Read an Excerpt
We Got Issues!
A Young Woman's Guide to a Bold, Courageous and Empowered Life
By Rha Goddess, JLove Calderón
New World LibraryCopyright © 2006 Rha Goddess and JLove Calderón
All rights reserved.
Breath In, Breath Out: My Life, My Health
I'm not your average girl from your video, and I'm not built like a supermodel, but I learned to love myself unconditionally, because I am a Queen.
Since when did our physical and emotional health and well-being come under attack?
From genetically modified foods to pollutants, our bodies are under attack by our environment. Our minds are under attack as well, by negative messages we've gotten from our families, mass media, and, unfortunately, ourselves.
How many women do you know who run themselves ragged (all for a good cause, mind you) until their bodies literally break down? We all know sisters who are sick and need medical attention, but don't have health insurance; they suffer through it, get a little bit better, and then go back to their crazy lifestyle and do it all over again. Why do we push ourselves so hard, and what will it take to get our temples back in shape? Are we not worthy of a little rest and relaxation?
I'll never forget when my good friend Joanna told me my stressful lifestyle was going to catch up with me one day. I was standing in our kitchen in San Diego, trying to cook an egg in five seconds flat so I could inhale it before running off to work at the homeless shelter.
Ten years later, after being diagnosed with gastritis, a pre-ulcer, and too many gallstones to count, I called Joanna and told her she was right. After doctors removed my gallbladder, I was laying in bed, popping Vicodin for the pain, when a former student visited me and started naming each of the twenty-plus stones they found; some of the names were of nonprofits I worked for, others were collectives I was part of, and a couple were people whose names I'd rather not mention. "I get the point, Rafael," I told him after he hit number seven.
In our fast-paced society, where Starbucks offers a caffeine-boost on every corner, it's no wonder that we young women are in overdrive, racing toward burnout. How much sense does it make rushing to get to yoga classes on time, only to be meditating on your to-do list instead of focusing your heart chakra?
I mean, look at me — it took losing an organ for me to slow down. It wasn't until I was lying on my sickbed, recovering from surgery, I had some time to reflect. I was finally able to hear my internal dialogue, and it sounded like this: "Who am I if I'm not doing something? Am I worthy of happiness when others have nothing?" Yes, ultimately it came down to self-worth. I had spent years putting everything and everyone before myself, and this was the result.
And that's just our bodies, but what about our minds ... one look at the billboards, magazine covers, and music video's and it is amazing that more of us are not going crazy! Seriously, where do they find these size 0's? And how many of us can afford the luxury of lipo, if you can call it a luxury to pay someone to cut you up and suck you up, all for the sake of fitting into a smaller pair of jeans. That's what's crazy here, that we have bought into this belief that we have to harm our bodies in order to be whole. Tits, ass, lips, toes, and now even designer vaginas! Is anything sacred?
Ladies, it is time to unplug and take an inventory of our physical and emotional state of being. When was the last time you got a massage or had a girls' night? What about just curling up in your favorite sweats with a cup of coffee and some chocolate and reading the book you bought two months ago but just haven't had the time to even look at? If you don't make time in your busy schedule to take care of your body and your mind, in time, your body will force you to pay attention; how many young women do you know who are already grappling with health issues from migraines to stomach problems?
Our health and well-being are paramount to living a good life. What we do to our minds and bodies inside is just as important as what goes on the outside. Are you sleeping well? Are you eating well? Are your relationships healthy?
Take this opportunity to create an ideal vision for your health. Forget about bra and panty size; think about what will give your skin that natural glow, and the spaces and places that fuel you inside.
We have dreams and aspirations to live out, so bite the bullet and schedule that annual physical. Then start to pay attention to how things make you feel, and when the answer is not good, do something different.
Oh, yeah, and one other thing — as life starts to pile even more on your plate, practice the art of saying "No!"
Alive for 31 years
In Seattle, Washington
Will be finishing BA this year
Married in September 2005 to the love of my life
Registered to Vote:
Jennifer Maya Sabogal
Jennifer Maya Sabogal has worked in the field of health for the past seven years. She has her associate's degree in holistic health care, has studied and implemented permaculture, and has trained and worked as a doula. Jennifer currently works at Planned Parenthood as a reproductive health specialist and abortion counselor and is completing her bachelor's degree at the New College of California. Her thesis, "The Reclamation of Our Reproductive Wisdom," is focused on the political, socioeconomic, religious, and environmental aspects of choice, responsibility, and reproductive sovereignty.
Several years ago, I witnessed a dear friend give birth to her baby boy in the home she had built with her partner. This experience, in contrast to the previous births I had witnessed in the hospital, brought me to my knees in awe. Seeing a woman trust her body to bring a child into the world awoke a deep remembrance. Women are powerful beings! The simple and powerful beauty of the cycle of life brought me to the place of working with women through this transitional time of choice. It was clear to me that this was a path I wanted to follow. When I arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I took a doula training course with Natural Resources and soon after started volunteering at Women's Choice Clinic. These two opportunities gave me experiences in being with women through pregnancy and birth as well as supporting women through abortion. I saw these as two sides of the same coin of choice. To become a mother or not is the right of every woman. I believe it is imperative that every child born is a wanted child. Every person born has the right to a healthy environment and community.
(1) What does health look and feel like? What does it mean to be a whole, healthy person?
I believe it has much to do with remembering our connection to the whole. We are interdependent beings. Our health is intimately linked to the health of the Earth, to the health of all beings, to the health of ocean, of soil, of air. Though our society creates the illusion that we are independent, separate creatures, the fact is we are intimately connected to every single cell on this planet. The same life-giving water that passed through the skin of dinosaurs now permeates our flesh and blood. To be whole is to be in balance with our bodies and environment.
(2) What holds us back from being the whole, healthy, vibrant beings we are? What influential presence pressures us to continue this unsustainable rat race?
The structure of our society tries to promote disease on every level of life. The divide-and-conquer mentality that created this country is still a strong force. We now divide from our families, the land, our bodies. We are bombarded with unrealistic demands from our society. From socioeconomic oppression, to corporations and industries spewing their poisons onto Earth and into our bodies, to the limited status quo ideas of what a real woman should look and act like, we are attacked by societal injustices and devastating images every day of our lives. In addition to this assault on our "freedom," we are destroying the Earth in the process. In the U.S., we consume more than a quarter of the world's resources while consisting of 5 percent of the population: a recipe for insanity.
(3) What are some of the common ways in which young women are unhealthy?
Some of the main causes of mental and physical disease in our culture have to do with the lack of community and our disconnection with nature, our family, and our bodies — how to be connected is not taught in our culture. What is taught is how to be a consumer, how to align ourselves with the machine of capitalism, how to be independent instead of interdependent. To heal this separation, we must remember how to cocreate community, how to honor each other, the Earth, and ourselves. Our bodies, like the Earth are to be honored and respected as sacred. Packaged and sold, the pieces of our soul long to unite. The Earth under our feet is alive and breathing. If we are to stand tall in our whole health we must acknowledge and integrate the health of the whole world.
(4) What are some ways we can start to reconnect with the health of this interdependent web of life?
First, slow down. These Western lives are so fast it's hard to feel what is going on. If we want to be actively involved in healing ourselves and the Earth, we must be still enough to listen to what our bodies are telling us, to what the Earth is sharing. When you hear what your body or the Earth is saying, write it down. Start a journal of your journey into health. Meditate, dance, pray, sing, or create art in your unique way. Let the ones in your life know how much you love them; let yourself know how much you love yourself. Plant a garden of food and herbs for nourishment. Check out projects that you can connect or intern with. Use the power of your intentions to create your life from this moment forward. Words and actions are mantras of manifestation; the more you read and incorporate into your life, the more this reality will be so.
We come into this world as powerful beings and quickly forget our innate wisdom. It is time to remember the beauty and magnificence of being a woman. Honor your blood, honor your cycles; we are the wise ones we have been waiting for.
Please know you are whole and perfect right now. What I mean when I say this is that there is always a place within you that remembers your perfection. Same with the Earth — there are always places on the Earth that are respected and honored in totality. The process is remembering our complete wholeness with this truth.
A New Hand Motion
by Kay Barret
I am looking at the woman next to me & she thinks I stick both my forefinger and middle finger down my throat.
My mother thought in high school when I fit into a skeletal size 0 that I tumbled forward into womanhood with my head in a porcelain toilet bowl, my chest heaved in the purge of a release.
Inside of my skin there was this toxic waste. It made all the cute boys shudder and because a cute boy was essential, I shook up my system with two fingers EVERY DAY after 5 o'clock dinner for two whole years of my life.
A swell thwarted in the core of my stomach. In mid-step I felt full. Full of all the wrong words ... of advertisements that paraded ill ideals of glossed white women on postered walls ... of everyone's eyes on a lust. Full of shadowed stories that could only be seen behind the doors of bathroom stalls and gagging noises while everyone else chattered during lunch. Full of muscle that built my temple spirit of a body that had to pour out the pounds of fat, DRILL OUT the pounds of waste with just a couple of strokes.
In retrospect, all of my anger had to be underneath my fingernails. The very first moment my fingers cruised the adventure of a woman in her billions of senses, hip bends, and wet hard glide ... I adored filling in the gaps for someone else ... not for myself. To complete someone with my hands and to cleanse myself with the same basic motion was a squinted blur: a loving person who coincidentally worshipped the "porcelain God." That was the joke in high school, everybody laughed.
The punch line was that I confused this with spirituality.
Appetites honed in on music beats, on martial arts sparring. All were away from my secretly wrapped safe perversion. With this, I hid my own curvature behind an empty frontline. My jabbing fingers lost their element of control. They slipped out of the grid of my windpipe after meals
and somehow somehow i got hold of a pen.
Kay Barret, ever-shifting sistren/brethren, and fighter and educator and poet, is a twenty-four-year-old, Filipina/Pinay Hapa, queer teaching artist who lives in Chicago. Her words have been thrown out of this world in places like Chicago Cultural Center, Hot House, Batey Urbano, and other spaces of resistance. Salamat to all the pamilya blessing strength each day.
The health care system wants my identity to become my illness. The system is not set up to help people get well and be successful. If I allowed the system to change me, I would never have my own identity or be successful. The system gave me one path, and the path was sickness. However, I empowered myself to create my own path for success to escape the system. — Nieta Greene, "The System"
by Elizabeth Brunner
I was strong. I never had any musical talent to speak of. My artistic aptitude was overshadowed by my physical tendencies, and my academically inclined mind just didn't shout that loud.
A twenty-foot fall plus bilateral calcaneus (heel) fractures (one open, one not), plus high hopes for recovery, equal traveling for three hours to find a surgeon willing to put them together again.
I was always strong. My body colored my relationship with the physical world. I knew that I could stand on my hands (or let someone else stand on my hands) for a minute or two. My back could double over like a python. My abs contained my reservoir of strength and my calves stood out at right angles when I rose on my toes.
Minus a year as an exchange student in Spain and my physical independence, equals one plate and twelve stainless steel screws.
Soccer, pole vault, Spanish web, trapeze, ring, sports acrobatics, hand balancing, and contortion — my days filled quickly. I was performing about a show a week.
Plus a broken scaphoid and a snapped second metatarsal, makes four broken limbs.
"How old is she, sixteen? Damn kids nowadays, I bet she was on drugs when she jumped off." If I had had a pec left to swing it, or if he had come a little closer, I would have connected my new cast to his fancy doctor's glasses. I had been volunteering for a political nonprofit when the rigging failed.
Minus thirty pounds of muscle, equals two hospitals, three surgeries, three wheelchairs, and many many books.
Without my main handshake, my exterior personality, I felt pity wafting my way. It smelled of defeat. I tried so many ways to swat away the pity, but it came in torrents. I built a new tent, one made of books and curiosity, of life experience and humor. After all, now I could pursue my supermodel career — if only I could ever walk in heels.
Minus my old calves, plus time and a few of those things that age you faster than you thought possible, equal a high school diploma at sixteen.
I ran a little last month. My legs are no longer silken tofu. When my activity level rises again, with it may come arthritis. But, hey — don't look at me like that! Eighteen months later, I'm just as strong, hell, twice as strong as I ever was before.
Elizabeth Brunner is a seventeen-year-old woman of German-Jewish descent who lives in Portland, Oregon. She is regaining her strength and looking forward to beginning college in fall 2006.
A Cancer Story
by Anda Maruta Sealey Hoadley Seale
My Aunt Vizma's funeral was on my fourteenth birthday. She died of ovarian cancer. After the funeral, cancer never left my family. Ten years later, my Mom, Brigita, found a pea-sized tumor in her breast. My mom found the tumor one month prior to my wedding but kept it a secret. I knew something had been bothering her ...
Mom had the tumor removed. Cancer disappeared from our family for a couple of years, but returned. Mom told us she had a tumor in her brain and lungs. The doctor gave her one year to live. She lived to meet my first son, Nathaniel, but passed away one month after his first birthday and four months before my second son was born. I hate cancer. When something good happens in my life, cancer rains on my parade.
Shortly after my mom's funeral, my mother-in-law told me about genetic testing for breast cancer. I didn't want to hear about cancer. I was doomed. I was going to die of cancer someday, but when? Who knows? Who cares? Why go ahead and get tested and let cancer rain on my parade again?
October 2005: I get tested for the BRCA gene mutation. It comes back positive. I have the gene mutation. I could die of breast or ovarian cancer. The genetic counselors advise me to let the information sink in. I do. What am I going to do now?
Excerpted from We Got Issues! by Rha Goddess, JLove Calderón. Copyright © 2006 Rha Goddess and JLove Calderón. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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