Fifty-Two Little Lessons From Life’s Bumpy Road

Last week, two of my high school classmates passed away in completely unrelated circumstances. I was never more than an acquaintance of either woman, but their deaths affected me deeply.

They made me think about my own mortality.

Even though I’ve been known to say “I’m so old,” I really don’t feel old. In fact, on most days I forget that I’m even an adult. My friends and colleagues can certainly testify that I frequently forget to act like an adult.

But when two people from my graduating class died within days? That not only made me question what I’ve actually done with my life, it also made me reflect on everything I still want to do. In all honesty, it made me wonder about my legacy.

Amid those thoughts, I considered how much I’ve changed since high school, how much I haven’t changed, and all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. And I realized that aging shouldn’t be measured by the crow’s feet around my eyes or the laugh lines around my mouth. Instead, it should be measured by all the nuggets of truth I’ve picked up among the successes, mistakes, joys, heartaches, worries and moments of peace I’ve experienced on this bumpy road called life.

I’ve had 52 years to accumulate these little life lessons, so it seems appropriate that I share one lesson for every year of that journey:

  1. Be a goofball. Life is so much more bearable when you find ways to be a goofball.
  2. If a situation or person makes you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to walk away. There’s a reason your’re uncomfortable.
  3. If something reminds you of song, then start singing it out loud . . . unless you are at a funeral. Then just sing silently or people will give you angry looks.
  4. Speaking of funerals, always act as though you recognize the person in the coffin. If you don’t, never yell out loud that you are in the wrong place. You probably aren’t. The person in the coffin just doesn’t look like the person you knew because of the makeup or clothes or hair. Or all of the above. After yelling you are in the wrong place, you will immediately realize that you are in the right place because people you know will check to see if you are all right.
  5.  Never hesitate to tell someone that you love them. Unless you don’t love them. Then you should hesitate.
  6.  Spend time with people who are younger than you.
  7.  Spend time with people who are older than you.
  8. No matter what the weather is, spend at least 30 minutes outside every day. Extreme cold, extreme heat, wind, rain and snow will do more for your soul than staying cooped up inside every will.
  9. Comparing yourself to other people will never make you a better person no matter how hard you try to be as good or as strong or as smart or as successful or as talented or as skinny or as pretty. You are disrespecting your own unique traits, and are just making yourself miserable.
  10. Not everyone you meet is going to like you. Why would they? You certainly don’t like everyone you meet.
  11. If you want unconditional love, get a dog. No human will ever give you the unconditional love that a dog does.
  12. At least once a year, spend time lying on your back looking up at the clouds. You’ll always see something  interesting. When you get older, you might see some floaters against the blue sky, but you should ignore them. The shapes you should pay attention to are the ones in the clouds.
  13. Trying to be perfect only annoys other people. Instead, be genuine. The only people who are annoyed by genuine people are fake people. And who cares what they think?
  14. Always keep at least one toy in your office. If you can’t play at work, you should find another job.
  15. Never be ashamed of your opinion. However, make sure you don’t confuse opinions with facts.
  16. If you are in an accident, your underwear is the least of your worries. Medics and health care professionals don’t care if your underwear is clean or in perfect condition. After you’ve been in accident, your underwear is probably neither anyway.
  17. Vote in every single election.
  18. Never pretend to like music or movies for the sake of someone else.
  19. Don’t listen to advice from people who say you should eat your dessert first. Trust me. Eat your vegetables first.
  20. Don’t let you cat pee in the dryer vent. I say this, but I have no earthly clue how to actually achieve this. If someone knows how to prevent your cat from peeing in the dryer vent, please share it with ever cat owner you know. They will be forever appreciative.
  21. Become a student of history. Read books or newspaper articles. Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries. There is so much truth in the quote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.’
  22. Do your best to remember people’s names and something that is important to them. Don’t do this for their sake. Do it for yours.
  23. Get a little bit of exercise every day.
  24. Admit your mistakes. Always admit your mistakes.
  25. Get a copy of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder). Seriously. Every day you are going to have to deal with irrational people whom you don’t understand. If you have a copy of the DSM,  at least you can try to figure out what is wrong with them. You might not be able to actually to that, but going through the DSM will keep you so busy that you’ll be less irritated.
  26. Find those friends with whom you can bitch about other people. I know this doesn’t sound kind, but let’s face it, we are all human and other people annoy us. Find those friends who are annoyed by the same people and keep them on speed dial. It can save your sanity.
  27. Visit the world’s churches and cathedrals just to enjoy the architecture and the sense of serenity.
  28. Recognize that money will never buy happiness but using your money to help others will make you feel happy.
  29. Spend more time listening to music and reading than watching television.
  30. Learn to forgive. Forgiving is so much better for your mental health than holding a grudge.
  31. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget. There are some people who are better just not being in your life, and you have the right to make that choice.
  32. It’s just as important to forgive yourself as it is to forgive other people. But since you can’t walk away from yourself, you have to make a conscious decision to learn from your mistakes.
  33. Medication can help with anxiety and depression, but so can gardening. When life is tough, plant flowers, Get dirt under your fingernails. There is nothing like the feeling of satisfaction of getting all of the dirt out from under your fingernails after a day of gardening.
  34. Buy and wear colorful clothes. Most of us went through a black clothes phase at some point. Despite what we thought at the time, there is nothing interesting about black clothes.
  35. Carry an interesting purse. It’s the best conversation starter ever.
  36. Always wear a bra when you leave the house. Always. Even if you are wearing a t-shirt, a sweatshirt and a coat to walk the dog. You might think there is no reason to wear a bra, but something might  happen. For example, you might fall down, shatter your wrist, and end up in the emergency room.
  37. Trust your gut more than the advice of other people.
  38. Never, ever accept credit for someone else’s ideas or work.
  39. Always wear your lightest clothes to the doctor’s office and remove all jewelry before being weighed. If you are going to the doctor’s in the winter, wear shorts and pretend you just worked out.
  40. Find your passion and you’ll find your tribe.
  41. Don’t regret your past. If it wasn’t your past, you wouldn’t be the person you are now.
  42. Don’t accept anything at face value.
  43. Give compliments. Just make sure they are genuine.
  44. Never strive to be the most important person in the room. Strive to be the most understanding.
  45. Spend some time with trees. Seriously. The energy and vibes you can get from trees are amazing.
  46. Feed stray animals. If your neighbors complain, lie.
  47. Sometimes you have to lie to keep the peace, but never tell a lie that could hurt someone.
  48. Learn to master the eye roll. Then keep sunglasses handy.
  49. Always remember that no matter how much you want other people to understand your point of view, they are hearing it from their point of view. That means words you didn’t intend to be hurtful can be hurtful anyway and statements you make as explanations can be taken as accusations. Knowing this doesn’t fix anything, but it does provide perspective.
  50. Spend less time trying to figure out someone else’s motives and more time ensuring sure your own motives are good.
  51. Find and keep friends who can cook.
  52. Remember life is like a satisfying bike ride. Sometimes you’ve been going uphill for so long that you are exhausted and feel as though the climb will never end. And just when you think you can’t go on, you reach the top. Then you can relax into the joy and exhilaration of going downhill. Sometimes your are just riding on flat surface maintaining. And every time you ride, you get stronger and learn another technique to make you a better cyclist.  All of those struggles and joys become memories, and the string of memories each of us creates becomes our legacy.

Was Every Single Nazi Mentally Ill?

I woke up on Sunday morning to the news of yet another mass shooting. It wasn’t the one in El Faso Texas that I went to bed hearing about. It was yet another one –  this time in Dayton Ohio.

After texting to check on the safety of a college roommate and her family, who live in Dayton, I almost thew up.

I’m not exaggerating. I was literally sick to my stomach.

I felt completely powerless and angry.

When a friend called to check on me, she expressed the same thoughts. She was on her way to church and said she’d be praying.

“Pray that people actually elect leaders who care more about people than they do about money.” I said. “Because right now? They obviously don’t.”

She agreed.

We are both furious at the NRA, which is all about ensuring the gun industry continues to make money, that ignorant people fall for its propaganda, and that politicians remain in its pockets.

The current resident of the White House is no exception. Like so many politicians who think they need the support of the NRA, he’s pointing his fingers at mental illness and not at a problem with gun availability. In fact, too many so-called leaders do everything they can to avoid addressing the fact that there is a huge gap between responsible gun ownership and arming citizens with semi-automatic weapons. If they did, they’d be admitting there is plenty of opportunity for compromise.

In all the history books I’ve read, I don’t remember one that claimed America’s sordid history of racism is linked to mental illness. Can you imagine claiming that every member of the Klu Klux Klan or of a lynch mob was diagnosable? They weren’t. They were full of hate and fear.

The reign of terror carried out by the Nazi’s prior to and during World War II wasn’t linked to mental illness.  Sure, the case can be made that Adolf Hitler was mentally ill, but not every single Nazi. They were full of hate and fear.

And now, do we claim that every perpetrator of domestic violence or that every racist is mentally ill? No. They too are simply full of hate and fear.

I can’t predict the future, but I do know that our present times will soon be history. And I can only hope that my grandchildren don’t have to read about how mass shootings became an acceptable risk of every day life. Instead, I hope they read about how concerned and compassionate citizens refused to let corporate interests control America and voted out the politicians who allowed that to happen.

I Am One of Those People

A few months ago, my daughter performed the song “I’m Breaking Down” at a state thespian competition.

Kendall singing Breaking Down

Her song choice wasn’t lost on me. You see, the character who sings that song in the musical The Falsettos is named Trina.

If you’re wondering why the heck my daughter would do that, don’t worry. You’ll soon know more than you ever wanted about my mental health.

On Wednesday night, I was truly breaking down. For a while now, I’ve felt overwhelmed in so many aspects of my life.

Every. Single. Aspect.

Nothing is going as I hoped, and there’s even a scandal making national headlines that’s impacting my job. Fun times.

I’m not throwing a pity party. There are still wonderful elements of my life, like my husband.  (I’ll get to him in a minute.)

Let’s just say that, overall, I’m a walking mess. And when I’m a mess, all I want is for everyone else to understand exactly how I feel – even at 3:00 in the morning when I haven’t slept because I’m so angry, frustrated, stressed and just plain pissed off at the world.

(This is where my husband comes back in.)

After speaking only to myself for hours and realizing that my own words were only making me feel worse, I needed someone who would actually reassure me. So I woke my husband up to do that. He wasn’t happy.

At all.

In fact, he said something to the effect of “nobody cares.”

With those words, I felt like the whole world was against me.

Or, in the word’s of Trina in The Falsetto’s I was “breaking down.”

I got in my car and drove out of the neighborhood. The cop sitting in the church parking lot across from my neighborhood must have been thrilled to finally see a potential revenue source, because he (she?) pulled out behind me.

My first concern was to check to see if I’d actually thrown on a bra before leaving the house.

I hadn’t.

And even though I’m pretty certain that going braless while driving isn’t illegal, there might be some people who think it is. So I chose not to push my luck.

To get the cop off my tail, I turned into the nearby hospital parking lot.

That’s when I had a flashback to a few months earlier when I was in severe pain related to degenerative disk disease. I hadn’t slept for about a week and was miserable. I ended up making not one, but two, early morning visits to the Emergency Room. On one visit, to help ease the situation, the doctors gave me a shot of Valium and sent home a few more capsules to help me sleep until my condition improved.

Here’s what I learned about taking Valium:

  • I don’t stay up all night being preoccupied, worried and pissed off;
  • I don’t get preoccupied, worried and pissed off at all;
  • I don’t care if people understand where I’m coming from;
  • I can sleep;
  • I like it.

As I pulled into that hospital parking lot, the glowing emergency room sign seemed like a welcoming beacon calling me home to an simple solution.  And, for just a moment, I considered going in with the same set of complaints I’d had a few months earlier. The thought of not living with my head in a constant state of turmoil was overwhelmingly compelling.

But I didn’t. Instead, I parked in a dark, out of the way spot; I cried; I freaked out a couple of nurses who were sneaking off for an illegal smoke break; and then I headed home with the same set of problems and issues bouncing around in my head.

I honestly don’t know what stopped me from seeking drugs Wednesday night.  Not wearing a bra might have had a little bit to do with my choice, but not a lot.

Maybe I’ve had enough experiences in my life to know this too shall pass.

Maybe I know that the consequences wouldn’t justify the immediate relief.

Maybe I am fortunate to have a support system that, while not available at 3:00 in the morning, is still there for me.

Maybe my childhood continues to impact my life well into my fifties.

Maybe I just don’t have the predisposition for drug seeking behavior.

Whatever the reason, here’s what I do know: the gap between maybe and don’t is precariously slim. Literally anyone call fall through it in certain circumstances.

I should know. I almost did.

I am one of those people.

The Sin Next To Power

 

There’s an old saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The saying may be old, but it’s more relevant than ever. From the world stage to the community stage, too many people use the slightest bit of authority to benefit themselves. Sometimes they do so with no thought to the damage they do to others, sometimes they tell lies to hide their true intentions, and sometimes they just don’t care.

But those left in their wake do care.

I should know.

In the last few months, weeks, and even days, the fallout from multiple instances of abuse of power has seeped into both my personal and professional life.

But, like so much in life, I’ve had to make a choice. I can either ignore the problems or I can can learn from them.

I’ve chosen to learn, and here’s what I’ve figured out:  people only abuse their power because other people let them.

Sometimes, people allow the abuse of power because they think they too will benefit. They realize what is happening is wrong, but the potential  gains outweigh the immorality of the situation. So they say and do nothing.

Sometimes people are afraid to call out the wrong doing. They fear they’ll be hurt, someone they care about will be hurt, or that an institution or organization in which they are invested will be hurt.  So they say and do nothing.

Sometimes people believe more in institutions than they do people, and they will do all they can to protect those institutions. So they say and do nothing.

Sometimes people are in such awe of power that they truly believe that the abuse of power is justified. Or they believe that those who are abusing the power somehow earned and deserve to be where they are and to do what they do. Or they were taught not to question authority.  So they say and do nothing.

These may be excuses, but they should never be excusable.

In the end, people who abuse their power only do harm: to people; to communities; to organizations; to institutions; and even to countries.

And while their behavior is reprehensible, looking the other way when abuse occurs is what allows it to continue.

It’s the sin that sits next to power.

The Survivor

Yesterday, I discovered that the old tree I’d admired during so many bike rides is now a broken remnant of it’s former majesty.

The sight of it literally made me cry.

I’d always considered the tree a living definition of the term survivor. It had, after all, obviously withstood so many of life’s storms, including a lightening strike. Because of all its scars,  the tree was much more magnificent than the younger trees nearby.

Yesterday, seeing what remained of it, I no longer thought so. Even more bothersome was that some time had obviously passed since it had fallen, and I hadn’t even realized it.

Granted, I changed my regular bike route a while ago so I haven’t recently ridden by the tree, but I didn’t think it had been THAT long.

Apparently it had been.

Like so much recently, the overgrown stump was a reminder of how quickly time passes. And with the passage of time comes loss: the loss of friends and family, the loss of youth, and even the loss of the roles and responsibilities that we think define us.

But as I looked at the stump through the tears, I realized something else. The remnants of the tree were still making their mark on both the landscape and on me.

And that’s really all we can ask of anything.

Moments and people can’t stay in our lives forever. Instead, we have to make the most of what they give us and then use that to shape the remaining time and relationships we have.

In the past, I’d always thought the tree was there to teach me the  lesson that being a survivor is about staying strong during tough times.

Yesterday, its remains taught me a new lesson: survival isn’t just about standing strong. Sometimes it involves letting go of what we think defines us so we can reach out to find new ways to make our mark on the world.

And it taught me I can do all of that while still embracing the memories.

When Christians Go Bad

Last week I questioned the educational background of Eric Porterfield, the  Trump-loving, MAGA hat-wearing, WV State Delegate who made national headlines for railing against the LGBTQ community. The information I found through my “sleuthing” (aka Googling) wasn’t impressive. In fact, I was left wondering whether Porterfield actually had a legitimate post high school education.

This week, he revealed a bit more about his educational background.

In  a Charleston Gazette Mail by Jake Zuckerman, (How Porterfield Went Blind in a Bar Fight,) Porterfield said he earned his divinity degree at Hyles-Anderson College in Indiana. Since the article was about how Porterfield was blinded in a bar fight after leaving a strip club, I doubt most people paid much attention to that nugget of information.

But I did, and it inspired me to do some more sleuthing. (In other words, I did some more Googling. Writing is my hobby, not my profession, so please don’t judge me.)

At first glance, Hyles-Anderson College may seem more legitimate than taking a correspondence course from Belle Meadow Baptist College. However, on further research, it raised numerous red flags.

Hyles-Anderson College is operated by the First Baptist Church of Hammonds, Indiana, which has a sketchy history of sex abuse (Let Us Prey ) and misogyny (Video of Anti Women Sermon) as well as accusations of investment schemes (Lawsuit against First Baptist Church).

Interestingly, despite all this, now Vice President and Former Indiana Governor Mike Pence has visited there on more than one occasion. (Mike Pence visits First Baptist Church in Hammond)

I spent some time looking into the non-accredited Hyles-Anderson College, and I wasn’t impressed. But my opinion about the school isn’t as relevant as my concern about how such schools and their affiliated churches are creating a version of Christianity that people like Eric Porterfield embrace and want to force onto others.

It’s a type of Christianity I don’t recognize.

I was taught that Jesus wanted us to love each other not to condemn people who think or live differently than we do. He wanted us to help the weak not to prey on them. He wanted us appreciate the importance of people rather than money and material possessions. He wanted us to welcome the stranger instead of build walls, care for the sick rather than decide who is worthy of care, and to turn the other cheek rather than instigate fights.

When Christians go bad, they don’t work to create Christ’s vision of a community of acceptance and peace.

Thankfully, many Christians still do.

I reflected about this Saturday night when a friend invited me to go to the Spanish Mass at a local Catholic Church, I’m not Catholic and my Spanish is limited, but I was literally welcomed there with open arms. My white skin and poor language skills went unnoticed, or at least unmentioned. Instead of feeling like I didn’t belong, I felt like people cared that I was there.

And that’s exactly how everyone should feel both in church and in America.

Schooled

I’ve spent a lot time thinking about education lately.

Maybe that’s because my daughter, a senior in high school, hasn’t yet committed to a college, and her dad and I are getting anxious about her first choice. (It will require some financial gymnastics.)

Or maybe it’s because that same daughter missed school last week when West Virginia teachers went on strike for the second time in just over a year.

Or maybe it’s because the antics that led to the teacher’s strike made me want to dig into the educational background of the state legislators who think they know more about education than teachers do. Thankfully, the omnibus education bill that would have used limited public dollars to pay for private education and charter schools was killed, and the strike ended. But my curiosity about the legislators who supported the bill was piqued.

And when I looked up who voted to continue moving forward with the bill, a familiar name popped up.

Eric Porterfield.

I wasn’t surprised. He’s the guy who made national news earlier this month for railing against the LGBTQ community. What did surprise me was the difficulty I had getting information about his educational background.

I started by looking at his bio on the WV State legislature’s website.

There wasn’t anything there.

Faced with that roadblock, I did what any concerned voter would do: I used Google. That took some time as I had to wade through all of the news stories about his controversial comments. I finally found information on a website called “Vote Smart.” According to it, Porterfield received a DDiv from Belle Meadow Bible College in 2009.

Since I’d never heard of the college, I looked it up.

There’s a reason I’d never heard of it.

From what I could tell from the website, it’s actually a correspondence course offered by an Independent Baptist Church in Bristol Virginia.

(http://www.bellemeadows.org/home.html)

When I showed this to a friend, she encouraged me to spend the $75.00 for the course.

I passed on her suggestion.

I didn’t, however, pass on continuing to dig for more information.

I didn’t find much.

In a self-completed candidate profile that ran in the May 5, 2018, edition of the Beckley Register Herald, Porterfield reported that he had “a BA in Religion and Arts, a Masters in Pastoral Theology, a Masters of Divinity.” https://www.register-herald.com/news/candidate-profile-eric-porterfield-house-district/article_a133ba54-51d1-11e8-a22c-5fb381dcf5e7.html.

There was no information about where he received these degrees. The only other reference to his educational background is in a September 28, 2012 article in the Princeton Times in which he says he went to a Bible College at age 20: https://www.ptonline.net/news/local_news/porterfields-bring-blind-faith-to-south-sudan/article_fa0ea72a-6f9d-5634-ad5e-fcd5a74464b1.html.

That’s it. That’s all I could find.

Which bothers me. It bothers me a lot.

As citizens, we are giving legislators the ability and responsibility of making decisions about education, and therefore the future of our children. We have the right to know if they are educated enough to do so.

When Silence Is NOT Golden

For months, I’ve had an ongoing debate with myself that goes something like this:

Me: I need to tell everyone exactly what I think about President Trump and the antics of the WV State Legislature because their rhetoric and decisions are pandering to hate, greed and hypocrisy.

Also Me: There’s no reason to write about my opinions. I’m not going to change anyone’s mind. It’s just a waste of time.

For a while now, “Also Me” has been winning.

Then two things happened. First, I was privy to a debate regarding whether or not an organization should issue a public statement about the egregious comments made by a state legislator. The second was a brief conversation with my neighbor.

The issue concerning remarks made by state legislator Eric Porterfield began a couple of weeks ago during a debate in a legislative committee about a bill to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Not only did Porterfield make scathing comments about the LGBTQ community, but he subsequently defended those comments to the point of likening the LGBTQ community to the KKK. Much to the embarrassment of many West Virginians, the story went national, and individuals and groups from both sides of the political aisle condemned Porterfield’s comments.

The organization with which I am affiliated also decided to publicly condemn his comments. The statements didn’t go without some internal debate. A few individuals believed that Porterfield shouldn’t be given any additional attention for his hate-filled rhetoric. To me, the public condemnation was important. While I didn’t like keeping Porterfield in the spotlight, I was more opposed to keeping silent about any form of hate speech, particularly against a community that has fought so hard for equal treatment.

And only a day after that realization, a neighbor stopped me to casually ask why I wasn’t writing my blog anymore. I hemmed and hawed about being too busy, but I didn’t say “because I started to feel like what I have to say doesn’t matter.”

I’m glad I didn’t, because her response was, “I miss it. It’s good to know that other people think like I do.”

And I realized she was right.

So, even though I’m probably never going to change anyone’s mind about what matters, I can lend support to all like-minded souls about the current state of affairs in our country.

So this is for them:

  • I don’t believe that Americans are superior to people from other countries, regardless of their country of origin, the color of their skin, the language they speak, their profession, or the amount of money the do or don’t have.
  • I think building a wall is in opposition to everything America is supposed to be about.
  • I don’t believe that people who have money work harder than people who don’t have money. In fact, I believe that wealth is usually (not always but usually) more a matter of good luck than an indicator of perseverance, intelligence, or stellar character.
  • I believe that most privileged people don’t realize how privileged they are. (I’ll never forget last year having a friend show me a Facebook post by a middle-aged white guy. He was questioning the credibility of Congressman Joe Kennedy because he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” The guy ridiculing Kennedy actually inherited his own family business. For most Americans, that is exactly what a silver spoon looks like.)
  • I believe in public education. Period. I don’t think tax dollars should be used to pay for schools that include a curriculum based on religion or that teach a particular religious philosophy.
  • I believe good teachers are our greatest hope for the future, and they should be treated with the same respect and pay as other professions.
  • I believe in science. Period.
  • I believe that allowing industries to buy off politicians is damaging our country, And I believe that only people, not businesses or industries, should have opinions.
  • I believe too many people use religion as an excuse to hate and to feel superior to others.
  • I believe that a person’s sexual orientation isn’t anyone’s else’s business. You should be allowed to love who you love.
  • And to the Eric Porterfields of this world? I believe you are purposefully ignorant and use religion to hide all of your insecurities. Your missionary work is an excuse to share your hate with others. If you really understood Christianity and what Christ taught, you would be too busy caring for the marginalized to be concerned about whom they sleep with. And in doing so, you’d probably learn that they actually have a lot to teach you. So know this, my internal debate about sharing my opinions may have just ended, but my battle for the greater good is just getting started.

Truth Sayers

I actually started crying during a work-related meeting last week.

Thankfully, I was with a group of women who understood my melt down.

An employee with a local domestic violence program was sharing how her agency has been dealing with the local fall out from accusations against now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

They’ve experienced a significant increase in the number of calls from women who needed to talk about incidences they’d kept quiet for decades]. Their efforts to convince Senator Joe Manchin to consider how his confirmation vote would impact rape and domestic violence survivors had been frustrating. And then there was her story about the teenage girl who had called insisting that she had to meet with a counselor immediately.

The girl said she had been sexually assaulted by a boy at her high school, but her parents wouldn’t believe her. At least she was convinced they wouldn’t believe her.

They had, after all, spent the past few days calling Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, a liar. And they had insinuated that a teenage girl should have known better to go to a party where there was drinking.

The girl pleaded for a counselor to listen to her story then speak to her parents. She believed they were more likely to listen to a professional than they were to her own daughter.

Listening to that story is what made me cry.

Only days earlier, a childhood friend had shared via social media her story of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

And I hadn’t known.

I had spent countless nights at her house and gone on trips with her family. I had coveted her canopy bed, her horses, her boat and her ability to fit in with the popular kids.

And the whole time I’d been comparing her seemingly cool life to mine, she had found safety and reprieve in my childhood home.

Only decades later would I discover the vast chasm between the reality of her life and the one she presented to the rest of the world.

Which is actually true for most people.

We can never know the full truth about someone else’s life but only what they choose share.

But we should all feel safe sharing our own truth without being shamed or blamed or dismissed when our reality doesn’t match what other people want to hear.

So here’s to the truth sayers, the people who believe them and the people who won’t tolerate those who want to silence them.

You are my tribe.

Millions of Angry Women

Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images

I’ve always had an issue with anger.

When I was a little girl, my parents would apologize to other adults by noting that “Trina has a temper. We are doing our best to teach her to control it.”

And so they did.

Sort of.

Because there are times when, no matter how I try, there’s a fire that bubbles up in my chest, rises into my throat and then unleashes itself in a fierce flame of words with the sole purpose of scorching those who aren’t in my alliance.

Now is one of those times. Only instead of the words coming out of my mouth, they are screaming out through my fingers on a keyboard.

I am so very, very angry about what happened in our Nation’s Capital on Thursday.

Like many women, I’m angry that, once again, privileged white men have more power than most people can even imagine.

Not only that, but they are ignoring and dismissing the perspective and emotions that I and thousands of other women like me are processing as a result of what we’ve endured at the hands of men just like them.

But, after witnessing Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony and outrage, the anger bubbling up in my chest can no longer be contained.

I’m not simply bothered by the accusations of Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school.

I am also outraged  that Kavanaugh’s words and demeanor demonstrate that he believes he’s entitled to be on the Supreme Court. A man representing a party that rails against entitlements believes he’s entitled. And he thinks the accusations against him are a personal tragedy.

He has no concept what real tragedy is.

And that’s why he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justices rarely make decisions that impact people who attended private schools and Yale University or who grew up in big houses in the suburbs. Instead, they make decisions that impact people whose only  true entitlement has been a public education in schools with limited resources.

The power of the Supreme Court lies in it its impact on people with no power:  poor people,  minorities. the poorly educated, immigrants, criminals, and women.

But not this angry woman.

This angry woman is willing to demonstrate what true power looks like.

But I can only do that if other angry women join forces with me.

Tuesday, November 6, is a perfect opportunity to do just that.