Thanksgiving

I started a tradition with myself where I ring in the new year with a word. Maybe it sounds weird, but every year it feels more like the word chooses me than I choose it. And during the 365 days which follow, this word becomes my grounding point, my focus, my meditation. I learn all it’s meanings and contexts. I study the etymology. I basically spend the year trying to embody this word. It has been ridiculously uncanny how the word ends up becoming a perfect descriptor for the year it’s ascribed to.

2014: surrender (the year my entire world turned upside down)

2015: fierce (the year of facing fears, growing pains, and healing)

2016: expectant (the year of patience and waiting)

Latin expectare | ex– “thoroughly” spectare– “to look”

Await. Defer action. Look out for. Desire. Hope. Long for. Anticipate. Regard as about to happen. Count upon. Trust. Rely on.

All year I have worked to create a sense of expectancy in myself. To trust that good, beautiful things are both here and to come. To fall open to anticipation even when the waiting feels arduous and itchy. To not grow anxious about the unknown, but to be expectant– hopeful.

I spent the first five months of 2016 applying for jobs. Fourty of them, to be precise. This came after four months of thirty-nine applipactions. I nannied part time and volunteered at DMCW and The Alzheimer Association. I started my See Through Stories project. I just kept perfecting, polishing, and pursuing. The only door that opened was one that led me to Edinburgh for the Fringe festival. I had wanted nothing more than to be back in Edinburgh and even though applying for jobs there wasn’t working out, I was ecstatic for the opportunity to return even for a little bit. I knew it would feel like torture when I had to leave, though. And it did. Especially when everyone around me seemed to be getting good news and I was still waiting and wishing.

But I came home with high hopes that I’d be back in no time. You see, during my days off of festival work I researched, cold-called, emailed, and visisted organizations doing dementia-related work and talking about my project. I ended up meeting with the founder of my favorite one and the promise of a potential job opportunity was definitely there. A couple of months later, they posted an opening. You guys, if I could’ve written myself a job description, it would’ve been this. A total dream. I emailed. They wanted me as soon as possible. I thought, this is it. It makes total sense. Everything that’s been happening has led to this. All that hard work is paying off. This is what I’ve been expectant for. I’m so happy.

But a total dream it will remain.

I just spent this week moving into an apartment here. I now have a lease and a marketing job. It all happened really fast. I am thankful for it– all of it. But it is not what I was expectant for. I’m so sad. To have that open door slam in your face the second you’re about to walk through. Oooft. Ouch.

My sad self co-hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at the worker with my friend Joe. There were eight of us (some friends, some strangers) and we probably looked like The Island of Misfit Toys, but oh god, was it lovely. I hung sheets for curtains. Joe lit donated hot pink candle sticks. We drank wine from plastic cups. Some of the kindest words anyone has ever said to me were around that table and I will never forget them. We dined by candle light, sharing stories and asking questions. Everyone went around and said what they were thankful for. When it was my turn, I felt extra aware of my senses. Belly tight with food. Eyes beholding faces I love. The smell of hot candle wax and wine. The taste of Joe’s mama’s sweet potato casserole. Intermittent hums, silence, and laughter. All the goodness was overwhelming.

If this is where and how I get to do this: Await. Defer action. Look out for. Desire. Hope. Long for. Anticipate. Regard as about to happen. Count upon. Trust. Rely on.

…then I am thankful for that. Hell yeah, I’m thankful for that. Perhaps the lesson is to only be expectant for this day and to look no further. To trust that I will find whatever I need to get through this day, is something I can do.”Give me niether poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

Love,

Taylor

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Faces of The Des Moines Catholic Worker

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“I wear this hat that says Grandpa on it because I love my grandkids. I’ve got two of them. I haven’t seen them in a few years, though. I’m kind of the black sheep of my family.”

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“Uh oh. You got me smiling.”

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“She’s good for me. She calls me out when I’m lying or drinking. She knows my problems and she loves me anyway.”

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“I want a full body shot because I’m fabulous, baby!”

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Rita and her dog Gizmo, who I think is her doppelganger.

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“You know what I always say: Don’t do what I wouldn’t do and don’t name it after me.”

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“I started living on the streets when I was 12 years old, man. I lived in New Orleans for 10 years. I worked on a tug boat. Had myself a wife, house, daughter, grandkid. Then Katrina hit and an oak tree landed on our house. We came back to Des Moines but man, I lost everything.”

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Guests make and sign a “Get Well” card for a friend in ICU.

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“Canda was fucked up in the 1960s. That’s why I left. Came here to the land of the free and home of the brave, man. But you guys are screwed now.”

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“I’m thinking about dying my hair blue. It’d go with my outfit, don’t you think?”

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He goes by the name Hawkeye and I’ve never seen him not wearing Hawkeye gear. Go Iowa.

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“Do you think this picture will get me a knight in shining army?”

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This is Bryan, but she calls him “Too Tall”.

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“My shoulders are my favorite part of my body but I’ve never had a picture of them. Can my portrait be of my shoulders instead of my face?”

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R. Kelly’s ‘Bump n Grind’ is Jimmy’s ringtone. Everytime I see him this plays and I get “My mind is telling me no. But my body, my body is telling me yeeehuheeesss” stuck in my head.

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One. I get to take a road trip to Austin, Texas this week (if you have any Austin suggestions for grub to eat or sights to see, tell me!) with my friend Ryan to be his second shooter for a wedding. This will be the fourth wedding I’ve gotten to help Ryan with and it’s nothing I ever thought I would find myself doing, but I’ve found it to be fun and a good creative stretch. I haven’t known any of the couples personally, so it’s been enjoyable to try and discern and capture their personalities with the camera throughout a day full of incredible moments. Here’s a few of my favorite shots of Moses and Nyla, who got married last month and were really boring and not adorable at all.

Two. Perhaps my greatest challenge in interveiwing people with dementia is that for some reason they tend to forget I’m coming to interview them . It took three times to properly sit down with Charlie due to memory lapse and his vibrant social life. But this was so worth the wait! Take a look and listen. He has some wonderful stories about being a teacher and peaceful protester during the Vietnam War.

http://www.seethroughstories.com/blog/2016/11/2/charlie

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Three. Over the last two decades the EU has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the formulas of personal care products and restricted the levels of over 250 more in such products. The US has only partially banned 11 to date. We have not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938. Isn’t that insane?! What I find to also be insane is how many people I hear about or am friends with in their 20s and 30s dealing with cancer and infertility problems. If our skin is our largest organ and absorbs at least 64% of whatever touches it, we should be careful about what we apply. If you’re interested in learning more or purchasing products that you can feel 100% safe using, I’ve been impressed with the educational resources and products of Beautycounter.

Four. This little lion makes me laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjgccWcpQPk

Five. I heard someone today say, “Celebration and mourning in a community don’t look that different. They both result in unity.” It made me think about all that has happened this week. On Wednesday night we anxiously watched, jumped, cried tears of joy, hugged, and celebrated over the Cubs winning the World Series. On Thursday morning we anxiously watched, fell, cried tears of sorrow, and mourned over the unnecessary loss of two Des Moines police officers who were shot and killed in their squad cars. This past month I attended both a wedding and a funeral. Both celebration and mourning involved people coming together to feast, cry, laugh, tell stories, give gifts, show support, and love. This made me aware that, in a particularly difficult season of my life, I should not try and hide or rush through it. Unity comes in through communal empathy in both the good things and the bad things.

Six. I’ve been working part time with this fine gentlemen. His name is Ian and he’s an exceptional dancer, addicted to Days of Our Lives, and he loves to pull pranks on me. The other day he gave me a gift box full of Mardi Gras beads, cookies he had baked, and a CD with one song on it (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John). He comes on shifts with me at the DMCW every week and brings a lot of joy.

Seven. I’m obsessed with this idea. Who wants to start one in Des Moines with me?

Love,
Taylor

Sad Sex Robots

Note: This can be a touchy subject. The very last thing I want to do is bring any shame to it. This is not about drawing conclusions or saying what is right and wrong. These are thoughts and questions based off of my personal experience, which is mine to own. Yours can be entirely different and yours to own. My reason for sharing this is because it doesn’t really get talked about and if it does, it’s polarizing. But processing through this is a part of my life and I wish I could do that more with people instead of pretending like we don’t all have some level of relationship or experience with it. So please know that is where I’m coming from. My hope is it results in more questions and conversations over a drink rather than Facebook rants and upset messages. My hope is that it simply causes people to pause for a moment and think. That is all.

 

I spent an hour reading about how sex robots are a thing. AI robots with ‘warming intimate areas’ and the ability to hold a conversation, express desire, and learn about you. Researchers predict that between 2030-2050, sex robots will be normative. There will be sex robot brothels to replace human prostitutes (anyone who finds this intriguing should watch Ex-Machina). I also saw articles that referenced the impending mainstream of virtual reality porn. And another article that mentioned web cam sites that allow users to upload a photo of someone they find attractive (friend, co-worker, celebrity, anyone) so it can use facial-recognition software to pull up similar looking sex-models from their database. This beautiful, humanity-restoring material inspired me to visit some porn sites. It had been almost three years since I’d done that. The same thing that always happened, happened: my ears and cheeks got hot, my heartbeat went funny, and after clicking out I felt sad.

It used to make me sad because I was with someone who couldn’t get enough of these women forever scrolling across the screen, arranged and dominated in window boxes. They were perfect because they were quite literally: unending. Instant, always desiring, never asking, and completely uncomplicated. I was sad because I didn’t know what my response was supposed to be and it confused my perception of what was real and what wasn’t. Is this supposed to be seen as pretend entertainment or an instruction guide? If one is aroused by demeaning, aggressive, exploitative sex, does that mean they want that for their own sexual relationship? If not, what is the value in watching it? If your partner closes their eyes during sex, are they picturing all these other women and does that prevent connection and intimacy? Is this what makes it difficult to stay hard or last long enough and is that the only thing that is going to get people’s attention? If they’re spending hours with them instead of you, does that count as cheating? I used to pray that he’d just ‘actually’ sleep with someone else so that I’d at least be able to make sense of the pain I felt from the constant, quiet competition. It used to make me sad because I had an overwhelming suspicion that I had been having sex with someone for years and yet we had never really touched each other.

But this time I wasn’t seeing it as someone looking to spice up their sex life or trying to understand their significant other. I was seeing it for the first time as someone who has been sexually assaulted. Now it made me sad because I know what it is like when someone picks you out and decides that your body is for consuming. I know what it is like to be arranged, dominated, and rendered completely uncomplicated. I am a part of a system that agrees sex is something that men do to women or watch women do to each other. I understand there is a level of consent in pornography, making it different from sexual assault. But I would argue that both are dehumanizing. There are so many men who would never EVER dream of abusing, harassing, or assaulting a woman. Men who consider themselves feminists. Men who stand up for women, respect, value, and praise women. But I think what they really mean by women is women they know. Because when it comes the women they watch in porn, is that respect null and void? Are they valuing those women for who they are or what they will do? Are those women being stood up for or laid down for? It seems like the only “right” viewers care about is the right to consume someone else’s body as a means to an end without it being abuse or assault. Because we all hope and assume that these people are getting paid well and enjoying their job. But there is also plenty of evidence that the porn industry is rampant with physical abuse, sexual trauma, drugs, and mental health disorders. Documentaries, research, and the personal accounts of ex-porn actors all indicate that there is a lot more to the conversation than is being widely discussed.

Our world compartmentalises porn. It puts porn in this box and says this couldn’t possibly contribute to 1 in 3 women being sexually assaulted, 4.5 million people being trapped in forced sex work, rising rates of impotence and ED, half of marriages ending, and generally being the most addicted, depressed, obese, in-debt adult cohort in all of history. It couldn’t possibly contribute to that because everyone does it. It’s normal. It’s fine. This is just acting. No harm, no foul. But let’s look at these statistics from PornHub’s 2015 annual review. Keep in mind this is just one porn site.

  • 87,849,731,608 videos viewed (that’s 12 videos viewed per person on earth)
  • 4,392,486,580 hours of porn watched (that’s 2.5x longer than homo sapiens have been on earth)
  • Americans account for 41% of overall traffic
  • The most common search terms were “teen” and “stepmom”

You can’t have statistics like this for anything and not have it creating an enormous impact, even if its subconciously. Even if it hasn’t been like this long enough to have conducted comprehensive, in-depth research. That is a lot of people watching a lot of material that propels the message that the female body is an object and that sexiness is a woman’s currency. It propels it at a pace and in forms we have little control over. Technology moves faster than we do. Today the average age of exposure to pornography is 8. And we aren’t just dealing with Playboys stashed under mattresses anymore. I’ve worked with 14 year old guys who showed me Snapchat videos of them receiving head. I’ve worked with girls who feel it is completely normal to send nude pictures of themselves to guys at school because they expect it. The line between liberation/empowerment and objectification is very blurry depending on who you’re asking. There are generations yet to enter adulthood that have learned most of what they know about sexuality and human interaction from the internet and social media, which is fascinating. And kind of terrifying. I just wonder if and how this is affecting our ability to be in relationship, to have empathy, to build intimacy, and to humanize?

A lot of what I’ve experienced has made my state of being feel out of control. It violated a part of who I am and I continually find myself trying to restore that. I don’t want to be angry and cynical. I don’t want to be incapable of trust. I don’t want to feel ashamed of what happened. So I’m trying to grasp how normal, nice guys end up in a mindset where they feel that sexually assaulting someone is okay. I’m trying to understand why we find it so easy to be disgusted by the degredation and objectification of women when we look up at our wives, sisters, friends, daughters, and mothers but when we look down at our laptops or phones we don’t think twice about participating in a system that helps sustain it?

I have this scenario that plays out in my head where I look at the guy who raped me and I say, “Hi! My name is Taylor and my favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip. In high school I was voted ‘Most Likely to Make Your Day’ by my classmates. I have a bunion on my right foot that I’m all self conscious about because it makes me feel like an 80 year old. I come up with terrible analogies. I can remember every movie line and I’ll make you the best mojito of your life. Look, I’m like a really sweet, angel, butterfly type person and if you would just stop to know me you’d never do this so please, please, please don’t do this.”

I want to believe something like this would work. Unfortunately, I know deep down that pleading for people to understand the gravity of what they’re doing has never been a winning strategy. But now all I can think about are the women that just flew across my screen in ‘Freckled Latina Deepthroat’ and ’19 year-old getting gang banged’. I hope that whoever is watching realizes just how very, very real these women are. And I hope that instead of getting off this time, they’ll just wonder what her favorite ice cream flavor is.

Love,

Taylor

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Ezer

Genesis 2:18 reads, “It is not good for man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Helper. My stomach lurches. I’ve identified with this my whole life. I’ve worn this word like a name tag. I have betrayed myself in trying to perfectly emulate this. Right now it looks disgusting on the page. The first word used to name the first woman in existence is then used to diminish her daughters for all eternity (excuse my dramatic flair).

Helper. I feel a sudden urgency to redeem the personal context I have for this word. The divine in me wants to teach me.

I think back to my childhood, as I quietly observed women follow their cues.

Women were school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and youth group leaders. They were trusted and expected to teach and guide you in and outside of church walls until you became an adult and then their legitimacy expired, apparently. At this point, a man would take over spiritual direction until you died.

Women would pray for their children before bed but never around a dinner table when a man is present.

Women were supposed to help men not fall in to lust or sexual sin by dressing modestly. If you were married you would then help them avoid this by fulfilling their physical need for sex. But no one will really talk to you about sex, so from a young age you learn from porn and popular culture. Ironically, this only reinforces the submissive helper role. As long as you ensure that they’re satisfied, you can be satisfied too. From a young age girls learn: your desire is not for your partner, it is to be desired by your partner.

God is man and therefore man is more God than woman is. This isn’t explicitly said, just acknowledged.

The one place men and woman were completely equal is sin. It didn’t matter if you’d been abused or cheated on because God sees you as equally depraved and in need of saving. God values your marriage more than your individual health, soul, and freedom.

Women helped men fulfil their potentials and callings rather than inserting their own.

I look up the Hebrew translation for helper: ezer. Then I look up every scripture that contains this translation. Apart from being used as a verb, three times it is used to refer to troops or warriors rushing to bring aid. Eight times it is used to name or describe God. And God uses it once as a self-description. There is nothing less-than about ezer. This is a strong name. This is a name that says God is the God of woman. This is a name of wings, not weight. 

In the Genesis story God first creates animals to be Adam’s helpers, but it wasn’t quite right. So then Eve is made from Adam, indicating that she was already a part of him in some way. This is furthered by the way Adam sees himself in Eve. “Oh look! Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone,” he says. They are corresponding equals. Intended to be one flesh. United. But throughout history this unity gets lost and distorted between cultures and contexts, interpretations and intentions. Ezers become halves instead of wholes. We begin to abandon our bodies and our minds because this is where we experience shame and loneliness. I’m done participating in a culture of halves looking for other halves. If you are named suitable helper, finding someone to suitably help is supposed to complete the equation. But it doesn’t.

Glennon Doyle Melton highlights this in the #1 NY Times Besteller Love Warrior (a title so cheesy I almost decided not to read it). A year after discovering her spouse’s addiciton/affair she wrote,

“He messed everything up and then he stayed and fought through his pain and my pain and the kids’ pain and he let none of it scare him away…he became his own hero and I became mine. And now here we are, together. Not two halves that make a whole, but two wholes that make a partnership…I know that you can love and betray the same person. Is it possible that I walked down the aisle to exactly the right person? Toward my healing partner? Toward myself? I’d been angry and ashamed because our relationship was so far from perfect. But perfect just means: works exactly the way it is designed to work. If marriage is an institution designed to nurture the growth of two people—then, in our own broken way, our marriage is perfect.”

Maybe this is a tiny bit of the picture (tiny because this quote excludes the pages and pages of painful, messy, hard stuff that happened first) of what humans should strive for. I realize that I’m approaching all this through the lens of my evangelical background, but I believe the principles can universally apply. Gay, straight, spiritual, non-spiritual, married, un-married, whatever— we all unhealthily internalise messages that tell us who we are or who we should be. Those impact us and enter into the partnerships we create with people through out life. But you cannot have a whole partnership if you are not a whole individual. You cannot heal a broken relationship if you are not first healed. And part of learning how to do all of that involves unlearning what isn’t life-giving. Creating a new hypothesis. Rewiring your way of thinking. Reunion with your whole self and your Creator requires long, hard patience.

Helper.

Relentlessly showing up and seeking for yourself and for your people even when it’s hard. Recognising that you are already perfectly loved by God and stronger than you think. Continually speaking of love and restoration when hopelessness is heavy. Displaying what it means to deal honestly and bravely with this messy, imperfect life. Knowing and caring for yourself well so that you can know and care for others well. Partnering with people who will join you. Believing in the power of influence and impact over title and authority. This is what I think it means to be ezer.

 

Love,
Taylor
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Small Hours

I’m watching a play. There are two 20-something aged girls in pyjamas, curled up in over-sized armchairs facing the audience. Over the next 45 minutes I listen to their conversations. The ones that happen in the small hours of the morning, when best friends talk about everything and nothing simultaneously. I know these hours and friends well. Immediately memories start playing out in my mind. One friend inebriatedly crying about the effects of global warming on ocean animals after we built a fort and had too much whisky. Squeezing the hand of another on a rooftop right before we graduated college, afraid of letting go and growing up. Having the worst flu of my life and deciding the obvious antidote was to cuddle up on the couch together and spend the entire day watching the Godfather series for the first time.

The stage lights end and begin scenes intermittently. I soon recognize that I’m witnessing a shuffling of memories—various conversations during those hours that become the breeding grounds for future nostalgia. The girls, still enveloped in their armchairs, begin to turn from the audience towards each other and their discussion reveals that this is actually a play-within-a-play. The earlier conversations are perhaps entirely false. One girl tries to remember while the other gets upset for parts being erroneously represented. One is really here, the other is not. This relationship now grievously exists in one-sided memory.

“The worst part is that I’m not even me anymore. I’m just how you remember me.”

Light-hearted, funny, sentimental conversations fade into something that is universally experienced yet rarely portrayed: the loss of self that happens when old friendships dissolve.

The small-hours-kind-of-friends are like mirrors. We love the part of ourselves they reflect back to us. When one of those friendship ends it’s as if there’s a part of yourself you can’t see anymore. Whether the ending happens suddenly or more commonly, slowly and gently over time, any attempt at revisiting is prone to error and inaccuracy. I think one of the most jarring parts of growing up that no one tells you about is how often you will experience this:

Looking back on something you thought you knew and discovering the reality you believed was something else entirely.

We talk about making vows with partners, but don’t we also make them with our friends? Not ones said out loud wearing pretty outfits in front of a smiling crowd. Silent ones in pyjamas that happen between “what’s up”s and “remember when”s. Vows that are spelled out in leftover pizza crusts and danced out on dorm room floors. Those vows made during the small hours propel us through so many big days. We assume best friends are forever kinds of things. We assume these friendships will fill us in the ways they always did. That this friend will know how to love us the way we need through all of life’s ups and downs. We assume that we’re honest with ourselves and with one another. We assume that we’ll always put forth effort in equal measure. But vows made between friends are just as subject to change as vows made between partners. It feels to me that most of us are taught to regard these changes with an air of nonchalance and progressive acceptance. This seems increasingly evident to me as I journey through a phase of life that is incredibly transitional for everyone my age.

It’s natural. Life happens. They’ll understand. People change. Things get busy. I’m sure we could just pick up where we left off. 

I get that. I’ve parted ways from friends both abruptly with mutual acknowledgement and in a slow, silent fade out. I’ve cried after hearing about a friend’s engagement because of the changes that I knew would inevitably follow. I’ve quietly seethed over a friend’s job placement knowing it would take them far away from me. I’ve stayed up all night anxious about how things “felt weird” when we hung out last. I’ve experienced the sink in your chest the instant you realize they don’t care as much as you do anymore.

This play made me realize that everything I just described is a reaction of fear. These “normal” transitions in a friendship doesn’t just mean the change or loss of this person who has a specific and important part to play in your story. It’s kind of like a change and loss of self. If you love who you are around someone, if you’re attached to what they bring out in you or how they know and understand you, and then that connection shifts in a big or small way…it’s startling. Hard. Uncomfortable. It’s shitty, okay? It’s just shitty. And I wish friends acknowledged the silent vows more often. I wish friends talked about the transitions when they happen.

I don’t have a tidy conclusion or a specific point to make. Mostly I just saw a play and it brought my feelings to life in one of those beautifully messy ‘ME TOO’ ways that art tends to do.

Here’s to the magic of the small hours.

I wouldn’t take any of them back, no matter the outcome. Maybe that’s the point.

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Shout out to my C venues team mate Anna Jeary for her brilliant writing and Fourth Wall Theatre for showcasing Small Hours at the Edinbrugh Festival Fringe. 
Love,
Taylor

In the Wrong Place

I keep finding myself listening to a similar conversation with friends. Although there are different people and situations, I keep sensing a fear to admit when they find themselves in the wrong place. They’re in the wrong job and pretending it’s the right fit because they invested so much time and money into their study. They’re in the wrong relationship but convinced he’s going to change or she just needs to put in more effort. They’re using all the wrong things to numb their pain, thinking they’re fine because it makes them happier. They’re pretending to believe something they no longer believe because they don’t want to have an identity crisis. The list could go on.

I sense the fear of admission because I recognize it in myself. I’ve been there. I admit that I could be projecting, but I don’t think that’s what this is.

This is what I know it to be:

Deep down, from your inner most being there is a protest.

“I was not meant for this. This isn’t right.”

But you smother the protest for weeks, months, years. The protest dies, but resurrects itself the next time something happens that isn’t right. Why don’t you listen? Why do you make excuses? Why do you keep going?

Because there aren’t other options. There are only things tying you down. There is no green grass on the other side that you can see from where you’re standing. You don’t know exactly how you arrived here in the first place, but you sure as hell don’t know how to get out. You don’t have a plan or an alternative. So, you keep putting up with what doesn’t feel right because even though it might not be ideal, it’s what you have. There’s always hope, right? Always potential. It would be stupid to surrender a perfectly fine or at least comfortably familiar job/life/relationship/etc. and instead hurl yourself into a complete mystery.

Look, by all means, give this all you’ve got. Please keep going as long as you possibly can. Exhaust all your resources. Use up every last drop of determination and optimism you can muster.

But know this: there is something holy and relieving about surrendering to the inner protest of, “This isn’t right.”

There is something that happens in a person when they admit the fear and are brave enough to go, “I don’t know what it’s supposed to be like, but I know it’s not this. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if it’s going to be worse or better. All I know is that where I’m standing now isn’t right, so I’m going to move.”

This is how life changes. This is how you find your sanctuary. The choices made from that place of, “I don’t know, but not this” are terrifying. But if that inner protest begins to play like a broken record, LISTEN. Be brave. Move. Because the next step might feel worse at first. In fact, expect that it will. But at least it won’t be “this”…whatever your “this” is.

The solution to fear is not creating security, it is having courage.

 

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Love,
Taylor

BOOM.

YOU GUYS!!

I am very excited to share this with you:  See Through Stories

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You see, I’ve had several life ties to Alzheimer’s disease: personal (my grandma was diagnosed), professional (I worked as a CNA on an dementia unit), and academic (this was my research topic for my dissertation). In grad school I had this idea to start a story-telling project with people diagnosed early onset and well… I ACTUALLY MADE THE IDEA HAPPEN. Or got it started, anyway. And that’s the hardest part, right?

This has been slowly growing over the last few months and today I am officially launching the website for See Through Stories. There are only two features so far, but I’m hoping that all of you will help me spread the word so I can make connections to more people interested in taking part. I think if there can be anything beautiful about having dementia, it might be that it forces people to live fully present in the moment. I think we could all learn a little from that.

I don’t know if this will last one year or 50 years. I don’t know if this will stay a project or become and organization. I don’t know if this will just feature people where I live or if I’ll be fortunate enough to hear the stories of people with dementia all over the globe. I don’t know if I’ll work solo or if I’ll be lucky enough to form a dream team. There’s a lot I don’t know.

It’s new. It’s figuring itself out. I’m going to be patient and present with it. No matter what it becomes or doesn’t become, I’m proud of myself for at least seeing the idea through. And I expect that I’ll enjoy every bit of the work immensely because it has me all like: damn, people are beautiful.

 

Love,
Taylor

Extra special thanks to:

The Alzheimer’s Association in Des Moines for connecting me to the wonderful people I’ve interviewed so far // My family, for literally everything // Ryan, who helped get this off the ground from every technical standpoint and was my brainstorming partner// Sarah, Rachel, and Lewis for consistently insisting I must do this, from the very beginning // Andrew, for being my sounding board.

 

Apologies

I’ve been volunteering at DMCW for 9 months now and when you’re a staff volunteer, you see the same people come through every week. First, you get to know names and faces. Then you learn things like how Stanley takes his coffee and how when Kim asks if you have noodles she means ramen noodles and nothing else. You learn that Jimmy prefers donations of black socks to white ones and that if anyone is mouthing off, Annie will most certainly have your back.

The longer I’m here, the more I learn not just about preferences and personalities, but about what happens on the other side of the street when our doors have closed for the day. I am only privy to seeing the tip of many icebergs, but it’s enough to keep me from living in comfortable ignorance of what lurks beneath the water where I float.

I can fill a plate, clean and bandage cuts, drive someone to detox, or offer my undivided attention and a hug. But all the love and good deeds in the world don’t change the fact that at the end of the day I’m the one sleeping inside when it’s below zero outside. I’m the one who can raid the fridge at night if my stomach is growling. I’m the one who can work. I’m the one with a car to take me to work. I’m the one who goes home to people who aren’t abusive or tweaking. What do I do with the privelege I carry as I attempt to live in solidarity with these nieghbors of mine?

 

There have been several times I’ve asked one of our guests a question, completely unprepared for where the conversation would go. Totally unaware that I just signed up to have my ears violated. I’ve had some real good sob sessions in my car lately as I drive and decompress from all the information I take in. I hate, hate, hate, HATE that most of the time all I can do is say, “I’m so sorry.”

I’m so sorry that your husband beat you until your eyes swelled shut and you could feel your mouth fill with blood.

I’m so sorry that you’ve been shot 9 times and can show me the scars scattered across your abdomen.

I’m so sorry that you’re finding it impossible to stay sober and it’s ruining everything.

I’m so sorry that 3 of your 4 sons died when they were just kids.

I’m so sorry that your fingers are frost bitten.

I’m so sorry that you were forced into prostitution and that you feel trapped and violated.

It feels like there are apologies constantly pumping through my bloodstream. All I know is that I cannot burn out, get cyncical, and angry. I cannot disengage. In this place where I live, contemplation and action are connected. Connecting to Love allows the community to stay engaged working for some semblance of peace and justice when the presence of pain is so thick and tangible. I believe this house is holy ground and these neighbors are immensely loved in the only way we know how: to show up, to see and listen, to stand together, and to know how they take their coffee.

God, I hope it’s felt and that it’s enough.

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Love,

Taylor

P.S. I know this is kind of heavy, but I promise most of the time there’s a lot of joy and good vibes all around. 

 

 

Waves

Shout out to Kanye West and Rob Bell, who inspired the following content with their individual creative genius. This is for all the people out there who currently find themselves in a season of life where they just can’t catch a break and have no f-ing clue what’s happening. Come. Join me in my little wave mantra.

 

I am getting pounded by waves. Waves never come alone. They come in sets. They pummel you, sending your whole body into a vicious spin cycle. Your muscles get tired. You can’t see what is happening. You can’t fill your lungs with precious gulps of air. You don’t know which way is up or down, left or right.

Waves don’t die. They’re ever present. But in the moment where you’re involuntarily forced underwater, you must remind yourself…

This moment is not all moments. The wave will come. It will pound me. It will pass over me. Then I will come up for air.

When you’re tossing and turning in every direction, you will want to thrash your body against the water. Your heart and mind will want to frantically conjure up all the worst case scenarios: What if I don’t make it? What if this doesn’t work out? What if I don’t have the money? What if I get rejected? What if this person doesn’t come through?

What if questions and worst case scenarios only add pound to the pummel. You are burning up energy that could be used to do the only thing that is helpful in a wave: Stay calm. Take care of yourself. Eat well. Sleep enough. Remind yourself…

THIS IS A WAVE.

This moment is not all moments. The wave will come. It will pound me. It will pass over me. Then I will come up for air.

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Love,

Taylor