Waves of Chaos, where we tried to Grow

You thought I was the moon,

It drew you to my breast.

You, as encompassing as ocean waves,

Bluer than the rest.

You followed my body into the dark,

Hoping the light would save you,

Instead as your fingers found flesh,

They turned into daggers, skin wretched.

And yet, I thought you were beautiful,

I was mesmerized by you.

I craved the salt of you against my lips,

I wanted to be-for you.

But soon attraction grew too much,

It unleashed demons from your depths,

I wanted to save you, and myself,

Instead we ended in wreck.

I still wonder about the ways,

You tried desperately to fill the cracks,

Wonder if there was another ending,

One our strategy lacked.

I am still mesmerized by you,

With guilt, and trepidation,

I learned much from the way you held me,

As if I could be your savior.

In your turbulent waves, you looked to me

Like I could be a raft,

My rippling reflection a sign of hope,

My love the end of combat.

In the end, you and I only existed in discord,

Or perhaps that was all along..

Because despite moments of joy,

My self preservation was simply too strong.

 

 

S p a c e s

I wanna be great.

You see-

there is quite a bit to do.

So when anxiety

b r e a k s      the rules,

I want a redo.

A we do.

A..

she does everything,
And isn’t she damn sexy?

Yet, sexy isn’t this look

The stains of salt drenched cheeks,

Carved by the ache of tears,
And a chestsotightitcan’tbreath,

Brought on by FEARS.
No,

I wish I had been given a different role in this big motion picture.
But instead I will press a hot mug into her hand as they tremble.

((This her: myself: my only friend. ))

Ssssh, its going to be fine.

Honey, just breathe. You’re not alone.

You just are

 

 

I wrote this poem following an anxiety attack. I used to love writing poetry in particular form-so there was no way to read it besides the way I painted it, with vibrant strokes of commas, semicolons, and spaces.. I suppose I still do.

Someone reminded me of these pages, this blog of mine- just the other day. They actually shared how great it was to read someone elses take on anxiety.

Yes, I would agree with that. I often am the recipient of a great community’s honesty. Honesty.. its often confused with complaining or selfishness or weakness. But to me, it makes things okay.

Too often, I am told that I am well put together; strong; a special person; an old soul. These things, they may be true, but they are not complete. The world doesn’t treat me any different, and my anxiety sure as heck doesn’t ease up. In fact, I find that I often lack a comfort given to those who are more outwardly struggling, not to their blame. Its a comfort I believe all should recieve, regardless of circumstance. Compassion.

I don’t know what I am saying- other than that I am human. And maybe that is sometimes the hardest thing of all to say. Especially after an anxiety attack.

But hey, I will still love you.

 

 

The curious 20’s..’16

My top new years resolution this year is to stop working so much. To spend more of my time doing the things I love, with the people I love, including myself. To spend more time listening, and noticing things.

Just barely into my mid-twenties, I cannot believe how much I have learned in this decade of my life. The jaded teenager I was stepping into these years, has learned forgiveness and what real love seems to feel like- not always rainbows, but always fertile soil.

Right now, I find the juxtapositions that life offers me to be lessons in humility, and not fear. Writing this blog from a Motel 8 while I wait for my housing to be ready, I  just realized I share the building with those whom I work with and serve at the shelter. There is so little to physically separate our existence at this moment, but the luck of circumstance to remind me how much I have to be grateful for.

I used to avoid mirrors and cameras, afraid of what they would reveal to me. Now, I find myself looking..hoping for a glimpse of what I’ve learnt through the compassion and patience of those around me.  What I don’t find in appearance, I find in acceptance. I can appreciate who I am and how I got here, though I believe no child should have to experience the same.

Its New Years Day. I’m tired, and must work in the morning. But I felt the urge to return to this blog, which has not been forgotten, but simply not prioritized. I hope that this year, my loved ones, like myself, can realize that what they love is important, and that sharing their thoughts, through which ever mediums might suffice, is crucial, and so incredibly valuable.

Warmest wishes on this symbolic restart. With love, Kara

 

 

Reflections after “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”

There is a lot for me to mull over after watching the new feminist documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”, as my journey into and through feminist philosophy has weaved in and out throughout my life. To see it in a historical context, hearing from women who organized for reproductive rights, equal pay, and child care, really does shed light on how deep the roots of oppression wove into the female identity; that they still continue to penetrate just shows their perseverance.

A few years ago, I swore that I was not a feminist. There was so much to this. For one, I had always felt this disconnect from the concept of femininity, and what it meant to be a woman. There were many reasons for this, a negative disconnect with my mother, a feeling of not being equal from my father, a defense mechanism I needed to cope with the various struggles I was having, and the distance and humor of a male perspective that kept me afloat. (Later would I realize that feminism also challenges the concept of what a “lady” is, and that my natural state of being could not stand patriarchal practices and standards, even as I tried to use them myself)

Later in my very early twenties, as I began to understand more about oppression and what it meant through Occupy, I grew to the notion that I did not want to be labeled as anything but an anarchist- one who believed that constructs designed to limit us were dehumanizing at their core. While I shared notions of feminism, I denounced it as a label, using the defense that even the feminist hero-Emma Goldman- did not describe herself as a feminist, so why should I? I just wanted everyone to be equal, I didn’t want to focus on any specific cause because they were all interwoven.

But with the work I was doing, and the ideologies I was delving into, I began to accumulate a community of feminists-strong women who were fierce and kind, able to communicate boundaries and problems with dialogue through a beautiful threading of language I didn’t quite understand, but admired. I began to pay attention.

As the documentary showed, and I learned through reading numerous dialogues and quietly standing back  in conversations to observe their voices and their perspectives.. feminism is actually about much more than it is initially presented as, especially by media (movies, news stations, online news sources and journals). Its about abortions, and rape culture, and empowering female voices, for sure. But its also about how patriarchy has hurt families, friendships.. how it has become a systemic force which restricts individuals from having meaningful relationships, and individuals from being themselves. It has created a mold that all must follow, where emotion is removed or seen as weakness, and sex has been taken from love and cast into a conquest or payment. Where expectations become demands and manipulation becomes commonplace.

What struck me as interesting about this particular documentary, and the common theme portrayed from all whom spoke in it, was the idea of anger as a driving force. They spoke of the Women’s Liberation movement being so powerful because for so long they were stifled, and became a powder keg of action. I’ve definitely seen a lot of anger in movements, but more often than not, that anger is dismissed and encouraged to be almost tamed for the sake of progress. Time and again, I’ve seen others shy from individuals who have that type of emotional charge.

Perhaps that is one of the things we lack. Our society has now become indifferent to so many things, like violent movie scenes and murders on the news, so that we are able to continue functioning. The goal is to keep going. Keep going to work, keep being a good spouse, a good parent, a good citizen. We can’t fathom anger fitting into that. Anger is dangerous, and uncontrollable. It is something to avoid and make scarce.

When contemplating this, one has to compare with the ideologies of the Buddhist monks, concepts wrapped into famous characters in our generation like the Jedi in Star Wars, and the yoga practices that have become such a trend in even our everyday exercise routines. Don’t attach… don’t let fear and anger rule you. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

So like I have found most of the ideas around feminism, there is a pull towards the middle ground. While people have a tendency to lean entirely in one direction or another (anger/indifference, empowerment for women/hatred of men, action/inaction) these are not what the cause is about. I found that idea demonstrated in the movie, when, as the Furies began to let their anger turn into blind action and hate, eventually the other groups pulled them back. It was also evident when one of the speakers admitted to getting kicked out and feeling rejected, but then acknowledging why and joining back in.

Yes, the history of feminism has been so rich with questioning, and with discovery, and searching. I find it appealing to see how it’s mostly tried to work towards or been pushed towards a middle ground with not only sexism, but also with racism and homophobia, showing that they can be challenged and recognized as part of the larger problem.

Nowadays, we struggle so much with our extremes as the extreme nature of our oppression has seeped into subtlety. The middle is constantly changing, throwing us off balance, and forcing us to adjust. I find that in my own life, as I plant one foot firmly to lose ground beneath the other, and I think many of us do the same. Financial insecurity, food insecurity, and safety insecurity have left our nation reeling, not sure enough of ourselves to quite make the big changes needed, or unify in the powerful way that the Women’s Movement did, or the Civil Rights movement.

There is a shame in that, that I often must cope with, for after watching a film about such powerful organizers and how dedicated they were to the cause, I note my decline in active protesting and organizing from 3-4 years ago. There is a strong urge, especially being enveloped in a history of passion, to march on down to DC and to demand change. But as the film shows us, it took many years, methods, and minds to make the change that they accomplished. First they needed to change the mindset of their fellow women.

So, in my own ways, I counteract the culture by integrating alternative language into my daily life. I speak truths that come off as strange for their admittance, shaking the shame and stigma off self care, identity,  and struggles. It seems little, but upon recent conversations, others have admitted their own secrets to me, or shared that they brought up conversations within their circles about concepts I’ve presented. The ripples begin to move across the pond.

So I’ll conclude, stating that I believe the film has a lot to offer those who identify as feminists.. or not. It’s challenging to what we know, or what we think is reality. There are still many battles to be won, or tidal waves of change to crash on our shores. But first, we must become aware of what we’re feeling, and follow the reactions those realizations give us.

For me, being told I was a feminist wasn’t enough. I needed to learn what it meant, and especially what it meant to me specifically first, before I could claim it as my own. Perhaps, that is the real challenge. To find a community in our struggles to make this world a better place. (Corny!)

Thanks for reading, if you made it through. I weave in and out of some different topics that I would eventually like to explore more, but for now, that’s it. In love and struggle, Kara

Hurling Honesty (Best of Intentions, but not always minimum impact)

I’ve been thinking about honesty the last couple of days. I’ve always had a problem with it in some ways, though it is one of my biggest values as a person. The thing is, that all my life, I’ve had difficulties being dishonest.. even in situations where it might have been better. To give you a better idea of what I mean, I guess I shall have to define what dishonesty means to me.

Dishonesty: Lying about a subject or emotion when asked by someone else; withholding a fact, opinion, or feeling because it is not “polite”, or it is uncomfortable (which falls under lying to one’s self); forcing yourself to do something because its what you are “supposed” to do or because everyone else is doing it; ignoring a problem even though you recognize it is one.

The problem with all of this is.. Most people don’t seem to share this view of dishonesty, and more than that, most people don’t even like to think of those things as such.

So often- as my sister says I have been doing since I was a baby- I put my foot into my mouth.

If someone asks me “How are you?” I answer honestly. “Not so good.” Or, “Okay”, or “Well…” This question more than anything, has gotten me that blank stare of “Whoa whoa whoa, you’re supposed to just say fine! I didn’t really ask about all that”. But I made a pact to myself a long time ago not to avoid this question. I find it such an important part of our community-checking in with one another.

Other times, I am supposed to be positive about situations that I am not comfortable with. This has happened many times with non-profits. I respect the underlying mission of many, but I downright cannot stand the politics and money behind the majority of them. So when people talk about them, I often say, yes, they do good work, but here’s where they could be better.

I guess I never learned you’re not supposed to do that?? People don’t want to hear criticism. It’s not easy, or comfortable, or fun to talk about. Instead, its often seen as a personal attack, negative, derogatory.

I just.. I can’t be not honest. It’s like a defect. If I am uncomfortable, my body completely shuts down and says exactly what my mouth is not. But at the same time, I know a lot of that has to do with trauma. When I was growing up, I faced situations again and again where I could’ve gone along with things, but I didn’t. My mind would scream No!, and when my words fell on deaf ears, my body would follow through in the best way it knew possible.. to shut down.

Despite all of this, I love the fact that I am honest. I find it an irremovable part of my being, and though it has created a lot of tension in situations and with individuals, I cherish that I stick to it in a world that seems full of lies and manipulation. I have to be honest with others to be honest with myself.

But while I am not sorry for my honesty itself, I am sorry to those who are hurt by it sometimes. Its like a button that gets pushed, and whatever happens to come out of my mouth does: often without filter. It doesn’t make sense to those who don’t understand it. It hurts those that don’t realize it comes with good intention, or that there is still a lot of love behind it. Because there always is love there, its just behind so many words that it cannot always be found.

And sometimes, its even worse when there are emotions behind it as well. I am learning to process those in different places, where they don’t stick to my words and muddle what I really want to accomplish with them.

But honestly, its not always easy.

With love, Kara

 

Dear Compassionate Person: Let me help you navigate my Anxiety

I’ve been writing this letter in my head to those I love around me. These people.. positive, compassionate, big hearted people, whom I just can’t seem to connect with some days. The answer to why I can’t may seem silly, but it truly is- just- anxiety.

Dear Compassionate Person,

I know that it was hard the other day, when I told you I was scared. Most certainly, that’s not something that comes out of my mouth on a regular basis. No, not me! I will typically run head first into any conflict, and volunteer to go first on scary rides, or be up for watching a horror movie. Scared is an unusual vocabulary word for me.

But I told you I was. And you began to tell me that it was no big deal, and that it would all work out. Isn’t that how we normally speak? It’s about positive thinking and thoughts. You can do what you put your mind too.

..Well maybe on a regular Tuesday it is. But this was a Blues day.

Blues Days

Blues days are where I wake up, and nothing feels right. I don’t feel like getting up, or working.  I don’t feel like going to hang out with someone, or writing. I don’t feel like hugging, or watching movies, or reading, or sleeping. It feels like I have woken up with a perpetual pillow over my head, but yet I can’t sleep. Instead, I worry. And I turn. And I toss. And I try to find warm places to bury my head.

Blues days are days when I don’t even get a chance to turn things around. The ship has already set sail.

So when I said I was scared, I was digging deep. Here’s why positivity doesn’t always work in those situations.

Positivity is Negated by Anxiety

You already knew that something must be different, if I was being quiet, and stated that I was scared. But it seemed so odd for me, that you just responded in the way you normally would. And on a regular day, I would smile and thank you, or even offer the same advice to you myself.

But on those blues days, or when I am amidst an anxiety attack, the best thing to do is to listen. Not to ask questions, or to try to point out a silver lining. When I have stated that I am sad, the simple question “Why?” can be incredibly overwhelming. The truth is, that I don’t know why. Anxiety does not necessarily meet rhyme or reason. It doesn’t always come rationally. And so, while a question like “Why are you sad?” or “why do you think you woke up feeling that way?” can seem simple, and like the best question to ask, it can actually make things much much worse.

With anxiety, answers to questions do not lead to solutions

Despite the fact that I suffer from anxiety, and sometimes depression, I have often found this the hardest thing to realize. I have asked numerous questions to my friends, especially those suffering with depression. Questions like “Why?’ or a series of questions intended to get down to the “core” of the problem. Its in my nature, and I have a feeling that its in your nature as well, dear compassionate person. You want to fix this person, or help them. You want to be able to ask just the right question so that their eyes light up and they realize that they have been thinking about everything wrong, and that if they just see it from a different perspective, they will get better.

(Also, the answers to the questions you’re asking might not necessarily be accurate. They may be fueled by anxiety, or the desire to come up with some sort of answer to satisfy the person doing the asking. Again, it may seem to benefit you, but in the end, doesn’t truly benefit either person.)

‘Getting better’ is not the objective. Sometimes, the process is more important

I’ll admit, in all of my friendships and relationships, this seems to be the hardest thing for others to learn. Focusing on getting better when I am trapped in those moments of anxiety really doesn’t help me at all. Often, all I want is to do is be better. But if I knew how, I would probably be putting it into action, and not having anxiety. (My anxiety is not rational, so it doesn’t have an A-B=C type of equation.)

So, the most helpful thing I have found is to be listened too. If I am alone, I will often end up writing or recording my voice speaking, because it is myself listening to me. When I am not alone, and I am with you, the most important places for your compassion to go is in your ears and your arms.

Physical pressure comforts me. Its why I almost want to invest in a Thunder Shirt like they make for dogs. Its part of the reason I like heavy blankets and comforters, and have a hard time sleeping or relaxing without them.

The other thing that comforts me, is a non-judgmental presence. One that is not trying to question me or react to me.. Because trust me, I am already doing enough of that for the both of us. 

No, what I really need for you to do, is either sit and listen, or leave me to myself if you really can’t handle the situation. I promise, I will be okay. It just may take me a while. I don’t do the best when people leave, because of my complex around abandonment, but if you approach me later, and let me know why you had to leave, and that you love me, I will understand. I will just need to come back to a rational plateau to do so. I want you to be safe too, or else we can’t create a safe space together. Just don’t leave and then not explain.

Allow me the ability to act a little bit “unlike” myself

If I am quieter than usual, it may just mean that I still need to recharge. Or that I haven’t shaken off the blues just yet. It may seem concerning, yes. But if you’ve asked me if I am okay, and I say yes, than there is a good likely hood that I am. I just might also be comfortable enough with you to where I don’t need to pretend I am more than okay, or awesome, or funny. Sometimes, if you continue to ask me if I am okay, I may begin to feel self conscious, or like I am not. I will begin to wonder why I can’t be better, or have more energy. And that might prolong my state of being.

Being Busy does not equal Being Okay

Sometimes, I have bursts of anxiety or anxiety attacks, and than all of a sudden I seem “okay”. By okay, I mean that I am being very active, and chatting/joking with lots of people, or being playful, and dressing up. I might be doing a million things that all seem like tons of fun. And if you ask me if they are fun, I might say yes.

But that doesn’t mean that I am suddenly okay. Being busy is a coping mechanism for delaying or keeping depression and residual anxiety at bay. Ever heard of “fake it till you make it”? That term can definitely apply here. Some of my most well put together outfits and appearances are the products of  day long anxiety attacks, or insomnia the night before.

This is because while sometimes, being around people can cause anxiety, other times, it provides the perfect distraction. If you can get involved in the lives and events of the people around you, you can create a buffer zone from your true pain. You can avoid it, if not, forget about it for a while.

Despite all of these things, I love you and appreciate you. 

Compassionate person, whomever you are, family, friend, or lover, I appreciate you, and am glad to have you in my life. Anxiety is not an easy thing to navigate. If this letter seems counter-intuitive and confusing, you’ll get a glimpse into why I suffer so much from the progressions of my mind sometimes.

But I still want you as my ally, and I still want you by my side.

Ask me questions about my anxiety when I am not anxious. That’s a huge part to figuring this out together! Don’t be afraid to trigger me, unless you’re being mean or judgmental, which I don’t think you’d be, compassionate one. But don’t pretend that I haven’t warned you either. Anxiety sometimes rolls in throughout the day, with dark ominous clouds, and you know its coming. Other times it just hits.

But the thing is, its always there, in me. I may be working at it, but I’m no magician. I haven’t figured out how to make the white bunny disappear from the top hat on my head just yet.

While these thoughts and ideas do pertain to me, I hope it will get you to start thinking about the way that you interact with others as well. So many people in just this last week have talked to me about their own shattering anxiety. It is one of our society’s most common “illnesses”, yet I liken it to a symptom of greater societal illness.

Let’s start listening to each other. Let’s stop assuming that people will never be or shouldn’t be vulnerable, that they might not always act the same way. Instead, lets begin to combat the immense pressures of handling each day with love and compassion. Are you ready to try?

With all of my love, Kara

Contemplation on Defense and Openness

As I was driving home from my job where I do social work today, I began to think about what separates people from each other, and how difficult it is to really exist in this culture. Capitalism has such a competitiveness nature to it, that it seems like our only options the majority of the time are to be defensive, and protect our limited resources, or to be offensive, and eliminate that which may threaten it.

There is a lot of stigma around mental illness and addiction. It is often a “me vs. them mentality”, when in actuality, I often believe it is an extreme version of something we all deal with. All of us have coping mechanisms.. ways of protecting ourselves. Sometimes, we do this through habits or behaviors. You learn not to make eye contact on the street, to remain silent when someone accuses you of something or raises their voice around you, to move out of the way when someone is walking in the middle of the sidewalk, to have a glass of wine to help you fall asleep. Or, you raise your voice, you beep your horn at someone who cuts you off, you ball your fists when you hear something you don’t want to hear.

Anger and fear are not isolated from each other, and they’re not necessarily easy to navigate either. It doesn’t quite matter what your mental capacity is or isn’t. We aren’t taught to accept and channel these emotions, we are simply taught to repress them. And when others can’t repress them, we see it as something wrong with them.

Social Work is an interesting field, at least for me. Its like plugging in a part of me that already analyzes, that already exists. When you work with people who supposedly “need” your help, there is a balance of boundaries, of compassion, of understanding. You’re not supposed to be judging or taking things personally, and you’re not in a competition for who is better or worse. You just realize that you’re able to help in some simple ways, and do.

Daily life is not like this. We don’t treat “normal” people with these same standards of compassion and acceptance. Instead we hold them to standards, often those produced by our society, and our personal or religious beliefs. What we don’t allow for, or account for, is the amount of anxiety and stress beneath the surface. If someone comes up to a cash register, and argues with the clerk for 15 minutes about a sale on a product, most of think: Geez. What’s their problem? Can’t they just pay and move out of line?

And yes, market places and other business settings, especially in a corporate and capitalistic environment, are supposed to be removed from emotion, or personal connections. Its more of a “Here is the rule. If I break it, I will give you something. If you break it, you don’t get anything.” Its simple, its impersonal, its general. It provides a barrier and mode of interacting that is most certainly more efficient.

But that’s the thing. That person arguing about that sale might not ever cross our mind again. We had to wait for them, and were bothered by their demands, but unless we’re mentioning it to a friend as something that bothered us, we are not going to put anymore energy into them.

But we start to think about what might actually be causing that behavior, things gets complicated. Perhaps they have trust issues from bad relationships with family or friends, perhaps their reading comprehension fell behind in school and they just got by because no one noticed, what if they really don’t have that much money and need the item? Or, even harder to understand, what if they have money, but are afraid to spend it in the fear that they will lose the security that comes with it? It is true that for a person living in the United States, money is power, and security. And power doesn’t necessarily mean influence, it means the ability to survive.

I cannot help but have these thoughts about almost every person I come across who seems disgruntled, or quiet, or a bit loud and pushy, or confused. I want to know why. I want to get to know them so I can speak their language. So I can figure out what they need, and how. I think if we all were able to do more of this, a lot of our problems would be solved. The barriers would come down.

But not at first. No, I do not pretend to dismiss the fact that when the dam is lifted, flooding will ensue. In fact, I think the dam is already bursting at the seams with the amount of anxiety and stress every individual is going through nowadays. “Mental Illness” is only an illustration of that. Its not wrong, and it doesn’t make anyone who suffers from it someone that we should feel superior over, or pity. No, its just a conversation that needs to be had, and some things we can do to interact better with one another.

I dream of a world where we can all be open with each other. I know I personally have a difficult time truly opening myself to anyone, even those closest to me. Peeling layers away reveals more layers, more defenses. But as I slowly undo the layers for myself, and learn to love them, I’m slowly changing the way I’m interacting. To share thoughts about anxiety or other similar matters might seem courageous, but really..I think its just simply necessary. At least, if I want to find some more infinite capacity for love in my heart.