiteI am tired. I am tired of asking for help. It’s not the vulnerability that’s difficult for me – my nature gives me no choice but to be embarrassingly and shamefully vulnerable almost all the time. It’s the astounding lack of follow through on the part of others. I’ve been thinking over and over how to follow the advice to writers out there – how to create good content that people actually want and need, how to find an agent, how to land a book deal, etc. – and I just can’t do it. None of it feels right. I can’t get any of it to work. So, I guess this blog is just for me, then. I guess, after all, even though one of my deepest desires is to write for others (I mean, I write “for myself,” too, but that’s called journaling, and not at all the same as what I think every Writer actually wants), maybe all this is just for me. Continue reading I think a title is supposed to go here.

Can We Please Talk About How We’re Talking About Stuff?

typewriter-keysWe hear a lot about how narratives are powerful, that if you want to move someone, tell them a story, that we are creatures of story. As a writer, I’d like to eat all that up. But our culture is rapidly composting story into gossip and substance into insincerity. Journalists claim to “go where the story takes them;” what if that story is of a dangerous hate-spitting buffoon who doesn’t even really want to be president but gets himself elected anyway? Is there no moral obligation to do more than repeat ad nauseum atrocious and odious things he does and says, thereby normalizing them and desensitizing the public to them? Continue reading Can We Please Talk About How We’re Talking About Stuff?

The National Suicide Hotline

friendshipDoes this post look familiar? “Would at least three of my Facebook friends please copy and repost? I am doing this to prove that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness 1-800-273-8255.” It’s been making the rounds on Facebook lately and it’s heartening to see that many people care about those the incoming government is planning to leave behind. So I mean absolutely no blame or shame with this post. From someone who has attempted to call and use the National Suicide Hotline, you need to know that encouraging people to call it is not the most helpful thing you could be doing. This is a difficult time of year for many people and things are about to get a lot rougher in general in the coming months, but this is why we need to do much more and much different than directing people in mortal pain to talk to a stranger (who may or may not be available anyway). Continue reading The National Suicide Hotline

Vulnerability, stop one: to breed or not to breed

angry-babyIt’s been a few months since I’ve written anything here; my last post attempted to wrestle with the loss of a friend, not through death but through abandonment, the second “lifelong” best friend to tell me I’m not good enough. I’m angry, I’m tired of being set up and I want to rant. But the refusal to be vulnerable, to admit our fears (outsourcing them as blame or shame instead) and to strive to remain connected and responsible to each other is, among other things, exactly why this country is so close to electing an extremely dangerous man as our president.

So I’m doing a new thing with this blog, which I’ve retitled Burning By Heart. Vulnerability is hard; anger is hard; fear is hard; change is hard. My hope is to explore the connection between vulnerability and fear, to strive to heal my own anger and to invite those who are willing – who think listening, carefully forming opinions and learning is more important than asserting the right to think whatever you want – into the kinds of conversations we seem unable as a broader culture to have but really need to. I’m going to start with a raw topic for me and, since I’m not claiming to be perfect, I’m unable to talk about this without getting at least a little mad. Continue reading Vulnerability, stop one: to breed or not to breed

If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?

parting waysI have, these past several silent weeks, been searching for a way to process grief. Most of what I’m finding follows a back-and-forth formula of the dehumanizing expectations of emotionally stunted and immature Western culture and the reality of those who have lost a loved one. The bit about our culture being emotionally damaging and even abusive is validating, but the large majority of articles I’ve found on grief are not helpful. No one has died recently in my life. I am mourning the loss of three core friendships. And our society has so discarded or misused the word “friend” that, if you find it a struggle to get over the ending of a friendship, you’re weak, “too” sensitive, codependent and just need to get new friends. Continue reading If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?

Sad Lady and the Halfway Point

 

wandering2016, the year I was warned would be the hardest year of my life, is half gone today.

Should I think of it as the top of this gnarly crag and it’s all downhill from here? It’s been harder for me to hike down a mountain than up it; I’m not only shaky-tired from the climb up, but my jello joints can’t withstand gravity’s suck nearly as easily as they brace for my muscles’ pull against it. Continue reading Sad Lady and the Halfway Point

Sad Lady, Sounding Mad in Mourning

cliffside pathUnless you are willing to take care of me for a while, or take something off my plate, or spend time with me to ease the burden of aloneness, stop telling me to practice “self-care.” That’s a nice-sounding excuse not to show up. Self-care? How about community care? As Bessel Van Der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “We barely exist as individual organisms.” A genuine thank-you to friends who have made a consistent effort without making me feel guilty for “taking” their time. Continue reading Sad Lady, Sounding Mad in Mourning

Sad Lady and the Persistence of Anger

falling_RockI have a dear and longtime friend who has worked very hard to understand me, who does so well generally, and who has been integral to my life since 2009. He’s also been unfairly (to him) busy in a way that’s not allowed him much rest or time to do things that are nourishing for him and in a way that makes me think we’re sort of losing him, at least as anything more than a shell of a person. I’m going through some deep pain and some ancient pain; I wrote him a very long letter explaining one aspect of this pain in detail and had been waiting for over two months to give it to him. I don’t need everyone to understand this particular thing I’m going through (most people won’t, given how deceiving a surface-level view of it is) but I really needed this friend to.

Continue reading Sad Lady and the Persistence of Anger

What Drives Divorce?

broken ring

The last few years have seen some good news about divorce rates – that is, that they’ve held steady after years of climbing and are maybe even starting to decline. The problem is that they were really high to begin with, and it still seems like around 50 percent of marriages end in divorce (with subsequent marriages ending at higher rates than that) and a large portion of the ones that do stay together are relatively unhappy. For something so important and so potentially fulfilling (and so damaging to the soul when it goes wrong), this should be an out-and-out crisis. Yet, while we’re socialized to be competitive about everything else – jobs, appearances, the appearances of our life partner – being “the best husband” or “the best wife” is conspicuously absent from this list. Continue reading What Drives Divorce?