Tag Archives: being who you are

I See You _ A Tribute to Every Person Who Is Not Recognized For Who They Are

I see you,
Children no longer here,
Your faces in my dreams
Chiseled on the landscape of my soul.

Last night, I listened to you tell your story,
With a voice that in life you could not share.
You spoke of many wonders, despite your pain,
Most never noticed you were there.

I see you
Young women now and years ago,
Hands reached to steal you from yourself,
Attempt to turn you into stone.

They tried to make you, objects kept in secret towers.
Your fearful eyes haunt my waking hours.
How many still live with scars?
How many died to protect what is ours?

I see you,
As if I were there,
Each moment, a person I’ve never met,
I will keep your memory near.

How could anyone try snuffing out a sacred star?
How could anyone destroy such beauty until it’s gone?
How could anyone fail to see the brilliant light
Within each of us alike, though different for each one?

How can we stare and judge and yet not see
We’re holding up a mirror?
I live the truth it shatters me,
Stark and raw and clear.

My tears they fiercely stand behind my eyes,
So determined not to fall.
If I put words to your thousand nameless cries,
Could it do any good at all?

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The Challenge to Value Myself Over What Others Might Think of Me

I was inspired to share this experience after reading many heartfelt, courageously written recent posts from my blog friend, Alienora.
I spend a lot of my spiritual life in challenges, most of which I haven’t shared. But in different ways I think we all have to deal with this one, sooner or later. I’m still in the middle of it!

September 3, 2014
To Those in the Otherworld Who Walk Their Journey with Me:

It is Wednesday morning, and I am feeling strangely cut off, like somehow I dropped the thread I was winding through the maze of my journey, and cannot find it again. I am exhausted. My bones ache, as if I have gone a long, long way. I worry I am falling back asleep, and then I might fail or be forgotten. I do not know the word I need to live by. I only know the word yes, not yes to doing more and more, not yes to pleasing people. It is yes, I am.

Lately growth for me has not come with trying, working hard, demanding more from myself, pushing limits, proving I can do what I originally took to not be possible. I have, in the course of the challenges I meet, done every one of these things. But then I can’t do more or I fall apart, or I am frozen in fear, or I just can’t keep going: and then I grow.

I grow because I open and unfold across the barriers I built to continue my false sense of security. I grow because I can no longer maintain the dam holding back emotions, they spill over the sides of the space within which I wish they had stayed. . I give up the need to be in control. I let go. I let myself be seen. And I let change take me by the hand, as if I am a weary child, whispering hush through the dark shadowy bits of mind I might have otherwise disowned. I dissolve into endless belonging beneath coming and going. Suddenly I am not lost but at the center of the labyrinth of living. I grow.

This particular morning, I am trying to rid myself of the belief that what others think of me is often more important than being true to myself. I am terrified to say the wrong thing, to confront anyone and create conflict, but definitely could wait a bit longer before accepting this. I think of ways to hold myself apart from past and potential criticism so I won’t get hurt. I think of the defenses I’ll need to build so I won’t feel small when people try to minimize my ideas or cut me down. I wonder whether I can get away with using indifference as a shield against taking what people say personally, at least occasionally.

And then I realize, unfortunately with an even greater sense of alarm and terror, that if I did this there would be no way for you and I to reach each other. It would plunge me into the invisibility that is my greatest nightmare. The possibility is inconceivable to me, like self-imposed exile. It is a choice I will never make again.

Once, I was so hurt that I cut myself off from any world, and lost sight of my own identity. It was the year I started grad school and my parents were separating. I almost never found my way back home. I know what it is like to allow the desertification of the forest of soul. I hid myself even from me, thinking this was a form of self protection. I almost died inside before I admitted how my refusal to live consciously was only a brutal form of self-betrayal.

Earlier this year, life again began to draw me toward that edge over which we fly or fall. There, unconsciousness called alluringly, louder than the din of my over occupied, overwhelmed mind and raging emotions that were threatening to engulf me and pull me in. I lost myself in sleep, dreaming for hours, unwilling to take the covers away from my face or get out of bed. But that was not the end of it, because the stillness I knew to always be with me, in which I learned my worth, in which I came home to myself, called my name. I heard your voices in the silent cry, I remembered looking into your eyes, and found I was enough.

I came too in the midst of a crowd. You all stood with grave, stern faces, devastated by what I had almost done. And you said, “There is nothing we would have been able to do had you chosen not to return.” That was when I promised you, and perhaps more importantly myself, that it would not happen again. And it has not. It cannot.

Etched into my mind is the picture of the six or so of you I could see, incredible sadness searing lines across your faces. And I understood that had I chosen once again to simply go through the motions, we would search for each other and see nothing, you would call my name and I wouldn’t hear you: all because I would have imposed separation on myself. And so once again my world turns upside down, leaving me dizzy and disoriented with the effort of ridding myself of false beliefs, determined to stay present.

Shaking, I tear down the defenses, I break the facade of indifference, relieved that now, there is nothing between us. But there is also nothing between myself and uncertainty, and what others think of me is quite beyond my control. An icy cold runs through me. I start to cross my arms in front of me to ward off the cold, but remember in time how it will help me instead to stand in the way that reflects how I wish to be in the world. I feel like standing is an impossibility, but somehow it continues. Still, I reach out. This is the only way I know to be fully alive and live with the authenticity that comes from not letting the opinions and talk of others destroy my sense of worth and self compassion. And we all know I could use a bit more of both when it comes to this world, when, inevitably, someone won’t like what I do or say, and might even reject me.

being able to do this in my own world is the whole point. I try hard not to think about that now, though, because when I do the world spins around me in 360 degrees, and I’m reaching out again, this time literally for balance.

I can’t recall a time when reaching out was harder. Ironically, as I stumble through and decide I am probably failing, I worry about what you are thinking of me. Of course, this only convinces me that yes, most likely I really am failing. Moving beyond concerns of judgment—yours and mine–and that I’ll be found seriously wanting, is like walking through a hurricane. When I try and move through physical space, the room spins around again dangerously. I bump into a few walls. But Silently, spent of doing, I reach out. And for a moment I am there, knowing how it feels to love myself fiercely, no matter what this world’s reaction may be.

It’s only one short moment. For today it’s enough. I decide that, tomorrow, rather than “try,” I will instead just be. I will accept where I am even if I wish I had learned more quickly, and surrender to silence. I’ll open the door that habit and fear have implored me to leave alone, to find my way through a room littered with the tears and isolation, invisibility and insensitivity that haunted my childhood.

Beneath the insecurity I face, I know that, when you see me, your eyes will be kind. You have been here before. If I fall, you will, gratefully, say nothing in the moment, just help me start again. There are many things I know I’d rather not confront, but they are the guardians to the gates, the keepers of the keys I need, in order to be free to say what I long to say, to be truly who I am. And that is what this is all about. It is all I’ve ever needed to be. I start again.

Lost Under Flesh and Bone

This is a poem I wrote a couple years ago after coming home from an ob/gyn appointment. Perhaps I should add that the doctor was actually incredibly kind, but that wasn’t enough to resolve years of trauma I experienced at doctors’ offices generally. I’ve subsequently done a lot of work on myself in healing, but this poem still captures a reality of the past that I remember vividly.

She took my hand
How did she guess
The depths to which I’d be afraid
If a connection were not made?

The landscape is full of craters and lost children
I close my eyes, though I’ve already gone within
She hands to me a prayer strand of beads
And they become a lifeline, from what’s mine to a distant soul, the deepest part of me.

It is the landscape that’s crying
While a substrate of hands are reaching, reaching
To name and to conquer, each sacred knot’s untying

Until I am no longer sure
Whether this is a laying on of hands for healing,
Or whether I am the frontier over which exploration is persisting,
For no boundary’s untouched by her endless insisting.

I lose track of which colonized countries I am mapping to my body,
And through thickets of gnarly briers I crawl,
Tumbling down the treacherous hills I climbed so young,
And though now I am not young, I feel very very small.

To the subterranean spaces, I dig down quickly,
Here I am alone, and no one can touch me.
The cave drips with water
So I let it drizzle echoes of my names.

The murmur at the bottom, is nothing but a river laughing,
I imagine it would not dare to laugh at me,
But giggles like a child,
A place to linger for safe abiding.

I am aware of a room and a distant conversation,
But I am in a salty womb, and have turned the grey tears warm.
Blood still pulses through my veins,
It would turn an angry red at the suggestion of exposure.

And it flashes through my mind, that day they cut the Glastonbury thorn tree down.
At least I will not be torn asunder, but earnestly I wonder
Whether I can demand the equality of silence, if I cannot be safe or sound.
I lie there still, an object for a while, wounded, unwound,

And forget I asked about existence
Or ever lived inside a song,
As the observations, voiced, are cataloged
And the search beneath a beating heart goes on.

I have forgotten that there or windows or that daylight comes in
My hands are fisted my face a warrior’s shield,
My true self, who I am, to this place, in this way,
I refuse to yield.

Reason left me at the door, with only a simple never-giving-in,
While what is happening is filtered through a sieve,
And all I feel is the fear:
Is it real, am I here?

And when I walk away there’ll be nothing to redeem,
No place to replant supplanted pieces,
No earth to catch a whispered scream.

I cannot hide from the person in the mirror,
I cannot hide,
I fill entire buildings with my taking space.
I long, in vain, to hide my face.

But my body is an earthquake and my foundations don’t hold
And that’s when I start to fold,
A tree into its seed.
Into my center I fold and enfold.

Moments march to mantras:
Oh I will not concede,
Oh this mothered child of new and old,
This is much more than just a loop of beads,

It is the acorn of a life I’ve wrapped myself around.
Far from the mountains under siege,
Mold me whole,
Keep me found.

And beneath the city walls
Far below the ground,
I send all those who can defend
The story that never should be told,

The song of myself
Belonging to the sky and land and sea,
The language of the wind,
The light that burns in me.

She not only seeks, she keeps, she asks,
She takes my hand, and what I was first, and what I am last.
And though I am now safe and sure and tall,
And unclench the fists, hand back a circle of beads,

I can’t imagine reaching out,
Yet do it with a smile.
For a while I don’t measure how far I had to fall.
In fact, for a moment I feel nothing at all.

But if ever I recall,
Each bead comes back to me,
Each a truth I long to cry,
Each a memory of something I lost silently.

Each a part of me,
That in the forgetting of the thing,
I simply left apart, behind.

And I don’t know how long it will take me to return
Back to myself, to the trusting of someone.
I, who am still lost under flesh and bone,
Retracing and reclaiming all I call my own.

For I know all about the duality of hands:
They can hold you, rock you, shape you, break you.
You’re a person or a thing,
Depending on how they treat you.

And they will make ruins of entire worlds,
Or rebuild them grain on grain of sand.
But just because, for a moment, they try to erase you,
It will never, ever, mean you’re theirs.

And some ancient people carved hands upon the stones
To make it clear to others where they dwell,
But I make my way solidly, and to myself I still belong.
And my place: surely it is ever I, the written carvings, and the song.

Instruction of the Next Generation

It was a beautiful Thursday morning and I was out walking with my guide dog, Allegro, whom I have lately been referring to as “my labradorable,” because of his incredible cuteness. If it were safe to run the trail at Aquatic Park, perhaps we would have. But it isn’t safe to run with a guide dog, and this is particularly true for me because for some reason I often find myself ahead of my dog, and you just don’t want the blind human leading the sighted assistance dog. It defeats the whole point. Anyway, we resorted, instead, to walking so quickly that we could have been mistaken for running, but technically were not. Birds sang, very few people came by, the air was clear, the sun was shining but even in the sun it was wonderfully cool, and I was managing to be exceptionally quiet and not trip on anything which surprised me.

I had too much work to do to make the entire loop around the park that morning, so we stopped at an odd piece of wood and some other material imbedded for some inexplicable reason in the road, which makes an excellent landmark, and I gave Allegro a few minutes of being an ordinary dog. He sniffed around happily as I checked the time. We’d gone 3/4 of a mile in twenty minutes flat, which surprised me once again. I’m not particularly in shape, and I wasn’t running, of course.

Completely immersed in the joy of being able to move and be outside, we made time back the other direction just as quickly. I was not a “blind person on a walk,” although I was walking, and still blind. I did not “look blind” whatever that means, and the phrase should be abolished in my opinion. I looked like myself. I walked tall. Even when walking uphill I managed to stand straight, the way my dad taught me to do a few weeks ago. I smiled at people who walked by. I carried myself like I was sure of my belonging in this world, because of that I am completely sure. I did not move cautiously, but like I trust myself to find my way, and hold my own, because I am learning that I can.

Perhaps that is why the little boy said hi to me as I made my way up the sidewalk back to the main road. There was quite a gathering of children on the sidewalk, actually. I’m starting to wonder if there is an elementary school nearby there? Perhaps parents or teachers like to bring the kids there to play. The park has an extensive playground, awesome for a child. Most of the kids walking toward me were talking amongst themselves and this is honestly what I expected all of them to do. I was on a walk by myself and had no need to have a conversation with anyone.

But the last kid to walk by, who sounded like he was between ten and twelve, who was walking with an adult, slowed down and said hello. And I smiled at him and said hello in return and kept walking.

The adult with the group was either a teacher or his or someone else’s mother. I could hear both of their sets of footsteps behind me, and the woman slowed down slightly. The little boy asked, his voice conveying indignant confusion, “What!” I hear that same tone from kids who are being caught out at something which they shouldn’t have done. What, indeed? What had the kid done wrong?

But I could guess the what, in vivid detail. The “what” went like this: the kid had done nothing that “he shouldn’t have done,” but instead, he did something that “people don’t do.” It is a very important distinction, which the adult with him did not make, and by example started to teach him to not make it likewise. It starts with a look. You know the one. You’re fixed with it by someone with more power than you, usually while you are a child looking up, literally and figuratively to the older and wiser grown-ups around you. You got that look when you picked your nose in public, took off your bathing suit in the baby pool when you were a little too old to get away with it, and perhaps when you said hello to a person with a disability when you were twelve, because you’re sociable and like to acknowledge people you pass on the road. Shhhh, it isn’t done. But I’m on the little boy’s side here. What is that about? Why on earth isn’t it as normal to talk to me as it is to talk to anyone else? My abilities, or lack of them, should not matter that much.

Now, I am not advocating for everyone to pick their nose or run around naked. Most social norms are fine. They’re there for a reason, and a really good one at that. However, I become terribly, terribly sad when I see an adult perpetuating social norms that are exclusionary, that harmfully stereotype and prejudge those different from oneself. This kind of “us” and “other” mentality is the source of sexism, racism, and religious wars, as well as ablism– discrimination based on ability– and is at the root of many more instances of intolerant attitudes and actions as well. It perpetuates destructive social barriers, reinforcing a separateness that deforms relationships and further entrenches false beliefs and perceptions that are as devaluing of the people who hold them as they are of the people at whom such perceptions are aimed. What are we saying to our children when we admonish them for acting politely toward another human being, insinuating they have made some social blunder, insisting, wrongly, that the person they were about to speak to is in a different category, has a disability, and so needs to be treated accordingly?

This is how discrimination against people with disabilities continues, It is passed on from one generation to the next. It starts with the planting of a seed, and grows until we are afraid of one another, until we believe the stereotypes, the lies, the myth of our own separateness. Until we cannot think critically about the distinction between the inculcation of healthy social norms and the perpetuation of ignorance, misunderstanding, distrust, falsehood, and fear.

Sometimes children know more than we adults who think we are in fact so much older and therefore wiser. It is too easy to be like that woman and project your insecurities, stereotypes, and limiting beliefs onto the children in your care, or onto your friends and family who might think differently. I was unsure how to salvage the moment and reassure the adult, as much as the child, that it is perfectly okay to talk to someone who is blind. But there seemed little I could do. What would you do?

I continued believing in myself. I continued walking tall. I know the truth about myself no matter what others are or are not doing. I hoped the child might know an adult who could now teach him an even harder lesson: that not all adults are right, that we can make mistakes, grave mistakes, that we are all equal, and to trust himself. I kept on going my way. Then I decided to share this experience. What world do we want to leave to our children? The answer to that question rests, in part, on what we impart to them about the ways in which we live and accept and belong. It is as simple and as difficult as putting aside our preconceived notions of who we and other people ought to or are told to be, and being open to finding out who we really are, celebrating our differences, and by doing so, becoming part of the incredible difference that will make.

Persisting Within

Trust, the very core of truth,
Can never die.
No human being thinks she is, she knows she is:
Know you are, and be it.

Wake each morning to pull your world-worn body out of bed,
Your spirit knows the way and soon will rise within.
Take comfort, love radiates outward, onward;
Walk your path and climb each tree to see beyond,
Know you will, and be it.

Be the tree, so strong, so sturdy, green,
Be the rock, defiant immortal being,
Be the sheltering wind;
Be that everlasting force which drops a leaf or lifts a bird in flight.

Run and run and run and never stop,
But when you stop:
Trust the very core of truth.
Go East, unbind your Present,
Know you can and do it.

This is how it is:
The struggle and the peace,
The battle and the rest.
Rest in peace and struggle in battle,
And though you live a thousand deaths, yet you will never die.

For always there are healed weary, whom despair, so cautious, passes by.
If that is you then be the tree,
Through which the lightning strikes a hard intense rewakening.
Love all, find all, feel all.
Trust the very core of truth.

Your spirit is an undefeated spark,
Just look at the sea, the waves refuse to leave the water,
They hurl themselves against the sand
And though they crash,

They’re never lost.
All things survive the storm,
All things move on,
Look within, you know you can, you’ll do it.