Divination

I love the way the sunlight twinkles bark

just before the sun goes down

–when cicadas buzz and sings the lark–

accentuating each scaly spot of skin

and every scar that connects them

exposing every untold story

not otherwise easy to see

I climb and trace the wrinkles

with my fingertips, touch the ghosts of

feathery caresses in transparent periwinkle

all the stories imprinted, I remember,

left there that September to September

recalling the time I sat in that branch

engrossed in a book I found by chance

in the traveling library, so absorbed that day

I fell out of the tree and broke my arm

it was the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay

that I fell into when I was nine, or maybe ten,

I worried more about the book than my descent

reminding me of the woods where I walked and mused

and learned the hard lesson that robins will refuse

even kill their young if they are scented with man’s touch

recollecting that, in the summer, high as I could climb I saw

waves of corn stalks slosh all around us and such

brought ships with adventures from far off lands

through one of those wind chimed seas my brother and I swam

for a mile to meet the nicest lady who fed us cookies and milk

until she died in the Palm Sunday tornadoes, with her ilk

she was our mother’s sister’s husband’s aunt

which made her a kind of relative–it was like that there

everyone was in some way related, so it was not for want

that kids could never get away with anything dumb,

some cousin of your mama’s sister’s neighbor, would plumb

call her to say she had seen you down at the creek

when you were supposed to be up at the garden picking beans

that was also the year I read Kant and Descartes,

from my father’s limited library of philosophers,

and Freud, and decided halfway through he wasn’t so smart

by god, he was a pompous woman-hating ass and

I put the book away, and have not read him since and

it’s possible I became a feminist in that moment

Freud awakened the ire that caused me to foment

a rebellious whisper inside myself: I did not imagine this,

I did not want this–not even in my imagination,

not in my id, my ego, or my superego–his was a fucked up analysis–

not with my Eros, not with my Thanatos,

and he can leave my libido out of this holocaust–

I am not the one that’s crazy, you stupid man

but I knew why my father was his fan

and maybe I knew something about Freud

that even he didn’t know about himself

he should have spent more time employed

with tracing the scars and wrinkles of an old tree

just before the sun went down over a tasseled sea

leaving ghostly imprints on its gnarly skin, recon sorties

that mapped his soul by telling its stories

— Able Boodha

The Abyss

Sometimes I want to beat against the chains that bind me, when all I need do is let them drop from my hands.

Sometimes I want to define who I am becoming, when all I need to do is be and let being be enough.

Sometimes the scream inside me is so loud I wonder how people do not hear it, yet I cannot even whisper “today there is fear and confusion behind this smile.”

I have walked many paths, but never more uncertain than this one I walk now. For I have no idea where I am, or where I am going … or why it even matters that I drop these chains and let myself fall into the abyss.

— Able Boodha

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

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.