The exhale of vulnerability (11/7/16)

Sitting here, enjoying the soft autumn sunlight and the quietness of Monday morning, I find myself finally able to sit down and collect my thoughts and interactions from the last week. Much the same way I pick up the forgotten lukewarm mug of tea on my counter, and swirl it as I look down into its content, I find myself trying to look into all of these experiences, stirring them and trying to figure out this feeling is I have in my chest.

Vulnerability.

It is not something that I intentionally cherished growing up.

In a home where chaos and volatility saturated the air like an overly powerful oil diffuser, I learned to hold my breath in, tight to my chest. The best method of living there was more closely akin to survival, getting through the days, months, and years by existing as much outside of it physically or emotionally as possible. Breathing in would only cause your chest to burn and your eyes to water, and that made it much harder to get to safety.

When I put 8 hours of distance between myself and that house, those experiences, it became much easier to breathe. But the habit had been formed, and much the same way my body found it impossible to exhale under the storm of a panic attack, I found myself still wanting to hold that breath tight inside me emotionally as well. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale. The inclination to hold things in while I curled around them.

Do you recall elementary and middle school, when they loved to ask you: Who is your hero? I never had an answer to that question. I always skipped it when possible, or gave a vague response. I hadn’t found my heros yet.

Now, I can think of faces, voices, names. And beyond Brene Brown, they are probably not names you would be familiar with unless you live here in Portland with me. These people, they taught me how to be vulnerable: what it looks like, what it feels like, and its power. Ironically speaking (Or maybe not), a lot of these people practice meditation, and breath work. They are my heros not because of singular actions, but because of the way they live with intention.

I am grateful that I can sit here now, sleepy with the travels from my weekend, and find myself exhaling vulnerability. Recently, I have spent a lot of time having one on one conversations, able to bring my experiences to the table along with my compassion. I am grateful because many of these recent conversations have been with women, and historically speaking, those have been the most delicate and powerful connections in my life.

The joy that I am experiencing.. it is quiet, and bubbling, and unique. It is a lasting joy, the kind that you wake up with the next morning and still smile from. I used to think being vulnerable was terrifying, and in some ways, it still is. Not every time you choose to be open and vulnerable is well received. But it is always freeing. It connects me to my inner truth, and allows me to be present.

I am grateful for my vulnerability. I am grateful for my experiences. I am grateful for the strength and the peace that allows me to embrace vulnerability. I am grateful.. to exhale.

Stumbling in Identities We Never Truly Saw

October 16th,2016

Who I am? To pretend that I might be superior over someone else, or that others should be more like me? You’re right, I am no one in that respect. But it is interesting to question who one’s self is when you peel the layers of expectations away from them, even those of moral superiority. Can we ever truly do such a thing?

This post is prompted by an examination of a loss that is recent to me. Its the loss of a close and intimate friendship I had, and what that friendship taught me and gave me. Or, I should say, its the perception of a friendship I had, and the selfish desire to understand how that loss impacts me now.

Yes, I say selfish, and I try not to shy from that concept because often we are motivated by survival and a desire to feel good about ourselves. Psychologically speaking, kindness is even equated to these motives, though that doesn’t mean to negate the value of the actions themselves. Selfishness is thought to be wrong, and in our culture today belongs to a world of good and bad, black and white. But we all know deep down that there is truly no absolutes in this life (a fact I was confronted with at a young age when I realized that some people actually don’t like chocolate..who knew? Haha)

But we learn and grow and thrive from our own selfishness and the selfishness of others. Its the awkwardness of being complimented for something we’ve done, or thanking another person for speaking their mind. Its the extreme ability for us to learn and gain something about ourselves when someone has taken selfish actions to hurt us.

However, selfishness is not an excuse for any action.

Yes, there comes a time in one’s life when you begin to understand why other people cause pain. Its an unfortunate side effect of opening up to others, nurturing deep connections, and being accessible to happiness and pain. Its part of choosing to be vulnerable. That understanding is empathy, and self reflection. They are also part of what has allowed us to forgive ourselves for indiscretions in the past, or allow us to forgive ourselves presently for not realizing sooner what was to come.

We stumble through this life, guessing and hurting, and healing and trying. If we’re lucky, we are able to find a peace of mind that we share in the suffering of billions around us-that we are not alone. But we are lucky also, in that we get to define that suffering for ourselves. We can be selfish through lies and manipulations, because we are too scared to face what we have too, and because we are too afraid of losing something we never allowed ourselves to have in the first place. Or we can be selfish by being honest, and wanting to share moments and feelings and thoughts with others.

I choose the second option as much as possible (realizing that we often fall into the inbetween). This doesn’t make me better than anyone else, even if it makes me personally feel better about myself. But it does make it harder to respond to the first. They are: different cultures; different languages. At this point in time, I need to solidify my own being, my own question of “Who am I?” before I can fully accept or understand the first. I need to recognize its elements within myself, and how to protect myself from it outside of myself.

The month of September has been a continous stumbling for me. Stumbling into truths, stumbling into feelings, stumbling into realizations. I wish I could say that I’ve come to peace with the recent loss of a best friend, but there are moments when that doesn’t feel true. And yet, that is the cycle of grief, so perhaps I can say in some ways, that there is peace.

The truth that has really bruised me this month, as it does everytime I encounter it- is that when we seek out others to connect too, we must be aware of what we are looking for in the relationship ourselves. What do we need or desire from that relationship, and how does that change its shape? What indeed does it make us over look? With this awareness, comes a certain self confidence, and the faith to adhere to our intuition. Without it, we blindly move throughout, and can lose sight of who another person actually is or what they are motivated by.

That is much easier said than done, and no reason to blame a person who has fallen victim to emotional abuse for not realizing its snares before the worst is uncovered. We all make decisions, but sometimes, it would seem, one person has an unfair advantage over the other person. This is as their own need to surivive can be colored in such a way that would seem to compliment that with whom they are connecting with.

Its curious how individual each trauma we experience can seem. What I have seemed to learn over the years is that no matter what, we must trust ourselves. But, when it comes to others, we must balance trust and caution. If not, we fall into patterns of trusting the wrong persons, because we feel guilt for our distrust, though the distrust comes from valid experiences. The effects of this society that works so hard to manifest distrust of others while constantly speaking of bettering ourselves (both internally and externally) , creates a distrust in ourselves most of all.

Though I have been thinking about all this and more, at this time it that does mean a person is lost to me. And perhaps, they were always a different person anyway. But in the end, it is something that just is, and not something I can blame myself for. Life happens, and with it, we must continue to adapt..

This post has been relatively vague, so I’ll end it with a favorite quote of mine. Thank you for reading.

“…People are rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It is not fair then, to treat people as if they are finished beings. Everyone is always becoming and unbecoming.” -Kathleen Winter

^^ Remember this quote for yourselves, dear ones. And share your compassion with yourselves first.

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