Home Is Where You Let Your Farts Linger

Farts will never not be funny to me. Perhaps it’s juvenile and uncouth, but when I hear the sound of flatulence and look to see the perpetrator turning red in indignation my heart warms. It’s as if we are bonded in the reality of the situation, that through bodily functions they are communicating to me their humanity. Also? It’s just plain hilarious that we can make sounds and smells that send people running as though they were going to be destroyed by funk.  It’s preposterous to me that we would shy from something so natural; if everyone poops, then, by logic, everyone farts, too.  I say all of this while also acknowledging that I feel ashamed when a toot escapes me in the company of strangers, or in public, or – worse – when I think I’m alone and release something so disturbingly loud that it elicits a gasp. Still, even those moments of horror are laughable once I’ve escaped them. 

Farts GIF

My parents are undoubtedly to blame for my affinity toward a loud, healthy fart. We used to compete to see whose could be the stinkiest and most impressive. If it made the room rumble? Double the points. We were safe in our green-tinged house to be as ridiculous and rank as possible. I used to imagine my parents at work, swelling up due to the unreleased gas, only to come home and blow the roof off, finally free. 

I was back in my childhood home last week, which was a strange yet calming experience. It feels odd even now to write about it as the home that was rather than the home that is. However, any distance I felt when I was there was instantly eradicated when my father walked by and farted on me. He hadn’t done it on purpose, but the effect was no less shocking. We all laughed about it and I felt like my childhood self all over again. For a sliver of time I was no longer adult LaKase doing very adult-like things, but the LaKase who always will be there just below the surface. If only just for a moment, I was home in two places at once.

What I love about farts is that they are proof of our imperfect humanity. They’re a grounding force that evens the playing field between us all. However, after being with my parents again after a long time apart, I started to think that maybe farts are a symbol of something deeper – maybe they’re the marker of what home really means.

Can we even truly define home? Is it a place, a feeling, a knowing? Is it where we rest, or a place where we are without calm, or can it be everywhere at once? Do we carry it with us, or must we leave it behind? Does it change based on culture? If there is no clear way to define home, then why not let it be a place where you can sit in the hazy mist of your stench and be at peace with yourself? There’s no pretension there. No fear.

Red & Howling GIF

Maybe – if you’re willing to grant me this – everywhere has the potential to be home. Perhaps when we cease delineating where we stop and others begin, we won’t have to walk around stuffed to bursting with the parts of us that make us feel ashamed. I think letting it all hang out, even the uncomfortable parts of ourselves, offers the opportunity to discover we are not in fact so far removed from where we belong. Loneliness comes when we take ourselves too seriously and when we forget that a little humility mixed with laughter goes a long way.

Did I just use farts as a very clunky (if not gross) metaphor for acceptance, home, and life? Yes, I did. But! I hope you’ll consider the logic behind it when you’re struggling to define home for yourself. We belong everywhere and should make sure others feel just as welcome, especially if they are predisposed to flatulence.

Let’s Avoid A Holiday Implosion, Shall We?

It’s that time of year again: Snow! (depending on your location) Time off! (depending on your vocation) Love and Cheer! (depending on… you get the point).

I’ve been singing the praises of this month loud enough for you to get the hint – I really and truly love December. When I was growing up, my parents infused our winter with magic and information. I didn’t just learn the Christian stuff, but also got to hear about the traditions of other religions. Their stories, mixed in with my own imagination, transformed how I see the changing of the season. It became more than a time for presents – which I love – instead morphing into a time when anything at all is possible if your spirit is willing.

On the flip side, this is also a time when joy fails. With the influx of family cards, lovey-dovey Hallmark movies (that always seem to be set in the same advent calendar- type towns) , and people portraying perfect lives, comes the onset of despair. Not to mention, the grey and unforgiving frosting of the Northern hemisphere can nix any hope for the healing quality of daylight.

Seasonal depression, dear reader, is real and alive.

I come from a place of extreme privilege. I was raised by two loving, while admittedly flawed, parents, who worked themselves to the bone for my brother and I. Our home was warm, our bellies were full, and we woke every Christmas to find toys, no matter how bad *I* had been that year. That is incredibly rare. A home life like that would set anyone with more than five brain cells onto a path of success. Even as a survivor of sexual abuse, I knew happier days than a lot of people. To say that is not to negate the gravity of my pain, but an acknowledgement of my reality.

Still, even with all the stuff and things that make childhood a fond memory instead of a nightmare, I have experienced less than stellar holidays. Those unfortunate times took place mainly in adulthood, and I shudder to think of them. But, that’s what fosters growth, right? After looking back on the times when my Yule celebrations were rough, I’ve come up with some tips to help you navigate the stress without a spontaneous combustion.

Let’s hop to it!

saturday night live christmas GIF

Be with those you love, if possible. If impossible, why is being alone so bad?

Most of the points on this list operate under the assumption you will be going home to be with your family, however I want to acknowledge that oftentimes that isn’t a possibility. Whether it be estrangement, death, or how expensive it is to fly or drive, you might not be with your family over the break, and that is ok. I know that isolation is one of the greatest tools of depression, because in the solitude of your room you can weave all kinds of tales of your inadequacies. Yet, I’m starting to wonder whether being alone in itself is the problem. There are lots of things we can do for ourselves in the quiet of an empty home. What if you were to treat yourself to beautiful things like compliments, a good meal, some you time? Besides, how often do we really get to be paid to stay home and take care of ourselves? This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you can, I say run wild with the possibilities.

 

snow drifts and chimbley nymphs GIF by Yule Log 2.015

 

Not every battle is worth fighting.

Yes, I know the drill. We’re supposed to go home for the holidays, set aside our differences, and sing songs at the end of the night with everyone coming to an understanding of the meaning family.  *eye roll*

That’s a movie. In fact, it’s a movie I wrote in one of my journals when I was 13. We’re not all going to get along just because our religious text told us to. Politics (that dirty word) is the fastest, most sure-fire way to watch things go left at Nana’s house. If you want to enjoy your time you are going to have to learn when to fight, and when to bow out. In addition to that, you’re going to have to look out for when your relatives are just looking for a sparring match, rather than an honest and respectful discussion. No, you shouldn’t let your auntie say wild things about the world, or sit idly by when your great-uncle on your father’s side tells a rape joke, but the little digs from people who don’t care about you might not be worth your time every single time. Ya dig?

Speak up when you can, and in the meantime just radicalize your cousins and siblings.

happy living single GIF by Bounce_TV

 

Take care of your body.

This one is simple: eat smart, drink water, don’t blow your stomach to smithereens on pie. You deserve to indulge, but know your limits. As a recovering bulimic, I have to give myself permission not only to eat what I want, but to step away before I spiral. So, mind your body and how it affects your brain chemistry. Take care at the parties, at your family home, or in your own home!

 

hanukkah GIF

 

Remember your successes

When I go to holiday functions, I always start to sweat when I think of the dreaded “So, what do you do?” question. Which is usually followed by the devastating “Is that really a job?” As a writer, I get this ALL. THE. TIME. These questions are accompanied by a smirk, silence, and me slinking away to think of good comebacks in the bathroom.  I’m often reminded of this Tumblr post:

It’s true on a lot of levels, even among family.  Some people don’t know how to respect others based on – oh, I don’t know – being able to happily survive this cruel, heartless wasteland we call Earth . Your mere existence might not be enough for them, but it’s sure as hell good enough for me and the people who aren’t d-bags. Try to remember that while they’re looking down on you, you’re making a life for yourself the way YOU choose to. That’s powerful. Not many people are brave enough to be who they want to be, rather than what will get them shallow accolades. The world needs you just as much as anyone else, regardless of your job. Take stock of your triumphs – whether they be emotional or monetary – and keep it moving.

In closing: BREATHE

Whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or just another day off, you can survive this. When I’m on the verge of a panic attack (which I’ll be writing about soon) my husband gets me to settle into my breathing and by the end I’m much better. You’d be amazed what our bodies can do when we let it run on autopilot. I’d like to encourage you to give it a test drive this season by just breathing in, then, funnily enough, out again. The rest will flow from there. So, be well this holiday season. Be strong when you can and forgiving when you can’t, and never doubt your right to the warmth of the sun.

the proud family GIF

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s How to Build a Community That Keeps You Healthy

And why it is so important.

Recently,  I wrote  about my move to California, which you can read here. I offered suggestions for how to prepare yourself when undertaking a huge move, sharing tips from the practical day to day tasks, to the emotional support you inevitably need when you’re far from home. Being uprooted, then planted in a new environment can be touch and go for a shrub, so there’s no doubt it will be a battle for people. What becomes of us emotionally when we’re physically isolated can be compounded ten-fold when we hide our emotions opting to go through it alone.

I think it’s time for some serious candor on my part: I spent the month of August under the covers, alternating between eating carbs and crying. All my grand plans of joining a yoga studio, snagging a doctor, and conquering my fear of meeting new people got swallowed up by the seemingly insurmountable odds: how do I do all that when I’m afraid to step outside, when the landscape is off, and people stare at me like a sideshow? I’d put so much pressure on myself to be amazing that I was incapacitated by the possibility of failure, or worse, being ostracized. While I was safe under the covers the world turned around me, but I was too afraid to join in, even with people I know for fear of their disappointment.

Luckily, my brother and husband broke through my tortoise shell to get me thinking about the nature of community, how we build it, and why we really gotta let it do it’s thing. Community doesn’t have to be a gaggle of friends, who run off to save the world and unite nations – sometimes it’s as simple as a person who lets you cry on the phone. Community is being present, open and caring with those you have learned to trust. It’s not always nice; oftentimes the people who love you the most and want to see you win will piss you off. Sometimes the communities we need aren’t in town, or in the same country. If you’re far from home, or your home doesn’t feel like home, there are times when community has to be found across the internet. No matter where you find i,t I believe you owe it to yourself to hold onto it and to be an active member within it.

Today, I want to share with you what these two have helped me to (re)discover about the power of a circle of confidants and how we can continue to nurture those relationships. If you can build a core group of friends I guarantee growing will be made easier through their emotional support. Below I’ve laid out how to build your community. Let’s hop to it!

Vulnerability

Have you ever had one of those dreams about being naked in front of a crowd? Maybe you’re singing a song horribly, or giving a speech, then BAM – fully nude.  That’s one extreme of vulnerability you don’t have to go to, but if you can think of community like singing the bad song or giving a speech that makes you sweat,  all while dressed, then you’re on the right track. You see, community – the real deal, not the shallow stuff – is all about being open to discomfort. When you peel back the layers of yourself to expose who you really are it’s crazy uncomfortable, bordering on painful. When I finally let my husband see me in distress( and all covered in tears and snot)we made a breakthrough. Together, we learned that vulnerability isn’t a one and done situation. Being open is a 24/7 deal, that isn’t always fun, but is guaranteed to make a difference in your health.

There will be times when you’ll attempt to be open and honest with others and they’ll betray it or ignore it. However, I hope you’ll still remain open to trusting again. I’ve had many disappointments in the vulnerability department, but part of finding your tribe is going out on a limb. Also, those times I’ve been let down have actually helped to feed into the next point.

Empathy

Most of us have had that naked dream, because humans are cut from the same cloth. We’re all afraid, born naked, and just a little bit weird. I find it so fascinating that despite being separated by time or space we can find common ground. The beauty of empathy is that it transcends most obstacles. I say most, because there will be times when no matter how reasonable it seems to get along, there are people who aren’t here for it. Applying the concept of vulnerability can run you into some walls, but when you find people with shared experiences like depression, anxiety, PTSD, a similar home life, or even favorite anime shows, the honesty will pay off.

The huge thing about empathy is that it keeps communities, no matter the size, patient. When we take the time to understand where someone has been we are much more likely to stick around to help them out. In your respective community, and outside of it ,it is so imperative to remember kindness. Empathy lays the groundwork for you to give and receive with understanding and care. If we practice it with one another, showing a little love to ourselves becomes that much sweeter.

Humor

The best part about those embarrassing naked dreams is when you get to laugh about it later. Everyone has had them, they’re always preposterous and they take the edge off any of your other worries. Your circle is the place to air out your ridiculous fears – even if they don’t seem so far-fetched – so that you can remain grounded. Laugh with each other, bust each other’s chops, and stay humble so that you’re not carrying the weight of the world. When I finally got real with my brother and broke down why I was so afraid to be out in this new world of mine he took a breath, was honest about why I shouldn’t be afraid, then made a joke at my expense. He didn’t make fun of me, but rather he made me see the humor in life and in my situation.

When you take yourself too seriously like I was, building up real fears into dragons, you risk never putting forth that brave step. Staying grounded is difficult on your own, and laughing about things that feel like the worst situations ever can be pretty impossible. If your community isn’t one that’s able to look at the fears you present critically, take out what’s silly and get you to laugh? Run for the hills, because a place without laughter is dead.

At the end of it all, we need to encourage each other to feel joy in between the tears. You don’t have to be Patch Adams (great movie) to your friends, nor do they have to be circus performers for you, but we have to remember that it’s ok to release with some happiness, too.

Forgiveness

You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it.

Let me say that again: You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it. I say you can’t, because you won’t allow it for yourself if you feel unworthy and you’re punishing yourself. Please believe me when I say it’s ok if you were a bully in 4th grade and now feel bad about it. It’s fine if you couldn’t get out of bed today, or for most of the week. It’s ok. You still deserve the help and love of your people.

I wasn’t following the previous guidelines I’ve laid out, because I was ashamed and angry with myself for not being fine on my own. I didn’t make room for myself to be reliant on others, and when I discovered just how much I need my community, I wasn’t ready to handle it. So, I turned in on myself so far that I didn’t know how to forgive myself for “messing up”. You know where that got me? Nowhere good. I’ve realized I would rather learn to forgive myself for perceived shortcomings than being alone.

You deserve people who want to help you. You deserve to be pulled up, and you are absolutely worthy of the struggle others choose to put in to keep you around. So, work on forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings and try to be a better person moving forward.

 

In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to be with people however you can be in the BEST way you can be. Who you are in your community bleeds into who you are out in the world on your own. If you’re closed off, an unfeeling bully, or too serious, then that’s who you’ll see outside with others. Allow yourself the room to be human with other humans and you’ll be better off for it.

Thank you for reading and following along with me. If you would like to share what you love about your community, or the ways you all take care of one another, please comment below. Stay safe out there!

 

The Catharsis of Loss

My grandmother died the Sunday before I moved across the country to begin a new life. I’d spent that day packing and loading a shipping container with my husband, parents, and brother, which was more fun that it had any right to be. Our raucous laughter shook the house we were leaving behind, rumbling out into the sleepy neighborhood. I’ve never had a day without joy when in their company, regardless of the weight of the world or the stress of boxing up your life to be replanted elsewhere. It was a joyful, yet bittersweet experience to share with my loved ones.

Once we’d finished with the house, leaving just what Mark and I would need to keep with us for the drive to California, we decided to go see a movie. We rushed to the theater, anticipation for popcorn and soda sky-high, anxious to have a respite from the heat and stress of moving. No more than five minutes after the movie began my father got the call. I don’t know that there are words to describe the loss of someone you care for, when it’s known they eventually have to pass on. Death is never expected when it enters your life, no matter how prepared you might be to let go. We left the movie in a general state of disbelief. My parents had spoken to her the day before. My brother, husband and I had laughed with her at my cousin’s wedding, but I still can’t remember what about.

Two weeks later my large extended family sat down to eat together after her memorial service, then descended into laughter. We teased one another, played with my cousin’s babies and shared stories in a sort of mad libs only close families can understand, picking up where others left off. I was struck by the realization that none of us were crying or down-trodden. The even was more of a party than anything, a potentially macabre celebration of a woman we all loved and lost.

Death is still a taboo subject for many people, but I don’t think it should be. Perhaps my mind is warped from being forced to confront how little control I have over the circumstances affecting my existence, but I believe the more we talk about a thing, the less said thing can break us down. The pain will still exist, however we might get up with more grace if we know how to move forward in a healthy way. My grandmother is gone, yes, but what she gave to me remains. I have her cheeks, her nose, the shape of her face, just like most of my cousins and aunts and uncles. We’re all stubborn as hell and never back down from a fight. Her death doesn’t have to be the end of the lessons she can teach us about who we are. In loss we are forced to confront the chasms separating us.

I’ve had quite a lot of time to turn over the feelings swirling in my chest: surprise, fear, sadness. The one that I’ve returned to the most is a sense of relief. The emotion isn’t tied to wanting her gone; I feel relief that my grandmother no longer has to feel pain. I feel relief that she got to meet so many great-grandchildren. Most of all I feel relief that she is with her own beloved mother again in a place that may or may not exist, but nonetheless removed from our perception. In loss we are forced to confront the chasms separating us. We get to choose whether or not to build bridges, who we want to move on with or leave behind. So, I feel relief that even without the maternal glue of my grandmother my family remained whole; that is where the peace is, the release of my fears.

I believe the real weight of losing someone is tied to the fights we will never get to have and the opportunities for growth we were robbed of. I didn’t cry during the ceremony, and I noticed few of us did. When the tears began to well up, I stopped them with a vengeance, because it didn’t feel right to cry. I didn’t understand why until I came across this quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe:

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

My grandmother never left us to wonder how she felt, whether good or bad. Regret didn’t exist in her world. She was a woman of her word, and she passed that on to her descendants. She knew that when she was gone we would have to find peace in one another, but you can’t do that if you hide pieces of yourself. If I feel any sorrow, it is that my grandmother and I will never again be able to forge new paths together. Yet, I choose to focus on the paths we did carve out, the fights we did have and the growth those rows fostered. All in all, I have no regrets with my grandmother. If I did, I would have to find a way to make peace with them and make sure that I have nothing to regret with those loved ones I have left.

No matter how far I creep away from the staid Methodist teachings of my youth, I always return to the belief – the desire – that the end is worth the race. However, now I’m beginning to rethink the type of race we’re running. Perhaps it’s something more akin to a relay than a straight up sprint. We pick up people along the way, trade stories, pass on pieces of ourselves, then hand over the baton. My grandmother’s passing has created a new spot on the team, a void in my heart for others to occupy, but I’ll never forget how well she lived.