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.
I heard myself telling a coworker about some particular phrases a loved one uses. Every time I hear the phrase something in me twinges. Not because it is offensive, but because it is not what Webster would define as proper English. We, my coworker and I, were discussing vernacular in general and what peculiarities exist within an individual’s world view.
She told me a quick story about her dad’s favorite restaurant; it’s a Mexican place down the road called Sopapillias (soap-a-peeyahs). But, she explained, every time her dad wants to go there he says, “Hey, let’s go eat at ‘soppa-pillas’ (sop-a-pill-as)”. My friend just chuckles under her breath. Her dad is old, so she says it’s cute. We exchanged a few more vernacular faux pas and had a good giggle between ourselves. After the very short conversation, I had a very long thought. In my experience, to hear [what I perceive to be] a skewed version of a word catches me off guard and I sometimes think to myself, don’t they know how to say this correctly? I wonder if I told them the proper way to pronounce this if they would be offended. The more I thought about this, the more troubled in myself I became.
Somewhere in my mind it occurred to me that a person’s phrases are theirs, not mine. Proper English is a relative term. English is, after all, a bastard language. Not much comes up under “proper English” upon a quick google search. In America, we use slang a lot. Our slang is a reflection of our culture, our nature and our nurture. Where someone was geographically raised, the family dynamic in which they were raised and the environment of their community, all play a large role in acquiring their vernacular (i.e. slang). Life is also lived out in the story of our slang. In this instance, when I read between the lines of what I perceive to be improper English, I find that my loved one has seen, heard and experienced things I will never encounter. Much can be learned about life and culture by listening to stories. Stories are how we love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s how we learn to become a more intimate society.
In a continuous effort to live, love and laugh in our lives, we also must learn to respect each other in such a way that allows for the freedom to be different. Imagine a world where everything was a shade of blue. No red. No yellow. No black. No white. Just, blue. Eventually, we would run out of questions to ask. Eventually, we would run out of new things to learn. It is only through the lens of variety that we are able to see our differences and our similarities.
When applying this thought to vernacular, imagine a world where everyone spoke English, with only a northeastern accent. Bostonian to be specific (since it’s my home town…go Sox!). Seriously though, imagine a world where we all spoke that way. There wouldn’t be any “Hey, Y’all!” in the South or “Eh?” in the Midwest. There would be nothing to talk about after a while. No comedy, which we all use as a way to cover up the fact that sometimes we don’t understand what someone’s saying. Eventually, we’d understand each other perfectly and there would be no need to ask any more questions. Eventually, we would know all there is to know, and have nothing new to learn about a person.
We can say that it is only through the lens of vernacular that we are able to see our differences and our similarities. We can say that it is only through the language of vernacular that we are able to learn patience and kindness, and gain wisdom and understanding about culture and society and family and tradition. These social outlets are how we express ourselves and how we [again], learn to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Vernacular, whether understood or not, must be respected. It requires no correction. It desires acknowledgement and appreciation. It encourages friendship and intimacy. It is a catalyst for new beginnings and it challenges us to be a better, more enriched, more knowledgeable version of yesterday’s self.
So, the next time you hear what you perceive to be a grammatical faux pas, and are tempted to correct it, stop and appreciate the moment. For, it is in that very moment you have the opportunity to love unconditionally.
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?
Have you ever taken the time to ponder boxes and what they mean and accomplish? Let’s see, there are big boxes, little boxes, square ones, and rectangle ones. I have even seen tube shaped boxes. What I want to talk to you about today however, is open and closed boxes. Have you ever heard the analogy of people and their boxes? The idea is to compare people, how they live their lives and what motivates them to make the decisions they do, to boxes and how they are aligned in any given situation.
Think on this: I am in my box (big, little, square, etc.) pondering why my life is so chaotic. I look up and realize the box lid is closed over me. It would seem I am running around inside my box, seeing only what I bring into my own view, I communicate only with myself [and the committee in my head]. I get no outside inspiration or edification from anyone else in my life. The opposite can be true to: I am in my box doing my thing, life is good [in my perception], the lid is open, the sun is shining and I’m plugging along in my life. But, I’m still in my own little world. Me, myself, and I. I can’t see out of the top of the box, so I have no idea of what lies next to me, around me, or far away from me.
Life can be like that right? Stuck in a proverbial box. So, what if I stood up? What would I see? The first answer is, I don’t know. The second is like it, I won’t know until I stand up and look outside the box. Let’s try for a minute and see what we get. Stand with me, will you? Oh look! There is a homeless man over there holding a sign! Oh, oh! Over there is a family playing in the park! Well, look at that. Right next to me in the very next box, an elderly couple struggling to mow the grass. On my other side I see a child crying because he misses is daddy, while his mom tries her best to keep the household upright.
Folks, there are people all around us. There is life all around us. Stand up! What’s around you? What’s outside your box? How can it be of help to you? How can you participate in it, and make a positive difference in your corner of the world today?
Are you suffering? Sad? Stuck in a difficult place in life? Stand up. Open the box lid [now that you’ve seen it is close above you]. Don’t allow the darkness to keep you in a sitting position. Stand up! Open the lid. Let in the light. There are people just like you right outside your box. Life is not that mysterious. We are far more alike that we are different. That I guarantee you!
If you are in a good place in life, celebrate it! Enjoy it now because struggle is right around the corner. Life is not static, we are constantly growing and changing. If you are in a difficult place in life, don’t fret, stand up! Get up on your feet! Embrace the challenge and walk into the fear. The challenge will only last a little while [which is a matter of perception], because the good life is right around the corner. Again,life is not static, we are constantly growing and changing. Remember, you’ve got to Go through it to Grow through it. C’mon now, let’s stand up together.
December is upon us. The last blog entry of the year almost slipped by me. In the business of the holiday and many birthdays this month, my mind is a wellspring of activity. Nonetheless, I want to take time to talk about a simple word. Time. The word itself is simple, but the concept not necessarily so. Time prevents and permits. Time lengthens and shortens. Time saves. Time heals. Time takes time.
If you’re like me, this has been a year full of ups and downs (although most years are like that by the end). I know of so many people, young and old, who have had a simply treacherous year. Don’t fret. In just a few short days, Father Time will afford us a new beginning. If you have a few circumstances that you would like to leave in the past, I encourage you to do so. I must say though, time affords us the opportunity to reckon with our past. It is an important step in our human development. And, hard as it is, if we shirk it, our past will live in our present and sabotage our future.
The time it takes to ponder, search, pray, rest, and revive are all necessary. Take time (or make, I should say) to address each of the aforementioned. It will do you good.
Let’s see. Time prevents and time permits. Time sometimes prevents me from being honest with myself. If you ignore your character defects long enough (i.e. let enough time pass),you’ll soon forget about them and begin to think they are not a problem. The problem with that approach is that time will permit you to live in a fantasy world. And while that may seem just what you need, you’ll wake up….eventually. Then the time you allowed to pass will have likely created another issue to busy your mind and day with.
On the other hand, if given enough time (i.e. let enough time pass), that time could prevent us from causing irreversible harm to a very important relationship. We all need a time-out on occasion. Perhaps, a short few seconds or minutes is all you need to cool off. Be sure and go back to the relationship. There’s growth involved in the ebb and flow of time.
Time lengthens and time shortens. Time sometimes lengthens the period in which we take to be responsible. Alas, it can also shorten it. Time lengthens the vacation and family gatherings. Time also shortens, bringing death and mourning. Still, there’s growth involved in the passing of time. Nothing lasts forever.
Time Saves. When stranded at sea or in the forest, many a sojourner has held on until such a time when help arrived. Likewise, many a Believer has held on with a faith that could “move mountains”, just waiting on God, or a Higher Being to bring relief. Much to our dismay, God is never late. It’s in the waiting (i.e. letting enough time pass) that we grow stronger in our beliefs and convictions.
Time heals. Eventually, whether we like it or not, “it” will end. Life, love, play, work, hurts, joys, festivities, mourning, relationships. When loss comes, we grieve and time allows healing to move in and fill the space. When growth comes, we revel in it and time allows new opportunities to arise for us to put our hand to.
Last, but certainly not least, Time takes time. There is no rushing time. That is a fallacy. While working or waiting the object of time is to be in the midst of it. Remain in the present. Enjoying our time, purposefully extracting what we can, in terms of life lessons, is the most productive act we can do. As we grow and learn, we spend our time actively growing and actively learning. This seed planting helps to shape our future days. Opening up all sorts of new ways to engage with our time.
Happy New Year! May your time be blessed.