Rise and Shine

I should be working on my presentation for class on Tuesday.  But there is a lot that I need to get out of the way and onto a page before I have space enough in my mind for what should be worked on. 

Night after night there are images that flash and a barrage of voices and thoughts and constructs that are swimming.   I’m in and out of consciousness, I think—not fully awake and not fully asleep.  And that reminds me of what a detective told me about a 911 call: a white female found in and out of consciousness. 

That female was me. 

I can’t tell the rest of the story.  I don’t know it. 

I only know what happened before and what happened after.  There is no event.  The event never happened, as far as my person is concerned.  No memories.  Not one second.  Not a blur of light.  Not a sound.  Not a smell.  Not a moment.  Not  one single moment.

There is all sorts of speculation. 

I have a basic timeline, based on other people’s statements, and the call, and the facts we could gather from my own digital trail.  But that helps me none without a camera or an eye witness to the crime itself. 

There is a person of interest, based on the repeated statements of another person that seem suspect.  He is strong enough to have done the harm to my body.  He is acting odd enough to have me mistrusting him.  But is his DNA on my body?  I won’t know for 6 to 12 months. 

And I can’t help but think about all of this.  This madness that made me a victim on my own block, in a place that I feel safe and welcome, on a fucking Thursday night on a normal week like any other.

My friend from Loyola heard about a woman drugged and assaulted from the 24th precinct police report.  Weeks later, after we had dinner, she found out that woman was me.  My friend from the bar across the street told me to turn in the name of that person of interest—because no matter what excuses I want to make for him, we know he is capable of assaulting a woman because he has done it before.  It may have been 12 years ago, but he did it then, so he can do it now.  He doesn’t deserve any mercies if he is the culprit, and I deserve justice first, before any mercy is extended.  My daughter couriered my damp clothing from one hospital to another, when the first didn’t take seriously that I was certain that I had been drugged and assaulted.  She waited and watched as they went through the meticulous steps of swabbing and combing and capturing every possible bit of evidence from my effects and then my person—taking away that skirt that flared at just the right spot, and my only “interim” jacket that works between seasons in the perfect way, and one of the few matching bra and panty sets that I wear when I want to feel dressed up on the inside when I don’t dress up on the outside.  My underwear belongs to the police now.  It is evidence.  I became evidence. 

I’m evidence.  Me.

And it isn’t just that. 

It’s the loss of a friend who seems too distracted to care about this violence that tore apart my sense of self.  It is the bar that might have footage of someone nearby during that time frame that hasn’t checked tapes, because the owner has a personal issue with me—mostly because I have both a talent for truth-telling and a strong trigger response to being grabbed by grown men without cause or warning. I have apologized for both and he still won’t look to see if my attacker was outside  his bar.

A random reconnection with an ex partner this week gave me both extreme peace and strange feels, because I think that I really loved him, and I really needed to find some positive closure there, but now I don’t really want to leave that door closed.  And a connection with someone new was not reciprocal, and also he was the most generous man in saying that now was a vulnerable time for me, so connecting in the midst of that would be unwise.  So, these good men are falling from the sky, even as I walk over the spot where my body likely was dropped on the street just a few short weeks ago by some horror of a human. 

The flashes aren’t of what I remember from that night.  There isn’t anything from that assault that I remember.  The flashes are of everything else in my life, and how complex and busy and good and not great and terrifying and beautiful it all is.  And I don’t  quite know how to fit the pieces together to feel whole and safe and good and wise and at peace like I did before this happened. 

Because things were amazing before this happened. 

I had recovered from people being hurtful and dishonest and childish.  I had moved forward on a new path.  I was letting go of much.  I was sitting in the fire and letting it burn away all that did not serve me.  I was becoming a new and better and stronger and more beautiful woman.  I was gaining health.  I was growing in wisdom.  I was overcoming challenges.  I was making choices and building something new with the direction that I was going.  Things were flowing.  The Divine and the Universe were holding me up and carrying me along, and there was abundance and joy and gratitude and grace. 

And now there is this chaos—this unknown void surrounded by all sorts of things that I cannot seem to juxtapose correctly or assign with an ethos of good or evil without questioning my own judgment and mistrusting my gut instincts, and wondering if I was ever really being carried along by the Divine, or if I wanted to believe that was true, and the actual truth is that Evil smacked me down onto the pavement and said, “Stupid Bitch.  Nothing holds you up.  You always fall.”

There it is.

I knew if I could write it I could find the core of the matter. 

And the core of the matter is that I feel stupid for believing that I deserved that good and that the bad wouldn’t come and take it from me.  The thing I fear most is that the truth is I Always Fall. 

But why does that frighten me? 

I’ve gotten up more times than I know how to count.  I’m not sure there is a number that expresses how many times I have gotten up.  Falling.  I am an expert at fucking falling. 

But I am also an expert—by at least a sum of ONE MORE NUMBER—at GETTING UP. 

I Always Get Up.  I Always Stand.  Still I Rise.

All this chaos of the night and these flashes of what may have happened and who may or may not be here for my good or for my ill. All these thoughts and feelings and glimpses.  All of this comes to nothing and it means nothing.  Because at the end of this, I get up and I keep going. 

I already know that is true.

And maybe I didn’t know it until this moment.  But I know it now. 

I also know that it has been true for years and years.  It isn’t going to stop being true anytime soon, or because of any circumstance—whether I remember it or not, whether I was raped or not, whether this asshole dude’s DNA is on my person or not, whether I lose friends or not, whether Stavros checks the surveillance or not, whether I find the perpetrator of this violence or not, and whether I find an amazing partner in the future or not. 

I will find my footing. 

I will find my wisdom and my gratitude and my abundance and my grace and my joy.  They will radiate from me.  I will pour them out upon the world.

I am rising again.

Patience and Perseverance

I have this great relationship in my life.  It’s with a rock.

 

No, seriously.  It’s a little quartz bit that is shaped to a point and it hangs from a chain.  It’s a pendulum, and it is changing my life with all sorts of insights. Today it told me that “What’s going on” with me emotionally is that I am struggling with perseverance and patience.  And that clashes with someone else’s challenge to cope with my “Drive to Win”.

 

If you know me, even a little bit, you understand this post fully right now.  I could basically stop typing and you could surmise the rest based on the juxtaposition of Patience and Drive to Win.  Because they struggle internally, but apparently that struggle is now coming out, and potentially driving away others whom I don’t wish to repel.  So …

 

I approached my day with as much patience and perseverance as I could muster.  And this day definitely took some of each. I needed to call the housing authority that subsidizes my rent, because I felt they had made an error in figuring my new rent amount after the approval of my accommodation request due to disability.  I talked to two people, and then they put in a request for the person that I spoke with on Friday and Monday to call me. I suggested he may know more about my case, considering we had discussed it twice already. He called me back, walked me through the same response I had gotten earlier, and then I patiently thanked him for his time, while still feeling a mistake was made.  

 

But I didn’t let my Drive to Win intervene.  I let it go and hung up the phone. Fifteen minutes later, I received another call.  I was correct. Anthony, who had been looking at my case repeatedly, noticed that I had not been given the utility amount for a two bedroom, and the change lowers my rent and increases my subsidy.  

 

There was a woman in line at the market earlier who could have driven me nuts.  She was very scattered and also chatty and I could have thought, “If she would shut up and focus I would get my coffee and tomato and get home much faster.”  But I reminded myself that patience was an important focus for me right now, and instead I said to myself, “Isn’t she adorable. I’m probably like that when my brain fog kicks in and I’m in public.  Good thing I usually have Luke along to do the things for me when I get all scattered. I wonder if I pull it off as adorable?”

 

And that response made my day go an entirely different direction.  

 

I left the store feeling peaceful and entertained and a bit joyful.  I’m pretty sure I was smiling. I laughed aloud at a text Adam sent and people looked at me like I was strange.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And that was just a trip to the market.

 

I also went to the pharmacy.  I said I needed to know if I could go without one of my medications, since permission to refill hadn’t come in.  The tech forgot to ask the pharmacist. I gently reminded her and she called him over. He gave me three days worth of pills and told me to get in touch with my neurologist to get a new script in as soon as I could.  He didn’t want me experiencing symptoms. Perseverance and patience win again!

 

A little later today, an old partner, whom I used to help with work tasks he didn’t have the capacity to perform–like typing things and using big words, for instance–called and asked me how to get “a blank page to type on” to come up on his laptop.  

 

Breathe.  Breathe. Patience, Christy.

 

This one took a lot of extra patience and perseverance.  

 

He finally found “Office” on his desktop and then “Word” inside that.  And a happy cheer came from the phone as he found that blank page. I congratulated him and then politely ended the conversation.  

 

Minutes later, he called again.  “Could I bother you for a minute?”

 

“What is it that you need?”

 

“Well, you can figure this out and get this printed.  I can’t figure all this stuff out. You can do this in a minute.  Can’t I just come up and you can do it up there?”

 

Breathe.  Breathe. Breathe.  Patience, Christy. More patience, Christy.

 

“You just need to click the little print symbol, or go to “File” and then click “Print”, so I think you can handle it.”

 

“You’re better at this stuff.  I don’t know how this stuff works.  Why don’t I just bring it up there?”

 

“My printer isn’t connected to my Chromebook yet, so you will have to wait for me to transfer it to my tablet and print from there,” I said, hoping to deter him from utilizing my skill to do his job.

 

“Well come down here and use my printer then.”

 

“No. I don’t want to come down there.”   Breathe. Breathe.

 

“Okay.  I’ll be up in a minute.”

 

Breathe.  Breathe. Plug in the computer.  Move the desk away from the window.  Prepare to do the task with haste and grace and then go forward with your life.  

 

As soon as he arrived I texted another man and asked him to call in a few minutes time to give me an excuse to shove out this one.  But he was with a client. I said I would make another excuse, but maybe he should call when he was done working, just to be certain I was freed from these clutches.  He said that wouldn’t be until 8. I’m not that patient. I would have to deal with this situation on my own.

 

But, frankly, the texts to the other man were part of dealing with the situation.  The jealousy meter on the ex-partner went up to “fuck this bitch, I’m outta here” with my second coy smile and giggle at the arrival of a text.  And we weren’t talking about anything to be coy or giggling about, but I knew that the fact that someone else had my adoration and attention would frustrate him.  It’s a terrible way to play with a person’s emotion to get the outcome I want. I can admit that without hesitation. But I don’t really have any shame over it, because I have been used for his outcomes time and again, without even a thought about my care or concern at all.  And I was being used by him at this present moment. He had a task that he didn’t want to try to accomplish on his own, so he bullied his way into getting me to do it for him. So, I fought back with my text game, and it worked. I was patient enough to complete the task that he needed me to complete–simply typing out some names and addresses, and then he went on his way.  

 

Now I am impatiently wondering if I will still get a call from my other friend after he finishes work.  Which is probably the worst impatience I could have, because he is one who cannot stomach my Drive to Win, and I cannot be impatient with him.  So, all of this patience today and all of my persevering is for naught if I cannot hold onto it for the long-term.

 

The long-term is kind of how patience works though, right?  Playing the long game. Waiting for the right moment. Anticipating the needs of others.  Being able to stop demanding instant gratification.

 

I fail at those things a lot just because I am super open and available as a person.  I say what I feel. I put things out there. And I am accustomed to being around people who are comfortable with that.  

 

I suppose I have always known that there are people who are not comfortable with that.  But those people simply were not my friends. They were outside the circle where I spend most of my time living.  And the thought that the shy, quiet, slow-moving, considering deeply, and taking their time to decide people should have space in my circle, and that I needed to make a space for them wasn’t one that concerned me much until now.

 

He isn’t a bore.  He isn’t a nerdy, weird, unsocialized guy.  He just has lots of layers of stuff. It takes time and energy to get beyond the surface.  And there are nights when I want to break it open and get in there and figure it out and know it–whatever is down inside there.  That isn’t how he works, though, so trying to do that won’t work. Only Patience and Perseverance and letting go of my Drive to Win will work.  The only way to know what is beyond the surface is to wait and watch and be present and let things slowly unfold.

 

I don’t need to be different to do that.  I just need to see differently to do that.  I just need to interact differently to do that.  That doesn’t change who I am or how I am, at my core.  It just opens me up to a possibility that I hadn’t taken the time to make available before.  It gives me an opportunity to learn a way of interacting that is foreign, but may have beautiful results.  

 

So, my rock told me today that I have to focus my attention on patience and perseverance and not my drive to win.  And it is proving to be an excellent guide.

 

It is a guide.  And that is what I call it.  Before I use it I have a mini incantation that I say, basically ending in “my guiding stone you shall be”.  It helps me find the way when I don’t really know which direction I need to point myself.

 

There are days when you wake up feeling strong and ready and full and you just go.  You know where to go and how to go and you do life. And there are days that you need a little guidance.  Today my guidance came from a little bit of quartz. It is a really smart bit of quartz, I think. It gave me excellent advice.  

 

I’ll keep working on Perseverance and Patience.  I’ll keep trying to let go of my Drive to Win. If the Divine is offering me guidance that says these changes will serve me well, I believe that it is true.  And I do believe that my bit of quartz is one way the Divine speaks. That seems foreign to many, I am sure. But seeing is believing, in many cases, and I have seen over and over that this little pendulum tells me the truest of things and the best of things.  I’ve grown to trust it over time. And I guess that is what it is asking of me now–to grow to trust people over time, if time is what it takes for them to let down all of their walls and let others see them truly.

 

I think I can do that.  It won’t be the easiest journey upon which I have embarked, but it might be a great one.  

 

Operation Patience, here I come … or wait, I suppose.

Infuriating

In preparation for a short mission to cheer up a niece who needs her auntie, I was crossing tasks off my to do list this morning.  One of the most daunting of the tasks was to retrieve my suitcase from the guest room/office closet. It is daunting because my second bedroom serves as both guest room and office, but also because it serves as art studio, storage, and a dedicated room for my medical supply when I am not actually using crutches or in need of my walker or the air conditioner.  So, the closet–well let’s just say that opening the door can be a harrowing experience.

 

Long ago I learned the concept of “eating the frog” from a friend–doing the hard thing first, so the rest of the tasks seem less challenging and the thing you dread most is done, eliminating the dread.  It’s based on the idea that if you had a bunch of things before you to consume, and one of them was a live frog, while the others were less disgusting choices, you should first eat the frog, and then allow the palate to rejoice in the other, less gross, items consumed after.  So, a little before 9:00 am, I opened the closet door.

 

Thankfully, nothing fell on my head upon opening the door.  And I rather quickly remembered the location of the suitcase and confirmed that it was, indeed, under all of the postal boxes.  I set out to rearrange the items and acquire the suitcase stashed below.

 

Now, it is important to mention at this point that all of the movement, noise, and shuffling happening was due to the shifting of cardboard and foam inside my closet on the second floor of a two-story building.  I will also remind you that it was nearly 9:00 am. And then, the thing happened that made me lose my shit. I heard banging on my floor–the ceiling of James, the downstairs tenant.

 

James has been told, repeatedly, that he is not, under any circumstances to bang on the ceiling.  After I had been living here for about 10 months, he suddenly decided that he would yell obscenities at me whenever seeing me outside, and bang on the ceiling at ANY noise he doesn’t like–including my family sitting down to eat lunch during the holidays. This morning he did not stop banging.  He just kept on doing it for about ten minutes, even after I had retrieved my suitcase and closed the closet door on the remaining mess.

 

I called my landlord.  She said she can’t be a therapist, she is a landlord.  But she did call James and tell him that ANY noise complaint goes to her and he is not allowed to bang on anything under any circumstances.  

 

However, he said that there is constantly yelling at 4 in the morning and 8 in the morning and all sorts of noise.  And that is complete bullshit.

 

This is the thing I am finding so infuriating today–and in the recent weeks, with all that has been going on in my life.  There isn’t a way to effectively tell tellers of truth from tellers of lies if you aren’t in the situation. If you aren’t there to see the events unfold, you can’t necessarily discern what the truth of the matter is, which puts the crazy, insecure, jealous, dishonest, selfish, and self-involved people in the world on the same level as the ones who are truthful and altruistic and compassionate and working to make a better world for all.  And that just doesn’t seem fair.

 

It isn’t enough to be a good person.  Suddenly, you feel like you need to constantly prove that you are a good person.  

 

That infuriates me.  Because we should be able to somehow tell the difference.  We should be able to know truth and see good and not be constantly deceived.  Good people shouldn’t be dragged through the mud by those who have selfish or nefarious motives.  But they are.

 

It didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t actually need to prove anything to anyone.  

 

Truth will out, as they say.  

 

Eventually, the good is recognized and the lies are exposed.  I do believe that, even though I also believe that it could take decades, or generations for that to happen.  It will happen. And a legacy of beauty and good and love and truth will be remembered as such, and the opposite will also be remembered as such.  

 

It isn’t easy to let things unfold, and to let my name be dragged through the mud.  It isn’t easy to live above the fray and to allow others to lie and misrepresent and harm without trying to fight back in some manner.  But attempts to argue with those who don’t tell the truth or use logic or care about the heart of matters always fail. It is futile. The only way to get justice in these matters is to wait for the truth to become known.  

 

It will become known.  

 

So, no matter how infuriating it is to have a guy who is full of crap banging on the ceiling while I try to pack for a mission of love and compassion to cheer up my lovely niece (and cheer up myself, of course, because being with her is such a joy), I will swallow my pride, hope all the things stay behind the closet door, and let things play out in whatever way they will.  Living in light and love will always be my best defense against any odds.

 

Now–to launder the clothing, pack things that don’t freak out the country folk (so basically nothing I own), and get ready for mission Return to NWIA.  (I just freaked out a little. It’s been almost 4 years. I must really love this niece!)

Singleness is Scary

In the wee hours of the morning, I went up to the bar owner and bouncer at my regular watering hole and told them that I have no idea how to be single.  Now that I have officially declared my independence from Bill, I have attracted all sorts of attention that is unwanted from all sorts of men.

 

And my declaration has been quite public only in the last 24 hours.  

 

I had to be walked home to my apartment last night.  There was a man stalking me, and I live frighteningly close to the bar for stalkers to be allowed to simply lurk outside the bar and possibly follow me home.  Thankfully, the love and care is strong among this community, and they made sure to have me escorted safely to my door. One crisis averted.

 

Another crisis is still brewing.  A new friend whom I love spending time with has a boy who suddenly has only eyes for me.  He kept trying to touch my face. Clearly, he was drunk. But touching a woman’s face is seriously intimate, people.  You don’t just come up and start touching a woman’s face. And you certainly don’t do it to a woman who is developing a friendship with a woman with whom you are already involved!  Are you trying to create “Housewives” level drama in the corner bar?? Also, I find you not at all attractive and don’t like your personality.

 

Man number three is married.  His wife understands (or so he claims) that Saturday is his day to do what he wishes.  The rest of the week he is home, and Sunday is for family, but Saturday he apparently flirts with, buys drinks for, and asks out to dinner other women.  I kindly explained that I am not interested in dating someone who already has a wife and family. I’m not looking for a side guy. I’m looking for a long-term love.  I’m looking for serious, settled-down life with one person in a committed and monogamous situation. That explanation didn’t seem to deter him. Luckily, he disappeared when it was my turn at the karaoke mic, so crisis averted, for the moment.  

 

There was another man who watched me across the room for hours.  He didn’t approach me. But he didn’t approach me because the night before I was still being attended by Bill, for a portion of the evening, at least.  While I had told Bill that I needed freedom to find what I desire in a relationship, and therefore he would need to back off, he hadn’t accepted that reality.  But at one point during the night, this man came up to talk to me. He continually told me how beautiful I was and made what he thought were successful overtures.  I was polite but did not encourage his advances. But some men don’t understand that not encouraging their advances is a “no”. You need, I guess, to tell them to “fuck off and leave me alone”.  But I hadn’t done that. And then this weird event took place where there was a mix up with beer bottles and Bill threw a childish fit, even after Olga poured out his old beer and I bought him a new one, undefiled by the man who had been hitting on me.  Bill disappeared after that and I haven’t heard from him since. The man who had been hitting on me, and caused the mix up–touching Bill’s beer bottle, and more importantly, I think, invading the space around “Bill’s” Christy–stared at me the next night for hours.  I wasn’t sure if he was angry because I was clearly not with Bill tonight, and approached by many men without consequence, or if he was desiring me from afar but not willing to risk the rejection of the previous night. But it was a bit creepy–being watched.

 

And then there was the one man who I did want to see.  Apparently he had been in the bar at some point. I have no idea where I was at the moment he was present, but I didn’t see him.  I’m still disappointed by that. I’m also a bit worried that I was being pressured by one of the other suitors at the moment the man I really wanted to connect with was nearby, and he may have gotten the wrong impression about my engagement with one of those other men–not realizing that I simply haven’t figured out the art of telling people to “fuck off and leave me alone” in an effective manner.  Singleness is scary, people. Being a beautiful, intelligent, capable woman who isn’t attached to a man makes you feel like dead meat among vultures. And somehow that seems like a terrible association to make, but it feels really true!

 

I like to imagine that in an anarchic situation I would compile all the good and fight like hell to secure my safety.  And that is probably true. I am a fighter.

 

But I am also really nice and really innocent in ways that can get me into trouble.  I have a compassionate heart. I don’t like to hurt people. I want to help people. So, telling them that I reject them seems hurtful.  But you can’t be nice to vultures. You need to scare those beasts away! Finding my way to the compassionate fighter may be a difficult road to travel.  And I may need friends and bouncers to walk me home on the regular before I get it figured out.

 

I suppose I will look at this like I look at most things that scare the crap out of me–as an opportunity with unknown benefits.  Learning to navigate this scary single way of being will likely teach me skills that I can use in other areas of life. And while I never want to become the jaded one in the room, and will run toward the bloodied man on the floor to administer first aid while everyone else moves away, and still don’t want to break spirits with harsh rejections, I do need to figure out how not to be followed home by creepy dudes.  That is a useful skill. And I also need to learn how to fight away the distractions so that I have space in my life for the people whom I want to know more–the ones that I potentially won’t wish to say no to, and will want to offer my time and attention and affections. Maybe, someday, they’ll even be allowed to touch my face or follow me home. Or both!

The Way of the Witch

This afternoon, I anointed a candle, said a little incantation that I devised on the fly, and lit said candle.  

 

It felt like the thing to do.  

 

The spell is one called “Road Opener”, and it is meant to do just that–open roads, in the proverbial sense. I felt a shift happening, and I feel a shift is needed, so I used the tools around me to ask The Divine for a little boost in that area.  I asked for some opportunities to present themselves, and for the peace I need to close the chapters that aren’t meant for me and to let go of things that I am holding on to without good reason.

 

Last night I felt this rage rising in me.  I was infuriated at wrongs against me, and the ways that people spread lies and misrepresent others and make up stories to fit a narrative they prefer, instead of the way things really are.  The way things are? I’m being slandered by a selfish, insecure, jealous girl who for one reason or another sees me as the enemy that traps her where she doesn’t like being. Whether that is because she admires something in me that she lacks, or she sees something in me that connects with something in her that she dislikes about herself, I cannot begin to guess at or understand correctly.  But the crap thing is that she isn’t being aware enough to see that the thing that bothers her isn’t in me, but in herself, so she is gaslighting and lying and verbally assaulting and slandering in order to make me into the enemy she so desperately needs. And that makes me the enemy of her friends, by some strange loyalty that I have yet to comprehend–because logic has always been somewhat more important to me than loyalty.  

 

But the Universe intervened time and again as that feeling rose in me.  

 

Flex came in and kissed me hello.  Kory forgot that we know one another and introduced himself again.  Mark started yelling my name from the corner in a slightly disturbing manner, but I knew that in his damaged brain it was an endearment and not an offense.  And then I met a wonderful man whom I hope to meet again and again. Chai told me to go after what is good for me and makes me happy, not to wait around for things that won’t likely change for the better.  Raven texted that she will be out tomorrow and can’t wait to chat with me about her week.

 

At one point I ignored all the love that I was being sent and still went back to the other establishment where I had been mistreated and slandered.  I wanted the owner, whom I had always been on good terms with, to know that the situation that had happened with the girl was not one that I meant to impact him, and I hoped to say my goodbyes to him, since he is selling said establishment.  But the girl and her sidekick were present, and the owner treated me just as poorly as they had earlier. Clearly the narrative was spreading, and I was being painted as the enemy of all.

 

I felt that frustration and rage rising again.  I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I went back to the place where the love was being poured out earlier.  And there was more love on tap.

More good conversation, more assurances of my worth, and more positivity swirled around.  I put a few songs on the jukebox and basked in the glow of goodness that I had found.

 

So, today, I knew that what needed to be accepted and anointed and encouraged in my life was this opening up to the places and people who show love and acceptance and encouragement, and a closing of the door on people and places that do not.  The best way to embrace that was with a ritual that I know to express and to empower such a thing.

 

I’ve been one of the many who misunderstood “witchcraft” over the years.  I took it as opening up doors to devils and demons. I took it as power that you couldn’t control or understand.  I took it as one half of a supernatural or spiritual war that had Jesus and an angelic host on the other side of the field of battle.  And I even got sucked into these ways of believing after I had practiced witchcraft of sorts, because I saw and experienced things that I didn’t fully understand or have the rubric for explaining.  I didn’t have the framework in which to hold the powers that be.

 

I’ve been building that framework for about 26 years now, and I have a much broader understanding of these things.  I’m not scared of the devil anymore. Spiritual warfare isn’t really a thing–life is life and it isn’t divided into physical and spiritual bits, whether you are connected to your spirit or totally unaware–and demons aren’t attacking you on the regular.  Spells don’t welcome evil spirits and start horror movies. They are rituals for those who are connected to The Divine. They are kind of like the Eucharist for a Catholic–only less stuck in the age of men who thought the universe revolves around the earth and taking money in exchange for the promise of heaven was ethical.  

 

Honestly, I think it is far less weird to use some herbs and oils and stones to acknowledge my desires and questions and fears and strengths to The Divine than it is to wear a torture/murder device around your neck as a symbol of your adherence to ancient codes of conduct.  And I am an ordained minister with degrees from both Evangelical and Jesuit seminaries–so I’m not really biased toward, but away from, Earth Magick and Celtic practices.

 

Getting in touch with what is going on inside of me–my spirit–and then assessing how that self is interacting with the world around it–the Universe–and connecting with my understanding of deity–The Divine–for guidance and assistance in having better understanding and connection all around, seems like a totally normal, necessary, and sane way of living life.  It doesn’t seem weird to follow this way of being and interacting. It doesn’t seem evil or dangerous. And I am sure that there are many who would quote the few bible verses that say witchcraft and divination are evil and forbidden. But I don’t think that the ancient Hebrews had much contact with the Druids, and I believe that the understanding of witchcraft and divination that would have been expressed in those passages was much different from the using of stones and herbs and oils to affirm and express and seek to align myself with positive and helpful energies.  Context is important.

 

There isn’t any shame in the way I align myself with positive and helpful energies.  And I’m not afraid to have my smudge stick and my tarot deck and my books on herbs and shamanism and spiritual discovery displayed on shelves in my living room.  These are all ways that I seek wisdom, align with positive energy, and keep myself in a healthier space.

 

It might seem strange to some, but there have been threads of witchcraft running through all of my theological study over the years.  I learned to be a witch before I learned to map ancient Israel or translate biblical Greek text. At Fuller Southwest, one of my cohort used to call me Jesus Witch, throughout our Saturday classes, after learning of the ways that Sufi converts keep using their rituals after learning of Jesus.  I would often smudge my apartment and carry crystals even while I studied at Loyola Chicago. There was never really a time when the knowledge of the needs of my spirit left me, even though these practices were not seen as normal or acceptable in mainstream religion. I never stopped needing these things to keep me healthy, in touch, and connected to The Divine.  When I tried to leave these practices behind, I stopped being healthy, in touch, and connected–not just to The Divine, but to myself and to the people around me. They are essential to my wellbeing.

 

The way of the witch is a part of my overall “religion” (a word that I generally reject, because of the way that organized religion has tainted it–I usually claim to be “spiritual but not religious”).  I’m not a Wiccan, in the sense that I have joined that organized group either. I simply find that my connections and my energies and my rituals are essential to my overall health, and that using these forms of witchcraft are one piece of that puzzle.

 

I’m healthier, stronger, more balanced, happier, and less stressed when I use these rituals–whether that be the lighting of the candle and incantation of this afternoon, or cooking with particular herbs, or sage smudging the house, or carrying particular crystals with me during the day, or using more involved spells and incantations, or reading tarot.  Some days that means going out to the beach on the new moon and dancing to the drumbeat and fire. Some days that means setting intentions. Some days that means noticing the rainbows that come from the strategically placed prism in the window. But it always means following the way of the witch.

 

If you want to know more about it, email me or comment and I’ll be happy to share some of my favorite resources for beginning such a journey.  

 

I’m hoping the roads open even more.  I’m hoping that I get to see Raven tonight.  I’m hoping that my new acquaintance becomes more than an acquaintance, because he seems–wow.  I’m hoping that the old things pass away without me concerning myself with the insecurities of others, and that I can move forward and keep being my best self.  I’m hoping I can hold fast to Chai’s advice and do what makes me happy, taking a better road and leaving behind a dead-end sort of situation. And in many ways I don’t have to hope.  Because I have already affirmed it, chosen it, anointed it, and lit it on fire–telling The Divine that I am willing and ready to move and that I am asking for all the helps to do so.  I have yet to be denied those helps.

 

So let it be.

I AM PRO-THRIVE

Recently, I have noticed that many people on Facebook have a purple banner at the bottom of their profile picture that reads, “I AM PRO-LIFE”.  

 

Now, I am not one to condemn free expression, since I love my own and hate when people try to silence me.  But those little banners annoyed the crap out of me after a while, and I needed to say something about them.  But I chose to say something here, instead of saying something on my Facebook profile, because I thought that my response required more explanation than a few sound bytes.  It required something more fully reasoned and more fully expressed–with some history and some anecdotes, perhaps.

 

And as I started firing up the Chromebook and getting ready to respond,  the first two songs on shuffle play were Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield and All I Want Is Love from A Great Big World, which just seemed to be signs from The Divine that I was on the right path writing this here.  

 

I am not “pro-life” any longer.  Lots of people assume that is because I am liberal.  And I suppose, in many respects, I am.

 

But blanket terms like “liberal” don’t always describe what we think we are describing, and I would call myself progressive, not liberal, as a point of fact.  Because I don’t agree with things along a party line, and am an independent voter, based on whatever and whomever I think follows what I believe is “right”–ethical, beneficial, and based in love, beauty, and truth.  

 

This is the point where lots of people want to yell comments about killing babies not being ethical, beneficial, or based in love, beauty, and truth.  But that assumes a lot of things. That assumes that you believe life begins at conception–which I don’t think is a true statement. That assumes that our society deems all life equal–and it doesn’t.  That assumes that “benefit” and “love” are seen through the eyes of a fetus and not a pregnant woman–which I don’t believe it should be or can be, exclusively. And I understand those assumptions because I used to hold them as facts to be demanded, not assumptions to be challenged.  I used to be pro-life and a supporter of anti-abortion causes and rhetoric. I hope that I will be forgiven for my narrow-minded, single-focused, self-righteous stance at that time in my life. Because I should have challenged my assumptions and listened to the stories of others and wondered at the courage of women who walked beyond a line of picketing jerks to get an abortion, and why it was so important for them to make it through that door–because it couldn’t be that they were just liberal Jezebels with no love in their hearts, if I had stopped to think on it for a few seconds.  There were really good reasons. But I didn’t stop to consider those reasons for far too long.

 

I’m not entirely certain when the break came for me.  It was a gradual understanding that things couldn’t be as I believed when I was back in high school and my first year of college.  Maybe part of my consideration of women’s choices being valid came because I started losing my own fetus on a regular basis. One live birth out of six confirmed pregnancies–and a couple of suspected early miscarriages where I missed and then had heavy menstruation.  My body killed one in six babies, at least, on its own, without any interventions. And that takes a toll on a woman, even when she doesn’t particularly want to be pregnant or give birth. Then the child that survived did so at the most inopportune time. And I love that daughter with every fiber of my being, and didn’t consider abortion for a moment of my pregnancy with her, but I did learn the challenges of adoption agencies and the choice that is offered to many women as an “opportunity” to place their child in a “loving family” that can “better meet his or her needs”.  

 

I called bullshit on adoption.  I would hear many more stories that called bullshit on adoption later in my journey, but most of you won’t like to hear those stories.  You prefer the idea that adoption is always good people saving helpless children from lost souls. Bullshit. It’s terribly corrupt–especially when it involves children from overseas–and it is damaging for children in significant ways, but even more so for parents.  The suicide rate for birth mothers is outrageously high, and their risk of substance abuse AFTER placing their child (not before) is also much higher than that of the general population. Placing your child harms you in serious and debilitating ways. But we don’t like to talk about that.  We like to pretend that adoption is all about the babies and saving their lives. I’ve had more adopted children, as teens or adults, tell me they would rather have died than been placed where they were, than I can count on my fingers. But nobody wants to hear that part of the story. Nobody wants to hear that we took a baby and placed it with abusive parents who ruined the life of that boy or girl in really terrible ways.  And we can’t say, “At least they are alive!” We can’t promise that not living would have been worse. We cannot prove that hypothesis!!

 

I’m always struck by the instances in the biblical text where there are cries such as “Oh that I had never been born!”  There were clearly those who thought not living was better than suffering.

 

I’ve been there.  I’ve been in struggle deep and affecting enough that I wished not only for death but that I had never been born to suffer this way at all.  If I had a choice. If we went back in time, and The Divine laid before me life with all that I have suffered, or not living, it would be a very challenging decision.  And if I knew that dying in the womb brought me straight to some afterlife, where living made me suffer first and then brought me to the same end, I would probably skip to the end.  

 

There’s been a ton of joy in my life.  Don’t misunderstand. I’m not discounting that joy.  I’m just saying that the suffering has been far outweighing the joy for most of my existence, and other people don’t get to say that my suffering is better than not being around to suffer–joy or no.  Other people don’t get to define the limits that I can tolerate, or the impact that events have on my person, or the way that I choose to cope with what I have endured and will endure. We don’t get to tell other people that they are better off alive and suffering than they would have been if their parent would have chosen to abort.  We don’t know that. We can’t prove that. We want that to be true, but that doesn’t mean it is.

 

That sounds crass, but it is true.  I can’t say that being born is better.  I can say that I am glad those people are here and that they offer great things just by being alive in this world.  So, it isn’t as crass as you might imagine, in practice as it is in theory.

 

I almost typed that I “would never express that a person is better off dead”.  That would have been a lie.

 

Lol.  Now some people are really stirred up!!

 

But I did say that.  I thought that sometimes when my mom was suffering a lot from her Alzheimer’s and would cry uncontrollably and be confused and frustrated.  It was hard to see her that way, and there were times that I said I wished her disease would progress, because I wanted that suffering to end.  I, obviously, didn’t want my mother to be dead, but I didn’t want her to suffer. I felt that way because of how much I loved my mom. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling–the love you feel that makes you let go of someone.  

 

Earlier, I said that many would not believe that being pro-choice could be a thing that came out of love.  But it can be when you consider that feeling–the love you feel that makes you let go of someone. And that is the love that lets women let go of the potential of a person.  It isn’t yet a baby in the mind of most–because science. But even if it were a person, and it were a medical necessity to let go, love is still the driving force that makes that decision.  It isn’t selfish. It is selfless, almost always, to choose to end a pregnancy. And often the challenge is that you cannot provide the home that this child will deserve, because you have other children to feed and care for and cannot take on the responsibility of another.  

 

I know, the trope is the irresponsible, young girl who gets knocked up … and like all the tropes, it isn’t true.  

 

I have hundreds of stories and all sorts of scientific facts that I could tell, and they would express my transition from someone who didn’t understand that most abortions are had by women who already have children, and that there is a decidedly racist and classist reason that black women are more affected than others by unplanned pregnancy, and that Planned Parenthood saves far more lives than it has or will ever end (my own included in those saved), and that the decisions of others regarding procreation are not anyone else’s business, to someone who now does understand those things.  I am happy to share statistics and happy to share stories at any time. From the 12-year-old friend whose mom pimped her out for drugs who had 2 kids by age 14, to the friend who suffered trauma from placing her son with an amazing family, to the intrusions of others into my own choices about my body when I had to have a hysterectomy. I have people in my life who have had abortions, who have been placed or placed their children for adoption, who have adopted with relative success or adopted and been faced with a host of problems, and who have faced all sorts of choices and challenges regarding procreation, fertility, birth control, and similar subjects.  But none of that is what I want to take away from this post.

What I want to take away from this post, is the ways that being “pro-life” tends to ignore the “life” portion of that statement once that life has gotten beyond the point of gestation.  Really, many of those who have that purple banner under their name should say, “I AM PRO-GESTATION”. Because once that baby is born, it ceases to have any support or care from most of those same people who proudly shout at innocent mothers and spread propaganda against Planned Parenthood.  

 

I found this out the hard way.

 

So many people were pro-baby Bloem before I had my child as an almost divorced mom.  After I pushed away the baby-grabbing adoption agency and they essentially called me a crazy person for keeping my child, my parents offered their full support.  Many others offered support as well. But my parents were the only ones to keep their promise. The rest were loving and supportive so long as I kept that little one gestating safely, and lots of people were also loving and supportive for a month or so after she was born.  After that?

 

I remember crying as Bill Clinton addressed the country in his State of the Union in 1997 and promised reforms that would make life easier for women like me on welfare.  I didn’t know then that welfare reform would mean lifetime limits and work demands that were impossible in my tiny community, and that would actually make life harder. It would toss millions off of the rolls, and pretend at success, but would actually disappear those families–many of them forced into homelessness, sex work, illegal enterprise, or fraudulent use of programs to survive.  The laws still haven’t been reformed from Clinton’s crap reform, so the number of people forced to survive off the damaging and difficult circumstances that the late 90’s forced people into has stayed relatively steady, and the welfare rolls don’t increase much with the strict rules still in place. So, while this desperation and struggle continues, there are many who promote their pro-life agenda and also still call for cuts to spending on social programs.  They think too many people get “handouts”. Too many people on food stamps. Too many people on disability. Too many people on welfare.

 

I wonder, how many is too many?  How many is just right? Who is the fucking Goldilocks of social programming who decides what is the correct number of disabled and hungry people, and then how do we make that number equal with the number of people in society that actually NEED these services???  

 

If you won’t vote for MORE social safety net funding, you aren’t pro-life.  Because if you won’t vote for more such funding, you don’t want all people to thrive.  Do you think life is worth living in a state of constant need and hunger and suffering?  Do you think it is great to sell your vagina to buy formula? Great! You do it! Otherwise, vote for equal pay and equal rights and more funding for every program that helps people who are not you.  And if you will not, then do not say you promote life. Say that you promote gestation and birth, but not life, per se.

 

Let’s move beyond that subject to another aspect of thriving–prison!  The most obvious thing to bring up here is the death penalty. If you support killing people who break the law, but not a fetus, I call bullshit.  And you can quote the Old Testament until you are blue in the face, but before you do, let me remind you that I went to not one, but two seminaries.  So, I can not only quote the bible back, but I can explain why the New Testament offers an alternative to the penalty of death and asks you to extend mercy, not judgment.  Does the law allow for death? Yes, in some cases. Should it? Absolutely not, if you claim you are pro-life. You can’t ask for life on one hand and death on the other. If life begins at conception, then once god conceived of you, regardless of your sins against him, you deserve life.  If not, then we can talk. But you can’t have the cake and eat it too, people. Pick one and stick with it.

 

Secondary to this is the treatment of humans in general.  Being beaten, raped, tortured, etc., is NEVER acceptable if you are to claim you want life for all.  What kind of life is that?? Nobody deserves such treatment, and if you aren’t supporting an end to mass incarceration, rights for foreign detainees, and just treatment of prisoners everywhere, then you don’t want life for all, but you want gestation and birth for babies.  Once they are born, and make a mistake, you don’t care who does what to them. And that is NOT the will of any god that I will ever serve. If you are fine with the rape and torture of anyone, anywhere, you should seriously evaluate your heart.

 

Please don’t tell me, “Those people committed crimes!”  So did you. Every last one of you has gossiped, or committed adultery, or lusted, or lied, or, at the very least, driven over the speed limit.  You are all just as depraved as the next, right Calvinists? So, don’t tell me now that you are better than those criminals. You aren’t. They may have sinned differently, or gotten caught, or just been unfairly treated by an unjust system that leans toward punishing black and brown boys, but they certainly are not less human or less good than you at their core.  They are people–every bit your equal. And they deserve equal rights, as such.

 

I can go on and on.  An end to war. Equal pay for women.  Ending sexual violence. Gender justice.  Racial justice. Stopping this incessant whining about immigrants taking something from you when you are extremely fucking privileged and losing nothing to them.  

 

I am Pro-Thrive.  I consider all of these things when I speak, write, read, vote, and live out my days.  I consider the actual LIVES of the poor and marginalized, not just their births. Because what the fuck does it matter if babies are born if you won’t do anything to fight for justice in their lives after that fact?  If they die of hunger, or they have to sell their bodies to pay for necessities like food and housing, or they end up in prison at age 14, or they die by war or suicide or gun violence at a young age, then what was the point in funneling all that money and energy into keeping them gestating until birth??  Was that better?? I don’t think it was good enough!

 

We can do better!!

 

The fact is, I don’t particularly love abortion as an option.  I’d love to see free birth control offered to everyone, so that we can limit abortion.  I’d love to see, science-based, comprehensive sex education courses offered to everyone, so that we can limit abortion.  I’d love to see social programs increase, so that we can limit abortion.

 

But I would never tell a woman what she is or is not allowed to do with her body, because I don’t have that right.  I’m not her. And if there is one thing that being sexually violated teaches you, it is that NOBODY tells you what to do with your body but you.  So, I would rather she get a safe, legal abortion, if that is her choice, than go back to the fucking stone age and endanger the lives of women who do make that choice.  

 

Regardless of my personal preferences, however, the point here is to look at the whole life of a person, and to make whole life a consideration.  If you claim to be a person of faith, and you claim to honor life, but you support war and torture and the death penalty and cuts to medicare and SNAP, something is off-balance.  If you wish to claim that you are for life, you must be for all of it, in all of its forms and for all of its people. If you are not for life for all people, at all ages, in all circumstances, you should come up with another claim.  You are not pro-life. You are not pro-thrive. I’m not sure what you are, but it isn’t very inclusive and it isn’t very much like the Christ of the bible that most of you claim to be following. So, that is a concern that you might want to take to heart and consider for a while.  

 

In the meantime, I’ll be hanging out over here in my progressive corner with The Divine.  I am pro-choice.

 

But I am also PRO-THRIVE!!   And I am very glad I have evolved to that point.  Hallelujah!!

Accidentally

My dad left only about two hours ago, and already I have realized that I accidentally left my handicapped parking placard in his vehicle.  I suppose this is one accident less than the two from his visit just weeks before, when he accidentally took my spare keys and accidentally left his air mattress and pump.  Regardless, it seems there is always something left or taken without us having meant for it to be so.

 

While he was here I accidentally got him a parking ticket.  I meant to move the car from one street to another, since one is free at night and another is permitted parking only at night.  I was late in my duty and saw the ticket writer moving along the street as I went out to move the car. Too late. The ticket was already written and he wouldn’t take it back and offer a warning instead.

 

A few hours later we were off to lunch in the backseat of the vehicle of my friend and his husband.  It was snowing out, and we were all pleased that the “snow” function on the new Range Rover worked exceptionally and kept us from sliding into the intersection where the road was slick from precipitation.  Unfortunately, the vehicle behind us was not a Range Rover with a snow function to choose, and we were struck from behind. Nobody was hurt, thankfully. (Though I have had a headache since and am inclined to claim that being jostled has thrown my vertebrae off center–but know that my physical therapist can just push those babies back into place next session and likely fix the problem, so I’m not ready to file an injury suit just yet.)  But it took some time to exchange information, and our friends needed to go to the police station after lunch and file reports for the collision, and will need to take the car in for repair.

 

Accidents happen often.  

 

And not just the collision kind, but the kind where you aren’t paying attention to your things or your words or your actions with enough focus to make certain that you aren’t saying or doing something that is potentially harmful.

 

My dad and I also discussed, at length, the type of accident where people’s words are accidentally stupid or hurtful.  Because people don’t seem to pay close enough attention to their surroundings to understand that they are leaving something out.  And generally the thing left out is compassion for a person’s situation–empathy.

 

There are so many statements that have come across our paths that are unintentionally hurtful.  

 

I understand how you feel.  You must be lonely. When are you going to find a new partner?  You should [insert obvious medical advice we have already tried].  Your partner/parent/child is in a better place. You’re young, so you you’ll find someone new.  

 

All of these things are meant to be kind, but they accidentally cause even more wounds.  They aren’t helpful. And what would be helpful is simply to not try to identify or give advice, but to say that you don’t understand, but that you are ready and able to listen, to perform household tasks, and to help in practical ways that give a person time to rest, heal, and grieve in the ways they need to do so.  

 

As a chronically ill individual, I have a whole set of ways that people accidentally offend, atop the normal process of grief and singleness.  I have people who tell me to get well soon–which I won’t. I have the constant onslaught of home remedies and stories of “my [loosely connected acquaintance or distant relative] who did thing X and was healed of their illness, which are unsolicited and annoying, because I have a team of 13 specialists who oversee my care and some raw honey is not going to be the thing that all of them missed as a magic cure.  The other night my cousin said, “If they keep looking around the doctors are going to find things wrong.” Later my dad laughed at me as I recounted that statement and how badly I wanted to reply that medicine doesn’t work that way, and I am not a used car. Things must actually be wrong for them to diagnose me with an illness. They don’t make up illnesses so they can bill you for a new pancreas! It was another accidentally, really weirdly, delivered comment that made me feel like my situation isn’t one that others take seriously or treat with validity and respect.  

 

I am not saying at all that my cousin, or others, don’t take me seriously or treat me as valid and respected.  Quite the contrary! But somehow, when it comes to these statements, their care for me and their understanding of and care for my situation don’t align.  They accidentally get it wrong.

 

So, how do we change that?

 

I wish I had a clearer answer.  Because I can shout empathy, listening, and validation from the rooftops all day long, and people will say, “I’m a great listener and your feelings are totally valid.”  But the disconnect remains. I think there is a big difference between hearing what a person says and feeling what a person says.

 

My dad is of the mind that until you go through grief of this depth, you can’t understand and will continue to view things in a way that is incomplete–and, therefore, will continue to say the wrong things.  

 

I’m not of that mind.  I’m not of that mind because I know people who suffer physical pain and still don’t have empathy for my physical pain.  And I’m not of that mind because I have a few friends who are deeply aware of what I am feeling, even when I am doing what I believe is a good job at hiding my true feelings–they see through my act.  I’m not of that mind because people who have suffered similar experiences to mine can shut down in ways that I cannot, and can ignore the past in ways that I cannot, leaving no room for empathy, even though they know exactly how it feels to experience that pain.  

 

Instead, I think that we all have the capacity for empathy, but very few of us have the strength of will and the courage to open ourselves in that manner.  Because doing so means deliberately seeking to feel the pain of others. It means to share in their sorrows–not just on some surface level where you offer the accidentally insensitive platitudes, but truly feeling that sorrow.  And why in the world would we want to add sorrow to our lives??!!

 

But the thing that is important about sharing in sorrows is that you also get to share in joys.  When you share in the sorrows in deep and meaningful ways, you also share in joys in deep and meaningful ways.  So, letting in the suffering means letting in the celebration. Letting in some darkness means flooding the space with light!  Who would want to miss out on that??!!

 

The people who see me in my darkest moments also are invited to share in my brightest and most glorious moments.  And those are really fabulous! I pour so much love into the people who love me truly that it is almost ridiculous.  I’ve probably loved some people so well that it has frightened them away, because they were not accustomed to such unfettered, unconditional love and it felt awkward or foreign.  But those people also dealt with me in the depths of my despair, which was extremely difficult, I know. And the reward isn’t likely to be equal to the expense, but that is just the way that life works out, I think.  

 

The risk in life is often greater than the reward.  But that does not mean that it isn’t worth it. That doesn’t mean the experiences and the people and the adventures are not worth it.  Because the idea that we shouldn’t move forward unless the reward is greater than the risk is one that was manufactured by the modern man, not one that has always been a part of humanity.  It is an accident of our economy that we weigh the risks and decide that the safe bet is to not open up. We keep closed our bank accounts, our doors, and our hearts because the risk seems to outweigh the reward.  But in doing so, we have made a grave error. Because life happens in the accidents, more often than not. We cannot plan for every outcome. We cannot keep “safe” by keeping distant. And keeping ourselves closed off from everything and everyone just makes us more susceptible to being left alone in our tragedies, should they arrive accidentally.  

 

We need to open up and find that empathy and feel for others and with others.  We need to share sorrows and joys. We need to stop weighing what we think will be the consequences and throw the risk/benefit analysis out the fucking window.  Life isn’t a series of rewards assessments. Life is often a challenge. But it is often an adventure!

 

So go out there and make your accidents be ones that aren’t based on selfish, closed-hearted living that causes offense to those who are suffering.  Make your accidents be the kind that are derived from throwing caution to the wind and running headlong into feelings and actions that let you know the deep lows and the exhilarating highs that life has to offer us as human beings.  Because that is amazing and wonderful, and, I believe, what we were designed to experience.

 

Use that empathy.  Feel deeply. And experience a full life.