Just because the law recognizes you as a human, doesn’t mean the rest of society will

11709740_10155849719340160_967153848676821655_n

“What’s next? The Supreme Court’s going to legalize marrying our dogs? Brothers? Disgusting. And now on top of it, Obama’s taking our dollars and throwing them into the hands of the –”

The infuriated aged man stops to take a deep breath, as if the words he were about to utter were so disgusting he needed to brace himself.

“The goddamn “poor”, he spits outs, the contempt in his tone loud to all.

My hand shook as I poured cream into my coffee, his words and anger both shocking and scaring me.

It was a riveting reminder I wanted to share with you all – a way, I suppose, for myself to make something beautiful out of words so ugly:

While great political wins have occurred, there is a still – and will always be a need – for cultural and psychological shifts. Not just towards the LGBTQ community, but towards every identity – from socioeconomic to racial and gender.

Just because the law recognizes you as a human, doesn’t mean the rest of society will. Don’t let talks of “equality achieved” render you deaf to other forms of inequality. Human equality isn’t some destination with a single linear path, but a part of the greater human narrative – story – whose ending we can’t know but we have a lot of power to influence. Her/History is a story that ends only when humankind ends.

At the same time, don’t despair. Stories do and can get better. People’s hearts and minds can and do change, particularly young people’s, who are the future. So learn, teach and communicate with those willing to respectfully listen and engage.

The future is beautiful and full of hope, but only if we realistically accept and approach the still – and always, so long as fallible humans exist – imperfect present.

“Mistakes” are actually the unexpected beautiful quirks that transform your planned semi-copy into You

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 5.56.59 PM

Painting this taught me again how sometimes “mistakes” are actually the unexpected beautiful quirks that transform your planned semi-copy into You.

That butterfly in the middle was a mistake. I accidentally applied too much black paint when I tried to replicate a very complex, intricate, and elegant design by somebody else. I thought I screwed up the painting and I gave up on it because I was disappointed. (“I paint to feel happy and relaxed, you dumb canvas. Not to feel like a failure again. Eff art! I want pizza.”)

I came back a little while later in that all blobbed up, brainless, relaxed-I-can’t-possibly-screw-up-my-life-any-more-so-let’s-eff-up-more-and-have-fun-with-it playful state, and lo-and-behold, hideous black blob trying to be somebody else began metamorphosing into butterfly.

But I didn’t notice what was happening because I was so absorbed in my blobby, brainless, happy state just playing away. Suddenly failure metamorphosed into playful, inspired experimentation.

The ceramic paint marker I abandoned after using it on a series of failed Christmas gifts (failed, because I forgot to dry each mug in the oven after and so the designs washed off after the first contact with water) I realized I could use to draw the intricate interior.

The supplies I received as gifts from two “failed” relationships added the sparkle and the color. My sister’s love on a day I felt anxious and sad added the gold (Sharpie pen paint).

The desire for validation created the black blob, but it also led to surrender when I once more failed to make up for past scars on my self-esteem by trying to be the perfect somebody else.

And as I stepped back to view the result – tired, bloated, but happy – I saw how long- ago heartbreaks and disappointments sought a canvas to create beauty instead of more pain via self-destruction.

I guess this piece taught me on an even deeper level that it’s not the canvas – the finished outcome – but the story behind it that creates the meaning, far more valuable of a thing than how perfect the piece turned out to be. And it’s that, to be honest, the story – the art’s story, your story, my story – that is why I doodle, why I write, why I do anything.

And when I remember it’s about the bigger story of me – us- the why and what did it all mean…I guess failure and success can’t really apply.

Now onto the next mind f***. I mean, piece.

To End Violence Against Women, End Violence Against Boys

A piece I wrote published in UC Berkeley’s The Chronicle of Social Change:

In her quest to achieve some semblance of justice in the world and in her own life, abuse survivor Rachael Kay Albers angrily sought refuge in feminism.

Until one day, she noticed an irony: In her aggressive approach to fighting for a more humane world, she was becoming like her abuser.

“I was becoming an angry, militant activist, simply participating in and replicating the greater cycle of violence,” Kay Albers said. “As I began to recognize some of my own abuser’s characteristics in myself, he turned from abuser to human. I started looking at these issues from a place of empathy and compassion.”

Like many social problems, gender-based violence stems from myriad root causes. From child abuse to cultures of violence, the intersections highlight how the common ‘oppressor versus oppressed’ narrative fails to paint the full picture.

Research conducted in 2010 by the International Center for Research on Women [ICRW] illustrates this complexity, demonstrating that a significant number of men who abuse their partners were themselves abused as children. The reverse is also true, by the way: most abuse victims do not go on to be abusers.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) referenced the study when she introduced H.R. 1340 – the International Violence Against Women Act – on March 6, 2015. Unlike its failed predecessor in 2010, it emphasizes engaging and helping boys and men.

“The fates of the two genders are intertwined; for women to thrive, men and boys must be part of the gender equality agenda,” said Gary Barker, co-founder of MenEngage, in a column for New America.

Often in global conversations, abuse is oversimplified into an us-versus-them issue. But as the ICRW study illustrates, such a depiction doesn’t accurately capture the whole story. By dichotomizing one party as good and the other as bad – male or female – it can prevent further exploration into the deeper roots of gender issues that could help make the world more humane for all.

The ICRW study notes men who abused their partners were often abused as children, it doesn’t take into account women are more likely to be child abusers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2013 Child Maltreatment Report published in January 2015, 53.9 percent of perpetrators were women while 45 percent were men.

Perhaps, then, the “solution” here is to simply accept there isn’t just one. Social problems are too grey for black and white diagnoses and solutions – the humans they involve, too vast for victim and villain.

Or as Kay Albers succinctly puts it: “We’ve all been socialized into accepting violence as normal. [We need] open spaces to have these conversations. Be open to dialogue…to learn and to self-reflect.”

https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/opinion/to-end-violence-against-women-end-violence-against-boys/10104

Painting Away Pain

Painting another canvas as a form of meditation. I’m trying to teach myself to focus on the process vs outcome – to relax and enjoy the journey – as I create both art and my life. So many self-critical thoughts emerge but once the brush hits the canvas, my mind goes blank and surrenders. Painting away old pain, you could say.

Visit my Etsy shop to view more designs like these and buy when the canvas is done: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HerSoulExpression. You can also email me at hersoulexpression@gmail.com if you wish to make a purchase.

From my soul to yours,

Sheena

There is a Difference Between Scar-Expression & Self-Expression

I want you to find me sexy. (Sexier than his new girl, most definitely.)

I want you to validate my views. (Because I can’t trust myself.)

I want you to think I’m smart and successful. (Because every second I’m reminded by this and this Person’s accomplishment that I am mediocre, at best.)

I want you to think I’m wise and charitable. (Because if I’m not that accomplished, at least I’ve got that whole Spiritual thing going for me, right?)

I want you to like me. (Because it’s so damn hard to like myself.)

—-There is a Difference Between Scar-Expression & Self-Expression

By Sheena Vasani

 

Green Sky

I wrote this last year during a stressful time I feared losing a loved one. I stumbled upon it again today and was grateful for the reminder.

10305427_10154743899310160_510614814176688720_n

I went for a walk. It’s been a hard week. I needed guidance.

An hour later, my search led me back to where I began – nowhere. I found nothing.

Defeated, I stood still.

Surrendering, I bared my heavy heart to the heavens, looking up only to find a green sky.

In the Hindu tradition, green is the color of the heart chakra.

Gently, Rumi’s “only through the heart can you touch the sky” whispers to me. I smile and understand.

Be still. Go in. Stop running to the outside. Face your heart and let her speak. Let her break, so that she may break open to receive love. There lies your answer.

Love is always the answer.

Letter to a Stranger: Published in The Elephant Journal

EJ Dear Stranger 500x500

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/02/letter-to-a-stranger/

Dear Stranger,

I don’t care about you—I care about You.

I don’t care about the small you that you think you are, that volatile sense of self the world has fed you, where you’re riding high on greatness one day and in the dumps the next, feeling abandoned by all. Your friends, like the 15 minutes of fame, adoration, societal approval, gone the next moment when the feelings fade, and something better walks along.

I don’t care who you are in relation to everybody else—the status you may hold, the money you may have, your looks, the influence, or even whether or you’re considered a “good” or “bad” person. I don’t care if you’ve gone to jail or if you’ve just won the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t care about what the world thinks of your potential, or lack thereof. I don’t care how far along or behind you are on the rat race, how together you seem.

I care about You, the you with a capital “y,” and who you are now as you journey through the paths that life bring at whatever pace you may need.

I like you for who you are now, not what you can be—although I know that you are capable of so much. I care about your heart, that fragile beautiful diamond whose value has not always been recognized in this cold, shut down world with all its messed up priorities and ways.

I care about that heart pain, about how it’s broken pieces feed your mind’s lies that you are not worthy, not loved, not enough, and I wish I could take them away. I care about those memories that shattered your innocence and belief in the world and yourself, in the beauty of your dreams, and I wish I could erase them all.

I care about that moment your heart closed—when he abandoned you, when she said no, when the fist met your face, when they laughed at you, degraded you, insulted you, or simply did not notice you. And I wish, I so wish, I could have been there, to catch your fall. I care about the child you used to be, how the world wasn’t there for that kid.

How the world now judges you for the physical manifestation of those mental scars when what you really need, when all you ever needed, is/was love.

I wish I could apologize on behalf of everybody.

I care about your soul and essence, the million tiny beautiful and not-so-beautiful things that make up the story of your life and the masterpiece you are. I believe in you and your innocence. I believe in second chances, that the burn was not the end but simply a part of the necessary fire in the never-ending growth of your phoenix soul.

In short, stranger, I believe in You. I love You.

If there is one thing you must take from this it is this: there is at least one person in this world who doesn’t give damn whether you’re the most successful, beautiful, together person in the world or that the only thing you accomplished today was getting out of bed. Who doesn’t care what the world might think, or what you’ve done, how many mistakes you’ve made, how many you’ve hurt out of your own in pain.

She still believes in you. She still loves you. She believes in your light, your purity, always.

You are loved.

Making the Struggle Count for Something Beautiful

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 6.16.01 PM

Today I felt quite soft and vulnerable so I doodled on a seashell and my hand for a few minutes. Still felt sad after but at least the pain was used to make beauty. I was glad for that. Because sometimes that’s all we can ask of life. That even if happiness is impossible to permanently hold onto, just make the struggle count for something beautiful. No matter how small.

And so today I am sad and scared and uncertain. But these little doodles, insignificant to all but my soul, saved the day. Because while I’m not happy, it meant something – namely that there’s more to life than being happy. There’s meaning, there’s beauty.

Maybe that’s enough.