Healing from complex trauma while moving up the food chain is like running a marathon across a mountain range. No time for souvenir shopping or group sing-alongs. The third and fourth shift are waiting. Hurry up! There’s a reason we’re tired.

Well intended self-help gurus ultimately hurt because they fail to address the blanket of poverty suffocating over 40 million Americans. The number is much bigger but the working, upper poor are among the invisible. It’s not a fun tent city. It smells like feet, want and need. They also fail to acknowledge their own pain which is conveniently hidden behind externals markers of success; good skin, nice hair, the right clothes, connections and disposable capital, themselves included.

The same is true for good therapy and healthcare. Stellar ideas guys. Too bad we’re shopping on different lots. If treatment models were cars, most of us can only afford the 1984 Yodarolla version versus the expert recommended Rolls; the have nots are stuck in ditches on the side of the road while the haves take a back seat and pay someone else to drive. Everyone’s losing.

The distinguishing traumatic insult of poverty is knowing the right tools, resources, networks and pathways are out there, they’re just not available to us. Meanwhile the wealthy squander their wealth. Maddening isn’t it?

Enter Oprah and one of her many sages:

According to mister, the first mountain we climb is in service to our self; doing whatever work we need to do to get it together. Suggestions include going to school to have a (noble?) profession. Addressing childhood trauma-not addressed. What does service to myself look like when I can’t afford the same tools, don’t have access to the same resources, have panic attacks all day and live in the wrong zip code? Hold that thought.

The second mountain we climb is in service to each other; the gift we give from whatever lessons we learned trekking life’s Himalayas. Hey mister, how do we get into the special gift-giving club? Also, where can I get one of those puffy coats? What does a self-actualized, gift-giving, purpose driven life look like in the context of the first question? Hold that thought too.

I can’t help but wonder about the weaver woman in the clip; everyday hero in the purple volunteer shirt. Here’s a special someone happily doing thankless, invisible, daily charitable work to fill in the gaps perpetuated by broken, heartless souls who refuse to adequately fund public services or living wages in favor of securing menial significance. Let’s all feel good about her tireless giving by wearing this pin so she’ll keep the cretans away from our giant bank accounts. Does she have everything she needs to give what she’s giving or is this another case of rewarding social saviors; programs and people who ultimately enable a toxic culture while offering a temporary, albeit exhausting sense of self worth? And what about her charity-event attendees. Aren’t they just as tired and potentially empty for having spent more time choosing an outfit for the donation dinner than doing any thankless work? I don’t have the answers. I just know that sometimes making selfless, enlightened choices while idiots appear to flourish makes me feel stupid, worthless and used.

The blurry line between altruism and survival is the perception of our choices and the condition of our hearts. Convincing myself of certain beliefs I’d inherited, poverty is noble, the meek shall inherit the earth, you don’t need money to be happy, we’re rich in love, we can do it ourselves, there’s always enough to go around at times required turning a blind eye to addiction, condemnable living conditions, obtuse boundary violations, being in significant danger, having no food, no clothes and no realistic access to safety or relief. Reclaiming the good and redeemable aspects of those sentiments couldn’t be done until I’d forged myself a very stable foundation from which I could wholeheartedly choose to believe that money wasn’t the end all of happiness, love wins and self-reliance is an unquestionable gift. Now when I give, I mean it and it feels infinitely better than offering myself up as a protective defense.

Getting and keeping our hearts in the right place requires daily practice. I continue to learn new, healthier ways to love and care for myself and extend that love and care in equally healthy ways, to my neighbor.

Putting Questions and Egos to Rest

Are you still holding those two thoughts?

What does service to ourselves and others look like in the absence of mainstream wealth and privilege?

It either looks like humility or humiliation. Imagine your ego and heart are on a see-saw while some snot nosed, little jerk is pelting both of them with firecrackers and insults. Now try to maintain balance.

Depending on how much sleep I’ve had the answer can bring me to tears of euphoric gratitude or plunge me into the anhedonic toilet of passive suicidal ideation. When I’ve had enough sleep I pretend the see-saw is a surf board and realize the answer is riding the waves. I fall on my face occasionally but mostly see the span of human existence across a spectrum of fear, trust and love. There really is nothing new under the sun so wear slather on the SPF, stop worrying and smile.

Service to ourselves is radical acceptance of reality while making a series of conscious choices that maximize healing and minimize harm. Yes, it’s as complicated and easy as it sounds. Self discipline is hard at first but makes everything easier once you get the hang of it.

Here are three examples:

  • Self discipline means delaying gratification by not buying the $7 shirt at T.J Maxx to save for a down payment on a used car. Which also means wearing the same four heinous outfits for a year, not going to therapy, not going to the doctors, not going out with friends, not buying gifts for anyone, not using a credit card, not having cable and eating a lot of Cool Whip. The silver lining is walking to work. Congratulations. You lost ten pounds.
  • Or, having mercy on yourself and buying the $20 sweater at the same store because winter is brutal, you don’t have enough clothes to stay warm and the thrift store is 5 extra blocks away.
  • In the absence of a personal friendship with the Dalai Lama, it means going to group in the church basement, sitting on one of those cold metal folding chairs and faithfully working the steps in a lined spiral notebook you bought at the DG for a dollar.

These Florescent Lights are Killing Me

The part I still haven’t worked out is, our spirits die in the absence of self-actualization and that path seems narrow. Is it? We can only go so many years chopping wood and carrying water with no connection, opportunities for growth, expression, rest, play, joy, peace, freedom or the big reciprocal love that comes from receiving and giving out some tangible essence of the universe. What do we do about that impending zombie apocalypse?

Maybe the universe has your back or maybe you’re hiding behind the false reassurance of five star reviews. Baseless positivity rhetoric sells. The truth is collecting dust in an Amazon fulfillment center somewhere outside Tucson. Why? Because good vibes are easy pills to swallow and usually come in shiny packages. Truth is the grinding complexity that gives our lives depth, meaning, satisfaction, purpose and tends to show up dressed as failure, sickness and unresolved issues. It’s brutal for a bit but is also the ultimate path to absolute peace. Temporary relief is a quicker route to nowhere. Decisions. Decisions.

Feed Me (vegan) Cake and Tell Me I’m Pretty

Codependent rescuing: You should totally take a year off, abandon all your responsibilities, ignore the glaringly obvious problems in your life and just focus on getting everyone else to take care of you, and perfectionistic persecution: If you don’t eat vegan porridge and do Pilates nine times a week while breastfeeding your Somali orphan baby and starting a third non-profit, your life is a total waste; they’re both fear in desperate action hoping for an impossible reward.

Raise your hand if you want to be rescued from life at least half the time? Me too. When no one shows up to fix it we resort to controlling people and circumstances by shaming, guilt-tripping, performing, over-doing, avoiding, manipulating, bullying or exploiting real or concocted illnesses as ways to manage everything we don’t know how to manage. It fails to satisfy our needs because it’s rooted in fear. Look what you made me do! After all I’ve done for you! You should be ashamed of yourself. Hagar, this is all your fault! Damn, I ripped all my tendons-again! See how hardcore I am. I see your pain, bro. #toxicmasculinity

The solutions of truth are rooted in love.

Altruism is not martyrdom. Giving doesn’t have to be a pimp and ho transaction if we can meet our basic needs autonomously and then choose 100% through free will to give whatever we have because now we trust our offering is enough and is no longer a reflex of survival. That’s the catch.

Sounds like a Great Deal. What’s the Catch?

Western Capitalism is infantilizing. It keeps everyone helpless. No grown, self-respecting adult voluntarily drinks Rip Tide Rush, drives a monster truck and wears cartoon characters on their clothes while blowing lines off a box of Cocoa Puffs. They also don’t cheat at Monopoly because grown, self-respecting adults have had at least one life changing awakening and no longer feel the need to extort their world family for a trust-fund. Get it? Trust. Fund. That’ll never get old for me.

Why can’t we grow up? Because prisons get more funding than schools, minimum wage hasn’t budged in half a century and caricatures of reactive suffering are turned into Princes and Princesses in every conceivable platform of endorsed media: the Very Important Persecuted delude us into believing our chariot awaits around the corner of the next crime scene.

How Do You Spell Relief?

Just say no to hot dogs and other things that come out of intestines.


ps: This piece has been more than a minute in the making. After talking with a friend tonight I realized I might be incapable of cranking out the 1,2,3 sound bites of digital snacks I personally prefer when I’m looking for answers and yet writing is how I find the answers I can never seem to find. Go figure, huh?

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”

36 thoughts on “Not Buying It

  1. I will be honest I didn’t watch the clip. I am surrounded at the moment and felt it was rude since I don’t have ear plugs. Does that make me a have not? I never understood the whole charity things, only because I went to a few of them, and seems to me that more is spent in the evenings festivities, and the dressing up of it all than was actually raised to help the “cause” I would see a person bragging about the newest x thousand dollar shoes they were so blessed to have and yet rave about the $500 that the ENTIRE event raised. I am the trouble maker who will ask, why didn’t we just do something or give money since we raised less than your purse cost? I don’t know why I put a question mark there, it is of course rhetorical. It’s about awareness!!!! Awareness? I am aware that it’s ironic you are satisfied with raising less money than it cost to throw this shindig. The food was donated. Ok, then why didn’t they just donate that food to the ones who needed, and would actually eat it? Hmmmm, why do I see this and it is lost on all the people standing knee deep in the $100 dessert they aren’t going to eat? I don’t know where I was going with this but I am sure I lost my way a few sentences ago 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen amen amen! My fan is raised high sister Margaret. Preach! 😂 Ugh. You said it all and it makes perfect sense. I watched a movie called Friends with Money and during a dinner scene they talk about this exact thing-(I might be mixing my movie references) but I think there’s a quote about one friend asking why they don’t just give people the money and the food and another friend saying ‘cause this is the way we’ve always done it!’ Or something like that.
      Either way, certainly worth questioning since it’s an insult to charity recipients. They get all dressed up to look magnanimous? Scratching my head.
      Anyhoo, hi! I blogged. I’m gonna come visit you. Hope all is well. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      • I or should I say listened to a show a few years back. They raised 46,000 for something. The next day they went shopping. A purse, belt, and shoes over a 100,000. I thought a whole group raised less than half of what one of them spent on accessories. Ayyy but I judge, that which I should not. I am laid up right now but don’t cry for me, Argentina. I will be up and about again real soon. I love the videos you posted with the interview and the panel questions. How brilliant are you? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laid up? Oh no! At least you’ve given yourself a great soundtrack. As for judgements and people being all flawed and human…big sigh. I was talking with someone this week about Jesus, suffering, death and the awful things people do (Maybe I should learn to talk about purses and belts) and we realized it was while he was on the cross that he said ‘forgive them father they know not what they do’. I knew that but it really sunk in, in that moment. Still wrestling with it. Maybe we buy shoes to soothe the inexplicable agony of life? 🤷🏻‍♀️ Either way, I’m glad you loved the videos and I hope you’re feeling better soon 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehehe I just always think I could never wear a pair of shoes that expensive, or belt or purse for that matter. Now, do I think to myself I could help so many people with that money. Nope not saying that either, if being totally honest 🙂 BUT you are so right Jesus would defend/forgive/love us right to His last minutes on that cross. That is the mindset we need these days. Towards ourselves as well as others :)By the grace of the good LORD, I will be up and about real soon 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean. My husband and I have talked about how different life is when you don’t have to food shop with a calculator and what would we do if we ever got really rich-like how to face those decisions? I still couldn’t justify owning expensive jewelry knowing there are people in the world going hungry but other decisions would be tougher. Ahhh. Thank god for grace! Enjoy resting up Mags. It’s easy to get too busy 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, the LORD must have knew, in His infinite wisdom that I needed to rest 🙂 I would prefer a pain free rest but it is almost pain free so that is something. I am like the Hebrews in the dessert. I want water, I want meat hehehe 🙂 If I had all the money in the world ahhhhh I’d still be buying clearance items 🙂 I feel that is my addiction now. The thrill of getting over on the mark up 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • The body speaks. No doubt about it. Sometimes I’m better at taking care of myself before the pain is too loud, other times, I’m human. I’m glad you’re not in a ton of pain. When my husband I got married and realized we could afford it we both started taking mental health days; days to just rest, read, relax. He got diagnosed with an illness a year ago so it was good that he’d already had some practice at resting because now he really needs to sometimes. I wish that were something everyone could do but I know our society isn’t set up for equal grace. Funny how the simple things bring the most comfort; water, food, rest and a good bargain! 😂❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • What a blessing you both were already in that space and he is able to take care of himself 🙂 I have “mental health” days too. Funny, that is exactly what I tell hubby and others these days are. Mine usually consist of some decompressing too. It might be reading, relaxing, yelling at inanimate objects. Hehehehe. Whatever gets it all out. If not I will just implode, or explode. Neither is pretty, and it is avoidable by taking those mental health days 🙂 Oh my a good bargain. You are going to make me jump up and run out to find one. I am only serious. I already found one. My shampoo and conditioner goes on sale today. I already told hubby he has to go to town and get it hehehe. Full price? Fools price I say hehehe 🙂

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      • My sweet E!!! God heard you. I will be moving to a new place on Monday that has pretty much everything you said you hoped I was having except for the 7 butlers!!! Praise the LORD!!! I told my hubby when they repair our home they might need a restraining order to get me out of this soon to be my rental 🙂 🙂

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      • Hahahahaha I love you 🙂 🙂 I kid you not E. It was a company I had called and marked off my list. Then today while calling other places, a nice lady told me to call them again. When I did they told me that they had a place that rented for $1,975 a week. I said, well that’s not an option. She said let me call the owners. I said ok sure. She called me back in 5 minutes and said they would let us have it for HALF of what we are paying here at the drug den for a month! I was floored. I felt so blessed. After shouting praises to God I called the insurance adjuster who said by all means go get it and have her send us the rental agreement and we will cut you a check today! When we got there she gave us the address so we could go by and see where it is, and a site to view pictures because it has vacation renters there now. After going putting the access code in to get through the gate, It is top penthouse, with a porch that wraps around the building from front to back. Ocean views for as far as the eyes can see. A spa, gym, marina, pool, private beach access, concierge, I mean seriously everything but the butlers. What a loving blessing from God. They agreed to rent to us month to month which even the realtor said is a miracle since they can get $1975 per week for it. We are paying less than that for a whole month. Did I say praise the LORD??? Praise the LORD! OH and she said if we have to stay another month they will drop the price even more. I feel so blessed I can’t even describe it. I won’t have to pack up all my belongings every time I leave the room any more. I just am so in awe of how wonderful the LORD has been to us. Please say a prayer that God blesses the people who own this place they have truly helped us so much.

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      • Mags! I love you too. 😊 This is amazing! Look how He’s set you up! When’s the retreat at your new palace? Haha. Sending oodles of praise and blessings for sure to the good people who helped facilitate His will, which is pure love. Enjoy.

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  2. Dear E, I’ read this first thing this morning before my doctor appointment. So, as I wrote somewhere else because I couldn’t find this right away (rolling eye/shaking head at me daft self 🙂 — with affection) a million (gentle) fist bumps. Too tired to articulate much except Thank you. I love your writing. Can’t wait for your book. 🙏💕.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, amazing post! ❤

    As I was reading, I was also thinking that you can really tell when someone is writing a lot – the eloquence has this effortless feel to it.

    I was also thinking how remarkable it is that the story we have of the Son of God is that he's not born into a palace, but into an everyday working family and community. How much dignity has this given to countless unsung people? And how beautiful to have a completely amazing role model who did not come from money and privilege.

    I was thinking about self-actualisation – do we assume that we necessarily need to interact with the "bigger world" to do it – with mass media as part of that? Or is it enough to commune with a smaller circle? The meaning is in the connection, in the exchange – does it matter what stage this is on? For me, for instance, getting into wider media is more ambition than self-actualisation I think, on honest reflection – but also has a big dash of the latter, because it forces me to think and write better. It is, of course, also about wanting to pay some bills, and to re-do our muddy driveway…

    Self-actualisation, for me, includes walking in nature, reading good books, stewarding our patch, friendship, love… and writing, I suppose… although, is that possibly like a virus? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This: “I was also thinking how remarkable it is that the story we have of the Son of God is that he’s not born into a palace, but into an everyday working family and community. How much dignity has this given to countless unsung people? And how beautiful to have a completely amazing role model who did not come from money and privilege.”❤️ the primary difference for me in studying lives of Jesus and Buddha. Although, I still imagine them as great friends (in my favorite post Book of Love)


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