No More Masks

This is the last mask I will wear, the one called wife. It was never mine by choice but came hidden in a box with a ring.

How it clung to me, hid me, bent my will and my purpose until I no longer knew myself; my dreams drifting away on far flung currents.

Your joys became my joys, your interest-my interests, and I smiled because I loved you, did my duty by by you and the family. But the family shrunk away until it was just you and me and the boy.

What was fun? I washed my 1000th dish, smashing it just to hear it break. What was joy? I fold away another mountain of laundry that will appear again the next day.

The boy made me laugh and in him I remembered joy and fun. He was full of monkey tricks and more wisdom than I will ever fathom. Such a mind behind those chocolate brown eyes, such a heart of strength and love.

He is grown, and you are gone, and this mask called wife lays in tatters, torn as it was from me by a hundred punishments. But you were not the only villain. In pretending that we were happy I committed the ultimate betrayal, the betrayal of myself.

I Go Bravely

I go bravely even though all my cards are played, my house has fallen, my love is broken, and I stand here naked as a babe in the snow. I am blue with the cold of my vulnerability, yet I stand head held high before my demons daring them to come and take me. Is this bravery, this slow suicide we women face because we dared to say no, take a stand, and then find ourselves alone in the elements with no place to turn? If so I’ll choose this death over the suffocation of your fine cage. You were master, punisher, with holder of love, but no more. I have freed myself and in going free I have taken flight into the chasm of the vast unknown, knowing only that my heart still beats and tomorrow will come wether I have the strength to join it or not. Though my parachute will catch no air and my wings have lost their feathering I will take this fall believing it is better to break and be reborn then to remain whole and unchanged. I go bravely into this world without the insurance of a good life, but with a life, my life, held, captured, grasped tightly in my own two hands.

Introducing a New Voice, my friend Pearl Grace.

Waters of Life


Flow through life like water
Continually moving
Never conforming to a certain shape other than your own
Glisten with the sun
Stir with storms
Drink the rain
Fluidly, glide through rapids
Shoot down the waterfall
Rest in the stillness
And keep flowing
-Pearl Grace

It is an interesting type of funny when you realize that you’re really not alone in experiencing life.  Life keeps life-ing all over all of us.  It is easy to become blinded to the truth.  The truth that everyone has a journey and every journey has mountains and valleys.  We have a lot more in common with each other than we know.  

Each and every person is a phenomenon.  

Beautiful, vibrant souls with hearts that beat, emitting infinite shades in a full spectrum of color.

Day to day.  Moment to moment.  It shifts.  A fluid kaleidoscope of feelings, emotions and thoughts.  Our own internal river.  The very essence of our being. 

Life has its mountains and valleys.  Twists, turns and rapids of turmoil.  Waterfalls where we fly off the edge, free fall down and get sucked under into the eddy below.

This eddy is the place we get stuck.  The weight of the falls continually flow forcefully, downward; holding our heads underwater.  Spinning in the current, around and around; like laundry in a washing machine on rough cycle.  It’s so fast and strong, it feels like we’ll never get out.  Once in a while it eases up and we attempt to escape, but can’t kick our legs fast enough before the tentacles whip out. Snatching us back in.

One of the worst ways to die, in my opinion, would be to drown.  Based on my observation, others would agree.  I see you.

You are the ones who keep fighting and holding your breath to survive.  Realize, if and when you feel weak, lesser, down or angry with yourself, that the opposite of what you are feeling at that moment is true.  You are some of the strongest, most courageous people walking the earth–phenomenons. 

I was asked a question, recently, “if I could write my whole story in its entirety, what is the one, singular, most burning question I would want answered?”

I’d want to know how I haven’t died 9,000 times already!

Think about yourself.  See yourself, what you’ve endured and give yourself some damn credit!

Even though, the water is still a bit murky from all the mud that was spun up, you eventually make it out.  Totally exhausted, floating on your back to the bank where the water becomes clear and still.

When you reach that place and stand up to walk out, something beautiful will catch your eye.

When you see it, you will know.

Take time to gaze in amazement, because what you’ll be looking at will be peering back into your eyes.

This is your most precious rescue…

It’s the reflection of the authentic you.  Being free to simply be. Exactly as you are.  

I believe that this is the journey we all have in common as we live, lose ourselves and eventually come to find ourselves.

I believe that this is the journey we all have in common as we live, lose ourselves and eventually come to find ourselves.

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Feet on bricks that don’t give, hand on door that won’t open without resistance. No peace, no love, no freedom, just him, them, their schedule, their wants, and needs. “Don’t contact me, I have boundaries. You don’t have boundaries.” So silence between mother and son stands as dividing sentry that says do not cross this line again. They were friends once, mother and son, but no more. Single mother with a paycheck son called mom so the two became one as often happens when there is no relief from one another. Boundaries are a new thing to the boundary-less, the used and owned mother so used to selfless serving that she didn’t know that she could state a need and have it heard.

In the beginning, she had said, “no marriage, no children, no houses, no home, I want the world.” And the man, the boy’s father had said, “marriage, children, homes, the world is mine, and you will serve me as I climb vast glittering corporate towers, and fly in jets to all the places you have spoken of seeing, but I’ll go without you.” So the mother waited, grew to grieving for her life, for her future, for the love she sought but did not find, and the child grew and learned to hate her.

The husband grew as well, he grew old, he found no joy in wife or child so he grew busy, sedentary, gray in hair and skin until he was old, old, before 50. The wife watched, trapped in the poverty of marriage where the man holds the cash and pinches the budget and ignores the wife who still serves the boy who always needs but now hates and she is, is what, a ghost in the wake of her youth standing in a kitchen with no one to cook for, mocked for her table cloths too rich, too fine, for saying silverware when she’s meant to say flatware, derided because once she had wished for so much more.

She’d been in college before the man came. But now her hair is gray, her mind slowed by the endless repetition of mother goose, Dr. Seuss, all those cats in their hats, all those endless rhymes, rhyming nothings, so good for the boy, so bad for her who’s mind had wished to wander, but now just wanders, lost over shopping lists, birthday gifts, and the other sundry of simple nothings that weaken the brain and kill the soul. If she got in the car, where would she go? If she made camp under a bridge who would miss her? A cloud breaks and for one brief moment the shy Seattle sun peaks through filling her eyes with light that teases but will not last.

Just Us

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How little a thing we are when we first begin to be a thing at all. Little breaths, babies’ breaths and babies’ tears, babies’ coos, the little things that define the undefined, the unmolded yet unique being called us. Oh delicious, soft fat arms, milk sent in the fold of chubby necks, the sweet pink of soft cherry cheeks. The us in us is fragrant with possibilities folded into jumpers and onesies and serenaded by a cacophony of vowels and consonants into a guttural noise that means us: Mary, George, Jane, Robert. We hear the sound that means us and we smile or scowl in rotation depending if we want to be wanted or are vexed to be disturbed. Silly brilliant things are names we wear like crowns defining ourselves by them as they define us to the world. Mary Ellington George St. Mari, would be as sweet if she were Jane, just Jane.

As baby bloom lengthens to childhood’s bumpy first steps the toddler emerges with creased brow and declares NO! NO I shan’t! No, I couldn’t possibly! No to everything you say. Simply NO! And little arms are crossed and little heads are shaken in resolute defiance, the simple NO sufficient in its rebellion. I am me, we all cry out. I shan’t, I won’t, I flatly refuse. The beauty of saying No, of being naughty, the tasty succulent delight of owning oneself fully and wholly in the now. NO! We cry, NO! But soft months that creep on cajoling or disciplinarian feet teach us to be pliable, polite, reasonable, inoffensive and sociable. So, we blend, we merge, we become one with society until our sacred self, our defining NO becomes a thing we no longer hold in our hand but have given, somehow, away to the masses.

And how we love the masses. We want them to love us back as we run to catch the ball, hoping it was thrown to us, wanting to hear our melodious syllables called out, here to me Jane. Let’s play Charlie. You are my best friend Mary. We run to the others, are polite and pliable, becoming not so much an us as a we. The we is a many legged creature which stumbles and tumbles through girlhood and boyhood raising one we up, as it throws one we down, decrying that this we was rude, and that we was wonderful, and don’t we all agree that the brown eyed we is awfully good looking in his new jacket? And we clutch to our we’s as they roll us about, spitting us out, taking us up, including, excluding, laughing, and rebuking, until the entire thing is smashed by the something called two.

And so goes us, so goes we, now there is you, and now there is me. A touch of the hand, a catch of the eye, I brush back your hair, your hand touches my thigh. We are sighs on summer breezes, kisses on grassy lawns, hands held between classes, stolen kisses on shadowed porches, a hand slipped up under a shirt. And the yearning grows and grows until we are no longer children but grown grasping things alive and alight with living. We say hello, we say goodbye, hearts break, tears dry, we part, we come together, we lose sight only to find one another once again in a different city, in a different time when laughter lines our eyes.

And if we are smart, we have found our NO! Stomped our foot, said hell yes to all the right things and hell no to all the wrong. We’ve held our own children and set them firmly on their feet. Only to linger now in this kind light of long ago loves and look, just look into each other’s eyes. I who was me, you who were you. And we hold our coffee cups in our knotted hands and remember how brilliant it is to be…just us.

Eternal Spring

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

I believed then, that I would feel young until I was properly old. I knew without doubt that I would travel, climb mountains, ride horses from castle to castle and understand the intricacies of life. I would know interesting people, have close intimate friendships, and that together we would raise our kids and laugh over memories shared through photos of smiling bright eyed children. The holidays would be huge, children, aunties, uncles, moms, dads, old friends and new. My sister would be there. She would always be there and the sun would shine on our Easter egg hunts and we’d laugh, how we would laugh as baskets were filled with colorful eggs. In these made up sunshine memories I never worry about my hair or my makeup or the clothes I have chosen for the day. Bra straps never slip and the children are always happy. Happy just to be. Sometimes in the evening after dinner dishes are cleared away my sister and I  walk in the rose garden and listen to my son play something melodious and timeless on the piano, the sound drifting on a warm spring breeze scented with roses, lilac, and daphne.

I feel myself  take her hand and kiss her cheek and remember when the nurse held her up to the nursery glass so I could see my small baby sister, new and pink in the world. The dream house I live in is always stone. It is a mountain of foreverness, unmovable, unshakable, invulnerable to time and trouble. There is no noise save the music of Duncan’s piano, the warble of an evening bird preparing for sleep, the distant snort of a horse in a pasture far away. We walk unburdened by debt and time’s many troubles toward an evening that promises deep restful sleep and a happy tomorrow. And in the morning sweet spring wakes us with birdsong, the scent of fresh coffee seeping in under our bedroom doors until feet touch down on cool clean oak plank and we are up, wrapped in colorful robes, plaid pajamas, rosy cheeked and bright eyed from the rest, in truth, that only children know. In my dreams I am always young, always draped in bright cheerful colors, always surrounded by my beautiful loved ones. In my dreams I am happy.

 

The Caretakers

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The Killien Mansion during the Lauzon family ownership, circa 1935.

“The council agreed to send a letter of condolence to Mr. F. Killien, though no one knows what he was to be consoled for. Someone in his family must have died,” Gail of the historic society said, reading from the Lowell city council meeting dating from the 1930’s. “They don’t send out letters like that unless there was a death.” That would make a third, I thought, looking around the old home which had been built by Mr. F. Killien for his family in 1924. I hadn’t anticipated a death in his family.

I knew the Smiths (the home’s third owners) had lost a daughter, the Bevers (the fourth owners) had lost a grandmother but now a Killien had died, quiet probably in my old home. I felt the secret twisting under my rib cage as I said goodbye to Gail, the crowned queen of Lowell, the local town historian who has dedicated her life to preserving the memory of the old logging town and its people, three of which had been mourned in the very rooms I now occupy. Funny old house. I pat it like a friendly dog I hope won’t turn and bite. I haven’t told my son about the grandmother who died in the sun room or the young miss who died in the southwest bedroom and I won’t tell him about this unknown Killien either, this condolence that has yet to have a face or a name.

When we first bought the house, it was a tear-down. The roof was caving in, ferns grew from rotten soffits, and the gutters hung from falling fascia boards, no longer catching or moving water. Water is a constant in Western Washington, the rains fall for months without stopping. It undermines foundations, peels away paint, rots wood, and erodes mortar from brick. But the house was beautiful, it was stately. Even in its disrepair it was instantly our home. Set over three lots on a shy half acre it was priced at only a little over its land’s value. We’d have been fools not to buy it, fools not to invest in a growing urban area, fools not to restore the massive home known as the Killien Mansion. But the deaths hung on the home like a cold blanket that would never feel warmth. The home was unhappy and it need to be cleansed.

I lit a candle for the grandmother and a second for the young Miss. I stirred charcoal into the wax and left them to burn out. I said prayers for the dead and salted the windows and doors. I set holy water in a crystal bowl and prayed over it in the sunshine before blessing every window and door in the names of all who are holy. I lit sage and walked through every room, every closet, every hallway, letting the smoke and my prayers cleanse away the past. People have died under my roof and people have been born under it. Infants have grown into children, and children have grown up and grown old, having laughed, loved, and been mourned in their passing. I too plan to spend my life in this home. To live in it until I live no more and this new condolence, this new passing will require a new candle. Who was she or he? What happened?

I know the grandmother made stew. I used to smell it when she came into a room. Sitting all alone the room would fill with the scent of beef stew and I would know that Mrs. (as we came to call her) was paying me a visit. Mrs. also liked the thermostat kept at 64 degrees. I like the house warmed to 68, yet every morning the thermostat was turned down to 64. My husband swears he never touched it.

Now that the house is cleansed it is lighter, happier, free in a way it didn’t feel before. The beef stew scent is gone and the cold blanket feeling has lifted.  I’ve done everything I can for the ones who passed here. I’ve cared for their home and I’ve cared for them, even if from the other side of where they now rest. And even without knowing who Mr. F. Killien received condolence for, I will light a candle for him or for her and pray they have found peace.

Mr. F. Killien standing outside the sun room of the Killien Mansion, Circa 1930.

frank killien by sun room2

You’re Crazy

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“You’re crazy…you’re really crazy…you are aren’t you…” the woman stared at me, her eyes studying my face. “You really are aren’t you.” I looked back at her, confused. Christ, I was sitting in my new Audi wearing a grey turtle neck and holding my toy spaniel, yet there it was. Somehow, in some way, she had identified me as not OK. “Yep, totally certifiable,” I joked back, wishing to god this awkward moment would pass.

She’d come to the car to see my dog who is, I must admit, irresistible. A quick exchange of niceties had followed and then this glazed over moment when she searched my face and proclaimed me insane. I didn’t do anything to start this. I was just being me; just being a mom dropping off her son while holding a lapdog in a silver Audi, yet like puff the magic dragon my crazy had managed to make itself known. Or had it?

This is not the first time this has happened to me. In reality, crazy has been a lifelong companion. It was how my certifiably unstable mother undermined me from a very young age. I remember standing on my neighbor’s porch imagining a story I was telling myself only to be pulled out of it by my mother, appearing like a black cloud from nowhere, saying, “Don’t move your lips when you think, you look like a crazy person.” Later, while splashing in the bathtub I announced my wish to be president of these United States. “Don’t be crazy,” Mother answered, “You’re a poor white girl without an ivy league family. You will never be president.” I was maybe five? Yet the worst was the thousands of different times she and dad said, it’s fun to dream but if you think you’ll ever be anything, you’re crazy, in a thousand different ways over several decades.

Crazy morphed into, Emotional. Emotional became you’re too Sensitive, followed by Fractious, Unreasonable, Weak Minded, Fickle, Touchy, Confused, Flustered, Unbalanced, Irrational, Difficult, Hysterical, Crazy. You’re a crazy girl. Just crazy, girl. Too crazy to be anything!

All of these words have followed me like ribbons knotted in my hair and it’s taken decades to comb them out. And now I’m rich and loved and happy and successful and sitting in my Audi hearing, you’re crazy all over again.

It’s true what they say about your past. If you run from it, it will find you. Even on a good day, a best day, even when your hair is perfect and you’re dressed well, it’ll get you . It’ll sink its teeth into you and it will try to make you bleed. Today it used a closed minded, utterly vapid little rule follower, and it took her wholly and completely.  Like a faithful little puppet, vacant eyed and hungry for the answer as to how I’d got away for so long, crazy unleashed itself in words that flew like dull arrows and missed their mark. Even repeated again and again I felt nothing. No pain, no embarrassment touched me. I stared back in confusion until even the possessed felt the strangeness of the moment and snapped out of it. She said a few more niceties before walking away leaving me stunned. “Well that was fucked up,” my son said and he was right. It is fucked up to tell someone that they are crazy. What made the bite painless this time is the reality that I know I’m sane because I know who I am.

Crazy has been used for centuries to undermine women, homosexuals, rule breakers, and artists all over the world. To call someone crazy is to label them as rebellious, broken, shattered, irreparably insane. Lunatic is another word used to undermine individuality. The word itself is derived from Luna or Moon meaning that a woman on her moon cycle or menstruating was a lunatic when the P.M.S. kicked in.

Women were locked up in asylums for being hysterical. Hysteria is a nineteenth century feminine affliction involving anxiety, depression, overt sexuality, and mood swings. Hysteria was oftentimes remedied with a hysterectomy. (Hystera is the Greek word for uterus if you’re wondering.) So, to recap, we passionate types have been labeled as broken, been “negatively” afflicted by the moon cycles, and driven mad by our own uterus’s to the point where doctors removed them.

So why were woman and the marginalized so afflicted? Because their energies and purpose where stifled. They were allowed no personal exploration, could find no personal fulfillment, and were allowed no personal expression. They were wholly confined to the social norms they were born into.  Thankfully, things are so much better now. We are moving towards personal equality and it’s a beautiful time to be alive.

Equality isn’t women lording it over men, grabbing them by the penis and elephant walking them into a submissive and powerless future. Equality is simply the return of an ancient symmetry; the symmetry of the sacred female and the sacred male. These two, when brought together make a perfect unit. Stable like a triangle, they lean on one another in equality.

Gay or straight, a balanced couple is a couple where both individuals have a balance of the sacred male and sacred female energies within each one of them. Sacred female is the energy of intuition, compassion, sensuality, and unconditional love. It’s an energy that when embraced balances the male energy away from toxic masculinity into a more open and peaceful masculinity that is beautifully powerful. Sacred masculinity is the energy of compassion, relational integrity, emotional intelligence, fatherly guidance, and leadership from the heart.  And the sacred feminine doesn’t demand that woman set aside their femininity but encourages them to embrace it, love it, honor it.

As we move away from gender identification, and socially enforced gender rolls, we will move instead toward a more classical, creative, and open style of living where we will again create the golden age spoken of in Egyptian hieroglyphs, and by Plato and Socrates. And in this new renaissance we will be able to let go of labels like lunatic, hysterical, and crazy, because radical individuality will have simply become the norm.

I don’t know why that woman called me crazy. I did nothing to call her attention towards me. But maybe my own individuality stood out to her as too different, too free.  Maybe some deeply awkward part of her was trying to use the crazy label to push me back into my place. Thankfully, I live in a time when it’s OK to stand out and be different.

To read more about gender discrimination through labeling others as crazy, read, A Brief Yet Fascinating History of the Word Crazy by Amanda Montell 

My Mustard Seed

eeorme

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If you had bumped into me seventeen years ago you would have met a deeply depressed person. I was sick and tired of existing and I wanted off this rock. My level of despair was paralyzing. So what to do when you feel washed up at twenty-four? For me the answer was…a hypnotherapy class?

I remember walking into the classroom (a remodeled second story room over the garage) and wondering why in the hell I was bothering. My PTSD was so bad at this point that my anxiety came over me in waives, crushing me with panic attacks so severe that I often felt as if I was dying moment by moment.

Hypnotherapy class was…different. I met neat people, I learned about meditation, trance work and how easily humans are led through the power of suggestion. (We are predictably irrational creatures) I also learned what manipulation looked like and how…

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Put A leash on It

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“Get off my property. You don’t pay my taxes, and put my rock back.” I point to the granite boulder I purchased months before to stop people parking on my land. “I’ll put it back,” the man said, pulling it from where he’d wedged it behind his truck tire. “I’ll put it back. I’ll put it back where your property begins and city property ends.” The boulder falls at me feet, the man smirks and walks away leaving his truck on my lawn. “Get your fucking truck off my lawn I yell.” My husband walks with me, I hold my older dog in a carrier near my chest, my puppy is grasped in my husband’s arms. I feel vulnerable, angry, and anxious.

This isn’t the first go around, I’ve been in other land fights, lost land in adverse possession, seen my husband slugged in the face for walking his own acreage and I’m angry, I’m so angry that I won’t back down. The man says something else about my land being city land. “We’ve been to the city. We own all the land to the road. You don’t have the right to park on our lawn. Get the fuck off our land or I’m calling my lawyer,” I yell. The man starts in about family rights, how when his grandmother owned our house he parked where he liked. “There’s this thing called real-estate. When your family sold this land, they surrendered, the rights to it you dumb fuck. Call your lawyer if you want to prove you have the right to park on my land,” my husband counters. I follow the man who walks down the alley at the back of my property watching him as I make my way to my back door. He stops and looks down at me. “Keep walking fucker,” I yell. “Your people don’t own this land anymore so stay the fuck off it.”

“Keep walking,” my husband adds coming up to stand beside me. The man looks at Dan and then at me. “Put a leash on your pit bull, man,” his eyes move from me to my husband before he continues on down the back alley towards his rental.

This is the second time this year that a man has told my husband to put a leash on me for speaking out, for voicing my rage. “Put a leash on it,” were the words the other man used. He had been a friend who stopped by after therapy, triggered out of my mind. He sat in my sun room talking about his need to shoot Muslim women for eating in our local bake shop. I confronted him, asked him how he could feel entitled to shoot locals for wearing scarves over their hair while eating cake. “After all,” I added, “doesn’t shooting innocent woman over their dress code make just as big a fucking monster as the Taliban?” Turning from me to my husband this friend of several years told him to, “put a leash on it!” before getting up to leave.

No one has ever told me to leash my husband. He’s told other men to fuck off in corporate meetings. He’s fought hard and fought back in every verbal and legal war we have ever entered into together. He’s been hit, gone to court, stood beside me while we got restraining orders against aggressive neighbors and countered our ex-military friend for talking violence against women and yet no one ever said, put a leash on it with regards to his behavior.

I’m not meek, I’m not demur. I’ve seen where those two passive modes of conduct lead people. I don’t look away from a problem and I don’t back down. I will take down a two-hundred-pound man if he threatens my home. I will sue anyone who trespasses on my land. I’ve voiced my rage over violence against prostitutes, inviting the drunk asshole who talked violence against sex workers to come see just how fast a pretty cocksucker can take down a drunk ass motherfucker in the parking lot. But even that bastard didn’t tell my husband to, put a leash on me.

Nowhere in history has it been “FUN” to be feminine. Even as I child I was told not to raise my voice or talk back to little boys because someday they would be priest of the church, men, fathers, leaders.

Life has taught me that demure woman are dead women, broken women, silenced women. I heard the stories, memorized them, watched them remembered in whispered tones, listened while the women of my family discussed a wedding where a rape attempt went unnoticed for proprieties sake. Grandma had stood on the other side of a door calling her oldest daughter’s name begging her to come out, knowing full well that she was fighting off a man twice her size. Why didn’t you fight with her? Why didn’t you open the door and fight? I asked. “I didn’t want to embarrass him on his wedding day,” Grandma answered. An hour later that would be rapist married Grandma’s youngest daughter. No one put a leash on my aunts second husband, no one did a thing.

I love men. I love women. I fucking hate this prissy society that says be inoffensive, keep your mouth shut, cover up and keep your head down or you’ll get what’s coming to you. I hate the parents who tell their children to cover their shoulders and dress down or people will think they are flirtatious. I hate all societies that tell women to cover up so they don’t entice, enchant, encourage admiration. And I hate everyone who says to turn the other cheek, that what’s done is done, to forget, dry your eyes, move on.

If someone trespasses in your life, back them down. If someone touches you inappropriately, knock them back, if someone hurts you, string them up in a court of law. If your daughter or sister, son or brother is screaming on the other side of a door, break it down. And if you are broken in the fight, remind yourself that it’s better to die on your feet than live as someone else’s bitch.