for coming alive Archives - Kristen Kalp

Posts in "for coming alive" Category

The Uprising.

There is no name for a nation
undoing its moral underpinnings,
freeing itself from the constraints
of the democratic experiment
the same way a woman sighs with such relief
when taking off her bra before bed.

There is no name for the dreams that come after:
drowning, climbing, plummeting to a certain death
and waking to find only faint sunlight
making its way through the window.

There are no maps for this place,
this soft burning that is not hate
but keeps trying to be.

There is no name for the uprising of the human heart.

P.S. 69 more of my poems here.

Be the human.

There’s this new thing going around: angry people on the internets. 😉

People are angrier than ever, it seems, and the articles and videos they’re passing around amp up the anger because clickbait gets clicks and outrage is the easiest way to get someone else on your side.

Only I grew up with a yelling Mom, and by age 5 I could keep reading my book while she screamed about the dusting I needed to do or the laundry I needed to hang or the playing I needed to do outside, and don’t come back in until it’s dark.

I learned early on to tune out screaming, and I didn’t even grow up in a particularly aggressive household.

We humans tune out anger and outrage quickly and effectively. (Which brings us back to Facebook.)

When we keep anger and outrage in circulation by passing along an article or a video that stokes the fires of hatred, we’re keeping anger and outrage in circulation. That is often all anyone can see or hear or feel, particularly those who disagree with us or who are not inclined to see our side with any sort of kindness.

People can feel our contempt. They can discern our hatred for those who voted a certain way. It blinds them to feeling anything else and dismantles our ability to have the kind of real and true conversations that could cause a change of heart to happen.

I suggest we take on a new slogan as we attempt to birth a new world inside this one: be the human.

Just…be the human.

Not BE THE CHANGE, which is our secondary purpose and which will bring in all sorts of righteous adjustments to our world; just be the human.

Being the human means making eye contact and saying “hi” to people and petting dogs and talking to their owners and smiling at strangers and sanitation workers and everyone we meet.

In my case, it means talking to that lady at the diner who voted for the notoriously-hard-to-reach Pat Toomey and who has a car covered in Pro-Life bumper stickers. (In her case, it means talking to the pink-haired woman who got excited about hearing Bernie Sanders speak. Her job is no easier.)

When we challenge ourselves to be the human, we can’t lead with fear or anger. We already know this in real life — scowling at people in Target as we pick up our toilet paper and our paper towels endears us to absolutely no one — but somehow we forget this online.

Maybe because we don’t have to make eye contact? Or because the nameless, faceless ‘them’ is easier to imagine there? Or because there are no babies in carts smiling at everyone, reminding us that giggling at babies is an action every human can get behind?

Being the human means we have to at least try taking fear and anger out of circulation before we proceed with our conversations.

The room has to be swept free of contempt before connection can happen.

That sucks. It’s easier to hate the other side and to dehumanize everyone who doesn’t agree with us/you/me. It’s easier to build walls than to find common ground, especially when it seems that our common ground is, in fact, limited to smiling at babies.

The media is also aimed squarely at blasting our outrage buttons, no matter what we believe, which makes just freaking BEING THE HUMAN an act of resistance.  (Let’s not be deterred in our efforts.)

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It’s easier to spend our energies like VIPs in the club popping bottles of outrage than it is to mete out our resistance in steady, daily actions.

Being the human means we ask questions of ourselves first and of others second. Last week I wasn’t in my usual Target and decided that this Target’s layout was wrong. Not ‘different.’ ‘WRONG.’ Because it wasn’t laid out like the one I prefer.

If my brain is busy trying to make Target aisles ‘wrong,’ how easy is it for my brain to demonize living, breathing humans who disagree with me?

Being the human means we can look at ourselves in the mirror and be proud that we haven’t simply spewed vitriol on nameless, faceless people or that one really annoying guy in our Facebook feed.

Being the human means we commit to decency and mutual respect — the groundwork for living in a world in which we can disagree and then go about our work in the world with freaking love in our hearts.

Being the human means that we can see that we’re all in this together — like it or not — and that those smiling babies in those Target carts deserve a world that hasn’t been completely ripped apart by hate, fear, and contempt.

We all deserve to live in that world, and we can start making it today.

If you’d like to hear more from me about the ways we can take action toward a better world without the use of Super Soakers, I encourage you to join the totally free Fuck Yah Club. I’ll send you poems and uplifting pieces that make you say “fuck yah” to life, and they’ll be accompanied by hard-hitting animal GIFs. Come on, you know you can use more hard-hitting animal GIFs.

P.S.  If bridging the political divide seems unreasonable, here’s a primer on how to be unreasonable.

How to be 8 kinds of brave.

The clouds are miles thick. My voice is squeaky and ugly in that way it gets before I cry: “I just…think…my work doesn’t matter to anyone, and…”

“WAIT.” Ron pauses me there, halfway through my opening sentence, to say that without my work, he and his wife wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. He tells me that even though we hadn’t met until 48 hours before, that he counts me as a rich blessing in his life, and that I’ve done more to change his life and his family than I can possibly imagine.

Before I can stop it, that sentiment rolls around the porch and everyone is nodding, telling their stories about me, tears leaking from their eyeballs and awash in love.

This should be a redemptive moment.

Oh, yes. Of course. My work matters.

This is not a redemptive moment.

I know that on the other side of these kind words, there’s a new challenge lurking, and it’s far bigger than anything I’ve done before. I don’t want to rest in these words — or even believe them — because I know they’re only setting me up for the Big Scary Thing that comes next.

The afternoon unfolds. Nick points out that I’ve been hauling around a pink Cadillac that used to run really well, but now I just drag it around by a rope and resent the shit out of it and vaguely ask people if they want to see it. But I don’t care about the Cadillac. I don’t WANT them to see it or care about it or ask about it. I want to tow the Cadillac to a cliff and throw it over.

“Yes,” I whisper. “Yes, that’s true.”

The Cadillac is rusted and smells funny like garbage left in the back seat after one too many late night fast food runs. It’s lost its transmission but it’s all I have.

The words stop. I don’t know how to explain the weight of having gone for it — of having seen and then created something that left me physically, emotionally, and financially bereft. One three-day event cost me over $43,000 in debt, my marriage unraveled as it was coming to fruition, and I lost all the momentum I’d worked so hard to earn for the five years preceding it.

As tragedies go, it wasn’t brain cancer or an untimely death, but it was a shit-ton of financial pressure, the ongoing panic of debt, and a divorce. Not too shabby, eh?

I don’t have the strength to say the next words: I’m scared to try again. Scared to bring something new into the world, only to have a tidal wave level everything I thought could work, leaving a wake that takes years to pull myself out of, again. (Mostly I’m scared of the again.)

I feel arms around me, deep breaths steadying me so I can say those things.

I’m scared.
I’m so scared.
I can’t breathe.

I can’t do that again. I can’t.

“What if you don’t have to do that again? What if that’s done,” they ask.

I shake my head, tears streaming.

I don’t know.

I don’t know how it will be if it doesn’t fail, if I don’t lose, if it goes according to some sort of plan that doesn’t mean I come up as a failure in the final score.

Morgan throws around the word ‘prophetess’ and other spiritual titles that feel close-but-not-perfect and exactly too big, like wearing my Dad’s boots felt at age 3.

I don’t want to be a shaman-goddess.
I don’t want to be a prophetess.

I just want to stop hauling the Cadillac around and see what happens next. I look around the circle and see love reflected in so many faces, each one present and feeling and lit up with the goodness we seek in humanity but only find when we stop watching the news and start looking each other in the eyes.

Bear points out that the sun has come out while my tears are drying. We hug, my eyes still streaming steadily.

Nick pulls me into the other room and is ferocious with the feelings that need to go, helping me put it all down: the fear, the bitterness, the resentment, the untold anger at the ways life didn’t turn out. The betrayal of my own vision, the lost relationships, the ways I thought I could do better and didn’t. The people I’ve used as placeholders for hate. The tired dregs of fear that haunt me like ghosts when I have the audacity to even think about starting something new.

I lean on those shoulders and fall completely, utterly apart. We are in the middle of the dining room and my snot is running everywhere, that beloved voice rubbing my back and saying, “It’s going to be okay,” over and over and over again.

I cry for what feels like years.
I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, until suddenly I can.

I can let this thing I’ve made go.
I can put down the fear and resentment and all the baggage that’s been so heavy for so long.

I can begin again.

So begins my own brave story, and the ways YOU can be brave in everyday life.   Turns out there are 8 of ’em!  Boundary brave, feelings brave, possibility brave, connection brave, communication brave, sense-of-self brave, calendar brave, and daily brave.  YAH THAT’S A LOT OF BRAVE.  But it helps to break ’em down, ’cause then you don’t get to tell yourself you’re not brave, period.

Give this episode of That’s What She Said a listen — and nab your ticket to Brave by January 31st to get Early Bird Pricing!

P.S.  You know I have a podcast, right?  Here are the top 10 episodes as decided by listeners.