Monday, July 30, 2012

Waiting for genius

Summer is nearing her end, which means it's pretty much now or never as far a road trips go. Our family hit the road this weekend to return my niece and nephew home in time for their early school start date.

We ended our trip with a detour to Springfield, IL and a visit to Abe Lincoln's home and tomb, which was such a lovely experience. One that I highly recommend.

But by far my most favorite part of a long drive is when everyone else drifts off to sleep and I turn my news/tapes/podcasts on full blast. During this nighttime drive I got to hear Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame give a TED talk on creativity.

Gilbert spoke of the anxiety writers feel, or any creative person, to strike gold. Or produce something GREAT. She spoke of the dread of not being able to produce results. Then she spoke of the origin of the word 'genius' and how Romans felt it was something bestowed on a person. Not an IQ any one being could 'own'.

Thinking along that line, of believing that creativity or genius is temporal, relieves the pressure to do any thing other than your best effort everyday. Regardless of the results, acclaim, or lack thereof.

Just showing up for work and doing your part, resting in the knowledge that the genius will come, or won't come.  And either way is okay.

I can get with that.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Good, bad, ugly


Sitting with an elder at the 
doctor's office a few days ago 
I gazed at this person I 
love and experienced a tiny revelation. 
"People make and live their choices. 
Good, bad, ugly, sweet, painful, bliss. "

And the most interesting part is 
that the choices that hurt the 
most are not necessarily the ones 
others would change. Because each life 
must be lived in it's entirety 
by it's individual, it's probably best 
for us to love, honor, and 
give space for the people around 
us to truly live. As I 
looked at my elder in the 
twilight of her life I wondered 
which turns she would take if 
given a fresh/newly cleaned slate. 
Which boys would she date and 
dances would she attend. And I 
realized that she would not change 
much at all. She has lived 
her life largely on her own 
terms. No sense going back and 
regretting it now. The thought put 
a smile on my face and 
in my heart. Each day as 
it comes, our choices to make.

~~Happy Six Word Friday! The prompt for July is: FOUND.~~

 What I discovered this week during a quiet moment while waiting for a doctor to return is that I am less fit to judge the lives lived by others than I had previously thought. Many people are perfectly happy with the choices and decisions they make. And if they aren't there isn't much I can do about it anyway. 

Life is a constant evaluation about the things that are important to us. Children, career, school, fun, faith. Our order of operations changes from time to time to reflect our current values. But the crux of the matter is being sure that we can live with ourselves when we are 78 years old and waiting for the doctor to return with a verdict. 

That's what I've found.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My down


Things have certainly been heavy around here lately. Though I would still say it has been a necessary occurrence. To have progressed from the angst ridden posts on success to the reflective processes of gratitude has been cathartic.

Despite Contrarily, because of my recent proximity to death and enriched mental health awareness I feel a lightness within myself. A release of sorts. A consciousness of the freedom that everyday life provides. Freedom that previously alluded me.

I feel as though I have been fighting myself for years to just accept myself as human. Flawed, but still worthy of self acceptance and respect.

If I could describe the feeling currently residing in the center of me.... it would be that of a duck that plunges into a glistening body of water and immediately dips her head below the surface. As she resurfaces and gives a shake beads of water disperse all around her. Both into the air and back into the lake. Gently she glides along the surface, her down reflecting in the sun.

Today my down is simply enough for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hold and Release



A man that I deeply despised for hurting someone I love has died.

I can't say that I hated him, because even during my hottest anger at his actions I did not hate him. But I did wish he were dead. He hurt his wife deliberately and repeatedly.

Multiple hospital visits a year. Rehabilitation to learn how to reuse her hands/legs/speech after his whippings triggered strokes.

I just wanted her to leave. The support network was there but she refused to leave until it was a decision between returning and surely dying or missing him and living in peace.

August 8, 2012 would be a year  to the date of her choosing her life over her love.

When I found out he died I had to swallow the "Good!" that started to form on my lips but instead lodged in my throat.

Karma had come. And that felt good and warm.

Yet the part of me that knows it is wrong to wish ill/hurt on any living thing felt guilty of the immense relief the news of his death brought me.

I would go on to discover that his human existence was nothing short of tragic.

His mother died when he was a baby and his father left him to be raised in a orphanage. During the periodic visits he did have with his father he experienced the abuse he would later use on others. He was not taught how to love and apparently never learned.

As much as his wife loved him he could/would not give her the same care and provision he received. He met sugar with salt. Fire with ice. Embraces with fists, gabs, and pushes.

And now it is too late to redeem himself. To make things right. To love and be loved. He died sick and alone. That makes me sad. It must be hell to die alone.

Perhaps I did hate him. I release that hate.

Humans are not build to carry toxins in our hearts and minds.  It eats us from the inside out. I did not just learn of the death of a wife beater, but a broken child/boy/man whose life will be always be remembered with pain and derision.

Tragic.

I feel as though I should give alms for his soul. Pray that he returns as a flower. Something gentle that brings comfort. A second chance to give and receive love this time around. If only....

I need to go hug someone. Please hug someone in memory of the child/boy/man who never learned how to love.

Hug them tight.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hmmmmm.....


I think these children truly believe
that they are allergic to bedtime. 
Why else would they fight sleep 
like the plague? Hmmmm....beats me.

~Happy Six Word Friday! The prompt for the month of July is: FOUND.~

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Reasons


"Everything happens for a reason" is one of the most common refrains when bad or unexpected things occur. I always found that phrase to be problematic. Mostly because it appears to assume that even the conscious decisions that humans make (which may negatively impact others) are somehow part of a cosmic plan.

Personally, I fall more along the "Things happen when someone sets the laws of nature in motion" school of thought.

Which I suppose could also be called "You reap what you sow".

And I realize that, some actions or outcomes cannot be controlled and are products of happenstance, genetics, or environment. But others are in fact pieces in a series of chain reactions.

I say all that to say that I've been thinking of cause and effect lately. And how terrible or unwanted circumstances can still hold hidden treasures.

Reflecting on various events in my life that have gone from lemon to lemonade, made me ponder if I had perhaps come down too hard on the side of human activity versus cosmic direction.

I mean don't some things just seem to be the result of  mysterious phenomenon or divine intervention?

But the truth is that I don't really know. This, however, is what I do know for sure, that very often life's tint & hue is more a matter of perspective than pre-destination.

How we choose to see and view the world. What we do with the information we receive. They all factor into the "goodness" or "badness" we see around us. It is a conscious process to pull the good out from the dirt and cherish it.

Noticing how the earth is watered by the same rain that ruins our cars' shine. Appreciating the house that needs work but still provides shelter for our family. Those are the things that really count.


Whatever the reasons, the beauty is still the same.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Window seat


Have you ever experienced a situation where what was below the surface was far greater than what you had previously thought possible? Like an iceberg with only it's tip exposed.

Just last week I learned of The Siwe Project, a foundation dedicated to providing support and alleviating the shame of mental health issues within the black community worldwide. When I blogged about it I was thinking about someone I know who seems to be dealing with PTSD but has so far declined to seek treatment or help.

Little did I know that four days after that blogpost I would be faced the reality of mental health needs within my own family tree. A history of insufficient resources, misdiagnosis, defense mechanisms, and silence.

Upon hearing of the in-family situation I booked the first flight available. I can not fully articulate the shock and bewilderment that accompanies seeing/hearing a loved one agitated/confused/combative/frantic.

It was overwhelming. 

Not only were the person and their spouse reluctant to seek a mental health evaluation, but even after several more traumatic episodes they felt everything was under control and the concerned family members were the one's not seeing clearly.

Searching for advice I contacted some elders. I learned that what I was seeing had been indeed seen before. The paranoia, denial, highs & lows were all common threads of this condition. But I also learned that after receiving the initial medical attention long term stability could be achieved through therapy, diet changes, and stress management plans.

But all those words and pleas to seek help fell on deaf ears.

Left with no alternates I departed for home feeling saddened and defeated. No solutions, no management plan. Just failure and uncertainty.

I boarded the plane tired but restless, so I pulled out the book I had brought along: The Story of Buddha: a graphic biography. I had no hope that anything, let alone a graphic novel would assuage my heart and mind.

Inside this book was the story of how Buddha, as the world knows him, came to be. His questions about life and the answers he found.

At one point in the story Buddha, then a Prince, stumbles upon an old man weakened and neglected. And he ponders on the fact that youth only ends in death and infirmity during old age.

What then was the purpose of life?

After much seeking he concludes that life's purpose is to live each day one at a time, basking in a glow of gratitude versus sinking into a sea of cravings. He concluded that life is suffering. But it is also beautiful in and of itself.

When I first heard of this principle of accepting life as suffering I was extremely repelled. I felt the purpose of life was to mitigate suffering. To work toward the life one wants. Accepting suffering felt like accepting defeat.

But sitting on that plane with a throbbing heart-ache and depleted energy I realized I cannot control members of my family. I cannot make every one's life manageable. I cannot make other's accept reality.

But I can minimize the harm I do. I can find pleasure in loving my family. In being a wife. In being a student. I can stop striving and stressing and fighting to be successful and instead enjoy the day I am in.

Seek the beauty that is already around me. See the little blessings that rest in the atmosphere.

In my window seat I found peace. 

Will I still advocate for appropriate mental health help? Yes. But I can do so from a place of peace. This is life. There is no getting around it. And it is hard.

But still, I am blessed to have been born a human.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Clarifying



I am sure that the express 
purpose of meditation is the clearing 
of one's mind. But I have 
found it to have overarching clarifying 
properties too. As I sweep away 
the cobwebs with each breath pictures 
grow clearer and my focus sharper. 
Tell me, which outcome was I 
truly seeking clearance...clarity...or both.


~Happy Six Word Friday!~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

True life: there's no safety net


I often study people. I like to see and understand the hows and whys of their operating systems. Hear their stories and ascertain their perspectives.

But if there is one thread that runs through every individual I admire it's the absence of an umbilical cord. You know, the piece of safety and nourishment that ensures your survival. A piece of attachment to the security of the nest.

These people who trail-blaze, conquer, who've mentored and advised me...they don't/didn't have one. Whether the cord was cut prematurely by unforeseen circumstances, an ill equipped parent, or they simply disconnected themselves. Nearly all of these people had determined to sink or swim by themselves.

The reason I find this interesting is that I've often longed for a safety net myself. Especially when my husband and I were first starting out. We knew it was just us. There would be no returning home or calling for cash influxes if we failed to budget.

No weekend babysitters. No one else to cover the 1st and lasts month's rent. If we couldn't cut it, we'd be completely out of luck.

Now we sometimes reminisce about the terrible apartments, or times we were left with $10 after paying the bills and getting baby food. I don't know how we made it, or even when it ended.

I guess there was a gradual 'getting better'. A loosening of the belt. But the irony is that although we are okay (and so are my idols) I still strive to ensure that we will be in a position to be that for our children.

To be their safety net.

I remember the scary and uncertain feeling that launching into real-world responsibilities is and I want to lessen the blow for my boys. But is that wise? Is that fear an essential coming of age rite?

I honestly don't know. I don't know what it feels like to have the net, but I have seen the damage it can do to the less ambitious and mature.

What say ye world? To net or not to net? Better yet, how to net? That is my question.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Declarations

Saturday morning found me at the University Center, with hundreds of other teacher candidates, preparing to take my state content exam for Social Sciences: History.

Being there with so many future colleagues made me think of the steps it took to get here: the last lap of my degree plan.

And to think, it all started with a heart-felt declaration. A decision that I would go to college and finish it.... 


During high school I had worked my butt off to qualify for scholarships and find the perfect school. Only to graduate and discover 6 weeks later....I was pregnant.

I was so shocked I could barely function. I had come so far only to hit a snag all to familiar for far too many girls.

So I enrolled in my sister's Alma mater instead of my original choice. I figured being closer to family and home was what I needed. But even with her support when school started I just seem to couldn't perform. I was depressed. Suffering from morning sickness. And embarrassed to be the pregnant black girl.

So I quit. 

That winter my husband and I married and we started the type of stable, dependable, two parent family we both wanted for our children. And I somehow convinced myself that this would be enough, and for a while it was.

But overtime, even with frequent moves and busy toddlers, I craved school. I craved learning and growing and discovering new truths. Just heading to the public library was no longer enough. I needed something that was my own.

After my last son was born and our family headed to Japan I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to go to school because I had to finish what I had started. 

Looking back on it now, it seems as though this process has taken ages. Well....actually, I guess it has. Yet the time factor no longer bothers me. 

Why? Because I am fully accomplishing what I set out to do way back in 2001. And it feels so good.

In the fitness world there's this thing called "runner's high". It's the rush a runner/athlete feels at the end of a race or event. A splendid burst of endorphins that sweeps you up enough to make you momentarily forget the pain and fatigue and instead ride the wave of victory.

That's how I feel. Yes, I'm tired. True, I still have a career to nurture and build. But right now the run has me so high. I am still running this thing, but I know it's heading in the right direction. And that gives strength to my tired bones.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hill, Yeah


Found out that I can take
that hill 7x. Alright, darn right!

~Happy Six Word Friday! Our prompt for July is: FOUND!~

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Shame, Shame, Shame


As a tribute to freedom I wanted to talk about a post I read on one of my favorite blogs about a new organization, The Siwe Project, which is dedicated to helping people of color who live with Mental Illness.

The mission is to: "Promote mental health awareness and education in the global black community".

If you are or have ever serviced/worked/been part of a black/brown community you may have witnessed the stigma Mental Health issues still holds. And the extent to which help is rejected.

Whether it's the neighborhood "crazy" who was once the community's prom king or star athlete, but now wanders around with what may be untreated/diagnosed bipolar disorder.

The mother who refuses school services and support for a child experiencing emotional/development/mental disabilities because their "Kid ain't crazy".

The uncle, father, brother, spouse who suffers from extreme emotional highs and lows and self medicates with marijuana or by simply withdrawing from family life and relationships.

If any of that is familiar you may have witnessed the immense shame living with a mental illness has on people of color. This shame phenomenon may be universal, but it is especially detrimental to black/brown culture, family life, and of course mental health.

So I guess this post is a PSA.

If you or someone you know or love is dealing with mental health difficulties (frequent episodes of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive behavior, severe anxiety, unexplained bouts of anger, etc.) please check out The Siwe Project  or here to learn how to find resources and get help.

I know that members of the military and their dependents often face a similar shame when dealing with mental health treatments so here is a link for that too.

Just as with seeing the doctor for a broken finger, there should be No Shame in seeking treatment for our hearts and minds.

Claiming independence from shame is as good a way as any to celebrate our nation's freedom. Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Judging many


I was such a judgmental child/teen coming up. I had very definite views about the world and about how people should live. And while I've always strived to treat people kindly, I know my thoughts about their behavior affected the way I often interacted with others.

As I've grown a bit older I no longer harbor the illusion that my way is the best way for everyone. In fact, I actually found out that MY way wasn't neccesarily the best WAY fo me.

"To each his own"
We all have our own battles, burdens, and decisions to make.

Practicing the "Live and let Live" principle isn't some apathetic mumbo gumbo.

It's an actual way to release the stresses that come with trying to manage other peoples's actions and beliefs. And in the same token we start the process of freeing ourselves from our own self condemnation, or judgement.

We could all use a bit of freedom.