Using my Anger for Good

I have a confession to make y’all. I have not been “loving what is.” This is true in a few areas of my life, but it’s probably most apparent when it comes to the current presidential situation in the United States. Ever since he-who-shall-not-be-named was elected, I find myself getting riled up almost every day, often multiple times a day. Every time I risk a look at the news, it seems, there’s something there for me to get upset about. I don’t generally consider myself a very angry person, but y’all, this guy makes me ANGRY. The thing is, though, this anger I’m harboring isn’t doing anybody any good. It’s definitely not helping me, and I’m pretty sure dude in the White House wouldn’t care. It’s also not helping our National Parks, the people in Puerto Rico, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, or any other number of groups/entities that have been in the administration’s line of fire so far.

So it stops here. I’m done fuming over every little thing this administration does that I consider an injustice. This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop caring. Definitely not. And I can’t guarantee I won’t keep getting angry. But I’m going to try my best to use my anger constructively instead of just letting it eat away at me and fester. I refuse to give that power to anyone, least of all Donald Trump. Because like it or not, this guy is going to be in the White House for the next four years, and I don’t want those years to be consumed by anger and frustration. I want to focus on doing what I can to make a positive difference– in this country, in my community, and in individual people’s lives. I believe that love really does trump hate, and that if we can all focus on being proactive instead of reactive, on fighting for what we believe in instead of protesting what we don’t, perhaps we can stem the tide of division and animosity that seems to be washing over this country. If the government isn’t going to step up and set a good example, then it’s up to each of us.

Because despite the way the media portrays it, despite the way it may look in your Facebook or Twitter feeds, and despite how it looks in the comment sections of pretty much any online news site or social media platform, I genuinely believe we are more alike than we are different. I think we all just want to love and be loved, to feel safe and secure, to be respected. We may not always agree on the details or how to achieve these things, but we can at least find some common ground and try to work together with our commonalities as a starting point. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Buddhist meditation master, once said, “Everybody loves something, even if it’s just tortillas.”

Seems like a good place to begin.

 

 

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Thoughts on Thinking

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

-William Shakespeare

I think a lot. I am a human, after all. And thinking is what has enabled our species to reach the great heights it has. No other species can think, analyze, and evaluate to the degree that humans can. But thinking is a double-edged sword. Especially when our thoughts aren’t always even true. Heck, sometimes, our thoughts aren’t even entirely in our control. I read something Byron Katie once said along the lines of “we don’t think, we’re thought,” which I think nails it. It’s like our brains control us much of the time rather than the other way around.  That’s one reason I like meditation so much, because I feel like it helps me to get a better handle on my thoughts and not be such a slave to them. Because dammit if those little buggers aren’t trouble makers.

If you think about it, (ironic, I know) thinking is what perpetuates a lot of our discomfort. When you’re stressed out, anxious, upset — it’s your thoughts that are causing that. You’re telling yourself some kind of story about what has happened, or what you think might happen, and it’s upsetting. But what if you stopped the waterfall of thoughts? Either cut them off outright or paused and questioned them. I was listening to a Tara Brach talk the other day in which she encouraged us to “not believe the thoughts; just feel the feelings” and it’s really stuck with me. I’ve tried it out a few times since and it’s been immensely helpful. It’s incredible the space that opens up when you let your thoughts go and just sit with what’s left. It turns out that what’s left isn’t nearly as bad as your thoughts might have you believe. In fact, there’s evidence that emotions don’t last any longer than 90 seconds. The only reason we remain angry or upset for longer than that is likely because we’re feeding our emotions with our thoughts. Just fanning the flames. So next time you find yourself spinning off into dangerous thinking territory, try to stop yourself. Some thoughts are like animals in a zoo. It’s not good to feed them 😉

 

 

It’s not Donald Trump that worries me

I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump a lot lately. With all the coverage he gets in the media, it’s been hard not to.

At the beginning of the presidential primaries, I didn’t really give him much thought. If anything, I thought his presence as a candidate might be a little amusing. As I began to learn more about him and hear some of the things he was saying, I became a little disturbed, but not worried. “People will see right through him,” I thought. “He won’t last long once people actually start to vote…”

After he won the first couple of states, my optimistic self thought it must just be some kind of a fluke. But the more delegates he wins, and the more incendiary his rhetoric becomes, the more bothered I am. Forget the fact that he has absolutely zero platform and has given basically no details about how he plans to actually accomplish any of the things he talks about. That I could deal with. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is how critical he’s been about entire swaths of the population, how he encourages people at his rallies to engage in violence, and how he childishly bullies anyone who dares say anything remotely critical of him. Not to mention his pumped up view of himself and his inability to take responsibility. This man, people, is not fit to be president. Not of the United States, and not of anything else. What he is, is a narcissist, a bully, and a racist. Even children watching the Republican debates recognize this. Why don’t his supporters?

And that, my friends, is what bothers me the most. Because the more I think about it, it’s actually not Donald Trump that concerns me. It’s all the people who support him. All the people who approve of what he says and who agree with his hate filled ideas and words. Donald Trump didn’t insert their hate into them; he’s just the flame that lit the fuel on fire.

Living in the little bubble that I do, I wasn’t aware of how much hate had been simmering beneath the surface of our great nation. Oh sure, I know prejudice exists and that people can be nasty. But I had no idea it was at the level I’ve seen demonstrated lately. I was watching footage of one of Trump’s rallies the other day, and some of the things I heard coming out of people’s mouths directed at his protesters were downright nasty. Maybe I’m naïve, but I thought we’d made more progress than that.

Apparently not. Apparently people are really angry, and we’ve just been sitting on a volcano ready to blow this whole time. What got us here? Was it the police shootings in the past couple of years or does it go back further? Was it the economic crises we’re still struggling to fully recover from? I really don’t know. I just know that what I’m seeing and hearing is really, really, really upsetting, and I’m afraid that it’s not going to just go away.

Unless we do something. It’s time for those of us who aren’t filled with hate to step up and use our voices in a constructive way. What that will look like will be unique to everyone, but if you’re reading this and you, too, are concerned about the direction this primary is taking our country, please speak up. Vote in your state’s primary. Write letters to the editor. Talk to your friends. Smile at a stranger. Help a neighbor. If you hear someone say something racist, call them on it. We have to fight the hatred that’s threatening to tear us down. Don’t feel like your voice is insignificant. It isn’t. I keep thinking of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

So get out there and spread the love people. It’s the only weapon we have left. Because getting rid of Donald Trump will not fix things. He’s already unleashed the dragon, and the dragon is us.

First Love

Here’s another poem I wrote along the lines of the one I wrote yesterday. It’s a little depressing, but then, eating disorders are depressing. No point in glossing over that or pretending my past didn’t happen. As depressing as parts of it have been, it’s also made me who I am, and for that I’m grateful. Which I guess is all to say, don’t feel sorry for me — Ed may have been my first love (now Ex-love), but he certainly won’t be my last.

First Love

My pen hovers aimlessly over the page

College ruled, like we used in

high school, a time for first loves and

first kisses.

The empty page stares back at me,

taunting.

“Don’t you have anything worth writing about?”

I hear

laughter, glasses clinking, joints passed around

at parties I missed.

More important things to do

I thought

Didn’t like those people anyway

with their Abercrombie jeans and Victoria Secret panties

ripped off in the heat of the moment

or at least that’s how it is on TV.

I wouldn’t know,

I missed that too.

Too much going on, Too much to take care of, Too much

Too much,

Too much.

Empty Life

I’m taking a poetry class right now, and I’m finding I don’t have many powerful events from my life to write about. Sadly, much of my life has been consumed by an eating disorder, which I guess is a powerful event all its own. Understandably, much of my poetry focuses on it, the feelings its brought up, and its effect on me and my life. Here is one of those poems.

The Dance

Music blares from the unseen speakers,

Some artist I don’t know

Screaming words I can’t understand.

I have a feeling I’ve been here before

In a dream, perhaps

naked

Like I feel now

eyes piercing my sallow skin

stares I read like Tarot cards.

The track stops. Conversations don’t.

The speakers slow

to realize there’s no need to shout.

Secrets no longer secret

Camouflage destroyed.

Someone starts it up again

but too late.

The damage is done.

They know

They all know.

Ed asks me to dance

and I gladly oblige.

Anorexics Don’t Exist.

Anorexics Don’t Exist.

Nor, for that matter, do bulimics, or alcoholics, or schizophrenics.

somuchmore

There is no such thing as “the mentally ill,” just people with mental illnesses.

In short, PEOPLE ARE NOT DEFINED BY THEIR CONDITIONS.

There are people with anorexia, yes. But anorexics? Never met one.

There’s an unfortunate tendency in society to label people. We like to categorize things. Our kitchens and closets and inboxes are all neatly organized by content, color and origin, and we try to do the same with people, as though they were folders we can just slap labels on before filing away in a box somewhere.

But here’s the thing: People are not folders, and we do not belong in boxes.

People are complicated, multi-dimensional, and undefinable. We’re always changing and we are so much more than any one label, or multiple labels, for that matter, could ever begin to describe.

But what’s the harm in labeling people? Can’t it help us to talk about things in a more organized way? Can’t it help us to put like things together in order to better study them? Yes, it can. But we can do that without turning people into just one of their many characteristics. One of the problems with labels is that they promote stereotypes. They encourage us to view all the people with that label as the same, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Take anorexia for example. I’ve met many, many people struggling with anorexia in my lifetime. So many I’d have trouble naming them all. But I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that they were all unique. Some were overly concerned with their appearances, yes, but many more were not. Some were perfectionists, some were not. Some had a distorted body image, while others didn’t. Some were artists, others had dreams of becoming doctors. You get where I’m going with this, right?

It’s the same with everything else.

Another problem with labels is that they separate us. They put up walls between us where none should exist. So while there are black people and there are white people, there are not “blacks” and “whites.” See how using the terms that way automatically erects a barrier?

The point is this: Language has power. So let’s be more careful how we use it to describe ourselves and our fellow travelers. Let’s stop putting one another in boxes and assuming that we can know everything there is to know about a person simply because we know one thing about them. Let’s look past society’s name tags and get to know the real person behind them. Because I guarantee you that behind every label is a living, breathing human being with thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, and worries and fears very similar to your own.

The Folly of “Awareness Weeks”

It’s that time of year again — Eating Disorder Awareness Week begins today and runs through this coming Saturday. The theme this year is again “I had no idea,” alluding to the fact that so many people know so little about eating disorders and the truth behind them.

While this is true, and I would absolutely LOVE it if everyone truly understood what eating disorders were like and what they were caused by, I’m not sure that’s a reasonable goal. Should more people be aware of the signs of eating disorders so they can be caught sooner before progressing to chronicity? Of course. Should children be taught better coping skills so they don’t feel the NEED to begin habits that will lead to something like an eating disorder? Most definitely. But is an awareness week really going to accomplish any of that? I doubt it. Sure, a few more people will come away with a better understanding, but from what I can tell, most of the publicity spread during this week concerns body image and the portrayal of thinness in the media. Both of which are important topics, but they don’t have a whole lot to do with the nitty gritty facts about eating disorders. The only benefit I can see to something like an eating disorder awareness week is that it might put these horrible illnesses higher up on the public’s radar and eventually lead to more funding for research into more effective treatments, as well as better funding so sufferers can actually AFFORD those treatments. Other than that, I think it’s pretty pointless and might actually spread more MIS-information than clear up any confusion.

So what do I propose?

Well, here’s a novel idea. How about we all just accept that not everyone has to completely understand everything? It’s simply not reasonable to expect everyone to understand every single mental or physical illness that could befall someone. I, for one, don’t fully understand what it’s like to have breast cancer. I know it must be horrible and scary, but I’ve never been through it, so I don’t really know what it’s like. I also don’t fully comprehend why someone would want to cut themselves or otherwise self-harm. I kind of get the reasoning behind it, but I still can’t imagine doing it or even wanting to. I also don’t really get what it means to have bi-polar disorder. I’ve seen movies and read things, but I still don’t really get it. But just because I don’t fully understand these things doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re important issues that deserve our attention. I also don’t think any one of them is more deserving of our attention than others.

So what DO I think?

I think people should respect people simply because they’re people. I think we should care for one another simply because we’re human, and I think there shouldn’t be an hierarchy of illnesses where some are regarded as more important, more devastating or more worthy of our time, attention and money. We’re all on this earth together; each of us are fighting our own tough battles; and the least we can do is support one another along the way. It’s not awareness we need. It’s love and acceptance.

So this year I won’t be posting daily about eating disorders. Instead I’m going to try and post something along the lines of love and acceptance. Stories, examples and inspiration for how to encourage those qualities in your own life. Today, I’m going to start with myself and build on the big step forward I made yesterday in my eating disorder recovery. I hope you’ll do some loving and accepting today of your own. If you do, please let me know about it in the comments!