If 2020 Taught Me Anything It’s This

Somehow the radical reality of this year seems to be setting in as we are pushed into the holidays. I have no problems staying home. Staying in. Staying isolated.

Both because I want nothing to do with spreading the deadly virus, and because I’m just really, heavily, fully, mightily tired.

Learning to hold righteous rage in the same palmed fist with genuine compassion has left me feeling raw, shredded, exposed, and inadequate in so very many ways.

Being unable to hug the ones I love the most in this world has left me feeling a loneliness I never knew I could feel. A longing stretches out within me, a reaching, a craving for the kind of up close and intimate touching I always loved but now realize I took for granted, too.

I am a big bear tight squeeze hugger. Hugging is my favorite. Not in a creepy way, mind you, in the kind of way where it is just a flood of gratitude to be with each other. A tiny fleeting ecstatic celebration. That we have each other. That we can hold on and hold fast and know we are not alone hurtling through empty space.

A lot of empty space this year. And plenty of chaos, fear, terror, and turmoil to fill it.

So I’m not going to fill my holidays with screens or Zooms or chaos. I can’t stomach it. I can’t be bothered to do or be a single thing or way other than what I am. Exhausted. Over it. Done.

There will be plenty of delicious food, and many bottles of wine. There will be a table glowing with candles and set elegantly with silverware and crystal for my two greatest loves in all the universe, my husband and my son.

There will be holiday jazz.

There will be pine boughs on the mantle.

There will be pajamas all day and an endless number of cut logs blazing in the fireplace.

Warm hearts and laughter and complete and total ignorance of the outside world.

I need my bubble now. I need to reconnect with the beauty of nature and the quiet thorough joy of reading for hours on end. Leftovers. Sleeping in. Twinkle lights.

The thing about 2020 has been the countless ways it has broken, stretched, and shattered my insides. The hard lessons. The breathtaking manner in which people and events, culture and society, have snapped me wide awake.

Hit me like a lightening bolt over and over and over again.

But the truth is you cannot stay awake forever. You will go insane.

So for now, rest.

For now, enough.

For now, peace in our tiny homes.

In our little trembling hearts.

 

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Photo by Joyce Huis

 

 

America, What the Fuck

I live in a country where Kyle Rittenhouse gets out on two million dollars bail, praised, uplifted, …. and rumors of some bullshit deal with a coffee company? It’s so stupid I didn’t even bother looking into it.

He murdered two people in the street in plain sight.

He’s a kid. He’s old enough to know. By seventeen, you know a lot of things. You have learned what is right, what is wrong. What you have been encouraged, expected, even, to become.

A hero. A murderer. What are these words we use? On which we cannot agree? What is sickness? What is health? What is criminal? What is commercial?

I live in a country where we incarcerate for profit. Entire lives are thrown away for money. Depends, of course, on what you look like. Not what you did. That’s always, somehow, debatable.

This administration is dragging its buffoon clown feet on transitioning. What absolute fucking fools. What completely ignorant useless bastards.

People are dying. Starving. Jobless. Homeless. On the precipice of eviction just before the bitter cold of winter sets in hard, dark, and indifferent.

And the ones who could help, they turn their backs.

The rich and powerful head on home to their glossy marble fireplaces and turkey dinner super spreader events as the doctors and nurses cry alone in their hotel rooms, watching their babies through small screens.

There is wealth in this country. And there is bankruptcy. Humanity and inhumanity. Money, morality, hope, despair, agony, agony, agony.

My heart has been so heavy with grief and rage for so long. When all around things are bleak and mean and growing worse.

Yes, Biden. Yes, a vaccine. Yes, good people. Yes, yes, yes. I know. But those are hopeful cures for ills we are not even sure how to name yet. They may help, sure. But we are sicker underneath than we want to admit.

Is this what exceptional means? Because it’s a fucking joke right now. Right here. Here in the ‘greatest country on earth’ where half of us care with every fiber of our beings and the other half simply don’t care at all in the least.

It’s enough to make you sick. And quite honestly, I’m not interested in sugar coating anything. I want to acknowledge it. Finally.

For four years I have been “holding on.”

Well, now I’m letting go. Letting go of trying to pretend things are not as disgusting as they are. I’m exhausted. I’m tired. And I have so much privilege. And even still, I am spent.

I imagine what it’s like for those on the front lines of this pandemic. Risking their lives everyday so some assholes can recklessly spread a disease while claiming there is no disease.

Is this what we are now? We just completely disregard life itself? Kick in the teeth of the most genuinely good, selfless, and decent among us?

We are so ugly. We are so cruel. We are so divided and perverted and lost.

This is not an uplifting post, obviously. I didn’t plan to write it, just like I wrote a lot of things I didn’t plan on writing this year.

Plans seem ridiculous anyway.

But I had to say all of it. I am sick to death of people not just saying it. All day long, the smiles, the idiocy, the holding it in and holding it back and not having the ability to see what’s right in front of our ignorant faces.

For months I have researched and read articles, journalists, posts, op-eds, books, commentary, listened to podcasts, interviews, IG lives, and all the rest. Trying to understand. Trying to pull apart the lies from the truth.

To pinpoint some kind of guiding star glittering above the rubble this nation has become.

I know it’s there.

There’s just so much dust and sadness in my eyes right now I cannot see.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. A bit of a break from the daily stuff for a few days. I am thinking of taking a social media break, too. I can’t keep up, I can’t stomach any more of the last gasps of this wholly incompetent and deliberately sadistic administration.

It’s an absolute bloody clown horror show.

Fuck every single one of the people who could have stood up and spoken truth to power to protect our democracy but didn’t. They do not give a single fuck and we should not compromise with a single one of them.

We are beyond the merits of a few individual actors. The GOP as a whole is a monstrous machine.

There is no compromise with bigotry. They can come over to our side if they want but the hell if we should move a single inch toward their nihilistic nonsense.

Fuck being nice. Fuck ‘understanding.’

I understand perfectly.

I see exactly what they’ve done.

 

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Photo by Gijs Coolen

 

New Podcast Episode: How to Be a Prolific Writer, Thanksgiving Plans, and Harry Styles is Hot in a Dress

In this week’s episode, Mark and I chat about all manner of writing topics including what helps us stay prolific, what drives our creativity, and what it feels like to write from the depths of the soul.

We have a few very interesting Ah-Ha! moments with fresh insights into the secret to getting your work out there and busting through writer’s block.

We also, of course, get into the modern culture stuff: the nonsense that is Twitter fleets, the pure joy and deliciousness that is Harry Styles in a dress, and so much more.

It’s been A WEEK. Come relax, laugh, and be inspired with us!

Listen to our podcast Spacetrash on Spotify here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

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Photo by Zino de Groot

You Do Not Need to Apologize for Being Intelligent

You do not need to apologize for your intelligence.

The number of times I have been attacked, shamed, ridiculed, mansplained, dismissed, unfriended, laughed at, yelled at, punished, humiliated, ignored, told to be quiet, told I talk too much, all because I am a woman with a brain, intelligence, and savvy, and am highly capable of critical and creative thought is an enormous amount of times.

Because this trash is normalized. It spreads rapidly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, through our culture, society, community, family.

We are “uncomfortable” with intelligent women being intelligent – exploring and displaying their intelligence unapologetically in their daily lives.

In public.

In full view.

Out loud.

So we patronize them.

We minimize them.

Cut them off.

Cut them down.

And so we women have to lean into that discomfort. Press it. Make them feel it. Don’t let up. Wake up. Pay attention to what is really happening when someone makes light of your thoughts, your intelligence, your ideas. When someone makes fun of you or dismisses you for knowing more than they know.

You are scaring them.

You are upsetting the balance of power they need you to believe in in order for it to continue to exist.

Fuck that.

Do not shrink yourself to make them feel more comfortable. Expand yourself. Expand your mind. Your reach. Your prowess.

Say what you know. Say what you think. Say what you believe. Tell of what you experience. Speak and breathe your ideas, visions, and thoughts into writing. Into art. Into existence. Into the light.

There are many, many deeply thinking, extensively well read, well researched, well spoken, powerfully moving women of every race, orientation, and background.

Seek them out. Read them. Uplift them. Pay them. Support them. Follow them.

And if you are one of these women – one of us – please don’t ever, ever let up.

No apologies.

No regrets.

 

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT

 

Conspiracy Theory: The Bottom Is There Is No Bottom

If I hear about one more conspiracy theory I will absolutely lose my mind, which is, of course, exactly what the ghouls are hoping so it only makes me feel worse.

It is disheartening to watch so many people succumb to lies, disinformation (what the fuck is that anyway I am tired of that word it is way too polite a term for lies), manipulation, abuse.

They don’t think Trump will burn this entire country, world, earth to blackened char but he absolutely will if given the chance. And too many people who should stand in his way don’t.

Last night my husband and I had a heated argument about the QAnon bullshit. He doesn’t believe it but he wants to know what the people who believe it believe.

It was a stupid fight as so many are but round and around we went about what is to be gained if anything by digging into the muck and trying to make some kind of sense out of it.

And somewhere between his passionate points and mine I thought: this is how it happens. This is how it makes us tear ourselves apart. How it makes us do it to ourselves, little by little. The fabric tears.

Little couples, little friends and family and people all over the world in their little homes smoking their silky Parliaments and screaming about what is true and what is not and not hearing a single word of it for what it is.

Not knowing.

But wanting to. Needing to. Trying to.

Not being able to ignore that one tiny shred of doubt.

But what if…?

But what about…?

But how can you be sure…?

But who told you and what is their angle?

Really, tho?

They will tell you not only that we need not tell the truth anymore but that the truth doesn’t even matter at all.  And so the war blossoms like a desert flower underneath the raining ash. The war against thinking. The persecution of the scientist, the writer, the intellectual.

The rage against the mind.

The merciless bludgeoning of the psyche.

And so begins the newsfeed. A couple dying together in an overcrowded ICU. Smothered by a disease they do not believe exists.

This can’t be happening. It’s not even real.

Fear is fear and truth is fake.

The people dying are not dying. They aren’t even there.

He tells me he just wants to understand. He just has to get to the bottom of it so he knows how to defend his position. Our position.

Protect us. Protection. Against?

Know thy enemy.

I know. If I know one thing it is that the enemy is invisible as he turns you against me, me against you.

I pour more wine and watch the smoke curling in gray circles up inside the dark brick cavern of the fireplace. And I think about how the point of their conspiracy theory games is to make sure you want to get to the bottom of them.

And that you never will.

There is no bottom. Once they’ve got you, it is an endless fall.

Falling and falling, grasping for invisible walls.

 

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Photo by Sonia Kardash

The Polarizing Duality of America’s Souls

“You cannot unify that which is diametrically opposed.” – Janaya Future Khan

The word diametric comes from a straight line drawn across a circle, or a diagonal line which cuts the circle straight down the center. The two end points of that line are considered the exact opposites of each other, they are the two extremes. They could not be more different from one another.

But are they not, in a way, unified?

They may be opposite ends of the line, but they are still together on the same circle.

In America, we are at a point where the two extreme sides cannot be more opposite and also cannot be more clear. And we are grappling with what to do about this. There is talk of compromise, talk of unity, of reaching across the aisle, of listening to each other, hearing each other.

Coming together.

But we are together. We are unified. We just don’t like what we see or how it is playing out. We are unified in our fighting against each other. It is the fight, the fight which is that straight line, which connects us and keeps us apart.

Perhaps, some of us, want to be unified in peace, in not fighting. But the only way that happens is if one side dominates. Gets bigger than the circle so much so that the circle we are currently on together collapses.

We have this notion, as many a politician on both sides has expressed, that we are in the “battle for the soul of the nation.” Which implies, of course, that there is one single soul among all of us, that which we are “fighting for” which I suppose implies a fight over defining what our soul is, who we are, what we stand for, what our vision is for the future.

I assume it implies our soul is the best in us, of us, among us.

But “best” is what we do not seem to agree on. The definition of “best” for one side means justice, for the other injustice. For one side best means equality and for the other best means inequality. For one side it means fairness, honesty, truth, for the other it means cheating, rigging, stealing.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Ibram X. Kendi speaks to the idea of the two souls of America. Justice and Injustice. That the battle is not for the soul of the nation but between the souls of the nation.

Kendi writes:

“Humans lie about themselves, like they lie about their nations. Humans and nations hide behind the cloak of ideals and intentions. But the outcome of what humans do and what nations do is never a lie. The outcome—what comes out of a nation’s policies, practices, and ideology—is what a nation breathes. Nations—like institutions and individuals—are not inherently anything. They are what they do. What they do is what they breathe. And what they breathe is their soul.”

I feel this. Because there are some things we cannot solve with a “reaching across the aisle.” There are certain people, certain groups, with which we cannot compromise. To do so would be to destroy our own dignity.

When one side holds a march led by white supremacists declaring their murderous violent hate, and none of the other members of that side, even if they claim to be less “extreme, ” loudly and vehemently demonstrate that that is not in fact who they are, what their soul is, then there can be no unity on a higher plane of existence.

We will remain unified only on a circle which permits this battle to continue in perpetuity. Round and around our diagonal line will go, and we will be unified without ever reaching each other.

Right now as I sit typing this, there is a tension in my chest. A tension in my being. Something telling me that only one side, one soul, can prevail. And obviously I do not have all the answers, but I am drawn to look deeper, to understand more clearly what it is we are up against, to think critically about this.

Because for now, it would seem we are only connected by the fight which is keeping us apart.

 

 

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Photo by Andre Benz

It’s Not Happiness We Want – It’s Wilderness

I don’t think ‘happiness’ is the thing we’re after. I think we want stimulation. Work to do with our whole body, mind, soul, spirit, and being.

We don’t want more blueprints, we want more wilderness. To trust our wild.

Which has nothing to do with recklessness. You would not observe a beautiful wolf in all of her prowess and majesty and consider her wild reckless. No.

Wild is deeply, deeply connected to clear vision. To a heightened and steady awareness of self, attentiveness to self and surroundings.

A deep unshakable instinct. A sureness. A deep trust of self. Of intuition.

It knows the pangs of its own hunger. The growl of its own desire.

It does not apologize for what it is. It has no reason to. It knows the tenderness of its own nature. The protectiveness of its own nurture.

It does not need to scream or argue or prove its existence or its worth. Wild knows it is alive, makes no excuses for its reverence toward the natural world.

She takes her place in the cycle of cycles, bows to the seasons as they turn within her, over and over again, renewing, regenerating.

My wild is poetic. Sensual. Dark. Spiritual. Intuitive. Quiet. Fierce. Intelligent. Expressive. Observant. Nimble. Obsessive. Curious. So curious.

Your wild is you. It is you untamed. It is you most free, most real, most powerful. Most naked. Most unashamed.

And the thing is, ‘happiness’ is fine but it is fickle, it is fleeting, you cannot trust it because it cannot sustain you through thick and thin. It is not strong, wide, or deep enough.

But your wild, mm. It is the only part of you that knows the way. The way of expression, the way of life.

And you can choose to trust your wild or not.

But you can never separate yourself from it.

 

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Photo by Matheus Ferrero 

We Won. What Comes Next? (audio)

After the election was called for Biden on Saturday November 7th, I called my people and we cried and screamed and laughed and finally, finally, exhaled.

We did it. It was official. We won.

As did future generations. As did the world. As did science, truth, dignity, and grace.

There are too many reasons to be grateful to list them all here. If you voted for Biden you know why you did, and you brought about this phenomenal win for this country.

Against so very many odds.

Against a machine that was actively and aggressively trying everything it could to silence us. Which is still trying, pathetically, recklessly, dangerously, to pull the nation into chaos in a last ditch effort to uphold some sort of deranged bullshit form of alternate reality.

Lawsuits. Lies. Fear mongering. It’s all petulant nonsense, but they will push and pound and tantrum over it for months.

And to be honest, I spent the last four years feeling an undercurrent of anxiety so strong I felt like paying attention to the news was like a survival mechanism. I thought that as long as I see what is happening and stay vigilant, I would see what was coming before it hit.

Before it could get me. Before it could hurt the people I love. By staying engaged, I thought I would see it coming in time.

But the problem is, that the greatest threat to our future is not what is about to come next. It’s what we have refused to deal with from our past. Our own apathy, cynicism, laziness, ignorance.

It’s thinking none of this is our responsibility. It’s our thinking someone else will care so I don’t have to. It’s our refusal to talk politics. It’s in not protecting those who have the least.

It’s what we took for granted. What we refused to understand, or support, or do, or say.

So when I think about what comes next, I think about the things I considered normal before which I do not want to return to.  I think about who I was before and who I want to be on the other side of this thing. Because in a very real way we are on the other side.

We made it through. We must celebrate this phenomenal victory. We must. And we must take a breath, let it sink in, let it fortify us. Think about what comes next.

For me, I’m going to spend time reflecting on what I have learned over the past four years, and there is so very much. I want to make sure I remember how far we have come. The people I would never have met if it weren’t for this radical time. Incredibly powerful, mighty, gorgeous people.

One thing is for sure. Now we see who values human life and who does not. Who truly wants equality and who does not. We know the hideousness of outright cruelty and how dangerously close we came to fascism taking full hold in America.

We know who to align with and who to leave behind.

There are demons in me I had to confront. Ugliness, hatefulness, that I have been forced to reckon with inside of myself.

And that’s ok.

I owe it to the people I have found who believe in a brighter more dignified future to work out my own issues, whatever it is in me that was keeping me quiet when I should have gotten loud. Whatever it is in me that had caused me to shrink instead of expand.

Being forced to fight, it turns out, teaches you how to fight. We learned, we adapted, we organized, we were relentless, we were fierce and bold and true in our compassion.

The thing we fought so hard to uphold, a democratic republic, has been saved because we saved ourselves. And what was at stake will always be what is at stake: our lives.

 

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Photo by Maria Lysenko

 

 

 

America, the Beautiful and the Broken

I’m sipping my morning coffee while looking out my writing room window at the auburn trees set in patchwork design against a soft blue sky. And I can feel it. I can feel the beating hearts all across America as we wait for the election results to be announced officially, even as we know exactly what they are.

President Biden. Vice President Harris. This we know.

And just to type those words together sends a current of heat and comfort all through my being. The amount of anxiety, damage, and depression the last five years have caused us as individuals and as a collective society has been immeasurable.

We tried our best to soldier through it. It was not easy. It has been traumatizing and terrifying to watch and experience every. single. fucking. day. You cannot imagine it. Only living through it can teach you what it is like to realize how very much you have to lose and to feel helpless as you watch it being taken brutally, monstrously, intentionally, indifferently, cruelly.

But we turned toward each other. We found each other. We the ones who believe in decency, dignity, compassion, justice, equality, liberty.

We came together and we turned our pain into action and we voted out the insidious evil. It will not be enough, of course. There is still much deep soulful, ugly, and difficult work to be done. An activist I adore said it this way: we have cut off the head of the Hydra, but we need to get to the heart.

For me, I have become so much more clear. Much more aware of the trouble we face as a nation and a world, and also aware of what it will take to fix it. We are the leaders we need. We are the healers. We are the spirit and the answer.

But for this moment in time, as we hold each other at the dawning of a new day, a new season of hope, I am feeling so many things at once. Relief. Gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude for the kind and decent and hardworking citizens of our nation who made sure the election was executed smoothly, methodically, safely.

But the biggest thing I am feeling now is love. Love for all of the people in my life who rallied and worked to secure this major epic victory. Love for a country which is broken but trying like hell to heal.

And you feel it even deeper still when you know you earned it. Chose it. Fought day after day after excruciating day for it. Together. Just like we will have to keep doing, forever.

 

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Photo by Jakob Owens

How I’m Surviving Election Day USA 2020

It took four agonizing, traumatic, vile years but today is finally here.

Election Day in the USA and already nearly 100 million of us have cast our votes. Since I already turned in my ballot weeks ago (and verified that it was counted) I almost wanted to ignore today to spare myself the jitters, nausea, and lightheaded sickness that is watching the votes be counted.

Ha.

I’m too invested in the outcome to not look, to ignore, to check out, tune out now. If you are voting today, power to the polls, baby, stay in line, bring a mask, chair, water, snacks, joy and peace and resolve. And get the sticker, too. I wish I had the sticker.

If, like me, you are feeling anxious about whether Biden will win, I offer you these thoughts today in case they help. If not, well: whiskey.

The past four years have changed me in fundamental ways and I will never be the same. I will never be as naive, passive, or – ironically – fearful as I was four years ago.

I have learned too much both about the horror that can come when we don’t pay attention, and also about my own strength when forced to reckon with hard truths. Racism. Sexism. Discrimination. Authoritarianism. Democracy. Republic. Gerrymandering. Electoral College (fuck that, btw, we gotta kill that off). Protest. Truth. Lies. Pandemic. CDC. Environmentalism. Journalism. Messaging. Hope. Despair.

All of these concepts are radically changed, heightened, clarified for me now. I know how to use my voice in a way I never have before. I know what it means to decide once and for all what I stand for, and what I absolutely will not.

I have clarified my relationships. I know where I want to be and with whom with a clarity and conviction I never had before.

And I share all of this with you today because I know there are millions and millions of us who feel this way. And we can have deep hope in that. We can expound upon our collective strength and power rooted in that.

Because we are changed. We are newly formed. And we are not going away. No matter what happens today or tomorrow or this week or these next three months, we are not going back to the way it was ever again.

Resolve. Vigilance. Compassion. Kindness. Trust in science. Activism. Awareness. Awakening. Democratic participation.

These are the new normal.

No matter what happens today. We will never be the same. And my guess is, that is exactly what the wanna-be-dictator is so desperately afraid of.

Stay safe. Stay dangerous. I’ll see you on the other side.

Whatever that is.

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P.S. If you are alone tonight and don’t want to be (nobody should be), join me and thousands of others as we stick together virtually via Janaya Khan’s Instagram Live here: @Janayathefuture They have held my head and heart together all along. 

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Photo by Tuva Mathilde Loland