PART TWO: Homecoming – Living At A Deeper Octave (5 of 5)

It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have. – Cheryl Strayed

My asking the question, “How did we get so terribly lost?” after all the inner unfolding I had done could lead someone to erroneously conclude that a story that started with despair ended in much the same place. It didn’t. Not by a long shot. Continue reading “PART TWO: Homecoming – Living At A Deeper Octave (5 of 5)”

PART TWO: Power – The Essence of Hatred (4 of 5)

If you inquire into hatred, itself, it transforms into power. You want to feel hatred, be open to it, welcome it, see what it is about. Where did it come from? What is it trying to do? …That, by itself, unfolds it to reveal the truth lying within. – Hameed Ali, Diamond Approach, Spacecruiser Inquiry

These days, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the hatred coursing through American’s political landscape. Progressives and Democrats are the first to point it out in the raucous, contemptuous, racist chants at Trump’s rallies or in his daily twitter missives aimed at the opposition. Around my progressive hometown, posters are scattered in front yards and on main street store windows with the words: “We Stand United Against Hate.” When we look at the damage and cruelty being wielded by so much of the hateful rhetoric today no doubt all this concern with hatred is more than understandable.

However, the moral stance against hatred needs to be met with a strong degree of self-honestly from those of us who are quick to vilify it. Many of us, many, are lugging around boatloads of righteous hatred ourselves. In fact, that’s one of the things the right tends to hate about us – our hypocrisy about hate.

I’ve always thought of hatred as born in the moments of utter heartache where anger, pushed to its furthest limits, is thwarted and gives up. Hatred isn’t the negation of anger, it’s high-octane, compressed anger, the combustible, incinerating power of the darkest, blackest coal. Rather than quickly hot, however, hate has an air of coolness and restraint about it, just like a deceivingly innocent piece of coal that takes time to reveal its real capacity to char the crap out of something. In this way, hatred hides in thoughts and projections that appear harmless but can crush another’s subjectivity with one, seemingly simple ‘idea’ (witness racist ideology). As such, hatred can be a wicked weapon and one that has devastating capacity when linked with mechanisms of power that seem innocuous but can have a devastating impact on people’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

But back to the troubling hypocrisy among liberals… hatred can live quite comfortably in the people who hate the haters – people whose hateful parts would – in all honestly – wipe those powerful hating assholes out in a heartbeat if they could without consequence. Hatred can operate in slick ways like this; hiding in a sense of pride and victim entitlement and, unlike anger, can more easily live outside our awareness. Like a sleeping giant, it sneaks out when we issue utterance about someone despicable who disgusts us. Before it becomes action, however, hatred is a feeling. It is not a bad feeling, but an all-too-human feeling, one that may cause more trouble when we forbid it, or act it out, than it would if we found the space and support in our lives to actually feel and explore it. Continue reading “PART TWO: Power – The Essence of Hatred (4 of 5)”

PART TWO: Strength – The Essence of Anger (3 of 5)

She’s mad but she’s magic. There is no lie in her fire. – Charles Bukowski

On January 21st, 2017 between 3-5 million American women walked out their front door and onto the streets for the largest single-day protest the country had ever seen. One day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March proved a preamble to the foment of the unprecedented impact of the #MeToo movement that followed. There was more than enough evidence that a groundswell of American women were done with being “nice” and had simply had enough. Books released in 2018, like Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, or Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her, brought laser focus to this reality, exploring the history of accomplishments attributable to women’s ferocity in taking action around circumstances that were simply no longer acceptable. In the days after the women’s march a conversation was mounting about women taking off in our country, reflecting, perhaps, the Dalai Lama’s prophecy that “the world will be saved by Western women.”

This broad display of angry, defiant women is progress, no doubt. The record level women and minorities elected during the mid-terms reflected this. It was something feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of The Yellow Wallaper, written in 1892, could hardly have imagined during that early period of first wave feminism. Gilman’s character had found a kind of liberation through a ‘crazy’-madness where she began to challenge the status quo around her, but herein was a different kind of mad: angry mad, publicly angry mad, mad by the millions!

However, just as statistics about a rise in anxiety during the Trump presidency don’t tell the personal story of people’s experience of that anxiety, how it has changed them for better or worse, nor do statistics about the number of women (and their allies) who took to the streets tell the story of how women across America have experienced their anger, fed-up-ness and outrage. How it has over the last several years perhaps deepened their cynicism or, potentially, spawned a new level of empowerment and vision. This is the inside story. Continue reading “PART TWO: Strength – The Essence of Anger (3 of 5)”

PART TWO: Separation and Reconnection (2 of 5)

Each experience of love nudges us toward the Story of Interbeing because it only fits into that story and defies the logic of Separation. ― Charles Eisenstein

I start on the screen of my choosing. I am on a zoom call, Dec. 6, 2017. Here, in encountering my isolation I forge two new relationships. The first was with the woman on the screen, a therapist and member of what Glennon Doyle in her best-selling memoir Love Warrior refers to as “the universal underground of sisterhood.” The screen is a compromise on our being together in physical presence, but this does not stop something memorable from happening that day because this is where it started. This is where the second relationship was born with the part of myself that had been trapped in the wallpaper of my own life for decades. Continue reading “PART TWO: Separation and Reconnection (2 of 5)”

PART TWO: The Inward Turn – Exploring the Soul of Citizenship In The Trump Era (1 of 5)

Madness in Mad Times

In 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a short story titled The Yellow Wallpaper. Gilman’s female protagonist was relegated to an upstairs room by her husband, a doctor, for a ‘rest cure’ to address her ‘nervous depression, despair, and hysteria.’ (Gilman had been given this “treatment” for depression herself, by a Dr. Silas Mitchell).

Enclosed, trapped, powerless, and pathologized (gaslighted), Gilman’s character became intoxicated by the wallpaper in the room. In the first third of the story, we find her in what seems like a petty preoccupation with the wallpaper, irritated and angered by the pattern in it, the sallow, yellow color, the sheer incongruence of the design. But as the pages turn, her intrigue with the wallpaper grows, over time ‘finding’ a woman trapped within its patterned contours.

The story continues to chronicle the protagonist’s building ‘madness,’ as she alternates between self-doubt and engagement with the woman (sometimes women) she is able to discern in the wallpaper. The protagonist refers to the guidance of those who are taking care of her, guidance she originally obliges but comes over time to question, then confront. Before long, you can’t help but join in her mounting irritation with the way they dismiss and minimize her distress and coddling her into ‘recovery.’ Over the course of the story, Gilman’s character builds the capacity (in a kind of defiant, madness) to dismiss these ‘caretakers’ who pity her condition (again, gaslighting). She finds an intimacy with her direct experience, learning to trust what she is seeing, feeling, discovering in a conscious awakening to a self-authorized reality of her own.

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life. – Virginia Woolf

Gilman’s story culminates with the protagonist successfully stripping the wallpaper off the walls setting free, to her great satisfaction, the woman she sees caught there. When her husband opens the door in the final passage, he finds his wife proclaiming in delight: “I got out at last, I got out at last!” Said husband then faints and we are left with the image of a woman crawling in circles around him in the room, ‘mad’ and elated. We are also left with a disturbing but strangely intoxicating paradox about the relationship between a woman’s madness and her liberation. Continue reading “PART TWO: The Inward Turn – Exploring the Soul of Citizenship In The Trump Era (1 of 5)”

PART ONE: One Woman, Post-Trump Stress Disorder & the Whole Catastrophe – The Political Just Got a Whole Lot More Personal

November 9, 2016 – USA. Over the last half-century, a number of stark memories have been seared into America’s psyche so shocking or painful or unexpected that they live largely unmetabolized as an image, a recollection, something we turn to each other to say: “Where were you when it happened?”  The images of the balcony of the Lorraine Motel the day after Martin Luther King was shot. The slowly driving motorcade and Jackie O. scrambling to climb back over the front seat towards her husband.  Two planes flying into twin towers and their slow, knee-buckling collapse into clouds of billowing dust. And, now, the day Donald Trump was elected.

My husband and I were at the theatre. The play was about Haitian immigrants in America, a powerful and touching story about racism and its overcoming. In spite of the standard request to turn off our cellphones, the news flickered on screens through the audience and ‘broke’ somewhere halfway through the second act.  Surely the actors must know, I kept thinking, watching them come back on the stage after leaving a scene.  I kept wondering how they came back to perform, devoted to their craft, following cues they returned while something inside them was surely collapsing.  “The show must go on” I kept thinking to myself, along with the spirit of the arts and our desire to digest, give human meaning, and resurrect love in the face of the history’s horrors. But the memory I have of the morning after is the one that stands out more fully, perhaps because it took at least the night for the reality to have the first opportunity to sink in.

I sat on the leather couch in our living room staring at the television with the sound on mute. My children had just left for school, boisterous and blissfully naïve about the bomb that just detonated in America’s constitutional soul. I stared at the talking heads on CNN, my awareness focused inward.

Something important is happening in our world that you will not read about in the newspapers. I consider it the most fascinating and hopeful development of our time, and it is one of the reasons I am so glad to be alive today. It has to do with our notion of the self. – Joanna Macey

Like others, I was still in shock but settled between the various pesto smudged stains and illicit pen marks on our family room couch, I could sense, next to my disbelief, something else hovering in my awareness. It seemed like inside the hollow silence created by this news some part of me was assessing the size of the test we were about to be put to, one that carried the potential to either break us as a nation or to birth something new – in me and in Americans. Whatever birth might be possible, however,  was going to depend on a pending breaking point, but I had no idea what that meant, what the timing would be, or what it would look like. Accompanying this intuition was also the haunting sense that everything in my life had somehow prepared me for this moment. Continue reading “PART ONE: One Woman, Post-Trump Stress Disorder & the Whole Catastrophe – The Political Just Got a Whole Lot More Personal”