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
Mi gente is Spanish for “my people.” In a recent conversation with a Puerto Rican friend about the massacre in Orlando, at which 49 brown and black people were shot dead, there is strong opinion that the coverage of the event has been whitewashed. “Whitewashed” is a term used by cultures other than Caucasians and describes the stripping of all things organic and cultural to a particular event. It is not a positive term. It is not a positive action. I want to bring this conversation into its rightful place, because in some sense people of color (POC) have been stripped bare of the vigils that have been held in many places of faith over the last week.
I attended several of the ceremonies and I’d have to agree, there was a definite lack of representation from the brown and black communities. The sadness is exacerbated by the fact that it was a gay bar that was shot up and the vast majority of the victims were part of the LGBT+ community. This community, is mi gente, even though I identify as a cisgender, straight, white person. Some POC would not allow me to claim this, and in all sincerity it is a stretch, I agree.
Let’s take a moment and unpack these thoughts. Why are they mi gente? Well, because half my family and one of my children is gay and I am an ally, so we are all part of the LGBT+ family, together. They are mi gente because we are all children of God and loved unconditionally and equally by our Creator. So, our familial lines bleed together as our bodies and hearts bleed together. Why then is it a stretch for me to claim them as mi gente? Because to do that whitewashes and attempts to normalize the atrocity, as if I suffer as the brown and black community suffers. Which is simply not so. I do not profess to intimately know the culture and customs that white America has stripped from POC, those who invest their time, talent and treasure in the same economy I do.
The majority of the vigils that were held this week to mourn for Orlando where organized and attended primarily by white folks. Where are the brown people? Where are the black people? Why are they not standing up? Why are they underrepresented? It is not for lack of want, I can assure you. Many are in hiding, in fear of additional victimization and harm. (This I know because I met with them.) They are huddled together in private masses and vigils held in homes where safety is not an issue. (This I know because I met with them.) Some would argue and say that the brown and black community should be grateful that the white community “stepped up” to organize gatherings. And those I spoke to are glad and grateful the white community has mourned along with them.
As a white American, I want to ask where our support for our brown and black brothers and sisters is on a daily basis. How do we engage with their culture in a way that celebrates our diversity and agape love for one another? It’s a nice sentiment to come out in droves to show support after tragedy; But white folks, where is the support during times of peace and harmony? How dare we commandeer their vigils? How dare we profess to know the ache that lives in their homes and in their hearts? How dare we whitewash religious services with comfortability and practices that are common to the mainline, white, Christian community in hopes to ease their pain?
To mourn with mi gente, I need to learn their language of love, so I can love them how they need to be loved, not how I perceive it so. We must learn to love our multi-cultural country – embrace our diversity. We must learn to sit in our discomfort and listen to the pains that spill from our brown and black family. I do not write this post to divide us, but rather to unite us. While my words may seem harsh, in reality it is my attempt to raise awareness of the additional victimization that takes place when white America rushes in to solve an issue we don’t know anything about.
The white LGBT+ community is a sibling to the brown and black LGBT+ communities.
How can we make a difference then? We can listen. We can support. We can mourn by the side of our ethnic family. We are all one family, true, as we all come from one Creator. However, around half of the victims were brown and the other half were black. There was not a single white victim. Therefore, as a white American, to claim them as mi gente only works to ease my pain. If I am truly interested in showing up for my ethnic siblings, and sincerely desire to ease their pain, it must be on their terms. In the blurred lines of the kingdom of God they are mi gente, but the love they need at this time will acknowledge, respect, and appreciate our cultural differences.
Note: I have since moved into a different industry, but this this still good food for thought, pun intended.
Sometimes the food is not so bad at the bottom of the food chain. Sure, it’s not champagne and escargot. But, hey, you need a Twinkie and bag of chips every now and again to satisfy.
I was thinking about this at work today, as the clamor in the office rose up. I work in an often hostile work environment. It occurred to me, on this particular day, that being a bottom feeder is not always a bad thing. Take for instance this newly redesigned database which holds critical information on the taxpayers in my State. The darn thing was full of bugs, as the previous version was written in-house by our IT guys. Nice guys and helpful sometimes. So, as the story goes there was not enough justification to purchase a hi-tech system, one that would allow us to link nationally to a database that would all but eliminate error. So, our IT guys, yes the same folks who wrote the first version, redesigned a new one. Hmmm.
That’s not all. What really causes heartburn is that there was no rollout of static data, we used live data since we had the chance to test multiple scenarios in a live setting. Hmmmm. I sure hope those of you who are Techies are clinching your jaw and are a bit queasy right this moment. Anyway, today, I found a bug or two (yes, in the newly redesigned version) and inquired of the powers that be on how to resolve it. (This is where the Twinkie comes in). In my ignorance of all things IT, I failed to realize how temperamental program writers can be. Turns out there is a certain “personality” written into each program and it behaves differently in alternate settings. As I continued on in my search of the mistake, I asked for help. My co-worker overheard and graciously chimed in. Turns out he has a degree in programming but is not currently working in that role. The writer took issue of the bugs that were discovered and revealed. My coworker took advantage of an opportunity to share some of his knowledge and a few of us were, just there. In the periphery. In my case, looking cute (smiles). I thought to myself at one point, “Oh, how I wish I knew what they were talking about. It would be so helpful to be able to solve some of these issues on my own. Or at least be able to speak some informed words into the issue”. Wait! Stop right there lady. There’s a saying that goes something like this: You can’t be good at everything. I was grateful this day, because although I found the error, my job ended at reporting it. Clearly I have no idea how to fix it. Don’t need to. Not my job. That is someone else’s specialty. Someone else’s talent.
I learned that sometimes ignorance can in fact be bliss. Well, bliss may be an overstatement. But, it can be convenient so say the least. By my not knowing anything about programming, I was able to avoid an office argument, hostile negotiations, hurt feelings, frustration, perspiration, palpitation and provocation. The only real residual harm done to me is that the explosion happened in my office, at my computer where the information was displayed on the screen. There was a bit of clean up from the “food fight”, which is okay with me. I had a Twinkie and a bag of chips in my desk when it was all done. So, I sat back and did what many bottom-feeders do. I ate to my heart’s content. Enjoyed every bite.
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.”
Happy New Year! For some 2016 has been declared as the turn-around year. For others, it will be a year of traveling in the same direction, only deeper, and perhaps at a faster clip. And, that may or may not be a good thing. Time will tell.
For me, I’m hoping for a bit of both actually. You see, for me, 2016 is going to be a year of great change. And it won’t all be good change. Or will it? Change is one of the only guarantees in the Universe. We can embrace it, reject it, rail against it, work in harmony with it, question it or just observe it. Whatever we choose to do, change is inevitable. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, the Bible talks about a time for all things under the sun. I believe this is true and I also believe that not all change is looked upon as welcomed. For part of this year, I will have that attitude I expect.
We are each on a private journey to discover who we are, in the midst of where we are. Where we are physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. We must learn to look upon this journey as a necessity rather than a burden, even when the journey is through a dry and weary land. Being a human being is the most excruciating journey we will ever encounter. This is a strong statement and I admit that. But, selah (from Hebrew, meaning, “pause and think on this”). If we are a people whose belief and trust are in something or someone bigger than us, then we are sure to resonate with that infamous lyric so eloquently stated by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.” Believers in God will undoubtedly admit that there are times we wonder where the hell God is in a particular situation. When we can’t see the forest through the trees. Sometimes we can’t even see the trees. But God has clearer vision. That’s where our hope lies.
The journey to the center of our birth is a requirement for all of us, to figure out where we came from, where we are and more decidedly, where we want to go. In 2016 many of us will travel through fire to get to our next place. For some, a smooth sail down a quiet stream will be in store. Others will be led into a desert and will likely feel the cracked ground beneath their feet and wonder again, where the hell is God? But, have no lingering fear. Notice, I said lingering. Fear is inevitable, even with the good changes that will come our way.
I think it’s fair to say change and fear live in tandem.
(I know you’ve heard of the fear of failure. But, have you heard of the fear of success?)
One important adoption for the coming year of change will be to acquire some type of calming discipline. For some yoga, others running or extreme sports will be needed. Yet for others, prayer and meditation. (Oops! I accidentally typed medication….I corrected the typo, but realized that for some it may very well include medication…and if that’s what it takes, that’s okay too, under a doctor’s supervision of course.) The important thing here is that the journey to the center of your birth will require from you the hardest part of the journey…a decision.
A few years ago a great philosopher gave me some life changing advice (okay, it was my older brother actually). He said, “Everyone else has an opinion, you have a decision.”
Here I am again this year looking at some continuing big-life changes. As I recalled that advice, I believe it is still powerful and still true. My decisions may only make sense to me. Your decisions may only make sense to you. To others they may look like delusion or risky. That’s their opinion. I have to decide what it takes for me to be able to travel my journey (and so do you).
As you look over your new 2016 calendar, you’re only about seven days or so in. You’ve got about another 355 days or so of change waiting for you. So what’s it going to be? Embrace? Reject? Question? Rail? Walk in harmony? Observe? You decide. Let the naysayers and haters have their opinions. Let the loved ones and supporters have their opinions. There’s nothing you can do about what they think of your circumstance or your decision to act (or not).
They have an opinion. YOU HAVE A DECISION.
I’d love to tell you to stand tall and face your fears! To roar like a lion! To fight, fight fight! But, the best advice might just be to shut the hell up and let time pass. To cry and lick your wounds in private. To pray and just keep hoping in a brighter day. See, I just have an opinion too. I also have a decision, and it’s no less scary than yours. Being a writer doesn’t grant me any special passes, only a vessel to talk about my life on a public platform, and hope that another beautiful human is somehow inspired.
The journey to the center of your birth never ends. The journey started before you left the womb and it will continue until you return to the Dust. If you don’t have the moxie to be brave today, don’t fret. Bravery is a relative term (the magazines and media will tell you otherwise though). If you need to retreat today, please do. If you need to run and rage, do so (just don’t hurt anyone else in the process). If you need to stand up for yourself, stand. If you need to sit quietly, sit. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Just remember, it’s your journey to the center of your birth. We all have an opinion and we all have a decision. Do what your Spirit calls you to do. Be well. Be loved. Love.
Be the most authentic version of you you can be today. Don’t lose hope in a brighter tomorrow though. Hope is a vital supply needed for the journey. Find your hope, keep your hope. It’s our birthright.
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.