Dangerous Woman

So still

thunder is until                                                                                            loosed

when moon shines                                                                               and I am freed

I take all that is mine                                                                                from you

the oak holding up the sky

a leaf reincarnating as it dies

river cutting its way through rock

flower unfolding past a concrete block

even the earth

even the earth

I will roar into the silence shake the bones of your pretense fill the darkness with my jagged light expose your perverted hate-filled blight and by the time the sun rises above you will know what you have been afraid of:  that I am a dangerous woman.

– Able Boodha

Women

For a long time I felt disconnected from other women. Maybe it was because my mother was so emotionally distant because of her mental illness, the effects of the electro-shock therapy performed on her, the meds she was on, the divisive manipulations of my father upon our family, and the physical and psychological abuse she endured at the hands of my father.

It also didn’t help that I worked from a young age and had many more responsibilities than other girls my age. I found it difficult to relate to the silliness of most of them. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that I had been molested by my father from an early age, and was raped when older. As a consequence I felt different from other girls, and this difference was like an almost impermeable wall.

The aptly dubbed “women’s movement” or “feminist movement” gave voice to many of my own and other like-minded women’s thoughts and feelings. Then I entered military service and joined other women in a long line of sisterhood of warriors.

It was in these two places that I began to feel connected with the women I met, and with all women globally, and to feel a sense of kindred spirit with them … a sisterhood, and a kind of love that is not bounded by time and place, or religion, or race, or politics, or economics, or sexual orientation, or gender identity, or any of the artificial things people choose to divide themselves by.

It was the beginning of loving my own womanhood (or femininity), of seeing it as a strength and not a weakness, a gift and not a curse.

So when I recently heard a woman talk of some women treating other women they date in a crass way during sexual encounters and then discussing this treatment openly in public as though these sexual conquests were not living, breathing, feeling, human beings I felt disgusted to the core of my being. These braggarts are women who, by nature of their lifestyle, claim to love women (or so it seems to me). Yet this is how they treat them? I might expect this behavior from some men. When women behave this way toward other women it feels worse to me. Just as I find it more difficult to understand how women can traffic other women as slaves, particularly as sex slaves. To me it feels more heinous than when men do it. (Not that I’m condoning anyone doing it.)

Obviously people occasionally miscommunicate with each other, but why can’t all our intentions be to respect and honor each other? Why can’t we choose to mentor and cooperate with each other instead of compete with, and back-stab, and trash talk each other? We should be working together for the good of all. We should be voting together to ensure the rights of the least woman among us are protected, and her health is cared for, and her education is assured so she can fend for herself and provide her children with even better opportunities than she has. We should demand justice for rape and abuse victims, and hold men accountable for the children they father. We should demand an end to rape and abuse of women, children, and men.

And never, NEVER, should we leave another sister behind.

The Tattoo

you branded me

with your abuse your

secrets scarring me to

the bone my pain invisible

except for a slight limp and a

set of symptoms they call PTSD

in my silence you had power over me.

now I choose to brand myself my

voice in permanent ink to de-

clare your crime for all to

see reclaiming all the

power that belongs

by right to me

– Able Boodha

Stuck Point

This week I’m supposed to fill out the Challenge Beliefs Worksheets on Trust, for my Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) group. I’m getting the feeling this may be the first time I show up with my homework not done. It’s getting harder because every time I try to work a “stuck point” my mind has already zipped through it and it’s not a stuck point any more.

Obviously this is the week for trust. Which I do and don’t do. I have plenty of reasons not to trust people given my history. On the other hand, I pretty much give people the chance to hang themselves (and usually more than once) before I decide whether they’re trustworthy or not. It’s not like I test them. I just am a little choosy what I share with most people until I get to know them well. But then, aren’t we all? Who goes around waving their arms and yelling, “Hey, over here, yep, crazy family, yeah, PTSD, yep, I’m nuts, yep, step right up and let’s be buddies, right here … uh, why are you running?” Most likely, the runners are depressed and can’t handle all that activity. I also do not normally lead with my income level, religion, political affiliation, or other controversial categories of information. These tend to sort themselves out in subsequent subtle conversational cues as time goes on.

But let me explain the worksheet and what I mean by “stuck points.”

I can’t remember how to define a “stuck point.” (I told you I have memory problems.) Best guess, it’s like an irrational belief that you’re stuck on that doesn’t work for you. For example: No one is ever trustworthy. Obviously, someone is sometimes. So your belief is irrational, likely emotional (since it is clearly not factual), and I forget what all else. The Challenge Belief sheets are a great way to work through something when a thought is causing you distress, the thought likely being a stuck point. Here are some more: I can’t do anything right, I’m a total loser, no one ever likes me, I’ll never find a boy/girl-friend, I’m totally stupid, I’m totally unlovable, I’m so broken it’s a wonder I can walk …

Crap. I hate to make shit up just to have stuff on the sheets but maybe that’s what I should do because I really can’t think of anything and I’ve been trying since Friday.

Is “This sucks” a “stuck point?” No, it’s a fact.

Stress Reaction

Do you ever feel so stressed when people are pressing you for answers that you’ll agree to or say almost anything just to get them to back off? This happens to me all the time.

Even in therapy, where you’d think I’d feel safe enough, comfortable enough, or whatever the word is, to say “hey, slow down, quit dogging me, let me process this, I can’t give you an answer right now, I don’t know what I feel right now–I’m too stressed to figure it out, I don’t have words for this right now …” But no. I just accept whatever label, feeling, etc. they want to throw at me, anything to get off the hot seat.

I used to be able to handle amazing amounts of stress exceptionally well when I was younger. Maybe it’s the Post Traumatic Stress. Maybe it’s from having too much stress for too long, but now I can’t seem to handle much stress well at all.

The thing is, when I’m in the situation I’m barely aware of what’s going on with me. I’m in survivor mode. I’m just reacting. It’s not until later, when the stress is gone and I’m processing what happened and why it feels wrong to me, that I get that I once again gave someone what they wanted (or agreed to something, or with someone) just to get them to back off stressing me. And it’s usually that someone has used manipulation to get me to do something I really don’t want to do, or I’ve agreed to do something that I’ve felt pressured to do because of friendship, or I’ve given in to pressure from very aggressive and persistent sales people, or situations like the above scenario.

I’m getting better at catching this. But too many times it still catches me unawares. To make it worse I have a serious memory problem. (I’ve been told it’s because of my PTS.) Particularly with words. I often find myself using the wrong word to describe something, but I can’t think of the right word. Sometimes they may start with the same letter but have completely different meanings. When I’m stressed my memory issues are worse, especially around words and their meanings. A helluva problem for a writer to have, yeah?

Somehow I’ve got to find a way to become aware of what’s happening when I first feel the stress, and develop a method for handling not only the stress, but the stressor. Meaning the person (or jerk) pressuring me.

Anyone else deal with this? Thoughts on this, oh wise blogosphere? All helpful suggestions appreciated.

The Excavation

standing on my grief

old bones in the ancient pit

my countless bodies

broken and tossed carelessly inside

covered in lime

unacknowledged

until

now

that I have excavated them

I weep

for the torn and bloodied pieces

for the interrupted meanings

for the lost possibilities

for the experiences of lost hope

for the utter useless wastefulness

of all that human anger and

hate and

violence

spewed onto one person’s life …

enough to fill this ancient pit full

with all these corpses.

– Able Boodha

Wild Things

You ever have that one memory that sticks with you like a stuck record playing over and over in your head? It’s like a pivotal moment that changes your whole life.

When I was in Middle School we went on a field trip to the animal pound. A small group of us were led into a room where a woman put down a black cat. He was a healthy adult cat, but the facility was overcrowded and no one had claimed him.

That cat seemed to know what was in store for him. He looked frightened, and as he looked each of us in the eyes hopefully, he seemed to be begging us in turn to rescue him. All of us, I later learned, wanted desperately to do so. Even the boys. When we didn’t, the feral plea in his eyes turned to hurt, then anger, then resignation, and then we watched the spark of life go out in his eyes. (BTW, there was an uproar over this later.)

Years later, I was brutally raped while physically being held down in an excruciatingly painful and physically damaging manner. I very much believed my life was in danger that night. One of the men standing around told the guy holding me down to let me up. He did and I looked at the speaker with some hope that he might help me and find a way to get me out of there alive. He looked me in the eyes and laughed and said. “She’s not going anywhere.” Then he took a swig of beer and turned away.

To excuse all kinds of inhuman behavior, humans relegate other humans to the status of animals: to allow themselves to fight enemies in war, to allow themselves to profit from the suffering of others, to allow themselves to enslave others or to subjugate others, or to feed their egos by demeaning or hurting others …

Of all the things that happened to me that night, that moment is one that keeps playing over in my head and won’t leave me as I try to process that trauma.

In CPT this week one of my fearless leaders asked me if I thought it stuck with me because I felt the reason he didn’t rescue me was because I believe or feel I am not worthy of being rescued. We worked it through the “Challenging Beliefs Worksheet,” but the more I process it the more I realize it’s not about worthiness. If I didn’t feel worthy I would never have felt outraged at what they did to me.

If you have never been in a situation where you felt certain you would in all likelihood die, and then someone threw you a slim lifeline and you grabbed onto it desperately with both hands only to have it cruelly yanked away, then you cannot possibly understand what I went through in that moment. You cannot possibly know what it is to experience that desperate igniting of hope followed quickly by its extinguishing. 

In moments like that you find out who you are at your most primitive level. My captors were feral animals, but I became a wild thing also. There are times I wonder if that man saw in my eyes what I saw in that black cat’s eyes, or if he even bothered to see.

Spiritual Practice

Ever read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards? The reason people do not draw well is that they look at things with the left side of their brains, which labels things. Consequently they no longer really see what they are looking at.

Edwards developed a method for teaching people to access the right side of their brains in order to teach them to connect with really seeing what they are looking at. How simple. All it takes to be able to draw well is to really see what you are looking at. Really see it as it is, not as you are perceiving it. Not as you are labeling it. Not as you are judging it.

I know it works because I used it to teach a class of five-year-old children to draw an extremely complicated line drawing in ONE class session. Their parents all thought they had art savants for children.

human race

Labels in general, though handy, are not only self-limiting but limit our ability to see others as they really are, and ultimately cause us to limit them. Labels cause us to separate from each other, when in reality we are not separated except by our own arbitrary choices.

We are meant to explore, to experiment, to travel, to learn, and to try new things for the whole of our lives, not just for some period of time called youth. The real test of holiness, or wholeness, or enlightenment, or spirituality, or whatever you want to call it, is whether one can live it in a meaningful way in this real world–the PHYSICAL world.

one with great spirit

Without labels, or titles, or privileges … without class, religious, racial, gender, sexual preference, and gender identity divisions … down in the muck of the physicality of life … can we be whole, and present, and compassionate, and open, and–more than tolerant–embracing, loving, giving, sharing, empathetic?

THAT takes REAL spiritual practice.