Last week I was in Death Valley on a 12 day vision fast being with living and dying. I sat in the desert contemplating the things in my life that no longer serve. I thought about my own death and what amends i needed to make before I passed from this world. I thought about the new life that lies ahead if I am so blessed. I listened to stories and shed tears and I returned back to my home to face the slow and eventual demise of a dear friend.
My friend is dying bit by bit a slow and anguishing death. She is alert and watches every day as a new muscle loses its use. She is brave and stoic and now with speech gone communicates through the use of an ipad. I watch her and I cry alone and beside her. I feel no shame but I feel helpless and fear at how we must face our own mortality knowing fate will deal us the last hand. As an ex hospice nurse, I have had the priviledge of being with others at one of their most intimate moments. I have listened to their joys and their regrets as they prepare to leave the earthly life. Yes i sat in Death Valley and died my metaphorical death as it is my belief that it is important to meet death at the door. It is important to open the door and let him in and have that conversation. Death comes to us all. Some of us get the gift of time where we if we so desire can say our farewells and kiss our loved ones. For others death will come when we least expect leaving many unprepared. No goodbyes and no I am sorry. Yes in Death Valley I made amends. I called into my heavenly circle those I needed to converse with to make amends or to ask for prayer. I spoke in the dark of the night as if that night would bring my death. I marveled at the stars and listened to the wind blow around my ears; something i had long taken for granted. I may have years or I may have only the next moment but in my mind i want nothing left unsaid. I wrote a letter to my friend that night. I told her how much I loved her and how much she meant to my life. I spoke of the legacy of love she was leaving to all of us, her friends. I called up memories of the times we had spent together in good health. As I watched her efforts to stand and communicate I understood that we are more than our bodies as her soul was shining bright in a body that was failing. We become so busy living that we forget the time will come to us all for the dying.
Please excuse my laziness as I have not put word to computer in quite some time. Life has a funny way of sidelining a body and taking one away from the creative endeavors.
I sit here with my coffee thinking about this year and how much has happened. To say there has been a lot of change is an understatement. Somebody once said the only thing constant is change. As cliche as it might be, nothing can be further from the truth. I have returned now from assisting my elderly parents in their move to a new home in Florida. I am asking my elderly parents to make a new way to be. I am asking them to leave a home in Virginia where they have lived for 58 years and I am asking them to be happy in doing so. I am also aware that it is difficult for them and for me. I am aware I cannot control their happiness or lack there of. As much as I would like for them to accept it all and smile with joy, it is not my place to force that feeling as much as it is my place to allow them to grieve their losses.
All throughout life, we are grieving loss. Life brings loss. We lose our babies as they become adults. We lose relationships, friends and lovers who no longer contribute to our growth. We lose faculties as we age. We lose jobs, pets, dreams and the list goes on. How we handle loss and grief are the pieces that test our metal. Make no bones about it, grief and loss hurt. It brings us to our knees. However, somehow when we are at our lowest wondering how we will ever survive, the sun comes up again and we do survive. We move forward and we go on.
Many years ago when my only brother was killed at 17 years of age I hit this bottom. I could not fathom the other side and allowed the grief to permeate my being for years. I saw no way out of the pain. I could not accept the concept of God’s will, the platitude that is used in some effort to ease one’s pain. I wanted to scream at God and anger was my side kick for a long while. One day the sun rose again and the anger lessened. It was then I knew I would survive. That is what happens with grief. We need to allow it to wash over us and claim what it wants to claim. We need to allow ourselves to be in it and with it as long as we need to be. There is no ‘snap out of it.” Once it has had its way we awaken to the possibilities that lie before us. We are changed forever but we move on. We also ask for help as often times it is through the help of others that we find strength. We allow the grief knowing that after the dark, the sun will rise again. All we have to do is hold on.
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.”
Posted in aging, change, grief loss, independance, Uncategorized
Tagged aging, change, culture, family, Kindness, love, opinions, society
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.
Posted in bravery, Fear, grief loss, Kindness, technology, Uncategorized
Tagged anger, Friends, friendship, Kindness, love, opinions, society
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.