The Inclusion Illusion

As I start this discussion I want to state, “I have never met a person that wanted to be tolerated. I have only met those that want to be accepted and loved!” Tolerance is an illusion of inclusion meant to keep us separated and divided while, we say “I accept” a person or group partially. I accept them, but only on things and terms we agree on. Tolerance is an overused word and a limited frame of mind.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ requires more of us, and it frees us from our “own limited comfort zone.” (Gomes 2007 p. 203)

In “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus,” chapter nine “An Inclusive Gospel,” Gomes, begins with Act 10: 34 KJV, “Of the truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” (Gomes 2007 p. 187)  I would like to add two more scriptures to this line of thought from John, John 10: 16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 11: 51-52, “51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. KJV” These scriptures lay out the complete inclusiveness we are to have not just in a church, Christendom, but towards all people that come into our lives. It includes us all, those who ever were, who are today, and who will be.

Gomes spends some time in pointing to how we have separated ourselves into groups, parties, denominations, etc. (tribalism). “Christians all too easily came to repudiate those who repudiated them.” (Gomes 2007 p. 189) We still see this today as some continue to repudiate Jewish people, others, Muslim, others, Christians, peoples of color, social backgrounds, gender identity, roles of men and women, and on and on.  In Chapter 7 Gomes starts with a story or modern-day parable about two missionaries in white shirts appearing at the door of a home. They ask the person who answers the door, “Would you like to spend eternity in heaven?” the person replies, “Will you be there?” Missionaries answer, “Yes. Most definitely!” The person then replies, “Then I don’t want to go.”  Gomes point is “Some people cannot imagine anyone else in their eternity; they imagine heaven to be as exclusive as their own church, filled with people remarkably similar people.” (Gomes 2007 p. 196)

So why do we divide, separate, and tolerate others? There is no place in the Bible that says, “Love the sinner and not the sin.” This is a limiting tolerance view that allows for accepted the objectification of women, “the assumptions of chattel slavery, and even certain views of God.” (Gomes 2007 p. 199) The scandalous Gospel is larger than this.  It is one of love, faith, mercy and hope. Look at the world today, and the problems that truly need our attention, do we need to really concern ourselves with the things of pervasive culture wars?  “ ‘Faith working through love’ is all that matters, the only standard for Christian inclusiveness is faith working through love; it was for this that Christ came and died on the cross, and it will be by this standard alone that we will be judged.” (Gomes 2007 p.203) As I read Gomes and wrote this, I am reminded of a talk, “The Other Prodigal” by Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other prodigal is about the reaction, jealousy and anger, the brother of the prodigal son felt.  His brother was wasteful of his inheritance, but still loved by his father.  The father then gently teaches his (other prodigal) the faithful son, he would always be with him and have all that he has.  He teaches compassion in stating, “Your brother was lost and now is found.” Elder Holland makes this inclusive statement, “That incomparable counsel helps us remember that the word generosity has the same derivation as the word genealogy, both coming from the Latin genus, meaning of the same birth or kind, the same family or gender. We will always find it easier to be generous when we remember that this person being favored is truly one of our own.”
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/the-other-prodigal?lang=eng

Many of my very close friends fall into the label of LGBT community.  They are strong and faithful Christians that only want to be accepted and loved! They have taught me much as they have supported me through my own trials and adversities that come with life and living.  “If the gospel is truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all.”  (Gomes 2007 p. 207)

  1. Given the above quote, “What does inclusive mean to you in context of the Bible?”
  2. What do you think that the gospel requires in today’s quickly changing cultures? What problems does it cause with inclusiveness?

The Bible in/and Politics

I want to look at some contrasting views and how Religion and the Bible are used in politics.

As I have pondered the readings this week, I am struck how politicians sometimes use scripture to forward their own position or cause.  In doing this they seem to be causing a paralysis and inability to address the solutions to the problem they see.

Let’s just take immigration, illegal or otherwise.  Nancy Pelosi to forward her stance that there is a humanitarian crisis at our borders stated her favorite scripture, “To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.”

OK, actually, she said, it might not technically be from the Bible. “I can’t find it in the Bible, but I quote it all the time,” Pelosi said as she introduced the quote. “I keep reading and reading the Bible—I know it’s there someplace.

I believe Nancy Pelosi is referring to Proverbs 14:31, He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor. KJV

Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border by referencing the New Testament. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13,” Sessions said, “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

I find it interesting that, both agree there is a humanitarian crisis at the border, yet neither can come together to do the work necessary to make a positive change with solutions.  Because of many reasons, all based on mistrust of political parties, they are effectively paralyzed, each asserting they are inerrant in their belief. 

Bible, the use of it in cultural wars, and the use of it to justify intolerance are not unrelated.”  (Kutsko 2017 p. 8)

Kutsko, proposes that education needs to focus more on the humanities and social sciences. I have always found it interesting that Social Studies was not one of the mandated classes while Reading, Writing, and Science were. 

In March 9, 1832 – Abraham Lincoln stated, “Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance.”

Dreisbach, in his Book, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers is emphasizing that an, “open a window on the biblically literate culture of the founding era,” thereby providing “insights into the grand American experiment” (19). In a video online in which he talks about the book he emphasizes in greater clarity, “The founder’s believed the Bible’s moral instruction nurtured the internal moral monitors of citizens required to maintain the social discipline necessary to govern themselves.” Even so he gives a couple of warnings;

“The detachment of American history from its generative biblical culture impoverishes our understanding of the American experiment in self-government. P. 10”

“The increasing biblical illiteracy of the modern age almost inevitably distorts the conception Americans have of themselves as a people, the nation, and their political experiment in self-government.” P.20

Both, Dreisbach and Kutsko, seem to believe education is important, though their reasons for the education, slightly differ. Yes, I do believe that non-Christians can benefit from lessons, concepts, and wisdom in the Bible? We all can benefit from the simple instruction to love one another, to treat others as you would want to be treated. Abraham Lincoln’s quote about education, the first part is in my response on Kutsko, the remainder of the quote is below;

“To say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.” — March 9, 1832, Abraham Lincoln

Our politicians today might heed the warnings of both these authors and educate themselves on both the fathers and the Bible and its role in our foundation, to brake their paralysis of ineffectiveness.

“Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?”

in Rastafarian Prose

Bob Marley

“Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” in Rastafarian Prose

In John W. Pulis’s essay, “In the Beginning” A Chapter from the Living Testament of Rastafari, we see how the lyrical oration of the Bible, referred to ‘vibrations,’ “the revelatory power associated with the word from the acoustics, theatrics, and performance of livical sound. (Bielo 2009)

I will make my best attempt to apply the citing-up of the crucial I-tation used by Afro-Jamaican folk culture. I will use one of my Bible favorites, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” found in the Gospels of Matthew 16, Luke 9, John7 and 9. I am not very familiar with Bob Marley (I bet my Dad is though), but, I am familiar with Tupac Shakur (I know my Dad isn’t). I think that Tupac has that same connection to lyrical oration (rap music) to express spiritual messages.

J:  Cite der so [Matthew 16, 13] Bradda, Wha seh dat I be?

D: J, dem seh John, dat baptize I! dem seh, Elias; dem seh, Jeremias, or dem seh, the prophet, Rastafari!

J:  Bredren! What dem seh cite-up?

D: J, dem Priest seh, dat J be dat Satan; dat go to KILL I-n-I. dem seh dat son of man dat must lifted high, who dat man?

J: Dem jumble-up de word, mix up de vibes, da man no see? Esaias dat prophet be fulfilled dat he speak dat I-n-I feel da vibes. Cite der so faawod, who dat you seh dat I be?

SB: I seh dat r I, dat son of God!

J: Blessed dat SB, fadda mus penetrate de vibe, Ahh, tru I-n-I de chosen, dat be faawod Peter (rock), on dat rock, I Am, mak dat church, tell da man, de no jumble-up de words, de no mystery to I-n-I! Go to all, cite-up dat Word!

One Love by Bob Marley

White Men’s Magic

Vincent Wimbush

Vincent Wimbush begins the prologue with a quote by Zora Neale Huston, “Some folks is born wid they feet on de sun and they kin seek out de inside meanin’ of words.” – Mules and Men (Wimbush 2012 p. 1) Wimbush as a child, his world exploded with books and writing. He questioned his elders, questions his elders could not always answer, the hidden meaning, “coded freighted meanings,” the inside meaning of things. This began the thesis for this book; “The quest to know over time less and less about facts – not even about my world or texts at hand – and not at all about piety, but more and more about how things came to be and how such things in such arrangements persisted.” (Wimbush 2012 p. 3)

For Wimbush to understand when the peoples of the North Atlantic and the peoples they named as African to perdure (remain in existence) must come to terms with context  and its complexity of ongoing ramifications.  Wimbush explores the ex-slave writer Olaudah Equiano also known as Gustavas Vassa.  Wimbush finds a way forward through Olaundah’s story and adventure of a black hero, a person of the North Atlantic slave trading world, “that comes to call himself ‘African,’ ‘Christian,’ and almost an ‘Englishman.’” (Wimbush 2012 p. 10) Wimbush is able to see and describe his own life story to Eqiuano’s, and see them both as a type of “scriptural” story.  Through this Wimbush describes Equiano and his ancestors as Atlantic African.  It becomes a story of first contact of a peoples and the affect on both the peoples as slaves and how it was “experienced, rationalized, conceptualized and survived.” (Wimbush 2012 p. 11)

“There can be no serious self-reflection critical work apart from consideration of the meaning and consequences of such a contact.” (Wimbush 2012 p. 12)  Wimbush refers to “A Report to an Academy” a short story by Franz Kafka, written and published in 1917. (Kafka’s Ape Story) This story can be a parable or an allegory for the treatment of Jewish people or the the Atlantic African Slaves.  It is a presentation of to the Academy of an Ape and his transformation to becoming human.  To survive, the Ape, studies humans while caged on the ship, learns to speak and act like his captures. “The nature that culture uses to create second nature, the faculty to imitate, make models, explore difference, yield into becoming the other” (Wimbush 2012 p. 13)

As I read White Man’s Magic and develop a grasp for what scripturalization means, I see the quest that Olaudah Equiano and Vincent Wimbush are on, their personal marronage, or extricating oneself from slavery.  Today, a form of scripturalization, “political conservatives derive their power from mobilization of constituencies that feel deprived of their rightful share in government, and regard the cultural consensus against which they fight to be the wrong one.” (Gomes 2007 p. 59) Equiano had to take his journey of of educating himself, learn to write, and gain understanding with the “talking book” that did not include , acknowledge, remained silent, and did not speak to him, “in order to escape enslavement and orient himself to the freedom the slavery that is scriptualization,” (Wimbush 2012 p. 233) that white men’s magic resisted.  Vincent Wimbush had to take this same journey, and we also may be bonded to slavery of our own, that requires us to take the journey of marronage from scripturalization.

If we are brave enough to walk with Olaudah Equiano and Vincent Wimbush, our lives, will probably be transformed. We will grow, be stretched, and be different.  In Kafka’s “A Report to the Academy,” in this story, an ape named Red Peter, who has learned to behave like a human, presents to an academy the story of how he effected his transformation. He begins, “You show me the honor of calling upon me to submit a report to the Academy concerning my previous life as an ape. I cannot comply with your request. Almost five years separate me from my existence as an ape, a short time perhaps when measured by the calendar…This achievement would have been impossible if I had stubbornly wished to hold onto my origin, onto the memories of my youth.” (Kafka 1917)

Update

Wimbush refers to
Plato’s, “Allegory of the Cave.” and to Kafka’s, “A Report to an Academy” The cave allegory is interesting because Plato believed that the world needed the philosophical intelligence that he and his student’s had, to guide those who were less intelligent.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – Alex Gendler

Franz Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”

“Kafka’s Ape” as “A Report to an Academy” is often referred to has been made into short plays. It is a metamorphosis allegory about the treatment of the Jewish peoples or racism that still exist today. Vincent Wimbush uses it as a parable of the North Atlantic slaves. Attached are two links, one a video https://vimeo.com/104816698 posted by Howard Rosenstein and the second is the text of the story,
http://www.kafka.org/index.php?aid=161 written by Kafka in 1917 and translated by Mauro Nervi Revision: 2011/01/08

Wimbush is hard to read, but I truly have enjoyed him.  To me the meaning is two-fold, one is  the way Wimbush uses it, as leadership or dominance, in country, politics, and social groups, to create and maintain power over others.  “Equiano saw more clearly the nature of ideological structure of the British society, especially its fetishistic uses of the scriptures.”  (Wimbush 2012 p. 51) The second is how to understand it and then use it as a wedge to create the change needed that sets us free from the slavery and bondage created through scripturalization.  This applies to us all.  We can use what Wimbush is trying to teach us to recognize what in the Bible’s ancient text was scripturalized to free us to see the good news of the scriptures. “Now the Bible was my only companion and comfort; I prized it much, with many thanks to God that I read it for myself, and was not tossed about or led by man’s devices and notions.” Olaudah Equiano  (Wimbush 2012 p. 180) 

I still have a lot more to learn and grasp from this.  My eyes are opened but the light is causing me to squint.  

Genesis 34 – The Story of Dinah Continues as Hope for Dinah

In Genesis 1: 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  In Genesis 2: 20 the scriptures say, “but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”  The Hebrew phrase עזר כנגדו (ezer kenegedo) is a three-part word with a complex meaning.  The first is simply “helper”, second, more complex “like” and face to face,” third, “of him.” Otherwise”a helper like his opposite.” In my opinion this means that Eve was to be his “other half,” like him, but with the opposite attributes. “to make to be face to face,” and is always used to mean “to tell” in the sense of causing another to come face to face in order to tell them something. They were intended to work together and not be rudderless. (Benner 1999)

So, how does it go from Genesis 1-2 to Genesis 34 and the tragic tail of Dinah? Lets start from the premise that the writers of the bible wrote form a patriarchal perspective and translators wrote in a manner to hold onto the power structure they understood.

A short synopsis of Genesis 34 is that Dinah the only daughter of Jacob, is raped by Shechem the son of Hamor, who is the ruler of the country. Genesis 34: 2-3, “2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.  3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.” (KJV)

When Jacob finds out he is grieved and waits for his sons to return from the fields. Shechem ask his Father to go to Jacob and ask if he can take Dinah to be his wife.  Hamor and Jacob and his sons agreed that Shechem can take Dinah to wife if every male of you be circumcised (essentially becoming Jewish). Hamor and Shechem agreed and after they all were circumcised and took Dinah to their home.  Simeon and Levi killed all the male including Hamor and Shechem and Brought Dinah home. To many this could be seen as, Dinah, representing women, and if women would stay in their proper place they would be protected from harm.

Nowhere in this account does it talk about how, Dinah or her mother, Leah, felt about any of this.  This is an example of Biblical Patriarch not only showing that men are the leaders, head of families, but also the subservient role of women.  One that causes and tolerates victimization. John Calvin, French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva, seems to confirm the patriarchal attitude and blame the victim, with this statement, “Dinah is ravished, because, having left her father’s house, she wandered about more freely than was proper.  She ought to have remained quietly at home, as both the Apostle teaches and nature itself dictates; for to girls the virtue is suitable, which the proverb applies to women, that they should be (oijkouroi,) or keepers of the house.” (Calvin 1536) This is further reinforced by JOSEPHUS, who said accordingly, “she (Dinah) had been attending a festival; but it is highly probable that she had been often and freely mixing in the society of the place and that she, being a simple, inexperienced, and vain young woman, had been flattered by the attentions of the ruler’s son. There must have been time and opportunities of acquaintance to produce the strong attachment that Shechem had for her.” (Robert Jamieson 1871).  This strong Patriarchal view has existed from the nearly the beginning of the Human existence.

As I have read from, Bielo, Enns, Kugel, Wimbush and Gomes, they all are challenging us to read the scriptures with new and questioning eyes. Gomes gives a strong and stern warning about the use of the Bible, “For the Bible to be seen as an instrument of control rather than as one of liberation is to do violence to the substance of the Bible.” (Gomes 2007 p. 43) With a patriarchal view that has existed for so long is there hope for the change? Gomes “The scandalous Gospel of Jesus,” was written in 2007, he focuses on the New testament Gospel of Jesus Christ, when he states, “When I remember that the literal translation of the term gospel is ‘good news.’” (Gomes 2007 p. 1) Gomes in this book to challenge and ask ourselves to go beyond and embrace the radical suggestions of the Bible, which is its “good news.”  Gomes sounds very similar to Peter Enns, “Depending, then, upon how one reads and interprets, either the Bible is a textbook for the status quo, or it is a recipe for social change and transformation.” (Gomes 2007 p. 12) Gomes, shows how the scriptures were used to separate Jewish from Christian, Catholic from Protestant, women as less than men, black less than white, etc… “The landscape of human history is littered with the debris of ideals sacrificed to the idol of the ideal, and the existential evidence, from the corruption of of ancient kings to the unsavory influence of contemporary fundamentalist fanatics.” (Gomes 2007 p. 35) Through the Gospel of good news, glad tidings, Jesus asks us to be His instrument of His full and complete transformational power.

Helga and Bob Edwards, created a website for the purpose of “SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS, EMPOWERING WOMEN IN CHRIST.” (Edwards 2019) I have attached a pod cast url of theirs, https://podtail.com/en/podcast/the-bible-message-without-patriarchy/genesis-34-the-rape-of-dinah-confronting-victim-bl/ , that discusses Genesis 34, its patrarchal view, and how we can confront, abuse and victim blaming. It is hard to image 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years ago for all the diversness of today to openly be able discuss such deep topics. Gomes points to Kennedy, a Catholic becoming President, Martin Luther King Jr’s march for ethnis equality, Women becoming preachers, priest and Bishops, and the LGTBQ movement of today.  One of my good friends and classmates from high school is the executive director of “Oneiowa” ( https://oneiowa.org/ ) an openly gay married man.  I know when I was in high school in 2003, that was not possible. All of this progress and change is certainly good new!

So, what is the good news about Genesis 34? It is that we can see it for what it is, text written by men, that did not yet have the, good news of Jesus Christ. Gomes in the chapter “An Inclusive Gospel,” ends it with, “If the Gospel is to truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all…In a world surrounded  on every hand by bad news, we turn now to the reasonable hope of the gospel, the good news toward which scripture, Jesus, and the Spirit all point.” (Gomes 2007 p. 217)

How to Read the Bible

What influence (or not) has the Bible had on my life? Favorite Scripture Verse

My Dad, Jim, Huck and me hiking. Pic by my mom


I have the King James Version and the NRSV versions of the Bible.  When I was in High School, Each year I had a seminary class through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that focused on one of the standard works, The Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Church History, Doctrine and Covenants. Because of this I read the majority of the KJV.  I also repeated this as student at Brigham Young University at a deeper level.

  As an ILIFF student I have had the opportunity to use and read the NRSV of the Bible. It is a little easier for me to understand, especially when I cross reference it with the King James Version. Because I have often struggled with my confidence and abilities, causing me anxiety and discouragement, one of my favorite scriptures is:

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” [Hebrews 10: 35–36 KJV]

“35 Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. 36 For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” [Hebrews 10: 35–36 NRSV] It is significant to me because it brings me comfort and peace that allows me to refocus and tune into that still small voice.  Fear of failure has the ability to paralyze the best of us.  Paul, speaks to all of us, through this scripture, encouraging us not to fear. We will have adversity and discouragement but if we keep confidence in the Lord, Jesus Christ, we will overcome and grow, intellectually, spiritually, and in his grace.  It has helped me through tough times and is helping me now, through the toughness of my Chaplain residency at a level one trauma hospital. 

Tupac and God

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, flower and outdoor

I recently painted this painting of the artist and rapper, Tupac. I know it probably doesn’t look like Tupac to you, but it is. Each little dot represents a moment in his lineage, life and music. 
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When I was in high school I was a full on creative. Painting, singing, dancing, acting and fashionably expressing myself. As I have grown into adulthood a lot of those things began to be replaced by checking all things off the list that prove your an adult. In it all I lost myself. The one creative part of me that I have been consistently able to sustain in my expression through fashion. 
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Through my activewear business, not only am I able to live that creative part of me out more fully, but I am also able to pursue more of what brings me joy! More art! More play! Engaging in joy is what I think makes me more human in my “adultness.”
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“Don’t just create art to make money. Make money so you can create more art” (Richie Norton).
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I invite you to go on this journey with me. By wearing clothes that feel good, inspire confidence and are simply less hassle so you can GO FREAKING LIVE! 
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Also by becoming a rep so you can not only create art but also make more money to create more art.
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DM me, my darling creative conqueror! 

Removing the Mask of Failure/Creating a Truth Story

Yesterday I completed my first quarter of grad school. I cannot believe it. I never thought this would be something I would be doing. I never wanted to go to grad school.

Discourse: Because I hate school. I am bad at it. I am stupid. My talents are different. I am not an academic.

Truth Story: I am smart and capable of all things. I love learning. I love being in learning environments. I am a good learner. My talents are useful and valid in the academic world. I am a scholar.

And here I am. One quarter behind me. And this is what my face looks like:2015-11-19 12.04.10

Applying and then attending grad school is what badassery looks like in my life.

Badassery: When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, “Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again”- my gut reaction is, “What a badass.”

There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out of their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.  Emotional stoicism is not badassery. Blustery posturing is not badassery. Swagger is not badassery. Perfection is about the furthest thing in the world from badassery.

To me the real person is the person who says, “Our family is really hurting. We could use your support.” And the man who tells his son, “It’s okay to be sad. We all get sad. We just need to talk about it.” And the woman who says, “Our team dropped the ball. We need to stop blaming each other and have some tough conversations about what happened so we can fix it and move forward.” People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses. -Brene Brown, Rising Strong

Wading into our stories is scary. It’s real and takes courage. But that is something we each have: courage. You have that. It is in you. Everything you need is already inside of you. In the following video I offer an invitation and a prompt for wading into your your story. For uncovering your discourse and creating a new narrative. A YOU narrative. A TRUTH story.

Let the BADASSERY begin.

Direct Orders

This is how I am feeling at the completion of my first quarter of grad school. Disclaimer: Language. Inspiration. 

Direct Orders (Rock Out) By Anis Mojgani

You have been given a direct order to rock the **** out.

Rock out like you were just given the last rock and roll record on earth and the minutes are counting down to flames.

Rock out like you just won both showcase showdowns.

Rock out like the streets are empty except for you, your bicycle, and your headphones.

Rock out like your lips, which are placed onto a breakdancing muse with legs that go all the way up.

Rock out like Publishers Clearing House is ringing your front door.

Rock out like you’ll never have to open a textbook again.

Rock out like you get paid to disturb the peace.

Rock out like music is all that you got.

Rock out like you’re standing on a rooftop and the city’s as loud and glowing as a river flowing below you.

Rock out like the plane is going down, and there are 120 people on board, and 121 parachutes.

Rock out like the streets and the books are all on fire and the flames can only be extinguished by doin’ the electric slide.

Rock out like it’s Saturday afternoon and Monday was a national holiday.

Rock out like somebody’s got a barrel pointed at your temple saying ‘Rock out like your life depended on it, fool,‘ because it does.

Rock out like your eyes are fading but you still got your ears. But you don’t know for how long so rock out like 5 o’clock time, meant pop-and-lock time.

Rock out like you got a pants full of tokens and nothing to do but everything.

Rock out like you are the international ski-ball champion of the entire universe.

Rock out like you just escaped an evil orphanage to join a Russian circus.

Rock out like your hero is fallen and you are spinning your limbs until they burst into a burning fire of remembrance.

Rock out like you are enslaved in the south and dancing is all that you have to know who you are.

Rock out like your dead grandfather just came back to take a drive with you in your new car.

Rock out like the table is full. Rock out like the neighbors are away.

Rock out like the walls won’t fall but, ****, you’re going to die trying to make them.

Rock out like the stereo’s volume knob is the figure 8 of infinity on it instead of merely numbers. Rock out like it’s raining outside and you’ve got a girl to run through it with.

Rock out like you’re playing football! Football in the mud and your washing machine is not broken.

Rock out like you threw your window open on your honeymoon because you want the whole world to know what love is.

Rock out like you just got a book published.

Rock out like you just went to your high school reunion to find everyone, even the women, are all overweight and bald, except for the former homecoming queen, who has just been divorced by her impotent husband and who only has eyes for… YOU!

Rock out like you just got a date with Heidi Klum.

Rock out like a shadow of a man passes behind you, drops you to your knees. You’re buckling in sweat, cold metal’s pushed to your forehead, the trigger’s pulled and the gun jams.

Rock out like you got an empty appointment book, and a full tank of gas.

Rock out like Jimi has returned carrying brand new guitar strings.

Rock out like the mangos are in season. Rock out like the record player won’t skip.

Rock out like this was the last weekend, like these were the last words, like you don’t ever want to forget how.

HERE I AM

We all wanted that high school sweetheart
We wanted to be young in the 50s with meatloaves and sock hops and lawns
Lawns so perfect they looked like Clark Gable was kissing them

We wanted to be 13 and alive and meet a girl that was 13 and alive
And walk with her past the grandstands
To sit and hold hands with
To sit and kiss with
To sit and sit with
Like it was something you would miss, but that never was

We once went to bed
Like between the bed sheets was a valley with dinosaurs still breathing
And how we capture these triceratops and brontosauruses
But even they were opened up with the smoke that rose out of the homes and the corners that we once climbed through
The streets and the footballs, which we once threw
The school desks upon, which we once drew
The windows that sat open, through we once flew
Before the outside world of parking spaces and dead friends came flooding on in
And we forgot what we wanted
And we became what we become
Waitresses and bartenders, city employees and temp positions
We are junkies and one kiss poems and we cry the stars
As we write our scars onto dumpsters and electric boxes
Because the only thing that we can hear is our hearts
And the only ones listening are the streets
That the blood that breaths through the letters we leave
And we dream to rise ourselves up out of these burning buildings
But instead we get buried somewhere beneath

Because I know my life is like some high school kids notebook
A high school kid that shuffles back and forth between school and home
Stacking the letters and the pictures too close for anyone outside of his own imagination to read
Because it’s through the ink that his heart beats, that his heart breaths
And we all just wanted to write these notes:

Check if you like me
Check if you don’t
Check if you’ll date me
Check if you won’t

Because we all wanted the love songs to be true
And we did love dinosaurs once
And we wanted the stars to hold our hands
To lick the teeth, to fuck us
But they ended up fucking us
So, let your smile twist
Like my heart dancing precariously on the edge of my fingertips
Staining them like that same high school kid, licking his thoughts
Using his sharpie tip writing

I was here
I was here, mothafucka
And ain’t none of y’all can write that in the spot that I just wrote it in
I’m here, mothafucka, and we all here, mothafucka, and we all mothafuckas, mothafucka
Because every breath I give brings me a second closer to the day that my mother may die
Because every breath I take, takes me a second further from the moment she caught my father’s eye
Because every word I carry is another stone to put into place in the foundation that I’m building
Because the days can erase something that I never saw
What all of us wanted and what none of us got
What we all had and have and what we all forgot
That we all wanted to be something
That we all became something
And it might not be the shit we once though we’d be when we were kids, but something is still something
And like some cats say: something is better than nothing
Feet are smarter than an engine
And dreams are stronger than thighs
And questions are the only answers we need to know that we are alive as I am when I have the mind of a child
Asking, why is 2 + 3 always equal to 5?
Where do people go to when they die?
What made the beauty of the moon?
And the beauty of the sea?
Did that beauty make you?
Did that beauty make me?
Will that make me something?
Will I be something?
Am I something?

And the answer comes: already am, always was, and I still have time to be

SHAKE THE DUST

This is for the fat girls
This is for the little brothers
This is for the schoolyard wimps and the childhood bullies that tormented them
For the former prom queen and for the milk crate ball players
For the nighttime cereal eaters
And for the retired elderly Walmart store front door greeters
Shake the dust

This is for the benches and the people sitting upon them
For the bus drivers who drive a million broken hymns
For the men who have to hold down three jobs simply to hold up their children
For the nighttime schoolers
And for the midnight bikers who are trying to fly
Shake the dust

This is for the two year olds
Who cannot be understood because they speak half English and half God
Shake the dust
For the boys with the beautiful sisters
Shake the dust
For the girls with the brothers who are going crazy
For those gym class wallflowers and the twelve year olds afraid of taking public showers
For the kid who is always late to class because he forgets the combination to his locker
For the girl who loves somebody else
Shake the dust

This is for the hard men who want love but know that it won’t come
For the ones who are forgotten
The ones the amendments do not stand up for
For the ones who are told speak only when you are spoken to
And then are never spoken to
Speak every time you stand so you do not forget yourself
Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you
That your heart, it beats 900 times every single day
And that there are enough gallons of blood to make everyone of you oceans
Do not settle for letting these waves that settle
And for the dust to collect in your veins
This is for the celibate pedophile who keeps on struggling
For the poetry teachers and for the people who go on vacation alone
For the sweat that drips off of Mick Jaggers’ singing lips
And for the shaking skirt on Tina Turner’s shaking hips
For the heavens and for the hells through which Tina has lived
This is for the tired and for the dreamers
For those families that want to be like the Cleavers with perfectly made dinners
And songs like Wally and the Beaver
This is for the bigots, for the sexists, and for the killers
And for the big house pin sentenced cats becoming redeemers
And for the springtime that somehow seems to show up right after every single winter

This is for everyone of you
Make sure that by the time the fisherman returns you are gone
Because just like the days I burn at both ends
And every time I write, every time I open my eyes
I’m cutting out parts of myself simply to hand them over to you

So shake the dust
And take me with you when you do for none of this has ever been for me
All that pushes and pulls
And pushes and pulls
And pushes and pulls
It pushes for you
So, grab this world by its clothespins
And shake it out again and again
And jump on top and take it for a spin
And when you hop off shake it again
For this is yours, this is yours
Make my words worth it
Make this not just some poem that I write
Not just some poem like just another night that sits heavy above us all
Walk into it, breathe it in, let it crash through the halls of your arms
Like the millions of years of millions poets
Coursing like blood, pumping and pushing
Making you live, shaking the dust
So when the world knocks at your front door
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up
And run forward and far into its widespread, greeting arms
With your hands outstretched before you
Fingertips trembling, though they may be

Grief through the Back Door

Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true

(Lyrics from my favorite song right now, She Used To Be Mine by Sara Bareilles)

If you are meeting me for the first time I will catch you up on my story: Two years ago during this time I was in a relationship with a man (whom I love). This man is not a problem but he has a lot of problems and he took those problems out on me. I am a survivor of domestic violence (I hate those words. I am not sure if I am ready to use them, have them written down. Makes it more real. But it is real. It really happened. It is now part of my story. And so I am going to leave them there. And not erase them. Although I want to. So badly) and I am still in recovery.

During that time in my life, two years ago, everything was stolen from me. I was stolen. Coming out of the abusive relationship, my recovery has been harder for me than the abuse itself.

“It is important that one recognize that loss and grief are not just tied to death. We must consider the many other losses that occur that people must grieve and yet may not be socially acknowledged as a significant loss. When this happens, the griever may feel isolated and alone with his or her grief and the lack of support that often accompany readily acknowledged losses such as a sudden and unexpected deaths.”

When I was in the relationship no one knew what was really going on, including me. And in all honesty -including him (my abuser- I hate referring to him as that:my abuser. But words are important. There is great power in giving things their proper name). Months later, when I was able to see things as they really are/were I called his mom. Oh my gosh. Scariest thing ever. I almost threw-up. I reached out to his mother with the intent of letting her know what happened between her son and I. I wanted to share this with his mother because I felt it was my responsibility to let someone who was permanent in his life know. My biggest fear (and still is today) is that he would harm himself or someone else. I don’t want that on my hands. And so I called his mom. I expressed how much I love her son and am on his side. That I was hoping to meet with her to talk about what happened. She wanted nothing to do with me. Part of me doesn’t blame her. How would I react if someone called to tell me that my son abused them. When I mentioned “abuse” she flat out asked me if I was talking about physical abuse as if any other kind of abuse doesn’t matter. I told her no. Which was a lie. But I was scared and totally intimidated and freaked out. She didn’t ask any more questions or want to hear any more details.

I was so devastated. To this day I try oh-so-very-hard not to judge her. And I wonder if she thinks about me. That day. That phone call. I know I am not a mother, but if I were- I cannot imagine not wanting to know more, so I could help my son, so I could help the woman.

My therapist told me that I deserve a mother-in-law that will listen if I come to her with something important.

My grief is intense. Over the loss of the relationship. The loss of the beautiful man I love. The loss of myself. I wrestle with ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief.

Ambiguous loss: When someone is physically absent but psychologically present (think of a parent in a nursing home, a military personal on deployment, a child in a coma, a father in prison,  a former spouse in a divorce). Ambiguous loss can also be the opposite: Someone who is physically present but psychologically absent (someone with mental illness, TBI, depression, struggling with addictions).

My guy on a Buffalo is still alive but there is no contact. He is not physically in my life. But he haunts my days with dangerous flashbacks and also sweet longings of when things were “good.”

And I know many of the people I love have felt the loss of me over the past two years. I am physically here but often my struggles of depression and PTSD that accompany my recovery have made me psychologically absent. I am sorry for that. I wish I could change things. I am working intentionally on my healing every day. I am coming back, slowly. But not as the same girl I was before.

“Ambiguous loss is difficult because there can be confusion and difficulty identifying the problem. There may be uncertainty which prevents people from adjusting to the ambiguity of their loss. People may be denied the rituals that ordinarily support a defined loss.”

Disenfranchised grief: A loss that cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported. There are three kinds of disenfranchised grief: 1. Relationships that are not recognized or socially sanctioned (think the gay community, people who have abortions, those who give a child up for adoption, affair partners). 2. The loss is not recognized as significant (miscarriage, pet loss, employees at veterinarian offices, hospital caregivers, any type of caregiver, me and my abusive ex-boyfriend). 3.The griever is not recognized

I love my abusive ex-boyfriend. To this day. I love him. I miss him. I am grieving him. I have been asked how I can be so upset over the loss of someone who did terrible awful things to me. And that is a legit question. How can I? And how can I not? I grieve the loss of who he was to me. The loss of his own mental health. The loss of the relationship. The future we could have had. The loss of his dog (my dog). Oh how I miss that sweet animal. I miss who I was with him. I miss who I was before him. I miss my naivety. My innocence. My easily trusting nature. I miss and I grieve. Time has made things different. And in many ways I am healing. But today I am grieving.

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