for your darkest hours Archives - Kristen Kalp

Posts in "for your darkest hours" Category

For the unsung voices among us.

grandma

In honor of Women’s History Month, a poem for the ones who came before.

Dear Grandma

You never once got to stand on a podium
and make everyone listen. You buried your husband
and your son, and you worked all day every day
until you retired to the old brown chair.
No one was ever weighed down by your opinions
or objections or your voice in the world.

You never once got to stand on a stage
and hear everyone’s ears turning toward you.
You never got to be paid for your work:
shuffling laundry and sons from the dresser to school,
burning a line between the sink and the stove
so deep you couldn’t see your way out.

Your husband married you not out of love
or even something like affection, but because your sister
was already taken, and then you settled down and lived
in the same house on the same plot of land
until the old brown chair got thrown out.
Now you sit in the nursing home asking

Where is he, why doesn’t he pick me up
and take me home. For the first time, everyone listens
and answers carefully — repeatedly, relentlessly —
but you can’t hear the truth. Your voice warbles
around the room and returns to you, confused:
Where are you, why don’t you pick me up and take me home.

P.S. More poems here, or in book form here.

I had a panic attack on Saturday. Here’s why that matters to you.

I had a panic attack on Saturday.  One minute I was driving through the city, admiring the cute little shops and the gorgeous weather, and the next a set of invisible hands had grabbed my neck and I was hyperventilating while I pulled my car into a McDonald’s parking lot. I spent the next ? minutes — who knows how long, when every minute is endless? — with my eyes closed, tears streaming down my cheeks, while I tried to catch a full breath.

…and when the panic attack ended, I felt only shame.

Asshole brain didn’t step in and let me recover, it just started kicking me while I was down.  (Asshole brain‘s commentary in ALL CAPS.)

I felt shame that I ‘can’t handle’ modern politics. THIS IS JUST THE WAY IT IS. GET USED TO IT.

Shame that I’m ‘not strong enough’ to exist today. QUIT WHINING, ALREADY, YOU ASSHOLE.

Shame that I’m afraid of the being-rolled-back rights of trans kids, people of color, women, immigrants, and Muslims. OTHER PEOPLE HAVE IT WORSE, YOU KNOW.

Shame that I am having an appropriate, if extreme, emotional reaction to all that which I cannot control. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER ALREADY.

I tell you this not because I think I’m special for having a panic attack, but because I’ve been taking really, really good care of myself and by my calculations, this shouldn’t have happened. I’ve been sleeping regularly (but not depressed-me-14-hours-a-night-regularly), hydrating daily, and following the no sugar, no dairy nutritional guidelines that help regulate my moods and hormones.

I’ve been unplugging for at least one full 24-hour period each week and strictly limiting social media time. I’ve been reading fiction and enjoying a few HBO shows instead of watching endless reality TV and reading only magazines and rant-y online articles.

In other words, I’ve been practicing what I preach.

Boundaries, more boundaries, and taking care of the basics.  But those actions aren’t enough.

The safeguards that usually make my life a decent and pleasant experience are failing.

Nothing less than impeccable self care will do.

I have to work out regularly. (Yoga on YouTube counts.)

I have to do breath work to help get out the anger and vitriol that comes as part of feeling helpless. The brilliant Erin Telford calls it ‘energetic hygiene.’

I have to spend time outdoors even when it’s cold and/or dark and/or I don’t want to. …and unless the ocean is nearby, I really don’t want to.

You have to do some version of the same work.

You have to find ways to get your body fed, hydrated, strong, and rested while keeping your brain focused on completing the work only you can do.

You also have to walk the razor’s edge between consuming the news and falling into despair.

That’s tricky, since there are screens at every gas pump touting the latest atrocities and screens at the local diner with scrolling headlines along the bottom and a Facebook feed littered with news articles and outrage each time you open it. (Most people aren’t committed to being the human.)

There’s more vitriol than ever in the air, and it’s affecting me.

It’s affecting you, too.

There’s no way to have made it through the last 24 months in the United States without having been touched by politics, by demonstrations, by uncomfortable conversations, by racist/sexist/xenophobic comments that started with “I’m not racist/sexist/xenophobic, but…,” by watching people you thought you knew say inexplicably wretched things or take wretched actions against other people who share a nation with them.

Unprecedented change requires unprecedented self love.

We all know you can’t give me from an empty cup, but I don’t think we realize how empty our collective cups are at this moment.

We are (rightly) scared and outraged when another headline says Jews/Muslims/people of color/women/LGBTQ/immigrants/kids have been targeted today. We are horrified when events beyond our control play out in ways we wouldn’t have chosen for our worst enemies, let alone our fellow citizens.

Fear and anger burn energy like nothing else.

They’re a quick battery drain that leave you feeling hollowed out and absolutely bereft of joy. The behaviors you might have gotten away with in the past — skipping meals, skipping sleep, living on lattes, giving up on workouts, jamming your calendar with clients and saying you’ll catch up ‘someday’ — won’t do anymore.

Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because you’re still a human.  You still have a body with very physical limitations, but new demands are being placed on that body each day.

We are all human, and we are all struggling right now.

We’ve got to take a stand for what we believe in, and also the homes from which our beliefs arise: our own bodies.

That sucks. It sucks to stay home and sleep when you’re tired instead of going on some sort of adventure with your friends. It sucks to eat only truly nutritional foods and say “no” to sugar and to alcohol and to any foods that make your belly hurt. It’s freaking hard to delete your social media apps and spend time offline.

It’s easy to take shitty care of yourself and to worship at the Altar of Busy, but that isn’t what the world needs right now.

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.” — David Orr

Let’s go and be the peacemakers and the healers, the restorers and the loversBut first, let’s rest.

Let’s fill our cups and nourish our minds and be fully conscious of the poison we agree to ingest whenever we consume the news or social media at this particular point in history.

Let’s take truly admirable care of ourselves first, and let’s go heal the world second.  It’s the only way to lasting change for any of us.

Hugs,

K

P.S.  Taking impeccable care of yourself is an everyday act of rebellion.  Here are 50 more.

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.)

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/0*0rDvv0hCoS328kaG.gif

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.