Using a Tough Convo to Empower

I’m a pretty big believer in transparency with my kids. If nothing else, my alphabet soup of diagnoses forces me to be honest about my shortcomings. I can’t exactly smile and be “perfect” when depression or panic attacks are fighting my ability to be a human being let alone a mom.

My kids, like any kids, have these things called ears and eyes. They see all of the goings on, even if I don’t watch the news myself. I realized I needed to talk to them about the shootings. I am not one to brush things under the carpet with a smile and everything is just fine.

My oldest told me he’s scared someone’s gonna come in and shoot him. I overheard the boys discussing what they’d do if someone came into their school and started shooting. Like a normal mom, I immediately felt a rage in me that could make a nuclear bomb seem benign. How the fuck can it be possible that my 11 and 6 year old are discussing getting fucking shot in school? How is this a reality?

I looked my son in the eyes and I gave him the only answer I have. “Ty, the truth is at any moment we can die. There are people who are angry, miserable, and full of hatred and sadness. It’s so bad, they think hurting others is the answer. The only thing we can do for people like that is love them anyway. I refuse to waste my life being scared of mean people or even being scared of dying. I know it will happen one day, and my only wish is I live my life so well – so awesomely – that when I die, I have a smile on my face and all the ones I love know how much and deeply I love them. I feel like the only way I can do that is try to be as kind and loving as I can to anyone in my life and maybe there will be less unhappy people in the world. But I won’t let people take away my happiness. Not by making me scared about dying or anything. I won’t give someone else that power. And I hope you don’t either. I hope you live your life finding everything that makes you smile – to the point you can smile and find happiness even when everything is hard. Because you are strong. You’re awesome. And no one can take that away from you.”

I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but unfortunately there’s no “how to talk to your children about people being massacred in school” section in the non-existent parenting novel. I can’t get rid of the monsters, but I’ll do my best not to raise new ones.

Tree Hugging Hippies Are Cool

Innocent people were gunned down at school, so naturally arguing, blaming, and the media cycle makes a ton of noise but accomplishes nothing.

Fighting and arguing on Facebook and with any human being accomplishes nothing but more divisiveness. “United we stand, divided we fall”

Are guns the issue? I find myself more concerned about why so many are so unhappy, so miserable, so full of hatred, that they would take a weapon and take the lives of innocent people.

On the flip side, I have to remember in many countries, hostile armies/people/etc gun others down for their religion, skin color, etc. There are innocent people fleeing their home seeking safety from the violence and wars killing their loved ones. Children are dying everyday at the hands of hatred and fear.

It’s a truth many shrink away from. It is easy to blame the guns, but the truth is if there is no gun, there’s a bomb, or something else. If you want tighter gun laws – get off Facebook and fight your legislators. But really, our system is broken. Millions upon millions of dollars have been dumped in the pockets of the people we the people have put in power.

We have put these people in power. We forget that we are the ones with the power, even though the system is flawed and broken. We’re not as small and powerless as we like to think, because we are all experiencing this life as humans together. There is pain everywhere in the world. There is joy everywhere in this world as well. What do we cultivate and focus on? Your thoughts and focus create your reality.

I see pain and sadness. I see so many people desperately lonely. Social media has given us an illusion of connection. As we sit with our faces in our phones, we overlook people in general and the ones we love, disconnected from reality and divided from each other.

When animals and people are in isolation too long, they can go insane. Become aggressive and attack. When you say mental illness, do you truly believe inhibited serotonin, dopamine, etc. are causing human beings to take an assault rifle and gun down kids? Do you think even an illness as serious as schizophrenia could cause this?

The highest risk factor for most DSM V diagnoses is suicide. Not homicide.

These people are mentally deranged, but I think we need to stop diagnosing people via media. As awful as this is, we need to consider ourselves fortunate that we don’t live where this is a daily norm. We need to start looking at one another and smiling. Say hello, how are you. Acknowledge human beings as human beings. Hold a door. Say thank you. Be grateful.

Right now, all I see is fear and anger being spread. Fear and anger make picking up a gun and killing easy. Love and unity are our natural inclinations and we are losing touch with that reality. Compassion – not empathy – for ourselves and each other.

I probably sound like a tree hugging hippie but I can vote and write letters to legislators. Beyond that, my circle of influence is small. And in that, I am trying to spread hope and joy. Hope and joy do not incite violence. Maybe if we all felt less alone and isolated, the world would not feel scary and divided.

I’d rather allow my thoughts and focus create a reality where a smile can make a difference in someone’s day. Because that is a truth that is undeniable.

Mr. Rogers taught us to look for the helpers. It’s time for all of us to be the helpers.

New Beginnings start with ? Not .

I try to stay away from explaining things in terms of the ego must be overcome or it must die. This sets anyone up for confusion inherently.

I question the ego:

Who are you? Don’t use your name – someone gave you that. Don’t use your job, people, stuff – all externals. Who are you that sits behind your eyes?

All of the things you would use to attempt to describe yourself you learned from someone else or someone else told you and you believed. These are not you though. That is your ego.

What are you?

Your ego is the vehicle you move throughout life in. To see this, you must become aware that you are not the I you say you are. You’re not these externals, yet you use your externals to move throughout life. When you become aware of your ego, you can then see that this is a vehicle. You use a vehicle to get to the mall, but not to take a shit.

Alone, you cannot overcome the ego. In the simplest terms, your ego is the thinking mind. Your conscious attention. Who thinks your thoughts? You cannot answer this, yet you are familiar with the fact that thoughts come and go as the please. Through meditation, you can see the observer and observed. And you see you don’t have to think your thoughts. Much like you don’t have to be your ego.

When you see through the veil of ego, you cannot answer “who am I?”

It’s the death of the separateness in I. And Then you find, “I am”

At the end of the day, ego wants you to believe you’re separate. Non ego shows were all one.

“No one’s gonna take my soul away…I’m living like Jim Morrison..” Gods and Monsters, Lana Del Rey

The Nightmare Before Christmas

One of the musings I wanted to do with this blog is my bizarre takes on music and movies/entertainment. I do not believe any fiction is pure fiction; everything is a metaphor. The beauty of fiction is you can interpret the metaphor however you’d like. Our beautiful lies – one meaning – is the definition of a metaphor. Is that not what fiction is? Today, especially since we are a week from Christmas, I thought I’d write on one of my favorite movies and some of the metaphors I’ve found for myself.

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Why? I’m an overgrown child, I love Tim Burton and Jack Skellington. I have probably watched this movie 300 times now. As a matter of fact, as I’m (barely) preparing for Christmas, it’s the only Christmas movie I’ve watched.

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Look at it as Jack trying to understand his role in life. Here he is the Halloween King, but he feels unfulfilled. He feels as though he does the same damn thing every day. Then, he finds this new, happy world. He feels a new feeling he has never felt before, and he feels “Just like his old boney self again” (I want everyone to know, full disclosure, any quotation will be from direct memory because I am that much of a dork) As he tries to understand Christmas more, he studies it, he “knows the stories, and he knows the rhymes…he knows the Christmas carols all by heart…his skull is so full it’s tearing him apart..!”

I don’t care that he’s a clay puppet, I have never resonated with a character more in my life. Jack and Sally have always felt like me talking to myself. Ultimately, Jack tries to be what he is not – Sandy Claws – and blows shit up. That’s been my life. Even studying as much as I have – I have read spiritual books, blogs, etc. yet nothing made sense. “What is this?” indeed. I have listened to probably every Alan Watts seminar, and from there I have ventured into philosophy as a whole. Reading psychology books to understand the alphabet soup of my diagnoses help me see, I suppose, I’m not alone, but I still felt as though I did not belong. I look around and I see a Halloween-town world, and me wishing I could just…get…it.

I’ve had so many moments where my world is metaphorically in flames, and I’m sitting there with my head in my hands wondering what I’ve done. Again. How in the hell is it so hard to be happy? You watch Jack trying to explain Christmas to the Halloweentown people, and they make Christmas into their Halloween version. They’re all happy just following his lead, but he knows he’s not even happy.

Jack Skellington helped me understand the great Tao.

How did Jack become happy? He stopped trying to be Santa Claus, he stopped studying Christmas, he stopped trying to Christmas, and he realized, he IS the Pumpkin King. He realized he wasn’t happy because he was too busy focusing on being miserable, saying he did not have this, did not have that, and seeing his life as a neverending chore. The harder he fought to understand “that special kind of feeling in Christmas-town” the less he understood. This is exactly how Taoism is explained. This is actually how almost any religion is explained. You cannot actually intellectually understand things like faith, belief, or God. I mean, honestly, how do you even understand Santa Claus?

“Just because I cannot see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!”

We use Santa as a metaphor to explain kindness, generosity, and really – magic. (Then we basically tell our children we lied, and let them lose faith in magic, but that’s another post…) These are words, though. Symbols. Representations. In truth, words are metaphors of knowledge and information. Much of our lives exist outside the realm of tangible concepts. I can show you 1+1 = 2 and I can explain it in words. Kindness and love, however, are best put in metaphors, stories, and even best: example. I can wrap my arms around you in a hug, and that’s all you need.

Jack realized after he ruined Christmas (experiential learning – not studying), he’s not Santa Claus, he had to be himself. He gained a new appreciation for who he was, and a new perspective on his life. The metaphor of the great Tao is water, as God, Tao, etc. none of these can be put in words. Jack realized he can’t study Christmas, he just has to be that feeling. Isn’t that what everything teaches you? You can’t study happiness, you have to choose happiness. You can study methods of happiness or practices that support happiness, much like you can smash a bat and turn it into a hat. You can create all the accoutrements of Christmas, but it will not be Christmas unless you are it.

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After all the studying I’ve done, re-watching my favorite movie as a kid made me figure it out. Irony! Yet that is how it all works. You cannot think your way out of a problem, we just think we can. The more you think, the harder it is, to be perfectly honest. This is why meditation, contemplation, and other practices are important. What is most important, however, is being true to yourself. Don’t act like Buddha, or act like Santa Claus. It’s far more important to find what sets you on fire and do that. If it’s overanalyzing children’s movies to understand the Tao, hey man, whatever works.

Inspiration alights in a child’s wondrous eyes.

Then, you have the iconic image of Jack and Sally falling in love on the hill in front of the moon. Once Jack gets his head out of his ass and sees the woman who loves him right in front of his eyes, that he has been surrounded by everything all along, life is pretty cool, right? Nothing actually changed, did it? Jack changed his attitude, everyone else stayed the same.

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The first two tattoos I got were Jack and Sally on my wrists.  I got my first tattoos about a month after I started writing as a Memento-esque tribute to myself. They were a mile marker of me realizing my bullshit, writing about my bullshit, and in many ways, killing off my own Oogie Boogie (my bugs! my bugs!) if you will. I chose the placements specifically because, on my left wrist, I used to cut myself. When I was feeling particularly crappy, I liked to stare at my scars and ruminate. Time has marched on, and those scars are all but invisible to anyone but me and my memory. Now, I have Jack’s smiling face and “Smile Now” looking at me on my wrist. On my right wrist, I have Sally looking sad, saying “Cry Later”.  That’s my harmony. There’s no time for ruminating on my old scars, but it’s okay to be sad. It was the first metaphor I created from my favorite movie.

This is why metaphors are important, to me. Every time I revisit a story I love, I find new inspiration. When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the story. As I’ve grown older, I use stories to help me become my own story. The greatest mistake anyone can make, in my mind, is handing the pen of your life to someone else. That includes spiritually too, for words are a copy of reality – a metaphor. They transfer knowledge, they are not the knowledge. Inspiration and interpretation are your gifts alone, as only you possess your mind. Mine, apparently, finds the Tao in Halloween town.

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…and I just can’t wait until next Halloween, cause I’ve got some new ideas that will really make them scream!

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts – any other metaphors? Any movies that have really inspired you throughout your whole life? I appreciate your likes, comments, and shares so much! This was an absolute blast to put together, although I was questioning my sanity pretty good. hahahaha 🙂