Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Sermon [Woundology]

Hola Everybody...
I hope you have had the opportunity to spend time with family – both the biological and chosen types…
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Transcending Wounds

We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin. 
 -- André Berthiaume

I am firmly convinced there is a conspiracy out to get me. This is true, don’t look at me that way, I ain’t crazy! I know, for example, that there is a covert association of elderly women out there somewhere whose solitary mission is to send its members to block my way on the streets and on subway platforms. And don’t get me started on that group of train conductors whose mission statement is to get me stuck in between subway stations and close subway doors right in my face.

Then there’s that damned OAA (Overly-Analytical Association) women’s group, hell-bent on sending me women who “think” through even mundane stuff (like sex, for example) to the point where it is isn’t even fun anymore! And don’t get me started on the “Evil Parents” consortium that determined to have me born into a poor household headed by traumatized parents themselves barely out of their teens.

It’s a conspiracy! It’s true, I tell ya!

I’m exaggerating, of course, but for a long time I took things very personal, as if life had somehow conspired to fuck me without the dignity of a kiss. While I knew that old ladies weren’t organizing against me (as if I were that important), my reactions were just the same -- flagrant anger and bitterness that I dressed up in a cynically chic “that’s my life” outerwear. It’s considered chic and cool to wear our wounds nonchalantly -- you hear people constantly say stupid shit like, “Life sucks… ” as if it were all predetermined.

There’s a fairly erotic scene in one of the Lethal Weapon films in which Mel Gibson’s and Rene Russo’s characters compare scars as a prelude to sex. “I have this scar,” says Mel, and Rene counters with, “Ha! That’s nothing, look at this one!” They go on like this until both have managed to take off all their clothes in their mad dash to outdo one another.

It’s funny a funny scene, but like with a lot of fiction there’s a fair amount of truth to it. As a society, we have developed what the medical intuitive, Carolyn Myss, calls a dysfunctional “language of intimacy.” An intimacy that is based, she goes on to say, on “Woundology.” Briefly, woundology is recognizing that we have come to an important insight, namely that we need to bring out into the open our secrets – wounds -- discussing them in a healthy manner. This is a very powerful and fairly recent development. What has happened, however, is that we have gotten stuck on our wounds -- a “woundology.” We have become addicted to our wounds. We have come to be defined by our wounds.

You see it all the time. You meet someone, and before you even get to know them, you’re privy to some pretty much intimate details of that person. This is what happens when we merely admit or acknowledge our shortcomings, or wounds. Everything becomes filtered through the perspective of an incest survivor, or a widow, or an addict, an abused child, etc. Please, don’t get me wrong here: it’s extremely important that we bring into the light that which resides in the shadows. And many, many people keep all this shit stuffed inside, in the process causing both physical and psychological dis-ease, but that is only part of the issue. There are other steps we have to take.

If only I had a better childhood… If only I didn't have my hardships… 

This over identification and obsession with our wounds is so powerful that we actually become attached to them. In fact, many people don’t really want to heal or change, they’re too enamored of their wounds to do that. I have a relative who’s always harping on her parents and how her parents are the cause for her inability to relate, to be a good parent herself, the rain, and the car that just cut her off… well you get the idea. When I challenge this belief system, she freaks, or she just stops listening. The end result is that she’s an essentially unhappy person who is infecting her own children with the same behavior pattern of learned unhappiness.

Take away the wound, we seem to be saying, and what do we become? I’m no longer just a recovering addict? I’m not just an incest survivor? OMG!!! 

Acceptance is the gateway toward forgiveness. I am not speaking here of passive acceptance to how things were or are. I am also not speaking here of forgiveness in the way we normally see it. Acceptance in this context is coming to the realization of things how they are (as opposed to how we want them to be). Forgiveness in this context is not forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves. When we cling to our wounds, we are actually punishing ourselves because we do not see ourselves as worthy or whole. When we accept the facts of our lives, we can then move towards maturity and the development of true happiness. We all deal with hardships; you are not that unique, really. And life sometimes isn’t fair. As my mother used to say, “You want fairness, go to kindergarten.” She’s right, life isn’t about fairness, it’s about reality.

So, in a sense, it would be correct to say that we need to love those aspects of ourselves we like least in order to move beyond our wounds to the space where healing begins. Acceptance opens the door to forgiveness which opens the door to Love, which in turn leads toward integration, healing, and wholeness.

Many of us like to say we’ve moved past all this, but I still see the bitterness, unhappiness, and tendency toward blame. Can you raise your hand? I mean, I see that tendency within myself. I especially see it in the people who often say something like, “Yeah, people need to get over it... ” or some bullshit like that. It’s not about getting over it, it’s about integration, not negation.

Then again, maybe there is something to this conspiracy theory thingee... naw! LOL

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Take a Stroll...

Hola Everybody...
I happened to glance at one of the many videos showcasing the insanity of “Black Friday.” These spectacles bring to mind the mega-hit series, “The Hunger Games.” These films portray how the powerful and wealthy organize games in which people from poor districts are selected each year to kill each other in a violent media spectacle. It’s a grotesque display in which the lives of the poor are offered up as entertainment for the privileged. It’s difficult not to make the connection in how TV news and other media cover Black Friday. Just now, I’m watching a lightweight newscaster grinning smugly while showing a Walmart crowd fighting over who the fuck knows what.

Let’s be clear: coverage of Black Friday brawls is a big ratings draw, which makes it the perfect place for yet more commercials to promote Black Friday sales. And then, once the working poor falls for them, a privileged segment of the population sits back and dehumanizes them for its collective amusement. Look at these hilarious poor people, struggling to take advantage of a deal on something they might not otherwise be able to afford on items that we take for granted, we joke on Facebook and Twitter. But capitalism and the insanity of consumerism infect all of us -- our participation is a matter of degree.

Today is Saturday, a day for art and poetry…
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Nows [XVI]
Note: A dear friend of the family -- a sister, I can say -- sent me a sheaf of papers of some writings I had left with her over 20 years ago. I used to carry legal pads with me back then and write poems and stories in longhand. In this pile of papers were some poems, snatches of an essay on the short story form, and fragments of an uncompleted short story. The following was one of the poems I found in the group.

Take a stroll outside of yourself tonight
and gaze over your shoulder.

You will see yourself
taller than yesterday,
smiling more,
and quieter
than in those early years.

Watch your hands
as they touch me

It all happened behind your back.

A smug comfort settled in
that says you need me less
but want me more.

Take a giant step back
and see yourself
as others do,
for you must someday
learn the delicate art
of viewing your reflection
in all those eyes
your beauty has moistened.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Friday Sex Blog (The Caress)

Hola mi Gente,
I miss bloggin’ on a regular, but for some time now, I’ve lost the passion for it. What I can say? Maybe I'll dust off the once regular postings on human sexuality. LOL Here’s hoping you will be able to “un-bloat” from yesterday’s indulgences…

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The Caress
The following was inspired by a real person...

She felt like everything good and wholesome. Like the first warm breeze of spring and the refreshing taste of lemonade on a summer’s eve, the crisp autumn air promising change and the first snowball fight when you’re a kid. Her body was soft and full of promise and her grip strong and her heart beat rapidly against my chest. I could smell her shampoo as I breathed in her essence -- felt her downy hair... 

My name is Eddie and I'm in recovery from civilization

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Redemption Song

Hola mi Gente,
I usually post this around this time of year… it’s a Thanksgiving tradition of sorts on this blog. Sometimes, when I think this too self-indulgent, or passé (I am a walking cliché, it seems), someone will send me a message usually beginning like so: “I read your blog and I never comment… ” (LOL!) And it never fails, someone will tell me that reading the following helped them, or they shared it with someone they thought it could help. So… here goes.

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Redemption Song
My life is my message

The cliché that life is stranger than fiction is true enough. And believe me: my life has been pretty much “strange.” Thanksgiving Day has its own personal meaning for me, as I am certain it does for everyone. Actually, Thanksgiving Day has layers of meaning.

First, there is the glossing over the very real consequences of colonialism, the mythical version of Thanksgiving creates a fairy tale out of land theft, betrayal, brutality, and genocide, functioning to erase the very real and traumatic experiences of entire indigenous nations. This whitewashing and outright erasure of indigenous history is not only inhumane and oppressive to indigenous people, it is also unfair to all U.S. citizens who stand to learn from a rich and equally tragic history.

On another level, people of Puerto Rican descent have traditionally taken US holidays and used them as opportunities to express our own cultural identity. For example, Puerto Ricans will eschew the traditional holiday fare of turkey and potatoes and substitute lechon and pasteles, Puerto Rican culinary staples. If we do cook turkey, we cook it pavo-chon-style -- a turkey prepared in a manner that makes it taste like lechon (pork suckling). Also, the holidays are always a chance to celebrate our music, our unique forms of dancing, and kinship ties. Therefore, Puerto Ricans subvert the mythical (actually genocidal) Thanksgiving and give it their own meaning. And as humans, that’s what we do best, we create meaning.

Thanksgiving Day is also now primarily identified as a secular all-inclusive day of expressing appreciation for life and having gratitude for the things we need to live a happy and healthy life. As a Latino, the cultural values of extended family ties and Thanksgiving evoke childhood memories of large (and often hilariously insane) family get-togethers.

However, for me Thanksgiving holds its most significant meaning on a very personal level. You see, it was on this day twenty-five years ago that I experienced the first of a series of “spiritual awakenings” that would drastically change my life. The exact date is November 26, 1990 and it often happens to fall on or near Thanksgiving Day. A couple of weeks before that fateful day, on a cold, drizzly November day, I was so overcome with despair that I considered and attempted suicide. It is actually a little funny: As I climbed over the rail on the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walk (it’s not easy to jump off that damned bridge!), I was so skinny from malnutrition and years of substance abuse that a strong Nor’easter wind knocked me back to the pedestrian walkway on my ass. I saw this as the ultimate failure which gives you an idea of my state of mind at the time.

I walked away from that only to opt for a more torturous suicide: the daily act of chasing that White Lady, Heroin. Ensnared by my warped thinking, I had this fear that I would botch up my own suicide and merely succeed in paralyzing myself, condemning myself to chase drugs from the disadvantage of a wheelchair. In fact, I remember another addict who was in a wheelchair. I decided I would make someone else put myself out of my misery.

And though I speak lightly today of that time, I was so miserable. I do not believe in a God in the traditional Christian/ Judeo sense -- an anthropomorphic omnipotent super being. Yet back then I would pray each night that some Higher Power would find it in its mercy to take my life me my sleep. Still, every day I awoke to my pain and despair. I would always wake up sick and broke, but somehow manage to spend $300 by the end of the day, feeding a merciless heroin habit.

If you are wondering, I fed my drug habit by ripping off drug-dealers, never a safe proposition. One day a victim of one of my swindles threatened me with a gun. I grabbed the gun by the barrel, put it to my forehead, and begged him to shoot. All I asked was that he made sure to kill me because, “You would be doing me a favor.” This occurred in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded New York City street. I remember a crowd forming and people screaming; but what I remember most was thinking that this was my way out. “Do it,” I yelled. He pulled the trigger and…

Nothing happened.

I don’t know if the gun jammed or if it wasn’t loaded, whatever the reason, the gun failed to discharge. My would-be “assistant suicider” freaked out, yanked the gun from my hands, and walked away. I called after him, letting him know he could get another chance. That’s how much I wanted to die. And, I thought, I could do nothing right.

That wasn’t the worst of it, my life continued to bottom out until November 26th, 1990 when I experienced an incident so traumatic it would change me and my world in an inexplicable way. Actually, most people would consider the events that transpired on that cold, dreary November day as a defeat. Very simply, after being released from New York City’s infamous jail, Rikers Island, for exactly fourteen days, I was re-arrested. It was also that last day of my active addiction -- the last day I took a drug.

I didn’t know it then but it was the beginning of a new life: a life that today is far from perfect, that has suffering, illness, death, and many challenges, but also contains an invincible of joy at its core. This is part of the reason I do the work that I do. I know even the worst of us have the potential to liberate ourselves from socially constructed or self-made prisons. And let me be clear: we’re all “doing time” in some way, we all wear shackles. To a degree, we all enact patterns of behavior or carry the proverbial baggage.

No, I am not a religious person. My personal view is that religion is for people who are afraid of hell and spirituality is for those who have already been there. I simply try to be the best person I can be on a daily basis and oftentimes I fall short of the mark. However, my intentions are usually good and my direction somewhat orderly. I try to live a life centered on compassion for others, personal growth, self-actualization, and passion for social change.

On that day, twenty-three five ago, I had no way of knowing of the possibility of life as it has manifested itself for me today. I am for the most part happy today. It’s a happiness independent of any person, place, or thing. On the surface I can be sad, happy, angry, disappointed, disgusted -- I can be experiencing any number of attachments -- but at the center, at the very core of me, there is an invincible joy greater than any drug-induced high I have ever experienced. And believe me, coming from me, that’s saying a lot.

On that day, sitting there in the midst of total failure and utter humiliation, I came undone. And that was a good thing, because in experiencing complete obliteration I became open to something more than my small self. In emptying myself, I came to see that what I perceived as the void was in reality my innate potential as a human being.

I am genuinely grateful. This past year, as with all years, has been a challenging. I have experienced sadness, frustration, happiness, love, rejection (the full catastrophe!). I could easily surmise, if I were so disposed, that my life, that life itself, sucks. But that’s a coward’s lie. Life is a gift -- probably the most precious of gifts. My life today is like a redemption song -- a song of freedom. And at the very least there is nothing worse (or better) than that fateful day twenty-five years ago. Today I woke up and I am… here… and for that I am most grateful.

May you all have as much to be thankful for.

My name is Eddie and I am in recovery from civilization…


[un]Common Sense