Mourning Whispers

This is a strange time for all of us. Its been a long time since humanity faced something together head-on. I am not going to lie. When I initially heard about the coronavirus I was not really worried. I thought it was an isolated thing. But within a few short weeks, I went from not being worried– to very worried—and very anxious.

Echoes of the past are slowly seeping into our daily lives. The past always has a way of repeating itself. It may be a different century, a different pandemic… but it’s all eerily similar.

Wearing masks, being quarantined, staying at home, hospitals overflowing…it goes on and on.

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COVID-19 may not be the same as the Spanish Flu, but its effects on society and the way our lives are now are reminiscent of the time when “Don’t Spit” was a main slogan.

And the deaths.

Not just the deaths of the victims if COVID-19, but the death of what we knew as life. Everything has changed so rapidly. We had to leave our jobs, we had to worried about loved ones. We also worry about the healthcare workers and first responders-dealing every day with a virus that has no vaccine and no signs of stopping.

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If you are feeling depressed or anxious during this time, your feelings are 100% warranted. You have the right to feel sadness and grief. We are living in a time that many never thought we would see in our lifetime. Some of us already deal with depression on a daily basis (chemical depression), but most people have never been exposed to feelings of societal depression. We mourn our lives before COVID-19. We mourn our loss of freedom in the outside world. Confined to our homes, worried about how we are going to make it by; uncertain of if or when this virus will stop. We are standing on the precipice of the unknown. For once, despite everything, we are no longer in control- and that is scary. 

If there is one thing that I learned from studying the 1918 flu pandemic, its that this to shall pass. The Spanish Flu exited the world quietly when there were no more victims for it to wrap its darkness around. Will the same happen with COVID-19?

The one main thing that separates the 1918 pandemic to this one is the fact that we have better science. In 1918 they had no idea what was causing the illness and even after the virus had vanished into history, it took years for scientists to figure out that it was a virus. They had no sophisticated testing, no high strength microscopes. We are fortunate to live during a time where we can get answers, get tested and know what it is – and how to prevent it. Luxury the 50 million victims of the 1918 flu never had.

We as human beings are now connected to one another. And we as human beings will move on from this- and get our lives back. When? Who knows. But when they say we are in it together- we truly are. We may be mourning the death of our society as we knew it before, but, very much like the survivors of the 1918 pandemic– we will pick up the broken pieces and move on. And hopefully, we will be a little bit kinder, a little more grateful.

 

 

All The Damn Lies

:::: Before you read the following post, please note that I do believe that murderers belong behind bars. I feel that anyone who can take the life of another person falls in the category of the vilest type of human being. I had a close friend of mine murdered and watched the heartbreak and pain of another friend deal with the murder and loss of her niece. I am well aware of the ripple effect that a murder has on family and friends of the victim. And I do believe that anyone who is capable of taking a life should be locked away from society. This is not about freedom or sympathy for murderers. It’s about understanding humanity as a whole and our willingness to get revenge–even when innocence and mental health are obvious. ::::

I recently finished watching “Confessions of a Killer” on Netflix. I knew nothing about Henry Lee Lucas. Which was nice. I was able to watch the documentary roll out as if I was a juror in a trial- remaining unbiased while taking in all the evidence.

Initially, when hearing that Lucas had murdered his own mother and supposed girlfriend- I thought to myself that that was clear cut. After all, he confessed. But then when I started seeing the video clips, it became obvious that things were not what they seemed.

Lucas was not only mentally ill but, he was being manipulated by the authorities to confess to not one murder but somewhere near 600. The hardest bit, for me at least, was the fact that he was put on death row for a crime that he didn’t commit. And there were those who were more than happy to cheer on the fact that an innocent man was going to be killed for killing.

Why are humans so eager to watch people be executed? I think that’s for another post.

This post is about how quickly we are to assume one side of a story. I am not saying that this is true of all cases. It’s not.

Was Lucas guilty? Of course. He killed his mother.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative–  for every 9 nine people executed, 1 is innocent. I am not going to get into the death penalty debate in this post, but you can assume from this that I am strongly against capital punishment.

No. This post is about how mentally ill prisoners are treated by authorities and the justice system. About how easily we are capable of only looking at criminals through a pinhole rather than looking at the whole picture. A person is either innocent or guilty-no one wants to see the gray bits that wade in the middle. Five to ten percent of prisoners on death row have a severe mental illness. I have already discussed the wrongfulness of placing prisoners with mental illness in a prison in my post on Ed Gein.

How is it ok to place a criminal with severe mental illness on death row?

My guess is that we live in a society that already places a stigma on those who have a mental illness. 

It’s easy to dismiss any discussion or talk on mental illness (and yes this does count even those with major depression and anxiety) and psychiatric care. I am often curious about whether the execution of a mentally ill inmate is more about getting rid of society’s “burden” than it is about the crime itself.

People here “he murdered…” and quickly brush off a defense of insanity. Yes, there are a lot of criminals who try to use that defense. But honestly, someone with a diagnosed mental illness like schizophrenia really is pleading insanity.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. No one chooses to be mentally ill. And no mentally ill inmate should be placed in prison, let alone placed on death row.

Its time society starts to look at the gray in between guilt and innocence.

You Are Worthy

As 2019 exits its way to a new year, I always reflect on what I learned over the past 365 days. The biggest less I learned was to value my self worth– and to not be afraid to walk away from situations (and people) who don’t.

Oddly enough, when it comes to my dance career, I always knew my worth. And it’s why over the past 15 years I have been able to essentially have my own successful business as a Belly Dancer. For the most part, I have the entrepreneurial stuff down pretty well. When a gig request comes in, I know what my value is. Its years of dance classes, rehearsals, performances. Its years of directing and producing and choreographing. When I give a quote, 90% of it is my value. I do not negotiate my rates. I do not do performances for “exposure.” I am a  professional performer. I am an artist. And while people do not always understand artists — we do expect to get paid for our worth and work.

When it came to my everyday life, I had such a hard time excepting my worth. I found myself falling into the habit of being putting myself down. I have always been hard on myself. I was raised to be a perfectionist. But I never learned to value my worth. 2019 changed that. Almost 20 years working in the same field, I knew my education and experience were worth a lot more than what was being offered. It took the entire year for me to finally find the right place and the right people who saw my value.

I also learned that there are people who will not recognize your worth.  I am not talking about monetary worth. I am talking about people who do not recognize you and your creative abilities, your intellect, your personality, your humor and so much more. I learned that those people are not worth wasting your time on. They do not value you. I’ve taught myself that it’s better to not allow those people to take space in your head. Knowing who you are and what you deserve — what your worth is–its important. And I am grateful that this was the lesson I learned in 2019.

Now…..what does 2020 have to teach me?

The Unattainable

We all have something: a person place or thing that lies just out of our reach. So close that you can touch it with your fingertips and yet it’s so far away. And it not that you couldn’t have it- but just that you can’t. You can’t because after all the wishing, work and desire- it is just not meant to be yours. You relish in your mind, the moment that you have it. Even for a little while. You relish the way it makes you feel. The way you imagine yourself in that place where you always wanted to go. Mending a relationship that was shattered. Holding something/someone in your arms that you can almost feel and smell. Hearing words you wanted to hear. All the magic in the world couldn’t change the fact that what you want you may never get. The proverbial “follow your dreams,” just doesn’t happen. It may to some, but not everyone. We all have an unattainable. And there needs to a moment where you take a breath and accept that the journey has gone as far as it can, and its time to let go.

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Xanax and Caffeine

I am really good at introverting. I think I have surpassed the skills required to be an introvert. Wait? How could I be an introvert? After all, I am a performer. I am a professional dancer. I have performed for audiences between 10 and 500. I am also very outspoken. I say how I feel and fight for what is right. So maybe I am extroverted???

Whether introverted or extroverted, I know one thing for certain: I have an anxiety disorder.

I wake up with it. I go to bed with it. I perform with it. I work with it. It’s always there. Anxiety is a part of me. I am not defined by it. However, I do not believe I would be me if I didn’t have it.

Yes. There are days when my anxiety is so bad, its almost impossible to even walk out the door of my house to go to work. There are days when grocery shopping makes my heart race. There are days when I hate driving because my brain keeps telling me something dangerous is going to happen. Do I BELIEVE that something is actually going to happen? No. But anxiety thinks I should believe it. And that is what helps me live my life with anxiety.

Anxiety makes me want to believe that at any moment, the floor is going to fall out. I experienced this daily. But I do not let it control me. When it tells me something it wants me to believe, I have to mentally challenge myself to realize it’s a lie.

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Do I require benzodiazepines? At one time, I thought I did. I was hooked on Ativan. It was my lifeline. I became dependent on it because my anxiety wanted me to believe that if I didn’t take them- then something was going to happen. It took me years (and therapy) to learn how to control my thoughts and feelings. How to talk myself down from panic attacks. Not that I do not have one here or there. I do. And I do have Ativan to help me. However, I only take it when I really need it. When I can’t control my thoughts. And that’s ok.

There are still days when I have to cancel plans last minute or think it’s just to peoplely out there. I know those days will always come. But I have worked hard to recognize when I am able to talk myself down from a panic attack. I have recognized when my anxiety is trying to make me feel scared- and I have learned how to quiet the noise.

Whether I am introverted or extroverted who knows! What I do know is that learning how to live with anxiety so it doesn’t control my life is what is really important.

Dear Ladies…

Dance has always been a constant in my life. I have been dancing since I was 4 years old. And I have never stopped.

Belly Dance is where I found my happy place. I have been Belly Dancing since 2003. In the past 16 years, I have lost weight, gained weight and lost it again. I am older. I am not in my 20’s anymore. In fact, I am in my late 30’s.

I still love dance. My body may not look like it did in my 20’s, though I am still in pretty good shape. My hair color has changed. My age has increased—but guess what—I still love dance. Belly Dancing has taught me a lot of things. First and foremost, it taught me to love and appreciate my body. My body during belly dance, expresses my emotions, fears, and joys.

I have no desire to stop. Just because I do not fit into society’s image of an “ideal body” doesn’t mean I am going to stop doing what I love. As a professional belly dancer I know what society thinks I should be– but fuck that.  Its taken me years to love my body, regardless of where the hell I am on the scale. And I will be the first person to admit, that sometimes, I have moments of insecurities-then I remember– I am a badass. I dance with snakes and sharp pointy things!

You should never stop dreaming or doing what you love because you are fat, skinny, short or tall. You are you. Love you and love your body. Its where your soul lives. Express yourself through movement and art. You do not have to fit into a fucking societal box of judgment.

Its time we stop comparing ourselves to others and learn to love who we are. Why is it so easy to forget? We are all different for a reason. Anyone who judges you and your talent based on your body can fly into the no-fucks-given bucket.

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What IS Happiness?

I have struggled with this question for most of my adult life. What does it really mean to be happy? Is anyone truly happy? Or are we just content? Is happiness a permanent state of mind or is it something that happens in little spurts?

I am not unhappy but I am also not happy. I know that makes zero sense. I am happy right now with my life; however, I am always looking for that “something more.” Maybe it’s just my personality– but I find that things and places get old for me fast.

 I am always looking for the next big adventure, meeting new people, stardownloadting a new hobby and of course, being a life long learner. And all while I am chasing this idea of happiness- I am also craving stability and normalcy. I am seeking happiness in just being content with myself and my life. 

I often find myself jealous of people who seem content in their lives. Married, with a family in a little home and jobs they love. What is that like? But then I have to question– are they really happy?

What defines happiness?

Money? Love? A home? A job? Marriage? or is happiness something much more? Do we trick ourselves into believing that happiness are all the things we are supposed to have and want in life? Or is happiness just something we occasionally experience? Is true happiness deeper or spiritual? 

And is anyone really happy?