Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: Journey

  1. And here we are.

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    I started blogging right after President Obama’s inauguration, participating in optimism and a sense of community here and in my little corner of the early days of Twitter. Vice President Biden championed victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and the Violence Against Women Act was strong and enforced.

    But life–my life, your life, the life of the country–goes on, gets in the way, changes everything. And here we are.

    My brother-in-law’s cancer fight over; my sister’s grief is a little bit less fresh.

    Mr. Z and the dogs and I have moved house and reshuffled priorities.

    My book  is still in revision. I’m back to it now.

    It’s time for me to start talking again, with anyone who will listen.

     

     

  2. Grey Area

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    Life is easier, in some ways, when things are neatly divided into them/us, bad/good, never/always boxes.

    When those boxes crumble, when the lines between certainties blur, our assumptions and givens shake. Things get trickier and more interesting.

    A few box-crumbling events have happened in my world over the past few years:

    • a friend’s husband was accused of molesting their granddaughter. I believe that he did not do it.
    • another friend was attacked in her home and brutally beaten. She found her way to deep forgiveness.
    • a trusted employee was arrested for domestic violence. I decided to pay for his bail.

    In an either/or world, I believe in accusers/victims no matter what; I want my friend’s attacker to go to prison for as long as the law allows; I draw a hard line and fire the batterer.

    In the grey zone, I can be open to the possibilities of believing in the accused, marveling at forgiveness, and hoping for the batterer’s change.

    My bias remains toward accusers and victims. I believe there is no justification, ever, for emotional or physical violence and also that it is very, very difficult to stop learned behaviors like battering.

    Living a little bit more in the grey helps me better understand my own story. Living in the grey is expansive.  Challenging my assumptions makes my ultimate conclusions–or what will be my interim conclusions–more nuanced, more complex, more allowing of further refined understanding.

    Living in the grey allows the possibility of telling and hearing all the stories.

     

  3. Transformations

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    I met Alana Sheeren via my friend Jeanne, that great connector, and for the past couple of years I’ve followed Alana on her blog and social media.

    She’s doing a series of interviews called “Transformation Talk.” Here’s what she writes about them:

    Every Thursday for a year, starting in September 2012, I’ll post an interview with someone who is a force for good in the world. These men and women have either deepened their passion or found their calling after experiencing a loss, trauma or diagnosis

    I want to broaden the conversation around grief and its transformative power. My hope is that in their words you’ll find echoes of your story. In their inspired actions, you’ll see yourself and your immense possibility.

    About a week ago, I had the pleasure of being the “someone” she interviewed. Here is our conversation.

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    I realized this morning that today is April 11, a day that for me has become a day of unexpected transformations.

    April 11, 2007 was the day my ex-husband was arrested. April 11, 2011 was the day I gave my first public talk to a group. And now April 11, 2013, through no foresight or planning on my part, is the day of my first  interview.

    I really appreciate the work Alana is doing with respect to grief and loss and their transformative power. Thank you, Alana, for being part of my ongoing transformation.

  4. Reunion

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    I left south Florida at 8:30 on the morning after Thanksgiving, and I was landing here again fewer than 36 hours later, at 8 on Saturday night.  A week later I have a sense of what took me back  to a very different “south”–South Carolina–and what I brought back home with me.

    There were name tags to help us remember our natural hair color:

     

    Thirty-six of eighty-nine former classmates smiled for the cameras:

    With the exception of my friend Michelle, I hadn’t seen my classmates since graduation.

    We talked about where we live, whom we live with, our families, what we’ve been doing since we graduated from high school.

    Even though I had been separated from them by geography and time, I realized that those relationships–close friends, casual acquaintances, and people whose lives I only imagined–shaped me and many of my core beliefs about myself and the world. Some of those beliefs I still hold onto, and some have been dismantled by life, but their origins were with me last weekend and are here in this picture.

    I would have liked more time with my former classmates, a second night of reuniting, maybe, when, thirty years of ice having been broken or at least chipped, I could learn more about their lives. Today I received a newsletter with more of the stories I wanted.

    And I have a clearer understanding of who I am and where I’ve been because of reconnecting with some of the people who surrounded me when I was seventeen.

     

  5. Why go back?

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    I’m sitting in the airport in Ft. Lauderdale, waiting to board a plane to South Carolina for my 30th high school reunion.

    I didn’t go to the 10th (divorcing my first husband) or the 20th (temporarily separated from my second husband) or the 25th (divorcing my second husband). Finally, 30 years after high school, tumultuous relationships in the past, I can go back.

    I keep asking myself why I decided to take this trip. I’ve kept in touch with only one friend, Michelle, who will join me for a cocktail tonight and brunch tomorrow as well as the reunion.

    Writing my memoir has meant exploring the past ten or twenty years in excruciating detail. I haven’t spent much time remembering high school. But one thing leads to another, doesn’t it?

    What do I want to know, find, experience? I’m not sure.

    I’ll know it when I see it.

  6. Freedom From::Freedom To

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    I’m thinking about freedom–

    thinking about it so much that I put this cardboard cutout of the Statue of Liberty on the wall of my study (yes, just under the Christmas lights that stay up all year).

    Freedom From::Freedom To will take me through a July exploration of freedom with photos, prompts, playlists, poems, ponderings.

    What are you free from::free to?

  7. On Fire

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    April:

    Month of rebirth,

     month of two anniversaries.

    Good Friday, 2002: a beating, an interim separation.

    April 11, 2007: another assault, an arrest, the first night of a final separation.

    Easter weekend 2012: time for a fire.

    Tonight two Adrienne Rich poems:

    “Burning Oneself Out,”

    its last lines:

    “or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire
    of my mind, burning as if it could go on
    burning itself, burning down

    feeding on everything
    till there is nothing in life
    that has not fed that fire”

    and

    “Power,”

    about Marie Curie,

    “[who] died a famous woman denying
    her wounds
    denying
    her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

    ::

    What has fed your fire?

    Can you see that your wounds and your power come from the same source?

  8. What have you survived?

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    In From a Survivor, Adrienne Rich writes,

    Next year it would have been 20 years
    and you are wastefully dead
    who might have made the leap
    we talked, too late, of making

    which I live now
    not as a leap
    but a succession of brief, amazing movements

    each one making possible the next

     

     

     

     

    Every one of us who lives another day is a survivor of something, or everything.

    Survivors of  violent, personal trauma–domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape.

    Others are survivors of cancer, accidents, natural disasters, genocide, the suicide of a loved one.

    What have you survived? What has been your “succession of brief, amazing movements”?

     

     

  9. Adrienne Rich April

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    In 1987 I read Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born in a Women’s Studies class.

    I was 23, and I was changed forever.

    It seems fitting to read her again in April 2012,
    after a month of marvelous posts by women friends,
    after Rich’s death last Tuesday.

    It seems fitting to spend April’s posts here within the framework of her words.

    It seems fitting, too, to begin with an excerpt
    from “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law,” from 1963:

    2.

    Banging the coffee-pot into the sink
    she hears the angels chiding, and looks out
    past the raked gardens to the sloppy sky.
    Only a week since They said: Have no patience.

    The next time it was: Be insatiable.
    Then: Save yourself; others you cannot save.
    Sometimes she’s let the tapstream scald her arm,
    a match burn to her thumbnail,

    or held her hand above the kettle’s snout
    right in the woolly steam. They are probably angels,
    since nothing hurts her anymore, except
    each morning’s grit blowing into her eyes.

    ::

    Have no patience. Be insatiable. Save yourself; others you cannot save.

     

     

     

     

  10. Nest-Making Retrospective

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    On March 1, I had an idea so clear and bright that before I knew it, I was sending out this email:

    I’m putting together a month of blog posts for National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is Women’s Education–Women’s Empowerment. Women’s stories are near and dear to my heart, and I believe they are important to you, too.  I admire your writing, and I would be honored if you would be willing to share a story and/or photos in a guest blog post at www.angelakelsey.com.  I’d love to read your stories of women who’ve contributed to your education and/or your empowerment, in whatever way(s) you choose to define the words and convey your stories. Poetry, prose, and photos are welcome.”

    After the initial email,  I exercised no more control over this series than I did over the hydrangea pictured here, and the pieces worked together just as beautifully, just as organically. With the exception of knowing that I wanted to contain the posts within the supportive bookends of Jeanne and Julie, I posted them in the order I received them, and if you read them in order, I think you will see that a whole, greater than the sum of its parts, was formed.

    Part of me, not wanting to impinge upon the nest that’s been created of its own accord, wants to post an awestruck retrospective that simply says, “Wow.”

    Wow to the synergy and the dance of the posts with each other. Wow to the openness and the willingness of the writers. Wow to the women they honor, the personal journeys they share. Wow to those who continued the conversation through their comments.

    Another part wants to acknowledge the generosity of each woman who gave of herself and her life and her stories. Another part wants to highlight some of the themes that emerged.

    So, in awe mixed with gratitude, I do a little of each, although these pieces are so tightly interwoven that they touch each other in many more ways than I can show here.

    Wow–to Jeanne and Josie and Ann and Sally and Cheryl and Liz and D., who celebrated collective feminine power in  Fran and Marcia and The Fierce Feminine and Hey Girls, We Slipped Up and A (Wonderfully) Mixed Relationship and Her and This Little Light of Mine and Loving women comes easily.

    Wow–to Shannon and Alana, who wrote about their grandmothers in Happy Birthday Viola Sylvestra and Her Unseen Hand on My Back.

    Wow–Julie and Bindu and Teresa and Kelly and Streetlights, who wrote about mothers and mothering in Empowerment and The Birth of Compassion and The Body as Nest and Lesson Plan and A Transforming Force.

    Wow to Illuminary and Megan, who described solace and comfort in Auntie Jaquie and Someone Makes a Nest For Me Today.

    Wow to Meredith and Bridget, who celebrated women teachers in  Short But Sweet and Wonder Woman Hilda Raz.

    See what I mean? Just–Wow.

    Now: how can we continue the spirit of nest-making every day, with every breath and step?