The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. – Carlos Santana

In preparation for NaNoWriMo 2017 (National and International Novel Writing Month), I made the declaration that I would not put a single drop of alcohol to my lips. Living in wine country, that is saying something.


Day 4, my word count has been healthy, but I had a TERRIBLE day at work. My plan had been to come home and write again, but the toxicity at work had reduced me to a knot of pain. In fact, my response was so visceral that I thought I might be having a heart attack or stroke.

And so, I had a couple of glasses. Yes, I broke my vow.

I am an Empath and that is something with which I am still learning to live. Most of my life has been filled with the admonishments, “you’re too sensitive” — “you need to be less sensitive” — “you need to find a way to protect yourself” — “you need to find a channel for pain.” The list of warnings is as much a source of dread as the actual overload of meanness in our current culture. And then there is the pesky little problem of my struggles with cancer.

Sometimes, there is a certain synchronicity in the news. An article popped up on my news feed, . It wasn’t the Mom part of the article that hit a nerve. I was never one of those Moms who had to self-medicate or avoid the day with my kids. I was too madly in love with them to want any of my time with them to end. Back to school was a time of sadness for me and the empty nest terrifies me. My kids are the best thing that has ever happened. But there is a part of me that understands why some Moms feel differently.

There is something about lack of fulfillment and powerlessness that is invoked in the article. That is something I understand. My first novel is a story of rising above disempowerment. My second novel will no doubt do the same.

Powerlessness is something with which all humans must contend. Even those who are unconscious of their own motivations instinctively seek to maintain their own power, if not to gain more than their fair share. Writers are probably the best psychologists because the grist of their trade is in ferreting out human motivation.

Issues of power, who has it and who doesn’t, will perhaps be the greatest challenge to the evolution of humanity and the greatest threat to our condition.

“But things have always been like that,” my Mom reminds me.

Yes. They have. But they don’t have to remain that way. If we accept that humans have the ability to transcend their past to create a better future then we must also accept that our individual actions have the same power. Society is comprised of many moving parts.

Individual action becomes collective.

The gross inequalities that continue to flourish are something that we allow. We are complicit. The last election reminded me that fear of losing power is a great motivator and a great divider.  

Becoming mindful of our fears is a certain way of empowering ourselves to transcend our differences.

As a woman and a person who continues to grapple with the undercurrents of trauma within a family torn from its comprehensive family and tribe, the legacy of powerlessness is one that will continue to haunt me. It is one with which reservations today continue to grapple. As a Buddhist, I have the tools with which to understand the tenets of suffering and the path that poses the healthiest way (for me) to continue my journey through consciousness.

But spirit moves differently for us all. Mine is but one.

It is one I had to enlist yesterday when so much sadness and toxicity overwhelmed me. While we continue to measure ourselves monetarily (a human construct), we will continue to be averse to correcting some of the real consequences of our distribution of power. I am not a disbeliever in money. It is a tool of exchange and people will probably always need some motivator for something more extrinsic than the absolute collective good and absolute equality. But there are times when the grossness of inequality is downright unfair and I do not believe anyone likes a stacked deck. In a world where the combined net worth of the two wealthiest people is $178.6 billion dollars, it is hard to imagine that same world includes so many unaccompanied children who suffer the indignities of landlessness, starvation, and destitution. They are children without power.   Adriftness is another power construct that must be understood by mixed bloods.

Should we care? “What can you do? We have no power to change it.” My Mom reminds me.

Perhaps not. Yet then again, we have the power of individual action.

I do not have to contribute to the debt of suffering in this world and I can be that story. Our stories have great power. They always have. In the winter when the days were short, families and tribes told their stories. Our oral histories are ancient and they continue to describe and transform our world.

It is our stories that maintain our power. The human condition evolves through the power of story. Now, more than ever, we need it.

We cannot look away and we cannot consign those who have been disempowered to the “out of sight, out of mind” reaches of our mainstream forgetting.

Refugeeism is our collective dilemma. In a flat, hot, angry world, their lack must be our want because each one of those thousands has a story and every story is precious.

Some of the toxicity with which I dealt yesterday involves the single-minded pursuit of money and there is a real ugliness in the manner in which some people seek that tool as if the tool itself has more power than their own humanity — an energy that is inhuman in itself.

It is that very ugliness against which I self-medicated last night — an ugliness against which so many of us struggle.

Today, I renew my vow, I will continue to write a story, and I will imbue it with truth. The power of truth empowers us all.