I LOVE it when science and God kiss.
Happy New Year.
I LOVE it when science and God kiss.
Happy New Year.
So now it’s done. I’ve had the surgeries on both hands, and I’m tired. I go back and forth with the focus and energy it takes to heal. I’ve ranted and raved like Job: “What’s the lesson here? You say there’s a reason for all things. Can I have a clue?”
When I moved back to the East and to the Philadelphia area specifically, I felt I was doing the right thing. After all, New York is the publishing capital of the world, and my mother was ill. In 2001, all the right reasons seemed to be in place. I spent two years in an ashram in upstate New York surrounded by love. But when I moved to the Philadelphia area in 2003, love was replaced by another four letter word — the worst of all four letter words — hate. I hated it here.
All of the reasons and memories of why I had fled the East Coast and anything remotely connected to it (including the southeast) came flooding back. I only saw the busyness and inflexibility of the culture. I did not feel the warmth in human spirit that seemed to flourish in the rains of the Northwest and the sun of California. Oh. And did I mention the cold and snow? I do not like cold and snow and could not imagine ever finding friends here.
I pegged everyone (especially you former manager from Hades), as a scavenger for money, sex, and devious ways to perpetuate racism, sexism, class prejudice and all the other prejudices one could think of. I called a monk (priest) and cried. This place was a new low.
It takes time to heal. The severity of my carpal tunnel and the energy to deal with insurance and other issues threatens to take my full attention. One of the most frustrating experiences has been the delay in posting to my blog as often as I would like. And I had other expectations: I’d be slicing carrots a couple of days after surgery, driving to Trader Joe’s, boiling pots of water for tea or veggies, and back at rehearsal. (I’m coming guys.) But the body has its own ideas.
It also takes time to heal old wounds, and I have plenty of emotional baggage when it comes to the eastern seaboard. But all these considerations have been offset in recent days by the old four letter word — love.
Love brought me home from surgery and stayed for four days cooking meals, washing dishes and sharing hours of conversation. Love referred me to resources that I need.
Love came by to chop the carrots, make the tea, drive me to appointments, and keep my apartment clean. Love stood next to me as I vomited pain medication and recovered from anesthesia. Love went shopping for me, and called me (with different voices) about 10 times a day. Love pulled me out of the apartment to go watch a school football game and sit in the sun rather than stay inside and feel sorry for myself. Love warmed my heart and healed a place that was becoming as chilly as the Pennsylvania winters.
Love, in the form of so many folks, surprised me and talked me through my fear. I didn’t have to do it alone, and that was one of the biggest fears I had when I moved to this place.
Great souls; great hearts. Grace has a way of reminding me that the kindness of others can melt a frozen heart, even here, where I thought no hearts remained. Perhaps that’s the lesson after all.
March 2009 found me fearful of the coming spring. On March 4th, I’d had a horrific nightmare from which I woke up shivering. The dream had a threatening quality to it — like death. And although I kept telling myself not to worry, worry was exactly my emotional state. I suppose I could call it a psychic experience, that presence in the air, that disquiet that says one is about to experience a major change. I felt that the threat was real, and as it turned out, it was.
I’d been struggling with the idea of writing about food, how I learned to cook, and the place food holds in my life’s pantry of broken romances, half-finished musical pieces, and unresolved family issues. Then I received the phone call. My youngest brother had died. It was March 5th.
My brother’s death was a tragedy, not because he was a great writer whose dreams were not completely fulfilled, although that was a part of it. His death was a tragedy because of the fractured way we sometimes communicate in our family, and the way we resist change. We have never really been strong, in my view, with folks being different, with folks choosing different paths, with others being happy outside the status quo. In other words, in my view, I am part of a people who, on several occasions, have not embraced change gracefully, and I have to admit, this was a change I was not ready to embrace — gracefully.
Change. I’ve moved from coast to coast—twice. I’ve traveled by bus across the country. I’ve met folks in Appalachia, Utah, the Pacific Northwest, Chicago, the Southeast, New York, California, and more. I’ve demonstrated against the Klan, sang at the funeral of a friend’s husband, worked with a teenager who mutilated herself, and lived with a man who did not have a clue about the woman he thought he wanted to marry. All of this change, and still, I fight Change like a boxer. Why?
Perhaps, it’s because I’m so resistant to change that God seems to give me so much of it. After all, the drama, trauma, and psycho – physical manipulation of living is transformative. And as another brother likes to say “consider the alternative.”
One thing that has not changed, and never will for me, is my belief in the common heart of every human being. With all of the political wrangling, fear mongering, and religious battering, it’s easy to become cynical and reject the sweet flavors of life. It’s easy to become terrorized by change. It is easy to reject the heart, the emotion, the muscle of good love, and the tenderness of life when one is resisting change. But then comes death, and change opens the door to a floodgate of feelings, and change will, no, must be accepted.
Change nudges me to gratitude.
Change, operating in the amorphous sphere called “out of my control,” can boot me into that cesspool of “settling for.” Don’t move. Don’t act. Just sit and wait, and nothing will change. But really, things don’t work that way.
To refuse change is to refuse transformation, and to refuse transformation is to not know gratitude.
My mother once called me a gypsy. The need to see more, meet more folks, taste new foods, and walk barefoot in the freezing Pacific keeps me on the move. The need to live fully generates lots of change. And sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. But the one thing I know, and I know, and I know, and I know is that without change, there is no space for gratitude. And to experience gratitude, I will have to live with change.
I was spellbound and moved in a way that I have rarely experienced since. I watched as an enormous black ball of hair emerged from my sister’s body. I kept asking, “Where is the baby?” And then, there she was. My sister’s daughter, my niece.
The ball of hair still exists, hanging to her waist, but she’s a high-powered young professional now; doing well, living well, and flourishing. Change.
Tender. Liquid. Fruity. Hot.
As I sat to write this week’s post, I was angry. Hot. My father would use the word “hot” when he referred to the heat of anger. You see, I had just been told by a friend that some thoughts I expressed were “emotional.” I explained that my thoughts about the thing itself had not been emotional, but since the thoughts had been labeled “emotional,” well, yes, emotional was now what I was feeling because I felt I needed to defend myself. I was hot. Angry. Yes, boys and girls, anger is most certainly an emotion.
So, lucky for me, after this little exchange, I was scheduled for an acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is great for balancing the emotions. With needles in my face to calm my sinuses, and another needle in the middle of my forehead to calm me down, I experienced a river of emotions–all good, all placed within me by God. Every emotion is a beautiful reminder that I am a human being not a robot, and that feeling what I feel is to feel the creative, artistic energy of God. I am a work of art.
As I drifted into a soft sleep, I felt a liquid-like sadness. I was sad because I was tired of defending my emotions. Sad because people are so afraid to feel. I felt sad because throughout history, ignorant people have lobbed all kinds of aggressions at people to shut down the right to feel–especially, it seems, women. Remember lobotomies, treatments for “hysteria,” sanatoriums, all the various kinds of nonsense to keep women from expressing what they feel?
Men do have feelings. My acupuncturist–a man–said so. They just fear (ummm…an emotion) their feelings. Fellas, unexpressed anger can lead to chronic sadness. Chronic sadness can lead to depression. Depression, a confluence of unexpressed emotions, can lead to addictions. Addictions repress the emotions. Repressing emotions leads to…you get the vicious circle.
Looking at the thinner-than-hair needles in my arms and legs I thought about what my mother would think of acupuncture, and I began to laugh. I felt myself relaxing into joy, and I felt the energy as it started in my belly and bubbled up like fruity champagne to my throat. My face relaxed into a broad smile, an expression of–heh, heh–emotion.
It’s this chronic repression of feelings that results in—primarily men—blowing up work places and co-workers, flying small planes into IRS buildings, and all other sorts of passive aggressive expression. You see, you cannot hide emotions. Emotions will have their say.
In my semi-sleep state, I heard my acupuncturist talking to someone. He asked “Are you tender here?”
“Tender” is one of my all time, super favorite words. No other sound expresses the softness, surrender, and release of love. The supreme emotion.
Now some would say that this post is emotional. Yes. It is. But, that’s the price of being a human and not a robot.
Stay in the company of lovers.
Those other kinds of people, they each
Want to show you something.
A crow will lead you to an empty barn,
A parrot to sugar. (Open Secret: Versions of Rumi by John Moyne and Coleman Barks)
Every peak moment has been flooded with emotion, and when I’m really lucky, that emotion has been love.
Experience: fosters wisdom and paves the path to self-awareness.
There. I said it, and that is probably why I am so committed to learning from my experiences, not from other people’s theories. It doesn’t necessarily make for an easy way, but it makes for an interesting life. And if I’ve learned anything about writing my experiences, it’s that no one can change what I know to be true of-about-for me. A few have tried. Save the planet, I say. Stop wasting oxygen. My experiences keep me grounded in my truth. My experiences are the petri dish where I test out life’s theories. And until tested, theories are all that exist.
Oh Lordy, what started this rant?
Well. A few weeks ago, a friend and I were having dinner and talking about life. You know. Life. I shared how many years ago I was up to my eyeballs in credit card debt. Another friend at the time, who was a financial counselor, put me in touch with a debt consolidation agency that helped me pay off the debt in five years. No small feat and a lot of beans and rice I can tell you.
Soooo…my friend and I were talking, and I said, “I don’t know how I racked up so much debt. I didn’t have a lot of fancy clothes or new furniture or a fancy car or any of that stuff.”
She listened to what I said for a while and got quiet. Then she asked what I used the card for. I told her: college tuition, books, travel, music.
Quietly, she said, “You have experiences. They’re so much more valuable than stuff.”
I thought for a moment. “You’re right,” I said. “I would not trade a one of my experiences for all the stuff in the world.”
Everything in these pages comes from one place: My own experience. I do not talk about what I do not know about. I use my own stories to reflect on my life and the choices I’ve made. I gather what pearls of wisdom I can from my own mistakes and successes. And by my own standards, based on my own experience, I have more successes than failures.
Life is so full of riches, and experiences teach me what it means to continually go for authenticity. The more I stay in and with my own experience, the more authentic, the richer I become.
If I don’t know about it, I don’t talk about it. For me, experience trumps theory every time. If I have a political view, it’s based on experience. Religious attitudes? Experience. Economics, relationships, or people? You got it; experience. I’m not saying that I don’t study. I do. Then I weigh what I’ve read-heard against what is real—for me.
Experience keeps me from taking someone else’s opinion of another person as my own.
Experience keeps me out of the cesspool of preachy, proselytizing fear mongering. Because everyone’s experience is different—just look at how my siblings and I remember a single moment differently—owning my experience allows me to practice being non-judgmental.
I trust my experience much more than I trust another’s “ideas” about how the world operates. And based on my experience, I try to remember:
Most people want to do the right thing. More people are committed to protecting the planet than harming it. Youth is a state of mind and heart. Physical beauty manifests first in the spirit.
It is my experience that a sense of generosity, compassion, open-mindedness, and faith must come from one or both parents.
It is my experience that a mean young person without significant life experiences will become a mean and wisdom-less old person (hapless and hopeless at best).
It is my experience that mean, wisdom-less old people are not happy.
It is my experience, and my belief, that deep down, the heart, by nature, is forgiving.
It is my experience that knowing one’s own personal values is more important than anything else on the planet. And that’s the work.
(Okay, and a bit preachy…)
Experience this beautiful day, wherever you are.
People like to use the term “fire in the belly” to define that insatiable passion in pursuit of a dream. I like to think of the term in its relationship to the pursuit of pure joy.
Artists are messengers of pure joy. They inspire folks to view the world in radically different ways. They encourage us to be curious and to take risks. They encourage us to be joyful. As in…”make a joyful noise unto the Lord..” Not threatening. Not fearful. Joyful.
Even when an artist’s work is something I’m not particularly fond of, I find that I am turned away from that experience only to be propelled toward a more joyful one. For this reason alone, if I had a million or a billion or a trillion dollars, I would give it to artists.
I recently heard a story about how Erma Bombeck said she would greet God if she met him face to face after death. The story goes (and I am paraphrasing here) that she imagined God asking her what she had brought back for Him. She said she would tell Him she had nothing to give; that she had used every gift He had given her, and there was nothing in her pockets to return.
I could only sit in amazed silence. To live like that, one must live joyfully.
The other day, my sister-in-law, nieces, a couple of other girls, and my cousins were over for a pizza making party. The children are all talented girls, five to eleven years old and sassy with creativity. Their interests are diverse. One loves music, one loves to ice skate, and one–I’m betting on it–will be a famous television chef.
The girls immersed themselves in the project immediately, and my small kitchen crackled with joy as each girl rolled out her dough in her own way and used toppings to suit her imagination. Every pie was a work of art. I was inspired by their boldness and generosity. They even made “take outs” for their siblings who were not there to cook with us.
There were no rules, just a lazy afternoon, ingredients, and joy in the process. I had done the prep work the day before. I had made yeasted dough from scratch and filled bowls and containers with toppings that I thought they would enjoy. To be honest, I had a pretty joyful experience prepping. I home roasted and sliced red bell peppers, sliced and sautéed mushrooms, chopped roma tomatoes, and sliced black olives. I diced pepperoni slices into quarter chunks and made a fruit salad. As I washed and chopped strawberries, pears, and oranges, then sliced bananas and added blueberries and raspberries, I was in the zone. I could have purchased any number of the ingredients I used–the mushrooms, the roasted red peppers, and sliced olives–but I was painting my picture of children joyously making pizza from scratch. I couldn’t have stopped prepping if I wanted to. I was quite happy.
In 1968, I was in San Francisco for the first time. It was a dynamic time, filled with the presence of flower children and the so-called love generation. I remember being amazed that I could walk the entire city from one end to another in a day. There was no BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), no subways. It was quite a different city then.
One day while walking–and brooding on how difficult life was, a pastime I thought necessary if I wanted to live as an artist–a beautiful man came up to me. He was African and so beautiful that I will never forget his face. In those days, I had no suspicion of strangers.
“Why do you look so sad?” he asked.
I was taken aback, but before I could open my mouth to respond, he was almost singing. ”You should be happy! Be Happy!” He patted me on the shoulder and cheerfully walked off.
It seems that this has been a spiritual theme–a command from the Universe, if you will–wherever I go. Live joyfully. Empty the pockets. That’s the ticket I’m supposed to buy.
Creativity is mysterious medicine, generating in us the desire to live with a fire in the belly for joy. We’re inspired by interpretations of life–stories, choreography, theater, music, photographs, paintings, and poetry — that reveal the stages and emotional paths bringing us to the joy that we yearn to experience.
Artists inspire us to get up and do something. Dance something. Write something. Sing something. Cook something new and fabulous—maybe a pizza.
Yes indeed. It is a very good Friday.
I love s words. Ssssssssssss. Especially this one.
May all young girls grow up to be sassy women. Don’t take no stuff. May they not let anyone put them down or define them in words that aren’t their own words. I don’t care who they might be. Father. Husband. Mother. Sister. Boss. Minister or priest. Girlfriends.
Sassy. Sometimes it takes decades to get to that place of courage. But get there, prayerfully, we will. Easter is coming. It’s a time of rebirth. Let us as people, and especially as women, be reborn to the magnificence of the light within us.
I’ve always loved Easter because of the powerful theme of rebirth. It means we have the chance to begin anew. We can armor ourselves (I know…it’s an aggressive word) in the truth of rebirth. We can honor ourselves with rebirth. Rebirth is our protection and our weapon because it holds the magic and power of our personal strength.
Dang. What, you may be asking, set her off this time?
If you have happened across this blog for any length of time, you know that I can get pretty passionate about things that inspire self-respect and inner strength. Today, my passion lies in the insistence that young girls grow up confident in their ability to hold their own in all things. Being sassy is not an easy path.
Sassy. I define myself for myself. No one else defines me. No matter what words they use. No matter who they are.
Not too long ago, I was sitting in a group of women. We were a multi-cultural group of varying ages. A young woman and mother stated that she was feeling pushed to go into a career that she didn’t like because of the money she would make. She wanted an artistic career. She wanted to explore her options. All of a sudden, some of the women — women who had crushed their own dreams and desires — were all over this girl, blabbering all the things we have heard all of our lives. Be practical. There’s no money in the arts. Make a living. And..did I already say this? – be practical. I saw the light of doubt flicker in her eyes, and I thought of all the times I chose practicality over my heart.
Well. Folks who know me know that when it comes to women’s dreams, I’m going to go on the aggressive. And I was all over these folks like white on rice as I defended her right to decide for herself how she would make a living, and explained lovingly — to her directly — that only she could decide, but that she had the right to her dream. She had family support. Why not?
The women reminded me of too many misery filled women of my generation who made the wrong choices, and now want others to swim in the waters they’re drowning in. In the end, my message is: Young women, define your selves, and, if you are aware, do not make choices out of fear.
Women. We, too often, say yes when we mean no. We become afraid of being alone and think that alone means lonely. Women. We, too often, play coy and lead people to the belief that they have to take care of us and that we are willing to go along when — really — we are not willing to go along. Women. We may tell someone that she looks just great when she has spinach in her teeth. Where do we learn these passive aggressive behaviors? Sad to say, but it’s often from other women. Our inability to stand in the truth of our own strength leaves us feeling like limp celery in the important areas of our lives. We just won’t call back rather than saying “don’t talk to me that way.”
A friend showed me a trick the other day . Cut off the bottom of a piece of limp celery, and stick that thing in a glass of water. It firms up again. Rebirth.
I know. Men have issues, too. But in so many ways, society has given them a foot ahead of the starting line. No one — no exceptions — can define a person better than that person herself. We are as we see ourselves to be.
Be Sassy. Tell the truth. Be sexy. Be creative. Be talented. Be all that we can be. God put that energy inside of us. S/he placed those desires within. S/he doesn’t intend for the fire to be put out.
Use the s word. Sassy. Sassy begins with an S. Rebirth begins with an R. S follows R in the dictionary. Be Reborn. Be Sassy. Have a glorious rebirth and a magnificent spring!
It wasn’t so much the words that were strange. It was that it was four in the morning, and these were the first words in my day, floating up from my subconscious dreamy state. I suppose I could call it a prayer.
I’m no stranger to service. I got my father’s DNA. His life, from community councils to volunteer fire departments to the National Guard, was a perfect model of service. Since high school when I was a “candy striper” in a local hospital, I’ve volunteered for neighborhood cleanups, helped teenage moms, taught elderly people to read, and participated in scores of projects throughout my adulthood. But this prayer was a surprise. Some subconscious part of me was so moved that it was expressing gratitude.
The evening before, my trio had performed. As I looked out into the audience I saw that people were having a real good time. This was not a drunken bar audience. A couple of people told me later that they had been moved to tears. Others laughed and clapped. Happiness reigned. Once again I realized the power—and, for me, the purpose—of performance art. One of my brothers calls it the “human to human” connection. It’s also, I think, the magic of service. Happiness reigns.
What if it’s true? What if our real purpose for being born is to serve? What if—whether we believe it or not, whether it fits our spiritual and political beliefs or not—we are here only to take care of each other, to nurture each other, to make the world a better place moment by moment?
What does it mean to serve? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said about service:
“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
I was driving a shuttle between a hotel and a retreat site where I spent a lot of my time. This was my service, and my task was simple: pick people up at the hotel and take them to the retreat site. Folks were arriving from all over the world. Some spoke English well, while others struggled to make themselves understood. Some seemed perfectly at ease, and others seemed hesitant; they had come very far for a new experience, but weren’t sure what to expect.
Everyone was connected to his or her own story. I was focused on my task, ensuring the comfort and safety of passengers, but I had stopped smiling. I felt disconnected and sad. I felt like I was using up precious air, taking up valuable space on earth. Looking back, I can see that I felt unworthy of the task of greeting so many people from so far away. I had always loved volunteering, but I felt my anger and impatience growing with the chattering adults and noisy children.
At some point, a beautiful woman from Hawaii climbed into the van with her two children. She sat beside me in the front and began to talk and ask questions about the retreat site. She’d brought the Hawaiian sun with her smile, and her laugh literally filled the van. Throughout the ride she talked about her life, her children, and why she was so happy to be at the retreat. Her joy was contagious. I looked around and saw that other folks were drawn in and were feeling at ease.
When we arrived at the retreat, she said goodbye and lifted her children from the van. She started down the sidewalk, but suddenly stopped and came back to the van. Looking me in the eye, she said, “I’m so glad you’re here.” She smiled and was off.
I began to cry. Hers was the heart full of grace. Hers was the true service, and her kindness brought me back to the reason I was driving that van in the first darn place. To serve.
The task doesn’t matter. It can be driving, performing, painting a school wall, mowing a lawn, or reading to an elderly person in a nursing home. Tasks are endless. What matters is how I serve. True service is a matter of the heart. True service leaves love behind when the server herself has left the scene.
I am sad today. I feel as if I lost a relative, a close personal friend. Her music filled me up. Her voice gave me hope. Her sound healed my heart.
Along with sorrow, Death brings, perhaps, a little insight. This week the topic of addiction is on the minds and in the hearts of people all over the world. Whitney Houston’s public struggle with her addictions should force us—all of us—to open our hearts to the inner battle that is so fierce and real for each and every person. Not a single one of us can sit in sanctified judgment. Every one of us has a demon, an addiction that is not necessarily a chemical dependency.
Over the years, I have seen many good folks succumb first to despair, and then to chemical addiction. The sociologists and psychologists and folks think they have all the answers, and perhaps they do. They talk about treatment and intervention and go on and on. But with all their knowledge, addiction doesn’t go away.
Drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and relationship cravings can push a seemingly invincible warrior into the abyss. Only one person can win the battle. Families can’t do it. Friends can’t do it. Preachers can’t do it. Laws can’t do it.
Now, let’s get this straight. A chemical addiction is just one way that deeper issues manifest. Let’s talk about the craving for relationship. Women and men around the world are familiar with relationship addictions that are just as troubling as any chemical craving. In fact, sometimes relationships will lead to chemical addictions. The craving to be with people—and it is a real craving–even when they are bad for us is our response to terror. We are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts. We are running from our own sorrow, shame and heartache. But we are also running from our own beauty. Cravings are the attempt to still the belief that we are not good enough as we are.
Women hear over and over again the age-old myth that it’s better to be with any man or partner than to live one’s life alone. Stop the lie. This craving for relationship, no matter the cost, is filled with the same “highs” and “lows” of any other addiction. How many of us surround ourselves with people who reflect back to us our own self-dislike, self-doubt, and low self-esteem rather than surround ourselves with people who reflect our true greatness and light?
Acknowledging a relationship addiction is harder than calling out a chemical dependence. If we could understand on a deep, deep level; if we could shine a light into our hearts and marvel at what we see, there would be no addiction. The very breath and fiber of our being is filled with the holy essence of God, and once we consider that as even the possibility, then we’ve put a leg higher up on the ladder of life.
Battling addiction is about erasing our own feelings of unworthiness. Knowing this doesn’t make fighting our demons necessarily easier, but if we just accept, once again I say, the possibility of that truth—that the spirit of God is our very breath—perhaps, no guarantees, but perhaps, we can win the war.
I once had an unstable manager. She would give a person flowers and a thank you note one day, then scream at the person the next day. Although her behavior was erratic (and I imagined chemically induced), the responsibility for eliminating my addiction to unstable personalities was my problem, not hers. I know about being addicted to persons who are unpredictable and unstable. I know the battle of fighting the addiction to people who do not lift me up.
So, I am sad today. I didn’t know Whitney Houston personally, but her struggle is every person’s struggle as we continue to fight to see our own best self through our own hearts and eyes. To surround ourselves with greatness and to live in the light of our own inner greatness is the battle. We will win it.
My prayers are for Whitney Houston’s daughter, her mother, and her whole family.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole…
I’m a little late with the posting this week. It’s been a time of deep reflection as the words keep resounding in my head:
“I’m happy with what I’ve got.” The words were spoken so long ago.
I was sitting in the lobby of the welcome inn at the base of Mt. Rainier. My boyfriend had gone to the bathroom. I want to say right off that I was a fish out of water from the get-go. I am not an outdoor enthusiast. I don’t like hiking, and I do not find snow sports invigorating. My idea of a ski trip is a hot drink in the cafe while I watch folks glide or tumble down snowy hills. However, that morning I was in love. The sun’s rays bounced off the peaks of the Cascades so brightly that the mountains appeared to be draped in diamonds. It was breathtaking.
I had gone on this day trip to share an outdoor bonding experience with my boyfriend, and that was how I happened to be reading a book, taking in the view, and checking my watch in exasperation. I mean, really, how long could a bathroom run take?
A tall, sixty-ish Caucasian man appeared in front of me. His gray hair had receded to the middle of his scalp and his glasses did not seem to be helping him much with the map he held in his hand. His taut frame was swathed in khaki pants and a checkered sports shirt—everything neat and creased. I was the only Black woman in the lobby—and a woman who could be singled out.
“I’m happy with what I’ve got.”
The truth is, I could have been at home doing the things I loved—baking bread, singing, or writing poetry. To hell with bonding, I thought later, it’s way overrated.
The man had addressed me in such a business-as-usual-just-another-day kind of way. I was stunned. It took perhaps five seconds for our eyes to meet as he blocked my view and less than that for him to respond. When my boyfriend returned with food (it had been more than the bathroom after all) I could not explain what had happened inside me. Having allowed myself to be drawn into someone else’s assumptions about who I was, I witnessed something inside of me, something lovely, something that identified with the colorful wild mountain flowers, evaporate like snowflakes dropped into fire.
It only took only a few seconds for our eyes to meet and for him to respond. It took years for me to release the rage and, frankly, shock.
This man may be dead or alive, but I only have one snapshot of his existence on earth: the memory of words expressed about someone he didn’t know based on the color of her skin.
What snapshots do we leave behind? This week, with a death in my spiritual community, I’ve thought about word snapshots a lot. There are folks who’ve been hurt by my words and folks who have found healing. Which snapshot do I want to leave behind?
I’m not a political analyst, anthropologist, social worker or scholar. I just know the power of words.
That night, as I wandered through my apartment in search of healing balm, I turned to the writing of poems.