No.

Three days. It feels like a countdown to doom. Just a couple short moments until the world as we know it pauses. I know that good things come from dire places, but doesn’t it feel a little *too* dire?

I’m trying. I’m trying to be the optimist here, to be the person whose logic and reasoning skills are intact. I’m trying to not let the fear and the crushing weight of all that is happening allow me to come undone. Really.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are a great many things that I feel. There are facets of my life that both thrill and terrify me (in the exhilarating, stressful way). And then there is just three days from now-when all the lowest things about human society become what everyone sees of my country.

I know I have a few international readers-and I do hope you see this for what it is and not an insult to your reasoning skills-but I have a message. A request, really.

Please do not look at January 21 and think that all Americans are like that. Please do not think we all hate differences, are afraid of people who aren’t the same as us. The loud minority is drowning us out, but we are here and we are fighting. There are those of us who care for the water and the planet we live on, who weep at the injustices at Standing Rock. There are those of us who value the lives of other human beings, both those who look like us and those who don’t. There are those of us who love openly, and rejoice when others can do the same-regardless of whether or not it fits our idea of love. There are those of us who are working to make the world better-not drag it back into hatred, ignorance, bigotry and fear mongering.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. I am.

But do you know what I know?

I know that in dire times, good comes. When human kind needs it most, who should appear but Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Shirin Ebadi. The list goes on.

I can’t wait to see who our next humanitarian leader is. Maybe I’ll get to meet them. Maybe, dare I dream it-I might be them.

Sleep peacefully, readers. Be safe, be loved.

You have value. You are valid. You are irreplaceable.

We’ll make it. Together.

I’m Sorry

I feel the need to talk to you all, and I’m struggling with words-but things still need said.

So I’m going just make this post about what really matters-love and acceptance. I won’t-and can’t-give into hate, especially with what happened yesterday/this morning.

You are valid. You are loved. You are valued. You have worth. You have meaning. You are needed. You have purpose. You are important.

Here are links to some of the blogs I’ve written that are necessary right now, I feel, and the more important ones have ** beside them.

** Orientation and Gender Validation

Sexual Assault Facts/Survivor Story

My Letter to the Stanford Victim

Inconceivable.

** Sexual Assault Resources

Women’s Rights

When Push Comes to Shove

** We The People

** Enough

 

Please know that this day is but one of many. And although what you are feeling is valid, our battle is only just beginning. I will be out there, fighting for rights-yours and mine. And as long as we all know that oppression isn’t something we have to just accept, we will never be defeated.

All I ask is that we do not give into fear and hatred. That is the currency of the people who were elected-not us.

Together, we are stronger. Together, we will live.

The sun will rise again.

Nos cœurs sont avec vous.

It’s important to note that I do not speak French, but I took the title from someone I believe does (and I Googled it to make sure it was right) but if it *isn’t* correct, someone let me know? I don’t want to be offensive.

I had to look up Bastille Day, because I didn’t really know what it was. Turns out, it’s an important celebration because of the French Revolution. So I can understand why there were loads of people out today in France. I mean, in my city, during July 4th, there’s a little thing we call Red, White and Boom which draws half a million or so people-all for an independence celebration. And yet, it wouldn’t have even passed my radar, had not one vile thing occurred.

Just a month ago, I was writing the words about pain and sadness and frustration because someone felt the need to attack a group of citizens. A few months before that I spoke of how my heart hurt for Paris, and how love would conquer hate. And here we are once more. Seventy-seven people lost their lives today while they were celebrating freedom in their country and I am sure that more people were wounded. The truck which plowed into people was fully armed, all the way to explosives and grenades.

How do you tell people that you’re certain that the will of the many will outweigh the actions of the few? I grappled with that for a while after Pulse. How do you preach words of love and acceptance while friends and family members vanish instantly from your life? What can be said to heal people who just wanted to enjoy time with their families?

Nothing.

No words can be said to spare the pain, or ease it.

I remember just a couple years ago, I was at the funeral of a childhood friend who had died by suicide. I remember feeling so shaken because I couldn’t find the words which accurately described just how I felt, or to remove the weight and pain from my heart. And I looked at his family and realized that I couldn’t say anything-because words didn’t fix anything.

Words will do nothing so long as that is all they are. Well-wishes can only touch the surface of the pain and sadness which are and will be. It is only when they are followed by actions-by the continued efforts to value and protect life that words mean anything at all.

You see, it doesn’t matter if you spend all day speaking words of love and peace if that is all you do. You must live the life you speak of. You must live it in every action. And even then, the reality is-it just might not be enough.

I know this all sounds a little bleak. I find that each time something of this nature comes across my news, I am both disgusted by it and empassioned by it. We are all suffering. Each and every one of us. And we have to help each other.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” -The Once-ler.

Heavy Hearts

To say that the recent events have no affect on my life would be a lie. Although they are not as personal for me as Pulse, I am a human being and as such, I find the amount of violence and death to be devastating. And let me say, I am sorry for the loss of life for all people-both in the recent attacks in the Middle East and the shootings in the States. Violence is never the answer.

I wrote the response to Mr. Sterling a couple days ago, and I know that it was just words. Words are how I grieve the failings of humanity. As a writer and as a student, we are taught to focus our thoughts into sentences and papers, as a way to combat ignorance. For now, that is all I can do: combat ignorance.

You see, it isn’t a simple answer and solution situation. Generalizations are one of the most dangerous tools humans possess. Not all feminists hate men. Not all men are rapists. Not all cops are evil. Not all people of dark melanin are bad people. I can think of two historical periods in which generalizations caused devastation on a massive scale. The first, as I’m sure most are familiar with is the Holocaust. Jewish people, Gypsy people, Gay people, people with impairments and others were taken away and massacred for being different. And it happened here in America too. It wasn’t Jewish people, people of Asian ethnicity or the slave trade I am referring to, although there were troublesome times there as well. It is the Indigenous population I am referring to. The systematic slaughter of people who were different.

I am just one person. And so are you. It is not wrong to want justice for crimes committed. It is not wrong to  hold police officers in high regards while also holding them to high standards. It is not wrong to ask for the law to pass just judgments.

The easiest way to make the changes we want to see in the world is to vote. I mean it. We vote on the people who are meant to lead us, to protect us. It takes not long at all (I was able to cast my ballot in the primaries in less than 10 minutes.) and it will affect you for ages to come. So with all of this in mind, I am going to implore the readers of my blog to use their better judgment.

I’m not telling you who to vote for. That isn’t why I’m writing. And that most definitely isn’t what I am saying. What I AM saying is that these incidents of violence and hatred and death will not cease if the person we elect as president is a hate-spewing, violence endorsing, racist, sexist, philandering, desperate monster. It will, should a person like that become president, become worse. And what happens when it is your children? Your parents or spouse or siblings? Will a presidential vote bring lives lost back? No. Will a vote stop all of the problems? No. But if you do nothing else, please, please make sure that the racism and hatred stops before it makes it to the White House.

I know a lot of response videos have been made for rallies, but this is one of the ones I have watched several times over. I hadn’t meant for this post to become political, but I guess it has.

Misha Goes to a Trump Rally

Fix You

There’s a gaping hole of hatred and bigotry in the world. Not too many people are safe these days. Muslim places of worship are attacked just the same as Christian places of worship. Booming cities in Europe and America are attacked just the same as cities in the Middle East. SAGA (sexuality and gender acceptance) individuals are gunned down just the same as people of color. Death, injustice, hatred, persecution. It fills the news, it divides, it destroys.

There are people who spew anger so fiercely that it is as a volcano, the devastation follows wherever they go. They speak of things they do not understand, promoting actions which will do nothing more than hurt people, damage humanity and suffocate the truth values of being human. They rile the masses, using catch phrases and soundbites to make their claims validated, evoking the misplaced anger many feel but do not know where to direct.

The thing about evil is that it will continue to spread if good people stand idly by. It isn’t the failed attempts which bring death-it is the lack of trying altogether.

There are people who sit in their pews, their prayer rooms, their offices and homes uttering phrases like “my heart goes out to you” and “I’ll pray for you” and “a moment of silence”. But when that is all that happens, nothing changes. Evil does not need riots and violence-it needs apathy. Prayers and thoughts and well-wishes cannot be the only thing that happens. It will change nothing. It doesn’t matter who hears you or how powerful they are. If you stand by with your thoughts, you are giving the terrible injustices of the world your permission to carry on.

I invite you all to take a chance. Go out and do something. You don’t have to conquer the world. You don’t even need to fix every problem. But each small action is a stance against what is wrong. And that is the real meaning of life.

Snow Falls Slowly On the Mountain

Hi there everyone. I’ve been taking things slow for a few days. I really miss the chances to just connect, to just simply be-without emotional necessity. I’ve been working fervently on several things all at once and I needed a chance to clear my head. So that is precisely what I did. And I really wanted to share my Ramadan experience in light of the recent attacks in Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. But now I think I want to do a little bit of introversion as far as blogs go. No expectations, just thoughts.

I love thunderstorms. That should surprise no one. I often compare my existence to storms, hurricanes and weather of assorted variety. But one of my favorite things is when I’m so connected to the storms. I believe that the thunder and lightning are the sky spirits speaking to us, and I whenever there is a big storm, I go out on my balcony and sing to them. And the coolest thing is that when I reach a really emotional part, a power chord or a really high note, the storm inevitably picks up with a momentary deluge, thunder clap or lightning show. It’s my very favorite thing about storms.

I spent Litha (summer solstice) in quiet meditation. -Here’s where I should probably give you the Campbell’s soup (condensed) version of some things.- So ever since I left the church some years ago, I haven’t found a way to pray without feeling like a monster. So when I say “pray” I very strictly mean “rejoice in my blessings” not “ask for things”. When I do have things to ask for, I light a blood candle and ask, no ceremonial “Please may I…” stuff. So just know that it is VERY unusual that I asked for guidance. I can talk about the particulars of my belief system later if people are interested.

I used a couple meditation videos for spirit guides and began my journey. I’d heard from several people that their guide came to them very quickly (or not at all) and either said nothing or gave them a present (like a gemstone or a kiss on the cheek). So I tried to mentally visualize my way through the exercise, trying not to focus on animals I dearly love, faces of ancestors and the like. So it was my great surprise when I was not greeted by a “realistic” looking spirit, but a great big stag made of dimly glowing light (I found a picture on Google). And when given the chance to speak, all he said was “Why do you seek that which cannot be found?” He nudged a small present (yellow box, red ribbon) towards me and inside it was hope, glowing like sunshine. And then he was gone.

Stag spirit animalOdd, I thought. And very peculiar-because I hadn’t really been searching for anything. So I asked a couple of spiritual leaders I trust, and they were helpful, but nothing really *stuck* so I waited a week or so and tried again. This time, it was the same stag, made of light. The meditation exercise I was listening to mentioned finding out their name, and I asked. “My name is Snow Falls Slowly on the Mountain” he said. “So it has been found, She Who Guides the Water.” That was the name he gave to me. I thought that was pretty nifty, thanked him for coming to me and ended my meditation.

So where does that leave me? Well, I’ve had some time to get everything sorted, and I think I have some answers.

That which I seek: myself
What cannot be found: the perfect version of myself, which fits into each niche perfectly
What I found: the perfect version of myself that I need, the one I deserve to love.
It took until today, when the storms rolled across the sky that I understood why he called me She Who Guides the Water. It’s the storms.
Yellow=creativity. Red=passion.
The stag of light is symbolic of a great change coming, a shift in life meant to be interpreted as a call to preparation.

I thought this was probably the nicest spiritual milestone I’ve come across. And I’m sure there are people out there who would love to break it down, as though my spiritual journey weren’t valid. It is, though. And I don’t want to spoil it, but I had a dream this morning about the specificity of that shift, and let’s just say, my future is looking bright indeed.

And what’s more? My application for the new apartment (or lease is just about up in this one) was approved-without a cosigner. Turns out, when I stop panicking every second of every day, life lets me focus on the positives. I have less than 3 weeks to get everything set for moving because ready or not, my life is changing.

celebration.jpg

I’m probably going to do a double-post today. The next one will be more structured, more typical of “me”. But we’ll see I suppose. Happy Tuesday everyone!

 

White Girl Goes to Iftar (Ramadan)

happy-Ramadan-2012-1-1024x640
(This picture is a wish of a happy Ramadan. I didn’t make it, but I like it.)

I’d been working on blogs to post, trying to manage how much frustration I have and how much stress when my roommate asked if I wanted to go with her to iftar. I thought, sure why not and agreed. She responded for both of us and last night we left. I now get to do something I absolutely LOVE doing: I get to break some assumptions and stereotypes and tell you all about my time at iftar.

So some vocab first. Ramadan is the Islamic holy month where you fast during the day hours and eat during the night. You can’t even drink water! Iftar is the name of the meal that you eat after the day is concluded. The fasting is done for two reasons: the first being to honor the gifts of God and to be closer to him. The second is to remember that there are people for whom fasting is not a choice, but rather is their way of life. And so for the month, you honor the struggle that they face in poverty.

I also learned two Arabic words last night: mashallah and inshallah. Mashallah is a kind of protective prayer, said especially over babies which roughly translates to “May God protect you (from the evil eyes)” and inshallah means “God willing”. So if you are traveling or what have you, you say inshallah as a way of wishing them safe travels and the hope that you will be seeing each other again if God wills it.

So now that we’ve got the vocab down, it’s time to get the stigmas and stereotypes broken.

  1. It snows in Turkey. And it isn’t just a desert. They have greenery and whatnot too. (I asked, just because we were talking about silly Ohio weather. Turns out Turkey has regular seasons of 3 months each: Spring, Summer, Autumn Winter. Ohio has maybe two seasons: winter and fiery death by humidity. I just thought this was cool.)
  2. I didn’t have to remain silent when Muslim men were speaking. They usually spoke right to me. And made eye contact. Everyone was EXTREMELY polite and made sure that everyone else around them was doing well. (In fact, the fact that I was getting an education was a source of celebration for everyone. So that debunks the women as inferior bit, I think.)
  3. The prayers that are spoken (we were invited to watch) are prayers of thanks for health, food and opportunity. There is a reverence for being able to live life and for being safe. (We sat through one, and one of our acquaintances was kind enough to translate it for us.)
  4. The hijab (head scarf) is optional. You can choose to wear it if you want, and most women do because it is a way to further their faith. (Which debunks the oppression myth, I think.)

I asked a new acquaintance what the one thing she wanted others to know about her and her religion and she said:

Even if I say nothing, I am still saying something. I have hopes and goals and a family. I am shy and don’t make friends quickly but I love practicing my English. I have a very open mind, and I want to learn all about other people. I wish more people saw that my actions speak louder than my words. I just want to be respected for being myself.

We continued to talk about her story and about how she was so thankful to be in America, where people didn’t hate her for who she was and for what she believed. Reread that. She was thankful to be in a country of acceptance. I met a family who was from Istanbul-whose family was still in Istanbul. They were appalled by the violence there, and by everyone who falsely represented their religion.

In fact, the theme of the night was that education would defeat ignorance if we invested in it. I’ve been to around a dozen or so Christian churches, known people from all of the different factions (Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc) and I’ve met Catholics, I’ve met atheists and I could continue on. But never once have I ever felt so welcomed as an outsider than this gathering of the Turkish-Muslim community.

Allow me to reflect on that for a moment.

This group of people who were mostly immigrants or the children thereof welcomed two strangers into their holiday observation as though we were family. They celebrated our education, our career goals and our ideas and opinions without judgment. I looked nothing like the people in attendance, nor did we sound similar but that didn’t hinder their regard of me. In fact, I heard more about how we should find ways to include things like humor in our teachings, about how we should find community in art and food instead of fear and hatred. These people who didn’t know me made me coffee, gave me food and showed a sincere interest in what I had to say-even if I just ranted about how much I didn’t know.

Do you want to know how I get treated at Christian churches? Like a sinner not worthy of their time. And I want you to know that I told the people last night that I was pagan. That I practice a polytheistic religion. I’ve said that to Christians before (who are strangers) and I get the “devil” treatment or I get the shove-the-bible-down-my-throat treatment. Do you know what the Muslim women and men told me last night? That they were glad I came with an open mind and took the time to get to know them even though we believed different things. I left with invitations to return for women’s nights, cooking classes and art sessions, as well as many hugs.

Last night was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I may not have all the information I need in order to fight the bigotry and hatred shown by others, but I have my own experience and it’s a great start. Before I wrap everything up though, let me talk about one last thing.

COFFEE.

cups

Let me tell you. This wasn’t our specific cup, but the decoration is gorgeous on all cups. And the thing is, I’m 23 and I felt like I was holding the crown jewels when I picked up my cup. It’s all so beautiful. And they’re traditional espresso sized, so I also felt like a giant.

cup2.jpg (This is closer to the color-the decoration was roses though.)

As an American, a white girl, a college kid, a twenty-something, you all should not be surprised when I say that I am a regular at Starbucks, I drink coffee until I float in it and anyone who has been to my house knows that there’s always creamer in my fridge and coffee in my percolator. But when I woke up this morning, I couldn’t drink the cup I made myself. It tasted like dirty water in comparison to the coffee I was graciously made last night.

The woman who invited us made us fresh Turkish coffee last night. If I had the ability to make it everyday and it would taste like that, I would never buy creamer again. Let me be very clear, I hate black coffee. It has to have at least creamer in it, if not something else. And the coffee she made us last night was the very first time I have ever drank coffee black and enjoyed it. I didn’t even add sugar.

Apparently, if there’s bubbles and foam at the top, that’s how you know it’s a good cup. And when you are all done, if you turn your cup upside down, swirl it three times and let it set, you can tell your future. (I so tried it, but no one knew how to read it, nor did anyone believe so we made up stuff and got a bunch of laughs.)

coffee reading.jpg(Again, not my cup, but this is basically what it looks like when you’re ready to read it.)

I’ll leave you with a custom.

When a man is inquiring after a wife, he will bring his family to the woman’s house and the woman will serve them all coffee. She will hold out the suitor’s coffee and put in it salt, spices or other items which would not be for coffee (tomato paste, oil, etc). If the man drinks the entire coffee, it shows his devotion to the woman and his desire to marry her is deemed genuine. Apparently it’s very good for comedic relief, as oftentimes the man will make faces to get through the taste of the coffee. It’s meant as a joke, but also as a way to prove your love.

I rather like that. Apparently there are some really funny stories-so I’m going to go around asking people about their coffee ceremony stories from now on.

Thanks for reading. I had a lot I wanted to say, and it was just so wonderful. (I have plenty more to say as well, but another day perhaps.) For the first time, I wasn’t afraid of strangers, I felt accepted. And it wasn’t at all like how the news reports. All I saw were a bunch of people happy to eat food and pray, happy to share their stories with strangers, happy to be listened to and respected. I can’t say I’d want for anything else.