Archive | Inspirational, Empowering

“Love Warrior,” a Memoir of Us All

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Glennon Doyle Melton’s clean yet clever writing style shows up fully dressed in her recent New York Times bestseller, “Love Warrior.” In it, she walks us through the journey of her return to self through her relationship with her husband, Craig.

I won’t spoil it for you, but I can tell you that this book is for you

– if you have ever felt abandoned by life, love, your body or self.

– if you’ve anesthetized or run away from pain through drugs, sex, perfection, disconnection.

– if you feel so deeply or care so much that you are prone to soaring heights and searing pain.

And if the term, “brutiful,” (coined by Glennon) perfectly describes life to you, then her life-telling style will resonate. Even if you don’t feel you have time or energy to read, because you are trudging through more “brutal” than “beautiful” these days, “Love Warrior” will nourish and heal as you consume.

And it will be delicious.

It will be so nourishing and delicious that you will have to periodically put it down to gasp for air, to savor the punch of flavors it brings out of you, to nosh on the robust chunks of “A-ha!” and “Gadzooks!” throughout.

Chef Glennon knows soul food.

Those of you who have loved or been frustrated by someone who’s struggled with any of the above will be able to see the warrior within yourself, as well. You will recognize your own frailties and be called to greater heights of compassion, as you peek behind the veil of your exasperator’s heart.

You get to see how an incidental heartbreaker, played here by Glennon’s husband, Craig, can also be a beautifully flawed human being, a hero-in-training. Through Glennon and Craig’s relationship, you learn how concentric our stories of victory can be with those who have hurt us by their own struggles.
“Love Warrior” is for the soul-searchers, survivors, internal-strugglers, and seekers of truth and healing.

That all said, “Love Warrior,” may not be for you if

– you’re looking for specific “how-to” instructions;

– you feel uncomfortable with people sharing intimate details of their lives; or

– you have no interest in anything non-technical or non-clinical.

If you enjoy food for thought by Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Karen Salmansohn, and the like, Glennon’s ability to serve the complexities of life in palatable bites will hit the spot.

2

Effective Positivity: Inspire All, Empower Only Good

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Photo Credit: S. Braswell

People are not all equal.

That is, all deserve to be approached with openness, kindness, compassion, and the basics of humanity, but not all deserve much more beyond that. This is because there is such a thing as a bad person.

I was like many of you, once upon a time. I believed that everyone was inherently good, that many were just confused, lost, and that there were really no truly bad people. I therefore wasted my  energy in a lot of potential good, not actual good.

This is a tricky line to draw. People should be given the benefit of the doubt, and even those who make mistakes should be given a chance to show that they can be better than how they have been.

At least, in theory, it sounds reasonable. But, as with most credit-based systems in an open market, the potential for abuse is fairly high. (Check out our economy’s ledger if you need proof.)

I understand that “hurt people hurt people,” and I still believe in the majority of people being not-bad, even if they do things that harm others. But there is a small percentage (which equates to a large number, nonetheless) of people who truly are bad. Until this fact is acknowledged, these individuals will continue to cause serious damage to innocent, well-meaning, unassuming people, because bad guys understand and take tremendous advantage of the status quo ignorance.

Q: “How do you tell the difference between Good and Evil?”

A: “You give it power.” ~Marilyn Vos Savant

That answer stuck with me since I first read it in Marilyn Vos Savant’s column, one of my favorite go-to sections of The Washington Post when I was a kid. Its simple brilliant truth manifested itself through people I would meet and try to help throughout my life. The only caveat of this test is that by the time “evil” has been identified, power has been put into the wrong hands, and serious damage has often been done.

I was in a harmful relationship where I was once a Zen Ignorant – I was insistent that goodness was to be found in everyone. My perpetrator ex was simply confused because he did not grow up with the kind of love that I did. If I showed him kindness, compassion, patience, and encouragement, he would be inspired into becoming the same. Right?

What took me quite a while to figure out was that my ex understood, from very early on, my need to be fair and kind to others. So, he tailored his words and actions accordingly, and very effectively, to my detriment. This alone did not make him a bad person, though.

Not even did the fact that he knew to hide the things he did to me from the public and the law – any common criminal would do this, and not all criminals are actually bad people. (I know this because following our brother’s death, my surviving brother became a gangster. He did things that gangsters did, and felt the anger and lack of connection to his conscience during those years in order to survive in the streets. I get it.)

But my ex was not an adolescent/young adult who didn’t know better. He was not living in the streets, looking over his shoulder every second. He was not living in nor reacting from fear or violence. He was not mentally ill and needing medication, nor was he on drugs. Along with the lack of someday-pardonable reasons for his behaviors, what truly set him apart from a “lost/confused” person was the fact that my ex enjoyed causing me pain and seeing me suffer.

And this was made possible because I gave him power: the power to disconnect me from my own sense of worth and abilities; the power to flex his “paternal rights” through the court system as a means to continue to terrorize me for nearly a decade after I’d escaped him; the power to stay in this country and continue the cycle with other naive young girls.

Today, I am very mindful of whom I empower. I am openly kind to all that cross my path because I want to fill the world with whatever goodness that I can. But I do not empower everyone. The lesson on the dangers of empowering the wrong person is one of my greatest gifts from that dastardly period. My hard head about having a soft heart had to be split wide open to understand this. But yours doesn’t.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

In retrospect, there were a lot of clues that my ex was one to be left slithering on the side of the road. If my mind were more open—seeing people as they were, not as I insisted they were (which was “good” and “nice”)—I would have recognized what I was dealing with. But it was fixated on ideals, and no fixation in our mind allows truth to clearly materialize.

Most people who do bad things are truly simply hurt, lost, and confused, some, terribly so. Help if you can, or walk away if you cannot. But keep this in mind:

Some people are just bad to the marrow of their bones.  It is not your responsibility to fix or help them, nor to even try to understand them. In fact, that you cannot comprehend, on any common level, their reasoning, is a good thing. Chances are, there is nothing to rationalize, for there’s nothing humane in the rationalization of seeking and finding pleasure in an innocent person’s pain. You just need to learn to recognize such individuals, and deal with them accordingly, as you would with any deadly serpent in your path.

8

“To Be Or Not To Be” (On Contemplating Suicide)

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(Photo Credit: BlueGum)

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.” – David Conroy

This for those who feel isolated, hopeless, in despair.  This is also for all the survivors of a loved one lost to suicide, and for all the survivors of the personal fight won against it. If you are here, you are meant to receive this message. Please read it all the way through.

There were 2 more suicides last week by students from the same high school from where my kids graduated a few years ago. This brings the total to 8 in the past 4 years. Although I don’t know the children or their stories, I feel the heartbreak as a mother, and as a person who has contemplated it many times in her past.

I was not really prepared to write about this yet. I have focused on the lessons from my life experiences, but not the experiences themselves, as untangling a wad of barbed wire is not only messy and painful, but difficult to know where to even begin. But I’m more unprepared to do nothing for those still contemplating whether or not they should continue to be. So let me tell you my story, just enough for you to understand that you are not alone in your suffering. And that it will get better.

*     *     *

MY JOURNEY OF CONTEMPLATION

I was always sensitive. Since I had such a loving, happy upbringing, I mostly felt the positive side of that sensitivity. I didn’t understand the other side of it in time to intercept the kind of excruciation that begged for mercy. When mercy didn’t come (and it often didn’t), the only consolation I perceived to have, with a head bloated with agony, was the choice to end it all.

After my little brother, Dedrick, got killed walking home from school, I lost all ability to cope. I was 16, a particularly unfortunate age for dark emotions, and I made the first attempt to end my life with a bottle of pills one morning before school. The plan was to die at school so that my parents wouldn’t have to find my body; I couldn’t bear to further traumatize them with the image of their dead daughter’s body after the loss of their son.

That day, I was calm for the first time since my brother’s death. There was a sense of relief, of finality, of resolve that all the darkness and pain would soon end. I gave a friend a farewell note, with instructions on the front to not open it until the end of the day. But at the beginning of the next class, a teacher came to get me, and an ambulance was called to rushed me to the hospital.

I was saved, and remorseful for the quiet pain that I saw in my parents as they tried to be extra gentle and loving with me.

But the pain hadn’t left; in fact, it got worse. A year later, I would get into an abusive relationship with a man who could not stand me being happy. He knew how to hurt me, and I didn’t know how to ignore him when he said things like, “Your brother died because you’re a bad person.”

The things that I went through in the 10 years trapped in that relationship had me feeling suicidal every single day. It got so bad that at one point, I remember fearing that even my extreme love for my beautiful, innocent children would not be enough to save me.  I resorted to whatever I needed to do to keep myself from taking my own life, in the event that being with that man didn’t kill me after all. One tactic was closing myself in the closet, sitting and rocking on the floor with my arms hugging my knees tightly, pretending that I was in a straitjacket, so that I could not move or get out until the fragile moment passed.

I would finally escape the relationship, but my sorrows were not done. It would be another decade of fears for my children’s safety, and heartaches from betrayals and judgments by other people.

So even though I was completely out of the relationship, the familiar feelings of overwhelm, of what did I do to deserve this, and of things will never get better, allowed the thoughts of suicide to barge back in. Then my precious children, the most loving, kind, sweet children a mother could ever dream to have, manifested the pains of their childhood years as the storm of adolescence rolled in.

This in itself almost killed me. I felt like a horrible mother, and blamed myself for the mistakes I made in my life that planted the seeds of despair in my children. And throughout all this, I was surrounded by toxic people.

And so, I lost my way, this time, from the inside-out. I stopped believing in myself. And I had nothing to give to my children to assure them that everything was going to be alright. The thought of suicide revisited me. It is very difficult to feel the point of living when you feel like an utter failure, and this can not be more deeply felt than as a parent who cannot help her children in dire need.

I sat one day, head in my hands, reviewing my life, my shortcomings, my terrible choices. I then realized that even if my children had shortcomings, made terrible mistakes, I would love them and know that they are worthy. I had to give this to myself, as well; how could they understand or believe it otherwise?

THE TRANSFORMATION

I forgave myself, as I would want my children to forgive themselves, to release self-blame, self-hatred, feelings of unworthiness. Then, I cleaned house.

  1. I cut out anything and anyone who did not honor or respect me. This was my defining act of self-respect, of placing boundaries, of breaking free from the chains of guilt and helplessness: my family, my in-laws, and more recently, my long-time BFF – all were fair game.
  2. I focused on love, not fear, specifically, love of myself and love of my children, the people I knew were unquestioningly deserving of it. This gave me direction and helped me disengage with drama mamas and downers.
  3. I gave to givers, not takers. This taught me to say “No” to users, so that I could preserve my generous, open heart for those who deserved it. It also gave me a sense of control of justice, which was lacking in my life throughout those trying years.
  4. I fed myself all things positive, from what I read and watched, which in turn transformed my thoughts and emotions and raised my overall well-being.
  5. I surrounded myself with only positive and genuine people. This changed my world from the outside-in, and rounded off the cycle to where I am today.

Oftentimes, we don’t understand the difficult things we go through. It seems so senseless, sometimes unnecessarily horrible. Why did my brother have to die? Why did I ever meet that cruel person? Why did my kids have to still struggle, when they were the most innocent?

Before my brother’s death, my father said someone who had strong intuitions had told him that when his daughter died, there would be a long line of people to pay respects, as far as the eye could see. In the nearly 20 years of hell that ensued, alone and hopeless, I had moments when I remembered that prediction, and I could not understand why she would say something so grossly wrong. I “knew” was going to die in that relationship. There was no hope for me, no way out; my life was over.

Had I followed through with that agenda, I would not be here now, writing to you to let you know that I made it. I wouldn’t be able to understand what you’re going through. I am writing from a positive place, but not disconnected from understanding that very dark, heavy, draining, hopeless place. I remember out of love for those who are going through it now. Yes, that includes you. I could not do this or feel this way had I not experienced it first.

Today, I am happy and stronger than ever, and have so much love in my life. If I had successfully ended my life back then, my children’s lives would have been destroyed. My little one, 6 today, would not have been born. All the people I have touched and eventually will come in contact with will have one less person to help and love them. It keeps growing, the goodness. Whether or not I have that long line of mourners after I move on, I live my life now with the joy of overflow in my heart, and it is a life well-lived.

I know you may not see this for yourself at this moment, and it’s understandable – you have valid reasons for feeling stuck. Keep in mind: you are just in a place right now where your pain exceeds your resources. You may also be in the wrong company. And your spirit is starving for positive nourishment and connection, which you may not be able to find within your circle. In fact, it is highly unlikely, because in the great big world, your circle is tiny. Venture for change.

YOUR FIRST STEPS INTO THE LIGHT

If I have one thing to recommend that you do, to start, it would be to surround yourself with GENUINE, positive, forward-moving people. Cut out all negative and otherwise unsupportive ones. It’s not being stuck-up, as I once used to think, to not allow such people in your life, even if they say they’re your friends, even if they are your family. You will heal and grow exponentially if you seriously change this part of your life, because the genuine, positive people will expose you to a lot of the other things that you need, and in your transformation, you will fill in the rest.

“Well if that’s the rule, why would these people want to hang out with me?” The genuine ones will not judge you. They will see that you want to be better, and they will want to increase the goodness in the world, and so help you. When you get to that stage in life, and you will if you keep going, you will also know who to help and who to let be.

“Where do I find them? I don’t feel like going out and meeting people.” I totally get it. I started by searching for answers through books and the internet. I found online groups of positive-minded people who were passionate, and realized the impact of being with the right people. They can’t just be “nice” – that can be a misleading 4-letter word. They have to be open, authentic, willing to be vulnerable, want to go places in life, and seek to help others.

The friends I’ve made online, I consider some of my best friends now – even though I haven’t met them because they are across the world. Now I have a compelling reason to travel!

LIFE CARDS

Life may deal you some seriously shitty hands—I know it did to me. But here are some “magic cards” for you to memorize and slap on the table anytime the hand gets particularly full of it:

Magic Ace: You are worthy, completely and unconditionally. Anything else that anyone tells you is a lie that you’ve been subscribing to. Surround yourself with positive, kind people who do not believe nor sell this distorted program. And get out of your own way – be a loyal fan of your highest self: Cheer loudly.

Magic Jack: You are a good person. You are simply at a stage where you feel lost and confused. Bad people never want to commit suicide; they lack a conscience required to have the kind of guilt and pain that comes with a suicidal mindset. You care so much that it hurts. That’s because, even through your mistakes, you are good person.

Magic Queen: You are loved. Even if it seems like your parents don’t care, or that your teachers don’t understand, or that you don’t have a single real friend, the truth is, you are loved. Sometimes, the people whom you wish to show you love are also at a place of struggle, where they don’t have the resource or ability to give you what you need. And sometimes they do, but when you are in such emotional pain, it is hard to see anything but a version of your pain, which reflects off of everything and everyone.

I don’t even know you, but when I thought about you in writing this post, I broke down and cried for you several times. It is because I understand your pain, and the thought of you going through what I went through hurts my heart deeply. So I write this from a place of immense love. Imagine how much love the people in your actual life have for you.

Magic King: Your pain is not your destiny; it is your preparation to help others. Your story is not over. You are just getting prepared for something greater than you can see. You are in boot camp, so keep going; when you get to the other side, you will find yourself stronger and more resourceful than you ever imagined. And then, pay it forward.

*     *     *

It was a long process for me to get to where I am today – it didn’t happen overnight. And it was grueling. Lots of loneliness, lots of fear, lots of doubt. But it was worth the fight. IT IS WORTH THE FIGHT.

Much Love,
Yazminh

Recommended: “Out of the Nightmare: Recovery from Depression and Suicidal Pain” – David L. Conroy, Ph.D.

17

Taking the Lemonade Stand

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“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

I’ve always found this quote lacking, and here’s why:

1. This assumes that you have all the other ingredients.

What if you don’t have sugar (or agave, if you’re following the trend), or drinkable water, or a suitable container from which to drink, or ice (can you picture a tall glass of lemonade without it?), or even a utensil with which to stir. I know that the quote is about turning something negative into something positive, but it’s not always that clear-cut – not to the person observing the lemonee (lemon recipient), nor to the lemonee him/herself.

I know what you’re thinking: That analogy is too dramatic. It’s just a simple lemonade.

Is it?

Let’s break down all the things you need to make a proper “simple lemonade”:

  • Lemons = challenges, which can be destructive, but can also be fortifying and a catalyst for detoxification.
  • Water = necessities for survival, well-being; you can survive with only this, but not without this.
  • Sugar = energy source; is also things that “sweeten” life, soften the tart and/or bitter parts – it can be fun and frivolous, but necessary.
  • Container = stability; is also the foundation that shapes one’s purpose.
  • Ice = dynamics that enhance the overall life experience.
  • Spoon/Stirrer = facilitator for calls to action.

Before you suggest to someone to turn a given lemon into lemonade, see if they have the other components required to handle it:

– If the person is lacking water or sugar, the addition of lemons will leave an imbalanced, and possibly unpleasant, experience. This is also true if there are already lemons which must be used.

– If that person’s container has cracks or holes, they won’t be able to retain what they get until the damaged areas are addressed.

– If there’s too much ice, the sensationalizing parts of the experience may water down the substantial parts; too little, then it doesn’t revive and refresh in the same way.

– If the mixture is not stirred, it may take a while to create balance in the experience, which will result in more melted ice.

– No container? What are you going to do if you can’t keep it all together?

It’s good to be able to see the positive side of a situation in life, but sometimes, the lemonee is just not at the place where s/he is equipped to do so.

As a well-meaning observer, first seek to understand the lemonee’s situation in better detail, and if appropriate and permitted, help address anything that is lacking before giving potentially sour advice.

As a lemonee, evaluate your circumstances and dire needs first. And be kind to yourself above all – do not add to your burden the acidic guilt of why you can’t simply make lemonade at that moment like everyone suggests. If you just don’t feel like it, THAT’S OKAY. But do attempt to figure out what’s missing.

2. If it can be assumed that you have all the ingredients, why stop at lemonade?

Because if you do have the other ingredients, chances are, you also have more beyond those. Make a lemon custard. Or a lemon meringue pie. Shoot, make a whole meal with lemon chicken, the custard, and the pie, and wash it down with lemonade if you so desire. Don’t limit your creativity to solving problems with what you’ve got.

3. You may not need to make the squeeze anyways.

If you’re really clever, you may find that you have enough other ingredients to put together something that does not include lemons at all.

Sometimes, we focus on the one thing that might pop up in our basket, but just like how “you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to” (Michael Josephson), you don’t have to squeeze every lemon you’re given. The lemons may not be meant to be a central ingredient for the day, and they certainly are not meant to be the central one to your life (even if you have a basketful). They may just be meant to serve on the side as an occasional cleansing, balancing component.

The excess? Now you can go to town with it and take it to the stands. How do you like them apples?

14

Stop, Thief! (You Can Quote Me On That)

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(Photo Credit: Karen Salmansohn)

I loved that message and shared it on my personal Facebook page the other day.  On that same day, I found it completely plagiarized by another blogger online, by someone who is apparently a life coach and motivational speaker, who has a list of testimonials on how great a coach he is, and who listed training credentials to include those from the likes of Tony Robbins and John Maxwell.

Impressive, it would seem.  Except, the fact that he completely claimed the artistic expression made by someone else as his own makes me see him as shady and opportunistic. And I would not want him to claim having trained from me, if that were the case; Tony Robbins would probably not be proud of the association.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem, and it’s not just an academic issue.  On Facebook, people post quotes without properly crediting them all the time. I actually had my email signature posted on Facebook by someone that I knew, without any indication that it wasn’t written by her. Many people complimented her on the quote, but she never nodded my way. I was particularly shocked because she was the editor of her own magazine!

Sometimes people don’t know better; others simply don’t think it’s a big deal. And there are those, like Mr. Life Coach and Ms. Editor, who should know, but instead of sharing the joy along with its source, post it with their signatures slapped on. Very wrong, very uncool.

This is why: When we create something, whether it be through an art, invention, or piece of writing, we are putting our time, effort, intention, and essentially, a piece of ourselves, into it. For the most part, it is an act of love to share it with the world, and it is a source of joy to see others enjoy it so much that they want to share it. In that act of sharing, with acknowledgment, one tells the creator, “Thank you, this positively affected me. I want to pay it forward because it bubbles within me that much.”

However, when one takes a piece of the creator and purposefully omits giving proper credit, it is saying, “I think what you made was so awesome that I will steal it and claim it as my own, because I want people to think I’m awesome.” Some may say that it can be considered a form of flattery, but that’s like saying, “Wow, love your car, so I’m going to steal it and ride it around town!”

I want to clarify that this is not about sharing an idea that already exists; almost every idea has been repackaged.  There may be a fine line on this subject, I know, as I’ve held back sometimes out of fear of riding off the coattails of another blogger. I have to keep in mind that, as a writer, there’s nothing wrong with joining in on a popular conversation, so long as it is my own dialog.

In these cases, we are not stealing, but being inspired and then sharing our inspiration through our personal filtering lenses, resulting in a unique product of inspiration. Painters may use the same brushes and paints, and they may use similar strokes and colors, but the landscape will be interpreted many ways across different painters.  This is okay.

What is not okay is if you paint a picture and I take the painting and sign it, and then show it as my own in an exhibit.

So now that I’ve explained why plagiarism is, indeed, that bad, let me emphasize why giving credit to its creator actually beats stealing for free accolades:

1. You get to be in touch with true gratitude. Very little in life will matter without connection with gratitude; giving credit where it’s due returns us to a state of humility and the acknowledgment that the world we live in and the factors independent of our control are awesome.

2. You get to make connections with people you admire. Crediting an author or artist for their work may open doors to connect with them. (Obviously, if the creator is no longer living, this may be harder. But crediting them honors their memory, and stealing from them will probably make you look quite stupid, as there is a good chance people will be familiar with their work.)

3. You honor your creative potential.  Even if no one discovers your lie, your creative integrity is the platform from which all creative growth springs. If you steal, you cannot go through the raw process that creating your own work demands; you cannot grow to your potential as a creator.

4. You may still be seen as an expert. You don’t have to be the creator to be thought of as an authority in your field of interest; crediting all the great people from whom you’ve drawn your brilliant shares show that you are self-motivated in learning and growing, that you process what you observe, and that you recognize talent. It also shows that you are gracious and have integrity.  Speaking of which–

5. You maintain your integrity. If you deny yourself of any level of integrity, you cling on to some fear of shame, of not good-enough. And when someone finds out (and someone will, because intellectual property thieves are usually repeat-offenders), it will be a self-inducing prophecy that will be very hard to reverse.

I will now probably forever see the “Lie” in Mr. Life Coach, which is a shame if he actually has genuine value to give. But he insulted another person by stealing instead of honoring her work, and there are so many great bloggers out there with integrity that I don’t have time or interest to wait for him to prove himself otherwise.

Meanwhile, Karen Salmansohn, of whose writing I am a fan, reached out to thank me for looking out for her, and generously gave me a copy of one of her e-books, neither actions of which I was expecting, but was delighted to receive.

Again, authenticity rules, and the holding up of integrity pays forward manifold.

Related: “Choosing the Red Pill”

10

Surviving Death

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(Photo Credit: Uploaded by ZaNuDa)

What does it feel like to suddenly lose someone you love?

Like when my friend, in her first pregnancy, asked me what childbirth felt like, I have no words to accurately depict what one goes through in such an event.  But unlike childbirth, experiencing the death of someone close to you can be predictably said, across the board, to be some degree of excruciation.

Over the past 25 years, I have been on the other side of grief: I have seen people lose their loved ones, and I’ve remarked on how they displayed such a  civilized mourning.  They silently suffered, or gracefully grieved, and then they picked up the pieces, careful not to cut themselves in the process.  I would stand back and witness such functionality with awe.

When my brother died, there was no grace in my family’s grieving, we did not send him gently into that goodnight, and the casualty was 5 out of 1.  I’m sure there were people around trying to support us – I remember the mountain of flowers and wreaths piled upon his mound after the funeral.  And cards.  So many cards from people we didn’t even know.  In retrospect, we had a lot of kind people in our community that reached out to us, although we were a close-knit family that kept to ourselves.

But what I remember most was death (I had developed a heightened awareness of death and its potential triggers), fear (everywhere I turned, the ambush of sudden death threatened to strike again), pain (more pain than all the Catholic lectures about hell had me imagine), confusion (there is nothing as disorienting as having to replace every pore of your existence where your beloved once occupied, with nothing; this is absolutely outrageous to the psyche).

How much fear, pain, and confusion one experiences following a loss may vary, but for us, there was just such a dastardly amount that:

my father’s successful construction business folded;
my parents’ once-happy marriage dissolved;
my parents lost their house;
my solid father lost his way;
my fractured mother started losing her mind;
my young, surviving brother got into gangs;
I attempted suicide numerous times, and ended up in an abusive relationship that would take a decade to escape, and nearly another one to completely be free from.

It took us 20 years, each in his/her own hell, to finally start healing.  20 years.  I know this is not normal.  Nothing has been normal for my family since my brother died, and we were knocked so out of orbit that we did not know how to regain footing.  We were spinning, and everyone saw our spinning.  Some tried to help, but many moved away because they didn’t know what to do with a spinning person.

Then we stopped spinning on the outside, but inside, we had still not found equilibrium.  We walked around, each going our separate ways, in feigned normalcy.  If people got close enough, they could hear the whirring of fear, death, pain, confusion.   It scared some, disdained some, and made us easy targets for yet others.

But our season in grief, though long and relentless, has finally passed.  We have survived, albeit in pieces as a family, but individually, fortified.

In retrospect, clearly, we went about it all wrong.  I cannot, however, beat down that broken-spirited family further by blaming them for dying.  We loved so deeply and thoroughly, and grieved accordingly.  Grief, after all, is a story about love.

Yes, I can find the meaning and purpose for my brother’s death, or rather, the role it played in who and where I am today.  But would I go through it again to learn the lessons?  Unless it is part of my story to save the world, no.

It is not even worth having gone through it once unless it could be turned into something positive, healing, to help others, and to restore grace to our own lives.

And so, here I am.

12

“Midlife” (Grace Revisited)

MidlifeGrace

(Photo Credit: Uploaded by Kalaskai)

(I wrote the piece below in June of 2009, at the earliest rays of a new dawn for me.  It was one of my very few scattered attempts to write, before I established this blog at the end of last summer.  It is significant to me because I remember sitting down to write it, very calm and resolved for the first time in decades.  It was as if I blew a whistle in a storm, and the swirling moved away from me, and with utter respectful tranquility, allowed me to speak from a place both deep inside and beyond the horizon.

It was originally written in paragraph form, but I’ve rearranged its movement down the page.)

“MIDLIFE”

So this is what it is like.

One day, you wake up
and you assess your position in life because
the dust storm has died down
and the demons have tired away
and you have a breath in time to stop.

Then, without warning, you realize that
you didn’t accomplish what you wanted,
you didn’t get what you deserved,
and you don’t know what you want to be when you grow on.

You look around and you didn’t get to
have the house you dreamed
you would give to your darling children,
who have been there in the dark with you
and saved
all your lives
with the kind of light that the world desperately needs,

who deserved beautiful, bright rooms,
and a generous yard with lush grass
and strong trees
to move their memories through.

You find yourself exhausted and aching from a back
cracked in two from over-bending in ways
unseen and resulting in symptoms
misunderstood.

You remember the minds you’ve read
of individuals living in the twilight zone
of prosperity
and ignorance
and certain meanness.

You can’t help but wonder,
Did I do the right thing?
Did I teach my children to be kind and polite, thoughtful and giving,
so that they can be devoured
by the new generation of wolves?

In a panic, you turn to
your best friend from when you were untouched,
your soldier friends from when you were being touched,
and angel friends from when you could no longer feel.

These are the ones who have never judged you
for being surrounded by darkness—
conflict, trauma, dismay–
when you had nothing to give them
but tears, lament,
for their friendship.

You start to realize that w/out this shaking and tossing,
these gems in your life would not have surfaced through the sift!

They are the ones who see you and care for you
truly,
who get you
and are worth getting from you
the kinds of things that an earnest heart yearns:
links of Humanity–kindness, friendship, love–
to result in the main thing for which people strive
in so many different ways
in hopes to achieve:
Joy.

In this realization,
your fears also dissipate,
because you know you will be alright,
come what may,
and that despite the betrayals, the cruel things
that your kindness has allowed into your life,
it was not all in vain.”

Grace be with you.  ~Yazminh

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