Lost in Translation (Stepmother)

I remember the moment I found out he had children. It was night, I had been drinking and fucking around on Facebook. I thought I had found his Facebook page. His profile picture was of kelp so I wasn’t sure if it was him or not. It said he was married. I clicked on her page and there was a little boy maybe 6 months old on the beach wearing an Army hat. The next photo was of him with her at a wedding. I completely freaked out. I wasn’t freaked out that he was married. I wasn’t freaked out that he had kids. I freaked out that he would never leave those kids because he was too good of a person. This meant one of two things, either we were done forever or I was going to become a stepmother.

A stepmother.
A stepmother.

Ewwww. I don’t want to be a stepmother. I want to be a real mother. I want his vasectomy to fail. I want to not be infertile and I want to create a human inside of my belly. I want to give birth to his baby. I don’t want to take care of another person’s baby. Ewwww.

Me: “Do you have kids?”
Him: “Yes.”
Me: “How many do you have?”
He gulps, takes a deep breath, “Three.”
Me: “Wow. How old are they?”
Him: “Well, Katelynn is 9, Gwendelynn is 3, and Sean is 1.”
Me: “Wow, they are little.”
Him: “So are we over?”
Me: “I don’t think so, are we?”

That was the moment I became lost in translation.

It was the moment I fell into the rabbit hole and watched myself spin down to the bottom of a cavernous pit in the name of love.

I became lost in wanting to perfect my new identity.

I was going to be the best stepmother in the history of all stepmothers.

I would wash and sew and cook and clean. I would do laundry and do yard work and read and play. I would never say bad words about their mother. I would always be kind and gracious towards her because after all, without her I would never be able to help the man I love raise his children.

I would be the greatest “stepmother” the children would ever know. I wouldn’t cringe when they called me “Missy” even though that was my name and to expect them to call me mom was just silly. I wouldn’t cry each time they left with her, the woman who would stand on my front lawn screaming and swearing, calling me names as the children walked outside.

I wouldn’t get angry at the legal fees, the court hearings that I was not allowed to attend because it would look bad. I wouldn’t hold resentments toward his attorney for taking so long to end this, toward the judge who was clearly blind and incapable of seeing what is standing right in front of him, to the state of California that does not allow free attorneys for the children like they do in other states. I wouldn’t lose my shit all over because I know too damn much because I am a social worker.

Nope not me, I am going to be MAGNIFICENT. A pillar of grace. I am gonna be so fucking graceful I am going to print out pretty words that say grace and grateful and hang them all over the fucking house.

Grace

Thank you Pinterest, you have saved this stepmothers ass.

I remember the moment I realized I didn’t recognize myself. It was 2012. I was sitting on the back porch chain smoking cigarettes reading stepmother chat boards ramping myself into hysteria because every single story was the same.

We had all been lost in translation.

We had all been rendered voiceless by the court system. We had all been forced into a strange land that had new words in a language we didn’t understand. We had all found a common language as stepmothers but didn’t know how to talk or act or be in our new roles. We all sat by and watched as our husbands fought tooth and nail to keep their children from women who were on drugs, drunk, and homeless but whom the courts considered paragons of perfection because their uteri are fit for incubation.

When I became a stepmother I not only lost my identity, I lost my voice. All of a sudden I couldn’t speak. I was paralyzed by fear that I would say or do something that would get these children taken away from the man I love.

I became frozen in an insane wasteland or torment as a partner and a caretaker and a housewife and a…gasp…mother.

While I was simultaneously making my dream come true by turning into a “mother” an insidious transformation was taking place that was entirely out of my control.

I completely lost my identity for about 2 years.

I was entirely unreadable.

I looked like some jacked up mishmash of language written simultaneously in Greek, Russian, French, and Hebrew. Advocating with the stepmothers felt inadequate, I wanted to go bigger. I wanted to change the entire court system in California. I started doing research. I started calling county workers and administrative office of the courts bureaucrats in Sacramento. I started developing a plan.

And then one day it all stopped.

One day Gwen came into the living room and said, “Mommy, will you read me a story?”

I am pretty certain I started crying right then and there.
Did I just hear that?
Did she just call me mommy?

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And so we read and we read and we read.

And then Sean woke up from his nap and came and curled up with us on the couch and we laughed and we giggled and we tickled. And then Katie came home and she needed help with her homework and I needed to make dinner and then Jim came home from work and needed kisses and hugs.

And then I wasn’t so lost anymore.
I had been transformed.

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You are not alone 

A few weeks ago I wrote this in my journal: “I need to get back to my happy place and set my feet in my ancient relatives earth and feel their histories rise in me. Amen.” I rarely end anything with an official amen. What an odd prayer.

I wrote that sentence after reading the words, “Walking I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” It struck me as odd because when I envision myself, I see a bird, a big ass combination of a bald eagle and a Phoenix soaring into the heavens. Not something that wants to be rooted, planted, or stuck to anything.

I have learned when a message comes to me that sounds the opposite of what I am drawn to that I should listen to it. Be rooted it says, stop soaring, dig in, sink those gorgeous feet into the earth until you can see the roots slithering their way through the soil, securely anchoring you to the loving embrace of the true mother.

I love the Utah desert. It is the place of my ancestors. I used to take the top off my Jeep and drive for endless miles on the dirt roads until I was so lost to civilization no one could find me. The minute I left the pavement I would remove my seat belt and lean forward in glorious anticipation, barely breathing as I climbed hills and boulders searching the edge of my hood as I took drop after precipitous drop. I could feel my dead father’s steady hand on my shoulder, gripping me with giddy anticipation. His presence was so real sometimes I could glance in the rearview mirror and imagine his smiling face into being. The desert is where I feel grounded and alive. It is where I feel like I am flying and descending at once. It is where I find my peace. It has been seven years since I set foot in my beloved Utah desert. Seven years since I have been home to the place that sets my soul ablaze and brings me to my knees with its glorious energy of magic and healing.

I am Native American. Paiute, but not enough for it to count on either side. I am unrecognizable by modern man yet the blood of my ancestors runs thick in my veins. The only time any native soul has ever publicly said, “You must be Paiute” was when a random stranger came up to me at a child abuse conference and said just that. My reaction was to spontaneously burst into tears. No one had ever recognized me before, it is a part of me that is so true to my being and yet so invisible to the naked eye.

This last week I have been on a retreat in Scotland, another birthplace of my ancestors. On the first day we were told to pick a rock out of a bowl. This was mine:


My search for my ancestors ebbs and flows year after year. Sometimes I consciously look for them as I did when I Googled by dead fathers name in 2007. What I got in response to my inquiry was my Uncle Arvel’s website. My only memory of Arvel was his fiddle and how he used to play “The Devil Goes Down to Georgia” for me over and over when I was a little girl. He used to be an opening act for the country western band Alabama. Over the years he had become a semi famous Native American musician. I randomly called the phone number on his website. I hadn’t seen him since I was six or seven years old. We talked for two hours. That phone call began a two-year journey where I learned who my father is, connected with cousins I could barely remember, and discovered that I am descended by great Scottish warriors.

Recently my psychic told me the energy of the earth is in a panic. She told me to give the protesting a break and stand back so that I know which direction is the right direction to go. She told me to take a big deep pause and get perspective on what I want the end result to be not just for myself, but for the entire country so that I can advocate and see results. She told me my time is coming to lead from the love space, that I am going to “bring love and awareness to stop the war.” When I listened to her say those words I took a deep breath and felt giddy. I have always known that I was born to lead, oftentimes I pull too tight on my reins in my struggle to charge up the hill, my patience is starting to pay off, I have been chosen to stop the war.

Two nights ago I read this paragraph to my fellow sisters at the table:

“The wisdom of my guides, combined with my deep connection with my ancestors encourages me to listen in a deeper way. If I close my eyes, I can breathe in the messages of thousands of years of healers and shamans, goddesses and witches, queens and sorcerers. I stand alone, in full battle armor like Joan of Arc, cloaked in my wise woman cape that has been woven with the feathers of a thousand birds. I turn around and as far as I can see there is an army of wise women standing for miles in their entire glorious splendor. They move to surround me with their loving embrace. Illuminated in white light they are there beseeching me with gifts from a million different experiences. The entire matriarchy armed with decadent wisdom, beckoning me over to take the gifts that they hold in their hands, gently pushing them into my heart so I can see them with my entire soul. I light up with the resplendent glory that has been bestowed on the very fibers of my being. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands. And we are here as you stand in your own glorious white light, leading the charge into our glorious love revolution.”

I am not alone…the energy of millions of women runs through me. 

I am the midwife of the collective. 

I am here to assist in the birthing.

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The Carpet

When the rug is pulled out from beneath you and you lay there on your back, wind knocked out of your lungs, head pounding from the impact of the floor, how long does it take for you to get back up?

Hours?
Days?
Weeks?
Months?
Years?

It used to take me months or years. Now it takes hours to days.

Almost every time it is accompanied by waves and waves of emotions rocking my soul and my heart like a storm swept sea.

Anger, sadness, convulsive fear. My heart pounding so hard panic threatens to take over. I can hardly breathe when I think of what has happened, what might happen, what will happen.

These emotions threaten to overtake me until I catch my breath.

Deep breath in, I will survive this.
Deep breath out, I have no control.
Deep breath in, I am the boss of me.
Deep breath out, I surrender to the will of God and the Universe.
Deep breath in, I am love and I am loved.
Deep breath out, I am Dr. Melissa Bird, PhD.
Deep breath in, I call on the wisdom of my tribe and ask for prayers.
Deep breath out, I receive all the messages my loved ones have to send me.

I rise, like always, like the Phoenix on my back.
I focus on my present moment and the gifts that are all around me.

I replace the ripped out carpet with a new heavier one that cannot so easily be pulled from underneath me.
I breathe.

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In 2017 I am…

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Photography by Nathalie Gordon

Fierce, on fire, lit up, inspired, out of control, raging, pissed off, revolutionary, Joan of Arc personified, Guinevere exemplified, smart, happy, joyous, sassy, laughter, sparkles, bubbles, tickles, spunk, pissed off, lit up, rising rising rising, rich, voluptuous, badass, vibrant, abundant, loaded, delicious, fabulous, energetic, healthy, muscular, funny, interested, attentive, awake, woke, staying woke, damn my whole entire house is woke and we will not be deterred, focused, diligent, Wonder Woman, lit up, fucking dead sexy, pointed, organized, going with the flow, listening to my body, listening to my soul, tuned in, turned on, punk rock, heavy metal, smooth jazz, inspiring, sister, vivacious, determined, kind, love, diplomatic, professorial, nurturing, independent, relaxed, embracing my stress, releasing my stress, bossy, funny, inclusive, queer, passionate, going grey, a believer in causes, a leader in causes, the originator of causes, I am the god damned cause, I am the bringer of the Mists of Avalon, the high priestess, the witch they could not burn, the granddaughter of the witch they did burn, the harbinger of gratitude, grateful, grace, humble, creative, mom, momo, mommy, wife, partner, sex goddess, diva, creative, best friend, lover, fighter, scrappy, divine, goddess, multi-faceted, diverse, iridescent, fast, passionate, smart, courageous, eloquent, hilarious, tenacious, empowering, resourceful, engaging, impassioned, fiery, go-getting, a teacher, a mentor, compassionate, empathetic, dynamic, intelligent, a leader, fierce, sassy, free.

Oh my goddess in 2017 I am so free. Free to teach. Free to make oodles of money. Free to finish my fucking website and go speak all over the world about empowering women and girls. Free to write my book, Journey of the Modern Virgin: Stories of women in America. Free to go on a book tour. Free to do my research, get my grants funded, be the expert in the room. Free to hike and walk anywhere I want to. Free to camp once a month, take long drives to the Oregon coast, fly to San Francisco to see my “big gay boyfriend” whenever I want to. Free to clean out my entire closet and buy new clothes. Free to buy new clogs from Sandgrens. Free to finally get rid of all the high heels I don’t wear anymore because let’s just be honest, they hurt my damn feet. Free to admit my weaknesses and not be afraid that someone will exploit them. Free to finally be free of patriarchy in my own mind. Free to fully embrace the matriarchy in a way that welcomes me into the bosom of woman united. Free to stop bitching and start my own fucking revolution once and for all. Free to listen to podcasts about becoming a minimalist and then not do anything they say and not feel guilty about it. Free to buy the biggest, reddest, glitteriest, most full of tulle ball gown and then wear it while gardening and drinking coffee and doing laundry and taking my dogs for a walk.

In 2017 I am the divine expression of the way that my children see me. I am awesome, strict, loving, caring, and nice. I am a leader, strong, fierce, honest, and kind. I am awesome, beautiful, love, mom, happy.

In 2017 I am the divine expression of the way that my husband sees me. I am smart, sweet, dedicated, inspiring, and amazing.

In 2017 I am patient, prayerful, powerful. I am leaving a mark, embodying bravery and integrity in a way that is beneficial for this new nation of hate. I surrender and accept that I have no control and that the Universe always, always has my back. I am a spectacular expression of liquid love and I am adding to the thriving of the world through my burning, orgasmic, powerful writing. I am leaving a mark and transforming the world through the magic of my imagination and my dreams for the future. I am sitting amidst extraordinary moments of gratitude while I am living a life of imperfection and magic, drinking tea. I am receiving whatever is of the highest service for me and for the world while I engage in masterful conversations with my future self.

In 2017 I am the embodiment of the Phoenix rising. I can do anything I want because I am everything worthy and right and good. I am fierce fire and I am changing women’s’ and girl’s worlds on a grand scale. I am teaching and empowering and rising up women to believe in the beauty of their dreams. I am living Brendan Gill’s two rules of life, the first of which is to have a good time, the second of which is to hurt as few people as possible in the course of doing so. I am living the life that my grandparents dreamed for me as a child. I am finding the blessings through the eyes of my children and I am relishing in the loving touch of my sons snuggling cheek, Gwen’s questions about witchcraft and the earth, Katelynn’s belief in kicking patriarchy’s ass.

In 2017 I am in a little house built from love, surrounded by trees and flowers and the smells that come from summer turning into fall, drinking tea with my husband in our “Up” chairs in front of the fireplace, dreaming of adventures yet embarked on. I am sitting with myself in the stillness of my writing room, surrounded by books, inspiring quotes, whitewashed walls and rainbow pillows, dreaming of stories yet to be told. I am holding inspired dinner parties connecting strangers in their shared humanity to discuss politics, love, sex, life, and living.

In 2017 I am gracefully and fully stepping into the next half of my life, relishing in the spectacular glory of my glittering and gorgeous existence, realizing once and for all that I am a divinely delicious human who rocks my life so fucking hard there is no other human being I would rather be with but myself.

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Photography by Nathalie Gordon

In 2017 I am badass, full on, balls out, punk rock, fantastically fervently free.

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The Shadow

I promised you I would do the work.
I promised you that I would look deep inside the darkest, most depraved parts of my cavernous soul to shine the brightest of lights on how the circumstances of my life have created my black, degenerate shadow self.
I promised you that I would do this so that you wouldn’t leave me.

I try to ignore my shadow self. I literally banish my dark side into non-existence so I can pretend that she doesn’t exist. But here she remains…in all her dark glory…I tentatively search for her, walking into a dark cave whose depths are so deep and moist they have never seen the light of day. The lantern I have brought with me is not enough to shed light more than two or three feet in front of me.

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I am shaking, terrified, I do not want to look her in the face…to do so gives her power.

She is a ferociously wounded animal who snarls with pincer like teeth that she files into distinctly sharp points in order to inflict maximum damage. She is fucking broken. Black with rotting decayed flesh and bloody matted fur. Her stench burns your nostrils if you get too close to her. Just under the surface of her skin the maggots roll and undulate in her infested wounds. She doesn’t want anyone to see her because she is ashamed of who she has become and whom she represents. But she remains there, lurking below the surface, huddled in the back of her barbed wire cage that she uses to cut her flesh to release the pain.

She lies on her side, legs drawn up to her chest, rocking back and forth torn between wanting absolution and wanting to eat everyone alive.

She is waiting for you to poke her and provoke her, inevitably they always do.

She is depraved. Out of her mind insane. Totally irrational and deeply manipulative. She knows exactly where to stab, which exact pressure point to use to render you completely paranoid and totally useless.

She is half human, half animal, entirely primal.

She is everything she hates about her abusers. She is the abuser. She wants you to be like them so she can say to herself, “I told you so. You are still as useless, unlovable, and pathetic as you always thought you were.” She knows that she is nothing more than a dirty, discarded animal that is meant to be beaten to the point of uselessness and unrecognizable to others. Raped and left destroyed on the bed like a rag doll riddled with bed bugs.

I can always feel her coming.

It feels like a rock smashes into the pit of my stomach, my hands get hot, I feel my face turn to stone.

My eyes become dead, they squint, my lips purse, I look your body up and down to see where the most tender spot lies so that I can cut your heart out with my words. I look into your eyes and I know you know she is there, you can see her, the demon inside of me. For a moment you think to run, but you never do.

I look at you on purpose to see if you will save me from her or if she can make your warrior stand up and attack so she can stand firm in the reality that has always been hers, you think she is shit and you have no problem telling her so. You always respond as expected of course, she knows exactly what to say to make your hackles rise. In her most venomous voice she hisses taunting barbs to make you come towards her. Beating her with your anger.

Recently you have not reacted as she expected so she took it one step further.

One step too far it seems, she crossed your proverbial line.

What is it about you that terrifies her so deeply? Is it that you refuse to beat and rape? Is it that she knows you are the bringer of the light and joy and so she is rendered even more invisible by your presence? She knows she can’t defeat your deep love so why does she try to break through?

What angers me most is that you will not act the way I think you are supposed to, the way they always do. What angers me most is that she is still there, my shadow demon. Lurking just beneath my skin, taunting me with her anger that felt like the sweet, seductive power she had craved for so long.

The anger tastes like succulent absinthe liquor on the tongue.
Decadent seduction that makes me want to masturbate in public.

I do not understand why she will not go away and receded permanently into the ether of the past. I am angry that I cannot diminish her stench. I cannot banish her into the nothing. I am angry that she is still my demon to call and I willingly do so even though I know it will decimate my one true love. How humiliating. How embarrassing. How pathetic and destructive. How laughably insane.

She rises up because I feel totally out of control.
She rises up because I want to intentionally and deliberately hurt you.
She rises because I can’t inflict pain on you when I feel like I am not being heard.
She rises because I want to hurt before I get hurt.
She rises because deep down, she does not believe she is worthy and she wants to destroy everything before you destroy her.
She rises because she is banished, ignored, invisible, unseen and she wants to be loved even in her immense, black, disastrous ugliness.

She is the result of 20 years of abuse and neglect. She is the keeper of the pain and for now, she is quiet in her cage, rocking back and forth in silence.

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The March

“Woman has to understand her role. Her role is not to worship god; Her role is to be the very self of God. Her oneness can affect and open every heart.” -Yogi Bhajan

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Women. Tears. Overwhelm. Them. Us. Together. Labia everywhere. Women with their lovers, their friends, their grandfathers. Women with their babies, their grown children. Women everywhere.

Women holding and loving each other.

Women hugging and saying thank you, I see you, I honor you.

Women saying I am here to comfort you and fight with you. To #resist. I see you and you see me and we will not be defeated.

Women enveloping each other in empowering, divine, loving grace.

Marching towards the revolution knowing that our oneness is where the power lies.

Women kissing, praying, eating, nourishing our bodies and our souls as one. Engaging in compassionate surrender as we come together to recognize the joy in our collective hearts. As we create the physical manifestation of the knowledge that we are always held by the divine feminine and they will never be able to cut the very cord that ties us to the divine mother earth.

Women together in awe and strength from babe to crone.

Women united on every continent around our sacred earth from giant metropolis to one horse town, from sea to shining sea, north-south-east-west. Women converging in a mass of feminine power to share in their stories and wisdom.

To march in the united purpose of humanity and shared strength.

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Together we are #TheResistance and we are united in #GracefulRevolution

I believe in a new brand of advocacy where we humble ourselves to our shortcomings and engage in acts of graceful revolution that bring light to the true reality of people’s lives. I believe that if we engage people in their own spaces, teach them to look at injustices as moments that touch their own lives, if we give them the knowledge of the power structure, if we give them the tools to infiltrate its membrane, then change will take place in America.

This is the Graceful Revolution.

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I Am Angry At America

I feel myself slithering up from the depths of only grief looking slightly like Golum from the inside out.

A demonic sinister look in my eye promising to eviscerate your soul.

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Tank Girl

I am angry.
Ball busting violently angry.
I want to claw, gnash, tear out, slash and burn.
I want to beat and main and thrash and break and cut and filet your soul from the inside out.
I want to rip your heart from the middle of your body, hang you upside down and watch you drown on your own blood.

I am looking at you from inside myself seeing the hands that are not mine try to destroy you to the core.

I am writhing in a body that feels foreign and slimy and disturbed and vile.

I AM ANGRY AT AMERICA

I am angry at you for creating a world I am disgusted to be a part of. Angry that I am embarrassed to raise my children in this hell.

Angry that you have brought to the surface the darkness of a nation that I was just beginning to feel safe in.

You have destroyed all the faith I had in the road I was traveling.
It is vile, disturbed, depraved, disgusting.
It is horror and madness.

PATRIARCHY EXEMPLIFIED
MATRIARCHY OBLITERATED

Gross, gagging bile of filfth running through my maimed and broken fingers.
Dripping like green snot onto a burned out mother earth.

As the South African mothers mothers used to say:

NOW YOU HAVE TOUCHED THE WOMEN
YOU HAVE STRUCK A ROCK;
YOU HAVE DISLODGED A BOULDER;
YOU WILL BE CRUSHED.

I am coming for you in all my vile depravity America.

Consider this your only warning.

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“In 2033, justice rides a tank and wears lip gloss.”
Tank Girl

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