Suicide and the Illusion of Choice

Suicide and the Illusion of Choice

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

A year ago yesterday (January 17, 2017), I got released from the psyche ward for the second time in two months for suicidality, a bipolar crash, and clinical depression, among other things.  That same day, a year later, a dear friend’s brother was claimed by suicide.  What is the difference between us?  Did I make a choice to live?  Did he make a choice to die?  Does someone who takes their own life have freedom of choice?  I argue no.  They don’t.

Freedom of choice involves the ability to make conscious, awake choices.  It involves clarity of mind and heart.  It involves a healthy mental, emotional, spiritual state.  People who are claimed by suicide do not have these things.  No one, in their right (meaning healthy) mind does such a tragic act willingly.  It may look like they made a choice.  They may even believe they are making a choice.  But they didn’t.

Someone high, someone drunk, someone under siege, someone under attack, someone in extreme pain of any kind cannot make conscious, clear choices.  And for some people, the depression, inner pain, outer pain, PTSD, bipolarity, and other mental illnesses are simply too strong to leave someone clear of mind and awake enough to make such a choice.  Depression is a monster that speaks lies in your head.  Well, sometimes it speaks, sometimes it whispers insidiously, sometimes it screams and drowns out all rationality.  And sometimes all it screams over and over is: “I can’t take this anymore.  I need to die.  This needs to end.”  And the disease of depression convinces that person that they are making a free choice—THAT’S part of the symptomology of depression and mental illness—it makes you think you are well.  It makes you think everyone else just doesn’t understand.  It makes you think you are in your rightful power as an individual to control your actions.  And these are all lies, these are symptoms of a disease.

I knew someone once who, when a friend was claimed by suicide, said: “That selfish sonofabitch.”  The victim had left two children.  To the outsider, this person committed a selfish act.  He was essentially an asshole.

Part of the problem with believing suicide is a choice is the definition of the word and the language surrounding it.

Suicide, as defined in most dictionaries goes something like this: the intentional and voluntarily choice to take one’s own life.

The words surrounding this definition are ones like: committed, took their own life, chose to end it all.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “suicide claims the life of a suffering person.”  Perhaps words like the following might be more appropriate:

Tyrannicide—which may sound insulting, but a person who becomes ill enough to kill themselves is not killing THEMSELVES, they are attempting to kill the pain, the monster, the tyrant inside.  The person claimed by suicide is a victim, and in no way a willing victim. It is analogous to being possessed by a monster.  It’s the monster that pulls the trigger, it’s the monster that takes the fatal leap.  The person unwillingly and unwittingly hosting such a creature essentially—if untreated (and sometimes even if they are treated)—becomes powerless over the depression.

Some would say this analogy doesn’t work because possession implies a spiritual, demonic force.  I am not suggesting that—although, I believe that is possible (there are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual diseases), I am more using the image to help people see that the person claimed by suicide did not make the conscious choice to end their own lives.  If the possession analogy doesn’t work for you—try thinking of the person with fatal cancer as being possessed by a monster that eats its host from the inside out.

Fideicide—the killing of faith. Someone overwhelmed by a disease can easily lose faith.  Someone claimed by suicide is trying to end their hopelessness, not themselves.  The disease has swallowed their faith.

Facticide—the killing of facts.  The monster of depression distorts the fact the ill person is worthy of living, is worthy of help, has the ability to choose otherwise.

Claim—the word “claim,” comes from the roots of words meaning, the act of shouting out, to demand, and to take sometimes by force.  This seems far more accurate than the deliberate and voluntary choice to take one’s own life.

Cancer claims lives, heart attacks claim lives, strokes claim lives, diabetes claims lives, Alzheimer’s claims lives.  Depression is every bit as much an illness as any of these.  Bipolarity is, PTSD is, and so on.  So is addiction.

Addiction and depression tell lies—it’s part of their symptomology.  So does bipolarity.  As someone who suffers from several mental illnesses, I know as soon as my head says, “You’re doing better, stop taking your meds,” that that is the disease talking.

Depression (and to be clear, I do not mean sadness, or the blues—I mean clinical depression) and addiction have the ability to smother rationality and the ability to ask for realistic help.  Just as Alzheimer’s takes away the memory piece by piece, depression takes away freedom, hope, the ability to seek help piece by piece.  Just as cancer little by little eats the body away, so does depression and other mental illnesses eat away at the ability to think clearly and rationally.

Saying someone chose to take their own lives—in addition to being inaccurate, is harmful to everyone involved.  It puts us in the power of blame, of judgment, and of the ability to slide into the need to protect ourselves from pain and the reality that depression is real, that depression stalks people, that depression is fatal.  Some people would much rather believe suicide is a choice because it separates themselves from the possibility to being devoured by a monster.  Lastly, it is crushing to the family of the victim to say they choose such a thing.  It implies deep self-centeredness, it implies they loved themselves more than their families and friends. It implies they didn’t care about others.  People who die from cancer are not abandoning their loved ones or choosing their own lives over theirs. They are not being selfish by dying.

When someone we love is claimed by suicide, the world collapses for the survivors.  It is devastating.  And people close to them often say things like: “Well, at least they are not suffering anymore,” which is exactly what one says when a loved one dies of cancer.  Inside we know suicide is a disease.  And combined with depression can be fatal.

People whose disease compels them to attempt suicide are not crying for help.  Attempting suicide is an expression of mental illness—a bursting of a cyst, the manifestation of a sickness.  And, also tragic, is the fact that many people cannot afford mental healthcare before its too late.

Suicide is also not a sin just as dying of cancer is not a sin.

Compassion, understanding, and an ability to listen openly and face reality is what we must offer when someone we love dies of suicide. No blame, no judgment.

And what of someone like me who suffers from depression and suicidality and is still alive?  Before my symptoms became overwhelming, I was able to seek and accept help.  My mental cancer was advancing in strength and severity, but it hadn’t gotten to the point of no return.  I was still able to have just enough measure of mental clarity and freedom of choice, to get help.

And that is the only difference between my friend’s brother and myself.  I am not better than him, stronger, I am not less selfish, or anything of the sort.

I am lucky.  I simply don’t have as severe an illness as him.  And that is of no credit to me.  Some people survive cancer.  Many don’t.  I survived depression and suicidality.  He was taken—claimed—cut short.  He was murdered by a cruel disease.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Trans LifeLine: US: (877) 565-8860 CANADA: (877) 330-6366

 

 


 


All donations to this post go to suicide prevention.


One Way to Prepare, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

One Way to Prepare

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Exhale: Release and create,

Inhale:  Gather and nourish,

Exhale: Loosen and share,

Inhale:  Draw and replenish,

Exhale: Surrender and sigh,

Inhale:  Unite and receive,

Exhale: Express and give,

Inhale:  Assemble and hold,

Exhale: Relinquish and set free,

Inhale:  Store and treasure,

Exhale: Cast and measure out,

Inhale:  Claim and protect,

Exhale: Bestow and rejoice,

Inhale:  Shore up and fortify,

Exhale: I am awake and ready.

 

 

 


 

All donations go to medical expenses and groceries.  Thank you for your support. <3

 


Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Reflections on the Past Calendar Year, 2017, and Looking Ahead to 2018

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Last year, at this time, I was in the psych ward begging the nurses to kill me.  Luckily, they said they didn’t do that sort of thing in the hospital.  I spent 9 days there.  My second time in the 2 months. I spent my 49th birthday there.  The staff brought me a cupcake, which they said was against the rules.  It was yummy.  You really haven’t lived until you hear a room full of psychologically ill people singing you happy birthday.

And here I am.  As far as I know, alive.

You are an integral part of my being here.  You supported me 100%, and even though most of this saga was chronicled on my now lost, Radiance Moo-Cow Facebook page, you know the story.  I have no secrets.

I have been criticized for sharing so intimately about mental illness.  You know I do it to destigmatize it all.  You know I do it to help people see someone can exist and function productively and positively—some days better than others—with a chronic, and at this point, incurable, mental illness.

Anywho, things began to lift, not so coiendentally in the spring, with your support, therapy, and a long, struggling, scary, frustrating search for the right combination of meds.

And, of course, there was the unwavering love and support of Mandy, Sam, Ben, and Daniel.

Around late winter, early spring I found Love in Action UCC.  I cannot emphasize enough how important that was, and is, to my recovery.  The accepting, supportive community, the aliveness of service, the many new friends, and the purpose I feel and truly have there working with lgbtqia youth, and watching those programs grow, is so healing.

Then there are the adopted kids I have taken under my wing and have helped get through some rough times.  They too have helped me perhaps more than they know.  They are not just adopted kids—they are friends.

Then too, there was my journey into realizing my meds did not take away, as I so deeply feared, my creativity.  They have helped hone things, focus things, but the creative forces are still there, and for that I am more grateful than I can say.

Yes, there was, and is, all the ongoing shit with trump and his terroristic regime.  Yes, there was, and is, all the ongoing shit from the far-right terrorist extremists.  Yes, there is still the transphobia and the daily challenges I face simply existing in the world—the public world.  And yes, there are still bouts of deep self-hatred and dysphoria.  These have, thankfully, lessened lately though, and for that I am relieved beyond measure.  Yes, I am still living under mountains of debt and the fear of being taken to court for those debts.  Yes, I still cannot help support my family the way I would like financially.  Yes, I truly believe I am not yet ready to handle a full-time job in any field.  Yes, I still have my obsessions, magical thinking, paranoid thinking (and I do not use that last word lightly), and my anxieties, fears, throttling storms of PTSD, and the like.

And I am here, and yes, I still talk with much hyperbole and drama.  I’m Italian.

Looking ahead, I see my role as a mother changing and growing more and more into being a friend.

Looking ahead, I see a future of growing and living into my role as a mentor of lgbtqia youth.  I see myself exploring the possibilities of taking a stab at stand-up comedy and performance poetry, and to return to storytelling, and perhaps even giving concerts/kirtans.  I see myself making a CD of my music and publishing another book(s) of poetry. I see continued discoveries into myself as a transwoman, as a woman, as an aging woman, as someone exploring the wonders of their sexuality and the on and off desire to be in a romantic/intimate relationship with someone.  Yes, I am still a budding pansexual.

Looking ahead, I see more poems.

Looking ahead, I see reconciliation for those in my life who still do not accept me or want me around their families.

Looking ahead, I see new friends weaving their way into my life, and I in theirs.

Looking ahead, I see doing my best to tend to the medical conditions that are gradually developing in this body of mine.

Looking ahead, I see more prayer, more devotion, more deepening, more diving into, more blossoming, more treasuring, more sharing, more joyous my spiritual journey, which, of course, encompasses everything in my life, my every breath.

Looking ahead, I see more healing in our world, and me doing my little part in that healing.

Looking ahead, I see things in the world perhaps getting worse before they get better.

Looking ahead, I see more taking care of myself and setting boundaries for my safety.

Looking ahead, I see more ways to give, in both secret and out in the open.

Looking ahead, I see less shame.

Looking ahead, I continue to see the goodness, resilience, compassion, wisdom, and power of everyday people.

Looking ahead, I continue to notice the little things, the big things around me that are beautiful, mysterious, wondrous, and important.  I continue to actively look for and see/experience gratitude for these things and more.

Looking ahead, I know there will be days when I want to die, when I will be unable to leave my bed, my house, or to eat.  No, I am not calling this to myself.  I am ill, and I live with that illness every day, and while I am doing OK, I know this disease of mental illness is relentless and reminds me everyday that it is there, lurking, hungry.  I am not in delusion about that.  At some point it will drag me under again– hopefully not into the suicidality I walked with everyday for months.  The writing of suicide notes, the making plans of where, when, and how, the carrying of knives and box cutters, the taking them to my wrists.

Looking ahead, I also see healing and the right support to get me through those times.  And while I am afraid, everyday at some point, that the beast is just up ahead behind the next happy, good moment, I am comforted that I can get through it with you and my ability to ask for, and to receive, love and help.

In short, because, yes, I am still short, and likely will remain so, and perhaps I may even grow shorter as the years go by (by-with), looking ahead, I see positive possiblities.  I see you.  I see me, and today I see me with some measure of self-acceptance and even, I daresay, love.

And it’s still winter.  The local world is wrapped in biting cold and sparkling snow.  And I see its beauty and dangers.  I also, looking ahead, see spring.

Looking ahead I see more glitter, unicorns, stuffed animals, and hippy skirts.

I see this moment, looking inwards, outwards, here, now.  And looking ahead, for the first time in years, I see more here and now’s.  More moments, each one unpredictable—no matter what I envision—each one full of possibilities and unexpected joy and hardship, each one full of me, you, the Divine, and a world full of people who care, who take care of one another no matter what the media says.

Looking ahead, I see now.

Looking ahead, I see hope.  Yes.  Hope.

Much love and thanks,

Jenn

 

first thing saw 2018 yup

 


 

Thank you for your kind support. <3



Some Thoughts on the Gender Binary and Everything Else in Between, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Some Thoughts on The Gender Binary

And Everything Else

In Between

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

What I am about to share is going to piss somebody off.  Seems that way about most everything I say nowadays.  However, if you truly have faith in your God, or you truly have faith in who you are as human being, then what you are about to read should not be threatening to anything you believe or experience.  This is not to say that what I have written here is perfect.  Far from it.  Language barriers, prejudices, and fears—yours and my own– make that impossible.  Let’s get on with it.  I am ready for the mean, hateful, harmful, and trolling comments from “both” sides (and “both” is in quotations because well, you’ll see). I am also ready for nice comments.  I am inviting them too. I hope.

I will give you that the idea of the binary exists.  I know, many scientists today say the gender binary doesn’t exist in the ways we’ve traditionally thought, and I totally support their findings.  That said, the idea of polarities exists. It is seemingly everywhere—day and night, cold and hot, light and dark, rainy days and clear days, fire and water, sky and earth.  Having given you that, you will inevitably need to give me, that there isn’t, and never will be, a truly individuated or separate representation or living form that will ever exist on the opposite ends of the binary.  For the opposite ends of the binary are only ideas, even if they are created by God. If this scares you, then so must the idea of the morning, or of the evening, or rainbows, or singing.

The opposite ends of the binary only exist to overtake the other—swallow it up, merge within in it, into and unto, itself—not in battle, never forced—but in dance and song, and flavor.  That is the miracle, that is the beginning of all things.  The purpose of the binary is not to separate, but to join, merge, and hence, create.

No one can imagine the idea of the opposites without seeing, feeling, experiencing, knowing, or witnessing that they are all in some relationship with the other.

Go ahead, stand on the earth without forever being also in the sky.  Be in the middle of a perfectly sunny day and not know that evening is already on its way.  Step into a pool that you want not too hot and not to cold.  You get what I’m saying.

Having given you that the binary exists as theoretical reference points (I know, I know, the Bible says God created male and female and it also says: Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones,” or, “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”   I know, I know, you can take a verse of the Bible and use it to back up even the most outlandish ideas.  Like this one: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”  I know you can take the fact that God killed about 25 million people in the Bible to represent the killing of our unbelief or to justify the slaughter of unbelievers, but then again, so do some Muslims).  It is high time and low time, to grasp and let go, once and for all, and forever anew, the idea that the front of a coin can be separated from the back.  They exist because of one another and because of what they manifest—and in the case of human existence—they manifest all that is wonderful (not the coins themselves, but what they represent, well, not what they represent, but what they demonstrate).

Cold is nothing unless heat exists.  Up means nothing without down.  Music is only heard in silence. Purple only arises between shades of blue and shades of red. Death prowls and life blooms.  It is the space between them that brings forth all things; where all things wondrous, flavorful, truthful (yes, truthful), and just plain living—exist.  It is in the mingling where the fun begins.

Two people do not have sex in order to annihilate the other.  They have sex to blend together, breathe and gasp together, come together.  It is this joining of bodies, souls, hearts, and minds that brings forth life.

I know, I just got done saying the opposite ends of the binary only exist to overtake the other.  Remember what I also said—the true opposite ends of the binary do not exist except in theory.  You will never find them in life—no man is ever just a man—he has his “feminine” side.  No woman is ever just a woman.  She will have her “masculine” side.  God becomes the mother hen to keep us safe under his wings.  No night is ever not slipping into day.

And that is my point.  Living is in the union.  Fun is in the merging.  Wonder is in the rainbow.  Beauty is in the evening sky.

So please, just as you cannot deny the idea of the binary, you cannot deny the existence of infinite variety, or of the intricate, heavenly, ever-expanding spectrum between the opposite ends of that binary.

I know, there are flaws in what I say.  Language makes things messy and muddles meaning up. You can easily take my words and use them to prove the exact opposite of what I am saying.  That being what it is—you cannot lose sight (well, you can out of your own shadowy, shame-based fears—and we all have them) that all the good stuff lives within and on and with and along a spectrum.  And nothing in between threatens the existence of the binary. The binary will always be the idealized ideas of opposites in the same way day and night will be always be idealized ideas of opposites.  I do not use the word “idealized” to mean better.  I mean it to say, the ultimate opposite ends of the spectrum only exist as ideas.  They never truly manifest, one without the other.

Go ahead, flip a coin.  Not only does it rise, tumbling upwards into the air, it also tumbles down landing on either heads or tails—and these will never exist one without the other—front and back. But I said that already, and I will say it again, at risk of being repetitive (the crusty idea of the idealized binary has been repeated for eons, but so has the idea that God creates souls to burn them in hell, or that the earth is flat, or that slavery is ever a human thing to do). So, I repeat:

It is the stuff that exists along the spectrum that is most intensely alive.  It is the dance between stillness and movement, music and silence, light and darkness, male and female, death and life that makes existence wonderful.  We are born, we die, and it is the living in between that gives either of these meaning (and please don’t think I am associating masculinity with light and darkness with femininity. Remember, however, that language is goofy.  Then again, feel free to associate anything with anything—you’ll get a good idea of how you live your life).

The spectrum is undeniable, and completely, and utterly, wondrously, beautiful, vibrant, and living.

So please do not tell me I do not exist as a transgender person.  I am a living arc–a living rainbow “across” genders. Please do not tell my queer friends, non-binary friends, asexual friends, and so on—that they do not exist.  We are the beauty and meaning of the ideas of so-called, male and female.  We are what is meant to be celebrated because the true opposites will never exist in form.  Murder is not always bad or the Christian religion would mean nothing.  Rebellion is not always bad or else freedom would not exist.  This is not relativism. This is reality.  No one loves without a hint of hate.   No one prays without a hint of doubt.

People like me are the rainbows, we are the mornings and evenings, we are that place where stars and darkness dance.  We are the perfect temperature for swimming.  We are the space between inhaling and exhaling.  We are the glorious existence of form.  And we include all gender identities, all gender expressions, every gender preferences, every rainbow, every song, and every breath.  And so then, we include you.

Do not fear the rainbow.  Go find it, and take out your phones and snap pictures of it.  Give thanks to Goddess for it. Take a selfie with it in the background.  It is a sign that God will never again destroy the earth with a flood—a flood of ignorance, fear, bigotry, or hatred.  The rainbow is the spectrum that blooms from the skies of our souls.

 

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Relax, You Will Not Be Eaten by Bears Even if You Think a Lot About Being Eaten by Bears, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Relax, You Will Not Be Eaten by Bears

Even if You Think a Lot

About Being Eaten by Bears

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

I saw this ad on my Facebook sidebar that said something like: “You become what you think about,” and, “think happy,” and it got me thinking and feeling annoyed.

Yes, thoughts are things, but do you know what a thought actually is?  I mean really?

Is a thought the stuff that drifts through your head like air through an open window, or static on a radio?  Is it something you create out of your own “mind-stuffs”—in other words is a thought is something you “think it up?”  Is that a thought?

I ask because some people who push things like the Law of Attraction (and I know this because I used to push it myself) haven’t a clue what they are talking about (just like I didn’t), and, as a result, they hurt people, frighten people, helped people feel powerless and defeated.  And that sucks.  Big time.  I am making amends for my past stupidity and this article is part of that process.

Here’s the deal:

 

1). If you spend a lot of time thinking about ashtrays, you will not become an ashtray.

2). If you spend a lot of time thinking about medicine you will not become a doctor.  You might become a doctor, but it wouldn’t be because you thought about medicine day in day out.  It would because you studied and worked hard and got yourself into debt over college loans for the rest of your life.

3). Most of what passes for “thinking,” isn’t.

 

Let’s use some negative reasoning to help us understand what thinking is not.

Thinking is not all the afore mentioned stuff that drifts and sifts and dusts itself through your head.

Thinking is not all the “mindless” listening to NPR or the chatter of other people on the subway (yes, I used the word, “subway,” on purpose to make an allusion to the subconscious.  Some would argue we actually live based on what’s stored (collecting dust) in the attics (basements, dungeons, silos) of our subconscious minds.  This is like believing I am suffering in this lifetime for something I did, but cannot remember doing, in another lifetime.  It is a cruel idea.  It is like saying: “Here, YOU suffer for things unknown.  YOU suffer because I suffer and don’t know why I suffer, but I am going to tell you why YOU suffer.”).

Thinking is not all the stuff you “think” about in a given day—the bills, the bad drivers, the fate of the nation, etc.

And now what I am about to say will sound like a contradiction:

Those things just mentioned above are all examples of “thoughts” yes, but only if we believe the definition of a thought as being anything that just so happens to be in your head at any given moment.  But I don’t categorize these things as the kinds of thoughts that can be properly put into the file of, “thinking,” because they are not the kinds that can ever have truly creative properties.

So please, stop worrying about becoming bipolar because you think about bipolarism.  Please stop worrying you are going to get eaten by a shark because you watch so many shark attack videos.  Please stop worrying that your house will be robbed because you worry about your house being robbed.

Our fears do not, I repeat, do not, attract the things we fear into our lives.  Promise.

I mentioned there are thoughts that have creative properties however.  What kinds of thoughts are these?

They are the ones you invest your heart into.  Thoughts that you think with your heart in addition to your head—those are powerful things; things that can bring about great changes in the world and within yourself.  Here’s why:

Thoughts themselves are images really—sense impressions/impulses flashed on the screen of the mind—they are largely static, lifeless things, sort of like random magnetic poetry words on a refrigerator. However, once you stop, focus, draw your feelings up from your body, from your heart, suddenly those plain, “meaningless” thoughts begin to take form, shape, make sense, create beauty, excitement, dialog, poetry.  YOU have to rearrange them though, like the magnetic words on the fridge. You give them meaning by what you DO with them and how you FEEL about them.  In other words, thoughts can become powerful creational tools when infused with the heart, the soul, the spirit, and most of all, actions.

If you “think” a lot about being attacked by bears but never go into the woods, you’re probably safe from bear attacks.  If you “think” about bear attacks AND THEN go out into places where bears live and you drag around slabs of meat and cart along backpacks full of honeypots, well, then, you might just become bear poop in the very near future.

You see the difference?  One is empty(ish) and the other is boosted with actions.

I suffer from clinical depression.  I have spent many years in various forms of dissociative states.  I am a trauma survivor and someone who suffers from PTSD.  The last thing I need to hear is “think happy thoughts and you will start farting rainbows, and dancing around happy as a well, farting unicorn.”  The last thing I need to hear is “if only you would discipline your thinking to think positive thoughts you would be happy.”

There are times in my life when asking me to think positive thoughts is like asking someone without legs to get up and run.  I simply cannot do it.  I am not choosing to be mentally ill.  I have not chosen to be unhappy.  And I haven’t become depressed by simply thinking depressing thoughts any more than I will become taller by thinking about stilts.

People who find success with positive thinking are probably not as fundamentally ill as I am, and I am tired of being shamed for not being able to think as happily as you.

It’s similar with the Law of Attraction (LOA) cult.  Yes, my thoughts are things, but they are not homeopathic.  They will not attract other similar thoughts and thus, eventually, the desired thing (usually money, success, a relationship, a yacht) (nothing wrong with wanting any of these things, wanting is good, I am just pointing out the LOA cult leaders prey on people who are often economically disadvantaged, the lonely, the down-trodden, the ones who, forgive me for saying so, but who do not think clearly because they CAN’T).

The only kinds of thoughts that will attract other similar thoughts are the ones you think with your heart and hands.  The ones you put your blood, sweat, and tears into.  Things you love.  Things you not only desire, but know are true and good for yourself and the world.

Of course, positive affirmations and positive thinking is a good “idea.”  If it helps, go to town.

So, instead of telling me to “think positive” and to just “be happy,” or to just remember, “thoughts are things,” tell me you love me.  Tell me you’re here to listen.  Tell me you will drive me to my therapy appointment or come out for a cup of tea with me.  Tell me you’re sorry and that you care.  Whatever you do, know that I am listening to you and that it would be great if I knew we could stand together in the world, and not worry together about being eaten by bears.

 

 

 

 

 


 





Questions for You

Questions For You
By
Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

My wise friend, Mika and I were talking recently and she observed that if we can allow negative actions, words, and energy from some negative people to drain us, then the implication is that we can allow positive actions, words, and energy of positive people to fill us. I am working on ways to do this, for while I have received TONS and TONS of loving, kind, encouraging, compassionate, and just plain AMAZING support as I have come out as trans, there have been a few people who have said some very cruel things, mean things, reprehensible things, and acted in heartbreaking ways towards me. And my silly mind starts to focus on those few instead of the many, many, MANY who support me. And then I begin to fade, nudge closer to a depression that seems suddenly so far away, and I become afraid, feel guilty, begin to believe I am doing something wrong, when in fact I am not DOING anything. I did not choose to be trans. I am not BECOMING a woman. I AM a woman who is finally conscious of this beautiful and affirming truth and am simply moving closer and closer to fully living and presenting as the person I am. I was born the right gender, wrong body parts. And so my loving supporters, what things do you do to help increase the positive, to draw that loving energy in? This is without a doubt the most intense time of my life—and the most wonder-filled, and beautiful, and yet, it is hard to know there are people who a few days ago were my friends that now literally hate me, and that’s hard. Really hard. And thank Goddess there is YOU. If you’re reading this I believe you’re one of the ones who love my heart. Who looks past what I may wear or what I may call myself, who doesn’t worry about losing anything, but instead is happy they are gaining the best me ever. What suggestions do you have for increasing the positive, for helping a negative-focuser like me to focus on the good–the good that is everywhere. Truly the outpouring of love I am receiving is incredible, and I feel guilty the haters affect me so much, like I am insulting you. I do not mean to, my dear friends. This is all new to me—this complete acceptance of who I am, and I am so happy, really, giddy-magically happy, and need and want your continued support, but I am working with a mind that is trained in negativity and self-hatred. I would be honored to hear how you gather in the positive and release the negative, how you focus on the positive and ignore the negative. You totally rock my friends. I love you. Yours with grace and love, Jennifer

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


Donations go to a fund for my transition.  Thank you for supporting me and this journey.  <3


On the Love of Showers, Soap, Rubber Duckies, and Thirst Relief International

On the Love of Showers, Soap, Rubber Duckies,

And Thirst Relief International

By

Joseph Anthony

 

So I was
reading some P.G. Wodehouse (“Right Ho, Jeeves”) by candlelight a
couple days ago during one of the recent power outages here in Philly, and
there is a scene where Bertie Wooster (one of the goofball main characters) is
really down in the dumps.  He decides to
take a bath (“splash in the porcelain”) in order to lift his spirits, and it
works!  While doing so he even discovers
there is a rubber ducky in the tub, and his delight really takes off.  Here is how that scene reads:

“After
splashing about in the porcelain for a bit, composure began to return…I have
always found that in moments of heart-bowed-downness there is nothing that
calms the bruised spirit like a good go at the soap and water….The discovery
of a toy duck in the soap dish contributed not a little to this new and happier
frame of mind. What with one thing and another, I hadn’t played with toy ducks
in my bath for years, and I found the novel experience most invigorating. For
the benefits of those interested, I may mention that if you shove the thing
under the surface with the sponge and then let go, it shoots out of the water
in a manner calculated to divert the careworn.”

As in the
above snippet suggests, taking a bath or a shower is completely therapeutic in
the truest sense of the word.  Water is a
great healer, whether one is drinking a nice cool, glass of it or taking a
dip in the tub.  Water heals, refreshes,
invigorates, and cleanses.  And when you
add fragrant soap to the tub and shower, the whole effect is even more wonderful
and enjoyable.

Here’s a
secret that is now no longer a secret:  I
love soap.  Soap and water. And showers. 
Baths are good too.  Any kind of
water contact involving fragrant soap is a miracle.  Really. 
Now that the secret is out, allow me to further elucidate on the
subject.

When I was
growing up the only soap we had in the house was Ivory, which, back then,
smelled like well, a dull, yet somehow biting-block of lard.  Sometimes my mom ordered a bar from Avon
scented with musk or something, but in general, the soap fragrances back then
were limited.  Liquid soap for showers
became popular when I was about 10, but even then, the fragrances were nothing
too exotic—it was like showering with liquid dish-soap.

Today we can
shower with any fruit we want—pear, pineapple, strawberry, watermelon, pomegranate,
grapefruit, peach, blueberry, mango, citrus, cucumber, and more.  We can lather in vegetables, like carrots and
celery.  We can foam up with soaps
scented with almonds, pumpkins, honey, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, peppermint; and
flower essences like patchouli, lilac, clover, honeysuckle, and rose.  We can delight in spreading the rich lather
of cinnamon scented soap, or even chocolate scented soap. Soap making today is
an art form of the highest order (Check out my friend Vanessa’s website: she is one of those artists making [among other many wonderful things] soap): Nirvanaland Essentials).  Her soaps are amazing!

I tell
you the truth that taking a shower in the morning (or anytime) is one the
absolute best parts of my day. I always (and you know I don’t use the word “always”
very often, but in this case, it’s true) step out of a shower feeling like I’ve
been blessed, baptized by holy water—so ready to get on with the day.

The French poet, Francis Ponge, knew about the loveliness of water, and especially of soap.  He wrote a whole book-length prose-poem-meditation
about soap (one of my all-time favorite books for its sheer enthusiasm and adventurous
spirit) in the 1940’s.  Here is a little excerpt from
his book:

“There is something adorable in the
personality of soap.  Why adorable?  Because its behavior is at once the highest
degree appealing and completely inimitable. 
Here is a sort of mediocre pebble, flatly reposing in the plainest
saucer in the house.  A man comes in with
dirty hands.  Then the forgotten soap
gives itself up to him.  Not without some
coquetry.  It swathes itself in
glistening, iridescent veils and, at the same time, tends to vanish…no more
fugitive stone in nature. But then, the game exactly consists of holding it in
the fingers and chafing it, by the addition of a dose of water sufficient to
obtain a voluminous, pearly slobber, wheras if one left it to remain in the
water, it would perish in confusion.  For
soap has its particular dignity…it is a magic stone…the more it foams, with air
and water, clusters of scented grapes, it is explosive…water, air and soap
overlap, playing leapfrog…Yet it is necessary to return it to its saucer, to
its austere oval, its dry patience, and its power to serve again.”

For me
there is nothing like showering and lathering with soap that smells like
heaven.  It is a sensual and truly
self-affirming experience that I can’t recommend enough.  And it is an experience comprised of the
simplest ingredients: soap and water.

And speaking
of water, my friend Lefty has once again started a fundraising campaign with
Thirst Relief International and so any and all donations that come to the
Wonder Child Blog from this post (see the donation button below after the Ernie video) will be given directly to his campaign.  And for every $10 you donate he will donate
$5 until he’s reached the goal of $2,500. So for as long as this post in
online, any donations will go to Thirst
Relief International (TRI).  TRI is a
wonderful organization that helps provide clean, safe drinking water to the
nearly one billion people on our planet who have no access to any.  Of course, you can go directly to Lefty’s campaign
page and donate there too.  Click this sentence for the link.

Now please
don’t think this post was a big set up to try and make you feel guilty for
loving soap and water or for taking long, leisurely showers.  That was not my intention at all.  I love long, leisurely showers and have no
guilt for taking them whatsoever.  I
decided to add the fundraising piece to this post in hopes your love of water
and soap will be shared with others in a real and tangible way.  So have a splash in the porcelain and then donate
to Thirst Relief International.

Thank you
again for reading my friends.  You are
the bee’s knees. 

100% of all donations for this post will go to Thirst Relief International.  Thank you.




Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


On the Importance of Sleepenings

On the Importance of Sleepenings

By

Joseph Anthony

 

Awakenings
are the spring of all things. Awakenings breathe out rebirth and entire fields
are covered with flowers.  Awakenings can
be sudden, like lightning cleaving a tree. 
They can be gradual, like an iceberg melting slowly over decades into a
roiling sea.

When we have
them we sometimes cheer, laugh, weep for joy, or melt into an embrace.  We are unloosened and free to move.  

Sometimes
however, things need to rest. We need to put things to bed.  We need to rest our minds, bodies, and even
hearts and souls. 

Let us call
these rests: Sleepenings. 

When we are
tangled in a skein of fear and doubt, let us try not to fight them.  Be still, rest.  Have a sleepening.  When we do, our breath slows, we relax, and
so when we do eventually awaken, the fear and doubt will be at our feet and we can
walk unencumbered.  In fact, we can pick
up the muddle and wind it into a ball and then weave hope and wisdom out of
those fears and doubts. 

While working
towards our dreams, fairly obsessed with the joy and excitement of the torrent
of creativity or the steady stream of ideas and inspirations, if we do not take
moments to pause, then that self-same torrent will slow to a trickle, the
stream will dry. 

We need a
sleepening.  Literally and
figuratively.  A rest for our bodies and our
minds.  Let the torrent naturally slow;
let the stream flow without us always splashing in it and muddying it up.  When we awaken, the torrent will be waiting,
and somehow refreshed with clear water. 
The stream will be there, a crystal blue ribbon guiding us through the
forest of possibilities.  We needn’t view
the sleepening as if it’s something wrong. 
Winter isn’t wrong.  It gives
spring its juice.

Try putting
some old fear to bed.  If you try to
fight it, it will grow.  Let it
rest.  Give it some time alone.  Give it some space. Turn your attention to
something else.  Consciously move your
gaze, your hands, your inner and outer attention towards something that gives you
strength and courage.  Consciously
breathe yourself into calm. And not just for two minutes.  Sometimes the sleepening needs to last for
days or weeks.   Sometimes it needs to
last forever.  However long it lasts, if
you can turn your heart towards hope, towards big and little steps in another
direction, then when the awakening happens, when the fear eventually rises from
its cold, dusty bed, it will be changed into courage, faith, a being of
light.  And if it still looks like fear, you
will be able to see through it, like a ghost, and keep moving.

What things
need to be put to bed in your life?  An
old idea that no longer makes sense?  An
old, limited belief (or a new one?) holding you back from sharing a talent,
interest, or wild idea? What worries or fears need a good wintering?  What shames tucked away in the dark folds of
your memories need to be laid to rest once and for all?  Try having a sleepening for each of
them.  Honor them with sleep.  Give them the grace of hibernation.  When they awaken, they will be transformed
into gifts for yourself and others.  They
will be winged things or stories, songs, dances of healing and light, paintings
full of vibrant color, hymns dripping with gratitude.  Whatever they become, they will no longer own or
terrorize you.  They will be harvests of
grace meant to be shared.

And in the
same way that we do all sorts of wonderful, ritualistic things to help us have
awakenings, let us discover creative and healthy ways to have sleepenings.  We can sing our shame lullabies of
affirmations, rock our fears in the steady arms of faith, hand our worries over
to someone else, let them rock them to sleep while we find a place to curl up
and dream.  Light a candle in honor of a
long held limited belief, say a prayer that it find its way home and when it
arrives, pray that it is a new creature in God. Let your grief cry itself to
sleep in your arms.  Bear witness to its
pain.  Tell your doubts a story of
hope.  Prepare a room for your financial
stress with the open windows of amends and restitutions and with the clean
sheets of thoughts of giving, sharing, and of abundance. Take some old unhelpful
idea about your body or sexuality and make a bed for it–a grand, welcoming bed
of satin and silk, dappled with roses and candle light.  Ravish that old idea with the kisses of
acknowledgement, awareness, and conscious presence, and then let it fall back exhausted,
changed, breathing the deep breaths of blissful acceptance.  Not the acceptance of surrendering to it.  Let the old idea surrender to you, to the
touch of your passion and desire, and tender openness to exploring new ways of
being alive.  Let it awaken in your
hands, and blossom before you as a new possibility shoot through and through
with warm, luxurious amazement.

The more
ways we can learn how and when to put something to bed, to let things have
their sleepenings, the more our awakenings can be full of light and gratitude,
creativity, and clear, fresh energy.  And
often we need other people to help us know when we need to put something to
bed.  So often we are like children so
frazzled with the activity of the moment that we forget what exactly we are
doing and how to stop.  I’ve been
there.  Many times.  And were it not for mentors saying: “Put it
to bed, slow down,” I would not be here today.

The paths of
sleep and of awakening were not meant to be traveled alone.

Of course, I
am not talking about procrastination, avoidance, delusion or denial.  I am talking about releasing the tight grip
we sometimes have on things that are actually unhealthy or unhelpful.  When we loosen our hold, allow ourselves to
be held in the hands of another—a mentor, for example, we can put those old
things to bed so other things can wake up and smell the roses.

For all
sleepenings are really reawakenings and all awakenings are really
resleepenings.  With every awakening
something is laid to rest.  With every
sleepening something is woken within in us that says: “Breathe.”


Thank you for your contributions to the Wonder Child Blog





Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


I Am Not a Computer, by Joseph Anthony

I Am Not a Computer

By

Joseph Anthony

 

“You must
unlearn what you have been programmed to believe since birth.  That software no longer serves you if you
want to live in a world where all things are possible.”

–Jacqueline
Purcell

Someone
posted this on my timeline recently and with no disrespect intended to its author, I was immediately struck with antipathy
towards it.  As I reflected on why, my
feelings became clearer, as I have had similar thoughts and feelings in the
past about such ideas.  I think I have
them clear enough to share. At least, I’ll try.

I am not a
machine.  My mind is not a computer.  I much prefer to imagine my mind as a garden,
a vast network of soil, herbs and flowers, whose roots mingle with yours and
with the Divine’s.  A place of beauty and
mystery, wonder and creativity, a rich tapestry of land with golden harvests of
possibilities where the fruits of meditation, discipline, and prayer blossom to
be shared and enjoyed by all.

And that’s
just the beginning, the poetic beginning. 
Every time we compare our minds with a computer we distance ourselves
from ourselves and the natural world around us.  And the space that occupies this distance
devolves into fears, superstitions, and apathy.

My mind is
not a hard drive.  My beliefs are not
software.  My mind is not
programmable.  To keep such analogies in
our mind’s eye makes us look at the world more impersonally, less human, less
feeling.  We are no longer responsible for ourselves.  After all, someone “programmed” us. And since computers can’t program themselves then we wait, victims, until someone solves our bugs.

As a garden,
any unwanted crops may be removed. 
Sometimes weeds need removal. 
Cultivating an inner garden stirs more of a sense of devotion and life
than having to defragment your mind to remove limited beliefs.  Cultivate the flowers you want.  Graft the trees of your imagination’s orchard
with those of like-minded friends.  Grow entirely
new fruits.  The flavors and nutrients of shared ideas are limitless. 

Some might
argue that I am being nitpicky.  Perhaps
I am.  However, I believe we believe what
we say to ourselves all day long.  I
understand computers mean so much to us in today’s world.  I am very grateful for them.  I am not anti-technology.  It’s just that metaphors and analogies are
made up of words and images and these are both living things.  What images and words do you want living in
your head, your heart, and your body?  Are
you a robot?  An automaton?

You might
not think this matters, but look around you. 
Look at people as they walk the streets, ride the bus, sit around tables
at restaurants.  We rarely look at each
other nowadays. We rarely listen.  Our
ears hold ear buds, our gaze is turned downwards at little screens.  This is all due, in part, to identifying
ourselves with these machines.  We always
want to be one with ourselves and those around us.  We instinctively seek union.  And we do that with what we feel drawn, close to,
like.  And if we identify with our minds
as being portable programmable computers and hard drives, then, of course, we
would look away from one another and towards the objects of our imaginations.  

Lastly, these mechanistic images lead us away
from intimacy with the earth.  They
depersonalize us and separate us further from the planet.  And that’s the last thing our dear Mother
Gaia needs.  She needs us touching her,
believing in her, healing her, nurturing her, helping her breathe.

This moment and
this earth are not virtual reality.  This moment
and this earth carry the essence of all that we are.  They are alive.  They are ever pregnant, ever giving birth, ever absorbing the seeds of new
ideas and inspirations. If we think of them as mechanized or computerized, we
will not want to touch them or become intimate with them.  We will move further and further away and
wonder why we are lonely.

So the next
time someone says your mind is like a computer, imagine it instead like a
garden, or an ocean, a lake, a field, or a forest.  Let these images draw you closer to yourself,
to the earth, and to others.  You will be
surprised at the beauty, the fragrance, and the infinite possibilities of
oneness that bloom and spread from such active, living imaginations.

PS: Not
everything we learned as children needs to be unlearned.  The majority of our lessons still benefit us,
even the painful ones.  Plant new
beliefs, cultivate new desires, weed out any that you no longer want, but if
you uprooted them all, well, you’d have an empty garden. 


“Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” 

–Milan Kundera






Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Dancing Through the Storm: Some Thoughts on Anger

Dancing Through the
Storm:

Some Thoughts on Anger


 

 

Don’t let
spiritual traditions or religions shame you. 
Some traditions do this subtly and not so subtly.  They hold frighteningly high perfectionistic
standards for both our thoughts and behaviors. 
One of the things many spiritual traditions preach and teach is “bad,”
is anger.  It is often considered a
destructive emotion, a weakness, a fire from the hells.  Of course there are spiritual traditions that honor this force and give it names and transformative powers (think Kali).  However, if the Divine gets to feel it (which he/she does in all major religious sacred texts), why not us?

We may not like experiencing anger, but to
deny its existence, or to work against it, or to label it as bad, is to believe
we are somehow bad for getting mad.  This
is like believing that thunderstorms have no value or are inherently bad.  Yet lightening nourishes the earth with
nitrogen.  And thunder can be one of the
most magical, comforting sounds the summer has to offer.  So too anger, when used constructively to
empower a commitment to a dream, or to help some injustice, can feed the soil
of our hearts.  And listening to someone
who has learned to transform anger into passion (like Martin Luther King Jr.)
is like listening to verbal thunder that shakes the very foundations of our
paradigms.  It is the sound of someone
who cares deeply.

Every
emotion can be destructive, just as every emotion can be healing.  No emotion is bad in and of itself.  They are just like weather over a pond.  They come and they go.  The pond remains.  Your heart is the pond.  Of course, storms can be quite destructive,
and scary, but in the Divine scheme, they have their place, else they wouldn’t
exist.  And of course, undisciplined
anger expressed in any impulsive ways one feels like expressing it can also be
destructive. Transform and channel anger from pure selfish (fear-based) rage to
powerful passion for a purpose.  (Rage,
by the way, is the experience most people think of when they think of
anger.  Most people stuff their anger
until it becomes rage, or have, sadly been the victims of someone else’s
untransformed anger.)   There is nothing
wrong with going out into the woods and smashing up a pile of sticks, or
swatting your bed with a tennis racket, or twisting a towel, writing (or
singing) a punk-rock song or a long, rambling poem, or going for a run, and so
on.  Use the energy instead of denying
it’s there and trying to stuff it away.  Learn
to talk about it with people who will be able to hear you. 

The end
result of trying to deny some part of myself is shame and a judging spirit for
those I believe act in ways they shouldn’t. 
In addition, the more I believe I shouldn’t be feeling something and
keep labeling that feeling as “bad” the more I stuff it down and trap it
within.  The more this happens the more
likely I am to unleash a tantrum when something trivial doesn’t go my way; the
more likely I am to be passive aggressive, or to rage in my car while driving,
or to be sarcastic and demand perfection from others. The other result of
stuffing anger is that it teaches the children around us that part of their
human-make-up is somehow wrong.  And then,
because most of us stumble our way through and end up getting angry from time
to time, we sometimes give the message to children that they’re not allowed to
feel angry—only adults can feel angry. 
But that’s another post. 

Lastly there
are physical ramifications for stuffing our anger.  We suffer a myriad of chronic aches and pains
and indeed even serious illnesses that can at least partially be attributed to
repressed/suppressed/unexpressed anger, resentment, and rage.  Many people in the medical fields even link
some forms of cancer with the holding of deep resentments.  You know what happens when you don’t let the
steam off when cooking something—it burns, bursts, and froths.  Same with the body.  It must have healthy, constructive, and
creative ways of expressing intense emotions like anger.  I have found EFT and music to be my best
transformers of my anger.  The EFT helps
me move through it and accept it on a physical level thus transforming it into
passion.  This, in turn, is translated
into my music, my teaching, my writing—a fiery passion for life.

To sum this
one up:  Anger is a part of life, just
like storms are a part of the weather. 
If we can simply learn to feel
anger, to breathe through and with anger, to channel anger; to learn healthy ways of expressing it, then we can
walk just a little more freely as human beings, created in the image and
likeness of the Divine.






Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog