What They Told Me To Be

To remember who you are

They told me not to raise my hand so much when I knew the answer because boys didn’t like smart girls; that mathematics, engineering and science was something boys did; that I “had a lot of imagination” when I said I was going to travel around the world (said by the family doctor while patting me on the head); that women didn’t make good “hard scientists” (by way of a greeting the first day on the job); that my primary purpose was to be a wife and mother; that I should quit my job, but if I worked, the housework was still my responsibility; that if I didn’t believe in God, my life would end badly, and; – within the past 12 months – that independent people were hard to love, men were intimidated by me, and finding a partner would be very difficult because I was too accomplished (three separate comments, the first one from a woman and the last two from men.)

Know what? I just laugh and let it go in one ear and out the other. I must have been eight when I figured out comments like these were about caging someone in. I remember thinking in that doctor’s office, “This man has no idea who I am. I am going to travel around the world and that is that.”

I don’t do cages. Never have. And life is great. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. So forget what you were told to be and be who you are. Kick those voices out of your head. Make your life your greatest work of art. PS: It’s OK to be afraid. Fear is my nearly constant companion. As Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Passion of Christ, Hate, and Letting Go



We were in Real de Catorce to photograph the Passion of Christ.  I was wobbly-tired after taking care of my sick airbnb guests and overseeing home repairs.  Besides the shoot, my other goal was to plant my butt on the cushion I had brought along and meditate every evening.  The meditation and mindfulness practice was simple: to ask “What is happening?” as thoughts and observations arose.

As an atheist, I was totally unprepared for the emotions that welled up as the pagaent unfolded.  At one point, when the crowd was screaming “Mátalo, mátalo!” (Kill him, kill him!), I was shooting with tears streaming down my face.  Another photographer told me she was sickened by the hatred and brutality of the human race.

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Those words spun in my head that evening as I meditated.  However, my thoughts were far from the story of the crucifixion.  I thought of a local cafe in SMA, with its picture of a urinal that was Trump’s open mouth.  I had seen the exact same picture of Hillary during the campaign.  Posted on facebook by a fellow Democrat, it had the initials RSC in the lower right-hand side.  RSC is the Republican Study Committee.

What is happening?  From where I stand, the Left and the Right look like mirror images of each other.  Before I go on, let me state that I am a Moderate Democrat.

I worked in a post-genocide region once.  There is a eight-stage classification system that predicts genocide.  The first five stages describe how hate builds.  Stage One: Classifying people by what they believe or how they look – Hutu or Tutsi, German or Jew, Republican or Democrat.

Stage Two: Distinquishing groups by symbols.  Tutsis were called “Cockroaches”,  Jews were “Germs” to be identified by yellow stars, Republicans are “Rednecks” and nobody is ever going to visit Texas again.

Stage Three: Dehumanization by extreme vilification.  Recently, I saw an image of Trump´s head on the body of Hitler, the monster who killed millions of people.  These sorts of claims are not just false exaggerations; they convince us of our righteousness and pump us up for all manner of inhuman behavior.  I recently heard someone say that Trump had no good qualities.  She was adamant.  Not. A. Single. One.

Stage Four: Organization, or the power behind the process, which is almost always political parties.  Political parties on both sides of the aisle in the US have a vested interest in keeping us apart while they rip us off.

Stage Five: Polarization, when extremists drive the groups apart.  Why did 16 percent of people who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries vote for President Trump in the general election? (Source: NPR)  The strategy was to increase polarization and give the extreme Left a better chance of winning in the next election.  Nothing like being double-crossed by members of your own party…

At this point, Moderates on both sides of the aisle have a responsibility to stand up and make it clear that they will not participate in the process that is driving us apart.

This is me standing up.  To my own tribe.

Hate is corrosive.  It not only consumes a person, it affects physical and emotional health.  According to Pew Research, Liberals, who view themselves as tolerant, are in fact less tolerant than Conservatives.  Liberals are more willing to end friendships and to unfriend or unfollow those who don’t share their beliefs on social media.  PRI reported that Liberals were boycotting their families if they supported Trump and GQ wrote an article telling readers it was their civic duty to ruin Thanksgiving dinner by ranting about Trump if their relatives had supported him.

What is happening?

It used to be that people knew not to discuss politics or religion at the table.  The feeling was that meals were for building relationships, not tearing them down.  I recently sat at a table where the entire group was ranting about Trump.  It wasn’t a reasoned political discussion about issues; it was code to show membership in the club.  One person nudged me to show a text sent by a relative who called the White House a “Clown Bus.”  Three people were discussing the state of the Trump marriage.  One person mentioned Hitler.

I piped up, “Do we have to talk about politics at breakfast?”  The response was “Don’t listen.”

It was good advice.  I quietly left my uneaten food, went somewhere else, ordered a second breakfast and read a book while I ate in peace.  Later, someone said my exit, as  inobtrusive as it was, was dramatic.  (It is sad that refusing to participate in polarization is considered dramatic.)

Yesterday, I listened to a talk by Buddhist teacher Steven Batchelor on reactivity.  He pointed out that letting go of reactivity doesn’t mean stamping it out.  Letting go means we stop identifying with it, buying into self-righteousness, or getting caught up in the madness of the crowd.

The world is on fire.  We are being consumed by hatred.   I have lost count of the number of people I have heard say that they could never be friends with or date anyone who voted for Trump.

Well, I didn’t vote for him, but I love people who did.  And they love me. I refuse to make my world so small it only contains people who think like me.

No Tutsis, no Hutus.  Just people.

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” was Christ letting go of hatred.

Wasn’t that the real story of the Passion of Christ?





What I Have Learned

Ritha Confetti JoyTo throw joy around like confetti—-create, caress, cook, read, learn, experiment, explore, walk, meditate, sing, listen to music, dance, volunteer, hug, give and get massages, surprise someone with fresh-baked cookies, watch the sunrise, garden, swim, take a bubble bath, go to the hot springs, travel, learn a language, pet a puppy, play with children, invite someone to dinner, give flowers for no reason, join a club, take a class, embrace change, take a nap.

To drop the rock—shrug it off, stop looking back, forgive others (including yourself), accept imperfection, stay away from negative people, avoid polarizing conversations and obsession with politics, eliminate addictions, junk food and overeating.


Self Portrait as Catrina. Musings on Denying Identity and the Miracles That Wake Us Up to Our Authentic Selves.


catrina self portrait

Day of the Dead is a holiday honoring deceased family members that is celebrated by indigenous people in Central and South America the end of October and beginning of November. According to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, allowing the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.

In Mexico, La Catrina has become the iconic image of Day.  However, few know of her origins.  Skeletal Calaveras became popular in Day of the Dead celebrations around the turn of the 19th century.  La Catrina was created as a political satire in 1910 by José Guadalupe Posada to mock women who, ashamed of their indigenous origins, wore makeup to make their skin look whiter and slavishly imitated Western fasion.  The term Garbancera became a nickname for people who hide their cultural heritage.

Around my neck in this painting is a mirror so that the viewer can see themselves.  The questions to ask are “What part of myself am I denying?” and “What parts of my authentic selves do I need to uncover and embrace?”  The image is cropped, but you can still see the metal milagras which are on the arches around the image.  A Milagro is a miracle.  A miracle in this image is anything which wakes us up to our authentic selves.

All of the bitches in the attic.  Every. Single. One..

A milagro is a miracle that opens a gate for us to pass through.  Whether we pass through or stay stuck is up to us. The choice is ours.

Me, I´m going to walk through every gate that opens. From now until I die, my purpose is to discover my authentic self, both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the hideous aspects of my nature.

Time is running out.

Every day is precious.

I am looking for the gates.  And expecting miracles.


The People Who Attract Me

Like a moth to light, I am attracted to people with positive attitudes.  I seek them out.  I want them in my life.  I need them.   A can-do attitude is sexy.  It works every time.

Having the opposite effect are gloomy pessimists who make lists of why something won´t work, or those whose litanies of health problems and emotional breakdowns suck the oxygen out of a room. I want to be with people whose lives inspire me.  You be my cheerleader and I´ll be yours.

If you can walk

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