Things that won’t get a blog post, five years later

I wrote this post five years and one month ago. A post about things on my mind that I wanted to acknowledge but didn’t want all out there, in the inter webs. Although five years have gone by, some of those same worries remain.

There is at least one difference. My mindset has shifted, and I’m beginning to acknowledge my biblical upbringing that reminded me to let worries go to a higher power. I’m not saying I actually do that, even successfully, but my awareness towards letting go is increased.

Here’s a little then and now…

  1. Financial (school) debt
  2. Concern over how (financial minister) counselor will help us
  3. Familial miscarriage, sadness and hope
  4. Anxiety over new job and daycare
  5. Food club changes that will happen with new job
  6. Missed birthdays, gifts, and calls
  7. Familial impending marriages, reasons for and against with limited knowledge
  1. Financial debt still there
  2. The counselor helped us get on the same page, we’re still working on it
  3. Familial struggles abound, differently, though with hope and joy
  4. Questions still abound over logistics and cash flow with tuition and schedules
  5. Things changed, ever still, in the food world
  6. Still working on sending out cards, now it’s in the schedule
  7. We all suffer and struggle, how can we be free?
I saw this double rainbow a few months ago on my way home from an evening event. Few things describe hope better than a rainbow.
I saw this double rainbow a few months ago on my way home from an evening event. Few things describe hope better than a rainbow.

In the last five years, I’ve been introduced to two ways of thinking about events. In my oil business, we talk a lot about personal growth and development. I can see clearly how a shift in thinking is needed and how it affects my growth in this (or any) business. Although I’m not always sure what to do in a minute-by-minute assessment, I am paying attention and attuning my attention to these different ways of thinking.

One new way of thinking is Byron Katie’s “The Work.” In her work, she invites us to just ask, “Is it true?” Any thought that comes to mind, “Is it true?” Through the work of inquiry, she guides, you can relieve yourself of unnecessary suffering. Suffering that we have ultimately brought on ourselves.

In this oil business, a lot of people come to the table with varied perceptions on money. The ones to overcome are usually it is negative. I’ve observed people judging what other people can spend, making decisions for other people. I’ve watched people  feeling jealous over what other people have, and simultaneously criticizing other people when they spend what we feel is too much. (Back to Byron Katie and assessing whose business is it! Answer: not ours!)

One way to free our thinking, specifically over money, is to consider money as energy. Money is simply a transfer of energy. So, how are we feeling towards that energy, at its base. Marianne Williamson’s The Divine Law of Compensation is oft references to help guide one to new thinking about money. In the intro, she proclaims she is a student of, for more than 35 years, A Course in Miracles.

A Course in Miracles is the second thing that’s come my way in the last five years. The words that emirate from this text ring true to me. It’s like veils have been revealed from the Catholic/Christian teachings I was given all throughout. It feels as if things I’ve known in my heart are being stated in another way, validating questions I’ve had.

The message I want to impart today though is the reinforcement of not worrying. The reminder that the only true thing we can know is love, and nothing else is real. The reminder that when fear creeps up, it is the ego getting in the way. So, let fear go, let the ego go, do not worry. Do your work, trust in God, and be on your way. It will work out.

The calls to have faith that I never understood from 3rd grade on now (kind of) make sense to me. I’m still working on all this letting go and to have faith, but it’s as if I can feel the reasoning now. Something I couldn’t have said five years ago when all those worries crossed my mind.

Following My Feelings

Levi Growling
Levi climbed onto my flour bins. I told him to get off, and he growled then giggled. This is the transition from growl to giggle.

Let’s piggy back on last week’s post. Last week’s post was supposed to describe the irony between trusting your feelings and not, as preached by my pastor at the church I attend.

In recent years, I’ve been trying, as a good adult, to understand my place in this world. I’ve been trying to get a sense of the annoying middle school years, the searching high school years, the thought-provoking college years, the pontificating twenties, the studious college years, and the self-awareness that evolved in my thirties. I usually toss a few tenants in my head:

  • Each person holds the entirety of the human condition inside themselves.
  • Everyone wants to take care of those they care about – whether it be family, friends, oil entrepreneurs, or puppies.
  • Everyone has stages of success and insecurity, and it’s always interesting to see when you meet someone where they are on the roller coaster.
  • Everyone has a place in the world, it’s just really hard to find it.
  • We all have special gifts, talents, or strengths, and it’s our job to identify how those fit within the world.
  • If you ignore your feelings, you do a disservice to those closest to you.
  • It’s your job to name and articulate your needs.
  • There is no grand conspiracy (or rather, I refuse to believe in one), everyone really just wants to take care of those they care about (back to bullet #2, though not numbered lest we think one is more important than another).

By not following my feelings, I have found that I have done grave disservice to myself and those I care about. I’m not saying follow my pleasure from one hedonistic event to another – I’m saying feelings, those important indicators that let me know how I’m doing, how I may have affected someone, how someone may have affected me, and the navigator that should chart my course in this messy world.

This sermon my dear pastor gave is still ringing with me – two weeks later. He told our congregation, in more than three masses that we should not follow our feelings. He told us that our feelings are not to be trusted and in return, we should simply turn to God and God will solve all of our problems.

And, what I have realized is that by not following my feelings, I have ignored the navigator that God gave me.

My husband was checking in with me last night. He was making sure I had things I needed. I noted that I doubt I get enough quiet time – not TV time – quiet time where I can be alone with my thoughts. This time, right now, while Levi is bouncing between Legos and the Flintstones in the other room, would work as a semblance of quiet time. I am sitting at my computer (with new hard-drive and new battery!) noting these confusing thoughts and feelings in a way that allows me to reread the words and make sense of the incident that troubled me.

I follow my feelings when they indicate someone is holding something back, when someone close to me is angry or confused, when a friend is sad or tired. I follow the knot that bundles in my stomach to help unravel the mysteries we navigate daily.

I follow my feelings to understanding. When I follow my feelings, I find that I follow them towards spirituality. I follow them towards wholeness. I follow them towards being closer to my family, to my friends. I follow them away from the pleasure-seeking things that might have attracted me in my twenties – when I was really just starting out and really just starting to make sense of it all. As I mature, I have found my feelings draw me away from a lifestyle to which my pastor also wanted to draw us away from.

Follow Your Bliss

The Query

Last weekend, at church, our pastor (priest) reminded us that as humans we were not to follow our feelings lest they contaminate God’s hope of our holy spirits. This concept was particularly emphasized during the second reading, in which we were encouraged to not deny the needs of the Spirit for the lust of the flesh.

The Second Reading, Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

[Emphasis added, mocking my lectern book. I did read last Sunday, so I’ve had a bit of time to pontificate this message.]

4th of July Celebrations
Levi snuggling on a blanket, on the sidewalk, with friends while we enjoy neighborly fireworks.

Searching for Understanding

This Christian – Catholic – guilt tripping view of life is one in which I’ve never been able to reconcile. This view, this sermon that my pastor preached, is the epitome of the hypocrisy of the church. On one hand we are taught that our bodies are temples and they should be treated with the utmost care. On the other hand we are told to deny the flesh any pleasures it seeks.

There is a spectrum here, that I can understand, but it is not oft described. The issue is often preached in a black and white scenario that leaves no room for any flexibility. So, the question begs, “How much is too much?” Or, “How far do we go to define the pleasures of the flesh?”

That is, is a little extra chocolate after dinner time too much? Clearly, too much sex is a bad thing. But, how do couples determine that in a relationship? Following some semblance of a hedonistic lifestyle, and I’ve known a few at varying points in their lives, where following their bliss was the all-consuming thing, and there was no room for anything else.

But, what happens when we don’t follow our bliss? Another thought that is emerging more prevalently today is that we should be following our bliss. We should be following the things that make us happy. We should be making choices that remove us from situations that do not make us a happy. We need to understand that relationships take work, and we should understand that we ought not to bail on everything that gets hard, but why remain in a situation that tortures us daily? The easiest example for me to relate to is a toxic work environment. You’re in a situation with a group of people, some of whom you’ve chosen to work with and others not, and somehow the combination lends itself to a messy pool of gossip, blaming, and ill focus on a common goal. Every day you go home with thoughts of drinking or not wanting to return. Your flesh is screaming for pleasure in this instance. You want healthful relationships. You want to go home with feelings of bliss. The literal scripture, for me, has no place here — it’s too easy to misconstrue and force yourself into situations in which you don’t belong and doesn’t honor the temple that your body should be.

Maybe what was really intended was a message of moderation – scaring us into moderation by decrying the needs of the flesh. A little bit of wine can help the heart, but too much makes you into a drunk. Enough sex to satisfy you and your partner brings you closer together… too much and you’re obsessed. Enough food, eaten enjoyably, keeps you healthy and strong. Too much turns you into a glutton.

I am an adult now dear pastor, and I can’t allow myself to be scared into the guilt-tripped ways of Catholicism that I turned against. Let me rework your message into one of moderation that allows each of us balance in our relationships and the ability to follow our bliss.

We’re Getting Old: I’m Getting Old

Salmon Dinner

Our dinner consisted of 1 of the last 2-2 lb salmon fillets from Ilamna, fresh roasted asparagus from ProFarm, and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend.

This realization does not come lightly. I have consistently resisted this thought. I’ve fought against it. I’ve argued it. I’ve stated that age is a state of mind. I continue to believe that life must be celebrated, not dreaded. But, slowly, in my 34th year, the realization has set: I am getting old.

There is something about 34 that rings differently to me. It’s one step closer to 35. Something about 35 is so close to 40. Those I know who have crept past 35 show their age in different ways. Some show it in their eyes. Some show it in their calm demeanor. Some show it in their resignation. Something about getting close to 40 that sets the perspective wheels in motion.

Today, it was technology that set off the thought. This thought has percolated since my birthday. I segment my 30s in threes. Between 30 and 33 it’s the first bit, the early thirties. 34 to 36 is the mid thirties. This is followed by the latter thirties with the age range 37-39. And, after 39 is 40. And, shouldn’t we have it all figured out at 40? I’m nearing half way through my 34th year. It’s another year of introspection, and today I was considering technology.

I don’t want to learn anymore technology. (More or less says the gal with the iPhone who covets a new Retina Macbook Pro and wants to integrate her house on the cloud with a dream kitchen of touch screen recipes perhaps sequenced into the stove.) I’ve mastered countless databases. I’ve learned expert levels of Word and Excel. I could navigate any Windows system (XP and earlier) like counting freckles on the back of my hand. I could trouble shoot any system to the awe of the computer frightened, walking in like the Savior to rescue a mis-saved document.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

And, while I was considering this, with whatever technological gizmo that set off the thought, it occurred to me that I am old. I’m tired of the fast pace whizzing by. I am tired, and I can’t keep up. I want routines (4p dinner anyone?) and consistency so I can just work on what I want to work on. No longer do I care about the next new thing. No longer am I impressed with how fast our cloud-based app world moves. I am complaining about the speed of life, like an old person, so that must mean I am old.

My son has admitted that I’m old on a few occasions now. So, that gives further credibility to the claim.

And, then tonight, my friend pontificates over dinner the difference between smoking and Facebook. That’s right, she argued that Facebook has supplanted smoking in after-dinner routines (as I uploaded my dinner pictures to Facebook). She queried, “What? Are we so bored with our friends that we must look to our technological gadgets to entertain us?” Certainly not a new argument. I enjoyed the cigarette comparison where we are giving our idle hands something to do. But, “No,” I eventually countered. I think it’s just that we’re getting old. (My Facebook upload aside.) We are older so we can sit longer and be quiet longer. It’s these young kids (the person in question is 26) who need constant entertainment to grab them. They have not been thoroughly, or properly, introduced to quiet mediations and the importance of silence in conversation.

Yes, I think it is simply that we are getting old. And, you know, I’m finally okay with it.

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Sunday, May 6th

Okay narcissistic rants aside – I do enjoy writing every day. As the (over written?) introvert, I do better when I can process. Writing allows me to process.

But, what to process? The never-ending balancing act and working towards my deemed purpose.

I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. So, I’ve picked volunteer projects, paid jobs, reading material, and seminars to support that idea. I’ve started endeavors to support that idea. Every choice I make tries to support that idea.

My thinking on what I should be doing with my life has always been ongoing. Growing up Catholic, there is a certain amount of time dedicated to thinking about listening for God’s calling. I never felt like I had one. I only knew to follow my interests. My interests have always been consistent in the environment and education. When I was 18 and a freshman at Michigan State University, a first year at James Madison College eagerly awaiting my studies in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, I thought maybe I would or could be a lobbyist. I’d lobby for the virtues of the environment or education. I thought maybe I’d need a law degree, which always has intrigued me.

Then I got a bunch of loans through two universities, and suddenly spending more money I didn’t have on law school didn’t seem so important. In between those two universities, the school of life focused my studies on environmental thought, food, and community building. Those themes coalesced at Portland State University with the opening of their Sustainable Urban Development minor. My studies then concentrated on geography and urban development. Two themes where I continued to think about food, people, and how to make it all work together.

Is it any wonder then that I work intimately with a food buying club that focuses on local food sustainability and an environmental nonprofit that guides its thoughts in stewardship? One of my parting studies introduced me to the concept of “servant leadership”. It’s this idea where you lead from behind. A great example is how I stopped arguing with my husband about what to have for dinner and just focused on whole foods, home cooked foods, and organic foods (as budgets allowed). Now, he tells me the virtues of the food we eat.

Each refocus can be identified by a shift in thinking and impatience with the day-to-day. Like when I finally graduated. I had spent so much time thinking about my degree, that when I finally got it all I wanted was to put all those studies into action and work towards some semblance of a career. Then, there was the (housing) crash of 2008. Just one month after I graduated. I was loathe to apply for just any job – I had an idea of what I wanted to do. So, I focused on environmental jobs. I applied to be program coordinators and managers. I tried for AmeriCorps jobs. I tried for a plethora of administrative jobs. I had interviews. I had second interviews. I applied for more than 300 jobs in three years (starting in 2007).

I get a job. And, well… it proves to be more or less as dysfunctional as the twenty some jobs I held in my twenties. So, maybe working for others doesn’t work for me. I don’t get their lack of vision. I don’t get their lack of leadership. I don’t get their in ability to properly facilitate meetings. (Meetings that could identify vision and leadership and focus the organization past dysfunction!!)

These weeks of not writing have been thinking about all of that. It’s been spent thinking and doing the day-to-day, just to get by. It’s been pondering how to fix the rut and get into a career. I think I have some ideas. Now, to put them into action.

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God: a Religious Query

Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: God is dead.

Today, Levi told his preschool teacher that he wanted to kill God. When I queried him much later, when we got home, about this, he said that an unnamed bad person said it first. I do not know if this person was a classmate or a fiction of his imagination. I do not know the context behind the statement, only that the teacher (in this private Catholic school) spoke to Levi about how that sort of phrase makes God sad and it’s not really a nice thing to say.

I relayed the story to my husband who had only sympathetic ears for our 4-year old. My husband is coming from the perspective that, first, we haven’t been going to church regularly. Second, [my addition], we don’t instill a strict Christian doctrine in this household. So, third, Levi is attending this school where it sounds like all problems are fixed by God.

I guess I was taught this growing up. I know many who hold these type of belief now. I also know many who do not.

I believe in God [the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth…]. But, I don’t adhere to the strict Christian dogma I’ve been handed down. I detest when people tell me what God thinks. I detest when people relate sporting events to God-like events. I detest when people blindly put their faith in … well … anything. How can we really know what God thinks anyway? So, how can we know that just because Tebow had a good pass at the 316 that it relates clearly to John 3:16? One is searching for symbolism that isn’t quite there.

So, at home, I loosely talk about God. I want Levi to make up his own mind. I find comfort in believing there is something bigger than myself. I find comfort in believing there is a resting place for my soul. But, I do not find comfort in guilt, brimstone, and fire. [It’s a wonder I willingly go back to my Catholic faith!] I want Levi to be able to think outside himself and find comfort there. I want him to have a quiet place, name it God or whatever, to ask questions his fellow humans won’t be able to answer.

I’ve read varied viewpoints on God, one that God is dead. It gives an open mind pause for consideration. “What if?” Rolls the words along the tongue. What if it’s all a lie? What’s wrong with considering that? What’s wrong with testing one’s faith? Isn’t it more important to be mindful of our day-to-day actions and keep those in perspective with how they hurt, harm, or help people rather than wonder if this being we can barely grasp exists? Or yet, pin every good thing on this being?

But, I am uncomfortable with my son saying he wants to kill God. I am extremely uncomfortable with my son saying he wants to kill anything. But, to kill God, this thing adults don’t even understand but yet we are trained to exalt screams blasphemy in my Catholic trained mind. He didn’t know what he was saying, but he has an inclination that it was bad. What is this good and bad anyway?

Oh Levi, Momma doesn’t believe God is dead. Levi, Momma believes we should respect God and the things we assume he created. And because we assume [s]he created all beauty, why would we want to kill that?

Logic, though, is just beginning. Faith is not logical. This is what my intro to philosophy instructor failed to understand or relay to the mostly religious class of 1998. And, four-year old brains are just starting to grasp logic.

What is becoming clearer, though, is that this private Catholic school, the school of my dreams, is not a good fit for our son. I’ve had the opportunity to confer with friends, increase ideas, and now reality sinks in: we will have to hunt, seriously, for another school for next year. The question begs: what are we going to do over the summer? Now is when I want Grandma and Grandpa around. But, then, we’d slide even more into interesting religious waters that neither my husband nor I want to navigate.

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As a Parent

Levi-Cowboy
Levi's school had ponies visit! Levi didn't want to sit on the pony, but he did get his photo taken as a cowboy.

I find myself very nervous for Levi today. This isn’t the first time, and I know it won’t be the last. Today, though, is the first time I made the connection about what a parent feels for their children and the paths they have to take.

I have worried when Levi goes to the playground. I have worried when he meets new friends. I have worried over travel. I have worried when doing things like grocery shopping. Each new adventure we meet brings another worry. I try to remember what I am remembering about Free Range parenting, the sort of parenting I grew up with. I am trying to remember to build trust to earn trust, mutually, to ensure he can make smart decisions on his own. But, that doesn’t cease the worry, it’s only what I use to temper it.

Tomorrow, is another first. Tomorrow, Levi starts, slowly, a new school. A preschool. A private preschool. A private Catholic preschool.

Currently, Levi does attend a private preschool near where I work. My office is likely moving at the end of the year. That likely means the end of the 20-mile commute, which means the end of the preschool near work. We’ve shopped around for preschools before, so this ritual is familiar to me. I was planning to put Levi on a wait-list and go with the first one that pops up. But, the responsive, private Catholic school (Holy Redeemer) said they had space now. We toured. We liked what we saw. We compared. We really liked what we saw, so we enrolled our son in another new school.

Tomorrow, Levi will have attended three schools. He attended one daycare at 2-years-old for 2 months. He has attended his current school for 13 months. Tomorrow, will mark school number 3.

Granted, circumstance has intervened every time. Jobs ending, jobs and their hours changing, and jobs moving — all circumstances out of our control. But, I can’t help but flash back to my elementary school years. The schools I now recall attending, all by 4th grade:

  • Norway, Michigan – Kindergarten
  • Iron Mountain – Kindergarten
  • Silver Creek Elementary – Kindergarten and First Grade
  • Hillcrest Elementary – 2nd Grade
  • Amberly Elementary – 2nd and 3rd Grade
  • Baldwin Heights Elementary – 4th Grade (Greenville, Michigan)
  • Greenville Middle School
  • Greenville High School

Not until I was in 4th grade did I stay in the same school district. Every new school brought new students, new buddies to tour me around, and new teachers.

I was very, very shy. I hated being uprooted. I hated first days of school and new students I didn’t know. I hated trying to fit in and get to know them. It was torture. Complete and utter torture. I was not gifted at making friends like my siblings, so I am sure my shyness was mistaken for aloofness. I was scared, and kids could smell fear. When kids smell fear, they exploit it.

This is what I remember when we discuss changing Levi’s school. We’re not done changing after this year, either. Next will be the kindergarten discussion: public or private or another private school? Then, in five or so years, we’ll be more seriously discussing and planning for the return to Michigan. This we desire to be our permanent residence. We’ll want something close to family, in a city with jobs, and a city with good schools. We’ll be looking for a house, and making a new life with brand new neighbors, friends, environment.

This current move is out of necessity. Although, they have all been out of necessity, even all the moves I did. I am thankful that Levi has lived in the same house for his whole life. I am thankful he is far more outgoing than my husband and me.

Above all, I hope he can stay with more constants than I did. I hope that my husband and I will learn from our collective pasts. I hope that he adjusts better than we did. But it doesn’t make me stop worrying as a parent.

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There’s no such thing as work-life balance

Stuck in Traffic
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Her pregnancy claim was rejected, but all agree it doesn’t work. So, I hear that the conversation can’t be about discrimination but rather how we can make something work.

Family not withstanding, I have a lot of interests. Often, it feels like my brain is just going, going, going (except now, where I really need a vacation, most days I’m just surviving). So, when I’m not feeling overwhelmed, I have a lot of interests in which I take part. It started when I was staying at home and needed something to stimulate my brain. Then, I had commitments I had to follow through with once the job started. Even after some of these commitments get completed, I’m not going to stop doing other things. So, when I’m at work, emails need to be answered, problems solved, and maybe even a little research done.

While I’m at work, I’m thinking about all the work tasks and how to manage xyz event, keep on top of abc calendar, and complete the daily tasks that never make it to the list. I’m also thinking about my husband how his day is going, is he going to be hungry when he gets home, is he going to go for a longer bike ride, when did we schedule his chiropractor appointment. I”m thinking about my son hoping he’s enjoying his day at school, wonder if he had an allergic reaction, but I didn’t receive a phone call, and what thing we might have planned for the evening. I’m thinking about what to make for dinner this night and the next. I’m considering what other foodstuffs need planning. I’m thinking about the bathroom and kitchen floors that need to be scrubbed along with the laundry that needs to be folded and put away. I’m thinking about all the stuff in my house that needs to be organized thankful that my space at work is. At work, I’m thinking then about the files that miraculously aren’t that organized and how they should be but what an in-depth project it is that I don’t have time for.

When I was home, not working, I was in a rut. Sure, I helped start a food club and I volunteered and participated with my church. I sat on the board at the Community Alliance of Tenants. Work is (environmental) stewardship. Church is spirituality. Food club is food security, foodsheds, local, organic, sustainable. The Community Alliance of Tenants is housing, empowerment, education. Home, is home, is family, is life. So, all these things fit important interests, values, core to my soul. How can I give any one up?

I am finding it’s near impossible, and often, lately, they collide. They run out of balance. So, even though this article is in part about the unfairness of this woman’s claim being denied, it is something many of us face daily. And, I don’t think a law suit is how we’re going to handle it for the better paradigm shift. Not a law suit about discrimination, that is.

Instead of anti-discrimination suits, we need our laws to change to make it easier to accept this imbalance. We need better child care allowances. We need part-time weeks that allow for health care to be offered at the same rate as full. We need work place flexibility that understands life happens outside of the cube farm. I believe we all have the right to reach our potential in a supported way, but the way we organize ourselves often gives undue challenges to that cause. We want what’s best for our kids, and sometimes we need to make sure we have what’s best for us to give what’s best for them.

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Learning through Death, Again

Cristi’s Grave

“What’s wrong?” I ask my friend who has a very intense look on her face.

“Oh, just deep in thought,” she answered.

I must have asked again, although so much conversation has happened since, I can’t recall the beginning, because she tells me that her friend’s mom is in a controlling relationship.

I found it a sad, ironic reminder, that on this day, this four year anniversary, I am reminded of Domestic Violence‘s far-reaching hand. In making sense of the senseless, the main thing I have to learn from Cristi’s death is that Domestic Violence reaches across all social strati we create. I have a duty to educate people on this fact. I have a duty to help mitigate others from going through this pain that has shaken my family. This is preventable death through intimate relationships. That is, the more we share honestly, the less Domestic Violence has to affect us. The more empathy we trade, the more honest conversations we have about our real feelings, the less we have to be controlled by others. The less others will have the opportunity to control us because through these empathic relationships, we will realize our own self worth.

It was too much of a coincidence to remain silent. I am convinced the thing I have learned from my sister dying was that I have a responsibility to tell her story. The more my friend explained the situation with things like her mom being forbidden to attend her daughter’s wedding, my gut said, “Tell her.” So, I did.

Cristi was an amazing individual. She was an honors student, an accomplished athlete, a compassionate teacher, and a dedicated coach. Graduating college, she had an award gifted, in its initiation, in her honor. She was a super star in her own right, yet she didn’t value herself this way. She repeated relationships where her male partner belittled her and made her feel less of the wonderful person she was. Including that award night in 2000 where she was made to feel guilty for getting this high honor and her then partner couldn’t find a meal for himself while we waited.

I see the connection through the relationships she participated in where the man was often controlling and belittling to her. It ended by the hand of a man with a Masters in Education. Someone, who by other lenses is considered good and valuable by society’s standards. What does this mean? It emphasizes the point that Domestic Violence happens to the educated as well as the less educated. Domestic Violence makes victims of rich, poor, black and white alike. It crosses all these varied stratifications we create in more or less equal numbers. Domestic Violence isn’t racist or classist. It is.

I believe we have a duty to create a world where young and old can feel safe and reach for their own self actualization. That means we need a world where people can live without fear. I believe one of the worst places to live in fear is in the home. We cherish the home as the place where the heart is. Where can we turn, then, if the place where our heart is is black with rage?

I shared Cristi’s story. I explained what I didn’t do and how my spiritual beliefs lead me to his space of comfort. I know what I didn’t do, whether or not it would have been helpful is not for me to know. I can share her story. I hope the story speaks for itself.

If you know someone who is possibly in a relationship with Domestic Violence, simply tell them how you feel. Tell them you are scared for them. Do research in your area about local shelters and services offered. Have a one page “go-to” sheet on hand in case its needed. Remember, please, don’t tell this person what to do even if you know you’re right. This person needs a compassionate ear to listen, to hear. They need a safe place since home is no longer. They need a safe place so they can tell their story with their words and their mouth.

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