A poem for my children as I just passed another Mother's Day and another birthday: My baby moved away today and took grandbaby Mae. Her and Him and all their stuff North Carolina they now stay. I have another child here my son, my oldest boy. If you see him tell him please to bring his Mom some joy. My circle of support shrinks daily as I struggle to survive. My children have all flown the nest and have moved on with their lives. My son became a father, my oldest daughter now youngest son. My baby is a mommy now, our lives are on the run. Hustle, bustle, push, pull, drag catching up when we can. Long gone are the days of driving 'round in our minivan. A lot of love and work dumped in to them my childen, see Each one of them raised up I pray To be who they chose to be. My lonely heart breaks more and more each and every day For the babes that they once used to be now leave me in the gray. As I push back single tears of fear for troubles they might find I also pray they've grown up now to be happy, strong and kind. My days of "teaching" may be gone But now I am their friend. I now can undo errors made To avoid a bitter end. I've loved my children way too much not enough and in between. Part of what a family learns As we struggle to be seen. My kids and I will be alright No matter who flies where It's love that we all talk about And make sure that we share. My heart may still be broken and my tears yes, still may fall I've raised some strong-willed children, and I know that they will call. When comes the day they need their Mom When only she will do I'll be there on the other side ready with my "I love you". (c) 2017 Dawn Bennett
It’s later in the month, later than I’d like it to be actually. I’ve been waiting for inspiration to give you something I felt was worth reading. It finally came today. It’s true, it’s real, it’s honest. It’s a page from my journal this morning. I know I’m not the only one in this quagmire, maybe that’s why I felt it’s worth reading. Happy Easter to all of humanity.
“It’s a Good Friday!
Abba, so much is changing, but you have stayed the same. The tomb is empty this morning. No one knows where you are or where you went.
This season of Lent has been so incredibly painful. I’ve been so far from you – and so close to you. I’m scared, I’m isolated, I’m exhausted, I’m angry, I’m so incredibly sad. I’m eager, I’m demanding, I’m questioning, I’m forgetful, I’m desperate. I have anxiety; I’ve traveled far and wide to find peace – to create peace – to upset peace – and to enjoy the peace. It’s Good Friday, and like the rest of the fold, I’m seeking because the tomb is empty and I don’t know where you went.
Ferguson is still looking for you. Naples says they have you, the golden roads are supposed to prove that. Nashville sings all about you, but the people are still dying of hunger and thirst.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to see you in everything and be grateful, because honestly, when I don’t get what I want (and the way I perceive I need it to be), I think you either suck or you’re looking at someone else’s life. I mean, there’s lots of us down here trying to figure this crazy shit out. Maybe you got me mixed up?
It’s supposed to rain here Sunday – I’m looking forward to that. Everything is better after some cleansing rain. The sun will surely rise and shine, that’s all it knows how to do. Thanks for that too.
Thanks for never taking your eye off me. I’ll try to reciprocate that a bit better today. I love you.”
So, it’s Halloween! Last night I went to a trunk-or-treat at a local church. Thankfully we got there early! By the time we left the people were wrapped around the building. And I’m not kidding. There were costumes of all kinds. Kids and grown-ups alike. Before we left I read up on the activity and found that no scary costumes were allowed. That’s fine because there’s plenty of scary stuff in the world without having to make up additional stuff. Right!?! Anyway, now it’s the morning after and I’ve been looking over the pictures we took. The one of my husband with the clown, well, that one will live on in history! We had one taken with Batman and there was another of a man whose costume was himself sitting on the shoulders of a bear. Very witty and quite impressive, as far as homemade costumes go.
This morning my grandson was looking at the picture of us and Batman. He said, “Look, I’m a REAL vampire! My eyes are red!” (He’s 5 so he doesn’t know about red eye.) But he does know about costumes and masks and the fact that they are only pretend. Not real. He does understand that when we have a costume or a mask on that there is a “real me” under or behind it. What he doesn’t know [yet] is that for many people, a costume or a mask is a way of life. Yes. It’s true. For many of us in this crazy world, we don’t feel safe enough in our circles to be our authentic self.
In the past week alone I have had conversations with people affected by discrimination, bigotry, judgementalism, hate and just plain unkindness. What’s the deal? The deal is we are ALL hurting. There’s not a person on earth who has not been hurt and caused hurt. If you think you are absolved of this dirty deed, think again. We ALL have the capacity to inflict harm. Even children. This week my friend who has spent several years in prison told me that he is sad because life passed him by while he was gone. The truth is, life didn’t pass him by and he wasn’t gone. He lived all those days out, just not how he would have liked. The beat goes on. I spend time in a middle school working with youth in an after-school enrichment program. This particular day the program was over and our group, along with the other groups, were waiting for the the parents and bus driver to arrive. One of my students was minding his own business when another student approached him and poked him, called him some names (which he then repeated to the ten or so kids standing around them), laughed and turned away. This went on for about three minutes, back and forth. My student, a tall somewhat heavy young man (for his age) didn’t voice a reply. Instead, as I watched his face he flinched, multiple times. I began to count the flinches…1,2,3,4. Every time the other boy poked him physically or verbally [my] youth flinched. I silently yelled out, “Don’t take that sh@#!” The beat goes on.
Yesterday I participated in a conference entitled Adolescent Sexual Responsibility. It was very informative. I deepened my knowledge of sexual violence in the youth population, LGBTQ issues (of which I am an active advocate in the mission field), parental responsibility and advocacy resources for teens and families. The event kicked off with a youth advisory panel during which youth were very forthcoming about how they wish to interact with adults. They gave us keen insights about their knowledge and experience of sex, conflict and responsibility. They affirmed that they DO in fact value the input of their parents, teachers and caretakers……”so don’t give up!”…..they told us. I remember saying they same things as a youth. I wanted my parents to know what I knew and what I still needed to learn [contrary to how I may have behaved at the time]. What I experienced most is that today’s youth are a wise and talented bunch and they have wonderful additions to impart to our world. If we [adults] will just take the time to stop and notice them. Then take the next step to hear them. Then, to LISTEN to them. The beat goes on.
Back to the costumes and masks. Which face do you wear every day? Is it the face that requires a bunch of makeup to cover up the scars of hurt and pain from your past or present? Or do you let it be shown, the real you. The you that has experience in this world. No matter how scary it is sometimes, you have much to give to the world by way of your life’s experience. Age is NOT a factor. What outfit do you don? Do you dress up in costumes that only reflect the you you want people to see? Do you dress in clothes that create a fantasy life? Or, do you dress in “plain clothes”? The clothes that suit you? The clothes that reflect who you are INSIDE and OUT, clothes that tell the world you have some age and some miles, clothes that represent a person of vibrant color and detail. Our lives are a tapestry. With each life lesson, hurt, pain, success, failure, party, grief, accomplishment and good deed, we color our world and the world of those around us. When we release our colors into the world, the world absorbs them and the painting is changed.
Today, after you collect your candy, or rob your kid’s candy bucket, after you attend the party and enjoy the music, take off your costume. Take off your mask. Remember that party and candy is just a way to pass the time. Put your beautiful face back on , don YOUR own clothes and color your world with the people, events, causes and things that matter to YOU most. It’s YOUR life. The most beautiful mask to wear is NO mask at all. The beat goes on.
Nice To Meet You, Authentic Self.
Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I watched as people passed me by. I wondered if they lived the life they would like to live, or the life others expected them to live. How often do we curtail our own desires and self-expectations to fit the mold that we’ve allowed others to place in front of us?
This question becomes more and more important to me, as I myself, have decided to journey in search of my authentic- self. It’s only in my own decision, have I come to realize my children need to choose their own path; and I need to allow them to. I’ve done my job. I’ve given them tools and rules to live by. They should have become, now that they are grown, guidelines. But so often I think we parents have an expectation that the tools and rules equate to coulds and shoulds.
Are you offended when your grown children make decisions that are contrary to “how you raised them”? It’s only in the second half of my life, second marriage and second chance to be my authentic-self that I admit I’m that child. I did what was expected of me, as a child, young adult, wife and mother. But rarely was I my authentic- self. Was my life a lie? No. It was sincere. There’s a difference. I sincerely loved my parents, my first husband and my children. I loved my friends and my job. But, if I’m honest, they chose me, I didn’t always willingly choose them. Wait. That may need some explaining. Yes, I chose my husband by virtue of our wedding. Yes, I chose my children, by virtue of my birthing and raising them. I’m talking about how I lived my life during those years. I forfeited my own authentic-self; my hopes and dreams, my goals, my wants and needs. It’s a very costly life, that non-authentic self.
I’ve made the most wonderful friend in the past few months. My friend lived his life doing all the same things I did – what was expected of us. I’ve learned it was just as costly for him. I’m glad to see she is now living her authentic-self life. Our changes are not easy, staggering and polarizing sometimes. But, necessary nonetheless. Very few people from the old life understand the requirement to declare authenticity, and we don’t all declare it. Some fortunate souls make the transition gently and over time. Their metamorphosis is celebrated. For a great many of us though it is shattering to our non-authentic world.
I read an article recently about the suicide of college students at Penn State. The strive to perfection is depleting and harmful. As a Christian, I can assure you, we will never reach it. We were not created to, actually. There is only One who succeeded. For the rest of us, we were created to live life as our authentic-self, the life gifted to us by our Creator, and through partnership with him, we attain ‘life more abundantly’.
I’ve met a great many people in the last few years who, by sheer requirement to continue breathing, have declared war on their non-authentic- self. It feels like war too, as societal expectations help to keep troops armored down with weapons. I have a quote that has traveled in and out of my life for the past decade:
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
How little we know the power of this quote as we follow the path laid before us. It is only when we get to the end of that path and realize we are not there. The body that arrives is oftentimes the shell of our authentic-self, the innards are of another being. Change must come. Our very life depends on it. Otherwise, we leave this world, often by suicide, and the space in which we once stood is filled with grief and void.
As I reach, scratch and claw my way through the muck and mire in the pond of my old non-authentic- self, I see light and life awaiting me on the other side. The harder I swim, strangely the more strength I gain. Yes, I lose a bit of weight along the way. This weight represents the expectations put on me, either by myself or by others. There is no shame in letting go, regardless of how it feels. Swim, swim, swim. Harder, with more veracity. Your life awaits you. Don’t spend one more day in fins that no longer fit. Declare life to your authentic- self, no matter the cost. Surely there is a cost, you will pay it now, or pay it later. Make safe decisions. Get help from trusted sources when needed. But always, always, listen to your inner voice. When it stops yelling, talking, whispering or squeaking you will expire. Your inner voice is your authentic self. It may take some time, some rest, some partnership along your path, but as long as there is breath in your body, your authentic-self rents a room in your being. Our non-authentic-self rents a room also, work to keep it a broom closet.
So you want to follow me? Do you know where I’m going? Maybe I want to follow you. Where are you going? Either way, get ready for an adventure.
Being a Line Leader is a huge responsibility. In preschool a line leader is somewhat of a celebrity, at least for a day. But what about those of us who have advanced well beyond the years of preschool. Perhaps we are parents, or maybe we are in management at our jobs. Or, maybe a pastor in a faith community. Every day we go through our day we are a Line Leader in some capacity, if only at the traffic light. To be a good line leader, you’ll need three things: 1) A destination, 2) A map of the journey there, 3) All of the necessary equipment for the trip.
Let’s break it down. First a destination. As a line leader, everyone is expected to follow me, that is, behind me. Now, if no one inquires where we are going I could easily have a group of very misled people. Also, as a line leader I have control and opportunity over my fold. From their perspective, they offer me trust [that I’m going to lead them to a good place] and encouragement in the event that I get weary on our way. Some Line Leaders may enjoy the silent sheep, how very dangerous for that sheep. How easily you will be mistreated and misled ….. As a good Line Leader I will have at least two others to probe me with questions and hold me accountable for my choices. Lest in my poor leading I negatively infect rather than positively effect. If you are in line, who are you in line behind? Where are you being led to? Do you know? Do you care? You have responsibility to know. And to care. Ahead of time. If not, then you forfeit the right to cry about your destination when you arrive. Get to know your Line Leader.
Second, as an effective Line Leader, I’ll take the responsibility to map our journey ahead of time. Preschoolers know three things for sure. They know how to get to the bathroom, the snack table and the playground. There is a specific direction required to arrive at each destination. So many public figures are Line Leaders and they have not taken the time to map the journey. Or, maybe they have mapped it right straight back to their bank account. But, what about the account of people’s lives? Far more volatile than one’s bank account. As a Line Leader I must, and I repeat must, realize that mapping the journey is a critical step toward ensuring my safety and the safety of my fold (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). Hence, my need for those two others who ask questions and hold me accountable. Being a Line Leader is no easy task. There is a human element. What happens when I make a bad move? Well, Moses had a bunch of ticked off people. Out in the hot desert, hungry and whining. Thank goodness for Aaron, or he’d ‘ave sunk. How many public ministers I can think of today whose ministries have gotten dangerously big. So big, that when they stumble they take thousands of people down with them. As followers of the Line Leader people, WE have a responsibility to know where we’re headed and the basic plan of how we’re gonna get there! (Otherwise, remember, we lose our crying rights when we all fall down).
Finally, as a Line Leader I am tasked with the responsibility of packing for the trip. Some preschool leaders get to carry a flag, to signify their leadership. As an adult Line Leader, my flag is my dignity and integrity. And let me tell you, they will shine like a beacon as long as I’m on top. When I fall watch out! Not only will the light go out, but I will withdraw so you can’t see me (a human defense mechanism). As a follower, think about that. When my Line-Leader-light goes out, how will you see where you’re going? You see, as a Line Leader, I’ve only been given the role for a short period of time (relatively speaking). The reality is I’m human just as the rest of my group. I make mistakes, sometimes horrendous mistakes. If I don’t have the necessary equipment, which is my plan, my integrity, my moral compass, and my ethics in my satchel, then shame on you [followers] for getting in line behind me. (And by the way, you can’t buy ethics, no matter how many conferences or classes your pay for; either you have them or you don’t. A conference will just you up on Best Practices).
People, seriously, think about it. We all fall short. We all stumble. We all fall.
In life we are only Line Leader for a day, and some may never get the opportunity, because of social caste. Those of us in front have a huge responsibility to be kind, equitable, responsible and accountable. We have a responsibility to make a well thought out plan ahead of the journey. If there are changes along the way, fine, reassess, but always with the group in mind. The very day we begin to lie, cheat and scheme is the first day of the end of our leadership. If you are in line, great, we need supporters. Don’t follow blindly. Ask questions, hold your leader accountable. Stand up and be counted. If you choose not to, and it is your choice – no one can choose for you – you will forfeit your right to cry if you end up where you don’t want to be. Then, your journey back may be much longer than you planned.
Choose to be your own Line Leader. Just know people are watching and waiting. And we are all human.
What Do You See?
What do you see when you look at me? Do you see the scar between my eyes or my curly brown hair? Do you wonder what I would look like with blue eyes, or do you notice my eyes are green and be satisfied with what you see? I wonder sometimes if people see the pain that I carry around. What color is my pain? Do you think you know? My pain is black, most of the time. Today my pain is red, however. It is red because my heart is broken and I’m lonely. I was hungry until I found a little bit of food in my refrigerator. Can you see that I am satisfied now? What does that look like anyway?
I wonder what you would think if I told you I am gay, or that I had been emotionally abused in my earlier days. Would you still want to talk to me? Do I look like the kind of person who would allow herself to be abused in any way? Yes? No? What does that look like anyway?
Do you see that I’m struggling to know what to do with my life? Can you see God in me? He’s here. I assure you. But, I’m struggling to reach Him, and I know Him intimately. I wonder if you can see the scars from my past hurts. Hurts that I received from loved ones, well intentioned loved ones. Sure there are scars from those who deliberately used me and caused me pain. But, those don’t hurt as much as the ones that cut like a knife, straight through to the core of my person.
What do you see when you look at me? Do you see that I am educated? What does that look like anyway? Do you see that I want to become your friend? I would actually. I would like to become your friend. It would take some doing on both our parts, however. We come from very different cultures. People would talk about us, maybe behind our backs. Maybe to our faces. Would you still want to be my friend, if it would cause you some grief? I’m a good friend you know. Well, you don’t know. But you could know. That would take more effort on your part. You would have to look deep inside me. Past my outward appearance, since today I am not looking my best and I’m not in the best mood. Can you see that I have had a hard day? What does that look like anyway?
Can you see that my husband is a different race than I am? Does that show in my wedding ring? Can you see that he loves me beyond words and that he calls me his “Queen”. Do I show that in my actions and attitude? Can you see from looking at me, and at my life, that I have a brain- injured brother? How would that make you feel if I told you outloud after the “retard” comment you made. Can you see my pain? What color is it? Where does it sit on my body? What does that look like anyway?
What do you see when you look at me? Can you see that my father is dying and I am sad because I live far away from him? And my siblings are far away too, and my mother. I live down here all by myself. Can you see that my children are all grown? And I love them. Can you see my grandson in my eyes? The twinkle he brings to my heart. And the sorrow of not seeing my granddaughter in over a year. Can you see my heart for her?
What do you see when you look at me? Do you see that I am angry? Can you see that I am lonely? Can you see that I am struggling to make new friends because all of my old friends have fallen away? What can you see in me? Do you see my joy? My delight? The passion I have for my man and the eternal love I have for my children? What does that look like anyway? What color is it? Does my love for others speak to you? What does it say? Does my curiosity about you show? Can you see that I want to know you deeper? Can you see that I value our relationship? Can you see that I want to know more about you, and to have you know more about me? What does that look like anyway?
What do you see when you look at me?
Raisins and Grapes
I’ve read that you will “know all men by their fruit”. What does this mean? It means what a person’s life amounts to can be summed up in what is the visible outpouring of their actions. Contrary to what a person says, which cannot be seen, what a person does leaves a visible and sometimes tangible mark on the world.
With that in mind, raisin or grapes? Let’s see. Both the same fruit right? Both come from the same vine, yes? Yes. But what’s the difference? Visibly, grapes are much more aesthetically pleasing. They are plump and juicy, and they come in a variety of colors…red, purple, green. Some have seeds and some do not. [We’ll leave the seeds for another blog….] Raisins on the other hand, not so beautiful, shrunken and deformed, lacking any visible signs of life. Raisins taste pretty good though, if you can get past the appearance. They too come in a variety of colors, although they all have the same streak of brown which works to age the fruit and sometimes cause onlookers to scrunch up their face in disgust. Raisins are an acquired taste.
Are you a raisin? What are the things you think about during a day? Are they positive? What type of impact do you think about making on the world around you? What creative ideas do you have to improve your own quality of life and the lives of those in your corner of the world? It’s been said there are “thinkers” and there are “doers”. Which are you? If you are mostly a thinker, don’t fret, thinkers are important. Everything starts with a thought (what a HUGE thought that is!)Are you a doer? If you are a person to get involved in advocacy in any way, shape or form, you are a grape!
Some raisins have a tendency to adversely affect their world. Raisins are people who talk a good talk, but whose actions leave those around them somehow in a lesser state then before. Raisins are those who give false compliments, who make commitments they do not keep, who gossip at the water cooler, who manipulate people for their own gain. In the world of ‘knowing all men by their fruit’, you definitely do not want to be a raisin.
Are you a grape? Why, everyone wants to be a grape(at least in reputation, ouch!) It’s not hard to be a grape. Being a grape is as simple as thinking before you speak, giving honest compliments, practicing the discipline of keeping your hurtful comments to yourself, doing simple favors for strangers (and family!). Being a grape is walking out the positive thoughts you have in your mind…Putting your hand to your creative ideas that will improve your own quality of life and the lives of those in your corner of the world.
The interesting thing about raisins and grapes is they both grow on the same vine. That said, they both have the potential to be a wonderful compliment to the world. We all share that same potential. Every day we have the opportunity to enrich the lives of those around us. If our ideas wither, if our conversation wilts and decays, if our actions toward one another are manipulative and self-serving, we shrivel up. We dry out and wither like raisins. Then, we will need a very powerful additive to bring us back to form.
Today is an opportunity to look around your life, see the outpouring of the mark you leave on the world. It’s a chance to check your “vine”. Where do you get your information from? Where do you draw your ideas and thoughts from? Check your vine. Next, check yourself. Your attitude and motivations. Do your own litmus test to see if you are making the mark on your world that you would like to be. How will you be remembered today? If someone else had to write your epitaph, what would it say? Do you agree?
Raisins or grapes. BE the fruit you want to be. Because, man, woman or child, we will know all of you by your fruit.