GM’s and the Modern Day Campfire Story

Last night, I sat around a table with friends and we took an adventure. I played my first ever horror role playing game and loved it. I don’t like horror. I respect its contributions to film, writing and culture in general. I also have a hard time leaving the monsters at the movie theatre. So this is a genre of content I tend to stay away from.

My husband is a GM or Game Master. This is a magical person who creates a world for others to have adventures in. Over the last year and a half he has done a deep dive into table top role playing games. RPG ‘s or role playing games are fun interactive experiences. The most well-known RPG is Dungeons and Dragons or D & D.

Over the last year or so, I have seen my husband move past D & D to discover all kinds of different RPG systems. I have also seen the glimmer in his eye fade as people respond to his excitement with confusion and judgments. Last night I got to see him beaming.

He wore a red shirt, with a white tie and black vest. To top it all off he wore a black bowler hat. He was in his element. Crafting every turn, creating suspense and fear and guiding us through an hour and a half interactive adventure. It was magical to watch. Three friends and I sat around my round black table. All light save a few candles and battery powered tea lights was turned off or blocked out. Under the table my husband taped a string of lights providing a soft glow coming from underneath us all. In the center of the table, a Jenga tower. The crackle of a virtual campfire care of Youtube provided a sense of atmosphere and additional ominous music was provided from the laptop screen in front of my husband who sat near but not at the table.

For the next hour and a half, we went on a journey together. Each player contributed some part of the story and my husband guided us. Before we sat at the table, he spent hours creating a sandbox for us to move in. Thinking through possible events and monsters and deciding how our adventure would draw to a close.

As I sat watching my husband, it occurred to me that a GM is nothing short of a storyteller who has very old roots. Yes, games like D & D or the game we played, Dread, are newer, but the roots of what happened at that table are very old. As the virtual campfire crackled, I thought of my ancient ancestors telling the history of our people centuries ago.

Over time the voices of storytellers have shifted to different mediums. Technology created new opportunities for the campfire story experience. From the radio to the early days of television, we as a society have enjoyed the tradition of sitting together and taking in a story. Although the technologies have changed and continued to provide more individual experiences we still seek out the same feelings of communal fear, sadness or laughter. People live tweet events to be connected globally as they sit in their home alone. We choose to use the internet as a place of connection. I’m doing that right now. I’m sending my words in a virtual bottle so that they might reach your shore. RPG’s are another extension of the campfire story.

A GM creates an experience and like all great storytellers allows their audience to contribute to or simply change the story. The campfire has been replaced with a table and some additions such as dice or a Jenga tower have been added, but the magic of what happens is the same.

A good GM, creates a unique experience one part board game, one part live performance. This experience cannot be recreated, but it can be appreciated and so can the GM’s of the world. I am so proud of my husband. He creates magic and taps into the very old oral tradition of telling and creating story.

If anything I’ve said has sparked your curiosity, I challenge you to seek out RPG’s and gaming communities wherever you live. The game we played was Dread, but there are many more systems. Below I have included a few links to get you started on your next adventure.

To all the GM’s out there, thank you for continuing the oral tradition and creating story. Story is something I have committed my life to. I am so grateful for others who also make similar commitments and continue to deepen the well of story.

 

 

PS: Yes, the RPG world is very white and very male, but this is changing and the community as a whole is super welcoming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKejuEmQjMQ – A good video about where to start

https://dreadthegame.wordpress.com/about-dread-the-game/ – The game we played

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0loSZFsyoQ – A play through of Dread – TableTop is a great channel to see fun play-throughs of both RPG’s and board games

https://roll20.net/ – A place to virtually play RPG’s if you don’t have a community where you live

If you are now inspired to become and GM (YAY!!) links for you below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjmkolUrrB4 – A wonderful female GM sharing her tips about being a wonderful GM

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuGFF6RJgaMrlxVxEB7XsBerrIFgnqZIa –A good playlist with everything you need to know about being a GM

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/top_100.php – A place where you can purchase different systems

 

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Today, I Choose Hope

Today, I choose hope. My beautiful writing partner grounds me. I work from home now and can curate, for the most part, my interactions with the world. North Dakotans are generally nice enough to keep their racism limited to a few looks or whispers on occasion. So I don’t have to see racism daily unless I choose to. I am privileged with being able to live in my bubble. My safe bubble, filled with people who love me. Wonderful white people who understand that our experiences of the world are different. Who respect it when I say something isn’t for them. Who never question when I wonder if a look, stare, attitude or bad costumer service is racially motivated. Although 95% of my neighbors who voted, voted for the current administration and 60% as recent as a few months ago still support that administrations destructive, hate-filled rhetoric, the people I let in my bubble understand. Even if they support the current administration, most are nice enough not to mention it around me. Those who are vehemently opposed to the current administration love and support me. This is my reality, my privilege.

My bright shiny Latina writing partner doesn’t have this privilege. She works with children and has seen how they are effected by the hate, anger and anguish of adults in response to the current administration. She calls me and we talk. Recently I told her something that has resounded in me since. I’ll paraphrase below for you.

Love is something that you have to choose. I have been married for almost four years and each day of marriage solidifies this belief for me. In this same way, I believe you have to choose hope. This is not to say that you stop feeling anything you might be feeling. Being sad is often not a choice and those who say so are wrong. But despair is a choice. Despair is an attitude and you can change your attitude. So you must choose hope.

I went on further explaining that as women of color, when we choose despair it is one more thing we are giving over to White Supremacy and the structures and institutions of racism/sexism/homophobia and so on. It gives these things a win. It is one more thing stolen from us. As a Native woman, these things and the people who support them or are complicit in them have already taken so much. Add to that the things stolen as a Black woman and things start to get heavy.

Today I chose hope. I hope to do so tomorrow too.

Self-Care Selfish? Wrong Question.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to a group of strong, passionate women about self-care. I knew not to assume that all in the audience would believe like me that self-care is nothing short of a necessary part of life. It didn’t surprise me when the question of self-care being selfish came up. I shared with the group that for me the only way to get away from this line of thinking was to do the mental gymnastics that I am my best self when I practice self-care and that by being my best self I am able to help others more effectively. Later though, when I was having a walk and talk chat with my cousin a different answer emerged.

I realized that because I have been intentionally practicing self-care for going on a year and half I no longer feel a need to justify it. I do it because it is good for me and I don’t really care if anyone believes this act to be selfish. My cousin talked about how it is important that we as black women don’t give power to people who might question our actions. She’s right and not just for black women.

By allowing an outside perspective on my life and decisions to invade my little world I give over power to that outside perspective. Nothing says that I have to engage with this question.

For the longest time, I have felt a need to respond and engage, taking for granted that this was a choice. Nothing says I have to engage. Nothing says I have to respond. So before I start to answer a question or engage someone in a difficult conversation I think from here on out I will pause. I will take a weighted pause for myself. Is this something I have to do? Is this something I want to do? What are the outcomes of responding or engaging? If I don’t like the answers then I won’t engage.

Over the years, I have given too much of myself away. I have poured out my cup time and time again leaving nothing for myself. I have exposed myself to individuals who mean me harm, usually unintentionally but that doesn’t necessarily make it better or undo the harm they cause. This way of being is not sustainable. All renewable resources need to take in more than they put out. In farming, if you don’t put nutrients back into the soil the ground will cease producing nutrient rich plants. If you continue to pollute a water source without taking time to clean up the mess it will no longer serve as a resource.

I am no different and yet I have continued to drain my nutrients and not clean up the pollution in my life. I think I’m done with that. I value myself more than that.

There Are No Elves

there are no elves 1Last night I started reading a book called Scratch. It was the only book I could find at the library that explored the business of writing. The book dives into the tension between writing as a passion and writing as a profession. I have only read two of the essays included in the book thus far. Each one has hit notes in me and brought forth thoughts I have been chewing on for months.

For some time now, I have been struggling to understand the systems I see around me. I have never been a good capitalist or a good consumer. These modes of walking through life don’t make sense to me. Communal or barter based systems seem to be better. They are systems that encourage true community, foster respect for craft and bring people closer to one another.

I have observed dysfunctional nonprofit boards; and heard the horror stories from friends about their work lives in the for-profit sector. In both instances, I have stated with frustration that there must be a better way.

Working at a union for some time opened my eyes to the fact that in many industries there is no one looking out for the worker. How can this be when there are more workers than owners? Also why as an owner wouldn’t you want to look out for your workers? Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also looking out for your bottom line.

When I first started work at a small nonprofit theatre in town, my knowledge about business grew exponentially. One of the biggest things I realized is that there are no elves. The theatre was a small business with only my boss and I working full time and two other staff helping out a few hours a week. This meant that everything that happened in that space had to be done by one of the four of us, usually my boss or I. We were there every day so we had the clearest grasp on the work that needed to be done. If the lobby was a mess when I left, it was going to be a mess when I returned unless my boss had cleaned it. Day by day I realized the fact that there are no magic elves who come and finish your work for you.there-are-no-elves-2.jpg

This revelation opened my eyes. No longer could I look at anything without thinking of the people behind it. Take for instance the cup I am drinking hot water from as I write this. In order for it to get to me someone had to sell it, shelve it, ship it, package it, make it, gather materials, ensure it met safety regulations, design it, create a company to make cups. I’ll stop there, but that’s a lot of work for a simple cup.

Now when I look at something all I can see are the many hands who made it possible. Whether I’m attending an event, receiving a service or purchasing an item. My experience in each of these instances has been created and crafted by someone and most likely by several someones.

How would things shift if we thought not just about the joy we have at receiving something good but also about who helped make that happen? How would things change if we accepted that there are no magic elves?

Endings

Endings are difficult for me. I love potential. This deep rooted love guides many of my feelings. Potential means that anything is possible. As a person who has committed her life to story, creating something from nothing is what I do. It’s a magic I believe in, and anything being possible is the heart of this magic. This makes endings complicated. Endings are the death of potential. Not always, of course there are certain times when it’s only a partial death, but still, death. Death is a word that makes my heart slow with sadness and fear. Death to potential is something that makes me feel deep sorrow. Within a project or at the end of a show, I will and have done anything to delay the end. I also love to focus on the ways those things aren’t ending. A theater performance is only done if you stop working on that character, or so I say. Any mental back-flip I can use to avoid admitting the end will do.

For the last while, I have been spending much time focusing on myself and how I work. Part of this work was realizing that I had many, many almost done projects. They just needed to be filed away so that I could reference them again if I wished. These almost done projects weighed on me. They took up brain space and I needed a way to clear some of that space out. I needed to finish the projects, but that meant embracing the end. So I created a form, trying to encourage myself to celebrate the end. I love definitions, so I looked up the word eulogy, below is what I found.

 

Definition of eulogy

  1. :  a commendatory (compliment, praise, recommend as worthy) oration or writing especially in honor of one deceased she delivered the eulogy at his funeral
  2. :  high praise

 

That didn’t sound so bad, “honor” and “high praise,” I could do that. So I began the process of finishing my almost done projects. It felt amazing. I still have several to go, but I have begun to embrace endings. They are healthy and good. A good story is so much about its’ ending, how it leaves you.

I was on the road to acceptance and then a different kind of death came to visit my life. A distant aunt passed away and then my husband’s grandfather also passed away. I was forced to look at the leftover items from others I had lost in recent years. Gifts sent after their passing, by those that remained and unopened cards of condolence.

The death of a person is the ultimate end of potential. Even if you believe in an afterlife, the potential for that person as they were on this plane of existence is done forever. As a lover of potential, this is hard for me, forever done.

As I have comforted my husband these past months, a thought occurred to me. I was reminded of the feeling I had as I finished the almost done projects. Finishing them changed how I felt about them. Yes, they were done and the potential for them was done, but something shifted in my feelings about those projects. They didn’t weigh on me anymore, leaving room for the projects I am actively working on. I started to wonder if I needed to do something for those I had lost. As it is now, all that exists when I think about them is sorrow.

That eulogy definition came to my mind. There is no sorrow there. The perspective is one of hope and honor. It’s almost forward thinking. Maybe there is something in the process of taking time to honor them and their memory that shifts feelings from sorrow to something else.

It feels horrible thinking of releasing the sorrow to make room for those still alive in my life. I don’t want to forget those who have died. They mattered to me. Their lives mattered.

I have to believe however that there must be a way of somehow honoring them and letting go of the pain. Letting go I think is the important phrase in that last sentence. I have to learn to let go and embrace the something else that awaits me when I do.

So I think from time to time I will write eulogies for the things and people I lose and post them here. One small step in letting go and accepting the death of potential.

I Am Not Ok

                           I am not ok.

These words generally signal the start of a crisis. For many people it’s the sign of someone who needs help instantly. It sends friends and family into a state of panic and worry. This means that many don’t want to voice these words until they truly are in a state of panic. I am beginning to wonder however, with all of the talk recently about mental health and self-care, how we might change this.

Listening to him speak to a group on a different continent, it felt as though he was in my living room speaking directly to me. Sangu Delle talked about taking the shame out of self-care. I watched his TED talk and instantly felt moved by this idea. Why is there shame in the first place? On social media and in life we celebrate with each other and when something really bad happens we mourn with each other. We can laugh with each other. So, why is it only a brave few who seek a pick me up if they need it?

                        I am not one of the brave few.

A friend of mine recently posted to Facebook that she wasn’t feeling strong. The tone of her post was almost apologetic. She was apologizing for feeling a few moments of insecurity, but she was brave enough to put it out there.

I have, like my friend, felt at times that because of who people see me to be I can’t be who I am. People see a person who is strong and organized and on top of things. Some may even look up to me and by showing something different, maybe I would hurt them in some way. I have to wonder if this is one reason why there is shame in self-care.

If this is true, it’s a flawed logic and it doesn’t give enough credit to people. My friend who posted that she wasn’t feeling strong received a flood of comments filled with love and care. By opening up, she allowed others the opportunity to serve and support her.

This give and take is what true friendship looks like. So, how on earth can we create spaces on the internet and in life where this kind of friendship is normalized? The solution is that we have to normalize needing and seeking help. That was my big take away from the TED talk. Mental health is a subject that I have seen cause unease in many people. The idea of making this issue smaller seems to be what the TED talk was getting at. If we can remove the shame from self-care, normalize seeking help, and create space for people to not be ok, maybe mental health wouldn’t seem so scary.

After all when a friend is feeling down, helping them is usually not about addressing a mental health crisis or having to know exactly the right words to say. Generally it’s just about creating spaces for people to be open and honest about where they truly are. Rather than forcing the idea that we’re all “fine.”

I’ve started in the smallest ways trying to create this space for people in my life to be not ok. When I have a meeting and someone pauses before they say they’re fine, I make a joke. “What good liars we are.” I say. It’s not a huge step, but it is a start. If as a society we could just start creating little spaces for people to be honest about where they are, even if that’s not in a good place, things might change.

Maybe then, saying you don’t feel strong today could be received similarly to saying you’re having a great day. Because waiting until a person is in crisis is not the best way to go about things.

Most people I know have mastered feeling horrible and continuing to function. Sadly the working world and commitments of life don’t truly care about feelings. The dog still has to get walked, the clothes have to get cleaned, and for most people if you want to keep your job you have to be in by 8am. So generally with my close friends if they say they are not ok my first response is not panic, but just a simple commitment to listen and support in whatever way I can.

If it became possible to normalize being not ok, I wonder how many emotional barriers and walls would come down. How would it change how we viewed our mentors and heroes?

Ultimately I believe this to be important because I think in the long run it could save relationships and lives. If in every workplace, organization and relationship there was space for people to not be ok, when a true moment of emotional crisis happened it wouldn’t be a shock. And leaders would know that they didn’t have to “keep it all together” for appearances. They would know they could lean on their teams and families for support because they had practiced many times before the crisis happened.

Because no matter what, the crisis will happen. Eventually there will be a death in the family or an illness or a car crash or a bad breakup.  Something will happen that isn’t a regular “I am not ok” moment. But by then not only will the person experiencing the low or sad or angry moment have practice in expressing what they need, so will their community. With practice people get better.

And why wouldn’t we as a society want to commit to getting better at supporting one another when we need each other most?

On the Road to Angry Brown Lady

I started this post on December 6, 2016 like this…

For the first time in my life, I see myself clearly on a track and feel uncertain how to get off. The horrible injustice that seems to be finding its way to my eyes for consumption and emotional response has increased greatly. I am not stating that the amount of injustice in the world has changed, merely my observance of it.

My default response to most things is sadness and empathy. I feel sadness that the world continues to exist this way and that our global community cannot figure out how to listen deeper and love greater. Then I try to understand why and how the conflicts, disagreements and deaths happen. A new response is slowly rising within me.

I am angry. I am annoyed. I am furious. I feel deep rage. I wish ugly horrible things to the leaders instigating and calling for violence and intolerance.

This is not who I have been in the past. Anger for many reasons is not my default emotion. Anger makes me feel powerless. All of my impulses are good neither for me nor the world at large. So I sit turning the anger inward and it becomes deep sadness. It is better for these reasons to avoid this emotion. Only recently and out of necessity have I begun to embrace it.

This does not change however that I feel myself pulled in a direction with no way to deviate. There are two of me. The empathetic me tied to the train tracks and the angry me gleefully blowing the horn of the train about to run empathetic me over. Angry me has a handlebar mustache and evil laugh. I need both mes to get off the tracks.

I realize that within the anger there are deeper feelings. Behind my anger is a sense of deep exhaustion. A famous quote comes to mind.

 

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

                   – Fannie Lou Hamer

 

Read quickly about the speaker behind these words and you see something stronger than anger. You see a woman who was beaten, written off and still did what she thought was right. You see a woman determined.

I think even deeper within the anger is a sense of brokenness. More than sadness. I feel broken by the fact that just as I am recovering emotionally from one blow another comes to shatter what little solace I have found.

I don’t want to head down the track not only because I don’t desire to become a stereotype but also because I don’t desire to become someone I’m not. I try to live my life as authentically as I can and anger is not me. It’s not my go to.

There is also a huge part of me that fears the stereotype. I identify as brown to acknowledge that I am not only black. I have a vast and beautiful heritage filled with African American and Native American history.

Do a quick google image search of “Angry Black Woman” and you will find you have options. You can have: old, funny, ape, big, attitude, michelle, glee, mad, reality tv or at work sub categories for your search. Google conveniently provides them in pretty rainbow colored buttons above the original search results.

I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be a meme. I like most humans want to be respected when I express feelings.

You don’t have to look far to see Native American Nations being made fun of for expressing emotions. I can’t even start to dive into that here. Maybe in another post.

So I find myself on the track. I’m brown and don’t feel like changing that. The world likes to make fun of any nonwhite person who expresses emotions. And I feel angry based on exhaustion and brokenness. What do I do now?

Avoiding, sitting on the sidelines only keeps me out of the public eye. It doesn’t necessarily change all of the feelings going on inside. And unfortunately I don’t see the injustice changing or moving anytime soon.

 

Flash forward to now…

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 6 months since I wrote the words above. I didn’t post them then because I was still wrestling with myself and with how to write this post.

I don’t think I’m on the track anymore. There aren’t multiple versions of me comically trying to kill each other. No handle bar mustaches. I’m off the track and on a path.

Yesterday I graduated from a leadership program. I have had many unsettled feelings about the program and on this day I had an interaction that upset me.

I felt crazy. I felt militant. I felt angry. I reached out for help. And with that help came a clear sense of direction.

Today, I listened to words of wisdom flow from my dear cousin to me. I think of my amazing writing partner who’s more than family. I think of the words of my grandmother reminding me of my heritage and the strength that lives there. Today I think of my mother always at my side, my continual support. And I think of my white husband, the proud feminist and gentle hand by my side and at my back holding me up when my legs quiver.

I come from strong women. My heritage is beautiful. Today was the first day that someone complimented me on this. It was a good reminder.

The United States Government has tried to kill my people and failed in the 1800’s, 1960’s and even today. Black and Native people resourcefully and skillfully continue to live.

That is my commitment. I am going to keep living. I am going to keep being myself. My loud, emotional, thoughtful, inquisitive, brash, angry, empathetic, silly self. I love me. It took months alone to remember this and I won’t back.

I won’t go back to quieting myself for others. I won’t go back to tip-toeing around issues of discrimination, racism, privilege, inequality, injustice and every other thing wrong with the world.

I will no longer poison myself by turning feelings of anger inward. If I’m labeled a stereotype so be it. I know who I am.

I am a beautiful brown girl ready to learn, listen, grow and have a great impact on the world. I hope you’ll join me.

A Black Scar in the Carpet

a creative nonfiction piece

As she past the black dress on the floor, she was reminded of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Many years previous, in her theater design class, she watched a documentary about the designer of that memorial, Maya Lin. During the documentary, there was a veteran who had called the memorial nothing more than ‘a black scar’ within the earth. This dress was that for her living room floor.

She had set it out to dry two days ago. It was to be worn at the funeral of a distant aunt. The young woman didn’t own any black dresses. She only ever ended up buying them for funerals and then never wore them again. Her mother had suggested that she go to the local thrift store. She had and was happy to find two outfits for under fifteen dollars. The young woman had planned on attending both the wake and funeral. This was before she knew that later in the week she would be traveling to Arizona to help her husband say goodbye to his grandfather. Now the dress would be worn to the grandfather’s funeral instead.

Death had been lingering in her mind for a few weeks now. A conversation with a friend had reignited an old curiosity around the death of one of her uncles. He had died at the hands of the police. There had always been mystery around his death. He was alive. The police officers entered the room. They pushed him to the ground and then he never got up again. This was all the family knew. She had promised herself that someday she would meet the men or women who were in that room when her uncle died. She kept thinking about her uncle.

This had led to thoughts of her other uncle, the sweet grumpy one who had died less than a year ago. His birthday was coming up. He would have been 51. She knew this because for his 50th birthday they celebrated. Her mom got pizza and ice cream cake and invited all his friends. The young woman and her husband had joined. She had taken many, many pictures that day. She had felt connected to her family and so happy. After all, a main reason she moved to North Dakota was to get to know her family better.

Her efforts had not gone as she had hoped. They were all busy and had lives of their own. They were also different than she was and many of the numerous clan didn’t know her. She had grown up in cities far away. Many of them had grown up in North Dakota on farms or ranches. She knew they loved her, but during family events she always felt separate, not really knowing who to talk to. Her family loved her, of this there was no question, and if she needed help they would drop everything for her. She had desired something else though. She wanted to feel that she belonged. This would only come with time, but she knew her time in North Dakota was in its final lap. Her husband and she planned to leave within the next two years. Now was the only time left to make true connections. Being a military brat, she knew how hard it was to maintain relationships over a distance.

This desire to belong was only deepened by the sense of cultural bankruptcy which became more apparent daily. She had grown up off her reservation, away from her tribe. She didn’t speak her language or understand the traditions and customs of her people. In the past year, for the first time, she had bumped into many who were interested to know and understand her culture. Which put her in a particularly difficult situation since she didn’t know it herself. Her mother had done what all the elders of her time told her, “Get off the rez.” Now this choice, made before the young woman was even a thought in her parents’ minds, caused her to feel set apart from her tribe.

On top of this, she missed her church family. It had been two years since she had been to church, but she finally missed them. She had left because of questions she had about the character of God. These questions had proved large and vast. They would take time to answer. Sitting in church growing bitter would do no good, or so she believed.

Quietly she sat down at her black kitchen table, staring at the dress. All she could think about was the great longing in her heart. Since moving to North Dakota she had lost a friend, an uncle and now an aunt. Soon her husband would lose a grandfather. Her mother had somehow survived the loss of both her parents and three brothers, not to mention the aunt who helped raise her and the grandmother who was a mother to her. The young women questioned if she had the strength to be like her mother. Could she survive more loss? Did she even have a choice?

The long black dress on the floor seemed to grow and shift. It was a reminder of the trip her husband and she would take in two days. It was a reminder of another ending of a life. The names of her uncles, her friend and her aunt pounded in her head.

Endings had always proved problematic for the young woman. She loved potential and an end was the death of potential. In the past few months she had become more comfortable with endings, but the end of potential for a human life still caused her great trouble. She had yet to open the cards she received after her sweet grumpy uncle’s funeral. She couldn’t. Like many she sought to delay the end. This was a lie.

Truly, the only lie she tolerated. You can’t delay the end of a life. Maybe this was why she couldn’t bring herself to pick the dress up off of the floor. If she disturbed it, something could happen. If she moved it, she would have to acknowledge that something was happening.

This day was the day her distant aunt would be buried. The day before, the young woman had seen the grieving family. They had asked her to return tomorrow, but she knew she couldn’t. Being at the wake had made the names pounding in her head grow louder. She had to be there for her husband. Soon he would be the family grieving.

She felt inadequate. Her power had always been in words. They made things clearer and signaled so much in her life, but when death came to visit the young woman, words failed. The things she depended on so often. They failed her. They were useless and wrong and out of place. They were nothing. They are nothing.

I Ruin Things

Yesterday, I decided that I will most likely not be doing yoga in the future. While I had always known that this practice had come from another religion I had never really thought deeper into the implications of this fact. Something from within my 40 minute yoga session at home made me question this. So off to google I went. I asked google, “How do Hindu believers feel about western yoga practice?” and so began a regular ritual for me.

A question occurs to me or is asked in a form of media I’m enjoying. Then I ponder for a moment. Then I get more information. The depth of the question and its impact on other aspects of my life determines how far I dig into the research. Generally I click all of the links on the first page of the google results. It’s easier to find consensus this way. After gathering more information I dive down to the root of the problem which involves more thinking and researching, which sometimes leads to more thinking and researching. Research includes: google searches, library trips to pick up books, asking everyone I encounter their feelings about the topic and in some rare cases years of addressing the question deeper through all of these methods.

I have to get to the root and foundation of problems. Something in me has to get to the smallest part. I can’t help myself. This however means I ruin things.

Not necessarily for me, but most certainly for those who are close to me or who encounter me. Through the years I have tried to prevent this, realizing that not everyone wants to look at the foundation of things. Not everyone feels a need to know that they’re sun salutation is intended to greet Surya, the Hindu Sun God. And most people don’t want to address the implications of this or any other bit of information I may find.

I remember sharing with a mentor of mine during college that the Starbucks logo made me think of human trafficking. During my time at college, I had learned about the many kinds of human trafficking, including forced labor. Then later while eating at an amazing place, Fair Trade Café, in downtown Phoenix I learned about fair trade coffee. From then on, I associated things not fair trade with forced labor. This is arguable, but at the very least, things imported and not made fair trade are exploitative at best. Since Starbucks at the time wasn’t (and still isn’t 10 years later) 100% fair trade, the correlation made sense to me. See the pretty lady think of starving farmers in South America. My mentor didn’t really know how to respond. She was proud of me for caring about this issue within social justice, but also felt my correlation was a bit extreme.

My most recent stint of research, yoga practice, led to a heated debate about cultural appropriation that greatly upset a dear friend. Which is in part what inspired this need to look at my practice of intentional living and obsession with the foundation of things through this post.

It is never my intention to upset people with my observations and knowledge. Even if I say, “you don’t have to do this,” they still assume I’m judging them. Something about my conviction in what to do upsets and even intimidates others. I have to wonder if this is because ignorance is more comfortable. If you don’t know something you aren’t obligated to do anything about it, but the instant you know you have a choice. You can choose, knowing the implications of your action, to continue to take that action or you can choose change. Without intending to, I force people to face this.

While I understand the pain and tension caused by knowledge, I’m not certain that avoidance is the answer. As a person who uses avoidance most often as a coping strategy, I know that in the long term avoidance doesn’t work. Avoidance creates a void, a weird space with faux comfort. It’s not true comfort because it only exists without the thing you’re avoiding. In this way it’s kind of a lie.

This is the problem for me. I practice extreme transparency. As my husband says, nothing can be closed in our life. Not our doors or our windows. I don’t even like fences, literal or figurative. So to live a lie just doesn’t work.

All of these things about me combine to make me a ruiner of ignorance. After writing this post I better understand why this is the case and how it impacts others, but I don’t necessarily feel better. I don’t want to be a ruiner, but I suppose due to characteristics within the foundation that guides me this can’t be helped. I could change, but I kind of like the individual characteristics. I kind of like me.

Well if you happen to know me or seek to know me, I guess you’ve been warned.

If You’re Still Hurting

A time of pain from many months ago recently reminded me that it was still sore. I thought I was over it. I thought I was moving on and then a friend casually mentioned that a certain situation was of course difficult because I was still hurting. I didn’t correct her, just went about my way. Later that night, as I was crying her words rang true for me. I thought I had moved on, but it appears that is not the case.

I felt so disappointed in myself. I had done the journaling and the forgiveness meditations and lots of pacing and the avoiding. I had done all the things so why wasn’t I all better. My mother’s words of wisdom were especially helpful here. She said I wasn’t being fair to myself. “Time heals,” she said. I knew she was right and her words gave me a sense of permission. It’s ok to be still hurting, especially because I am doing the work and I am moving forward.

Later my brilliant writing partner, Anjulee shared something. She said that when she thinks about recovering after being hurt there are really two people who need to get over things. The first being your emotional side and the second your rational side. Then she said that it was the rational side that usually took longer. Of course the rational side would hold things up because forgiveness and atonement don’t always make rational sense. After speaking with her I realized that my rational side is represented by a second grade Eichelle. Children are the protectors of fairness and justice after all. I could see her so clearly sitting stubbornly not wanting to budge. “It’s not fair,” she says with a pout.

Then finally today during my morning journaling, I don’t know gave me wings. For the past several months, I have struggled with, I don’t know. It’s a space where I am not usually comfortable. I am a planner and a fixer and a doer. There is nothing to be done with I don’t know or so I thought. A main part of my lingering hurt was that I didn’t and still don’t know what is next for me.

My dream job stabbed me in the back and kicked me to the curb. If I am brutally honest, I’ve never had a dream job so that statement is not fully true. Also I left a bad situation, I wasn’t necessarily kicked out. And yes the job beat me thoroughly and caused me great pain, but through those wounds and bruises I have learned and I have grown.

As I wrote this morning my fear and discomfort of I don’t know turned. I realized that I don’t know is not a place with nothing to be done but the birth place where anything and everything can be done. The potential from this place is infinite. I love potential. The death of potential hurts worsts of all for me. So to discover that a place I have been fearful in and fearful of for many months is really a place of dreams was magic.

So now I sit happily on my red couch, no more with fear and discomfort but instead ready. Ready to start dreaming again and see what my most recent I don’t know becomes.

If you dear reader are hurting for whatever reason, I hope you’ll be fair to yourself. I hope you’ll be patient with your own rational second grader. And most of all I hope that you’ll dream big so that your I don’t know might blossom into something magical.