I awake this morning with a sense of dread. I wonder what the day will bring. Of course I lie in this quiet space and give my thanks for this moment of peace. It seems every day brings an event, a happening. We are at the point many of us no longer know what to expect. We no longer know what we thought we used to know. It all looks different.
The outer turmoil in the air has me edgy. I allow my mind to travel back 13 years ago when a monster tried to eat me. The monster had formed a mass in my belly that my hand located on a cold winter morning and it was set on claiming my life. That day my world shifted in a second. All that I had previously given importance now took a back seat. Arguments, disagreements, beliefs all would morph and live in a separate space. Now my focus was on survival. I come back to the present moment. I am here and I am alive. I no longer experience my life as a numb existence. I watch as so many of us become our arguments. We find ourselves arguing on social media with complete strangers feeling in some way we can make them see the errors of their ways. We stand by our opinions convinced we are the ones who hold the answers. We watch our world collapsing and today’s atrocity will be taken over by the next one tomorrow. I wonder why deviciveness is now being encouraged instead of the unity we all need to head towards healing. I feel a deep sadness for this country and its inhabitants. I hear the heavens ask “when will they learn?” What wakeup call will we need?
Wake up calls are just that. They grab us and shake us into the light of day. They bring a newness and hopefully we are forever changed. They have the power to send us into a hole so dark and deep, we think we will never crawl out. This is where many of us meet our monsters. We are the lucky ones as the monsters give us a chance to come back into the living. They can shake off the chains of conditioning and help us to see anew. Monsters come in all sizes, shapes and colors. When they appear we can try to run and hide but they will always find us. I saw my monster and was able to stare it in the eye. I refused to let it eat me. I refused to cower with fear. That is what we all need to do, stand our ground and refuse to be eaten with whatever monster shows its fangs. Have compassion with your monster for it brings a gift. Allow it to work its magic. Yes they often bring fear but let it open you. Feel the compassion. This is a test for us all.Take care of each other.
I wake up this morn and I am tired. I wonder why as I retired the night before at a decent hour. I am not only tired I am irritable. I am usually an early riser but this morn I roll back over pulling covers over my head. I feel the irritability and I feel my clenched jaw and aching neck. I stumble down for coffee my morning saving grace. I have been grouchy and I have been feeling less than energetic. I am also giving myself 100 lashes this morn in my mind for my moody behavior. I along with many others are feeling an all time high of tension. I have allowed this and I have allowed myself to be a sponge for any negative emotion or arrow slung my way. Now I have to regroup.
Times they are a changing and with any change usually comes upheaval in some form or another. The trick to maintaining some sense of saneness is to know when we are being overloaded. We have to be aware of us and how we are handling our stressors and it is a time of tremendous stress. Often we are not aware of the things adding to our stress load in times of calm. We often think of stress as negative or “bad.” We forget what we consider the “good” can also cause stress. We live in a society where we are expected to be strong to be doers, to get things done. We are told early on to “act like a man, be a big girl or dont’ cry.” To ask for help or support is often seen as a sign of weakness. We all feel it. We feel the sweaty palms, the racing heart, the dry mouth, the headaches, yet we keep on keeping on.
With recent events,as a woman of color I am experiencing moments of apprehension and I am taken back to memories of my ancestral past. I hear my fathers voice advising me to be careful. I hear his instructions telling me how to be in the outer world and I hear him telling me that I have to work twice as hard as my white counterparts. I hear his stories of life during Jim Crow and I slide back under my covers wondering if this is where we are heading once again. I have lost friendships that I thought would see me thru the seasons of my life as we no longer have a shared vision. I have heard the words, taunts and seen actions of hate that would make a compassionate person feel great pain. Yes it is a time of stress that has me contemplating purchasing a firearm at the advice of a well meaning friend. The thought of a cold metal object in my hand capable of taking a life that has already taken lives of so many also fills me with dread. However I am aware that what we are feeling is normal for what we are experiencing. It is a time of uncertainty and collective angst. We feel it and in its juices we are marinating. We wonder why we are so tired and lackluster. We wonder about this deep grief we feel and why we are always on the verge of tears. This is the time if ever to be good to ourselves; to allow our feelings of grief and all else to come to the service. If we are called to lie in bed all day watching trash movies, we grant ourselves that permission without judgement. It is about being kind to ourselves and to others all the while holding tight to our boundaries. This is the time to eat the cake, drink the wine and know this too shall pass and we will come out on the other side.
If I outlive my parents, I will become an orphan. I wake this morning thinking about death. Not so much mine or that of my parents but death in general. I wonder if it still scares me like it did before.
Growing up I never really thought about it much even though it became my companion early on. When my grandma died I was 6 and I remember asking my mom if grandma would get a new brain in heaven. She had suffered for years with dementia and I just could not comprehend what made her do the things she did. Once she had used my favorite pajamas as toilet paper and I cried to my mom the horrible thing she had done. It was then that my mama had to explain to me about the sickness in Grandma’s brain. The day she died a pigeon fell dead on her window sill as I was standing at the window. I knew at that moment that grandma would soon follow. I wondered what it must feel like to die and if you automatically got wings.
Today as an adult I feel death coming closer. I feel its breath on my neck reminding me that I had better get moving as time is not guaranteed to any of us no matter the age. Death came knocking the day my brother died at 17 years of age. It had never dawned on me that my brother would leave so early. It was other people’s family members but not mine. I wondered what he must have felt as his soul left his physical body. I wondered if he knew he was dying or if he tried to hold onto life. These are the things my mind contemplate in the wee hours of the morning when insomnia has me in its grasp.
Once upon a time I was a hospice nurse. I have sat with people as they have made that final transition and I still have questions that will probably never be answered. I have heard their death bed confessions and have rafted with them through every human emotion as they tried to make sense of the life they had led. I always left with a sense of sadness but with one of peace. I have watched death sneak around in the night stealing breath and life and I have also seen it come in the bright of day.
Several years ago death danced near me. I had been diagnosed with a rare and usually fatal cancer that always claimed most lives. I wondered about death then. I wondered how death would tap me on the shoulder. Would it be the thief in the night or would it show itself in the light of the day. The universe said no and death had to wait for another day. I had seen it sitting near but it knew that it would have a formidable foe. I watched as it put on its coat and headed for the door with the knowledge that one day it would be back.
Death comes to us all and there is no place to hide. It will find us and hopefully when it does we will have made peace.
In these recent weeks I have had my moments of despair and great grief. At times it just washed over me out of the blue. I feel the anger welling up in me and try to find constructive ways to put it to use. The ongoing killings of black humans at the hands of those sworn to protect us is more than I can digest. I keep thinking this will be the last one but it never is. I hear disparaging words come from places that surprise me. I have had to let those I considered friends go on their way as I have come to a place of a better understanding of what it means to be cared for.
Today is Juneteenth when freedom finally rang for slavery in America. It is a day to celebrate yet there are those that find ill ways to continue to spread division and hate. I try to understand why is it so wrong to want equality. What makes some feel others do not deserve equality. I awake this morning with thoughts of my ancestors as they made their way chained in the hull of a filthy stench filled slave ship. I closed my eyes and said a prayer as I imagined that voyage and the fear that must have been with all of them. I cannot begin to imagine lying for days in your own excrement chained to another human. I cannot imagine the horrors of having your loved one ripped from you and sent to a watery grave. They often call for me in dreams and I spend time wondering what they ask of me. How can I carry on their legacy. It gives me great sadness at times but it also gives me enormous pride to know that blood courses through my veins. I honor them and pay homage not only today but every day of my life.
People often tell us to “get over it” when it comes to slavery. How does one get over something that is a part of your soul and genetic makeup? Once a few years ago I awoke to extreme physical pain. To my shock I was covered with red angry lashes akin to being whipped. Numerous consultations with medical, psychological and spiritual professionals left me confused with very little clarity. After a while I came to understand that this was a message from the ancestors. Once again they were calling out. They were reaching from far away lands to ask me to never forget. So today on Juneteenth I am letting them know I have not forgotten. I am here because they were there and for that I owe them dearly.
On May 7 I wrote an article titled Wringing the cloth of blood. Little did i know it would be foreshadowing another death of another black man at the hands of police. George Floyd would be brutally murdered in Minnesota just a few short weeks later. Brutal lynchings and acts of hostility have plagued black people in america for 400 years so this is nothing new. This time it would be different. This time it would matter and this time everyone would pay attention. People did notice and people took to the streets.
I awake this morning to the chaos that has become our new normal. Not only is there a pandemic requiring social isolation there is now the scenes of protest with our streets filled with citizens coming face to face with the armed police officers sworn to protect them. National guardsmen are being put on alert to quell any mayhem. Sadly with protests acts such as looting and innocent loss of life will follow. This is a time. It is a time of change. Our collective conciousness is screaming. It is a time for America to look at its ugly face in the mirror, warts and all and admit there is a problem.
I truly believe turmoil is the harbinger of change. The old way has to die for a new way to be born. Change is not easy and there will be much gnashing of teeth and groans of resistence before death takes hold. Birth will come but not without pain. We are being called upon to look at our own collective and individual stuff; a sort of cleansing if you will. Either we go willingly into the change or we stomp our feet and refuse to go. Either way it happens. Concious people have had enough and are willing to risk for a new way. America can no longer afford division. There is a saying that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. We can only hope that America will have learned from its past mistakes and move forward on the new path that is being presented. The alternative would not be a good thing.
I wake this morning with a memory that still haunts my heart. It was 30 years ago when my young brother was jogging in Wilmington, NC. My uncle had allowed him to jog the short distance home after a drive to a nearby store. My uncle was not far behind. On the side of the road a few feet away, the police had my 11 year old brother pulled aside questioning him about a reported bicycle theft. My uncle informed the officers that my brother had just left his car and there was no bicycle. Apparently someone had reported the theft and seeing a young black man in the area. I thought of this time and how it all could have gone so terribly wrong. It was already bad enough to profile a young boy merely on a jog and just because he happened to be black.
The recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery a 25 year old African American shot and killed in the simple act of jogging is once again a reminder of the peril that often awaits many people of color. We have allowed ourselves to become a nation where open season on minorities has become the order of the day. Whether the crime is driving while black, jogging while black, eating while black, praying while black, relaxing in one’s home while black, the outcome is often the same. The killings occur and the news goes to the back page.
As a child our teachers told us that the policeman was our friend. If we were ever lost or needed help, the man in blue was the one we were supposed to call. A year ago I was pulled over for alledgedly running a red light. I watched from my mirror as the officer approached the passenger side of the car. All the while my heart was racing and my mouth went dry. He was polite enough; wrote my ticket and left with “have a good day.” I realized that sometimes it does not end that way. I wondered had I been a black male how the situation might have been different.
In 2016, a public opinion survey was conducted by the Pew Research center regarding police performance and the use of force. 33 percent of African Americans felt police did a good job with the use of force compared to 75 percent of white Americans. That, in my
opinion demonstrates living in two separate worlds
I once had a friend who complained I spoke too often about race. She went on to let me know in so many words she no longer wanted to speak of it. She preferred to focus her attentions on the beauty in the world. She had no time for discourse that may have been controversial. That was her right and her priviledge. it was also my right as a woman of color to remember and to tell the stories. There is no doubt the priviledge some have builds a wall between understanding. There is no doubt the glazed look in my friend’s eyes signaled the end. There is no simple answer or fix and until we recognize humanity in each other and let our voices be heard, the world will continue its madness. I grieve for the loss of this man and all before him and the ones who will come after him.
What in the world has happened to us? Yesterday I read of an incident on an airline of a man punching a seat of a woman sitting in front of him who had reclined her seat. He was apparently sitting in the last row in a seat that did not recline thus limiting his ability to gain a few inches. However, instead of politely asking the woman to refrain from reclining, he punched her seat in a fit of frustration. It seems our pot is reaching a boiling point and soon will boil over. Our tolerance for humanity, civility and kindness seems to be on a downhill course. We are becoming a nation hellbent on having our way and our say come hell or high water. Air travel used to be a luxury now it is akin to a flying can filled with angry pajama wearing people.
Political correctness has also come under attack with many giving lip service of it being a way to coddle certain segments of the population. These folks are now feeling a certain freedom to say or act however they see fit. They spit out the term “political correctness” as if it has left a bad taste in their mouths. They now are thankful there is no longer a need to be polite, moral or decent. Happy they are as it is now acceptable to have their say about women, minorities and any other group not fitting into the so called “wholesome American way of life.”
We are a shell shocked nation akin to victims of ptsd. We are walking zombies just waiting for each day to pass wondering what next. What will be the new crisis? We gasp and watch news filled with horror but go on about our day as we know there will be something else tomorrow. We have lost a sense of pride and unity as we spar against each other in a sad political arena failing to understand the notion of divide and conquer that makes us all much weaker. We no longer can grab the zesto of life as we are too busy trying to keep our heads above water. We are told as we enter the world, buy a home, have a family, get credit without realizing these are the rules to make a slave for society. To keep one mired in debt ensures a nation that is not free.
America the land of the free and home of the brave. A country where now our military men and women are mocked and humiliated and placed in a system of dysfunctional health care upon their return home. A land where we are pitted against each other like fighting dogs in a ring. A land where that bronze woman standing in the New York harbor hides her face in shame. A land of isolation with belief if it does not affect me, then it is not my problem. A land where no one is safe in church, school or your neighborhood store. A land where crime only pays if one is rich. A land where we can build a wall to keep people out but there is no money to provide health and education for those within the same wall. A land where our hearts have become so hardened and our arteries are filled with hate.
What have we become?
Yesterday I saw a 13 year old kid hanging out on a local street corner in the late evening. I wondered why he was there and not at home playing some video game or just sitting in front of the tv watching some age appropriate show. I thought about the plight of children today. I thought about what this young boy’s home life must be like and why his parents allowed him to be alone in the street at such an hour. I watched as he grabbed a small bag and headed up the street and disappeared from sight. I wondered why no one had told him about the 8 o clock man.
I grew up in a small southern town where everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood. I did not have one mother, I had 20 and they all had their eyes on me at all times. If any wrongdoing was to be done it was relayed home to my mother before I got there. We were a close knit community and we always had others to play with as the neighborhood was filled with kids. We all knew what our parents expected. We knew the guidelines of where we were allowed to play, when we needed to be home and we knew our manners. We respected our elders and they were given carte blanche to correct us if we were out of line. Parents had a way with us and to this day I think they held secret meetings to come up with ploys to keep us walking the straight and narrow. We all knew to be home at 8 o clock as that was when parents began flicking the porch light and the infamous 8 o clock man began his rounds. Now you may be wondering what and why with regards to this legend. It was rumored at 8 o clock a tall thin sinewy escaped convict would search the streets for children and if he found one they would disappear forever. Word had gotten around and some even had a description and had reported seeing him. Now needless to say this worked like a charm to insure we were standing porch side 10 minutes shy of 8 o clock to avoid a chance encounter with this ghoul. I think every neighborhood or town probably had their version of the 8 o clock man. I often wondered why 8 o clock? why not the 7:30 man or the 9:00 man? Perhaps 8 was the time the sun started to set and darkness crept in, the perfect scenario for the doings of Mr 8 o clock. I certainly don’t condone scaring the bejeebies out of youngsters but I guess a parent needs to do what works and yes it worked.
I once had someone tell me whenever folks are celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss instead of blindly congratulating, maybe we should ask how much soul they have left and what has been given up along the way. With regards to relationships, I like many others was raised to believe that we should aspire to our forever afters. I like many others was raised in the atmosphere of for better or worse. What exactly is worse? I never thought once about seeking an answer to that question as my eyes were always set on the prize of holy matrimony. It mattered to me not one bit what the conventional vows said, I said yes to it all without giving it a second thought. Not to mention that heaven forbid we would not be the same people 50 years later as we were when we walked down that aisle. Make no mistake there are the ones who will learn to grow together. They are the ones who either through work and effort or sheer luck hold on in spite of any odds, any worse and sometimes to their own detriment. However, for many of us, the path ventures into a different terrain and we find ourselves having to navigate an unfamiliar course. There is an expiration date on everything and relationships are no exception.
With a staggering divorce rate at approximately 50 percent and sites such as Ashley Madison geared to affairs within marriage most folk with a piece of brain would wonder about the state of holy matrimony. Some would wonder has marriage run its course or perhaps is there a new way to be in relationship. It has been said the initial lusty highs of a relationship or limerance as it is called is a short lived show guaranteed to put the love jones in the most of independent souls thus assuring a potential mating. Unfortunately once the smoke clears and the veil is removed from the eyes we are left with a partner we may not really know at all. Lust makes us blind. This is not to say there is no love between individuals but real love is there when the smoke clears and when the passion wears off or at least thins. It is the glue that keeps us holding on when we would rather let go. Sadly as much as we might want to hold on, for some there is a time when the expiration date becomes a reality as we have changed course and our paths are no longer merging. It is this time when we need the courage and the fortitude to decide how we are to live the rest of our lives and give that gift to those we love. This is not to say we must part ways as enemies but it might just be the time to make a clear assessment and determine how do we go forward.
We as a society often see things in black and white. It is or it is not. I recently read of a couple who faced a reality and knew they could not continue in a traditional marital relationship. Instead of going to war they chose to end the marriage amicably and celebrated the new way with dinner and champagne. They were bravely choosing to honor what had been and toast to a new future with love and respect. Often so much anger and animosity is involved that clarity is rarely reached. If we love or ever have truly loved another we want the best for them and ourselves. We want to salvage our history and our friendship and hold onto our love and happiness. Life happens and its future cannot be carved in stone. The only thing constant is change. Love reins eternal