Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Soul Whispered "Yes"

It's been almost three years now since that night I was sitting in my bed, my bed which became my little island while we split up - a place where I ate and read, studied and cried, socialized, played with my children, hid, and planned my new life, that I saw the facebook post of a loose and distant acquaintance, exclaiming she had passed the ARDMS after years of hard work and was now a practicing ultrasound technician, and my soul whispered "yes".

It was a flurry of tears and research, paralyzing fear of both trying and not trying. I couldn't be one of those women who scraped by working two minimum wage jobs. Things were never on the rails with he and I, but now they were off for real. For good. And I was too smart to be a cashier, and the girls deserved more. I deserved more. But there was this huge chorus of "you can't"s to overpower my little voice that said "maybe...". I gave myself four months to think about it. To decide if there was anything else in the world, cheaper and easier to do, that felt right. And there wasn't. It was ultrasound or nothing. When I finally went in to see someone in MCC Admissions, and told them my goal, it was the first time someone said to me "oh honey. No one gets into that program. Why don't you just go for nursing?' Patronizingly patting my leg. I had half a dozen others over the subsequent two years do the same. In a deposition with my ex's lawyer, he pointed out for the record that I was wasting my time. "How many transfer students do they take? What is your plan B? What will you be qualified to do with your LAS degree if you don't get in to RIT?"
"Nothing", I said.
He made sure he got it right, wanted to hear me say it again. The suggestion was I just didn't want to work. I was foolish. Or lazy. Trying to build a case against me to take to a judge. I couldn't blame the guy. He didn't know me. He didn't know how deaf I had become to the word "no". Telling me I can't have it, just makes me want a thing more.

My first three days at MCC I sat at my desk and cried through the whole class. It was too hard and it had been too long. But I made it through with my A, as you know by now. The first day of Human Anatomy, I went home and looked at the syllabus, the sheer number of terms we were to learn and parts to memorize. I sat on bed island every day that week and wept, researching other things I might do if I dropped out. Every semester it was something: too many credits, physics class was too hard, science and math classes overwhelming. I had court dates and stressed kids and mountains of homework. I had to move, wasn't sure I had enough money or childcare or if there was enough of ME. I thought about quitting a thousand times, but always my soul said "no". This. This is what I am. I had to learn to turn off my doubts about myself, as well as deflect others' doubts in me. And embrace the people who said "you can and you will".

I learned a terrible lot since then about what is possible with belief, and making your soul your guide instead of your "monkey brain" (as our Buddhist friends call it). I recently read a lovely little book that explains how we are co-creators with God. Here on earth, we are making our own reality, shaping it. Attracting and repelling the things we desire or fear with our actions, words and intentions. It was beautiful to read that so articulated, because it was in support of what I already knew. At some point I decided I was going to have what I wanted, be whom I wanted, no matter what. And nothing in life: no class, no professor, no emotional strife or trauma, no physical circumstance, no emotional barrier was going to stop me. And then despite the impossible odds

I was right.

Tomorrow is my first day at my dream school. That impossible, elusive place that would give me the knowledge to be what I already am. And once again with gratitude and confidence, I have set an intention. I will be successful academically, socially, and professionally. And I will graduate with a job already in hand because I will be so valuable to one of those clinical sites, they won't be able to let me go. My focus is not on wanting this bad enough, nor on working hard enough for it. My focus is on already having it, and moving fearlessly through the incubation period ahead until I can take hold of it.

Whatever you want for yourself is yours. Not with greed and selfishness. Not so you can be famous or rich or get laid as much as you want. But the thing that honors your highest self, your mission in this life and on this planet at this particular time - it's already yours, don't you see? Because that is the desire of the heavenly realm - that you accomplish your highest holy vision. That your life be of use: loving, peace filled. Sharing yourself and unique talents. This has nothing to do with claiming your dream Ferrari (though you can), and everything to do with claiming your dream YOU. What is it you want? To make a difference with your art? To inspire others to live from a genuine and fearless place? To be genuine and fearless yourself? What does that look like? Do you need to conquer the highest peak on every continent to get it? Leave a job or place or partner who limits or exhausts you? Then you must make the choices that reflect who you desire to become and where you desire to land.

Despite how small and kittenish and terrifyingly vulnerable we feel in the world, we are not victims of circumstance. We victimize ourselves by being fearful, closed off, negative and reacting to life, instead of being proactive. I decided I wasn't going to wait to see how things turned out. If my marriage and my life partner would ever get better for me, if I could make it with whatever little scraps life handed my way, and chose to shape my life. Make my world bend to my will. And in the end, the only thing I had to fight, was myself. No voice was louder than my own saying I couldn't do it and didn't deserve it. But once I caught hold of the truth, that I literally could make my reality whatever I desired, I began to manifest success.

If you are scared you can't. You won't. If you think you don't deserve it. You don't. If the safety of your routine is more valuable than living a higher purpose that leads you into danger and uncertainty, you'll never have anything more than you have right now. Material abundance is nice, but that's not what I am referring to. I am referring to an overflow of love, joy, peace, contentment and satisfaction. I am talking about the tsunamis of terror and grief in the world washing right by you, as you stand calmly in the middle. Deciding what events mean. Whether you are victim or victor. Whether the difficulty is a means for expansion or shrinkage.

I know it's not easy, and it's counter intuitive. If I only had a thing (love, money, success, prestige), I could be a thing. But that's not how it works. You have to be a thing to have it. You want love, be more loving. Friends? Be more friendly. Success? Make the choices a successful person makes. Security? You'll have to stop being afraid. The world is at your feet. You can have whatever you wish, because YOU create it. Not God. Not your fellow man. YOU.

Now, go on and make it happen. I have class to prepare for.

Godspeed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Divorce: Year One

It's been a little over a year now since our divorce was finalized. It has been wonderful, magical, terrible, arduous, joyful, painful, awkward, bumpy, triumphant and freeing. Not in that exact sequence, and many of those things all at once. Despite the growing pains, despite how long it took and sickeningly anxious I was and how terrifying being on my own with these girls can be at times, I'm glad we did it. And I would do it all again and again and again.

I am writing this to cheer myself up. Our family has had a hard few weeks. In fact, just 90 seconds ago I was kneeling on the living room floor with my head in my hands, sobbing like a lost child. Because the school nurse and the doctor's office have put me in the middle of this battle over vaccinations based on age vs. school grade. One is telling me my kid can't start school without this and that jab, the other is saying, we refuse to jab her it's not safe yet. And I am well aware that this is so not a big deal. It's just that my kids were safe off with dad for the evening, so that 'mother code' that says you have to hold it together for everyone was now relaxed, and it was frankly the last thing. I couldn't take anymore after these few weeks...the weight of it literally forced me down. And suddenly my bare knees, clammy from today's suffocating humidity, were pressed into the flat weave wool rug with the purple stain on it from where Maya tried to experiment with acrylic paint. And the tears came out so fast I was choking.

What you need to know is this is what it is to be a single parent. It is constant worry about the little humans you are in charge of and money and car parts and your health and your future, and being so busy you feel inebriated and unable to focus and like the room is tipping on you sometimes. You forget things and lose things, and that's when times are good. When times are tough, you either sweep around like the Tasmanian devil or stagger through the day like a zombie. It is nothing, this final event this afternoon. I am going to step out of it and let these two warring factions fight it out over my kid and her immunity to polio, but it was just one thing too many today. One thing too many this month. One thing too many after this wild, beautiful, distressing year.

But I would do it again. I am writing this to affirm to me and to you who are thinking of it and you who are in the process and you who long for fucking death because you are so miserable being married. I would do this over tomorrow. Even if the outcome was less favorable. Even if I couldn't have afforded to finish my degree and hold a great position when I am through. Even if I had had to move away or live with my parents or skip eating on the weeks my kids weren't here. Over and over and over again I will say to whoever wants to listen:

It's worth it.

Because I am free. Because my tears fell and sobs echoed into an oppressively empty room, and I still didn't feel half the isolation I felt when they fell in a room with someone who didn't care to hear them or comfort me. Because we can say what we want, and do what we want, and go where we want and no one is here to offer their opinion. Because I have been able to make beautiful relationships. Ones I would have never dreamed I'd have access to. And my anemic little heart, after being empty for so many years, has been filled to over flowing with love and compassion given and received. It did not come easy though, and often life is still like playing a game of Sorry. Sometimes the opponent knocks me out just as I round the corner to bring my game piece home. But I have been given incredible strength to keep playing, time and time again. And the kids are okay, you know. They aren't drug addicts or criminals. They are not sneaking out of their bedroom windows, flipping over desks at school, or swearing at me (yet). Because I discovered that love is enough. You don't have to be a super hero. If you just keep loving them, and you try your best most days - it's enough. Most importantly, through all of this I have learned to trust in myself, trust in God ever more deeply, and trust in the truth that there is plenty, we are all one, and everything will be okay.

Yes, I wept bitter hysterical stomach clenching tears this afternoon, and after I am done writing this I am going to cry some more. But then I am going to take a bath, and put on clean sheets, and read a little with a cup of green tea, and go to bed early. Because this whole three years of transition has taught me to take care of myself, release my white knuckle control grip on life, and let go of everyone's expectations. Cry if I want to. Laugh if I want to. Be who I want to. Just what God made me.

And if you are wondering: you can too.

Godspeed.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Lesson In Contrasts

"Let me ask you something. How do you know what up is, if there is no down?", I asked my oldest, as she spun in circles on my rolling stool.
"Huh? I don't get what your asking." Spin. Spin. Spin.
"How do we know up is up, if there is no down? Or try this instead: if it was light all the time and everywhere you went was as bright as the middle of the day around the clock for forever and forever, would you know you were in the light anymore?"
She furrowed her brow. Then interrupted me because she is very astute, "but I don't want anyone to be sad!"

I was trying to make a point to this child who has been watching the people she loves have a rough time. Our family, the close ones and the extended ones have been struggling with some stuff as of late. Health concerns. And heart concerns; these of the metaphoric kind and not biological. Some confusion, some fear, some pain. Okay, maybe a lot of pain. And this child, who came slithering out of me smiling with her mouth wide open, does not understand why it has to be like this. I have tried gently to introduce her to the tragedies that exist in the world, for concern she will be disillusioned and crushed by her sunny optimism one day.

She just wants us all to be well and happy. She doesn't like watching anyone struggle. It offends her. Because she knows the truth: this is not how it is supposed to be. We are whole and healthy. We are one people. And love is all there is. But everyone else seems to have forgotten this and don't live the way she'd like them to. So I had to make this point about the way things are right now in the whole world, and in ours. If we were filled with utter and perfected joy every minute of every day it wouldn't be long before we didn't realize it was joy. How can something experience itself? It cannot, which is why contrast is required. Our part of the Universe (meant again, metaphorically, and not physically) operates on this very principle. We would not know plenty were there not want, peace without tumult. It is the tsunami of pain: war and drought and hunger and economic collapse that enable us to feel gratitude when we are ensconced in our relative safety and comfort. And in our own pathetic helpless little kitten personal lives, we wouldn't know the hysterical joy of being exactly where we want, with whom we want, and experiencing all the love our hearts can hold and some spilling out the top, if we hadn't walked there with a sorrow so deep and dark and terrifying it nearly swallowed us.

"It's been unhappy too long, when will it go back?" She asks in that way that children do, as if I had some sort of happy dust I could pull out of the mom purse and toss all across the landscape of her life. But I don't. So I told her the only thing that I could, a thing that sucks, but it's true and we do well to remember.

"This is how life works. It's easy, then it's not. Things are going well, and then they are not. All we can do is enjoy the heck out of it when it is going awesome. And then wait. Because it always gets good again. But don't confuse happy with easy. Happy is inside of us. It's not something the world does or gives to you, it is something you make. No matter where you are or what you have."

She hates that answer. I do too. But hating it doesn't make it untrue.

I had a hard time for many years. But I had this totally counter intuitive habit that the church folks taught me: say prayers of thanksgiving every time you suffer. Because it is due to the pain that growth and rebirth can take place. I am going to teach that to her tonight at bedtime. And remind her, that it is this darkness, which enables us to experience the enormous pleasure of stepping into the light once again.

I hope it helps you too.

Godspeed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dear Bad Guys,

I'm ready to die.

I typed that to my friend following his admonishment that I "be careful" before I climbed a mountain yesterday. I've heard that a lot in my life, as most women do; vulnerable in all the ways you don't need me to explain. I've written about the act of "going alone" before. Even when it is to a place where there might be danger. Which it seems, in today's world, is now - everywhere. After I typed that statement, startled, I realized it was true. I AM ready to die, and the words left my fingers before they'd been fully recognized by my brain.

I have no regrets about anything that I have done or left undone in these 36 years. I have learned the hard way to walk with my arms out to the world, to the people in her, to the emotions that may overwhelm me, to the adventures that cry out to my spirit that I go go go and see and taste and touch and hear. There is nothing to lament if I've gone. I've taught my girls well. I've loved as many as I could find. I've laughed every single laugh and not stifled a single one in my throat.

So. To the would-be terrorist who plans to detonate when I am at the movies with my children. And the sniper who plans to shoot into the crowded festival full of  the evil "them". And the police officer who will tazer me into a fatal coma at a protest. And the sicko lurking in the woods while I hike, waiting to do those things that you do.

You can have me.

But you know what? You don't win. I won. I won because I refused to buy a pistol or carry pepper spray. Because I didn't stay home while the glorious world spun dizzyingly around me. Because despite constant threat I will go to school, with all the potentially murderous and disgruntled young men, and go to a concert with it's blasphemous music, and protest injustice without anxiety of being trampled or beaten, and live alone in the city because I prefer it. Because I refuse to let you stop me from living my life while I have it.  Because to live fearlessly and with joy is a subversive act in a terrifying and unpredictable world. And with I, and you, and everyone else as fragile as china dolls, some even see it as foolish. But I will not be afraid. Because if you let fear rule your life, you may as well be dead anyway.


I used to look at classmates I was assigned to work with, the ones who were bright enough but pulled poor grades because they were lazy, and say to them "why bother to show up, if you aren't going to SHOW up?" To me, this applies to all of life. The preservation and safety of your person, your comfort and ease and security should not be your number one concern. I will not let the talking heads on TV, the ones who tell me how deadly it is outside my four walls, keep me in. And to those who live like that - who are afraid to meet new people, try a new hobby, explore a new place, leave a career or marriage you hate because it is emotionally, mentally, or physically dangerous and stay in and stay miserable and stay stuck there: you may as well be dead. Because you sure as hell aren't living.

There is a 100% mortality rate, so why aren't you running like you are on fire towards what you want? I am. Lord, let my time come when I am 95. But if it's tomorrow,

bring it on.

Godspeed.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando and Orthodoxy

A couple years ago I was in my bedroom studying, while the girls partook in the semi-daily giggle fest and slap fight known as "bath time" in the next room.
"Lily, watch this. Ohhhhhhhm..."
"Maya! You shouldn't do that! Meditating is praying to the earth. And we pray to God."

I was up so fast the curtains swayed in my breeze.
"Who told you that?!" I demanded, when I came upon the youngest sitting with her legs folded, and hands facing the ceiling, forefingers and thumbs pinched. The oldest trying to wrestle her out of her pretzel position.
"Nobody!"
"Come on! Where did you hear that?!"
"I....I don't know!", my oldest said, concern mounting over my tone. I calmed down, then patiently explained to her what meditating is: an introspective practice with ties to various faiths. But that meditation could also be a very secular way to chill the heck out. She understood. And to celebrate, I taught her to meditate to ease herself to sleep. Such a worrier, that one.

When they were just born, an atheistic relative of my ex-husband's questioned the fairness of raising children in a particular faith tradition. "Indoctrinating them", he claimed. Not giving them the opportunity to try on and decide as an adult, as if faith were best formed from sampling all on the smorgasbord of options. I have to admit, he had a point. But there is another point: something is better than nothing. It was our belief system; and sincere in our hearts it was true, how could we not share it? Considering we felt it had a direct impact on the direction of our lives and the eternal delight of our disembodied souls it seemed more than a little important. Yet.

Yet I had to concede I wasn't sold on the idea of raising fundamentalist children. I had only been on "the inside" for a couple of years by then, and I couldn't help but to notice in my lucid moments, that orthodox faith was it's own subculture, as much as it was a religious practice. The facts were we listened to Christian music almost exclusively, and hung out with Christian friends, and only watched movies that were deemed "clean", and we prayed constantly, and there were Bibles everywhere in the house and scripture was always on my lips. Not to mention the Sunday mornings, and the Wednesday nights. The women's bible study, the small group, the Christian counselors. It seemed to be a tiny bit...insulating, to put it mildly. Further, if they were to attend Christian school 7 hours a day, how much more so would they be shielded from people who didn't look, or behave, or believe, or live like them? How would I raise them to not be narrow minded and exclusionary? How could I tell them about the world, and communicate that different was not bad? How could I raise them in a fundamentalist faith, then ask them to make room in their hearts for the outsiders?

I got my first opportunity in the summer of 2011.

"Mama, can a boy marry a boy and a girl marry a girl? Or does it have to be a girl marrying a boy only?", came the five year old voice from the back seat.
I smiled to myself. It was happening, and served to me on a platter by the first baby and her big adult questions.
I told her it was funny she'd asked, because that week our state had made it legal for two girls to marry. And we have a cousin who is about to marry her future wife, and it will be real! And legal! And your aunties are married already. And we love them, right?
"Yep!"
"Well, some Christians think being gay is a sin. But we know that God loves everyone and that's just how they were made. Love is love."
"Okay!", she said. Satisfied with my logic.

Because, for better or worse, there is no larger "god" in a child's world, than a parent's influence. And I knew from that moment, my daughters would be okay. They could spend five days a week in a school that danced around creationism and evolution, that made intimations about certain "lifestyles" and our sin nature. A place where the colorfulness of society as a whole, and all it's creativity, was not well represented. And go to Church. And memorize scripture. And what they would get out of all of that is exactly what they needed, and none of the extras. Hope for the future, comfort in sorrow, and a sense of purpose and direction. Hatred, narrow mindedness, and fear were checked at our front door.

I was piecing this together in my head today, while reflecting on the terrorist act in Orlando. There is so much to tackle about our violence culture, our gun culture, the way society socializes young men, the easy accessibility to weapons, nationalism and religious fundamentalism that one hardly knows where to begin. I explained what happened to my children and they questioned the motive, naturally. I theorized that it seemed to be because he personally did not like gay people and perhaps his religion played a role. They scoffed that his religion must be pretty awful. "Well," says I, "his beliefs are not much different than what a lot of Christians believe."

They can't wrap their heads around that concept, because to them, their brand of Christianity is it's essence. The one where all are welcomed, accepted, and appreciated and none are condemned. The one where science and faith can dovetail if we are creative and flexible in our understanding of scripture. The one where the highest call on our lives is love and service. The one where they see Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Animists as their spiritual cousins. The one where we are all sinners, yet at the same time none of us are - we're just people. The one where they concede that if everyone believes something different, and each insists upon their rightness, then many of them must in fact be - wrong. And their acceptance that they could be within this group. And then I saw this montage of scenes in my head:

The outrage over Trump suggesting Muslims should be banned: "What about M?!", my distraught oldest cried over a Muslim friend, who babysits on occasion. Whom they love.

"C is a boy now," the youngest casually mentioned after she came home from playing with a little girl they'd been hanging with for years, who's parents enabled her to identify herself henceforth, as him.

"Am I understanding this picture, right? Did we come from apes?" the oldest bravely asked after seeing a cladogram at the zoo. Patiently listening to evolutionary theory, she didn't seem to care how science conflicted with a story she'd been told her whole life about human origins.

And all these memories made me concede that his cousin was both right and wrong. On the one hand, I've known plenty who were raised with no exposure to religion at all, even educationally, and it has made them less likely to investigate faith as an adult. How many of these miss out on walking a spiritual path that could have deepened the experience of being human? It's impossible to say. That said, being raised atheist or agnostic is not the danger to society that raising children in a fundamentalist faith seems to be. Can I compare an adult who believes and teaches their children that homosexuality is caused by demon possession, with another who walks into a homosexual nightclub and blows fifty people away? Is it fair? Sort of. It grows from a similar seed, doesn't it? While it may be that it was nationalism that loaded his gun, it is no coincidence that it was pointed at a room full of "sinners".

Spirituality is great. I talk about how great it is, in general terms, all the time. But fundamentalism can be, and often is - dangerous. The insular culture, out of necessity, creates a mentality of the righteous "us" and the unrighteous "them". Those not in the fold, not like you, are dangerous. Many come to see them as a threat to their beliefs, their safety, their very way of life. I attended churches that advocated we not be pulled by the lure of unbelieving friends that could lead us down the path to destruction. I find it interesting that while I was adhering to this, I instinctively knew it would be a bad thing to impart to our children. And so gradually I turned off the Christian rock, and let them stay home from church at their choosing, and decide for themselves when they felt grateful or afraid and wanted to pray.

Religion, lets face it, has been the catalyst and excuse to wage the most despicable wars, horrific acts of terrorism and barbaric crimes against humanity. From Christians shooting up abortion clinics to modern Jihad via terrorism. From the Crusades to the biblical grounds for segregation and slavery. From the least to the greatest, religious orthodoxy has been responsible for more destruction than any one other human-driven cause. It has to be said - I can't name an atheist who shot up a movie theater or women's health clinic, in the name of science.

No, religion doesn't produce crazy people. Crazy knows no religion. Neither does hate. But beliefs that inherently exclude other people and their behavior, that label outsiders as unacceptable, when taught to a child, can and do produce intolerant adults. That come to hate those who are not like themselves. That can then funnel their inner fears and rage and psychic pain into eradicating people who are easiest to blame, though they've done nothing but live to the fullest expression of their humanity. Adults who can be so afraid of that otherness that they persecute, and maim. And kill.


Though I know very little for certain, one thing I am absolutely sure of, is that God does not want, need, nor honor these human sacrifices. But weeps over our ignorance, and violence - our foolish, childish, destructive ways as we battle one another for dominance.

I want to challenge any religious parent within the sound of my voice to consider the effect you are having on your children's ideas about other people by insulating them from those with different beliefs, and by telling them that people without heteronormative, biblically based lifestyles are sick, or evil, or doing something bad. Kids don't separate "doing bad" from "being bad" too well. And isn't it best to err on the side of love? It is not ignoring the directive of scripture to teach them to love their neighbors. All their neighbors. It actually sums the whole thing up quite nicely, according to Jesus. How about we leave the separation of sheep and goats until they are much much older? Or preferably, never.

May the souls viciously ripped from their human houses in Orlando yesterday, be received into the eternal light and love of God. And may the light of love always and forever overshadow the deep darkness of hate. Let all the people say:
Amen.



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You Can't Mess This Up

That's what I tell the kids. No, not my kids. But my proverbial kids. A group of precious and brilliant young college students I have collected in my travels the last two years. They call me "Aunt Shel", and I call them "babies". We are learning from each other. From me they learn to be a grown up who isn't boring and fusty. From them, I learn to stay present and have fun. We ask each other questions. Some go unanswered and for some we go deep deep. Together, just like it is with you and all the people that you get together, we get through it.

Being human is confusing and painful. It's supposed to be fun but sometimes it just isn't. Even when you look around and it so obviously is, there is some disconnect inside you. Something that doesn't fit. I have so many reasons to be content but I am not. So many choices to make but am paralyzed by making them. Why can't I just move forward and be like everyone else? Probably because you are scared, I tell them. And you have every right to be. This shit is scary.

They ask me questions I can't answer with confidence. What should I do? Who should I marry? Will I have a happy life? But they are hung up on details all the time. A test, or a boy or a part time job. Which school? Which blouse? It makes me remember my restless casting about at their age. For something to ground me. To give me assurance that I was on the right road. And that everything, eventually, despite the impossible odds - would be okay. So I tell them one of the only things I am certain of down in my toes. As certain as my eyes are grey and my kids are nuts and that this is the 21st century: You can't mess this up.



Lemme 'splain something to you. Anything that was bound to find you, will. Anything you were meant to do in life, you'll do. I think we can get so hung up on whether we are walking on the RIGHT road that we forget, all the dang roads lead to the same place. If you are meant to connect with someone, it doesn't matter if they live in a cave in Alaska or a hut in Thailand. You will suddenly get a hankering to see some caribou or eat some pad thai, and find them. If your brain possesses the raw material to cure a rare form of cancer and that is your destiny, you can start out at MCC or Carnegie Mellon or as a goddamn fry cook. All roads will lead to your discovery. But can't we change our fate? Maybe. Maybe on the small things. But I believe with my whole heart that we each have a mission in life to accomplish certain tasks, and to help others on their journeys. And this was all decided well in advance. In that vain I don't really believe in "the one who got away" or "the blown opportunity." I want them to understand. And you. And me. Your life is not some cosmic dice roll, nor is someone pulling the strings. The universe, in the spiritual sense and physical sense is chaos, but this chaos and seeming randomness is also quite orderly. All you do, effects everyone else. And the big stuff? It fits together like a puzzle. Since it's all decided already, your choices just determine how painful or blissful the journey is to those fates.

As they fret over which class to take, or what to be when they grow up, or who to date - I wish I could just cup their sweet faces in my hands and tell them it doesn't really matter. It feels so big, but it is actually quite small. Instead I smile serenely, and simply admonish them: you can't mess this up. To know this, is confidence. Now let's put it into practice.

Godspeed.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Brave.

It was this time two years ago. I was on my way to take a college placement exam, and I had never done such a thing before. Actually I hadn't taken a test in 16 years. I'd spent the previous two weeks teaching myself all the basic algebra I never learned the first time around so I wouldn't have to start in a remedial class. My hope was to go to our community college as a science major, and then transfer into the medical tech field. But I did poorly in science in high school. And even worse in math. On top of that, the nice people in the Admissions Department had told me two things:
1) Do something easier.
2) They never take transfer students over there, so if you do well, it doesn't matter anyway because they won't admit you.

I cried as I drove to campus. I had only been there once when a friend held my hand to show me around. It was big, and I was afraid of being lost. And standing out. Afraid I would bomb the test. Afraid what they said in Admissions and the Career Center was true. Afraid that the words my detractors said were true: that I would quit. That I was really just avoiding being an adult and getting a job. And worst of all, what I said to myself: I might not be smart enough to do this. Being a mom and an adult student AND a science major was tough enough, but trying to do it while my life imploded, was insane. But that's not why I was crying. I was crying because as I drove I put on the radio and the Sara Bareilles song, "Brave" came on. When the song ended I switched channels and it was playing on that station too. I began praying as I approached campus, and when the song ended as I was parking, I switched the station once more.

"Brave".

Again.

And I sat there and sobbed. Not because I was scared, but because I heard the message. I knew right then, that despite what everyone told me, including what I told myself, I was going to make it. Every semester, every test, every damn step of the way I have had to give myself a pep talk: that I was able to finish this, and it would not all be in vain.

Next month I graduate. Remember that school they told me I couldn't get into? I got in. Remember how hard it was supposed to be? I did it. With honors. The day before graduation I will be awarded, along with just 1-2% of the graduating class, an academic distinction for a final GPA of over 3.95. It turns out I am not a creative. Or not JUST a creative. I love science. And I excel at math. And no one laughed at me. And when I got lost, I found my way. I made great friends with faculty and younger students both. And I did it all while watching many of the things I had known and hope for for 14 years, leave one by one.

What stands out for me now is how certain I was in the fall of 2013 when I set my heart on medical sonography, that I could do it. That I was MEANT to do it. Because I believe in trusting your gut. I believe in telling people to shut up. I believe in positive mantras. I believe in selective hearing. I believe in hard work. And I believe in taking risks. So many women in my situation: uneducated stay home mothers, fade away, working minimum wage type jobs, fighting to raise their kids right and make it on their own; living constantly on the edges of a raging storm. But I refused to be one of them. And really, after all, it only took two things to walk a different road. Hard work. And hope.


I know it's corny, and you are probably tired of my pollyana spiel after years of my yacking about it. But you are not some victim here. There's a lot of people, it seems, floating downstream - submitting to the will of the wind and current, not realizing they've been sitting on a pair of oars. This nation is an unkind place to women, and minorities, single parents, and the lower socioeconomic classes. Yet it is still a place for dreams. It is still a place where hard work does pay off, if you refuse to submit to what "they" decide your life should be. One of my goals in life is to participate in leveling the playing field for people who weren't as financially fortunate as I have been, who are shut out of their dreams before they even get started. For the rest of us however, I accept no excuse for mediocrity. What a waste of a precious and unique life. There is only one person just like you, and if you aren't where you need to be, where you dream to be: move, dammit.

As I go forward with my schooling and on into my career, I'll take all these lessons I learned with me. About trusting in a force larger than myself. Trusting that when I need a hand, and reach out, one will be waiting there to take it. And trusting myself.
You do the same.

Godspeed.