Tagged: Family

Legally Wed

Yesterday, nearly four years after our religious ceremony, Sherri and I became legally married. I am so incredibly happy and proud to be able to call Sherri my legal spouse, and me hers, with all the rights and responsibilities therein.

Christie's mom Laura reads a few words.
Christie’s mom Laura reads a few words.

The ceremony was brief, at our home, with a few clothes friends and family members in attendance.

These are the words I spoke to Sherri:

Not quite 7 years ago, I set out for Portland to start a new part of my life. Someone, or something must have been aware of my plan, because I was guided to you shortly upon my arrival here.

Since then I have learned that you are one of the most generous, compassionate and courageous spirits I have ever met. From the beginning, you opened your heart wide to me and while cautious at first, I have learned to take great refuge in your presence.

As many here know, the last handful of years together has been difficult. But between the challenges we’ve faced, we’ve found space for joy, laughter, and delight. I would do everything all over again for the privileged of getting to build this life with you.

My vows to you:

Because our life together will not always be easy, I vow to meet challenges in our relationship with a sense of compassion and adventure.

Because our family is but one piece in a very large puzzle. I vow to live a life of service to you, to our marriage and to our community.

Because while love is not scarce, many resources are, I vow to make sure you always have the things you need most such as food, water, shelter and art supplies. I vow to utilize our resources wisely.

Because I want to spend the most amount of time possible with you and grow old together, I vow to care for my body and mind.

Because play is just as important as work, I vow to cultivate playfulness, laughter and lightness in our relationship.

Because what I was hiding, deep inside, you brought out into the light, and even thought it is terrifying at times, I vow to stand bravely in the light of your love.

My dearest Sherri, You are the first person who made me truly feel loved. I look forward to sharing a life of practice with you and I am truly honored that you are recognizing again this commitment with me here today, in front of our friends and family.

While I wish we didn’t have to wait at all to get legally married, I’m grateful we have been able to do so in our home state earlier than I had anticipated. I’m grateful for the opportunity affirm “yes, I know what these vows mean in practice and I continue to commit to every single one of them.”

The Ursula K Le Guin quote that Sherri sent out with our invitations says it all:

Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it had to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.

My back-to-school, beginning of college story

Trigger warning: This post references emotional and physical abuse.

It’s the back-to-school time of year, which always seems to arrive excessively early. Living in the colder Pacific Northwest, summer feels like it’s only getting started by mid-July when big box stores signal the return of fall by with campaigns selling backpacks, pens, notebooks, shower caddys, extra-long twin sheet sets, and all the other ephemera required of returning to school. And as we march towards the September, it’s impossible to escape stories in the news about the profound and emotional act of leaving one’s child at university for the first time.

I find myself stuck in the middle of these two audiences. Sherri and I don’t have children together of any age, so we aren’t buying school supplies for a return to the classroom, and we aren’t escorting any nearly-grown children at college. Reminders of this fact often make me sad, even if for brief moments until I am distracted by the many duties of everyday life. While I hope we will find a way to bring meaning and guidance to a child’s life, I don’t know for certain that we will have any back-to-school experiences beyond our own.

Stories about leaving for college can trigger a melancholy nostalgia for another reason: they remind me of the violent and abrupt way I left home many years ago.

I applied to three universities and was accepted to two: UC Davis and UC Berkeley. I was proud to have been accepted at UC Berkeley and it probably would have been my first choice. But like most decisions for which my father was gatekeeper, Davis was really the only viable selection. They offered me a full Regents Scholarship, which offset numerous parental threats around not supporting me financially, and the campus was located close enough to home that my father felt comfortable sending me there. The plan might even have been for me to commute to Davis until I won the scholarship and was accepted into the residential Integrated Studies program. In any case, during the summer of 1997 I was working at Radio Shack full time. With wages from that job, I did college back to school shopping on my own.

That last summer at home I led a largely invisible existence, punctuated by blinding visibility on the radar of my father’s temper. These flashes happened with increasing frequency as the date of my departure from the household grew nearer. Was my father responding to an increasing display of independence from me, or was he responding to the inevitable loss of control? Earlier in the summer we had a huge argument about the use of the new family computer. The details of the fight aren’t important, but the results were devastating to me. My punishment was handed down not in person, but in writing. Somewhere among my things, I still have the hand-written noted my father taped to the kitchen cabinets outlining my loss of privileges, which included a prohibition against using my car until I repaid my half of its purchase cost, and a resolute recension of any support for college. The note said something about “good luck keeping your job without a way to get there” and ended with “good luck asshole.”

I took the note down and walked back to my room. My mind seared with anger and desperation. I resolved to leave home right then. I packed a bag and climbed out my kitchen window.

A well-throughout plan I did not have. Rather, I had as good as a plan as 17-year old who feels like escaping home is a life-or-death matter. I walked the half-mile or so to the local grocery store where I used a pay phone to call a cab. The driver looked at me strangely, but obliged my request and dropped me off at a cheap motel near Sacramento State University. This area I was familiar with because I took classes at the university. I thought somehow the motel’s proximity to the university would make it less strange that I was trying to check in to a motel with a university ID and credit card, which I had hoped would be sufficient. But the motel clerk insisted on seeing my driver’s license and when he saw I was under age, he refused to let me register. I walked across the street to the Denny’s, feeling dejected and having no idea where else to go.

And that’s when things got strange.

Right away I recognized one of other patrons, a man seated with two other women. He had been a recent customer of mine from Radio Shack, and although I’m unsure of his actual name, I always think of him as Aaron. I recognized him because sometime during the prior weeks he bought expensive speakers from me which helped me earn my commission for the day. Aaron was in his early twenties and I looked up to him in the way that adolescents look up to those who are only a few years older than them, but seemingly light-years away in independence and all the things that come with it.

Instantly I felt embarrassed and hoped he didn’t recognize me. But he did and he came over to my table. He invited me to come sit with them, I did and it eventually revealed that I was trying to leave home, not giving many details other than that my mind was made to follow my course. They listened to me, empathizing and not once condescending to me, which was a kindness I so rarely received. What Aaron said to me next has stayed with me all these years: “I don’t know anything about your situation, I’m not judging that. What I do know is that what you’re trying to do is very hard. If there’s anyway you can stick it out just a little bit longer until you go to college, I think things will be better for you. We’re staying at the motel across the street, and I’ll get you a room there so you have a place to sleep tonight and some time to think it over.” I probably knew he was right about having to go back home, but wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce. I was ready to have a room for the night, though. We finished our meals and then drove across the street to the other hotel in Aaron’s tiny sports car.

And that’s when things got even more strange.

There is a police cruiser in the parking lot of the motel. This fact puts Aaron on high alert, and rather than parking as expected, he hops out of the car and ducks into the manager’s office. He emerges moments later, gets back in to the car and puts it in into gear. “The cops are here trying to serve a warrant on me,” he says. “We have to go.”

And so we do, heading westbound on highway 50 toward downtown Sacramento. At this point the feeling of having an out of body experience, watching myself in a film, that started when I climbed out my bedroom window is now complete. I am stuck in the back seat of a tiny sports car with a near-complete stranger, apparently wanted by the policy, driving and I have no idea where we are going.

We exit and race through empty downtown streets. I don’t know where we are since I haven’t driven downtown very much. Suddenly we pull in to the Vagabond Inn and Aaron hops out and walks to the manager’s office. Shortly he returns with a key and hands it to me. “Checkout is at noon. Good luck,” he says. Dumbfounded, I realize he’s kept his word. I wave goodbye to Aaron and his companions. They speed off to somewhere I never know, and I go to my room for the night.

The next morning I call a friend of mine to give me a ride home. It must have been a Sunday, because traffic was light and my mother was at home, in the kitchen when I walked through the door. I could tell my invisible state had been restored because no one noticed I’d been gone. I would have thought walking through the door first thing in the morning with a backpack and wearing the previous’ days clothes would have been a sure tell. Now I know that people have an uncanny ability to see, or not see, exactly what they want or need to at any given time.

After that weekend’s adventure, I recalled Aaron’s advice like a mantra. Keep your head down. Just get by for another two months until school starts. I worked every Radio Shack shift diligently, welcoming my escape from home even though it meant biking miles in the heat. I stayed in my room when I was at home, watching movies, reading, and playing Nethack and Civilization.

This strategy was working, and as mid-August arrived, so had relative calm in our house. I began gently reminding my father about the car, and when we could negotiate the terms of its release to me. Rather than providing a concrete answer, he said now wasn’t a good time to discuss, and we’d go over it later that evening or tomorrow. I grew tired of these rebuffs and one evening, as he sprawled on the couch watching TV, I pushed him further. “No, we need to talk about this now,” I said. “You aren’t busy right now and this is important.”

What happened after that occurred in an instant and in slow motion all at once. Something about what I said provoke his temper and he charged at me, red-faced from the couch. Was he going to slap me, or just man-handle me back to my room as so often was his preference?

I had became adept in my teenage years at simply outrunning or out maneuvering my father when he tried to strike or otherwise physically control me. If my path to the front door were clear, I would go outside. This was the best option by far, since the front yard not only provided freedom of movement and fewer obstacles, but also a potential audience. A person is generally less comfortable smacking their kids around when an audience is present. If my path to the outside wasn’t clear, I would just try to make him tired before he was able to make contact with me. Sometimes ensuring that I retreated to my room was enough to get him to stop.

This time, however, I didn’t move or so much as flinch. Instead, I locked eyes with him and the split second before he was going to make contact with me, I said, “You touch me again, you are going to jail.”

To this day, I can’t explain what made this change in our power dynamic possible, I only know that a profound change came over me an empowered me to do what I did. Ever seen the last season of Buffy, when all the slayers are activated? It was like that.

He stopped. His posture changed. Surprise registered in his eyes. I was leading in this dance now and he knew it. Then came the rage. “Get out, now. You have 15 minutes,” he commanded, pointing down the hall not towards any outside door but in a gesture that clearly meant you are not welcomed here any longer.

And so I left.

First I called a friend and was able to utter, “I need you to come get me right now,” to which he responded, “I am on my way. Meet you out front. Bring only what you need for tonight.” before my father cut the phone line. My friend arrived within a half hour and I never lived with my father again.

As so began one of the most surreal times of my life, the month between my last day living at home and my first day of college. Parts of it I recall with visceral detail. Others are a blur. I continued to work my shifts at Radio Shack, but in many other ways I shut down. The friend who picked me up the night I left home asked our friends to ask their parents if I could stay with them. One family said yes, and to this day I feel immense gratitude for their generosity. They gave me what I needed most at the time, at some risk to themselves (since I was a minor), and asked nothing in return.

When it was time to leave my temporary family, a friend of a friend helped me begin my life at UC Davis. He had a large white pickup, into which we packed my things and then drove the 15 or so miles to campus. I recall the conversation between us during that time being awkward and tense, although I couldn’t tell you exactly what we talked about. When we arrived at B Building, my assigned dorm on campus, we unloaded and then my helper departed. There were no words of advice, no teary-eyed embraces, no last-minute gifts of pocket money. I was alone.

If the strangeness of my situation crossed my mind, I ignored it. I had an extra-long twin bed to make, a room to settle into, and classes started in a few days.

For a long while after leaving home and even graduating college, I couldn’t pass through this time of year without feeling profound anxiety, and then sadness. Much of that has faded now, as most scars do. I remain grateful that I survived such a difficult transition and for the people who helped me through it. When I see 17 and 18 year-olds now, heading off to college for the first time, I think how impossibly young they seem and realize just how young I was when all of that happened.

There is nothing we can do to change our past, and yet if we aren’t vigilant we find ourselves trying to do just that. Healing must take the past into account, but can only be performed in the present. When I think of the 17 year-old me, I comfort her and I let her know she’s going to be okay. And then I bring my attention to the present and look forward to the future.

My Mom is Gonna Rock the Vagina Monologues

You heard that right, my Mom is going to rock the Vagina Monologues next week in Sacramento.

I don’t write a lot about my mom here. My father, being the more notorious parent, seems to take up more space. However, I should work on that because my mom is a smart and resourceful women and I feel incredibly grateful that she’s a part of my life.

One thing that tickles me about the Vagina Monologues event in Sacramento is that it’s a fund-raiser for a handful or organizations, including WEAVE. WEAVE stands for Women Escaping a Violent Environment and it’s the organization that helped my mom leave my abusive father over a decade ago. What a cool way for her to give a little something back to a group that helped her and to bookend two parts of her life (beginning life away from my dad, and beginning retirement).

Thank you WEAVE for helping my mom and us all those years ago, and thank you mom for being you!

Mom and Chris

And, if you’re going to be in Sacramento next Satruday, 4/14, go buy tickets for the Vagina Monologues!

No Way to Say Goodbye

Christie and Dad, circa 1983
My father and I, circa 1983. That's Mr. Bear in the background.

This Spring marks a decade since I last saw my father. We didn’t speak and he didn’t actually acknowledge my presence, but I know he saw me in the courtroom because his public defender requested that the judge have me removed as a potential witness. The judge denied this request, and I stayed to watch the rest of my father’s arraignment. If you’re curious why my father was in court, watch this video, or read this article.

I don’t actually recall when my father and I last spoke. To the best of my recollection, it was sometime in 2000. We had on-again off-again communication while I was in college, but at some point I decided that a continued relationship with him was just not a healthy thing for me and distanced myself quite a bit.

Last night one of my brothers called and told me he’d just found out that our father had a heart attack the week prior, had been in the hospital for a few days and was now released. My brother didn’t have any specific information about our father’s condition other than that he had collapse while running errands and had woken up in the hospital.

It’s very difficult for me to imagine my father collapsing and being in the hospital. Logically and factually, it’s not surprising that had had a heart attack. We’re talking about a man who has seen a doctor a handful of times in his life (that I know about), smoked for decades, ate a very unhealthful diet and did amphetamines. In many ways, I’m surprised he hasn’t had more significant health issues. However, my mental and emotional memory of him is dominated by a single image: lean, mean, angry and muscular, albeit with a slight lilt from a bad back. It’s just weird to think of him as being old and frail and in ill health. But that seems to be where we are headed.

Aging is a normal process, of course, but it’s unsettling when it’s happening to a parent and even more strange when it happens to a parent with whom you’re estranged. I find myself wondering if I’m going to get to say my final goodbyes, or if I will simply hear about his passing sometime after it happens. Should I attempt to make a kind of peace with him, or with myself about him, sooner rather than later? The answers to these questions seem unknowable.

 

Vegan Moral Superiority and Other Misunderstandings

Since moving to Portland 4 years ago, I have only traveled back to California once to spend Thanksgiving with my family. There are many factors that go in to my decision to stay in Portland for the holiday: the hassle and expense of travel, the possibility that weather negatively impact travel, having to be away from my community here, the typical stress that comes with the holidays and family, and my desire to participate in an all-vegan Thanksgiving.

Every year, Sherri and I thoughtfully consider what we will do for Thanksgiving: stay in Portland, or go see my family in Sacramento. I don’t see my family a lot, so each year this is a tough decision. Mostly due to some other family circumstances, we briefly decided to spend this year’s holiday with my family. We discussed the negative feelings that would arise from participating in a non-vegan Thanksgiving. We decided that we’d bring enough vegan items from Portland (rolls and pies from Sweetpea), and would cook some of our favorite dishes so that we had plenty to eat. This seemed like a reasonable coping strategy.

However, as we got closer to Thanksgiving week, I realized I was not looking forward to our trip at all and that it had everything to do with our having to celebrate with a dead turkey and dead pig at the family table, amongst other non-vegan items. I realized it was just not possible for me to celebrate, or even to feel fully connected and present under those circumstances. I talked with Sherri about this and she agreed. I called my mother shortly afterwards and told her we’d be staying in Portland to celebrate a vegan Thanksgiving with friends. At the time, she seemed to understand.

Up until now, I had always assumed that my family understood and respected why I was vegan, even if they are not themselves vegan. When I visit, my mother makes sure to buy things I can eat and makes vegan meals. If we go out as a family, we go to a restaurant where there will be plenty I can eat. Between this and never having been interrogated about my veganism, I assumed that my family understood where I was coming from.

But conversations I’ve had with family members since telling them I couldn’t enjoy or, in good conscience, participate in a non-vegan Thanksgiving have left me feeling like they don’t understand at all, and really don’t respect or value my veganism as I would like.

As I’ve mention before on this blog, being vegan is an essential part of my moral, ethical and spiritual life. It is a necessary part of my commitment to the five precepts of not harming, lying, stealing, misusing sexuality or intoxicants. Being vegan is part of what makes me a whole, integral person. It is not a lifestyle choice any more than choosing not to murder or be violent towards humans is a lifestyle choice. It is not something I choose to turn off when it is inconvenient.

Being vegan, in and of itself, has been very easy for me. I am fortunate enough to live in a Western, industrialized and highly affluent society where whole grains, legumes, nuts, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant. I can easily find shoes and other clothing items that do not use animal-derived materials. There are times when I am directed by my doctors to take a medicine that is probably not purely vegan (as this is impossible given how pharmaceutical r&d works). I make exceptions here, when alternatives aren’t available and when my health is at risk. Luckily, these circumstances do not arise that often.

In talking with my family this week, a few things came up that really bothered me. I want to address those issues here, because they have come up in my conversations with other people as well, and I think they are representative of common misunderstandings between vegans and omnivores.

Misunderstanding #1: Vegans are judgmental of omnivores’ decisions. They feel morally superior to omnivores.

I have no doubt that some vegans feel this way about omnivores (and non-smokers about smokers, and non-drinkers about drinkers, etc.). But, by and large, the vegans I know, including myself, do not. The process of how to behave in our world is a highly complex, intimate and individual thing. I don’t ever pretend to understand all the issues that a single person has to contend with in navigating their own life. The decision to be vegan, like any other fundamental belief, has to be made from within. I don’t expect anyone to become vegan because I am, or because of something I say.

That being said, I do not believe veganism is a matter of opinion and I do believe it to be a moral issue. Do I believe it’s wrong to treat animals as property, raising and killing them for food? Yes, I do. Do I believe the world would be better off if more people were vegan? Absolutely. There really isn’t a question about that. It would be better for human health, for our environment, and certainly for the animals themselves.

Having beliefs and being consistent in my actions around them does not automatically constitute me judging those who do not share those beliefs. I also feel the world would be better off if no one misused tobacco, or alcohol, or heroin, or cocaine. But it doesn’t mean that I find users of any of those substances to be bad people.

The goodness of a person is the sum total of their life experiences and decisions and it isn’t something I can ever know or judge and I don’t even try.

Misunderstanding #2: We’re not forcing you to eat non-vegan food, so why should it bother you to be part of a meal where other people are eating non-vegan food?

There are a couple of parts to this.

The first is logistical. It’s annoying to be at a party where you can’t eat everything. Not sure what this is like? Next time you’re at a party or potluck, pick one or two dishes at random and limit yourself to eating only those. Most of the time, that’s what it’s like for vegans, if we’re lucky. And if we’re really lucky, both dishes are something we actually would like to eat. It gets annoying very quickly to have extremely limited food options and to always have to vet every dish before you eat it. When it comes to Thanksgiving, I want to be able to fully partake in the feast and enjoy a bit of *every* dish.

The second has to do with feeling like an outsider. When I sit down to a meal that includes non-vegan items I immediately feel like the odd man out. I am the weird one with the weird diet rules and I can’t fully participate. This can be compounded by how often the other guests will talk about how delicious the non-vegan food is, or otherwise draw attention to it. I cannot possibly share in this experience and I can’t possibly ignore it either. If you are someone who has had other experiences where you feel like an outsider (e.g., you’re part of another minority group, you feel like the black sheep in your family, etc.) these feelings of otherness and exclusion can be further compounded.

The third has to do with the physical and emotional discomfort that arises during shared non-vegan meals. The odor of cooked flesh and of dairy milk and cheese is unpleasant to me. The sight of cooked flesh is upsetting. Whereas an omnivore might see cooked flesh and think “yum, delicious,” I can only think about a life that’s been unwillingly sacrificed. For reasons I am still trying to figure out, the magnitude of this discomfort is proportional to the significance of the shared meal.

Misunderstanding #3: You’re letting your veganism get in the way of connecting with family and friends.

This one really baffles me.

First off, why is it never phrased as “you’re letting your omnivorism get in the way of connecting with family and friends”? Because of their minority status, vegans are assigned all of the responsibility for any disconnect that is created between themselves and their non-vegan relatives and friends. I don’t think this is fair and I would like to see more omnivores examine what they can do to make the vegans in their life more comfortable. If you have a vegan relative in your life and you’ve never considered having an all-vegan Thanksgiving for them, I think you should.

Secondly, I have plenty of both vegan and non-vegan friends with whom I related very well. The omnivore friends that I get along with well understand and respect my veganism. They do this by never asking us to compromise on having non-vegan items in our home (even when we host). They understand when we don’t accept invitations to events where non-vegan items will be celebrated. Most of all, they are confident enough in their decision to remain omnivores that they don’t feel threaten or judged by my being unequivocally vegan.

Misunderstanding #4: Other vegans I know are not so stringent, why are you?

This is an impossible question to answer since I can’t know the minds and hearts of other vegans as if they were my own. But I can take some guesses as to what’s going on.

For the purposes of this exploration, I will assume that the vegans of which you speak are truly committed vegans (e.g. not just when it’s convenient), that they are vegan in more than just diet and that they are vegan because of their desire to recognize that animals are deserving of rights. This is the kind of vegan I am, so it’s really the only situation to which I can speak.

The first thing that comes to mind is that these vegans are not yet confident in their understanding and their ability to talk about the moral foundations of veganism. It is a complex topic, and a minority view at that. It is not easy to talk about to a mainstream audience, one which is often to be hostile towards the idea of veganism from the start.

The second thing that comes to mind is that the person may not want to make themselves a target for ridicule, ostracism or interrogation. Vegans are often asked all manner of questions about their diet, what they do and don’t eat and how they get proper nutrition. These questions can be invasive, and even when they are not, it gets tedious to field the same questions over and over again, often from those who are largely ignorant about nutrition. The questions frequently feel judgmental rather than exploratory. Moreover, we live in a culture where vegans are regularly made fun of in the media and pop culture and this is often in our minds when we make the decision whether or not to identify ourselves as vegan and committed ones at that.

The third, and more serious issue that comes to mind is that people act in ways that are contrary to their personal beliefs all of the time. History is rife with examples of this. I don’t quite understand why this is, but it happens enough that it’s clearly a part of human nature. I recently read something in Slate about the Penn State sex abuse scandal that shed some light on this particular issue, so I’ll share it here:

“[non-action/non-reporting is] a reflection of a universal human tendency to look out for oneself, and to preserve hierarchical institutions about which one cares and upon which one is dependent. It’s also a reflection of the nearly boundless capacity to ignore inconvenient facts and to make excuses for those within our own circle.”

It takes a whole lot of energy and moral courage to be vegan in the first place and even more so to disrupt the institutions upon which we rely. I can understand why many vegans are not yet ready to go this far and may appear to be okay with living in a non-vegan world.

Conclusions and Further Reading

I feel a bit better getting that off my shoulders. I hope that my family (and others) will read what I’ve written and understand a bit better where I’m coming from.

One last thing I want to say is that while more and more omnivores are thinking critically about where their food comes from, I don’t think many have bothered to read up on animal rights in order to understand what motivates the vegans in their life. I certainly hadn’t done this before I was vegan. Consider reading up on the issues if you really want to understand what makes your vegan tick. Here are some good starting points:

P.S. I’d also love to hear from other vegans who have gone through similar situations with your family and friends. How do you cope with shared non-vegan meals. Do it bother you? Why? If it doesn’t bother you, why not? How did you communicate to your loved ones about your veganism and it’s importance in your life?

"They were just love"

I’m in the middle of reading Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. The novel centers around the Belsey family, Zora of which is the eldest, followed by Jerome and then Levi. The latter bit of narration nearly brought me to tears because it so elegantly captures how I feel about my own three brothers.

People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two lovers, but this too was great; sitting between his sister and his brother saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel — before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made from him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be that last confirmation of love when everything else fell away.

The Evening News

I’m very thankful to not be a famous person. I’m able to move about with relative anonymity. The messy details of my personal life, with all its mistakes and wonders are private and I’m able to share them by choice. I can’t imagine the kind of pressure it creates for those who do not have this choice.

There is a notable exception to this, however. It’s the news coverage of my father’s murder-for-hire plot, his subsequent arrest and resulting prison sentence. News of his arrest appeared in the local Sacramento newspaper and the evening news. Some months later, after his sentencing, the evening news in the Bay Area, where I was living at the time, did an extended story, complete with undercover video footage that I hadn’t previously known even existed.

When I first found out about the story I was very angry. I felt violated. Here they were broadcasting footage of our family’s shop (part of the undercover footage; my father had conversations with the under cover “hitman” there). Once my initial anger subsided I realized that they were trying to make a decent point: that crimes of the sort my father committed (solicitation of murder) do not carry a strong enough penalty in California. So I was left with just a strangeness and an uneasiness. I haven’t watched the video in a while. I used to watch it when I would find myself missing or otherwise thinking about my father. It’s actually the most recent thing I have connecting me to him, as strange as that sounds. I can’t recall the last conversation we had. It was probably some time in 2000, at the latest. I did go to his arraignment, but we did not speak. It is so very odd to see your father in an orange prison jumpber and shakles.

Last week it came to my attenion that the local evening news in Sacramento had run another story about my father. It’s shorter than the previous news segment, but nevertheless unnerved me in the same way. I can’t quite figure out why such a piece of information is news worthy. Over the years I’ve tried to distance myself (both figuratively and litterally) from the chaos and violence that my father brought upon me and the rest of my family. But yet I can’t escape it entirely, because at any time some tv news station might decide to do another story on it. Or I’ll have a flashback. Or a memory will resurface. Or someone will issue a turn of phase in a stern voice and it will remind me of my father, and of being a frightened child.

When I watched the most recent news clip, I found myself asking the same set of “why” and “how” questions. How could my parent do something so wicked, so contrary to life as to want my other parent murdered? Why does a tv news reported get an opportunity to speak to my father when I do not? The list goes on and on.

What I’m realizing it that I’m never going to know the answers to those questions. They are unanserable. And in actually, I’m asking those questions as a way to re-invent the past, to change what cannot be changed. Asking those questions keeps me out of the present moment.

So wait I’m going to from now on when those questions start spinning around in my head is sit and focus on my body. I’ll concentrate on how it’s feeling in the present moment. I’ll follow my breath. I’ll notice any spots of tension. I’ll notice what kinds of feelings come up. And I’ll stop trying to answer those unanswerable questions.