Category Archives: culture

Speechless

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Silence by Ket Quang via Freeimages

It is the bane of every writer to lose their words. Writer’s block is really a thing and it can be a very scary thing indeed. Being a fledgling writer myself, I am slowly trying to trust the process. But every time I publish a blog post, something that feels akin to giving birth, I feel purged and I panic that I won’t ever have another thing to write about. Writer’s resources suggest a myriad of ways to nudge the writing process. Use a prompt. Write something every day at the same time. Put ideas on paper without judging what is happening. All good advice to be sure but none of them fully assuage the fear that a coherent set sentences may never come to me again. In other words, I will be speechless.

It’s not as though words have flowed freely in every situation in my life. I was speechless both times I gave birth, first to my son and a few years later to my daughter and held them each for the first time. Words failed me when I witnessed my son marrying his long time sweetheart. My throat closed up when I was told of my cancer diagnosis. I was tongue tied when I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand although I did manage a grin when we took a photo together. But when I had to be Momma Bear or step up to something I felt was unjust I have had no problem voicing my concerns.

As a parent, I felt that one of the greatest gifts I could give my children was permission to speak up and advocate for themselves. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when a common adult adage was that children should be seen and not heard. Early on I was given the impression that what I had to say was not as important as what I should be listening to and what I was listening to was that my voice had less power than others did. I don’t blame my parents because at my current age I can fully appreciate that they were doing the best with what they knew and with the information they were raised with. It was ultimately up to me to find my own voice and I confess I am still finding it. During their younger years I constantly advocated for my children because they had yet to find their voices. Even when they did I still felt it was my duty to speak for them until one day they both assured me they could speak for themselves. That day was bittersweet to be sure. I was happy they felt strong and confident to say and do what they had to do. But a large piece of my parenting duties had to be put to rest.

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Speech Bubble by Prawny via Pixabay

When I consider the courage and power it takes to raise one’s voice, I must admit it is an interesting time in history right now. People are finding their voices about so many things that have been silenced for such a long time. Sexual assault. Racial profiling. Religious persecution. People of every age, gender and race are speaking out about things that happened to them yesterday or last year or last decade. The power of speaking out is overriding the fear of being shamed for the secret itself. Ironically, the thing that can render you speechless can also free you once you tell it. None of us could have ever imagined what has been kept quiet for so long. Each day the news brings more and more to light. A troubled young man with a criminal past obtains an assault weapon and enters a church with murderous intent. Speechless. A famous movie producer abuses countless women using his power to make or break their professional careers to get what he wants. Speechless. Politicians and religious leaders and movie stars prey on young girls and boys. There are no words.

I heard a woman speak at a recent empowerment event I attended. She said “a closed mouth does not get fed”. That statement was so profound I have not been able to forget it. Not only does it mean the obvious, that we cannot feed our bodies if we keep our mouths closed but that our spirits too suffer if we do not speak out on the things that hurt or demean us. I truly believe the best gift you can give a person is permission to speak their truth. Do words get corrupted? Yes. Are voices used for evil as well as good? No doubt about it. And yet the worst thing is the silence, the belief that one’s voice doesn’t matter or their story is worthless. They are rendered speechless.

Each day new stories are coming to light as men and women come forward to speak. It’s overwhelming, the scope and depth of the revelations. But it is also an enlightening and empowering time. Time to change the narrative. Time to change the balance of power where the demeaned and disenfranchised are allowed to speak and be heard.  Time to listen.

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Shout by macmao via Pixabay

 

Halloween

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Guardian of Paris by Debbie Klosowski

I have a confession to make. I love Halloween. I have always loved Halloween and becoming an adult has not changed that love one iota. As soon as the season changes to autumn, the pumpkins come out. The orange lights grace my bushes, the funny and not so funny witch faces appear on walls and shelves, vampires and ghosts start to populate my front porch and my piano. I think up costumes for the year because yes I have to be in costume every Halloween. It just is.

When I was young, Halloween was about all of those things but also about the candy. We lived in a very small town in northern Canada in the 60’s and my younger brother and I would roam the town the entire evening stopping at every house holding out our pillowcases until they were so full we had to go home or we would never get the haul back to the house. The next hours (or days) were spent sorting out all of the candy we had gathered and rejoicing. We were good until Christmas! In later years I was delegated to taking my younger sisters out to trick or treat but that did not diminish the love I had for knocking on a door and having treats handed out to us. Or to admire all of the creative costumes people had come up with. There didn’t seem to be real monsters at that time. There was no fear of razor blades in apples or tainted candy. There just wasn’t.

As a young adult, Halloween was always party time. Costumes got more elaborate and fun to imagine. I spent one Halloween in a long red velvet dress, both it and my face covered in soot, convincing everyone I was Scarlett O’Hara after the burning of Atlanta. My southern accent seemed authentic enough but the joy of hiding behind a character was the real thrill. So it is with Halloween. It is the chance to become something other then we are and have fun with it. It’s also a time to scare ourselves with delicious thrills. People can dress or become the most fearful aspects of human nature and still be accepted. Creepy masks and ugly depictions of horror seem to thrill and excite everyone. Perhaps because on every other day of the year these things are taboo. In recent years my Halloween alter ego has been variations of a witch. Maybe I am embracing the crone stage of life but it is more likely that the wish to have some sort of control over events even for a day encourages this magical thinking.

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Waiting for Halloween by Debbie Klosowski

Although Halloween is the time to embrace such things, the truth is we all wear masks. We all have a secret self that we hide from the world. Most of the time that is how we negotiate ourselves through this human experience. It reminds me of the message of that iconic song by The Police “Spirits in the Material World”. We are all trying to navigate this messy, lovely existence the best way we can. But there is no doubt that monsters dwell among us wearing masks that sometimes slip to show their real nature. Mass murderers. Rapists. Predators. Arsonists. Racists. It’s as though something has been pulled back and ugly things are crawling out of the mud to come to light once again. The drawn curtain is revealing our scariest selves. The public masks have been peeled back to reveal the true face of darkness and it is not pretty.

As scary as this all is, perhaps we should recognize an opportunity when we see one.  Maybe it’s time to face the ugly side of human nature and try to heal these fissures. Perhaps we have been a bit complacent in the past years thinking that things like racism, sexism and discrimination of all sorts in the workplace, in our community and in our social group were eradicated or it was easier to look the other way or brush off bad behavior as normal when really they were just waiting for the right time to rear up again. Now is that time. Now is the time to really dig deep to decide what each of us believes to be good and true. But it will not be easy. It takes faith and conviction and a whole lot of courage. If we celebrate Halloween just to scare ourselves well we have much more work to fight the demons then just that one day. This year I don’t see the masks and the costumes disappearing on November 1st. It’s not just make believe anymore.

Fast forward 50 years from that small town in the 60’s and I am still trying to figure out what my Halloween costume will be this year. There seems to be such an array to chose from but in reality I know it will reflect some secret part of myself. Warrior Princess Leia from Star Wars? Anne Boleyn still trying to hold onto her head? Esmeralda dancing on the steps of Notre Dame? I have been all of those and more. It’s going to take some time to think about the face I want to show the world this October 31st. I can’t wait to see what comes out.

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Eclipse

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DSCN0194Last week an event of astronomical proportions occurred when a total eclipse of the sun was seen through a broad swath of the continental US and in partial elsewhere. An eclipse happens when the earth, moon and sun align, normally when the moon is in  crescent stage (according to the science tech who spoke at the gathering I attended to watch this event). The moon slowly encroaches on the sun until it fully covers it for several moments, leaving only a small bright circle of light as the sun tries to unsuccessfully maintain its superior stance in the heavens. In other words, a much smaller, seemingly dead asteroid has the ability to entirely block an enormous ball of burning flame from view, change the daylight to twilight and drop the temperature some significant degrees. That’s pretty cool.

I have always loved the mystery of space and the stars and have often been accused of having my head lost in them. As a young teen enthralled with such TV shows as Star Trek and later the iconic world of Star Wars, traveling to the stars was always an absolute dream of mine. I was determined to become an astronaut until I was undermined by my own inability to master high level math and science classes. Alas, my trip to the stars would only ever be real in my vast imagination bolstered by books and films.

What is it about our dreams that make us believe they are attainable? When we are

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Dreamcatcher by Pexels via Pixabay

young, the sky’s the limit until someone tells you it is not. We can have absolute faith, unshakable and true, that we can achieve whatever we put our minds to until we bump up against reality. Now that is not true of everyone. There are those who knew right away what they were meant to be and have achieved those goals. But I see that as kind of an eclipse; all the stars aligned for that person to make that dream happen. And yet despite that realization, I have never given up on having dreams. What is true is that as flexible humans we can adjust our dreams so that they are attainable. Or perhaps it is ourselves that we adjust to be more in line with our dreams. Like that determined little moon, it is possible to find yourself having your moment in the sun with the greatest of satisfaction and accomplishment. The real trick to dream attainment is discovering who you really are.

In that respect I believe it is important to follow your heart’s demands because more often than not it brings you to the place where you are supposed to be for the dream to evolve. The dream in my 20’s was to work in film and live in Hollywood. That I lived in northern Canada in a small town thousands of miles and a lifetime away from such a dream didn’t stop me. Once I got to Hollywood and started working on the dream, the bump against reality was jolting.  I did not expect it to be easy but it did not take me long to learn that much of the promise of Hollywood is as opaque as the smog that covers it. In a city built on fantasy, image counts, body type and hair color counts, speech and words (but not necessarily truth) counts. Talent really doesn’t register until you’ve been lucky enough to get a few jobs and even then it might not count.

Yet I have no regrets, not one. I grew up in Hollywood, I had fun in Hollywood and yes even got to meet the actor who played one of those fictional Star Trek characters I admired so much. I also met some lifelong friends and the man I would marry and raise a family with. And yes, the dream changed. I realized I was very good at listening to people, pinpointing what they trying to express and able to give them ideas to help with their particular concern or question. I went back to school and got my degree. One dream eclipsed another. That happened to be the right one for me but it could not have happened if I had not followed the one that wasn’t quite right for me.

Today is the last day of August as autumn begins to eclipse summer. Perhaps life is just a series of eclipses and our job is to find that brilliant circle in each event to mark our life’s unique journey. Sometimes it’s hard to know what each transition might mean especially when the darkness encroaches. I think of what the people of Texas are experiencing now in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. How devastating to think about rebuilding their lives let alone just surviving the event. Yet everywhere in that disaster is evidence that love has eclipsed hate. People have come together to help each other and there is seems to be no divide in the common goal of saving lives.

Maybe the universe was trying to tell us something a week ago Monday when millions trained their eyes to the sky. Mother Nature knows how to get our attention as she has proven once again with this cataclysmic hurricane.  We need to pay attention if we are to survive. There always seems to be a light in every moment of darkness. We are human and as such we have amazing capacity to rise again. If we can hold out over those moments of darkness, that sun will start to reveal itself again. Time to let go of all this hate and discourse. Time for the next eclipse.

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Eclipse by ipicgr via Pixabay