How Plants Grow

I have a question for you, Dear Reader.

Do you know how a plant grows?

A seed, cast off and discarded from its dead and barren home, falls to the earth and is slowly covered with dirt. Layer after layer of dark, damp weight fall upon the seed until it is forgotten by the outside world.

The weighted darkness presses down on the seed, surrounding it on all sides. The pressure building in the damp womb of the Earth squeezes it from above and below. The small hole the seed occupies is both a bed and a prison,  everything and nothing. From there, the change happens.

Slowly the pressure forces the seed to change inside. Something inside unlocks and it begins to entwine upon itself. Cells divide and multiply, forming a newness out of the remains of what once was. Gently, the new appendage lengthens and widens. It unfurls until it’s pushed against the shell of its former self.

Then it penetrates the skin of the remains, the shell of the life that was,  and cracks an opening. Instead of growing up, towards the sun it once loved so well, it grows down. With no fear and only purpose, it plunges into the unknown.

It anchors itself to the nothingness and uses it as leverage. In the absence of other life, nutrients are plentiful. The seed feeds off the darkness. And in doing so, thick sturdy roots form.

Their growth is an acquisition. The roots split and divide, small branches spreading the existence of the then seed now seedling. Their sole purpose, their only desire is to strip their surrounding and use it all for their own good. And they do.

Then the seedling starts to stand, its newly formed spine still shiny and pure. It’s new form is greeted not with applause but with silent darkness. The same darkness that allowed it’s metamorphosis now stands in creation’s way.  To reach the goal, to bask in the sun, this then seed-now seedling has to fight and climb, dirt sticking to it’s delicates. It has to contort itself into a new form, finding a balance between protecting itself and allowing expansion to happen.

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Finally, after the struggle and challenge of refashioning, this cosmic modification breaks into the sky. It is that moment that the seedling becomes what it was proposed for. It fulfils the prophecy that was written in its cells before it was fully formed. It becomes a plant.

The Sun, the god the plant loves without a name, welcomes it into the land of the free. Closer the plant strains to get closer to this holy fire. Drawing up all of the spirits from the roots, now doubled in thickness and width, every cycle of the bright deity the plant grows closer.

Eventually, the inevitable happens. The plant that did nothing more than worship in the bosom of the Sun dies. Everything it was and everything it could be has been erased from existence. Death spreads along the plant, leaving lip prints in strategical locations. The plant dies slowly or all at once. The timing of the cycle song is different for each one.

After Death has sung it’s song and had its way, the only remnants left are the seeds the plant created almost absentmindedly during its pursuit of the Sun.

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That is how plants grow, Dear Reader.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret.

It’s not much different than how people grow.

It’s not that much different at all.

 

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Happy Obligation Day

Mother’s Day 2018 is officially in the bag. Another year, another series of cards, flowers, saccharine dollops of love and clickbait headlines like What Moms REALLY Want filling up your feeds. TV and radio commercials tell you about bouquets, hearts that look like butts necklaces and weekend getaways more frequently than they bring you the news. Every store has circulars and signs explaining how best to use your money to prove your love for your mother. Instead of being inspiring, these endless suggestions make Mother’s Day seem like an obligation.

And like Victory Gin, holidays of obligation leave a bitter taste.

I should be the prime target for this Hallmark holiday. I’m a mother of four. I like flowers. Shiny things catch my eye. I’d be so down for a spa day. But something about how Mother’s Day is celebrated really crumbles my cornbread. It feels too commercial, too disingenuous, too consumeristic.

My umbrage for it all probably has something to do with my personal mother quandary. Yes, I have a mother. Yes, she’s still alive. But she’s not worth the spit on the back of a stamp. She’s the fly in my self-esteem punch bowl. I have more things to vilify her for than celebrate. If anything, Mother’s Day is a reminder that of the hole in my life that she created that keeps me on the other side of normal.

Personal feelings aside, Mother’s Day has a pretty interesting history.

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Ann Maria Jarvis

The roots of Mother’s Day start with Ann Maria Jarvis. She was an OG social activist who cultivated women’s and health groups during and after the Civil War. With only four of her possibly 17 children reaching adulthood because of the effects of childhood diseases, she became a champion for better care and fought for more sanitary conditions.

It was Ann’s daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis (Yes, Ann Maria the mother had Anne Marie the daughter. How Norman Bates is that shit?) that made Mother’s Day an event.

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Anna Marie Jarvis

Looking to find a way to honor her deceased mother, Anna held a memorial celebration at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908. (In the years since the site has been renamed The International Mother’s Day Shrine. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.) In the flair of her mother, Anna made the memorial for more than just herself. She incorporated all mothers in this remembrance as she felt that maternal figures were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. It was Anna who introduced the idea of gifting carnations to mothers. She gave the Church 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to commemorate her mother’s decades long service. In sharing these flowers with the mothers in attendence, a trend was born.

But eventually, even Jarvis struggled against the river of commercialization. She wanted the purity and sacredness of the day of remembrance observed, not made into a money-making tool by the floral, jewelery, and candy industries.

She was quoted as saying:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

Jarvis went so far as to try to rescind the day in 1943 by organizing a petition. Her efforts did not get far because later that year she was, and I swear Dear Reader I am not making this up, committed to Marshall Square Sanitarium. She would die in that sanitarium five years later, penniless.

The history and the commercialism of the holiday make it a bit complex. My personal feelings make my experience of the day a little bit more complex. But my experience is not the same for everyone. Some people love Mother’s Day. Some people very much respect the idea and the methods in which that idea is delivered. And that’s totally cool! I am not here to ruin what others care very deeply about. That would not be fair of me at all.

We are all familiar with what Nietzsche said:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Applying that thought to Mother’s Day is wise. Not every mother is Kitty Foreman or Clair Huxtable. That also means that not every mother is the cold cream faced Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. Somewhere between is where most mothers, just like people, land.

Celebrating or not celebrating is an individual choice.  Whatever your decision is, make sure it’s one made out of compassion and not out of obligation.obligationday

 

 

Duel Review: Women Who Run with The Wolves and Light is the New Black

If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m kind of a mess. Around me gravitates a sort of controlled chaos.

For example, currently, I’m totally into subversive embroidery. (You mean you can stab a thing thousands of times to create words and images that would give the sewing circle at church a heart attack? Sign me up!) I’ve also just bought and printed like half a hundred pages in a coloring book of shadows off Etsy. So on my desk is haphazardly piled with embroidery junk and printed pages, colored pencils and half-read books. Like books are everywhere. If there’s a flat surface, it probably had a few books on it.

Which brings me to admit I’m the type of person who reads more than one book at a time. Some books are living room books. Some books are bedroom books. And there are some books that are travel in the purse, pull it out when you need a few bumps type of books. And that’s what I’m doing with Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Light Is the New Black by Rebecca Campbell.

Ever heard the phrase “same but different”? Well, that describes these books, kinda. Both of them emphasize the importance of understanding one’s true self. Both of them describe the struggle of breaking down the walls that contain us. And both books, to me, provoke unmistakable inspiration.

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Women Who Run WIth the Wolves is a deliciously heavy read. The author, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, is an ultra-accomplished Jungian psychoanalyst, a storyteller, has a PhD, and is an illustrious post traumatic stress recovery specialist. She uses her expertise in analysis and her innate storytelling ability to examine the Wild Woman archetype in the feminine psyche. And that she does just that in the book. She breaks apart some of some of the most well known myths, fairy tales, and folk tales and exposes the threads that are woven together to create and rally for the Wild Woman ideal.

41xwfptiavl-_sx317_bo1204203200_Light Is The New Black is a light breeze on a hot day. It’s an airy, high-spirited sprint into the world of light working. Not only light working, but light acknowledging. It’s a how-to guide to letting the light inside you out and how to process life shining out loud. The author, Rebecca Campbell, is a well versed jet-setting Australian who has been known as The Skype Nomad and is one of Hay Houses outstanding authors. Hip, fresh, and personal, her writing is easy to connect to. Her voice echoes through the words on the page. With the title playing off the popularity of the TV show Orange in the New Black it’s almost a testament to the influx of spiritualism into current culture. The book is in a similar vein as Modern Girl, Mystical World which you know I am not a fan of. With the exception of one short passage, I have found so much more enjoyment in Light Is The New Black than I did in Modern Girl, Mystical World. And I think that a lot of it has to come from the author being more relatable.   

There’s more to these books than I can put into words. The authors themselves have done so much work to create these volumes of truth anything I try to come up with will fall short. Even though the books are different strengths they both pack the same punch. Sometimes you need to jump into the deep end and surround your mind and soul with ideas that rattle you to the core. Sometimes you need to open a door to a shining light surrounds you and starts healing your wounds. These books do both.  

And both of these books are hitting me right where I need to be hit. Like you’ve read earlier, I’m balancing a lot of things right now. I’ve been balancing them for a long time. With my attention, soul and inner light going into fixing things for others, it’s left me empty. If I’m a match, these books have ideas in them are a striker strip. In the few moments I get, these books have reached inside and found the voice I had thought was lost.

And man, they are inspiring the fuck out of her to do something great.

Even if she is tired and scared and totally washed out. Even if she’s a mess of overstacked bookshelves and tumbling papers. She’s awakening again. These books are guiding her home.  

Featured Photo by Prasanna Kumar on Unsplash 

Disconnected

I don’t have pretty words to dress it up. I don’t have metaphors to make it relatable.

I’m drained. I’m empty. I’m disconnected.

This year started in the red. My husband had a scary hospitalization that has since lead to months of dealings with the VA and his jobs HR department. And if you have ever dealt with the VA you understand what a headache that is. More than just the administrative frustrations, I’ve been worried. I’m a worrier by nature so his inclement health has heightened my natural protocols to be a worry wart. Forms, phone calls, driving downstate to the regional clusterfuck of a medical facility, it’s all a perfect storm of frustration and low key fear.  But like I wrote about here, I pulled on that heavy crown and dealt with it

But added to the weight of reigning, is the weight of plebeian life. Kids, schools, pets, and domestic adventures weigh a thousand fucking pounds on a good day. But when you’re running on almost empty, they weigh even more. Balancing doctors visits and IEP meetings, with grocery trips, homework and family dinners requires more patience that I have left in the tank. The chaos of normal life glows neon under the light of stress. And guys, that annoying fucking glow is starting to hurt my eyes.

There are so many things I’m carrying that don’t belong to me. I think sometimes my compassion gets ahead of me and takes the friendship into therapist territory. I often have soft boundaries and am just so thrilled that someone trusts me enough to bring their problems to me I don’t know when to excuse myself. For me, and I think other empaths, emotions are viral. The feelings and energies of others act like a contagion and take over the host. More times that I should have allowed, that host was me.

It’s a balancing act and I’m the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This wavering existence and the darkness it brings has made it hard for me to be me. It’s severed me from the things that I’ve really loved. As more things pile on to my haphazard load, the more I pull away from myself. The things I’ve enjoyed have become harder and harder for me to accomplish.

How do you reconnect? That’s the big question. Thankfully, the internet is full of advice. Self Care is a hot topic. You can find hints and tips from Facebook to Pinterest and back. Hell, I even wrote about it here. That part isn’t hard. The hard part is making yourself commit and implement those strategies into your life. The struggle is not in finding information, it’s in using it.

I don’t have answers. I could sit here and preach to you like the Southern Baptists that pepper my genetic background. I could bombard you with recommended things to try that would guarantee you some connectivity to your life. I could easily just copy and paste some list from some other blog. But honestly, I’m not a good liar. I can’t bullshit well. That’s why I keep my ass away from the poker tables. (That and my horrible math skills.)

So I’m just going to admit that I have a lot to work on. I will acknowledge my part in my own struggle. I will tell you that this is a public declaration that I need to step up my self-care game. I’m going to find the fray in the wires between where I am and who I want to be and stitch them back together. I’m going to grab the receiver and complete the call.

pavan-trikutam-1660-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

 

 

 

Featured Image Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

C’mon Get Happy…Or Else

In the Seventies, musical sitcoms were a thing. Singing, dancing, canned laughter, and tissue-thin plot lines, as corny as it sounds to us, it was a total hit. It seemed that at any given point, there were a handful of shows featuring singing families on TV. I can only take one musical episode a season at best. I don’t know how people in the 70s dealt with it.

There was one such musical sitcom that featured the story of a family who becomes a band and traveled around the country spreading music, bell bottoms, shitty haircuts and happiness. It was called The Partridge Family. (Get it, because partridges are birds and birds sing? *cue the canned laughter*)

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I personally never watched this show. My childhood was about 20 years too late to be into that mess. But the theme song for that show would become one of those sickly sweet diddies that refuse to die in obscurity. It’s been used in a commercial sense since the damn series ended. You’ve heard, you know it, now everybody sing along!

 

“Hello world, here’s a song that we’re singin’

Come on, get happy

A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’

We’ll make you happy”

 

Doesn’t that feel a little insistent? Like “Hey, your life might be shit and all but C’MON BE HAPPY!! WE ARE GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY!” The goal is happiness and The Partridge Family doesn’t care if you don’t want it or how much it hurts to get there. They’re going to make you happy, goddamnit.

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Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

 

And that’s where we are in society currently. “Happiness’ is the ultimate goal. Optimism is the only vehicle to get us there. Why did I put quotes around happiness? Because our quest is not one for true happiness. The thing we long for, lust for, and wear ourselves to the bone for is for the illusion of happiness. We want others to think we are happy. We want them to think we’ve made it, that we have all our shit in together. These illusions of perfection and enjoyment have replaced our internal need for positivity. The validation from likes and shares has replaced the feeling we get when we generally enjoy something.

Our lives have become little more than pay per minute striptease for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Why would it matter if we are crumbling apart on a spiritual level if our selfies look fly? If those friend request from people we wouldn’t speak to in passing don’t keep rolling in, are we even valuable? If you can’t describe it with a hashtagged word, did it even happen?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve stopped chronicling our adventures in life for our own memories and started curating them based on others.

 

No thumbs up on the pictures of you and grandpa before he died? DELETE!

No one liked the poem you shared that you ripped out from your soul? DELETE!

That tagged picture that showed your real smile, double chin and all? DELETE!

 

Before long we’re augmenting not only our memories but the presentation of ourselves. Our ultimate internet form ends up being one of enduring optimism, polished success, and eternal happiness. And it’s as fake as it is beautiful.

That fakeness is what we are expected to obtain. The real part of us, the part that we are still stitching together, is not welcome. No one wants to see that struggle. There is no celebration of our going through hardships. We are not rewarded for the unflattering things that make us individuals. The gritty nasty parts of us remind others too much of the gritty nasty parts of them. Adding our lives to the collective consciousness of online profiles, special groups, and social coteries often means we enter this unspoken popularity contest. Before we can mentally put together what we’ve gotten ourselves into, it’s too late. Like the frog who doesn’t realize the water is getting warmer until it starts to boil, we waste away until we become one with the system. And then we yell the same rally cry as the people around us, but we do it louder and prouder because we are happier than them, after all:

“C’mon get happy!!”

Happiness and optimism are not feelings you can strongarm someone into experiencing. Forcing them to pretend that life is the emotional equivalent of a teen idol number one song isn’t only foolish, it’s dangerous. It betrays the concept of valid feelings and cheapens the power of the true experience. We need strife, we need struggle, we need unhappiness and pessimism to complete the cycle of life. So while the rest of the world might taking advice from a singing 70s sitcom family, I prefer to take guidance from a 90s-00s band out of L.A. who never wore bell bottoms or tried to spread happiness :

 

“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”

 

 

featured image:Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Resting Rose Face

If you’ve been around for a quick minute, you are well aware of RBF or resting bitch face. It’s the unintentional facial expression that makes a person look like they are annoyed, angry, standoffish,  or just bitchy as shit. You know that face both Grumpy Cat and Kanye West make? That’s Resting Bitch Face.

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For some people, RBF has become a badge of honor. A visual representation of their lack of fucks to give. A private celebration of the fact that they do not have to play the part of ‘happy to see you’ to anyone.

For others, RBF is survival tactic to counter unwanted attention, solicitations, and catcalls. We live in a society with individuals who missed the call up to evolve from Neanderthals. Armour is not as stylish as a look that perpetuates the belief that you know how to maim someone with their own appendages.

And for some, like Grumpy Cat, it’s just the way their face looks. It’s a natural thing. Would Aubrey Plaza be as completely amazing as she is if her face was all sunshine and rainbows? No, probably not.

Some critics believe RBF is something that can be cured with a splashing of  tonic made of equal parts “You’d be prettier with a smile.” and “Smile, baby girl.” My stance on them is easy to understand. They’re full of it. Smiles and happiness are not things that are owed to society. Being and appearing pleasant is not something a person is required to do to take up space. We do not have to be nice to be here.

On the other side of Resting Bitch Face is my struggle. I have Resting Rose Face.

What’s Resting Rose Face, you ask?

Well, let me introduce you to Rose Nylund from one of the greatest shows of the 80s,  The Golden Girls.

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The Golden Girls is a situational comedy about four older single ladies sharing a house in Florida. Blanche, the stylish, attractive, man-eater Southern Belle, is the owner of the house. She is joined by Dorothy, a smart, sarcastic, often intimidating divorcee, Dorothy’s mother brash, brazen Sicilian mother Sophia, and my personal favorite, Rose.

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Rose Nylund is the character that just might have cemented Betty White’s fame. Rose was the adorably upbeat, naive, and often trampled upon sweetheart lady from St. Olaf, Minnesota. She was quirky and kind, and often the butt of serious burns from the other ladies. She was the sweet to Dorothy’s salt. And in that, I relate so hard it hurts.


If I had a dime for every time I’ve been called “sweet” I could afford the swanky place in which the Golden Girls lived in a modern day market. Maybe its the shape of my face, maybe it’s my obligation to listen to people who speak to me, maybe its the fact that I smile when I’m nervous. Whatever it is, I have always been tagged as the nice one. I offer Jehovah Witnesses drinks on hot days.. I’ve actually stood around and listened to the people at the kiosk in the mall trying to sell me face cream. I’ve had complete strangers tell me their life stories in public. Weirder still, I stood there and listened!

I have the sort of face that makes people believe I care. Because generally, I do. In my early 20s, I thought being a strong woman meant you had to be an asshole to everyone. I confused independence with selfishness. I thought the only way to be successful and “right” was to be a bitch. It was my mid to late 20s that I learned how fucking wrong that was. Maybe I am a natural pushover. Maybe I’m a natural people pleaser. Maybe I spend too much time with my head in the clouds and take a little too much enjoyment out of the simple things. That’s all okay! I am who I am.

What’s not okay is when this is taken for granted. And it happens, a lot.When people see me or register that I am there, it’s like I’m the human equivalent of a nice cup of tea. They relax and their troubles spill forth. It also leads me to get passed over a lot. While looking kind and friendly is not a bad way to spend your life (and really helps with traffic tickets), it usually makes you seem like the least interesting person of a group. So while the proud extroverts are the ones taking part in all the fun, I’m the type holding purses and talking to old people about their grandkids.

The struggle is real for those of us who have Resting Rose Face. The struggle is also real for those who have Resting Bitch Face. Life is hard. Having expressive faces is hard. The only thing we can do is to just be who we are. And try to thrive, no matter what face we have on.

Why Platitudes Are Bullshit

Can I share something with you, dear readers?

I am not a positive person.
I have roughly the optimism of an ice cube in Hell. When faced with the believing a positive or negative outcome will occur, I always chose the negative one. I’m not sure if its a lifestyle or a choice. Maybe since most of my young life was spent being told my best wasn’t acceptable I was primed to believe that the worst is always what’s going to happen.

Negativity is a constant companion of mine. And since before I can remember I’ve always had people try to “help” me with advice. Some of them have had the best of intentions. Most of them have not. Most of the advice I’ve gotten has been little more than contrite platitudes.

If you’ve been online for more than four minutes, you’ll know that platitudes in shareable form litter the social networking landscape like confetti after a parade. Remember how important a listening ear and seasoned mentor used to be? Well, that’s all been replaced by 800×600 images of fancy fonts overlaid on various types of backgrounds.

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They are the lines that a coach in a feel-good juvenile baseball movie would spout out.

“There is no I in Team!”
“Winners never quit!”
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!”
“God has a plan!!”

And my personal most loathed:

“Everything happens for a reason!”

I know you’ve heard these. They are empty, inconsequential, asinine comments thrown out by people who want to infantize your struggle. Instead of looking at you and agreeing “Yeah, dude, this is shit.”, they patronize you with soft words that mean nothing. Their uncommitted motivation makes them feel brave and wise. It’s a loophole that allows them to be altruistic without actually giving a shit. A simple mumble, a share or tag on Facebook and all of a sudden they are heroes.

Even the phrases themselves, when ruminated on for more than half a second, are trite and faulty.

Yes, there’s no I in the word team. We generally understand spelling. But if it were not for the individuality of all the members of said team, would there even be a team? The reason we work well in groups is that we each bring our own special abilities and magic. Without that, what would a group accomplish? Five people with the same abilities are nothing more than worker bees doing the same thing in mass.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”? Oh really, it’s that simple? If you don’t die, you get more power?! Yes, I understand on a philosophical level that the struggles you go through can lead to the development of better coping techniques. But telling someone who feels like they are drowning that the pain they are crippled by is just a tool to whet their soul is callous. While they may emerge on the other side with more abilities and keener knowledge, that doesn’t do anything for the emotional trauma they are sustaining now.

And, since I’m on a soapbox about this let’s finish this on a high note:

“Everything happens for a reason.” is the most useless, insensitive, emotionally parsimonious thing you could ever say to a person. These five words are worse than any obscenity you could hurl. It’s basically telling someone that their feelings are inconsequential. The pain, the strife, the undoing they are experiencing doesn’t even matter because of some other entity’s grand plan. Someone, or something, decided without the effected’s consent that they should endure the bullshit they are currently shovelling. When you say this to someone who has done nothing more than being a casualty of random horrors, it makes the person begin to wonder if God or the Universe or what have you, is punishing them for some slight error. And take it from me, that added pain is not something that helps.

And that’s the problem with these half-assed cliches. They don’t help. They don’t inspire. No one has ever attributed their accomplishments in the professional or emotional field to a picture of a kitten dangling on a tree branch with the words “Hang In There!” in a retro font.

Empty words do not heal. Support does. Friendship does. Acknowledging someone’s emotions and letting them feel them does. Trying to be in a new age guru with a bunch of pretty words you stole off the internet is bullshit. When someone is struggling, it’s not about getting yourself over, it’s about helping them achieve the desired plateau.

So keep your platitudes. If you’re only going to say something nice, don’t say anything at all.