Sharp Knives

I have let a lot of things and a lot of people disturb my bliss. Parents to classmates to teachers to – I’m ashamed to admit it – fellow parishioners, boyfriends, lady friends, girlfriends, and siblings. Hell, even a few times some random people at the grocery store. But I am thankful to be able to say that the last decade has actually taught me some lessons that I’ve successfully absorbed.

One of them was beautifully and succinctly put by a good friend the other day. “Sometimes,” she said, “you have to guard your bliss with many sharp knives.”

I had been asking her advice in a situation in which I mostly knew the answer, but it was difficult to see entirely clearly. The conclusion was definitely, and absolutely to keep the person requesting re-entry into my life quite out of it.

Which I found particularly interesting considering the reconciliation that had happened less than a month ago. The circumstances were eerily similar. Two e-mails, two relationships that had ended around a year ago, two women that I had once valued as dear friends.

And two very different answers. The first damn near broke my eyelids as my eyes popped open, consumed the e-mail in record time, reread it in order to confirm it was really there, and then fired off an apology and an acceptance together before my lips had touched a single drip of coffee.

The other I sat with uncomfortably for days, trying to see past the plea in the e-mail that was tugging at me to remember the relationship that my gut was telling me might cause far more harm than good.

And it has led me to evaluate both current and former relationships in new ways. While we all have established patterns, so many of which need healing, there are relationships that go in circles, and relationships that move forward. Like tree growth, personal growth can also be measured in how far we reach down and how far we reach up. Relationships that go in circles are not introspective, nor straining for anything. They are cycles of repeated patterns that are destructive and increasingly draining.

Whereas relationships that grow… can change those habits. When a destructive pattern is recognized, it is changed. It is named. It is recognized. And ownership is taken for its consequences.

And if there is one thing my friendship group has been learning, it’s cutting people out who do not take ownership for their actions. Be it shitty parents, in-laws, neighbors, old friends, or partners. Because it is those people, trapped in their own cycles of destruction that will wreak havoc on your bliss. They will crash through it like a cat on adderal at 3am and then blame the dog. And they will do it over and over again.

Your bliss, by the way, is your peace of mind, your life’s stability and general calm. I like to think of my bliss as my dining room table at dinner. When we are all around it, sharing a meal, the voices of my favorite people, resting in each other, investing in each other, and recharging. People who wreck it are bringing divides into it, stealing your rest, silencing voices, or bringing so much of their own chaos that your bliss is lost in the background.

And we all deal with this at one time or another. We all put up with inconveniences to our bliss. Like that judgmental aunt at Thanksgiving, it happens. But that aunt isn’t in our daily life, because if she was we’d be murderers. And that’s bad.

But it isn’t always as easy to see as Aunt Mc-Why-Are-You-Still-Single? It can be friends who are in your life because you are an anchor while it feels like their life is spinning out of control. It can be an ex who wants to relive the drama. It can be your parents refusing to see you as an independent adult. It can be a controlling partner.

And even more confusing, sometimes we are all shitty to one another at times, or need an anchor in our lives, or have to be divisive in another person’s bliss when we see something hurting them that they refuse to acknowledge – nothing about human interactions is easy or clear cut.

And a lot of us did not have the protection from our parents or nuclear family that we should have growing up. And I think it is that realization more than anything that got me. I have to keep this place safe for them. This blissful time together, their world, my energy given to them, our home, in everything I can, I will give them peace. So that they know what peace is. So that as they get older they can protect their own peace, their own home, their own bliss. Whether their bliss is polyamory or monogamy, heterosexual or homosexual, single or partnered, kids or no, adopted or no, artist or accountant, vegan or keto – they can be themselves. Safely. Peacefully. Blissfully.

It is the only way to keep ourselves sane enough to be the activist humans the world needs. We have to have a safe place to go. And we have to protect it with the word “no”. No, you cannot talk to me that way. No, I will not be the person you text when you’re drunk. No, you cannot say that to my child. No. No. No.

Our words can be the sharpest knives we have, and the strongest binding we posses. Use them wisely.

Or, use them to promote baseless conspiracy theories on social media and delegitimize a democracy for the sake of your cult. Really, up to you.

Celebratory Carbs

It is not a secret that I have been a barely functioning human for most of this week. My kids have eaten A LOT of sandwiches and cut up carrots. And mac and cheese. Because my stress frazzled brain could do that. Tonight they are getting a legit dinner of pretty much whatever they want because holy prozac I am in a great mood. And I cannot emphasize ENOUGH just how much dessert we’re going to eat.

But for the first time this week, not because of stress and my body depleting its already highly limited seratonin like a Hummer’s gas tank in stop and go traffic, but out of sheer joy.

Yes, we have so much work to do. 70 million people voted for Trump and not all of them are blithering psychopaths. There is so much justice work to be done, so much policy work, so much community work. We have so many bridges to try and rebuild with the rest of the world, we have a reckoning in our schools when it comes to teaching science and reasoning skills. I cannot possibly list all that is left to be done, but for today – for today – I will celebrate.

I will celebrate Stacy Abrams. I will celebrate Kamala Harris. I will celebrate AOC and every other progressive who won their reelection campaigns. I will celebrate that there were more out there voting for love, for hope, and for justice than those who turned a blind eye to overt white supremacy, violent sexism, and a total lack of integrity that honestly still shocks me.

Celebrating is not only important, it is vital. Every win. Every inch forward. We don’t stop and the first time I hear someone say ‘post racial’ I will squirt them with lysol from afar – but we breathe for a hot second to replenish our spirits.

I sat tensed and tight and nauseated for 4 days. 230,000 American families lost more than their peace of mind. More than 500 children remain separated from their parents after being brutally (and unlawfully) ripped apart. I cannot even count the number of murdered black men and women and children because so much of it is swept under the rug. I was angry and disgusted for 4 years. But BIPOC have been pushing for equality for 400 years.

We are not even close to done. I will leave a better world for my children, and for their children (should they choose to have any because we’d BEST have better birth control options by then). And let’s be honest, we will be led to a better, more just, more beautiful future by listening to, supporting, and following black women.

So here’s to you, Stacy Abrams, Vice President Elect Kamala Harris, and the Squad – and so many others – tonight I raise my fork full of cake to you. You have brought us here. And I pledge to support you, and teach my children to support those who come after you, as we make the work a better place.

P.S. I also feel the need to say that while I am a self professed grandmother in that I am usually in bed before 9, and tonight will not be an exception, I will be glued to my phone to hear President Elect Biden speak. Because for the first time in 4 years I not only care what the President Elect has to say – I trust that he will speak the truth.