Fear of Failure

635895246024855434655902584_rejection1

I’m sitting here at my desk listening to Milky Chance. It’s a beautiful fall day, and I have taken the day off to fill out grad school applications. My accomplishments so far? I’ve slept past noon. I’ve cried. Talked to a friend. Edited some more of a short story for another friend. Ate. Stared into space. Sat with my dad and compared versions of “Hallelujah” (Rufus Wainwright FOR LIFEEEEEE).

I’ve been waiting for this; I’ve been preparing for this and planning for this. I should be checking boxes and drafting my personal statements. Instead, I have decided that instead of three schools…only two. Or maybe just one and if I get rejected I take a year, try to find a better job and save money, and go from there. So I haven’t really decided anything.

Oh, George Ezra, why can’t you sing to me what to do with my life.

Seriously, what is wrong with me? I have talked about NOTHING but grad school for years. There are no other plans. No employer is going to care about my research. Why can’t I do this?

Because I’m scared. I’m terrified. I’m shaking in my goddamn britches. What if everything I’ve worked for is for nothing? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t make the cut?

The “what if’s” flood my being. They overwhelm and suffocate me. They are me. Because I fear.

Fear has such a strange, strong power. It whispers your demise. It shouts your insecurities. It constantly begs for you to hold back. “Stop,” it wails. “You can’t, you aren’t strong enough. You can’t handle the rejection.”

It has this power because the stakes are high. It has this power because we build things up to the point that failure would be devastating.

But we must push back. We must build ourselves up to survive our possible defeat. We have to find our center.

There is no conclusion to this, because I’m still trying to get there. Just know, whatever you’re trying to get through, trying to achieve—it’s just as scary for everyone else, too.

Advertisements

A Reorientation of Life

pretty

It’s like ripping off an old bandage. One of those that’s been stuck on the back of your ankle for so long you forgot about it. It managed to hang on through showers until it became sticky and covered with dirt around the edges. It peels off in a sludge, leaving remnants of glue and residue. And no matter how hard you scrub, or rub it with alcohol, the residue stubbornly resists—dead set on just slowly fading away on its own.

Or maybe it’s more like a death. Not some sudden car-crash disaster. No, it’s a slow death from a terminal disease. You expect it, you know it’s coming, so you start playing out the stages of grief in your head, thinking that this will make things easier. It’s not until you’re sitting on a bed in the middle of a room surrounded by everything you own in boxes that you realize what’s happened. No matter how much it NEEDED to happen, no matter how much the suffering needed to end, you’ve lost what you oriented your life around. It’s funny, in its own sick way, that a bad marriage ending in divorce could be so rightly described as death from a terminal illness. When someone dies in those instances people like to say things like “at least she’s no longer suffering,” or “she’s in a better place now.” The problem is, that no matter how awful the marriage was, there is always suffering in the healing process, there is always a period of mourning, no matter how brief, that shocks us as we search and wait for that “better place.”

I didn’t expect it, that’s for damn sure. I didn’t expect to cry over what I had wanted for so long. Now, of course, I had (and still have) unyielding guilt about the dissolution of my family, and the “broken home” that my children will now call their own. But, along with all that messy, messy guilt also comes the knowledge that I did that right thing for them, as well as myself, and probably their father.

I had spent the past few years in a constant state of limbo, trying simultaneously to break free and to save the marriage. I knew I was unhappy, I knew that there were problems I couldn’t solve, and I knew I had to think about the safety and happiness of my children. At the same time, I longed for a change. I wanted him to want me, I wanted him to find me attractive, to want to be near me, to care about my friends, my likes, my interests….anything. But I couldn’t lose the baby weight, I couldn’t change my beliefs, and I couldn’t bleach my hair enough to fix us, because our problems were never that superficial.

There was a very definite period of “where do I go from here?” I had formed an identity that was so involved with anything and everything I had to do to maintain some type of peace in my marriage and for my family, the answers to questions about myself, from the mundane to the deep, intrinsic stuff, were a mystery to me. How could I separate the wife & mother version of myself, from the independent version of myself?

I had to go a little off the deep end—and that’s okay. I needed to get out, I needed to be wild. Hell, I even needed to shirk a little bit of responsibility. Along the way, I discovered what I loved about myself, and what I hated. What could stay, and what had to go. What needed tamed and refined.

This isn’t going to be one of those “I’m never changing who I am” empowerment posts. Because that shit isn’t empowering. Change is good, change is growth. Change is fucking inevitable. The only things certain in life are not just death and taxes, change is certain. It’s like that Woody Allen quote about a shark, but removing the mush. A relationship is not like a shark, life is like a shark—and if it doesn’t keep moving forward it dies.

I’ve said it before, and I really do mean it, even in the midst of the chaos that is my senior year, and grad school application time, and “do all the projects” time….there is a settling in my life now. I’m slowly making changes that will separate me from the woman I thought I was supposed to be. I’m refocused on my future. I’m making new traditions with my children and my friends. I’m finally understanding what this newfound freedom is and how to use it.

I’ve jumped from relationship to relationship since I was fourteen, continually dedicating my energy towards one person or another, always thinking that an “other” was so imperative to my survival. So, I have ever-so-selfishly centered myself in my own universe. There is no answering to anyone but myself and my children. I’m free to enjoy life with no-strings and no ties that bind. And for the first time ever, I can see the miracle in that.

An open letter to rapist Brock Turner’s father

*Disclaimer: If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can catch up here.

Dear Dan Turner,

                You don’t know me, much like how your son, Brock, didn’t know the unconscious woman he raped. I understand how disappointing it may be to have these charges brought against your son, how much you must be wallowing in denial over the convictions, how smug you must feel about his slap on the wrist. I know how you must have sat in disbelief when Brock was arrested, “not my son, not my boy- he wouldn’t,” or the possible “some bitch wants to get him in trouble.” I know, because I have boys, and I know, that as feminist as I am, I would never want to believe that my children are capable of something as vile and abhorrent as rape.

                I know you don’t know what it’s like to be a woman or a rape victim, and I’m going to guess that’s a reality you would never even begin to conceive or empathize with. But I would ask, if humanly possible, for you to step outside of yourself and your little world where your son can’t enjoy his steak anymore and put yourself in the shoes of someone else, someone you may be able to relate to better—the victim’s father.

                You see, this man is also in turmoil over this case. This man, the father of two girls, has always worried about their safety and vulnerability, always hoped and prayed that no one would ever violate one of his princesses. Unfortunately, he has the monumental displeasure of looking at his daughter with full knowledge of the details of the assault. Picturing his daughter unconscious, legs splayed, being violated behind a dumpster. He had the displeasure of sitting through your sons trial, having to listen to your high-dollar, hand-picked attorney attack his little girl’s character, morals, judgement, and story.  He had to sit there, helplessly, while his daughter’s life was picked through and exposed in an effort to justify your son being caught penetrating her unconscious body. He has wished that he could have been there to stop it, or to run after your son as he fled in cowardice. Can you imagine? You speak of your son’s loss of appetite, his depression, his sullen demeanor– with zero regard to what the victim is going through emotionally and physically. Her father has to deal with that. The depression, the shame (because we live in a society that shames rape victims—you should know, your attorney did it), the body dysmorphia, the issues with trust and intimacy. Your son has 3 months in jail and the requirement to register as a sex offender, and you’re UPSET about that sacrifice? His daughter has a lifetime of trauma to recover from. How long will it take your Ivy League, All-American boy to get a new girlfriend or hook up at another party? How long will it be before the victim can have sex again with her boyfriend without associating intimacy with this assault, or be able to look in a mirror and not see herself as dirty and used? Which one is worse?

                Now, you want Brock to go to schools “educating” on the dangers of drinking and promiscuity? Because those are the things that led him to rape? Why doesn’t he go to schools to talk about consent, instead? What it is, what it isn’t, and how not having consent can ruin lives. Alcohol didn’t rape a girl, your son was sober enough to run (unlike the victim), and this had nothing to do with promiscuity—aside from the fact he couldn’t find someone conscious to try to be promiscuous with. Your son, Brock Turner, violated another human being with his genitals. Maybe THAT is what he should be talking about. Or how about how “barely conscious” or “not un-conscious yet” does not mean “yes.” I’d love to sit down at a pep-rally and hear from a rapist about how too drunk to stand up or speak clearly is too drunk to fuck. Because that is culpability, that is responsibility, and that is where the lesson is. Brock, your son, assumed he could do what he wanted with someone else’s body without their permission. And you, Mr. Turner, are culpable, too. You have allowed your son to exist in a world where the rules don’t apply to him, you have deemed him too good to face the consequences of his actions, and sadly, a judge went along with it. A young, educated, affluent white man gets a slap on the wrist. I have to ask what do you think would have happened if your son was black and poor? Would you be writing statements about how he doesn’t steal your snacks anymore? Or would you be defending yourself from an outraged public, accusing you of raising a rapist and a thug?  But I digress, I don’t expect you to even acknowledge your privilege exists, let alone understand it or think about it.

                I know it’s really sad, and I’m sure you have a lot of feelings that are confusing and distressing, but nowhere does that give you the right to ask for compassion for Brock and his now, less than grand, outlook. He raped a woman. His life SHOULD change. He SHOULD have to face the consequences. You choose to go to trial and to have your attorney force a victim to further engulf herself in the trauma of her assault. You choose to try to blame her, shame her, demean her, and vilify her. Shame on you—any sympathy I may have ever had for you went out the window with your victim blaming and your son’s short sentence.

                Here is the difference between you and me: should one of my sons commit rape—however outside of his character—and be convicted of said rape, I would want him to be sentenced appropriately. I would want him to confess, to show remorse, to get down on his goddamned hands and knees and beg the victim for forgiveness from the very depths of his soul. Because rape isn’t just a physical, sexual, drunken accident of a crime. Rape is intrinsically invasive and emotionally damaging. It is the theft of personhood and autonomy. Of course, I love my son, but as a young man and adult, he will be culpable for his own actions. If he gets in trouble for a PI or a minor offense, mommy may bail him out. But not for this, not for sexual assault, not for the trauma he may cause another person. Now, hopefully, the likelihood of this happening is nonexistent. Like so many other women, I have been sexually assaulted. And like so many other women, I never reported it. This fact, however, has a tremendous impact on how I’m raising my children. My two boys learn about consent every single day. They know that if they do not want somebody touching them, even somebody they love trying to give them a hug, then they have every right to say no. Their body is THEIRS and no one has a right to it. They know that if they want to touch or hug someone (even their sister and cousins) and that person says “no,” or “get off,” or “don’t touch me,” then they have NO right to touch them and better back off. My sons are being taught, every single day, that girls are powerful and strong and smart just like they are, and that girls should be listened to and respected just like they want to be. When their sister is changing clothes and wants privacy, leave her alone. She has to do the same for them. My kids will never be taught to assume that their gender, their abilities, their education, their good standing in society, or any other characteristics will make it okay for them to take from someone else what they want or keep them from the consequences of their actions.

                So please, spare us the statements and the appeals for sympathy. Stop posting about your son’s poor state. We’ve had enough excuses. We’ve had enough of your damning “20 minutes of action,” when what your son did was the culmination of ideas that told him he could take what wasn’t his and would still be okay. If you, or Brock, cannot own up to the depravity of his actions, then please, for the sake of everyone else, shut up.

Sincerely,

I’m so tired of seeing this happen.

Stand against Fear

When you’re a writer, you tend to see things a little differently, at least I’d like to think so. I want to know how our story is going to be told. How will this age be remembered? Syria-refugees-Getty-640x480

If I can say one thing for sure, the United States will not be seen as heroic, or brave, or moral. We will be vilified-labeled as cowards. In a time when it is more important than ever that we remain the home of the brave, we find ourselves recoiling in fear. We let politicians lie and feed that fear to such a terrifying extent. We hate out of fear. We commit violence out of fear. We allow our politicians talk of breaching dangerous territory– to label people like the Nazi’s did, to close down peaceful places of worship, to place people in camps–it’s all fascism. We are turning away families, mothers and daughters, women and children–all VICTIMS of terrorism. We are allowing our fear to play right into the hands of the very people we are afraid of. They want us to hate Muslims, they want us to shut our doors and close our hearts. Every family we send back is a family that will most likely die.

I speak only for myself- but I’m terrified for very different reasons. I’m terrified of what we have become. This mentality is cyclical, it never ends where it began. When we, as a collective, allow ourselves to dictate who gets to live and die out of a place of fear we lose our humanity. Today it’s every refugee we refuse, tomorrow it’s every Muslim American in an internment camp, joined next by POC, the non-religious, anyone who dares exercise their rights or expect justice and equality that isn’t a White Christian.

Fear can drive good men to do evil things. Fear can destroy our humanity and integrity. Fear can turn us into monsters.

Let me tell you something about these refugees everyone is so scared of. They are brave. They are fierce and courageous. They come from cities and towns and villages that have been reduced to rubble by the same terrorists causing us to shake in our boots. They have only three choices; join them, resist and die (taking their entire families with them), or flee. They fled to save their lives, they fled to save their children. They lose their children on capsizing boats. They get separated from their families by smugglers. They risk it all for the chance to do something we take for granted every single day; to live.

syrian-boy-drowns-650-afp_650x400_51441283742

(Yes, this is a dead child–drowned after falling off a boat of refugees. The same age as my own son.)

Every single day Syrians faced attacks as brutal and fatal as what we witnessed in Paris last week. Except they weren’t removed from it; watching it on their televisions screens. They’ve seen their neighbors, brothers, and sisters killed. They’ve woken up to their homes being blown up and raided. They have lived it. They deserve peace.

The facts remain. We armed ISIS, we created this mess. There are over 1.5 billion practicing Muslims in the world, the extremist factions (the terrorists) compose LESS than 1% of that total. It is easier to get a VISA to get into the United States than it is to be granted asylum here as a refugee. Refugees are screened by the U.N. and the FBI and it takes an average of three years to get here. ISIS wants us to deny asylum to the refugees (there goes that notion of them slipping a few in just in case). All of the attackers in Paris were Europeans (not Syrian refugees). There are more terrorist attacks pulled off by American Christian Extremists and White Supremacists in the United States than any other type of terror attack. Since 9/11, the United States have welcomed over 85k refugees from the Middle East and none have been linked to any terrorist attacks or organizations in any way, shape, or form. It simply isn’t happening. We are letting fear dictate how we value the lives of other human beings- exactly what terrorists want- that’s why they are called TERRORists.

What confounds me the most is that this fearful anti-refugee rhetoric is coming from a slew of Christians. I remember, back in my believing days, wearing my good ole’ What Would Jesus Do bracelet. Why? Because as a Christian, I was supposed to emulate the life of Christ as much as I could through my actions. I was supposed to love others as Christ loved me. So when I see a Christian saying “they can’t come here,” “we have to protect ourselves,” or my personal favorite “they need to go back and fight isis,” (because families with children and no access to any weapons or military or ANYTHING are so equipped to fight) I can’t help but think that this is an absolute counter to how Christ (who was also a Middle Eastern refugee BTW) would behave. (Sorry folks, this gets a little Scripture heavy for a hot minute).

Matthew 5: 3-10

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What a great opportunity to show mercy and make peace- rather than hate and intolerance.

42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Give when asked-straight from the mouth of Christ.

Even if someone wants to go so far as to blame all Muslims and call them enemies….

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The story of the good Samaritan- how Christ instructs his followers to love their neighbors. Luke 10: 29-37

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Then there is my personal favorite when it comes to how you should treat people… Matthew 25: 41-45

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

In the end, we are all people, some better off than others–but all still flesh and blood. We cannot let fear rob us of our humanity. We have to stand up. If we want to be the home of the brave we have to BE brave. If we want to be the beacon of freedom and light that stands for hope and opportunity we have to be willing to open our doors. More than that, we have to remember that we CANNOT rewrite history–we are a nation of immigrants, unless you are 100% Native American, you are here because someone in your lineage was brave, they sought a better world. And to that same effect, how we respond to this crisis now will absolutely be written into our history. Do we want to be seen as a fascist society comparable to the Third Reich? So full of fear and hate that we turned away the most vulnerable and the most destitute. Because that is where we are heading. We are becoming London in V for Vendetta.

I know it’s been said over and over and over again, but there is a reason it is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

2BEFB92500000578-3220673-image-a-41_1441280877527

 

Vonnegut’s Letter to the Draft Board, 1967

Vonnegut is always a good idea

Penguin Blog

It’s fairly rare that the written word moves us to actual tears, but we’ve shed a few reading the very moving letter that Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaugherhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle, wrote to the Vietnam Draft Board about his son’s registration as a conscientious objector in 1967. Demonstrating the meaning of fatherly love, it details the reasons Vonnegut is proud of his son for making the choice to refuse to fight.

November 28, 1967

TO DRAFT BOARD #1, SELECTIVE SERVICE,

HYANNIS, MASS.

Gentlemen:

My son Mark Vonnegut is registered with you. He is now in the process of requesting classification as a conscientious objector. I thoroughly approve of what he is doing. It is in keeping with the way I have raised him. All his life he has learned hatred for killing from me.

I was a volunteer in the Second World War. I was an infantry scout, saw…

View original post 320 more words

Hello Hello

This may seem a little all over the place. I can’t think of any other way to get this thing off the ground than to just say what’s on my mind.

We are continually asked to define ourselves. Male, female, black, white, single, married, parent, child, left, right. There are so many ways that society insists on categorizing people. How does the gender of who or number of people I sleep with influence my integrity?
The truth is, we must be continually growing and adjusting our identities to the contexts that shape them. Our identities are constructed by things that are ever evolving and we have to adapt.

So who am I?  Once upon a time I was a punk rock angst filled scene kid with a bad habit of loving horrible men. That was a decade ago and I’m happy to leave it in the past.

Then I became the party girl, always down for a good time. Memories of those days are bittersweet.  In leaving that life behind I lost touch with some of the best, most loyal people I knew. I guess my party days were different from the kind most experience. Maybe we drank a little too much and loved a little to freely, but we were honest and we had fun.

Then I became a mom and a wife. My bisexuality became taboo, as did my disdain for monogamy. I was now supposed to perform within these constructs set forth by a society whose values and morals didn’t align with my own. I finally came to terms with my lack of religious belief as I was supposed to be fulfilling a role based on the misogynistic values of faith. I needed to be the doting wife and mother. My needs weren’t a priority, nor were my views and opinions or beliefs.

This wasn’t anyone’s fault. I assumed a position without the realization of all the implications. Things I thought that could be reckoned with ended up being unbelievably divisive. Personal and private issues became overwhelming.

Now is the time for another change. A change in who I am in relation to the box I’m supposed to fit in.

I will never let my sexuality be defined by a relationship status. I am who I am. I will never again change my name. I will, however, decide my own labels.
I am a soon to be divorced bisexual 26 year old full time student, a mother to two beautiful boys, an atheist, a humanist, a liberal social activist. I’m a writer. I’m a reader. I’m a communicator. I’m assertive. I drink a lot of gin.

I don’t know exactly where that would put me. I don’t really feel concerned about it anymore. The relief here is in the fact that I am in control of it and I won’t allow anyone else to dictate it for me.

And that’s okay.

“I’m nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody, too?” -Emily Dickinson