Free pass

Many years ago I was in a group of friends who lived in Atlanta. One girl kept making snarky comments to me one day. She would say something rude or condescending about everything I said or did. Either she didn’t usually speak to me or I didn’t notice her comments, but that day I did.

I finally worked up the courage to speak up. I said this to her with our friends present. Bullies have a hard time when there are witnesses. “Are you a bitch all the time, or is today just a special day?” She was silent. I continued. “Because all you have done all day is cut me down and I can’t think of any reason for it. If I’ve done something wrong, let me know.” She never answered, and she has never spoken to me again.

It was very hard for me to do this, but I had to. I was shaking inside, but I knew I had to say something. Verbal abuse is exactly the same as physical abuse, and must be stopped as soon as it is noticed or it will get worse. If you ignore it, you are allowing it to happen.

I once had a coworker who thought it was acceptable to walk up behind me and hit the back of my head several times a day.

I have relatives – blood and in-laws – who think it is acceptable to slander me, steal from me, and lie to me.

I am here to tell you that nobody is ever allowed a free pass to abuse you. Nobody. This includes but is not limited to managers, bosses, spouses, parents, siblings, friends, ministers, and strangers on the street.

Nobody has permission to harm you in any way.

First, let them know how their actions make you feel. They may not realize that they are being a bully. If they sincerely apologize and never do it again, then let it go. If they do it one more time, walk away. You do not need people like this in your life. It does not matter who they are. Nobody gets a free pass at harming you.

You are valuable. You are a child of God. You are unique and precious. If they cannot recognize that, then that is their loss. You cannot make blind people see.

Rumi says in “The Way That Moves as You Move” (rendered by Coleman Barks)
“You have read about the inspired spring. Drink from there. Be companions with those whose lips are wet without water. Others, even though they may be your father or your mother, they are your enemies. Leave, before they kill you.”

Jesus says:
“You assume that I have come to bring peace on earth, and you are mistaken. I have come to set fire to the world, and how I wish it was already burning! I have a mission that I am called to, and it will overwhelm me until I have completed it. I’m not here to join people together but to divide them. Families will turn against each other in their households. I’ve come to bring a sword, cutting old family ties. I’ve come to turn sons against fathers, daughters against mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. Your worst enemies will be members of your household. Anyone who loves their family more than me cannot be my disciple.” (MT 10:34-37, LK 14:25-26, LK 12:49-53 – Condensed Gospel version)

We must follow the Truth,
regardless of others around us,
regardless of their authority
or connection to us.
If they are harmful to us,
we must walk away and cut all ties.

Only God is above us, not them.

It is better to be lonely than with someone who abuses you.

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Low

I read a post about how to help someone with depression. It said that you should encourage them to talk about it. That is insane. Sure, there are often things that need to get out. But there is no “cure” in just talking.

We must remember that our bodies are not separate from our minds and spirits. What affects one part affects the rest. We must stop thinking about depression as a mind issue, but a body issue that affects the mind.

My personal experience is that it is far healthier to take them for a walk outside with you while you talk. And feed them healthy food. Then show them how to take care of themselves.

I’ve hospitalized myself twice for bipolar disorder, so I’m not on the sidelines pontificating here. I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness for since 1999, and in that time have learned how to take care of myself so well that my psychiatrist only sees me once a year. This means I do far more than just take my medicine (which I do, twice a day). I eat well, exercise, journal, and make art. I am a regular person with a regular 40 hour a week job. I do not rely on others to take care of me. I have learned to not blame others or situations for how I feel.

We must get back in touch with self-care. We do not have to ever experience depression. It requires a lot of work but it is worth it. No longer will we feel overwhelmed and controlled by our moods. This does not mean that we are “up” all the time. The point is not to just feel good all the time, but to feel everything with intention. We have control over how we feel.

Depression is a symptom of an imbalance – not enough sleep and exercise being part of it. Perhaps these examples will help give perspective –

When a tire is flat because it has a hole in it, you don’t put tape over it and drive on. We don’t say it is “depressed”. We look for the reason for the problem and fix it.

We don’t diagnose plants as “depressed” when their leaves droop or turn yellow. We find out what they are getting too much of or too little of and fix it. Too much or too little sun, water, or nutrients will make a plant droop and then die. The same is true for people.

When a car has run out of gas, we don’t say it is “depressed”. We put gas in it, and ideally we put in gas that doesn’t have additives in it. Better gas means that the car runs better. Food is the fuel that our bodies use. Better food, better results.

When we spend all of our money in our bank account and don’t put any in, we don’t say that the account is “depressed”. We either need to not waste our money or make more. Our energy levels are the same. We cannot continually expend energy without rest. However, too much rest is also bad. Our bodies are made to be used. Exercise builds up our “bank account”, but we also must take time to get enough sleep and schedule in times of inactivity in order to rebuild and refresh.

Talking about it is a waste of time. You wouldn’t expect a person with diabetes to “talk about it” to get over a low blood sugar episode. You wouldn’t expect a person with high blood pressure to “talk about it” to lower it. Certainly, they both might benefit from a little research into what they are doing or not doing for their health, but then they will only truly get better if they start acting on that realization.

Search for what you can do to help yourself. Start small. Keep doing it. It is easy to look at the big picture and feel overwhelmed. It is easy to come up with reasons why you can’t do it. Mental and physical health is not easy. Nobody else can do it for you. Your best source of medicine is to take care of yourself in any way you can.

Use your words (a meditation on making art)

Parents tell children to “use your words” when they are feeling frustrated. But what if they don’t have words? What if the problem is that the things that they are experiencing are too large for words? It is important to give children as many different ways of expressing themselves as possible. Consider this – studies have proven that babies who are taught sign language before they are able to communicate verbally show a greatly reduced level of frustration.

I think that learning many ways for self expression is the cure for everything. Everyone needs to learn different ways to communicate. Sometimes words fail us.

The arts provide us with many other ways to communicate. Dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, knitting, beading – the list is endless. It is only limited by your imagination. Whatever you try is good.

Plenty of people are upset that the public schools are cutting their budgets and eliminating the arts. You don’t need to go to school to make art. In fact, school can’t teach you how to make art. You already know how to do that. Children do it without thinking, and this is the best way. Just have fun playing and you are on your way.

Not having a lot of money is also not an excuse. Crayons and paper are cheap. You can find used musical instruments at a thrift store. You can even create your own tools to create with.

I used to write a lot before my parents died. After they passed, writing was too much for me. Every time I tried, too much would come out and it would get tangled up. My feelings were too big to be expressed with words. Thankfully, I had beads as a form of self-expression at the time. I would string together beads like I had strung together words. They had rhythm and feeling. There was an internal logic to them. Did others know what I was saying? Not always. But that isn’t always necessary. In that instance, it wasn’t important that I communicate an idea to others. It was essential that I got those feelings through and then out of me.

These days I work on visual arts such as painting and collage as well. I find I can process deep emotions this way, handling them in a safe and healing way. Some things that come up while I’m making art were so buried that I didn’t even know they were there. I’m grateful for my practice of making art as a form of self-healing.

Art doesn’t have to be “good” to be useful. It can be more abstract than representational and still do the job. Nobody else has to even see it. In fact, not thinking about an audience usually means that you’ll do more and better work because you aren’t trying to edit it to make it “safe”.

If you want to use images and you aren’t good at drawing (yet), you can cut out pictures from magazines. Don’t have any? Ask your friends – someone has a few that they would normally throw away. Not good at mixing paint? Buy art paper with pretty designs and cut it up and glue it on. Consider having an art-supply swap meet, where everybody brings materials that they are tired of and switches out. You’ll find new ways to express yourself with new supplies.

Remember that anything you want to do well takes time and practice. Nobody is a Rembrandt overnight. Have patience with yourself, but most of all – play.

Growing in (poem)

I’m no longer growing up
but in,
strengthening my foundation,
clearing out old misconceptions
and flat out lies
I learned
or was taught.

This isn’t housekeeping.
This is a major renovation,
a re-new-ing.
This is tearing out the floorboards and joists
and digging down to bedrock
to reseat the base.

There’s no plan for this,
no map.
There can’t be.
Each house,
each person
is site specific.
Nobody else’s plans will work.

How can you grow up
if you don’t have a strong base?
The tree falls over
if the roots aren’t deep.

So for right now,
I’m growing in.

Mixed Messages

“People and things don’t stop our pain or heal us. In recovery, we learned that this is our job, and we can do it by using our resources: ourselves, our higher power, our support systems, and our recovery program.” — From “The Language of Letting Go: daily meditations for codependents” by Melody Beattie

I saw this picture recently.
mixed message

The title of the article is “Her tattoo contains a hidden message, and it started an important conversation.” The tattoo is an ambigram – a message that can be read upside down as well as right-side up. In this case, the message is different when read upside down. The normal way it is viewed by others says “I’m fine”, while the way that she sees it says “Save me”.

The article says that she got it as a way of dealing with her depression. It is her way of asking for help. But there is something very wrong about this. It is passive. Help does not come from other people. If you give away your power to others, you will continually feel powerless.

I find it significant that “Save me” is the view from her perspective. Maybe she will finally read it that way – that she is the only one who can save herself.

She is the one who makes choices.
She can choose
to get enough sleep,
eat healthy food,
exercise,
avoid negative people,
find a job that is meaningful,
learn to speak her truth.

She can choose,
and must,
for her own survival.

Being healthy is a choice, and something each person must do for themselves.

Depression is a symptom, not a disease. It is the result of feeling powerless, disconnected, alone. It is a sign of not owning your own power, using your own voice. The way out of it is not to ask others to save you, but to save yourself. If others have to rescue you, you aren’t healed. They cannot do your work for you.

The giving away of power to others is part of the disease, the dis-ease. Ease, comfort, health, comes from taking responsibility for your own life.

You can ask for help to learn different ways of healing yourself, but you cannot expect others to do it for you. You must own your own power. You must be your own best friend. You must save yourself. This is the cure.

Stop being passive about your life.
Stop expecting others to rescue you.

Poem – What gets you up?

What gets you up?
You have to have a reason
for getting up in the morning
and for making it
through the day.

Children? Work? Art?

What brings you joy? Do that.
What does the world need? Do that.

Can you get paid for it? Even better.

But even if you can’t,
do it anyway,
because it will feed your soul
and that kind of nourishment
can’t be bought
in a store.

There is no nutritional supplement
for a soul deficiency,
like there is for scurvy.

Rumi says: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

Buechner says: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Poem – This is not a Christmas present

not a present

This is not a Christmas present.
This is hatefulness.
This is the exact opposite
of a present at all,
much less one celebrating
the birth of Jesus.
This is pure aggressiveness.
There is nothing passive about it.
The label is superfluous.
It is quite obvious
what he thinks
about his sister
from how he has packaged
his “gift”.

If this were given to me,
I might set it on fire right in front of him.
I might take it outside first.
I might put it under a steamroller.
I might shoot it with my revolver.
I might tie lead weights to it
and throw it into Percy Priest Lake.

Under no circumstances would I open it.
It doesn’t matter what is inside.
Gold bars?
Enough money
to pay off my mortgage?
The key
to my dream art studio?
A contract
for a personal chef and gardener?

No gift is worth this.
Sure, it wouldn’t take long
to cut through these cable ties.
Maybe an hour.
Maybe a few pairs of scissors
would get destroyed
in the process.
That isn’t the point.

My friend,
I’m telling you
this truth:
don’t take any “gift”
that is given
with this much hostility.
It isn’t worth it.
Walk away from it,
and that person.

That is the best present
you can give
yourself.