When I was 5 I asked my daddy for a pair of roller skates. I had seen the big roller skating rink in our town and I had seen the boys and girls who went there every Saturday. I had also watched roller derby and admired the fast sassy ladies who battled and elbowed their way around the rink every weekend night. I wanted to learn to skate. Daddy ignored my plea. One day after my incessant harassment my dad told me I could not go to the skating rink. He told me he would buy me a pair of skates but I was not allowed to learn at the skating rink. He sadly told me the color of my skin refused my admission. It was that day my daddy had to explain to his 5 year old black daughter the state of affairs in the country where we lived. I was 5.
Childhood is supposed to be a time of innocence; a time of play and make believe. It is supposed to be a time when all is possible and everywhere is explorable. At 5 I learned for little black and brown children in America that was not the case. I learned I had to be aware. I had to be careful and I had to know where it was safe for me to go.
My parents became my parents in the era of Jim Crow, a time when black citizens were restricted and denied freedoms allowed to whites. It was a time when the back of the bus was reserved for those with dark skin; a time when the closest restroom was on the side of the road behind a tree. It was a time when restaurants denied service solely based on skin color. It was a time of fear. The day of my birth my daddy knew I needed to be educated to my reality at an early age. He had to keep me safe. That was then and this is now.
I listen as friends with young black sons are facing this reality in a new time. They are now giving the speech to their young sons and daughters with different but similar realities. Yes we are now free to eat in restaurants, sit anywhere on a bus, seek opportunities that are more available and we are allowed to learn to skate. However, our sons and daughters continue to be marked. My black friends are telling their young sons and daughters how to dress, how to speak and how to act in a world that has already determined who they are because of the pigment of their skin. My friends are not telling their children of the kindness of “Joe” the corner police officer but they are now telling them how to keep their hands in plain sight if they are stopped by “Joe” the corner policeman. They are telling them how to say sir or mam. They are telling them by all means Don’t run. Some things change but some things remain the same.
I once had a very close friend ask me why I had to write about race. I thought about his question for months. When one speaks of priviledge that word comes to mind when I try to formulate an answer to my friend’s question. A white face in America can disguise itself anyway that it wants. No one knows if it is the face of a liberal, conservative, gay, straight, or any thing else. A white face can hide and be anonymous. A white face can go into a store and not be followed by a clerk. A white face can go about its day and usually does not have to wonder if a slight or mistreatment is racially motivated. As a friend once said “I don’t think about being black when I am lying in my bed or in my home but I better damn well be thinking about it when I step out of my front door.” For myself as well as others, we do not have the priviledge of not thinking about or writing about race as it is a part of who we are and necessary for our survival.
For many black boys and girls there was a joy watching Barack Obama become the first brown president. It made the thought possible that maybe all is possible and the world has changed. If only for that moment it seemed a reality. As America shifts and struggles with its desire to fight change at all cost, to make America great and to close borders to the many wanting to search for their piece of freedom, the feeling of Jim Crow remains very close on the periphery. Someone once said if we do not remember our history, we are doomed to repeat it. So yes I write about race. I talk about race so the skating rink will remain a possibility for all.
It is early and my dad has called me for pain medication. I am awake now and pondering life and how damn hard it can be. I head to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee knowing sleep for now has come to an end. I am sad about my dad’s frailty and often frustrated at his need for increased care. This was the man that made the world safe for me. He has been my rock and my anchor. It was my dad who looked in the closet at night making sure the boogie man was gone. He was the man who tucked me and my 20 dolls into bed at night. Now I watch as he navigates from his wheel chair enduring pain. I hate this part of life but know it is a necessary part that we all have to come to terms with. No matter how many retreats I do or books I read change is always hard.
It has been said that the only thing constant is change. Even when we think we are in the safety of stability there is always a wind around the corner to knock us off course and take us out of the world of our comfort. Nothing stays the same. It is during these times we must allow ourselves to feel our discomfort and grief. We accept the tears that come and allow the vulnerability. It is during these times that we must ask for help. We need community and those who love us. We need their unconditional care and support and we must be willing to offer it to others in time of need. It is during this time that I see the fragility and preciousness of life. I see and feel that now I do not have the luxury of wallowing in what ifs or regrets. It is now or never to live life and be at peace with what may come.
There are times when I wonder if I am doing enough, if I am doing too much or if what I am doing is even appreciated. I think of my own life and wonder how I will age, how will I meet the change when I can no longer maneuver at the speed of lightening? How will I speak to those caring for me? Will my frustration get the best of me? I wonder how I will feel about all of the worrying I did that amounted to nothing. I think about what kind of legacy I will leave and how I will accept my aging body. We live in a world where youth and beauty are to be sought forever. We live in a world where we put our aged folks in nursing homes sequestering them from the rest of an active society. We forget the great wisdom that comes with aging. We forget that the elderly are some of our most valued assets. We do everything in our power to fight the onslaught of age with hopes that we too will remain forever beautiful. One day we look in the mirror and we realize the fight was all for naught as we realize that yes we have become old.
We must call upon our compassion as we navigate the road of aging for ourselves and our loved ones. Two days ago, I overheard my dad speaking with one of his caregivers. When she asked how he was, he briefly responded “I am doing OK. I was just born too early.”
I sit here in a small village in Cuba where it has been raining for the past few days. My mind wanders to my home in the states and to my family and friends. My mind also wanders to my own insecurities and fears and to those of many friends and acquaintances. Many of us have been so indoctrinated to believe our insecurities and doubts are real. They often become the things that paralyze us. Some of us have been surrounded or have been involved with others who not only do not have our best interest at heart but feel threatened by our very existence.
Sadly, in life there is hurt. We will unintentionally hurt others and they will hurt us. What we do with the hurt determines whether or not we survive and become whole or fall to our insecurities and fears. It is the strength and the courage in us to forgive and meet others with compassion. It is for us to become the people we truly can be and be an example of what love and acceptance can look like. Often times others come at us from a place of hurt with all of the fury and pain they can mete out. This is the time we must stand in our power and allow them to have their pain and hurt but we no longer are a target. We place our boundaries, draw our line in the sand and reach to love them with a long arm but they no longer get to hurt us. Those we love can hurt us in ways that are unimaginable and can be the ones to cause our hearts to split but with the courage we have we can keep right on marching towards wholeness
This morning I thought about love. I thought about the feelings we identify as love and how we sometimes give these feelings so easily to another but fail to give them to ourselves. I wondered how and why we get love so confused and why it causes so much ecstacy or agony. I also think of the feelings of anguish when we feel love is taken away or manipulated in some form or fashion. We are told someone is supposed to love us til death we do part and nothing is supposed to change. We are not expected to grow. We are expected to see another as the one to make us happy and whole. Many of us begin to feel in order to love we must own. The object of our love should belong to us and we should belong to them. We forget to give some love to the one who needs it most, ourselves.
Self care is self love. Unfortunately in the arena of love there are those willing to take without the desire or the ability to give. In our need to feel love, we often give away our power to those more than willing to take. It often leaves us feeling depleted knowing something is wrong but lacking the ability to see the problem. We lose track of us while living a life that truly is not ours. We become emeshed feeling that if we truly love we must give our selves completely to another. We see us through another’s eyes. Self care and self love is the ability to recognize when it is time to take care of our mental, physical and spiritual needs. It is the ability to recognize when we need a break, a rest, a vacation or just to say no. It is the ability to see ourselves as whole and complete individuals.
Authentic love is not one sided. In order to love we must be vulnerable and willing to let the other see our wounds and we are witness to theirs . Often in the early stages of lust or infatuation, we convince ourselves that this is love. We are high on the aphrodisiac of lust. To love deeply and truly is to want the best for another without the need for retribution or hurt when we feel we have been wronged. Love can bring confusion and sometimes can get ugly. It is a difficult thing to mix the human ego with what is supposed to be “unconditional love.” We use the term of “unconditional love but do we truly possess the ability as humans to love another without condition or do we snatch our love away when one does not conform to our standards? To love another without condition is to love them as they are even if we are unable to live together within the confines of a home or relationship. We are able to offer our love, comfort and care and acceptance all along maintaining our own personal boundaries. We offer a hand, an ear or a shoulder. To love another without condition or judgement is a difficult task for most of us. We often seek revenge and hold our grudges until we feel justice has been served. We become the judge, jury and executioner all in an effort to coddle our hurt egos. We must understand that only through loving and putting our best self forward are we able to meet others on the path towards understanding and genuine full love.
When we hurt the ones we love, there may be a heavy price to pay. We may lose them forever. We also may make it possible for them to walk a path towards self knowledge that would not have been possible another way. The unfortunate part of being human is that we are not perfect and that we will make mistakes, we will cause pain and we will experience pain. It is with this knowledge that we must have compassion for ourselves and others. We cannot walk a true path towards our real selves if we are walking on egg shells of avoidance or in efforts to make others happy.
Many of us live in fear of rocking the status quo. We do not want the challenge and prefer to live in our silent desperation of comfort. We know deep in us there is more but we are content to live in our world of avoidance. We feel if we dull these feelings of discontent whether with excessive drink, material consumption, technology, etc. eventually we will ride out the boredom that we feel. We look at those around us fixated on their phones or strutting along with bluetooth devices attatched to their heads and wonder about human connection. It is a sad sight to see those so engrossed in their outside world they fail to connect with the person sitting in front of them. There used to be a time when only physicians were on call in case of emergencies. Now it seems we are all on call and need to be reached no matter where we are. Couples now reach for the computer first thing instead of reaching for the one lying beside them. It has become more important to know what is outside of ourselves than what is inside. We have ceased to connect. To connect with what is inside scares us as we may have to look at the truth of our lives and come to terms with who we truly are. Looking inward may cause us to question our reality, might shake us to our core and cause a host of problems we feel we are not ready to confront.
Humans are hardwired to believe there can be only one way. We watch the path of others before us and feel this is the tried and true so we march on the road of others. It is easy to walk the trodden path. It takes great courage to carve the one that is only meant for us. Others will shun, ridicule, ignore, or express anger and righteous indignation and make it known that we are the ones with the problem. A midlife crisis is what it will be called with words such as sophmoric, irresponsible, and selfish.
When we are called to shake up the status quo or challenge the current paradigm, we may doubt our own sanity and the comfort of reverting back to the known will be great but we must continue the journey. We must love and care for ourselves with compassion and trust that we are being led and cared for. Those who truly love and care for our wellbeing will have our back. Just trust.
Today the Washington Post had an article “The Trauma for a man:Male fury and fear rises in GOP in defense of Kavanaugh.” I am not much for political commentary but find it necessary in light of changing climate in the good ole US of A. Personally, I find the concept of male fury, well infuriating. The notion that men after so many years of having cake and eating it to are feeling fury in an age of changing demographic where more women are demanding to be heard is ludicrous. This is about sexual assault. The condescending talk and accusations of lying towards women courageous enough to come forth is beyond appalling. Once again we are in a terrain where it is best for women to be seen and not heard ie . chattel, property. Male priviledge and patriarchal mores have thrived and succeeded on keeping women mired in a quagmire of inferiority and dependance.
Sexual assault is no laughing matter. Everyday in a court room somewhere in this world rape victims are being asked questions regarding type of clothing worn and other questions designed to make them perpetrators instead of victims. Women are not being taken seriously and now as more come forward, the good ole boys club is claiming “fury” and once again attempting to paint women as destroyers of careers and families. What these boys fail to realize is that what is done in the past can always come back to bite .
I give applause to these women brave enough to speak their truth as it takes tremendous courage to stand amidst the sharks of patriarchy. Men and women alike must stand in support of these women and hold those hell bent on forcing them back into obscurity accountable every step of the way.
There is no doubt we live in a patriarchal society. There was a time when women were seen as belongings, mere chattel. It was the expectation for a woman to be seen and not heard. That was then but unfortunately the sentiment albeit subconcious and often covert exists this day. Mysogyny the hatred of women is not as obsolete as we would like to think. There is no doubt women have come a long way but a much longer way in needed to go before we can claim equal status and respect. No one denies the differences between women and men and that is a good thing. We expect men to be the protectors, to be stronger but many of the expectations are changing faster than the speed of light. There was a time when men provided for the family but the need and the desire for women to enter the work force has swiftly changed this dynamic. Many a man continue to feel the expectations of a society that is rapidly changing. We as women can be our own worst enemy. We want our independance yet many refuse to be the masters of our fate.
Many years ago, I took the bait and knew it was time for me to marry. Why not? I had been dating my partner for 4 years and according to society, the next step was to marry. I was the one to put on the pressure. According to society, I was expected to wait until he got the notion or the inclination to determine when it was time. We give that power away. Instead of stating my needs and asking to marry, I played the game that so many women continue to play. We sit wringing our hands, perusing bridal magazines and dreaming of that magical moment when the one we love will drop to his knee with ring in hand. I had asked my perspective husband when he was going to propose. His response was when the “maui maui” mates. Needless to say, I had no idea what a maui maui was or when it mated. However, I found myself on the floor of my home with stacks of encyclopedia’s researching when that date would be. I waited and hoped. I was giving him the power to control my destiny and my fate.
Every day we as women give away our power. We allow others to exert control. We forget about our uniqueness and how we deserve to be loved and respected. We forget that we are sexual vibrant beings. We need to claim our sexuality and our love of life as the wonderful creations we are. We often allow our partners desires to take front and center all the while disappearing into the background. The time is now for all of us, women and men to learn to allow others to be as they need to be and appreciate what we all bring to the table. Everyone deserves to live a life of freedom, passion and love. So many of us feel if we are truly happy something must be wrong. Our puritanical ways have taught us that it is better to suffer for the good of all. We all know deep in our selves that this is a lie. Live and enjoy life.
Anger is a wound that festers. Sometimes it will lie there dormant ready to wreak havoc wherever its tentacles will stretch. We march around with grins on our faces pretending it is not there, but the body knows. For every piece of anger that we hold onto we lose a part of ourselves. There is no denying that anger is a healthy emotion when we learn to harness its power instead of allowing it to cause us torment and angst.
The unfortunate aspect of being human is that we all make mistakes and we will cause others pain for that is a part of the journey we call life. Life is neither black or white and it is often messy and chaotic. We can inadvertently cause pain as we search to discover who we are or who we are to become. When we go against others preconceived ideas of who we are or what they want us to be, voila, we have trouble. The problem with anger is that many of us allow it to blind and to close off a part of our hearts. We give away our compassion and the care we feel for another allowing our anger and ego to take full front and center. We stop seeing the other as an individual with their own dreams, thoughts and desires. We cannot have things the way we want, so we lash out. We want others to feel our pain. We want to make them hurt the way we hurt. The ego and the limbic brain wants payback. It does not want to learn from hurt or pain. It does not want to care for another who unintentionally has hurt us. Some of us find joy and pleasure in our self centeredness and feel that anyone who has hurt us deserves our wrath.
As we mature and walk through life, we come to understand that hurt and pain are unavoidable if we are to be true to ourselves. When we love and care for another in an unconditional way we want that one to be happy. We want them to reach their full potential and live the life they were put here to live. When it is all about us, we want them to be all about us as well. Wrath and anger stings and causes hurt and chaos but when we hold on or lash out, it only eats us from the inside. For some admitting our vulnerability and our need for another is akin to torture. We may feel it makes us weak and we want to be invincible. Through the illusion of strength and self assuredness we can say to others we are islands. However, no man is an island. When we stand in the path of another’s anger, compassion helps us to understand. Empathy allows us to feel but we must also protect our own space and health. We must refuse to accept the continual barbs of slings and arrows and passive aggressive behavior. We can comfort, support and love but we must take care of our health and space.
One of the hardest things we will face as humans is the aging and eventual loss of our parents. I have been blessed with two wonderful parents and consider them on the short list of friends. The same ghost that haunts many of us also haunts me, that one day I will be an orphan. Sometimes in the still of night I can let grief have its way with me as I contemplate that day. I can allow myself to go in that deep hole of despair feeling as if i will never come out. I watch now as my father confined to a wheel chair learns a new way to navigate through his life. 4 months out from a major back surgery we still hold onto hope for more improvement. However, there will come that day when I will have to face the inevitable. Morning comes and my mind tells me to be grateful for the time I have had and still continue to have. I want to count my blessings and not wallow in my grief. I see my daddy’s frustration as he can no longer do what he has always been so accustomed to doing. His landscape has changed. I now help my daddy as my daddy has always helped me. I am no longer the little girl crying and pleading holding his leg trying to keep him home with me. I am the one who realizes we have no control over life and with life comes loss of all kinds.
At 5, loss came early for me as I watched my grandmother take her last breath on a sunny day. That day i learned about death and knew that grandma was not coming back at least in the form I knew her. Having lost my only brother at the age of 17 as a result of an automobile accident I also learned deathcomes for us all and age is no guarantee. All loss is not death and all death is not loss. There is another land over the bridge of loss and grief If we allow our grief to wash over us we can heal, we can grow.
I sometimes find myself feeling irritable and sad with my father but realize it is me wanting him back like I knew him. I want him to walk, to not be impatient with his condition. I want him to live forever. I want him to protect me. Watching my dad continue to navigate his challenges gives me a sense of pride in his ability and determination to learn a new way. Loss can help us see through a different pair of eyes and give us strength to face challenges we thought were insurmountable.