Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We Can Choose Love: Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Sometimes the words you hear change... if not everything, then at least something. Sometimes that event you dragged yourself to even though you'd been running behind schedule all morning gives you exactly the inspiration you need. Sometimes a simple smile reminds you that you are not as alone as you think you are...

Yesterday was one of those days for me...

I walked into Franchesca Ramsey's talk at Oregon State University a few minutes late without a clue what to expect. She spoke to a decent size crowd about activism as part of the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day . As I listened to her speak, my mind began to wander in that way one's mind wanders when the words spoken spark a thought, inspire a new idea, and/or push one to think about one's own actions.

Following Franchesca's talk, I joined the Peace March on campus which ended up being relatively quiet with a bit of singing and a bit of chanting but with many people just walking quietly. I began to wonder if perhaps people felt a bit meditative, or at least contemplative. I know I did, but I attempted to sing along (my apologies to the people marching within earshot.) We sang We Shall OvercomeAin't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, and This Little Light of Mine. At the end of the Peace March, there was a short rally where a few more speakers spoke about the importance of unity, equality, and recognizing our role moving forward.

Of course through it all, there were many Dr. King quotes mentioned. Some people just have a way of saying and writing things that are timeless in their ability to inspire and encourage. Dr. King was certainly one of those people. Yesterday my thoughts kept going back to a few quotes over and over and over...

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"...Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

I think these particular quotes resonated deeply with me because I try to live from a place of love, and lately I've been failing on that front. I've never been perfect at it, but the past few months I've felt so much fear, anxiety, and despair boiling just beneath the surface that I've found it hard to love in the face of people's hatred.

There seems to be a disconnect that allows people to preach hate one day and the next day praise those who have historically fought that very hate. It amazes me to witness and makes it hard for me to react to those people with love. People seem to forget that Dr. King and all those in the Civil Rights Movement faced resistance with every effort they made to gain the same rights as their oppressors. While we celebrate those marches now, they were met with hatred, violence, and cruelty when they happened. Those seeking change were told not to cause trouble and to go through official channels that time and again shut them down. Today we applaud their persistent efforts, but at that time those efforts were reviled and so were the people putting forth those efforts. It's easy now to look back and romanticize the struggle by focusing on the beautiful words and the outcome, but it's unfair to those who fought to do so.  A large part of what makes the Civil Rights Movement the crowning achievement it is is how the protesters risked their safety, their livelihood, their very lives to draw attention to the inequality they faced.

Yet, even as we now herald The Civil Rights Movement, far too many condemn those seeking equality and civil rights today... I wonder how many times we have to learn the same lessons before we finally understand that equality isn't a special privilege. When are we going to understand that just because someone gets the same rights as us doesn't mean we somehow lose ours? In fact, the more people experiencing rights, the more people can engage with the world around them to offer creative and unique solutions to the problems we all face. When we treat one another with compassion and kindness and humanity, we make the world a better place.

We can never forget the struggle, but we don't have to keep repeating history. We can learn from history and make different choices. We can choose equality. We can choose compassion. We can choose love. Really... we can...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

So It's Now 2017...

2017 has arrived. 2016 has ended. Life feels pretty much the same...

For all the good in 2016 and for all the bad in 2016, the clock passing midnight on December 31st, 2016 once again wasn't actually a catalyst for change. I've never understand this notion that there's some kind of reset button that lets us start over each year. Life, or at least my life, doesn't work that way. Whatever I was dealing with on December 31st is still there when I wake up on January 1st. It doesn't resolve until I do the work to resolve it.

I set goals, not necessarily yearly goals, but goals nonetheless. I work on my goals and change them as my schedule demands, and that means some years look better than others for accomplishments.

As I look at 2017, I know what my projects are. I know what needs to be done. And while I'm disappointed I didn't publish any books in 2016, it's okay because I know where I'm at with my various projects. I will publish them when they're ready, hopefully that will be in 2017.

I also know that 2017 will have ups and downs and all arounds. People will die. People will be born. People will love. People will hate. Wars will be fought. People will proclaim they want peace while spreading the very hate that creates war. Politicians will lie. Promises will be made. Promises will be broken. People will lose jobs. People will find jobs. Corporations will buy politicians. Our water, earth, and air will be polluted. People will share half-truths and outright lies on social media. People will protest. People will acquiesce. People will fight. People
will argue. People will find everything they cherish about the lives they lead challenged. People will worry their loved ones will fall victim to someone's hate. People will fall victim to someone's hate. Murder will happen. Rape will happen. Violence will happen. Compassion will happen. Vengeance will happen. Forgiveness will happen. People will get married. People will get divorced. People will eat too much. People will starve. People will fight climate change. People will exacerbate climate change. Immigrants will immigrate. People will blame everyone except themselves for their mistakes. People will take responsibility. The rich will get richer on the backs of the middle class and the poor. People will stand up for those without a voice. People will fight for equality. People will pray, beg, plead, and bargain for more time. People will...

So as I look at 2017 and think forward to December when everyone starts making their lists about the best of and the worst of, I wonder if we'll care so much about going through the motions and honoring traditions yet again that we'll forget that 2017 will become 2018, and nothing will reset then either. You'll still be you. I'll still be me. We'll all still have challenges. The only time we make any difference is in the actions we choose every day of our lives... 

And, we have to decide. Each and every one of us has to decide. It is our choice. We have the power to choose. We have to decide what role we will play in society... 

Because inaction is deadly... Because inaction condones... Because inaction speaks more loudly than we know...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Guest Blogging about the Oregon Art Scene

Last year I guest blogged on 50 Authors from 50 States about Oregon and focused mainly on hiking, so this year I decided to go a different way and explore another interests - the arts scene in Oregon. While this barely touches on the deep and diverse art scene to be found in Oregon, I wanted to show what the diversity in the Oregon art scene that I've experienced.

Please check it out at 50 Authors from 50 States. While you're there, comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems. And don't forget to check out what other authors have had to say about their states!!

If you'd also like to read last year's guest post, you can.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Giveaway - Kindle version of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems

I'm currently giving away 10 copies of the Kindle version of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems! Only a few copies left, so act quick!

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems (Kindle Edition). https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/1738d057cbca3444 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Sep 18, 2016 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules

If you win, reviews are always appreciated... If you prefer to just purchase a copy outright, please visit Amazon.

Also, if you'd also like a chance to win a signed trade paperback copy of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems, please visit Goodreads.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Goodreads Giveaway - Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems

Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems, my second poetry book exploring the relationship between vulnerability and strength, celebrates its first birthday in September. To celebrate I'm offering a giveaway over on Goodreads. Enter to win 1 of 10 signed copies! Reviews are always appreciated, particularly if you enjoy the read!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vulnerability in Silhouette by T.L. Cooper

Vulnerability in Silhouette

by T.L. Cooper

Giveaway ends October 01, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
And, if you're wondering, the first book of poetry that explored the relationship between vulnerability and strength was Strength in Silhouette: Poems. And, if you just don't want to wait, you can purchase an unsigned copy or the Kindle version of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems now.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trust: A Complicated Relationship

My relationship with trust is... well, complicated, chaotic, and ever-changing! It is also affirming, inspiring, and reassuring! I suppose that takes us back to complicated.

I've spent my life vacillating between being too trusting and not trusting at all. Errors in judgment and taking the blame for other people's actions led me to having less than zero trust in my own judgment. I walked around terrified that if I trusted someone that by definition made them untrustworthy, but if I couldn't trust them then maybe I should trust them but if I trusted them.... Oh, what a tangled circle we twirl in when we practice illogical logic. Dizzy yet?

Anyway, at some point I convinced myself I trusted no one, not my friends, not my husband, not my family, not myself. I spiraled deep into that dizzying circle of mistrust, distrust, total lack of trust. Oh, I could put on the proper face at the proper time for the proper reason, but underneath every expression of trust was a loathing for the very concept of trust. I hated it. I wished someone would erase the word from existence, so I didn't have to feel this intense pressure to trust people the world said I should trust whether or not they had earned my trust.

Eventually, I started to break out of the spiral. It was both harder and easier than I expected. I was exhausted with the effort it took to always be on the lookout, to always keep my protective barriers up, to question every move, word, motive... I didn't want that life anymore.

I quit caring if people made a fool of me for caring about them or sharing with them or just being in their life. I really stopped caring. I stopped caring if someone else's actions or reactions would reflect badly on me. I freed myself from the baggage of having to trust others. I admitted, at least to myself, that I really didn't trust anyone, and then I told myself that was perfectly okay. A weight lifted off my shoulders, and I started looking for ways to re-engage. I stopped seeing every single slight, intentional or unintentional, as a sign of something greater than it was. I started accepting people as they came and just being myself instead of trying to appear perfect.

Perfection is nothing but an illusion.

As time went by and I realized trust wasn't this make it or break it thing, it was simply the guideline for how we treat one another, I found myself not weighing trust down with artificial conditions and tests. I started to let life unfold, to engage people where I found them from where I found myself, and to just be.

Life got easier. Relationships ran more smoothly and felt more fulfilling, even the superficial ones. Small betrayals often found easy resolution, and big betrayals felt more like lessons than life-destroying missiles aimed at my psyche.

Trust became just a part of any relationship, sometimes it was more important than others. Sometimes it didn't really matter at all.

I stopped believing trust was everything. I took the pressure off trust and brought it into the moment at hand.

Then I got hit by a truth that in earlier times in my life would have totally destroyed me, a disclosed betrayal that broke the bastion on which I'd rebuilt my ability to trust. Yet, as I listened, I didn't feel betrayed, I felt compassion.

Later, the fact of the betrayal hit me and so did the pain. I was honest about the effect the situation had on my ability to trust the person involved, but I didn't blame myself. I took my time to process. I wanted to be brave... but could I?

I set some boundaries. I got in touch with my values. I held myself with compassion. I looked for solutions rather than blame.

I waited for my old standbys to emerge. I waited for the rage. I waited for the self-destruction. I waited for the need to lash out. They never came. 

Instead, I felt heartache and uncertainty and vulnerability, the things that are usually behind anger for me. And, I allowed myself to feel them. I cried when I felt like crying. I asked for space when I needed it. I took my time and processed all my complicated reactions to trust.

When I couldn't trust, I said so without guilt or self-recrimination. When I was honest about the lost trust, it felt like a relief, especially when my honesty was met with understanding instead of a demand for trust. Trust is built on the small moments, and can only be rebuilt on small moments even though a big moment can crush it to dust in seconds.

One thing I knew for sure, I couldn't retreat into my fortress of mistrust, distrust, and total lack of trust. I didn't want to waste my energy on that kind of life. Not again. Not ever again.

So I made a choice. I stood in both my strength and my vulnerability, and I chose to stay in the moment whatever happened.

This brings me to the inspiration for this post... In December I signed up for Brené Brown's free class, The Anatomy of Trust, on COURAGEworks. I wasn't sure why I signed up. I'd already dealt with all my trust issues. I felt no need whatsoever to delve back into that place.


I watched the videos. I nodded. I printed out the worksheets. Her ideas made sense. They looked at trust in many of the same ways I'd come to see them, but they also looked at it in some different ways, ways that provoked thought. I promptly lost the worksheets among the piles of papers scattered around my office. I wasn't sure I needed to do this work anyway.

A few months later, I found the worksheets... And, I thought, oh, what the hell, I'll do them just so I can say I finished the class. I hate to leave things unfinished. Receiving an "incomplete" in college terrified me even more than failing... So, I looked at the sheets, and promptly realized I didn't even remember enough of the videos to do the exercises, so I watched the videos again and did the worksheets that applied to me, not all did because being a writer is quite the solitary occupation, so I skipped the ones related to workplace and co-workers.

As Brené talked about the elements of trust as she sees them, something she calls BRAVING, I couldn't help but think BRAVING was what I'd decided to do years ago when my lack of trust had finally exhausted me. I just never had a name for it. BRAVING is:
Trust is built in the little moments...


I know my boundaries and don't fear them. I work to be reliable and to surround myself with people who are also reliable. I hold myself accountable and try to let others know when their actions hurt me. I guard what people tell me and share my stories with only those who need to hear them or can help me. I live my values based on living from a place of love, and I allow others their values as long as they don't try to force them on others. I try to listen to others with an open mind and heart because everyone's story is theirs to live. I've discovered that most people don't intentionally set out to hurt others, so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt; however, I will enforce my boundaries when necessary.

I am no longer scared of my strength nor my vulnerability nor what someone else might choose to do. I fully accept that trying to control someone else's behavior to protect myself not only hurts me more but makes me complicit in the pain.

My responsibility is to live my life as best I can. Sometimes that will lead to joy and sometimes to sorrow. If I can see the moment for what it is, I can find a way to be at peace in my heart and mind. I can't control what anyone else does, ever, and it's not my responsibility to. Once, I released that need to be responsible for every single thing others did in our relationship, my life improved exponentially.
Standing in front of Monkey Face at Smith Rock
October 2015

I finally trust myself to stand on top of the mountain or on the creek bank whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring and do what is right for me. As I said before, I am not broken and neither are you. We are all just doing the best we can with our perfectly imperfect selves in an imperfect world.

Be honest with yourself. Understand if you cannot trust right now, don't force it. Let it grow over time as the people around you do the small things that are worthy of trust and you do those things for yourself. Live your life in a way that lets others know they can trust you, do those little things every chance you get. This is what I remind myself every day.

As I progressed through the process of understanding the role trust plays in my life, I wrote numerous poems. Some of those poems appear in my books, Strength in Silhouette: Poems and Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems

I finally found the courage to embrace one of the most important lessons I've ever learned.

Trust cannot be forced. Trust grows moment by moment. Trust requires both strength and vulnerability. Trust happens while we're busy getting to know one another. Trust is an ongoing process not an end goal. Trust is something we wake up and realize has been there for awhile but can't quite pinpoint when we moved into that place where trust feels natural.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Changing the Limitations for Women - The United State of Women

 On June 14, I watched The United State of Women Summit livestream, or at least much of it. I picked it up a few hours into it - the downside of living in the Pacific Time Zone. I was disappointed that I missed the morning sessions focused on violence against women.

I was thrilled a few days later when I received an email stating the full program was available to watch - all 11+ hours of it. 

At least, I could watch the parts I missed including Vice President Biden's intense and emotional speech, Mariska Hargitay's insightful, heartfelt, and emotional words, and the enthusiasm of so many people coming together to create positive change in our world.

As Vice President Biden spoke about his decades of work to eradicate violence against women, tears welled up in my eyes. I thought about all the women I know who've encountered violence in their lives. I thought about my own experiences with violence at various times in my life. I thought about how we write a narrative that dismisses facts and statistics to deny help to those in need. I thought about how society plays politics with these issues as if they're part of a game and there aren't real people who are affected by the decisions made. I allowed my tears to well up and spill over because we need more love in the world. We need to love one another more than we love ideologies and money.

I watched President Obama's remarks again. The genuine love and devotion President Obama shows his wife and his daughters never fails to touch my heart. His words were touching and insightful delivered with the touch of humor that seems to come so natural to him.

I couldn't resist watching First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey have their discussion about the state of women in America and how they view life in America. While the interview was interesting and even fun, I took a great deal of pleasure in how real they seemed during what I dubbed the "Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm." segment.

The myriad speakers discussed the progress we've made toward equality, and the path forward. Their words reminded me that sometimes I bite my tongue instead of engaging because I see so many people who either just want to argue for the sake of arguing or aren't interested in anything that doesn't fit their narrative. Our world becomes increasingly polarized because so many people are so indoctrinated in their beliefs that facts and evidence are no longer relevant.

We seem to have come to a place where we spend far too much time drawing lines in the sand and proclaiming them drawn in concrete. Guess what? Concrete cracks under enough pressure. I look into the eyes of those searching for something better and I wonder just how much longer this divisiveness can continue before it breaks it all apart, until it breaks us all apart.

Women have made such incredible strides toward equality, but we're not done. I own myself. I refuse to be anybody's property and yet I find myself falling into expected roles and hating myself for doing it. Then seeking to forgive and accept myself for the crime of being human because we treat being human as if its something to overcome or to cure in our society.

I see people all around me striving for better based on someone else's definition and losing themselves in the process just as I did for years.

Life isn't about meeting expectation and figuring out how to be acceptable, respectable, conventional. Life is about embracing who you are and proclaiming your truth to the world in all its glory as loudly and beautifully as possible. Life isn't about how someone else tells you to live. Life isn't about checking expectations met off a list like just one more task to perform. Life is about living boldly and giving the world based on who you are at your core.

We have to stand up to the bullies and the rapists and the abusers. We have to stand up to the degrading comments meant to keep us in place. We have to stand in our truth even when it costs us what we think we want. We have to stand for the strength and vulnerability, the intelligence and the compassion, the success and the failure that it takes to find our truth and our place in the world.

We have to keep drawing attention to the lives we live and the injustices we encounter. We have to see one another and work together across all the barriers placed between us to find the common ground that gives us a place to create a world that offers a foundation of equality to all.

We need to see our world as it is with the progress we've made and the road still ahead without putting on blinders.

We are so busy politicizing the very act of living that we've lost sight of the people who are affected.

When violence and hate are given more glory than peace and love, how can we expect to change the limitations for tomorrow?