Poetry from I.O. Kirkwood
Divorce is almost inevitable for a married couple in the United States. The psychologists would have us believe that only fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. They gloss over the constraints of the trials, which measures the three years between marriage and divorce. Another constraint is the observation of only heterosexual marriages.
This is a terrible topic to touch, but I will explain my understanding of what privilege is and what it is not.
It isn’t that rich, attractive, light-skinned, Christian men are too “clueless” or not “intelligent” enough to understand the concept of privilege. But the way the media has twisted it, privilege has become a buzzword that ignites the indignation of the very people ensconced at the top of the hierarchy.
Privilege is not a moral failing and it certainly isn’t exclusive to Caucasian men. The wealthy have privilege over the poor. Light-skinned people have privilege over dark-skinned people. Men have privilege over women in almost every country in this world. The righteous have privilege over the morally deficient. The beautiful, whatever society deems attractive at the time, have privilege over the plain.
Privilege is a social construct. It is conferred to and received by those named deserving of such treatment. If the practice goes on long enough, say for centuries, the privilege given becomes entitlement.
Entitlement in this context denotes any treatment that one has come to expect. Expectations are assumptions and to assume makes an “ass” our of “u” and “me.”
If you assume someone will be a certain way, if society demands that a woman behave a certain way, that is the point of reference from which you operate. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.
When I use the word privilege, it is not to chastise an individual. I only want to make the individual conscious of the “super-power” possessed. How you use this super-power determines the person you are, not the actual treatment you receive.
Society’s behavior toward a “beautiful” person is markedly different from that of the “plain” person. After meeting a few of these genetic-jackpot-creatures, and I think a majority of us would agree, you discover that they are vain, demanding, and rely almost exclusively on their appearance to command admiration and what they feel is theirs by right.
Fat-shaming is another example. Since slenderness is a societally desirable state of being, everything to do with fashion, to do with body image, how one eats, and even one’s perceived state of health is assumed by society.
Here is a totem pole of privilege in America:
• Color of skin
• Gender identification
• Religious affiliations
Others have different opinions as to the order, but from observation and study, this is my statement of the hierarchy and only in America and only by the majority of Americans. For those rare birds who refuse to adopt these societal norms and struggle daily to challenge their assumptions, I salute you.
The distinctions above represent our subconscious assumptions. To the individual with privilege, the treatment received from others is equivalent to a fish swimming in an ocean. Immersed in the water, acknowledgement of the sky and earth exist is not required or desired. Arguments would ensue should a dolphin come along and describe the sky.
This is why America is in turmoil over so many issues. Like the teenager our country is, compared to other countries in the world, we wish to prove that we are right in our assumptions. Belligerence is a normal side-effect of having assumptions challenged. Hopefully, recent setbacks will mature the American perspective and the election of the current Administration is the last gasp of the beached fish of our country’s sense of entitlement. My hope is endless.
For those who rest at the pyramid’s point, you have a responsibility to acknowledge your good fortune and use it for the betterment of those who have, by no fault of their own, been relegated to a supporting level of the pinnacle. Failing to do so will create a chaos that grows exponentially as the established order attempts to keep the “lid on the boiling pot.”
When a class of individuals loses sight of the fact that their privilege rests on the backs of the others who have helped them to rise to such heights, resentment simmers beneath and at some point, the pyramid will erupt like a volcano.
The eruption could be Pompeii or it could be *** in proportion. This pattern has been witnessed over the course of human history, reflected in the cycles of the Earth, and also experienced on the personal level many times over.
Must change be so violent? If an abuse is named in the current order of assumptions, wouldn’t it be easier to integrate the awareness with deliberate and mindful steps that are implemented with kindness and respect? And for those who have named these abuses, wouldn’t it be prudent to start with a respectful and informative approach rather than accusations that, while valid, would alienate the participation of those who have the power to initiate change?
In theory, yes, that would be marvelous and the ideas of mindfulness and deliberation are worthy of consideration and constructive discussion.
I am not promoting a revolution of any sort because I am not interested in holding power over others. I have the privilege to be in a place where I can make that decision for myself. Others are not so lucky, but I will not use my privilege as a weapon against others.
I will harness my privilege so that I’m not an asshole to the waiter or ignoring the suffering of others. I will use my privilege to help others become.
Fury is what I feel when I’m helpless. Plus fear is what I feel when my amygdala kicks in with the fight-or-flight reaction (FFR) and I can’t make it stop. Equals General Anxiety Disorder.
Looks pretty simple, but it isn’t. If I broke into rages instead of a panic attack, then my fury would be diagnosed and treated. The anxiety expressed in those rages would not be addressed. If I have panic attacks instead, because I’ve been victimized one too many times, only the anxiety would be treated.
Therapist: What are you afraid of?
Me: I don’t know. I’m safe, there is nothing to fear.
T: Then why do you think you have panic attacks?
M: Because that was the only way I could express my fury.
It leaked out of me 24/7. How do you treat that kind of fury? The helpless fury that must find an outlet or I’ll explode.
Most therapists are at a loss of how to treat fury-induced anxiety. They don’t consider the other emotions that are tightly woven into the panic response.
Especially for women. Women cry when they are frustrated and feel helpless. This feeds the angry fire.
I’ve learned to embrace my fury. I treat her like a long, lost child who has grown to a strong, even vicious woman. Anger is so destructive when it isn’t given a proper outlet.
For those of you with imagination, anthropomorphize the fury. What does the fury look like? What gender? What species? Build up this image in your mind.
When you know what your fury looks like, embrace it. Tell it you love it and that it is a part of the collective of you. You might have to do this a number of times before Fury trusts you enough to listen.
Once the Fury relaxes enough to have a conversation, you can hit these bullet points:
• I love you as a natural part of who I am as a person.
• I’ve neglected you and I’m sorry for that.
• I understand why you have sabotaged my efforts in the past.
• To show you how sorry I am, I’m asking you to turn your attention to what hinders us.
• Your destructive nature is necessary to sift the wheat from the chaff.
• Let us work together as a team to overcome any obstacles that come our way.
You may have to have this conversation with Fury a few times before it takes, but it will take. Fury will settle into your unconscious mind, where it has always resided, but now Fury has a new directive and will fulfill your request with a focus that is monumental in proportion.
After I did this, my whole life changed. The decisions I made when Fury was not acknowledged were cut and burned. Some of those decisions were salted as well. Fury doesn’t play.
Another role Fury can take is as a defender of the child you were, the child you must raise. This is anxiety. This is helplessness. Have Fury protect and care for this child. Fury was given to us for this purpose.
Many call Fury the Shadow, but this is only true if you deny its existence. Otherwise, it becomes a tool of the heart and mind. You’ll make better decisions. Toxic people will shed from your life. This will be true even if you have a mental illness. I think one of the reasons I survived so long with the illness was because I acknowledged all the icky parts of myself. Just know that Fury is the biggest “shadow” of them all and must be addressed first.
I am not a licensed therapist. I make no claims to having any experience other than my own. If the above practice resonates with you, you’ll have success. If it doesn’t I recommend that you not continue the matter and seek professional help.
Either way, if you are seeing a therapist, discuss the ramifications of a guided meditation. Remember that you are paying the therapist for their expertise and that you are the boss. You are the owner of all the feelings inside of you. If your therapist isn’t open to working with you on anger issues or just recommends prescriptions to the psychiatrist to deal with the anxiety, it’s time to find a new therapist.
Take charge of your journey to wellness. You are mighty, not helpless. Let your Fury become your guardian. Fury will tell you when something isn’t right. Fury will protect you.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text only. Image may be subject to copyright.
I know you feel men and women should at least be equal, right? You’re very vocal about this, but I’ve seen you use your feminine charms to crush a besotted male. I’ve seen you order men around because you know they want to get between your thighs and that you have agency of yourself so he’s fair for a game of deceit and would be a monster if he complained.
You’re also very vocal about how feminist and vegan and superior you are to the “baser” humans. Such as men, people who eat meat, and those who haven’t had the same privilege as you.
You say you’re feminist but you don’t represent my aunt, my mother, or me. You have suffered but the reason you are able to make such an outcry over your suffering is because my aunt, my mother, and me have fought for your right to scream your indignation and be heard.
The kind of behavior I describe above is a result of immaturity and not having the experience to see beyond your adolescent world of pure ideals. You haven’t done the hard part of living yet.
Let’s take an example (or two):
You can’t be vegan if you eat dairy, fauna, or marine flesh of any sort because that’s not how plant-based diets work. You don’t get to wear the flashing badge if you “cheat” with some ice cream once in a while.
You can’t claim to be a feminist if you use sex as a weapon because that’s not how equality works. You don’t get to wear the flashing badge if you use biology in that manner.
This is not what feminism is about.
Feminism is built on a respect for all people. You can’t claim superiority because you don’t harm animals but you do manipulate people with the intention of harming their emotional being. People are animals too.
Does masculinity need an overhaul? Fuck yeah. The Y chromosome is still dizzy from the abrupt changes in our culture. They haven’t had time to adjust to their demotion from “kings” to mere humans. But most of them are trying their best.
It would be helpful if you didn’t go around calling people names. It would be prudent not to willfully provoke an already outraged demographic with name calling and hypocrisy. It would be in your best interest to not obnoxiously present yourself as an easy target to those who want to discredit the feminist platform.
I do not suggest remaining silent because that isn’t an authentic state of being. I do encourage you to not give your power away to others. I do hope you believe in your self. I want to see women work together instead of competing for the most alpha male. But it isn’t just for women that feminists marched.
We also marched against the toxic masculinity that continues to destroy the fabric of our society. Complex human beings have been reduced to caricatures on both sides of the line drawn in the sand.
We marched to protect our children from war and overwork in the factories. We marched so that men were allowed to feel and express emotion without being labeled. Unless the label was human.
We’ve all been poisoned by American mores about gender roles and the idea that skin color determines your worth. America has had its pass that is granted to adolescents as they explore the world around them. It’s time for America to grow up and end the hypocrisy.
Authenticity is found in honesty to yourself and others. It is found in discovering that we are all one and to hurt one person is to hurt yourself. Eventually, this compassion will extend itself to all the creatures of this world.
And you, in your ignorance, have weaponized the very thing that subjugated all other women in ages past and yet advertise yourself as superior to others.
That’s not how this works. That’s not how this works at all.
(C) 2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.
Raising children is a fine line between harnessing demons and treating them as humans. It’s a difficult job. I’m so glad I’m done.
See, I despise toddlers. I despised my own and I despise other people’s toddlers. Even when toddlers do the cutest things, more often than not, I’ve had to wrestle with them the way I wrestled with my own inner demons. Though I haven’t developed a taste for wine, I understand why Moms need the tonic.
Here is an interesting article that may throw Moms of Toddlers a lifeline.
I like infants. They can’t get away from me and they can’t say “no.” I love to hold them and soothe them and kiss their soft little faces. I miss that.
But I don’t miss the “Terrible Twos” or the “Fighting Fours.” I don’t miss changing diapers or potty training. I don’t miss the biting, slapping, and kicking. I don’t miss the calls from the daycare teacher about how my child went “thug” for no particular reason. Or broke an arm in an attempt to fly from the top of a jungle gym. Or ate something, like trash. Or threw up everywhere.
I have lots of war stories. Lots.
I also don’t miss the sass. I trained that shit right out of my children, but it was a hard road. Corner time was a common event and the “Ritual of the Spoon” was applied, though sparingly. My oldest still loses his keys, but not to my house.
Each toddler was handed over to my now ex-husband. He loves toddlers. Unless they are doing something from the above two paragraphs. *sigh* I always played “bad cop.” But the child had to be completely out of hand.
My ex and I were pleased about the infant-toddler-adolescent arrangement.
Once they exit the toddler years, about ten or eleven. No, seriously, the baby doctors have this all wrong. About ten or eleven, then I like the child again. They’re funny and full of strangely accurate observations. Everything is interesting to them.
At this time, I became the warrior mother. Navigating them through middle school and high school was very rewarding, even though both were dismal students.
I also taught them the art of critical thinking. My children read and absorb information even as adults. My heart swells when one of my sons argues with me about the validity of world events and societal practices. I love it when they have their own opinions based on their own experiences and research.
I don’t have my hand up their asses so they parrot what I or society says.
It takes a community to raise a child. I believe that because otherwise, both of my children would be scarred for life. I didn’t inflict myself on my toddlers, even as ill as I was, but I could also hand them over to those who had no children or had a child who needed new friends.
And now I reap the benefits. My “bad cop” turned into bad-ass-defender of my children’s autonomy and safety. Both report that they feel loved and liked by me, that they always have.
So yeah, I despised my toddlers and I despise yours. Though I loved and continue to love my children, toddlers are savages. But mine survived and most likely yours will too if they don’t dance in the middle of a busy street because you had to go the bathroom and he escaped his play pen and crawled backward down the stairs at 10 months.
I’m not sure I have recovered from the “Dancing In the Streets” saga. I have a heart arrhythmia now.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.
As I get older, I realize that my mother was an old lady well before her body had caught up. I don’t know if it’s my medication or a strict code of courtesy that my mother had passed to me when she died, but I have begun to collect my Old Lady Badges.
What are Old Lady Badges? They are scenarios in which you no longer give a fuck and speak your mind. The Old Lady Badges I have collected so far are as follows:
- Chastising a young person in a public forum, a child who is not my own, for taking something for granted.
- Calling the manager to discuss the behavior of an employee while my head bobbles with fury.
- Sending back a dish of food, dammit, because I’m paying for a pleasant experience, not the chef’s incompetence.
- Spoiling a little dog to death.
I haven’t done number 3 or 4 yet, but I’m sure 3 will happen. Not so sure about 4 but if I could have a pit bull-corgi mix, that would send me over the moon. We’ll see.
I’m sure there are other badges that will surprise the hell out of me and might depress me:
- Talking to strangers because I’m lonely.
- Crying in the middle of the aisle in a store because I can’t remember what I want.
- Eating cat food because I have 17 of the furry bastards and can’t afford groceries.
- Going to a local soup-kitchen because cat food isn’t cutting it.
- Feeding pigeons in a park.
- Wearing clashing shades of purple and orthopedic Doc Martins.
- Saying out loud what everyone is thinking but won’t out of courtesy.
- Losing my mind—completely.
- Muttering about how kids these days don’t know the meaning of customer service.
- Taking public transportation because I forget my destination, or where I am, and panic.
- Talking about days gone by to my grandchildren.
- Reading the obituaries to see which of my high school and college acquaintances I’ve outlived.
- Buy a house that has everything I need on one floor. Everything.
- Having a doctor for each part of my body.
- Planning my life around doctor appointments.
- Playing pinochle at the senior center.
I’m also sure there are badges I don’t know about. I hope I don’t have to experience most of these. I may have earned number 6 already. I’m not known for discretion among my friends and family, but I think they love me for that quality.
Number 7 is a frightening badge to earn. For number 8, I don’t mutter. I speak very clearly and succinctly about that topic. Number 11 looks very interesting and I may do it just to earn the badge.
Though I write this with a dash of humor, it’s truly a morbid sense of what’s to come. I’ve learned about a few of these from my mother and father. I already need bifocals so that will be number 17.
These are very real scenarios that senior citizens experience. Overlook these inconveniences. The “elderly” are full of knowledge and experience. They also have wicked senses of humor. Listen to them. They are not invisible.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text, Image may be subject to copyright.
I can only speak of my own experience now that someone with enormous influence over my life has died. I could write about the horrors of those last two weeks or how I cried when I made one of the most harrowing decisions of my life.
Instead, I’m going to write about the last two years since the death.
I had a love-hate relationship with my mother. It was a two-way cycle of yelling for most of my life based on misunderstandings that can only arise from two incompatible perspectives violently clashing. She believed that everyone, including myself, lied to get attention. I believed that honesty was the best policy, sometimes to my detriment.
My mother had Bipolar II with a co-morbidity of closet narcissism. The world revolved around her and the vagaries of her manic-depression. She refused to get help and she refused to acknowledge my illness as anything other than histrionics and attention-seeking.
I can’t hold her illness against her now. Not since my diagnosis with Bipolar II, which was only valid in psychiatric circles with the release of the DSM-V in 2013. The medical community had betrayed her with their shoddy treatment of her breast cancer. The psychiatric community could only do the same.
She was right. Many times, she was right about people and situations. How she conveyed these insights was the problem, because she cast her sense of self-importance and “superior” intellect into the telling.
I don’t care for that kind of conveying. It smells of deceit. But how could my mother deceive me? I was her first-born and only daughter. I was her miracle when she gave birth to me.
These insights are the aftermath of death. You don’t only grieve the loss. You grieve for the relationship and the moments. All of them.
You get angry that you were left behind. You lament over unresolved grievances. You regret the future that will never be.
It’s all about you now.
You might hate the person who died, and if the ties were half a strand of DNA and/or all the interactions implied in that sort of relationship, you are torn up inside. Love and/or hate. Mixed emotions that you must resolve.
But here’s the other side of the coin. Whatever awful relationship you had with this person who influenced your life, the death sets you free.
Whatever aspect of your life this person dominated is now open for you to explore. Sometimes, it’s your entire life, but usually it’s a shedding of judgments that infected you through criticisms. It’s the letting go of someone else’s perspective. If you want to, you can see clearly.
The weight that lifted from my shoulders after my mother died was enormous. Here I was thinking I was my own person and I’ve discovered that I wasn’t. My mother’s influence touched the most important aspects of my life and colored them with the idea that I always made poor decisions, that I was nothing compared to her. That’s a weight I was willing to lose.
I’m relieved she died.
There. I said it. As much as I loved my mother, I hated her more. Her decisions deprived me of a potentially healthier life.
Because that’s what abuse does. It gives you a greater potential for illness. It gives the abuser a greater potential for illness. Emotional, mental, and physical violence take its toll on both parties involved in the transaction.
I can’t change what happened, but I wonder if I would have been a more productive contributor to society without her influence. I wonder if I would have developed my predisposition for Bipolar. There was a time when I wasn’t ill. I was just frightened and conflicted. Hypervigilant.
Sometimes I miss you, Mom. We had some good times, but only after I “divorced” you. You couldn’t undo my childhood, but at the end, it meant so much that you wished you could. That you learned how to say, “I’m sorry.”
But most importantly, you said, “I believe you.”
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.
I am no Miss Manners. I curse like a sailor. I have foot-in-mouth syndrome to such a degree that LSCWs despair of my ever being cured. But there is one thing my father taught me, and it is the bedrock of all good things in society. He told me this as a child and I have never forgotten it.
Civilized behavior is leaving a room as nice as or nicer than when you first entered.
Behaviors that are not civilized include:
Dropping trash on the ground. Treat trash like dog poop and put it in a receptacle. Not the sidewalk, not the expressway. Just don’t.
Leaving a trail of discarded clothing and other belongings. Don’t let people know you’ve been in a room, or several. This is the symptom of a disorganized mind. Keep that shit in your bedroom.
Fucking someone else’s significant other. Ah, the possibility of true love to escape the misery of your relationship with your SO. If you can’t fix the issues, leave. Then you can fuck whoever you want. I learned this the hard way.
Coercing someone. I’m not talking about grabbing your toddler as they bumble toward a busy street. Coercion is when you do something that isn’t in the best interests of the coercee. This is a matter of listening to the other person. That’s one of the most civilized things you can do.
Taking up two parking spots. If your Maserati needs two spaces at the grocery store, keep it in the fucking garage. If you can afford a Maserati, you shouldn’t be doing your own shopping anyway, entitled asshole.
Cutting in front of the little old lady in the checkout line. This is one of the most disrespectful things you can do, in my opinion. Elders usually mellow out to an extent that they can become invisible. Don’t treat others like they’re invisible.
Not taking care of your animals. If you own a pet, you are responsible for said pet. If you own anything, take care of it. That’s what ownership is about. It’s not having. It’s a responsibility. If you can’t take care of it, don’t own it. Simple.
Not taking care of your kids. This is egregious. Your children are parts of you and if they aren’t the center of your care and concern, it’s a reflection on how you feel about yourself. Neglecting children is right up there with beating them. And your past is not an excuse. It’s an obstacle to vanquish. I speak from experience.
Here are the basics of courtesy:
At work, at home, and in social settings, acknowledge other human beings. I have never, ever been so insulted in my life as when the grocery check-out clerk failed to acknowledge me. I told him a few things and finished it up with “You are not too good for this job.” I believe I earned one of my little-old-lady badges with that one.
When someone renders a service, fucking thank them. Tell them you appreciate them. My favorite line is, “I appreciate this so much. You’ve been so helpful.” And I mean it. You can’t believe how this changes a surly clerk or child into a smiling human being.
Get your nose out of your fucking phone! Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine, but it is so rude. Put the damn thing down and look at the other person across the table from you. You can have the same interaction with this person, only face-to-face. Your addiction to your phone is a serious issue that may need medical attention.
I’m not blaming anyone because that would be the dirty pot calling the dirty kettle unwashed. As I grow older, I’ve discovered just how rude humans can be to each other. I remember my twenties and thirties and I cringe. I’ve become mindful of how I treat others and how I treat myself.
Courtesy is a mindfulness, an awareness, that will have a positive effect on the world around you. As the wise ones over the millennia have said, “Your reality begins from within.” That means every action you take reflects your inner world. Be kind to yourself.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.
On Saint Paddy’s day, there are Americans who are of Irish descent that do not maraud in the streets in drunken stupors. We do not carouse. There is no Bacchanal on this holy day.
This is the day the Irish and those of Irish descent go to church, have a quiet dinner with their families, and give thanks for the service that Saint Patrick has given to free the people from evil and bring them to godliness. There is no alcohol sold on that day.
Those on the outside looking in have claimed this holy day as a reason to drink ‘til comatose or become stumbling, inebriated assholes puking at curbs. They wear green hats, socks, green pins, green shirts, and drink green beer (if only Padrick had foreseen this travesty…).
You do not get to be Irish for a day. You do not get to appropriate our heritage as a reason to lose all dignity. And like every other oppressed population in America, we only get a day of recognition for the services our ancestors have provided to the prosperity of this country.
I do not make claims of equivalencies here. I make the comparison above because only oppressed populations get “special” days or months. The longer the “celebration,” the greater the oppression.
Saint Paddy’s day has become an oxymoron in America. The holy day to celebrate freedom and devotion has been turned on its ear and twisted into a nightmare of consumerism and corporate manipulation. I’m sure the bars in every American town are delighted to take your coin. I know the liquor magnates get excited about March 17th.
Holy days for the Irish are just that. The day is a time of reflection, of gratitude, and family. Imagine the British turning an American holiday like Independence Day into some dog and pony show where everyone pretends to be Texan for a day, coal-rolls with their hemis in grand parades, and stages mock lynching while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. Would you be offended?
I am because I value my heritage. American society has twisted up and focused on the least admirable of qualities attributed to the Irish. The true purpose is to celebrate the spirit of the Irish in their devotion to the best qualities of people: Loyalty, kindness, family, and unshakable faith.
Just because I’m offended doesn’t mean you must stop celebrating Saint Paddy’s day in whatever manner you wish. My greatest distress is that the Mardi Gras of “Irish”-American depravity is conflated with living, breathing people of Irish descent who will be in church today and will return home for a traditional meal of their ancestors.
For my family, corned-beef and cabbage with soda bread is the traditional meal. And it may sound trite and commercial because it’s a meal associated with the Irish. But when you add in the Potato Famine and the economic collapse of that era, which sent the Irish swimming to America in droves, corned beef would be a big deal reserved for the holy days.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of freedom that was granted through God’s servant. To my knowledge, Padrick wasn’t of Irish descent at all, but that’s the beauty of the Irish. Having been vilified, they vilify none. They welcome others to their table because nothing is more sacred than breaking bread with friends and family.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.