Tell me your ghost stories

It’s that time of year when witches, black cats, ghosts, and goblins are omnipresent. For some of us, connecting with magical energies beyond the veil are just a normal part of everyday life. For others, it’s time to get their Halloween groove on, and attend costume parties or take the kiddos trick-or-treating or tell spooky ghost stories. Maybe even visit a haunted house! Boo!

For Pagans, this time of year heralds the sabbat called “Samhain” (pronounced sow-en), and it’s the time of year that the veils between the physical and metaphysical worlds are at their thinnest. At this time of year, we remember our ancestors — known and unknown — and feel the natural energies of the ever-turning Wheel of the Year slowing down. Samhain is traditionally the end of the year for Pagans, and we relax into the waning daylight and feel the energies of the environment slowing down as we approach the winter solstice. (Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! There, it’s the exact opposite!) Traditionally, Samhain would inaugurate a time of rest and reflection — which is completely in contradiction to the mad rush of “the Holidays.” Balancing both can be a challenge!

Whether Pagan or not, ghosts are very popular this time of year. I saw a post this morning lifted from TheScareFactor.com, which allegedly showed the number of haunted houses by state. After poking around the website a bit, a lot of those haunted houses are actually Halloween-type houses where you pay admission to be scared out of your skin, and not actual dwellings of lonely or disgruntled spirits. Google offered a more traditional, less commercialized list of haunted places — considerably fewer in number than The Scare Factor.

Whether Halloween fun or metaphysically saturated, it got me thinking… I’ve had experiences in places where an energy was quite detectable… an unseen but felt presence… received transmissions of messages via feelings or images… and sometimes even an urge to get the hell out of there now.

How about you? Have you ever inexplicably had a gut reaction to a place or an experience that confirmed that there are definitely energies existing on another plane of awareness or consciousness… and that they were trying to contact you? Spirits? Ghosts? Or???

I’ve had two significant experiences with the Otherworld, both beginning in childhood, and both recurring. The first was an apparition that appeared at my bedside when I was about 3 or 4. She was a woman, 30s-ish, slender. She had brown hair cut just above the shoulders. She always wore a plain black or dark gray slim skirt, and a plain white blouse. She never moved. She had no facial expression whatsoever, and would just stare at me, blankly. Her eyes were black — as in no white, or colored iris — and when she blinked, it made the sound of two pieces of paper rubbing together.

It was the scratchy sound of her blink that unsettled me the most. When she would appear, I’d hide under the covers and just wait it out. When it was quiet again, I’d peer out and she’d be gone. She never made any sort of threat or attempt to frighten me, nor did she welcome me either. Her energy was… “Why are you here?”

The woman appeared several times at my bedside in this house, which was my first home. I don’t know the history of that house, but my theory is that she lived there at some point in time, and I was sleeping in this room where she thought I didn’t belong. Did it belong to her? One of her children? I don’t know. She never offered any clue or information, other than to stare, and blink. Once we moved out of that house, I never saw her again. However, recalling her image still makes me a little uncomfortable — was she friend or foe? Or neither?

When we moved to our second house, when I was about 8, I had my second experience with an Otherworldly energy. It only made itself known through a specific tapping sound, that I recognized immediately as a communication. Like the Lady By My Bed, it never wavered in its communication… a tapping that merely said, “I’m here.” However, unlike The Lady, this energy felt distinctly more benign. It only wanted to be near me, and for me to be aware of that.

The tapping sound was very soft. First a single soft tap, a slight pause, and then an even softer tap: Tap… tap — Tap… tap — Tap… tap. This would go on for several minutes and then just stop. What makes this metaphysical energy even more interesting is that unlike The Lady, it followed me through several residences. It contacted me at that house many times, and then followed me to my first apartment when I moved away to go to college.

In those days, I didn’t really have a good grasp of the Pagan or spiritual world. One morning, as the Tapper was letting me know it was there, I got annoyed. A wild and raucous night of college partying the night before, with its residual splitting headache that morning, didn’t help. I decided I’d had enough of this whatever-it-was, jumped up out of bed, and slammed my hands against the wall where the tapping was coming from.

“Stop it! Go away!” I shouted, and stomped back to bed.

And… it did.

I moved to several residences after my college days, and the Tapper didn’t make a single sound at any of them. However, it apparently was silently sticking with me, because not long after I moved into my current home (and also opened myself up to the Pagan and metaphysical world) it returned.

I was telling my “ghost story” to my daughter one day, when she was in her early teens, mimicking the tapping sound with my knuckles on the table, and suddenly she went completely pale, her eyes wide. She told me she’d heard that exact knocking coming from her closet. (She now insists that she dreamed it, but I know what she said at the time!) She was very unsettled that a spirit had been visiting her, but I soothed her concerns, noting that the Tapper never, ever transmitted any harmful or frightening message. It had always seemed harmless.

In addition to harmless, this spirit was a bit shy, or maybe just very obedient. It had never made itself known to me personally since the day I commanded it to stop contacting me, until…

Years after my daughter moved out to go to college herself, I was standing at my ancestor altar on Samhain, admiring the soft orange glow of candlelight amid photos and cherished personal items of friends, relatives, and ancestors who’d passed through the veil, and paused to close my eyes and welcome any messages or feelings any of them would like to send. And then I heard it, coming right from the side of the altar: Tap… tap — Tap… tap — Tap… tap.

A smile spread across my face, and I said softly, “Welcome back, old friend.” I stood there for a long while, just listening, and being open to anything the entity might want to say. The message hadn’t changed: “I’m here.” And also, “And always have been.” Instead of being annoyed, this time, I welcomed it, and told it that as long as its intentions were peaceful, it was welcome to visit. After a few moments, the tapping stopped. The following Samhain, it returned, in the same place and manner as before. Oddly enough, last year, when my husband and I were honoring our ancestors together at our altar, the spirit did not contact me. I found that peculiarly interesting, particularly since it had contacted me at the altar in the past when my husband was present in the house. But when he was actively participating at the altar in a ritual to remember our beloved dead, the spirit remained silent.

So, that’s my own real-life “ghost story.” How about you? Have you been contacted from beyond the Veil, or have you had metaphysical, spiritual experiences in particular places? I’d love to hear about them. It’s that time of year when we open ourselves up to spirits unseen.

A blessed Samhain and happy Halloween to one and all.

What is my brand?

So, part of this author adventure is that my publisher assigns a publicist to help me get the word out about my new book (Pagan Curious — A Beginner’s Guide to Nature, Magic & Spirituality), which is really super because while I love to write, I hate hate hate to promote myself. I’m a fabulous cheerleader for most anyone else, and love to do whatever I can to help someone else succeed, but for myself? Well… gulp. That’s just uncomfortable.

I met my super cool new publicist, Markus, a couple weeks ago (and by “met,” I mean we did it pandemic style on Zoom), and in addition to pumping up my confidence and enthusiasm to birth this book out into the world, he gave me some homework, which included revamping this website. He kindly described what I’ve got going on here as “a little dated.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve wanted to change it for a long time. Besides, the template for this website wasn’t designed for blogging — it was designed for restaurant use, and is set up for menus, not blogs, and therefore it’s quite difficult to make it perform like a blog site.

You might ask, “Why did you pick a template that wasn’t designed for blogging,” and I might answer, “Because I liked the pretty orange font on the headlines.” And therein you see why my technology adventures frequently blow up in my face.

I’ve been wanting to update this website for years, but the issue is that transferring all this content to a different template requires website skills that are above my pay grade. I know just enough about WordPress to ignite a big steaming pile of “Oh fuck, what have I done!” and no idea how to clean up the mess I’ve made. Been there, done that, had to hand the shovel to an expert.

Having blown up websites a few times and requiring expert assistance, I decided not to venture into this update myself. I want it to be a real website, and not just something I tinkered with and mashed together on my own. So, my buddy Sarah, Goddess of the Websites, is looking into refurbishing my little home on the internet. Stay tuned, it will hopefully look a lot different in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I need to work a few things out before we go “live.” At the top of that list is how to present myself. My “brand” as it were.

“Brand.”

Oh, I have bristled at both the word and concept for a long time. It just seems so unnatural and manufactured. I would prefer my brand to evolve naturally, as it did over my 26 years as an opinion columnist. Which it did. And that’s the problem. My columnist “brand” was to be balls out, fists up, and ready to throw a verbal hook punch at any moment. Kitty has claws, and she knows how to use them. But that’s “columnist me,” and since I launched onto the author’s path, I’ve distanced myself from that. I just got tired of the whole vibe. That brand doesn’t really work for me anymore. My books aren’t about politics, they fall more under the “helping, healing, happiness” umbrella, in the spirituality section — not the biting political commentary section.

It took a long while to detox from those many years of verbal cage fighting, and aside from very rare moments where I can’t resist the urge to comment on whatever political or social turbulence is boiling at the moment, I’ve kept it clean. Internally, I’ve made the transition from “fierce, fearless hellcat” to “peaceful, purring kittycat” quite nicely. I just don’t crave the buzz of verbal battle anymore. I used to eat it for breakfast. Now, I’d just hork it up like a hairball.

My challenge, and the source of my contemplation, is defining and shaping a brand that portrays who I am now, and how to present that on the updated website. That may confuse some folks who’ve been with me for a long time, but here’s the thing: I’m a Gemini, and “Peaceful, Purring Me” has always been there, just not so much in public. I mean, I’ve been a massage therapist almost as long as I was a newspaper editor and columnist, so that side has always been there. Just not in print. I used to have a sign on my wall at work: “51 percent sweetheart, 49 percent bitch — don’t push your luck.” Well, those percentages are probably more like a 70-30 sweetheart to bitch ratio now. I don’t need to have my claws out anymore, but every cat owner will confirm that even the most peaceful, loving kitty will shred you in a heartbeat if provoked.

So. Updating this website and my brand are linked together. Old brand: Hellcat. New brand… ??? Whatever that reveals itself to be, my goal is internal and external/public congruence (which, by the way, is a topic I cover in depth in “Pagan Curious”!) It feels like I have a lot of ingredients to mush together, hopefully into one cohesive ball: Horsey Girl. Longtime Pagan. Massage practitioner. Tarot enthusiast. Lover of nature and magickal energies and practices. I’ll be rolling that ball around in my hands and shaping it for the next few weeks, which is much more difficult than it sounds, mainly because of my resistance to it. I’d rather you just get to know me all over again, sort of like Gwen Stefani when she reintroduced herself this year and spiced up her career. Yeah, just like Gwen! Except I’m not nearly that hot, except in my own mind. Although I can karoake the shit outta “Just A Girl.”

So…. what will my new “brand” be? I’m not really sure, but going forward, I’ve decided I want to build people up, not shred them to pieces. I want to create things that inspire, enlighten, educate, and even simply entertain. And I’ll keep my claws retracted. Unless you try to shove me off the couch, and then it’s on.

No Newsom Recall!

I know I recently announced that I’m heading in a new direction on this blog, and I am, and intended to leave politics behind, and I do, but sometimes something is just too important to ignore — and that something is this bullshit recall election in California.

The California Republican Party believes their best shot at unseating a legitimately and fairly elected governor is by staging an off-year recall election with nothing else on the ballot. They’re banking on good old American laziness — we just can’t be bothered to color in a box and drop a paper in the mail, let alone show up to vote. The cost of this longshot soft coup? $267 million.

$267 million.

That’s not money they spent. That’s what it will cost California counties to hold this election. In other words, you and I paid for this sham election. That right there should be enough to motivate you to vote “No” on the ballot to recall Governor Gavin Newsom.

What a colossal waste of money. They could have waited ONE year until the regular gubernatorial election, and simply supported the Republican candidate they thought had the best chance of running against a governor, who, in the midst of the worst economic crisis California has had in a long while (thank you, COVID) as well as apocalypse-level wildfires, has done an outstanding job of keeping California from falling over the edge. Were his decisions comfortable, or pleasant? No. But they were necessary. Anyone who’s ever raised children, and had responsibility for their wellbeing and safety, knows that many times the most beneficial decisions are the least popular with those affected by those decisions. Governing is no different.

Just to fluff up the “adding insult to injury” aspect of this sham recall election, the current front runner is radio talk show hose Larry Elder, and his television commercials are so slimy, I’m amazed they don’t slide right off the television screen and coagulate in a pool of stinky goo on the floor. In a nutshell, Elder blames Newsom for all sorts of expenses, from higher gas taxes to higher cost of living, and none of these things are decided by Newsom. They’re decided upon by the state legislature. Elder surely knows this (unless he’s a complete idiot), and he also knows that tossing those things out there will attract un-thinking people like cats to a toy mouse. Are you smarter than a cat? Then don’t fall for this nonsense and manipulation.

There is plenty about this Republican Recall attempt to overthrow election results to be outraged about, but I have one more little piece of evidence that infuriates me, and it should infuriate you too: Long before the pandemic or any of its related ramifications, the California Republican Party was plotting to overthrow Newsom immediately upon his successful victory in the 2018 election, and I have proof.

It was September of 2019, and my husband and I were strolling around the grounds at the Draft Horse Classic in Grass Valley, and amongst the many booths of horse-related items was a decidedly far-right wing vendor, based upon the many items and signs spewing the rage and hate of the fringe right. Above all this vile content hung a sign from the Nevada County Republican Party: Recall Newsom. They even had a petition going for people to sign. I laughed out loud, because for one thing, Newsom enjoyed a healthy victory in 2018, was off to a fine start, and was (and is) well-liked by the majority of California voters.

“That’s not even a thing,” I called out to the pinchy-faced malcontents manning the booth, and kept on walking. The next day, we were out strolling the grounds again, and I saw the sign again, and decided to take a photo because it was so completely ludicrous, I wanted to document it. It’d make a great sarcastic social media post. But, I never did get around to making a post, because taking an easy and cheap pot-shot at delusional Republicans was too easy. At some point, harping about their blatant self-servitude is just too easy… that old “fish in a barrel” thing. Besides, with all of Trump’s antics at the time, those small-fish California Republicans didn’t seem worth the effort.

But here we are, three years later, and I’m really glad I took that photo at that booth that day, because it highlights just how shallow and shameless the California Republican Party is. They have been plotting this Republican Recall since the day Newsom was sworn in. The pandemic was just a convenient excuse. The level of sleaze is just over the top. And we MUST stop it — not merely for Newsom’s sake, but to squash this slimeball attempt to overturn an election. Stopping it is so easy: Vote NO on the recall, whether on your mailed paper ballot, or at the polls tomorrow.

You may like Newsom, you may not. But surely you don’t like being manipulated, and surely you can think of far better ways to spend $267 million.

NO on the recall.

No, no, NO.

This sign was posted in September 2019, less than a year after Governor Gavin Newsom was elected.

New directions, and a new book too

So, it’s not like I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t been writing here.

From the looks of this blog, you might think I’ve been in outer space and just transmitted a post occasionally from across the universe. It’s not entirely incorrect — but I’ve journeyed to inner space, not outer space. I’ve been more focused on writing books than blogs, and to be honest, I think I’ve sort of lost my commentary mojo. It’s not that I don’t like writing anymore, it’s just that my interest in harping about politics has slowly rolled to a stop.

After nearly 30 years of writing columns, many of which were political in nature, I started to ponder what good any of the kvetching and bitching did. Did I change the world? Nope. It’s still spinning along without my help. Did I alter the course of anything? No. (Evidence: Hillary didn’t win.) Did I change minds? No. People who agree with you cheer, and people who don’t boo from the stands. I started wondering if it’s really worth the time and effort if all I’m really doing is pouring salty talk in open wounds.

When I survey the meager posts I’ve produced over the last couple years, well… aren’t I just a drag! What a Debbie Downer! To be fair, the last few years were also a drag, and there weren’t many lovely, uplifting things to write about. Well, commentary-wise, that is. Off screen, there are all sorts of things to write about! Horses, for example. I wrote a whole book about them, and their spiritual, evolutionary connection to humankind. “The Elements of Horse Spirit — The Magical Bond Between Humans and Horses” was published in June 2020 — right at the height of the covid pandemic, social justice protests, and the perpetual Trumpster dumpster fire. So, it was difficult to raise my little hand and say, “Hey… I have a super cool book out, and I’d love if you gave it a look!” So much for a splashy debut. My little ripple of accomplishment was lost in a raging sea of fear, anger, and relentless stress.

Oh yeah. Speaking of raging, there was a fire too, last year. (“A fire.” Understatement of the century.) The LNU Complex fire last August transformed this area into the Apocalypse. The whole world was burning down. So, it was nearly impossible for my little book to make an audible peep in the cacophony of the 2020 shitshow. But, this is 2021, and we’re moving on. Progress — both political and medical — is grinding forward. President Biden is the soothing salve our country’s third degree burns needed, and we’re slowing the spread of covid. Well, some of us are — the ones who are smart enough to get vaccinated. The rest? Well… I suppose natural selection will play out in real time. Get goddamned vaccinated, people!

OK. That’s as close as I’ll tiptoe toward social/political commentary, because I’m striving to change the trajectory of my writing. There’s a glut of writers out there already spewing a sea of opinion on what’s happening in our country and world, and frankly, do we really need one more? I don’t think so. Not that I won’t quip and quote here and there, but I have to be very careful, because abstaining from writing political/social commentary is like abstaining from alcohol. One little sip, and I’ll be passed out in an alley with an empty vodka bottle and a few stray cats.

What will I write about instead? Uplifting topics. Thoughtful topics. Helpful topics. In “Horse Spirit,” for example, yes, it’s about horses, but it’s more about how horses (even on a strictly abstract, spiritual, magical level) can change your life. They can inspire and strengthen you to achieve any goal. They are powerful spiritual allies. However, I didn’t rest my writing laurels on their strong backs. After finishing that book, I launched into a second: “Pagan Curious — A Beginner’s Guide to Nature, Magic & Spirituality.” I’m expecting it to be published in January, but it’s already got it’s own homepage on the Llewellyn Worldwide website, and you can preorder it right now! And, here’s a bonus! Every time someone buys one of my books, an angel has an orgasm! Come on… make an angel’s day… they have no genitalia, so they really appreciate it!

For those of you who’ve been with me for a really long time, like “newsprint” time, you may be even more surprised that I’m writing about Paganism than you are that I wrote about horses. I didn’t touch upon those topics much in print, but bear in mind that what I wrote about in print was like showing you the palm of my hand. That’s all I showed publicly. Little by little, I’m bringing the rest of me into the sunlight.

As for horses, they have enamored me since I took my first breath. I’m sure my first word wasn’t “mommy” or “daddy,” but “pony.” I grew up with horses, used to ride show jumpers, and my family was heavily involved in horse racing (a potential future book will be, “How to Go Bankrupt in One Year or Less: Get a Racehorse.”) I had a very long drought of horses — about 35 years — and returned to them in my 50s. It’s a pretty amazing story, and it changed my life. (It’s all in the book!)

As for Paganism, you probably caught glimpses of that here and there, and chalked it up to “Tree-Lovin’, Whale-Huggin’ Old Hippie.” True enough on the surface, but the story goes much deeper. Like my love of horses, I was always Pagan. I just didn’t have a vocabulary for it, or even know what it was on a conscious level, until my 40s. My thirsty search for a spiritual connection to nature and the Universe was quenched when I randomly toddled into a Pagan harvest festival. In screenwriting, they call this a “plot point” — where the entire story spins and takes off in another direction. That festival was the plot point of my life. Nothing was ever the same after that. Finally, I knew what I was, what I believed in, how I wanted to live. It was like that moment when Dorothy steps out of her black and white Kansas house in Oz, and discovers a world in full color.

So, how about you? Have you always wondered what those crystals are for, or what those strange symbols mean, or why that drum circle or the full moon calls to you? Why you can feel the sea or the forest? Why a certain animal keeps inexplicably appearing to you, or why particular herbs or oils make you feel better? Well, my friend, you just may be “Pagan Curious” too. Like my horse story, it’s all in the book!

But, back to this blog. I’m setting it on a new path, and keeping social and political commentary to a bare minimum. Humor? Yes! Inspiration? Yes! Just a random here’s-something-to-smile-about? Yes! More of that, less of the other! Because although I’ve discovered I can’t change the world… I might be able to lift it up a bit. The path ahead can be bright, if we choose it to be. Let’s walk it together.

*****

My second book, “Pagan Curious — A Beginner’s Guide to Nature, Magic & Spirituality,” is available for preorder on the Llewellyn Worldwide website: https://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738766539

But what about the dead body?

What does it take for Congressional Republicans to grow some integrity, do the right thing, and place country over party? An insurrection orchestrated by a sitting President doesn’t meet the threshold? An angry mob destroying property and chanting death threats for members of Congress wasn’t enough? Lives lost in the wake didn’t trigger it? And now Republicans are asserting that an impeachment trial is unnecessary because it’s all “over and done with”? Following this logic, a murder trial is unnecessary because the victim is already dead.

People. We have a dead body here. It isn’t a “John Doe.” It’s our Constitution. It was assaulted by the President himself, who inflamed an angry, mindless mob to do his bidding, and then stood back and enjoyed the show.

Trump’s own inauguration speech four years ago was a dark, dystopian ulcer on the soul of this country, that grew as the weeks and months ground on. He referred to ending the American carnage in that speech and, ironically, created more carnage than any other president in history. And not merely in the figurative Constitutional sense on January 6, but in reality. More than 400,000 Americans — and the numbers climbing every day — are dead due to the Trump Administration’s feeble response to the COVID pandemic. Essentially the Trump Administration’s response was “pretend it’s not happening.”

Well, it’s happening. There are so many bodies stacking up, many cities are bringing in refrigeration trucks to store them all, and funeral homes are backed up for weeks. The culpability of the Trump administration in the lack of planning for this horrendous pandemic is now being disclosed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who revealed last week that he was unable to tell the entire scientific truth at press conferences, and Dr. Deborah Birx, who revealed on Face the Nation last night that charts about the pandemic didn’t reflect the facts and figures she presented, and were instead fabricated by someone else. She didn’t specify who that “someone else” was, but… follow the stink and you’ll find the rotting flesh.

Isn’t Trump’s failure to deal with COVID and his obfuscation of scientific truth, and a train of corpses ten miles long, enough for impeachment? Pile on top of that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, with enraged, frothing domestic terrorists roaming the hallways and storming offices to find Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence so they could harm and possible murder them. If either of these two things combined, let alone both at once, aren’t grounds for impeaching a President enough, then the concept of “impeachment” is meaningless.

So, why impeach now? It’s not just to rub Trump’s orange nose in his own shit, it’s to ensure that he can’t hold public office ever again, even if he creates his own party. It’s to protect our country and our Constitution from ever being subjected to his incompetence and willful carnage again. The man is a criminal, and deserves to face justice, or the concept of “No one is above the law” is just a sad, tired little trope.

And yet, the Congressional Republicans are crowing, “No, no no! What we need now is unity!”

What utter horse shit.

To Republicans, “unity” means doing things the way they want. I’m sorry, but in my book, that type of unity is called “acquiescence.” There isn’t an ounce of integrity in a ton of Republicans. That said, Democrats historically do a lot of that sort of Republican “unity” in a naive belief that if they cooperate, so will Republicans. Learn from your mistakes, Democrats! Lucy is ALWAYS going to pull the football away, Charlie Brown! Aim your kick at her next time, not the ball! You must stop bringing poetry to a knife fight, and start toughening up or be plowed over by the Republican phalanx yet again.

Congressional Democrats, hear me. Please. If ever there was a time to grow some collective balls and do what must be done, this is it. You have the entire future of this country, its Constitution, and democracy itself at stake. Do not acquiesce. You hold justice in your hands, right here, right now, on February 9. Don’t let it slip through your fingers. You need to find 17 Republicans to stand with you, for the sake of our country. Maybe you can remind them how history — and voters — will judge them if they fail to perform their oaths of office to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Appeal to their self-serving natures and re-election prospects, which may be the only thing that resonates with them. Loyalty to the Constitution certainly doesn’t do it.

In the case of this non-existent pandemic response, it’s obvious who is responsible. In the case of the January 6 insurrection, you have Trump on tape giving the order to “charge.” And that’s exactly what his mob did. And no nonsense about, “Well, he didn’t personally charge into the Capitol with them.” More horse shit! Charles Manson died in prison for his responsibility for multiple murders, yet he was never even at the scene of the crimes. His lackeys did his work for him. And Manson? GUILTY. Even figurative blood on your hands is still blood in the eyes of the law. And Trump? His legacy is littered with corpses, both literal and figurative.

There’s a dead body lying there.

Someone is responsible.

Bring the killer to justice.

Not ready for kumbaya just yet

Yesterday was just so very amazing. It was as if golden angel honey love just poured over the entire country — world? — and soothed and sweetened all of humanity.

Well except for about half of our country. Nothing sweet in that half. But they can just sit there and be sour. Because today isn’t their day. It’s Joe Biden’s day, and Kamala Harris’ day, and a day of celebration for everyone who is so very done with Donald Trump and his daily dumpster fire of outrageous inhumanity. His minions will keep having their truck rallies and waving their big flags and hollering and shouting, but there’s a shelf life on that. Soon, COVID will be over, and there will be football and baseball and NASCAR again, and they’ll have an outlet for all that testosterone-soaked tribal rage and hate.

I’ve never had any use for professional sports. It bores me to tears. However, our many months spent under the thumb of COVID taught me that pro sports does have value: It pacifies those who have a deep, hard-wired need to defend their tribe and beat the snot out of anyone in a different animal pelt. Or uniform. Or political party. That’s their true driving force in this election: Their Red team needed to beat the Blue one, and that’s the sum total of their intellectual and political sophistication: Us good, Them bad.

Not to worry. Soon, COVID will be defeated, and the games will get going again, and we can plop them in front of the TV in their little red baseball caps, throw some Budweiser at them, and they’ll be as pacified as babies watching Sesame Street again, while the rest of us try to cobble together something that resembles normal.

Yesterday, I spent nearly the whole day in my comfy recliner, in my comfy PJs, and just basked in the glow of a return to normalcy and decency and honesty beaming from my television, as well as the jubilation from throngs of people celebrating in the streets (wearing masks of course, because they aren’t idiots), and I could feel my little hope nerve twitching… could it be? Could it be that this shitshow is really about to end? Could it be that racism, sexism, lying, cheating, bullying, willful ignorance, and destroying the environment and national alliances will soon be considered intrinsically bad things again? Could it be that making America suck Vladimir Putin’s balls will soon be recognized as humiliating again, and not a foreign relations strategy? Yes, my hope nerve… it’s twitching like a bunny’s ears at the first whiff of spring.

So, yesterday was a cocoon of comfy and cozy. Usually I need a fever and a hacking cough to huddle in a recliner for that many hours. On the other hand… it does feel a lot like “recovering” at this moment. Yes, I’m thrilled Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will usher in a new trajectory and tone for this country. Absolutely elated. But you know what? I’m also fucking exhausted.

I’m slowly realizing what four years of turning on the news each morning — my eyes wide in horror at whatever catastrophe and insult Trump created that day — has done to me… physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Every single day, that soulless sociopath chipped away at our democracy and our country, while complicit Congressional Republicans whistled and looked the other way. Even worse, people I know and like did the same.

I’m still having huge cognitive dissonance over people I formerly respected choosing to endorse the values (if you can call them that) that I hold vile. In my mind, they are cut from the same cloth as the very nice German people who looked the other way, even as they smelled the burning flesh from the Auschwitz ovens wafting on the breeze. I keep searching my soul on how to forgive people for endorsing what Trump stands for, and the only acceptable answer is some sort of epiphany, where they decisively and completely renouncing Trump. Repent and sin no more. But short of that — they’ve shown me who they really are, and I’m sorry, I can’t unring that bell. Like Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are — believe them.”

And to be clear — I’m not talking about real Republicans. I’m talking about Trump supporters, specifically. MAGAts. Republican and MAGAt are not interchangeable terms. They aren’t even similar. Not even in the same universe. Just hold John McCain up next to Trump and the difference is grotesquely obvious.

So, I know our President Elect wants us to immediately transition into kumbaya mode. Hold the phone there, pardner — love ya, love ya, love ya, but I need some time. I’m not there yet. After four years of non-stop trauma, I need some time to breathe and heal and process first. This has been an extremely abusive relationship. So the pummeling, punching, and kicking has stopped. I’m not just going to pop up with open arms and say, “Oh, I forgive you!” and kiss and make up.

When the stinging and bleeding stop, maybe we can reach political detente — going forward, we agree to stay in our own lanes and not drive each other into a ditch. That’s as optimistic as I can be at this moment in time. I’m not at the “forgive and forget” phase yet. SO not. Is this what a nice person would say? Nope. But I don’t feel like being nice at the moment. I’m in the throes of Trump PTSD. I’m less interested in making nice than I am in being self-protective, and ensuring that the abuser never has another opportunity to gain the upper hand again.

So, for awhile, we rest, we recuperate, we recover… eventually, hopefully, we heal. But we do not forget the true nature of those who would support the most corrupt, morally bankrupt individual who ever stepped foot in the White House. The cycle of domestic violence — of democratic violence — doesn’t stop until we make it stop. That begins with remembering what happened and resolving to never allow it to happen again. We can rest. But we cannot forget.

They’ve shown us who they are. Believe them.

But for now… rest. Because it’s been a fucking marathon, and I don’t know about you, but I am spent.

Portrait of a loser

My father was a loser.

At the age of 18, Henry Paul LoGuercio was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was quickly transformed from the valedictorian of his military high school, student body president, and master of five languages into a soldier. Because of his academic success in military school, he was immediately made a 2nd Lieutenant in charge of a unit of soldiers.

They were shipped out in the midst of World War II, landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day in Normandy, France. Jumping off the ship and sloshing through the waves in full military gear, my father and his unit stormed the beach amid a hail of German bullets. Those who survived charged ahead and took refuge in a barn.

My father never spoke of his military service, other than to tell me what happened next: German war planes overhead strafed the building. He could hear the ackackack of the bullets whizzing through the ceiling and all around him. When he looked up, all around him were dead and dying soldiers. Right next to him was a dead soldier with his face completely blown off.

Miraculously, not one bullet had grazed my father. However, there were dual strips of bullet holes alongside where he’d lain. He was rescued by other American soldiers in a complete state of shock. Master of five languages? He was unable to speak or even say his own name. He was taken to an army hospital where he was “rehabilitated.” He had to be taught to write again. My grandmother showed me a little note he’d managed to scrawl from his hospital bed in something more like chicken scratch than letters. It said, “Hi Mom and Pop, Everything here is swell. Love, Henry.” He was released to his parents six months later, with basically a “Sucks to be you” salute and a shove out the door. He suffered for the remainder of his life from “shell shock,” which we now call PTSD.

My father managed to make something of his life, and chose to go into medicine. He said he’d seen enough death, and wanted to devote himself to saving lives. He became an outstanding osteopath and surgeon. However, the PTSD haunted him… a shadow that never left his side, never let him forget the horrors he’d witnessed—in an era where we didn’t have war movies to desensitize us to the horrors of the battlefield. The first death and carnage he witnessed was not on a movie screen. It was bleeding at his side. When he was 18.

PTSD was a constant presence, which he attempted to chase away with alcohol. More and more and more, but the demons just laughed. At that time, the U.S. Army didn’t recognize “shell shock” as a disability. He was on his own to figure it out, discharged with a “Hey, sucks to be you, have a great life.” He never got a Purple Heart. From that point on, as far as the Veterans Administration was concerned, he was “Henry Who?”

Ultimately, alcohol and PTSD eroded my dad’s ability to function as a physician any longer. His hands began shaking. He was unable to do surgery with shaking hands, and unable to get malpractice insurance because of that. Unable to work, he rapidly downspiraled into out of control alcoholism, PTSD, and paranoia. In November 1977, he had a massive brain aneurysm, and was in a coma for nearly two months. He eventually woke up, paralyzed on one side, most of his intellectual capacity destroyed. He had become a shell, filled only with sadness and loss. Yet, he lingered on like that until 2003, when he died alone the day after Christmas in a convalescent hospital, apparently suffering another stroke in the middle of the night. Or, maybe he’d finally just had enough of this life.

When it became time to plan his funeral, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars group discovered that my dad was a WWII veteran because one of them was married to the woman who ran the local flower shop, where I’d ordered the roses for his casket. The VFW wanted to give my dad military honors upon his burial.

As friends and family carried my father’s casket to the open grave, there were several VFW members there in full uniform, rifles at the ready. He was given a rifle salute, and “Taps” was the only song that played. When they were done, their quartermaster presented me with an American flag, neatly and tightly wrapped into a triangle, and told me he appreciated my father’s service.

After all those years, and from veterans who never even knew him, he was still their brother in arms, and they wouldn’t let him be laid to rest without acknowledging his service. What a bunch of losers, to care for a sucker like that.

I’ll tell you one thing: There was more patriotism and courage in one hair follicle on any of those veterans’ heads, or on my dad’s, than there is in the entire character of our President. When called to serve this country, they didn’t fake bone spurs, likely because they weren’t amongst the rich and privileged who can slide out of service with a purchased note from the family doctor.

There are men and women just like that, right now, fighting to protect our country’s interests all over the world, who put their lives on the line for our country every single day, and who will selflessly charge into battle to save this country and defend our Constitution. And, they are led by a Commander in Chief who views them as “losers” and “suckers,” and who says if they are captured in battle, don’t deserve to be saved because they’d allowed themselves to be caught. He has less respect or concern for them than the dirt under his heel.

I have been a professional writer for going on 30 years, and I do not have the words within me to fully express my fury and outrage at what Donald Trump has said about the members of our miltary. His words in the Atlantic Monthly story this week are corroborated by his denigration of a genuine military hero, John McCain, as well as his lack of interest in doing anything when it was recently revealed that Russia had funded attacks on American soldiers in Afganistan.

He DOES NOT CARE about our service members. Or us.

HE.

DOES.

NOT.

CARE.

How about you? Do you care about them? If you do, then VOTE this November, and save our military members and our entire country from this soulless sociopath who doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.

Trump is an enemy of the state. He should be treated as such.

‘Yay,’ I whispered loudly, ‘my book is here!’

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This is me, holding the first copy of my first book for the first time!

Imagine, if you will, that your lifelong dream has just come true! You’ve been anticipating the Big Day, and it arrives, the dream is born… and you can’t really tell anyone.

Well, you can, technically, but it would just be… rude? Insensitive? Tone deaf?

Whatever adjective you choose, let me just tell you, tooting your own horn, however quietly, makes an oogie, sniggly feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Here’s the thing: My very first book was officially published today, June 8, 2020: “The Elements of Horse Spirit — The Magical Bond Between Humans and Horses.”

“Yay,” I exclaim in a loudish whisper… sort of on the level of a “psssst…”

How are you supposed to celebrate something in times like these? It was one thing when we were just dealing with coronavirus and Murder Hornets, but right now, the only thing on everyone’s radar is the murder of George Floyd, and the broad and wide wake of pain and protest that followed. As well it should beNo other topic should take precedence at this moment because racism is the fabric of this country, and it’s damn well long past time we did something about it.

And yet, other things in life are quietly happening on the sidelines that deserve celebration… graduations, weddings, new babies. And also, lifelong dreams coming true, like finally being able to say, “I am an author!” Sitting at home and writing was literally all I ever really wanted to do, I mean, other than become a country western superstar, and Debbylou Harris I ain’t. But I became an author, finally, the Queen of the Late Bloomers, and my first book is finally here!!!

Ummm… ugh.

Shining a light on my milestone in the midst of the larger societal picture sort of feels like standing up in the middle of a funeral and yelling, “I got a pony!!!”

What an asshole.

Gulp.

And yet, I can’t just let the book drift away unnoticed either. I’m sorta supposed to be a partner in making this book a success. My publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, has even featured me and my book in their inaugural LunaCon  author talk week, planned June 12-18, and on Tuesday, June 16, from 10:15-10:45 p.m. (Pacific Time), I will make my very first public debut as a published author! Wow! (Yes, you can attend: sign up for LunaCon here.) I am right in there with so many authors I’ve admired for years, and it’s a little intimidating and I hope I don’t choke, but I’ll do my best to bring my enthusiasm for the healing power of Horse Spirit to all the attendees.

I’m really excited about moving to the “adult table” of the writing world (everything I’ve written prior was on newsprint, and that goes straight into the recycling bin), and had COVID-19 not reconfigured all of our lives indefinitely, I’d be doing book-signings all over the place. I even was all prepared to face my flying fear, because flying around is something real authors do, and despite my dread of flying, I was gonna do it. I even bought new luggage a couple months ago, that didn’t need to be held together with a bungie cord, and here we are — stuck in Ironyland. Faced the fear, got the luggage, have a reason to do it and… not possible. Oh well, the supersized suitcase makes a lovely rack for all my clothes I’m too lazy to hang up and put away.

How can you not chuckle, a little, at my amazingly bad timing: First, not able to do the book signings I’d always imagined and, second, not really feeling wonderful about celebrating my book at all. Oh well, I’ll bumble along as best I can. I presented my predicament to my wonderful Llewellyn editor, Heather, and she sympathized and made a great suggestion: Share something helpful and healing from the book, because everyone needs that right now. Perfect!

This is an extremely condensed version of a tiny bit of what is in my book, but here are a couple things you can do to ease your mind and soul in the midst of the one-two punch of a pandemic and the tides of social unrest that bring change:

~  Consider all the qualities of Horse Spirit: Strength, courage, swiftness, grace, honesty, power, determination, beauty. Gather images of horses, or things associated with horses, wear horse symbols, collect them, and let them serve as prompts… invite the qualities of Horse to come into your life and carry you through whatever is troubling you.

~  Consider spending time with horses, even if you don’t have a lot of experience. You could volunteer at an equine-assisted therapy center, and not only be near some kind, loving horses, but also help some people who really need it. These centers are all over the place, and offer treatment for everything from autism to spinal injuries. Spending time with such big, gentle, spiritual creatures is grounding and nurturing.

If you have access to a horse, spending time with one simply as a companion, just walking and grazing, teaches you to “be here now” — you’ll learn to only focus on what you’re aware of with your five senses in that moment, rather than swirling in your head around all your worries. It’s really okay to take a breather from everything that erodes your serenity for just a little while. Trust me, all your problems and concerns will be right where you left them when you go back home.

So, there are a couple eensy, teensy morsels from my book, in which there is much more detail on these two topics and more, but you can use these two right now. Just find some horses, even online in videos, and watch them. Slow your breathing down… just watch. See if you don’t feel calmer for that little bit of time. Horses are our oldest spiritual allies, They’ve moved humankind forward through the centuries, and they’ll do the same for us now, on a metaphysical level.

I could go on and on about the wonderfulness of horses, but hey — I already did, and it’s in my book, which you can order on Amazon or directly from Llewelleyn right here. If I may be so bold, I’ll venture to say that it might be the kind of book that soothes your soul right about now. And since we’re all stuck at home, you’ll even have time to read it!

“So, yay, today my book was born!” I whisper loudly. I hope you enjoy it. I hope it brings you peace and whimsy and fascination and new ideas. May the Horse be with you!

(Programming note: This book is not appropriate for children, and is Pagan in its perspective.)

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See that date? My book was born today!

 

Black voices matter too — #BVM

It give me hope that white folks are speaking out against racism and police brutality, and marching and hollering and protesting alongside black folks. This is a good thing. But being silent would also be a good thing.

Lemme ‘splain:

Whitesplaining.

I know we mean well. We really do. But our good intentions sometimes end up drowning out black voices. And, when our mouths are open, our ears are closed. As I said in my last column, we need to shut our privileged white mouths and listen. Even when the message is harsh.

No rebuttals, no rationalizations, no “but but but…”

Shut up and listen. And let the words sink in.

I was tested yesterday to see if I really will practice what I preach, when a friend emailed a New York Times opinion piece by Chad Sanders, and lemme tell ya… this one pinched.

Shut up and listen, anyway, Debra.

In his column, he says, “Many white people I know are spilling over with guilt and overzealous attempts to offer sympathy.” Sanders side-steps this because it isn’t the point. What white people need isn’t the point. What black people need is. While Sanders is simply trying to exist in the midst of this turmoil, he’s getting this from his white friends:

But brazen as ever, white people who have my phone number are finding a way to drain my time and energy. Some are friends, others old co-workers and acquaintances I’ve intentionally released from my life for the sake of my peace of mind. Every few days I receive a bunch of texts like this one, from last week:

“Hi friend. I just wanted to reach out and let you know I love you and so deeply appreciate you in my life and your stories in the world. And I’m so sorry. This country is deeply broken and sick and racist. I’m sorry. I think I’m tired; meanwhile I’m sleeping in my Snuggie of white privilege. I love you and I’m here to fight and be useful in any way I can be. **Heart emojis**

Almost every message ends with seven oppressive words — “Don’t feel like you need to respond.””

What he says next is extraordinary: “Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process.”

Their own guilt and shame. In other words, underneath it all, the messages ultimately relieve the sender’s feelings of white guilt and shame. They aren’t really meant for the receiver’s benefit. They’re meant for the sender’s.

Don’t start your “but but but” now. Let the man finish:

Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process. In an unusually honest admission of power imbalance, the texter is informing me I don’t have to respond. (Gee, thanks.) This implies that whether or not I do respond — and I usually don’t — the transaction is complete because their message has been conveyed. The texter can sleep more soundly in their ‘Snuggie of white privilege’.”

#ShutUpAndListen.

Yeah, it’s harsh. And no, it’s not being understanding of our needs. And we white folks need to stop expecting that black understanding of our needs is reasonable. We also need to stop speaking for black people. They’re quite capable of speaking their own minds and thoughts and feelings.

#ShutUpAndListen

Sanders’ column got me thinking about that “black square” social media protest last week. Many people started using a black square as their profile photo, or just made a black square the post of the day. I felt a little uneasy about it, so I started visiting my black friends’ Facebook pages to see if they were doing it. Not one was. I took my cue from them. The black square seemed just like what Sanders described: a Snuggie of white privilege. I read several comments from black folks saying that this black square day was yet another instance of their voices being silenced right when their voices needed to be heard the most.

know people meant well. I know they felt like it was a show of support. Your heart can be in the right place even as your brain is out in left field. We can mean well even as we are actually hurting others.

So, my own little sometimes-in-left-field brain got to thinkin’. There are many black voices that my ears perk up and listen to, Barack and Michelle Obama at the top of that list. But there are others, and I want to shine a light on these in particular:

~  Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.

~  Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Eddie Glaude Jr.

~  MSNBC host of AM Joy, Joy Reid.

~  Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.

~  “Late Night with Seth Myers” writer Amber Ruffin.

~  New York Times columnist Charles Blow.

There are many more, but I wanted to keep the list tight because too many names, and it waters everything down. It’s harder to stand out in a sea of people, and I want them to stand out because these particular voices resonate with me. Deeply. When I shut up and listen to these people, without forming excuses or rebuttals in my mind, just take in what they are saying or writing, let it sink into my soul, I discover that my perception changes. My understanding increases. Try it. Turn down the volume on your own thoughts and just listen, and take it in. And… share their message. BUT! Share it without comment. They don’t need a white thumbs up for validation. They are already valid.

As these thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, another one drifted in: Not only do Black Lives Matter, but Black Voices also matter. And, it gave me an idea, yes it did. I want to start a #BlackVoicesMatter, and here are the simple rules: Share a black person’s post or column or video, one that really touches your heart or brightens your mind. But, with no comment other than #BlackVoicesMatter and #ShutUpAndListen.

That’s it. No white mouths moving. Only black.

And here’s another important lane to stay in: Should you feel moved to comment on someone else’s post of a black voice, it has to be an affirmation of that message: “I hear your pain.” “I understand your point.” “I recognize the injustice.” Make it about their message, not about whether or not you agree.

We white folks could learn a hell of a lot more with our ears — and minds — open, and with our mouths closed. Besides creating external change, by protesting all forms of racism, we can also create internal change by turning off our own “Snuggies of white privilege” and listening.

Which black voices touch, brighten, and enlighten you? Celebrate them! Cast their voices wherever you can! Because #BlackVoicesMatter too.

(I created a Black Voices Matter Facebook page, for posting blogs, columns, videos of black voices only. You are welcome to visit it, and post.)

 

Shut your privileged white mouth and listen

I don’t perceive myself as racist. Quite the opposite. I try really hard not to be. But sometimes, my privileged white foot steps in some shit. And there I am, doing my best to scrape it off.

I stepped in it on Facebook recently, while singing the praises of U.S. Representative Val Demings, who I’m hoping against hope will be Joe Biden’s running mate. In the midst of the burst of pain, anger, and outrage in this country over the murder of George Floyd, Demings wrote a brave and passionate op-ed in the Washington Post, in which she boldly confronted her fellow police officers about yet another abhorrent killing of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Yes, “fellow” officers. You see, not only is Demings a Congresswoman, she was a police officer for 27 years, part of which she spent as police chief.

Oh, yeah, she is all that and the bag of proverbial chips.

I discovered her during the impeachment trials. She blew me away. I listened to her speak and thought, “Who is THIS, and why isn’t she a contender for Biden’s runningmate? Well, now, apparently she is on his short list, and all my fingers and toes are crossed that Uncle Joe will recognize that Demings’ foot is the one that will fit his Cinderella slipper. Her perfect foot is in both camps: the black community and law enforcement! She is so uniquely qualified for this moment in time, and I will be over the moon to support BidenDemings2020.

Demings is one of those people who, when she speaks, your ears perk up. Your brain pays attention. Her voice rings like a bell. She has that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes her stand out in a sea of blah blah blah. In my Facebook post, I summarized her as: Smart. Experienced. Articulate.

Boom.

There it is.

“Articulate.”

Did you know that describing a black person as “articulate” is an insult? I certainly didn’t.

Heyyyyy…. what’s this stinky stuff on my shoe???

First, I was excoriated by an indignant white guy, which only pissed me off because there seems to be an overabundance of white people speaking on behalf of black people without their consent. “Whitesplaining.” So arrogant.

We went a few rounds after he proceeded to pelt me with belittling “Jane, you ignorant slut” insults. I insisted that not in my wildest imagination was I insulting Demings in any way, and pointed out to him that he didn’t have a problem with me describing her as “smart” or “experienced.” Following his logic, would these not also be backhanded slaps that insinuate blacks aren’t smart or experienced?

But he then produced a piercing story by Lynette Clemetson, a black woman, explaining that the history of this word is a back-handed slap to insinuate that blacks speak sloppily, and one who speaks eloquently is a bit of a unicorn. Which, of course, is just nuts. People still believe that sort of crap in this day and age? Why can’t I call an articulate black woman articulate, just like I would an articulate white woman? It doesn’t make any sense to me!

I wrestled with my immediate instinct to fight this issue to the death, because dammit, insulting Demings was the furthest thing from my mind, and let’s face it: She really is articulate, and I meant that from my heart. I want her to be our next vice-president, and first female president after that! I love this woman!

But there it was. From someone with personal experience. Someone who knows firsthand.

Me being me, I was ready to keep on slugging and prove my self-righteous point, and verbally take this guy down (he knows not with whom he deals!), but then I reread the story. Clemetson was/is spot on. And, despite my intense urge to prove I was right, which fuels most of my tooth-and-claw debates on and off Facebook… I pumped the brakes.

Hmmm.

Although another privileged white person chastising me for being another privileged white person just grates me the wrong way — the milk calling the sugar white — I realized that wasn’t the point. Clemetson’s story, and the history she revealed, were the point. I let it sink in. Turns out (brace yourself), I was wrong. Rather than argue, I decided to concede. I apologized, said I had no idea I was using an unkind word, and replaced the word in the post on the spot.

And then, another comment popped up in the thread, from a lady named Sylvia:

I am a 71 year old Black woman so I speak from years of experience. Whenever we’ve been told we are articulate, it means we don’t talk “black”, whatever that means. It’s like being asked if we’re educators just because we know how to properly use nouns and verbs. Long story short, it is most definitely not a compliment. I hope this explanation helps.

I was so touched by her gentleness and patience with my white privilege ineptitude, despite the fact that white folks, even well-meaning ones, don’t deserve any gentleness or patience from a black person, and yet… she extended that to me anyway. That really touched me. And impressed me deeply. This was my response to her:

Thank you for explaining this. I had NO IDEA.
The post has been updated.

This tiny exchange gave me a huge epiphany. Besides writing, I’m a massage therapist. I’ve had my own practice for 20 years. In the course of that practice, I’ve had a couple clients with fibromyalgia. They made no sense to me! So extremely sensitive! One of them yelped, “too deep!” when I first placed my hands on her back. I was only spreading the oil! I consulted with her physician, who explained that the nerves of a fibromyalgia patient interpret touch as pain. It doesn’t matter that I think my touch is light — all that matters is their experience of pain. It’s not my place to judge, it’s my place to accept their experience and adjust my approach accordingly.

Believe their pain. It’s so simple!

This prompted me think about the pain black people experience every single day — the pain that white people don’t know about because they never experience it. This utter cluelessness is the definition of “white privilege.” And thinking about fibromyalgia pain really snapped things into focus.

We need to believe people about their pain. When black people say “that hurts,” we privileged white folks need to believe them. Even if it doesn’t hurt us, even if we didn’t intend for it to hurt, even if we don’t understand why it hurts — we need to shut our mouths, nod our heads, listen, and acknowledge it. Particularly if we caused it. Our own understanding of that pain is irrelevant.

I don’t have fibromyalgia.

I’m not black.

I don’t understand either pain.

But I accept it.

And should a black person inform me about my pain, I’ll shut my mouth and simply listen. And if I caused that pain, I’ll take responsibility, apologize, and make a correction.

Will you?