My friend Larisa recommended this green powder super food thing to me.
“You’ll shit like a demon,” she said. “But you’ll feel better than you've ever felt.”
Friends. Fuck, how I love my friends. Dionne and Stevie did not have a toehold on telling us what friends are for.
Our friends tell us what they’re for every day. They’re for The Awesome. And making us laugh with a well placed statement about shit. And growing and bouncing shit off of (hopefully not literally, unless you’re into that). And being not just a shoulder, but a sweet soft space-holding equally vulnerable place to cry. Our weaving together makes us stronger. Soft, coiled together. (Yeah, in typical form I could not help but continue the poopoo metaphor.)
My first best friend (who continues to be my BFF) is Stef. At five she taught me how to tie my shoes. She was wearing an orange vest that had lambswool inside. Always a fashion plate. We text all the time, sometimes so quickly that pet names are made: currently we call each other “Coco,” because of an XOXO gone wrong. We used to watch Grease pretty much every weekend and can still recite the whole thing. I wrote a lot more about her on my perfumery site here.
And then there are the people for whom I consciously asked the Universe. (I decided to narrow by that criterium, because as I started to write about all the wonderful friends I realized I would write an entire book if I didn’t somehow narrow this down. And a book should be written about all of the people for whom I’m so grateful. Just perhaps not at this moment.)
Can I tell you about Sara, Nic, and Casey? Holy shit. I met these soul sisters because we all signed up for the same Carmel Writing Retreat with Linda Sivertsen. The magic. If you do not have a soul-sisterly tribe like this yet please please please ask the Universe for them. I mean it. I almost don’t even want to write about them because they are so special. But I’ll try.
Sara: fills me up every time we talk and even when we’re not talking, just to think of what she would do, what fearless joy-filled action she would take is a soul-boost. Always knows the right thing to say. Pushes me in the way I need to be pushed and makes me think without ever making me feel bad, even about uncomfortable stuff, like making the world a better place, checking privilege, figuring out dementia, love, Jesus Christ, so much.
If I could climb into Nic’s smile and live there for the rest of my days I would need for nothing else ever again. But then she’d, like, have me all stuck up in her grill and I need Nic to be able to go about her life because she teaches by being herself, by always being true, real, honest. Meeting her was magic and has continued to be. Oh, and her editing skills are stellar. But that's the least of it, and that in itself is a lot.
Casey’s magic is exquisite and nearly unspeakable. This woman. Santa is real and it is Casey. But joking aside (only like half joking because: magic), I look at Casey’s face and I’m like, “I’ve known you for centuries. And centuries aren’t even enough time. Everyone should be so lucky.” That’s not to mention the space this woman holds, the ALL of herself she gives. Her writing. Her voice.
I keep this Truthbomb in my Desire Map Planner. Casey gave this to me when we met and it opened my whole world. It took me back to my childhood and into my future simultaneously. (Who knew Danielle LaPorte made little square time machines?) In The Rules of Inheritance, Claire Bidwell Smith writes about people who unlock you. With Casey I have felt unlocked and understood and seen and loved.
Ask the Universe. Then the friends show up and hand you stuff like this. It’s fucking ridiculous.
Speaking of asking the Universe for soul sisters, my friend Sophie — I am so lucky to call her my friend — is such a love I hardly know what to do with myself to talk about her. She celebrates so purely the people she cares about. Never in our friendship has she ever tried to fix or change one hair on my head. Also I am addicted to having tea with her and she reads tarot (though she doesn’t really need the cards, to be honest) like no one I’ve ever seen. I feel like I blabber on and on when I’m with her because she is one of the most excellent listeners I’ve ever met. Sophie took me to my first breast MRI appointment earlier this year at 6:00 AM and instead of being tired she said in her beautiful French accent, “I love to see the world at this hour. It’s like a whole different city.”
That’s what a stellar friend can do — make you see the beauty in 6:00 AM and a breast MRI (the socks are the cozy upside, Sophie made me understand). Invaluable. My words here can only pay modest tribute to such luck and magic.
And let’s not forget you. Knowing I have you to write to has opened so much in my heart. Thank you. I bow to you.
And to take this full (poopoo) circle and end on the happy-crappy side of sappy, I wouldn’t be your real friend if I didn’t share with you two tremendous tricks (of the trade?) that have been helping me for the last few months. Fiber and probiotics. (Make sure the fiber is a combo of soluble and insoluble and switch up the probiotics once a month. You can go back to the original probiotic after a month, if the bottle has more than 30 flirty capsules.)
I can’t promise you’ll shit like a demon, but you’ll feel pretty damn good. Because that's what 41-year-old friends are for.
Let's keep this grateful negating hateful thing going! Tell me about a friend, someone who's unlocked you. Or, hey, something that's helped your gut.
Here I am reading this week's Full Frontal column about Iceland's invasion of cute-sweater-gawkers (and how I was one of them but tried not to be a shitty tourist). There was this store called Geysír, which is basically like Icelandic Anthropologie, and they kept luring me in with their ads of women dressed in wool bracing against a breeze and half-covered with gorgeous blankets. I didn't buy anything there after all. I did exclaim a couple times, however, "You're breakin' me down, Geysír!"
For a "folk" song, arguably one of the most punk rock songs of all time. This has been one of my favorite songs for so long. I am wild about Father John Misty and I could just play through all of Fear Fun on my uke.
The depth of my love for Leonard Cohen cannot be overstated. I feel lucky that I came to "Hallelujah," for example, fresh, before it had been picked up by every single show and movie, before it was on The OC, before it dotted every wedding. It was about the pain of love and filled a gap where my learnings about love left off -- the place where you sit in a cave and wonder why it hurts so bad sometimes. He met me there. He met all of us there.
But this isn't "Hallelujah." This is "Chelsea Hotel #2." One of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs of all time. He was a real poet. My words feel hollow next to his.
This week's column. Now for something a little lighter, bubbly, trendy!.
"Yesterday was plain awful (you can say that again) / Yesterday was plain awful / But that's not now that's then"
Yes, I quoted a song from Annie to start this post. Hillary should have been president like I should have been Annie when I was a kid. Robbed! The good news is, Hillary can still be president in four years. I could maybe play Miss Hannigan (and totally would), but Annie is out for me.
Point being, I'm feeling a little lighter than yesterday. A little. There is still a lot of work to do (and we have a lot of time to do it, so we should start now to get as much done as possible, like educating ourselves so that we can vote at the state level).
That said, what about every single person who isn't straight or isn't white? What about that color and type of us? What are we going to do for that sect of us?
And I am endlessly inspired by the artists and my fellow writers offering guidance on how to move forward. My favorite so far are the above Toni Morrison moment and a piece Martha Beck posted. Beck writes, "My job today is to feel all the parts of me that are like the darkest parts of my profoundly divided country, my profoundly divided species. It is to listen to them, to understand them until my own fear, anger, and sorrow dissolve into the light of compassion."
Read the whole thing here.
Here's an excerpt:
"In the wee small hours last night, I began. I set about the same task that saved me back when the very community I’d loved all my life seemed determined to blot out all the goodness within me. First, I chose to believe that this election, like other horrors in my life, is forcing every broken part of me to the surface, where I can’t avoid seeing it. Second, I began tracking down every last fragment of brutal patriarchal power within myself, knowing that once I find it, I can heal it.
"Is there nothing in me that resembles Donald Trump, his cronies, his voters? I wish. All night I felt the blind, amoral terror that festers in the heart of every tyrant. All night I raged like something trapped and beaten. All night I was saturated with the kind of despair that crushes all benevolent creativity. All night I wanted someone big and powerful and ferocious to come along and make everything all better. All night, in fear of them, I was one of them.
"Turning against these qualities in myself — shaming them, repressing them, trying to crush them — is just another version of the same stupid brutality. This is how I responded to my memories of abuse. I wanted to fight, to destroy something, to do anything but accept what had happened. It didn’t work. It never does. The only thing that works, I found after endless anguish, is to find some way I can love the most broken parts of myself."
When I woke up today the sun was shining strongly through the glass door to our patio. Even though I had cleaned it just last week the amount it was streaked was undeniable, with the sun so heavily coming through it. I went outside and I cleaned it again. Twice more, actually. And then I cleaned the inside again, too. When I got to therapy, the mirror in that bathroom was spotted and mottled as well. It struck me that it relates to this election. I thought we were shinier and brighter than we are. But it's my responsibility to glean the most clarity I can from my life, from who I am, and to "love the most broken parts of myself," as Beck writes. But first I have to see them. And oh, aren't we seeing them.
The sun isn't afraid to show me how streaked my windows are. Will I meet it in its lucidity? I will meet it. Will I meet the light that has come to the extent of our racism, xenophobia, sexism, and hatred of basically anything that isn't straight and white (though by hating everything other than itself, the white hater hates itself, too)? I will. It's the only way. The time for singing "Tomorrow" on the playground is over (thank the Universe).
This election season is over. And it’s not how this (nasty) woman would have liked it to go. While watching the electoral votes come in I picked every scab I ever had and fell asleep with a heavy heart, dreaming about being afraid at gas stations in the middle of the country for some reason.
I am grateful I do not hold my heart like a fist. Today I am sad, but my heart is not tight. My heart is disappointed and sure, a little sacred. I feel “other,” marginalized, out of step with, apparently, most of “my” country.
Even though my spirit feels kicked in the nuts, and “we” lost, that doesn’t have to mean LOVE loses — like the end of The Grinch we can at least have some light because it’s in us. That said, I am sad today. I’m not in shadow, because I don’t choose from a place of shadow. And a taste of this shadow makes me want to barf. How dark and scared a place is that makes this kind of choice for our world. And who’s “our” anymore?
As I feel the umbrella of shadow encroaching I breathe and listen to Hillary’s concession speech and cry into my cat’s belly fur. I will approach with the “open mind” she mentions, but I’ll also hope that this man is a lot of hot air, without a hair-trigger on The Button.
The popular vote shows that a majority believes similar to me, to put it in overly simplistic terms. That was somewhat of a comfort, because at first I felt like the majority of the country wanted me and “my kind,” whatever that means (dyed haired liberal weirdos?), dead. So to consider that Hillary got more votes is something, yet this is just another giant slap in the face to my fellow Americans and humans that aren’t actually “other,” they’re us.
I liked reading several beacons of hope on Instagram, including yogi Guru Singh and Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck. Singh talks about noise versus signal in the growth of human consciousness, and how it’s our job to suss out the signal from all the noise. Schieck writes about being able to hold and accept a paradox of belief from our fellow humans and trusting that love always wins.
This came to me via Linda Sivertsen:
The below came to my attention via Danielle LaPorte. Rochelle Schieck's movement ritual practice of Qoya completely helped save me last winter. She is wise and gets to wisdom through the body.
I appreciate this perceptive from Karen Brown, a friend of a friend: "I can't get on the ‘it's going to be OK’ positive bandwagon. It's not for women, it's not for people of color, it's not for immigrants, it's not for LGBTQ ... so please, beautiful, loving, positive, particularly white straight friends, please understand that I can't be in that place today. I know you mean well, but take a moment to check your privilege before expecting everyone to dust off and move on.”
One heartening chart shows “how the future voted,” with most of the country so blue from 18-25 year olds’ votes that Hillary would have gotten 504 electoral votes and Trump only 23. So perhaps we’ll move forward eventually with equality after all. Someday.
Progress hurts, I know. Especially when it feels like going backward.
I got very emotional over my yogurt and berries breakfast as my husband and I discussed the election. I very much believe we’re going to have our first female president. But the ugliness of this election season and especially Trump, rape culture, and all the trappings of the backlash to progress have made me almost lose sight of this milestone. Almost.
Yes, we should have already had a female president. Yes, who cares about gender. What-the-fuck-ever. Because here we are now. We’ve been through a lot. This year has been about so many things, including #BlackLivesMatter. Black people being shot to death for no reason by cops has brought up a lot to discuss, including our institutionalized racism. We’re finally discussing how our country was built — on the backs of people brought here against their will. It is no wonder we’ve got a whole mucky-muck mess on our hands (to put it completely childishly). So — we’re talking about it. Some of us are realizing our white privilege means an invitation to responsibility. At the very least, responsibility to read, to talk with people, to open our hearts, to admit our ingrained biases so that we can move forward.
As I got emotional this morning about having our first female president, braided up in those feelings was also the fact that we have a monster of an opposing figure to progress in Trump. To the very progress of having a female president, in fact. A monster who says he can grab any woman’s pussy. It has been hard the last month or so with the weight of the reminder that as a woman I am not considered equal. That there are many who still believe our bodies are up for their amusement and violence. That we are merely receptacles who should keep our mouths closed (until they want to stuff something in it). And keep our mouths closed we have. We’ve bent over backwards, put on high heels, preened and pretended not to be the powerful life-giving miracles we are. We’ve tolerantly patted their hands, letting them know we’re sweet, we’re not scary. We’ve let it slide. No fucking more.
He wants to grab the pussy? Good fucking luck. I think a lot of us are finally finally finally getting the memo that the time for hand patting and sweet smiles and tolerance for rape culture and “locker room talk” is over. They’ve pushed us too far.
Another thing that came to mind this morning while being emotional was all the women I’ve known who have been raped. And all the friends who didn’t believe them. Some of the most open and progressive of my friends, still blaming the victim first. Hating her. I’ve seen it over and over. It makes me sick. Some guy jerks off on one friend in the middle of the night and all the guys dismiss it. Everyone dismisses it because the assaulter was troubled and drunk. Another friend molested by another friend: BLAMED for whatever she can be blamed for and “no, he couldn’t possibly have done it” (why would she lie? she didn’t). Another friend date raped by her boyfriend/coworker, coming to work with bruises, crying: ACCUSED of lying, bruising herself (in this case the rapist got to the coworkers first). Again and again and again. And those are the ones who’ve told. I know we don’t want to believe the ugliness, but it’s fucking ugly, for Christ’s sake.
Speaking of Christ, one of the things I find very interesting about this election is how non-religious Donald Trump is, but many of his constituents are. Of course he isn’t. He is not a Jesus-like creature. And yet he is the man who has manifested from all of the people on the right who consider themselves so very principled. Maybe if they stopped for a minute to notice that this monster is what comes of principles born of intolerance they might have a moment of grace. I’m not going to hold my breath, because it would surprise me greatly if anyone took responsibility for electing a candidate like this. They all seem so bewildered — the ones who aren’t crazy, violent, hateful motherfuckers, anyway. All of this hate and intolerance in the name of Jesus and God — I’ll give them one thing — their God must be a forgiving one, because it’s gotta drive Him up the wall (cloud?) that His people are so astray from the teachings of His love.
This seems more like the sentiment a certain sect of the population is going for:
Make America Rape Again
Oh, and — we were once the immigrants. It’s just amazing how much bullshit can be spewed and no one seems to notice or care.
Anyway — first female president, right after the first Black president. Yes. But not without a LOT of ugliness. I keep trying to remind myself the level of bombast and hatred and vitriol is directly proportionate to the amount and level of progress. This is a good sign, even if it feels like being stabbed and told you ain’t worth shit, woman. You don’t deserve the vote, woman. Let’s reverse suffrage, woman. The privilege of the patriarchy is slipping, I remind myself. It’s in its death throes, and that is why it is fighting harder and shittier and dirtier than ever. But I'm with her.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.