Truth Out – Six Things

1. Ever get tired of going along with people’s games? Everyone has at least one. Almost every game is transparent. Even the games therapists play. Sometimes it’s so tiring. There are times I want to smash the facades and say, “Have more respect for me than that.” Be honest or don’t fucking bother. I don’t mean that we should all be tactless. But, if I don’t feel you, it isn’t real. It doesn’t get through. It’s just another social game we all play. It bounces off the surface along with my social game response. Why bother? You get real for real, period. My own games piss me off the most.

2. The other day I was out of town at my uncle’s funeral viewing, which for my mother’s side of the family means we were having a family reunion and a kind of wake at the funeral home. It was getting toward the end of the viewing period when one of the attendants informed us a storm was moving in. I looked up the weather on my cell phone and that in combination with my intuition told me if I waited an hour or so I could likely ride my motorcycle home in relative dryness despite my lack of rain gear. My male cousins, however, kept saying that if I “left right away (I) (would) beat the storm” and “if it was (them) (they) would hightail it out of there right away.” As an avid feminist I hate to admit that I am sometimes, if not often, still socially conditioned to grant more weight to the opinions of the males in my life than to my own intuition and knowledge. I do this subconsciously when I do it, but I do it. So yes, I followed their advice and drove right into a severe rain storm. It was so bad I had to pull off the road, blind, three separate times and wait until the stinging rain slowed enough I could see a few feet in front of me so I could continue driving. Twenty-five miles (and an hour) down the road I came to the first available cover or shelter–a gas station. A kind gal working there offered me an armful of clean tea towels and I wrung out my clothes in the latrine, drying the inside of my boots as best I could, dried off and redressed. After mopping up my trail of puddles from the front door to the latrine, I waited out the rest of the storm trading stories of tattoos with her.

3. I keep having this nightmare: I’m in a room. I hear a kind of godawful wailing or howling. It’s loud. The hairs on the back of my neck, scalp, and arms raise. It sounds like an animal. Maybe a dog? I think “Who is hurting that dog?” I look around but I don’t see an animal anywhere in the room. It’s so loud I cover my ears with my hands. Finally it subsides to a whimper, then I wake up. I’m shaking and sweating and it’s hard to breath. I get up and salve my dry throat with a drink of water and pace the floor until the sound is a distant memory.

4. Regarding number two above, riding through the storm with no rain gear–On reflecting on it later it seems an apt metaphor for surviving the many storms of life: We get soaked through to the bone. We get pelted with stinging rain, or biting sleet, or pounding hail, or driving snow, or scouring sand. Sometimes we can’t see our way through the storm so we have to pull over to the side of the road until the worst of the storm lessens a bit so we can see well enough to ride on. We might find a bridge to wait it out under, or if we’re really lucky a kind store lady who loans us tea towels and trades stories of our tattoos. Sometimes we might have missed the storm altogether had we listened to our intuition rather than the opinions of others. If we make it through very bad storms, we often end up teaching others how to make it through them, or how to avoid them altogether. Always we wonder how the hell we managed to come out alive. And sometimes we wish our bodies had died where our souls did.

5. Did you ever wish someone would just look into your eyes and see you? I mean see YOU. Not what you look like. Not your story. Not their assumptions about you. Not their judgements about you. Not their agendas for you. Just. You. I can’t even imagine what that might feel like. How even more incredible it might feel if they also looked with love at the you they saw. If you could see that in their eyes and feel that from them. I think it might feel like oxygen and space. Like freedom. Like room to grow and stretch and explore. Like breathing fresh mountain air. Like learning to live–I mean really, really live. Maybe that’s why we have dogs. To give us a hint of what we could gift each other, if we would. What an incredible world this would be if we all did that for each other.

6. My neighborhood used to be friendly. All the yards were open to each other. All my neighbors would wave across the space and invite each over for coffee, or beer, or cookouts, or bonfires. Eventually the neighbors behind me moved out and some isolationist Jehovah’s Witnesses moved in. When they started building a crappy tall privacy fence that cut my catercorner neighbor and I off from each other she got upset and raised the rallying cry. For weeks we followed that fence building venture every weekend from one section to the other with cookout parties at various houses around them. I felt kind of sorry for them because they received a lot of razzing over that fence which, truth be told wasn’t very well built. But you could tell they were doing their best, under the circumstances. And really, if they wanted to be isolationists that was their right. They did own that property after all. The whole thing culminated when the last section of fence pole was going in by the front of their house and the best view could be had by standing on a tall ladder on my deck, which my catercorner neighbor did and reported to the rest of us as we enjoyed laughing between bites of the hot dogs, hamburgers, and other fine cookout edibles we had all managed to throw together. Suddenly an odor of gas began to permeate the air coming from the direction of the hated fence. It grew stronger until we realized what had happened. Several things happened instantaneously:  I yelled,”Turn off the grill!” My next door neighbor rushed her two little boys into her house. My catercorner neighbor yelled, “He’s lighting a cigarette!” And she dived to the ground. Several voices screamed, “Oh fuck!” and  “Holy Shit!” and other such obscenities, as people scattered in every direction. But nothing happened. So we all slowly came slinking back to find my catercorner neighbor climbing up the ladder. She said the firemen had arrived and wrestled him to the ground and grabbed his cigarette and put it out and were “reading him the riot act.” We later learned he had to pay a bunch of money for the gas company to turn off the gas and fix his mess because he didn’t call first to find out where the lines were before he dug, and for the fire department having to come out because hitting a gas line is a fire hazard. The neighbors all had a good laugh and felt somewhat vindicated. But now we have two more new neighbors and they’re putting up tall privacy fences too. My catercorner neighbor has moved to a new place where she has built a new privacy fence. Things just aren’t the same here anymore. The neighbors’ kids don’t walk across the yard for cookies and milk and to play with the dogs, or so I will babysit while their mom runs a short errand or because she is late getting home from work. We don’t even know their names anymore. Some of them we haven’t even seen. Everyone stays to themselves. It’s just a place to live in a house. There are too many places like that now, and not enough communities. I feel a bit sad about that. I miss the way it used to be. Sometimes my catercorner neighbor irritated me, but she was the driving force of connection.

The Phoenix

like the tiny birdling breaking through its own shell

something inside my chest pecks with its sharp beak

stabbing at my breast, painfully, cracking

open the shell of me, one tiny fracture at a time

it will have its way out eventually

this Phoenix

and in the process I will die

someone will light my funeral pyre

and from my ashes it will rise into the sky

this great and beautiful feathered freedom

while I lie cracked open and dead and burnt to ash

it will soar beyond anything I ever could have become

— Able Boodha

A Side of Inhumanity

If only I could take back things that men have taken from me

things that filled me full to the brim

joy in my heart, and love

hope in my soul, and inspiration

and in my womb, you my child who were all of these

 

If only I could give back things that men have given me

things that emptied me completely

scars in my vagina, and twisted useless womb

dried shell of an empty soul, and desolated aura

blackened heart, with a side of inhumanity

— Able Boodha

Collateral Damage

The first man I ever loved I loved so passionately, so … I started to say unconditionally. But that’s not true.

He had rules for me. I was not to ask where he’d been (he might be gone for hours or days or even weeks), or who he’d been with (I knew he had other women. He was open about that.), or what he’d been doing, or where he got his money from, and of course I was not allowed to be with other men (That was fine with me, I was so in love with him I didn’t want anyone else.) … There were other rules.

I had two rules for him. Don’t mess with other women in front of me, and don’t ever lift a hand to hit me. So you see, my love was conditional. He eventually broke both rules and I left him when he broke the last one. But before that I went for the ride of my life.

I was barely 18 and he was 18 in the body of a 35-year-old man. He was beautiful. This is how I met him: I arrived home from a hard day at work when he came with my cousin’s friend to deliver some piece of furniture. I glanced up and our eyes connected. It felt like an electric charge passed between us. Everything disappeared but his eyes and the vague sense of his dark hair, goatee, and smooth good looks. Don’t ever let anyone tell you there’s no such thing as love at first sight. Despite my normal shyness, I knew immediately I had to have him.

“Aren’t you going to ask me out?,” I said. No coyness. No flirtation. Just a simple question. We went out later that night and every night after (except when he stayed with other women), until we moved in together. For a year he paid for everything: the furniture, the apartment, the utilities, the bar bill, the entertainment, the education. …

From him I learned that beautiful 6’5″ prostitutes that prowled the strip were not women–they were men–and that not all male prostitutes were gay. Some were straight guys trading on the only thing they had to pay for their food, or rent, or college tuition, or their next fix–same as the women, who also often needed to pay for their children’s upkeep. I learned some men love men, and some women love women. I learned about the prostitution industry, the porn industry, bondage and S&M. I also learned of the darker side of each of these. … (I said I was in love with him, I never said he was good for me.)

Being a fairly open and tolerant person to start with, as well as being endowed with an excessive curiosity about all things regarding humans and life in general, I was the perfect student and that was enough to keep him interested. He was the perfect mentor, because he kept me safe. I always trusted him, and he was always honest with me and kept his word, never pushing my boundaries, and never farming me out as one of his “stock.”

 

When I became pregnant he seemed to lose interest in me. Longer periods of time went by between his visits home. I was showing but still doing singing gigs, though dressing to minimize the obvious. One evening he and a mutual friend showed up at one of my gigs. During a break between sets, our friend asked if I was pregnant, and lover man bragged about getting me and some other woman pregnant at the same time. It was hurtful, but I understood how much his machismo needed that kind of stroking.( I told you, I was crazy crazy head-over-heels in love with the man.)

One of my gigs was at a nightclub where his brother bartended. During one of the song breaks my guitarist drew my attention to the bar where my lover man was sitting and feeling up the barmaid in a very public and familiar way. She was apparently enjoying his attentions. He glanced my way and realized I had caught him in the act. I could see it in his expression, guilt followed quickly by anger.

Later that week I was sleeping when he came home drunk and dragged me out of bed and started hitting me and accusing me of sleeping with other men and slamming me against the furniture and the walls. I guess the neighbor on the other side of the wall got tired of hearing me slammed against her wall, because the cops showed up. Before he answered the door he told me exactly what to say and threatened to kill me if I said anything else. One cop took him outside, another stayed with me in the living room and offered to take me to a shelter. He could see I was pregnant. He could see the beginning of bruises on my face and arms and chest, so it was pretty obvious what happened. But I stuck with the story. Lover man left for the night to “cool off,” on the advice of the police. The rest of that night I packed my belongings and when the sun came up I left for good.

Within a week I lost our daughter. Her name was Miriam Leah. I still mourn her. Not as intensely as I used to. Not all the time. But sometimes … Especially on the anniversary of losing her, or of what would have been her birth month. Or when something reminds me of what could have been.

I know it can’t be the same as losing a child you’ve raised and loved throughout their life. But there was life in me and I felt it. I had hopes and dreams for her. I couldn’t wait to hold her in my arms, to give her all the things I never had. Most of all to protect her and to love her absolutely unconditionally.

I hope there is such a thing as reincarnation. I hope she had another chance with better parents. I hope she knew how much I loved her and wanted her. I hope she felt that to the core of her being.

Memorial Day

For Memorial Day I had a cookout with some good friends. Family friends. Sister warriors and our families. I couldn’t ask for a better time than that: a safer and more relaxed time, a day where I was free to be just me, no social anxiety, total acceptance, and unspoken understanding. And …

In honor of Memorial Day, and all it stood for, we had a moment of silence and a table setting for the missing “soldier” to represent all our sister and brother warriors who never returned from wars (MIA-missing in action, KIA-killed in action). I included in that, those who died slowly of diseases caused by agent orange and other chemical exposures or issues caused by military service–including PTSD, MST/PTSD, and POW (Prisoner of War) victims who were consequently murdered, or who died by suicide (whole separate kinds of wars in and of themselves) . We honored all the fallen, which felt right and honorable.

Music Without Lyrics

Why do I feel sad today? Not super sad. It’s just this minor chord playing itself under the notes of my day. I woke up in this tune, and it doesn’t seem to want to stop playing. Maybe that’s not the truth. Maybe the truth is it was there before, but wasn’t quite loud enough for me to hear. Now that I think about it, I’ve been hearing it for awhile. Whenever I got very, very quiet I could almost make out the chord below the other notes. Maybe it’s just been getting slowly louder and louder over a few years, until there is no mistaking it. Maybe the real truth is it’s been playing under all the notes of my life for decades. Truthfully, maybe I was born with it playing. Maybe I heard it at that moment of my first breath, and that’s why I cried.

It’s just … Without lyrics, how am I to know what it means?

— Able Boodha

The Ride

every part of my skin feels the constantly changing temperature

colors shimmer under the sun in multitudinous neon shades of green

small pools of yellow, white, and blue beckon in shadowed groves by the road

the scented air changes its perfume with each roll of my wheels along the pavement

so rich the odors of the growing, they linger on my tongue like the finest of wines

a hawk soars closely above, her shadow riding beside me along a newly planted field

feeling the road beneath my tires, my body leans to hug its curves like a lover

I hear the engine beneath me whine or hesitate, and shift up or down to meet its need

all my senses are alive, I am awakened and fully present in the moment

I am not thinking, I am feeling, only feeling–with every part of my being

resting in my primal instincts, I experience unity with all that is and am immersed in joy

like the wild thing that I am

— Able Boodha

The Rose Grown Wild

do not pluck the rose grown wild

leave it on the vine and love it there

entice the bud to open its petals

fully gifting itself to you

breathe in its fragrance

more fully alive than any

that is cultivated in captivity

spill its fine and sweet wine

drink in every drop of it

lingering through every last quiver

however many times you spill it:

the rose grown wild is always there

more heady than any you can buy

but if you cannot love it as it is

know that if you pluck it, it will die.

— Able Boodha