Tag Archives: blogging

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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Equinox

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Equinox by Comfreak via Pixabay

Last Friday was the autumn equinox. Summer has officially changed to fall, my favorite season of the year. Lots of great things happen that give me so much joy every fall. Anniversaries, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Harvest, changing leaves, crisp air and pumpkins. The change begins in September. For me while I was raising my children and now as an advisor working in academia, September has always been the beginning of the new year, not January. Getting ready for fall means new school supplies, new clothes, a fresh start. A new beginning. The equinox signals the change.

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Tree of Change via Pixabay

This fall feels different. This September the world has seen three major hurricanes, two considered the largest in a century. Islands have changed, coastlines have changed, lives have changed beyond repair. This September has had two devastating earthquakes, hundreds killed and displaced. Monsoons and tornadoes. Flooding. Massive forest fires that burned for months clouded the air in September. This equinox it is clear that Mother Earth is pissed.  She made the required change from summer to fall but her fury seems slow to abate. The same can be said for human anger. Swords are rattling and there is great division as politics permeates every facet of life and not in a good way.

We live near major military bases, Air Force, Navy, Army and submarine. There has been a lot of activity these past few months, a sense of preparation. One night a loud hum that turned into something dark and ominous passed over my home. Something massive moved low and slow overhead, a feat of engineering, a sound that generated fear and unease, a disturbance in the force. Is this how our parents felt in the years before the great war? The uncertainty in the air, the rhetoric, the falseness of promises. The taunts of tyrants, the drums of war. There are major policy changes and vehement disagreements at every level and definitely a few steps backward. The constant deflection of attention by our leaders is giving me whiplash. There is a love of chaos and the blurring of lines. Sometimes it feels like a fight for the very soul of this country.

George Harrison famously sang “All things must pass” and if anything can save us, that sentiment surely will. I play my music loud to try to drown out the dissent. The equinox signals the seasons have transitioned and we are now on the other side of the next step. But how have we changed in the process? Webster’s dictionary defines equinox as the time of year when daytime and nighttime are equal in length. It certainly feels like that right now. There is such polarization that life in this country feels very black and white. For or against. Good or evil. Night or day.

So, yes, it has been a unique September. It is the first September we did not have our Mom here to celebrate her birthday. This September has dark things coming out of the shadows and discourse seems alive wherever one looks. Yet there is the other side, that equal balance of the equinox. This September has shone a light on heroes and heroines of many colors, genders, backgrounds and creeds. There has been thousands willing to stand, to kneel or to lay down in the face of injustice. There is hope and strength and so much courage. There is the opportunity to change the narrative, a chance to do something different now that the sun has crossed the equator.

Despite the dark days and the muted nights, life marches on. The college started classes this week, a whole new group of students with hopes and dreams and new clothes and school supplies beginning their education to explore and fulfill their life’s purpose. The devastating natural disasters have paradoxically brought out the best of humanity. In the face of that fury there is no color, creed or gender. There’s just people in need of each other. Why does it take these extreme measures to make us realize how alike we all really are? How fragile we are? How strong we are? That our blood is the exact same color and texture. That all of our brain matter is grey. That our lungs move in and out in harmony. That we all laugh and cry and love and struggle. We all have hopes and dreams. Life is not black or white. It’s a rainbow created by the sun shining through raindrops. Out of the mud comes the lotus. This too shall pass just as the equinox slowly changes the balance of the sun’s trajectory.  The equinox has made the transition and we are on the other side. Which road will we take into autumn?

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Silhouette by Geralt via Pixabay