Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2000 Bellingham Students Leave Class

Here's the article from the Bellingham Herald.  Hope you can watch the video.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg

Their words (during a CNN interview) directed to politicians who accept money from the NRA:

"... you are either funding the killers or you are standing with the children ..."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Experiencing Relief From Shame In The Nick Of Time

When I was a little girl, my mother said to me, out of the blue, "Have you ever noticed that your nose is not centered over your teeth?" I had not noticed.  I looked in the mirror at myself.  Sure enough. My nose deviated to the left.  Hmmmm.  I felt like a freak.  She would refer to my "droopy eye." What to make of that?

When I was at Girl Scout camp, another Girl Scout joked about my "ski nose."  I was devastated.  I felt ashamed of my nose and myself. Why did I let another young girl determine my self image?

When I was in my late teens, a young man that I thought was extraordinarily handsome and who had told me that he thought his nose was too large said, "Looks like someone tweaked your beak." Not a particularly sensitive thing to say.  He seemed to like me anyway.  But why the comment?

When I was in my late 30s, a so-called boyfriend said to me, "You look very different, depending upon whether I look at you in profile on the left or on the right."  That didn't sound flattering, and I'm sure that, observing my reaction to his words, he tried to make things better by quickly saying, "But both sides are pretty." Still the damage was done.  I felt like a freak.  What was going on there?

When I was in my 40s, a co-worker asked me if I had had a stroke. Hmmmmm.  There it was again.  I had been feeling good about myself and suddenly my positive image of myself was undermined by her insensitivity.  So what if I had had a stroke?  Why would that cause me to feel shame?

Around the same time, my father asked me, out of the blue, "Why can't you be normal, like your sisters?"

So what if my face is asymmetrical?  So what?  Why would someone who supposedly loved me or someone that I thought was a friend look at me so clinically and without compassion for my feelings and point that out in such a cold way?  Why would I react with such tremendous shame?

And worse, why would I grow to hate myself for having an asymmetrical face? What is that all about?  Everyone has an asymmetrical face to some degree.

Before I began my recovery from self-hate and other related problems in 1987, I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror, as well as in all photos that were taken of me.  I felt immense shame about the appearance of my face.  So much so that I was occasionally unable to leave my house.  All the shame that had once been connected to my entire body and manifested as eating disorders was focused on my face.

In my 40s, I took a series of self-portraits in a mirror with my Minolta camera.  It puzzled me that I when I took photos of myself in a mirror, I liked myself.  I liked the way I looked.  I wasn't on guard.  I could relax with myself in a way I could not relax with other people.

In recent years, as I approach my 70s, I don't hate my appearance at all when I look in a mirror.  I like what I see, despite the fact that I am aging, and I have heard women my age say that they find it hard to look in the mirror and see all the signs of aging. For me, the experience has been that of liking what I see more than I ever did up until now!  I don't hate my appearance anymore!

I'm not sure what happened to change my self image so radically from negative to positive.  It seems to have happened gradually.  Perhaps it came from meeting a great number of people since 1987 who weren't ashamed of themselves and didn't hate themselves because of the way they looked.  Maybe I accepted myself as a member of the human race and stopped thinking of myself as different from anyone else and deserving of contempt.

After experiencing dismay at the recent photo of me taken by a former co-worker in an unguarded moment, I found it interesting to learn that most people prefer their mirror image to the image they see in photos, which is the way they are seen by other people.  However, according to this article, most people see the way they look in photos as less attractive rather than ugly.

"Ultimately, when we dislike a picture of ourselves, it's not that we think that we look necessarily ugly (italics by the writer of the article). It's just that we find our other self -- our inverse self -- more attractive."

I am seeking the self-love and self-compassion that will allow me to stop regressing to that default perception of myself as being ugly and unloveable when I see myself in a photo. Why did I develop such a perception of myself as ugly? Why did neither of my sisters who look very much like me develop that? Why has that perception diminished in recent years, except for short relapses into self-loathing?

It is astounding progress that I can now look in a mirror without experiencing shame and emotional distress.

As a scientific experiment, I took a photo of myself in the mirror a few days ago and then flipped it. When I look at at the two photos above, I do like the first one (the mirror image) much better!  I think, "Yes, that's me.  What a good photo." Oddly enough, I didn't notice that my bangs were longer on one side until I looked at the flipped photo of my mirror image!  I felt a startle reaction when I saw the flipped photo!  I thought, "Yikes!  Is that what I look like? And my bangs are higher on one side than the other! How awful!"

Very peculiar that identical images, though flipped, look dramatically different to me.  I am assuming that I look the same in both photos to everyone else!

The fact that I could write these thoughts down for others to read is almost unbelievable to me, considering the shame I have carried about my appearance.

The miracle is that my shame is, for the most part, fading into memory. For some reason, my parents were ashamed of something that they projected on me, and I carried their shame.  It was never mine to carry. Now I question that shame reaction, that self-hate that went so deep and became so disabling.  I wonder if Michael Jackson would have related to what I have written today.

I am not asking to be told that I look just fine.  I am asking to be heard on the topic of shame about one's physical appearance, where that shame comes from, and that healing from such intergenerational shame is possible.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Talking about love in action / Introducing a timely book of poetry


She rides a bicycle in her dreams
on the country lanes of County Meath
pedaling her way to dances:  gossip
with the girls, flirtations with the boys
smelling of soap, hair slicked back,
shyly standing across the dance floor,
jostling one another as young men
will do.

She rides a bicycle in her dreams
the season is always springtime
the hills are never steep
she speeds along, until a cock's crow
creates a schism splitting the
dream world into memory,
she awakens with a curious
longing, at home, but far from home.

She listens to the hum of the Interstate,
contemplates her morning cup of tea.
Once more the rooster sounds his
rousing call, turning the world into
countryside, but nothing like the
country lanes of County Meath.


Afraid they'll be scolded,
they want to go home.
Fearful they'll be late for dinner,
they edge towards the door.
The passage of time has been reversed,
twines back on itself to yesteryear
with decades lost along the way.

The family home, wherever it was,
has a powerful pull and draw.
If we could only take them there,
delivering them from their longing,
in an instant we would.
To give them that pleasure,
to give them that solace.
To give them bounding steps
to replace their shuffling gait,
to once again race down that
familiar street, turn at their own house,
spring up the front steps, bang
the screen door behind them,
call out loudly, I'm home, I'm here."

Steering them back to their rooms,
sometimes feeling more like wardens
than nurses, "Home Sweet Home"
stitches through our hearts.

Christine M. Kendall's blog is here.

"The Care Center" is from her first book of poetry, self-published in 1998.  I treasure my copies of both books and visit her poems again and again.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The power of love in action

Jacob Lawrence.

From whiskey river:

"We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as humans is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks we take a long time to accomplish, that's all.

Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. "Tragedy," D. H. Lawrence said, "ought to be a great kick at misery." This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick." (Albert Camus)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sharing Unguarded And Guarded Moments And Dreams On Valentine's Day

A few nights before Valentine's Day, one of my former medical transcription co-workers organized what has become a yearly get-together at a local Asian restaurant. Twelve of us showed up.  None of us work as medical transcriptionists anymore.  I was the holdout until last October, when I gave up working as a medical transcription editing subcontractor for less than minimum wage and no benefits in a field that once gave us all a good income with excellent benefits.  The oldest of us is 70.  The youngest seemed to be in her late 20s or early 30s.  She brought her 5-month-old daughter who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the social occasion.  We certainly enjoyed her unguarded presence. The youngest former transcriptionist started working at the hospital sometime after I left in December 2003.

Until I received a group email with attached photos, I didn't realize that another somewhat younger former co-worker had taken out her cell phone and had taken pictures of all of us that she could see from her place at the far end of our long patched-together table, including a selfie with the woman sitting next to her.  That was the only photo that was at all flattering to the subjects. She caught us all in unguarded moments, none expressing how much we enjoyed being together.  It puzzles me that she would send photos that, for the most part, show us looking unhappy or tense.  Although I was enjoying myself and feeling good about myself, in that unguarded moment I look distant, remote, unengaged, possibly like a sad drunk, although I was drinking water.  I see myself with very critical and judgmental eyes, I know.  Near the end of the dinner, she called my name.  When I looked up, she had her cell phone aimed at me.  I quickly put on my best guarded photo face.

In the photo from my childhood with my middle sister and my older step-cousin, I have a rare unguarded smile.  As an adult, I have never been able to smile so freely in photos.  I wish I could.  I freeze when cameras are pointed at me.  I remember being told as a small child by my mother that my shy little smile was not good enough.  I would contort my face to have the "good enough" smile she desired.  As I grew older, my smile in photos became guarded, frozen, tight, expressing that I felt hopelessly ugly, awkward, inadequate.

This year as Valentine's Day (after what would have been my father's 104th birthday on February 11) approached, I felt at odds with myself, uneasy, unsettled, edgy, feeling that I needed more sleep than usual and drifting into the old low self-esteem, even self-hate, that I lived with from early childhood until I was 37 years old and began to recover from bulimia, anorexia, and alcoholism.  Although I haven't seen my mental health counselor for two months, something prompted me last week to make an appointment.  My mental health diagnosis is related to past trauma.  I have come a long way.  My current counselor is the best one I've ever had.  Her first opening was on Valentine's Day at 10:30 a.m.

These last two weeks have been particularly difficult.  Nothing difficult happened that hasn't happened many times before, but my emotional reactions seemed way out of proportion to the circumstances.  Those emotions that I guard so carefully were exposed, and I could not escape the reality that I felt hurt, jealous, sad, ashamed, and angry --very angry.

When I was a little girl, my father told me that I looked ugly when I was angry.  My mother was angry on a regular basis, but I didn't observe him telling her that she looked ugly.  Perhaps taking the cue from my mother, I was angry much of the time, although I tried to hide my anger.  I concluded that I was truly ugly when I was angry.  As much as I tried, I could not hide my anger.  I could not hide what my father called ugly.  I told myself at 6 years old, "Boys don't like me because I am ugly.  No one will ever marry me." When we were 7 years old, a Roman Catholic friend of mine had a nun doll.  I wasn't sure what a nun doll was, but the doll seemed to bring happiness to my friend.  My friend didn't look angry.  I wished I were as pretty as she was.  She looked kind.  I asked for a nun doll for my birthday.  My mother bought me a blonde bride doll instead.  The bride doll looked miserable.  The doll was only a child, a child bride.  My father used to joke that my mother was his child bride.  She would get angry and say, "That's not funny."  My father seemed to enjoy making my mother angry.  I started thinking that my mother was ugly, too.  She looked like me.

Of course, no one was ugly.  It was all a lie that I believed because there was no one to tell me otherwise, and then a few years later my youngest sister told me that an older boy had told her that she was the only pretty girl in our family.  That cemented the lie for me.  A boy said I was not pretty.  My father said I was ugly.  I was convinced.  When I was 10 years old, I went on my first diet, sensing that my parents were not pleased with my body that was developing earlier than most girls. Now I felt that I was both ugly and what I thought was fat.  I was always on one diet or another until I was 37 years old.

At 10 years old, I was prescribed glasses for nearsightedness.  Already feeling ugly and fat, I refused to wear my glasses.  As a result, I could not see people's faces unless they were in close proximity.  Other children thought I was what we used to call "stuck up."  I assumed that boys thought that I was ugly, even without glasses.  They kept their distance from me.  I did not put them at ease.  I was painfully shy and awkward and never had a boyfriend until I was 17 years old and met a charming 17-year-old high school dropout who smoked cigarettes and marijuana, took LSD and other hallucinogens, uppers and downers, and used intravenous drugs, all because he didn't want to become an alcoholic.

He told me I looked pretty when I was angry.  He said, "How could somebody NOT love you?" He won my heart.  I idolized him.  I won his heart.  We broke each other's hearts.  I thought the problem was that I was fat and ugly.  Nothing he said could convince me otherwise.  I could not believe that I was worthy of love.  He couldn't believe he was worthy of love.  He proceeded on a path of self-destruction that ended with his death at age 58.

The only time he sent me a Valentine was when we were about 40 years old.  He wrote on the inside of the card, "I love you.  Always will."

I remember listening to this song on one of the first Valentine's Days after I met him:

Last Valentine's Day I dreamed a dream about him that brought me joy.  My dreams seem to be a series of unguarded moments, both mysterious and enlightening, even those that are nightmares.  They can bring me joy, and or they can bring me absence of joy along with insight.

May our dreams bring joy and if not joy, then insight.

I'm not sure why painful memories from the past came up this Valentine's Day, but I do know that I can't let go of what I don't acknowledge.  When I tell the stories from my past, I feel myself being healed in the present.  When I find myself reverting to childhood self-hate, I seek help.  I am not alone anymore.

"There are some of us who in after years say to Fate, 'Now deal us your hardest blow, give us what you will; but let us never again suffer as we suffered when we were children.' The barb in the arrow of childhood's suffering is this: its intense loneliness, its intense ignorance."  (Olive Schreiner, from The Story of an African Farm)

The sky just cleared, and there is snow in the hills where I saw the light a few days ago.

May we all be loved and love ourselves in our guarded and unguarded moments.