"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart..." Linda McCartney

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

Sticks And Stones

In Brotherly Love, Civility, Feelings, Morals, Music, News, Society on October 7, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Conscience: a personal sense of the moral content of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character

with regard to a feeling of obligation to do right or be good. Conscience, usually informed

by acculturation and instruction, is thus generally understood to give intuitively authoritative judgments regarding the moral quality of single actions.”

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online

Once upon a time, good conscience used to be a character component PARENTS, some sort of faith, and community instilled in their children. Children also learned from the example of community leaders– their teachers, their preachers and their neighbors.
Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”–Probverbs 22:6
It’s disturbing to me how the media is making it appear as though all of a sudden there’s this prolific increase of lack of good judgement and good conscience. The truth is, this is a social phenomena that has been going on for quite a long time.
Without a conscience, there can be no empathy.  Conscience is the little voice behind you saying:  Do you really wanna say, do, wear that? Conscience is: The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one’s conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong.- The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary
I don’t believe more Internet cyber-etiquette classes are gonna cut it here.
Linda McCartney very famously and poignantly put it this way:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but *words* can break my heart.”
That, literally, is what’s at the heart of this matter. People not stoping to consider anyone’s humanity– their  feelings– anymore, probably because their own are so dulled down.
“…how can YOU speak good things, when YOU are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”— Matt 12: 34, 35
Words are powerful.  They are double-edged swords.  They have the capacity to heal and humiliate. Words can kill! They kill the spirit. People who think it’s fun or funny to kill another person’s spirit are, in my opinion, MURDERERS!

The cumulative effect of all of this seemingly innocuous, funny ha-ha mendacity is that it slowly, insidiously, bit by tiny bit, transforms potential friends and talented individuals into frightened, uncertain, helpless victims. Victimization leads to frustration. Frustration leads to anger. Anger devolves into resignation. Resignation leads to self-loathing and creates The 21st Century Zombie. Going through the motions of living on the outside. Dead on the inside.

It’s a slow and wretched existence. First of all, the psychological and emotional energy it takes damping down all that pain, reigning it all in– persevering and enduring, often with no end in sight every day. It. Is. EXHAUSTING!

Job only had to endure his torment three years. So did Jesus Christ.

Because you’re the victim, you have to do all the work. No one must ever know you’re angry, annoyed, disappointed, hurt, scared– fighting the good fight all by yourself in your head and in your heart.

Second, if you fail to understand how victimization works–  Poof! All of a sudden you’re not only a problem, you’re the one with the problem. You’re the difficult person, the malcontent, the complainer, the irritating source of all the friction. You don’t know how to “go with the flow.” You’re INFLEXIBLE! Everybody has bad stuff happen to them. You need to develop a “thick skin.” You have only yourself to blame. You should stand up for yourself!

“How does it feel to be a problem?”– W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

These young people know: Tyler Clementi, Megan Meier, and Hope Witsell, just a few of the former members of the sad and tragic fratority of the walking wounded– the living dead.  Then there are the countless unnamed victims who dull their pain with alcohol and drugs and sexual promiscuity or acting out rages.  “How does it feel to be a problem?”

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?— Bob Dylan

There are so many more stories like theirs in the naked city and silent suburbs.  Not only are children, teens and young adults bullied in schools and on college campuses all across America, but adults are being bullied in the workplace as well. People with children, and car notes, and student loans, and mortgages, and credit cards to repay are being forced to quit their jobs (another form of suicide) to escape the harrassment.

It’s neither fun nor funny to deliberately or maliciously make another human being feel like a victim, to kill their spirit.  When someone physically assaults you, or steals your property, or you lose a limb as a result of medical incompetence or malpractice, the law’s the remedy for you.  But when someone hurts, or assaults, or maims, or lacerates your feelings, where’s the remedy for you?

“Ouch! That hurt my feelings! Quick! Call the police!?”

Society says you just need to suck it up, act like an adult, shake it off, grow up, be a man, turn the other cheek, give it to God. But when mean people, their lies and their hateful machinations interfere with your ability to sustain or even have quality of life itself– when it interferes with your pursuit of happiness–  it’s a tad harder to just shake off.

And the effort. It takes soo much out of you, requires soo much energy.  It’s soo exhausting. Nowadays not even your home is a safe haven, or shelter from the storms or respite to recharge and gain your bearings and endure another day. There’s a note posted on your door. A message on your answering machine. An email in your inbox. A text on your mobile phone. A video on Youtube.

They’re following you home.

You want a friend you- can rely on
One who will never fade away
And if you’re searching for an answer
Stick around. I say  It’s coming up, it’s coming up
Its coming up like a flower
Its coming up. Yeah– Paul McCartney and Wings

No rest for the weary.

What needs to be talked about more, everywhere, is being of good character and valuing a good conscience. Having a good FICA score is not an indicator of good character! All that demonstrates is that you can pay your bills. And yet, that’s all we publically associate character with– a record of bill paying. No wonder no one really cares or has any regard for how anybody feels any more.

True happiness and joy rests in having a good conscience.  You get a good conscience by having goodwill towards everyone every day and all the time. It’s not how well you treat people, it’s how well you make them feel. A lot of the time, being good to one another requires no money at all.
When we can get back to being a society who cares more about the emotional health and well being of people and less about their credit scores, there may be hope for less of these true and tragic stories of people who are just plain mean to other people.
C’mon People now, Smile on your Brother
Everybody get together, try to love one another right now!
Right now!
Right now!

Courage and Consequences

In Life, Society on February 10, 2010 at 12:01 am

IF you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies
,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating
,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
If  |  Rudyard Kipling

Last night, I dreamed I won the lottery.  I waited the obligatory 180 days before coming forward to claim my prize during which time I met with my lawyers and a team of accountants.  I was being interviewed on TV.  The interviewer asked if I thought my life would change.  I realized then how fortunate I am, that even a shit load of cash would not affect my life in the least.

I couldn’t buy back my youth.  Or share my prize with the husband of my youth.  I would never share the prize with a friend I’ve had for thirty years or the family I’ve loved, been surrounded, nourished and encouraged by all my whole life long.  No church home do I have, no community where I belong.  No.  My life would not change in all the ways that matter at all.

Being different and having cognition around just how “different” I am makes for a life that is not full of pleasant surprises. At work, people abruptly stop talking when I happen by or worse, they’re talking about me just as I enter in and hear every word they’ve said. Before I got my dog, I can go entire weekends without ever parting my lips to utter a single word. The phone never rings and there is never anyone to call. I have never owned nor have I ever needed a day planner.

Now I have all this money.  I can pay my bills, move back to Manhattan and afford to live there and live the remainder of my days confident I will not be set upon or harassed by anyone calling themselves “family” or “friend.”

Living a life of principle based on reason is not the broad and spacious road.  The world rewards its own; those whose greatest hope and highest aspiration is to be different, just like everybody else.  After all there is safety in numbers, in not only thinking with the group but like the group.  While you may not be the most popular you’re not on the outside. You belong where it’s safe. And let’s not forget there is the emotional perk. Yup, yup, yup, it’s fun to be mean.

The greatest benefit though is you get to keep your job.  Keeping your job means you get to pay your bills.  Paying your bills means you get to create more bills, acquire stuff, send the kids to camp, keep in touch with mom and dad, lunch with your siblings. Own a dog. Your greatest ambition is to get invited to lunch with Mean People. It’s good to fit in.  It’s smart, too. You’re popular.  People like you.

Popularity is people liking you…

Courage is:

  • Following your conscience instead of “following the crowd.”
  • Refusing to take part in hurtful or disrespectful behaviors.
  • Sacrificing personal gain for the benefit of others.
  • Speaking your mind even though others don’t agree.
  • Taking complete responsibility for your actions…and your mistakes.
  • Following the rules – and insisting that others do the same.
  • Challenging the status quo in search of better ways.
  • Doing what you know is right – regardless of the risks and potential consequences

Source:  http://drlill.com/

Happiness…  is You liking you.

Which is hard to do when you’re unable to sustain a quality of life.  That’s why I rather dislike pithy feel-goodisms.  And being hungry.

“You are not deep.  You made your bed. Now sleep.”–Hater tweet

♫This Is The End

In Death, Despair, Life, Music, Musicians on January 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm

“Love conquers all.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.” “Faith can move mountains.” “Love will always find a way.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Where there is life, there is hope.” Oh, well… They gotta tell you somethin’…” Charlize Theron as Aileen Wournos in Monster (2003)

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand
In a…desperate land

Lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the King’s highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby

Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake…he’s old, and his skin is cold

The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here, and we’ll do the rest

The blue bus is callin’ us
The blue bus is callin’ us
Driver, where you taken’ us

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and…then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door…and he looked inside
Father, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother…I want to…fuck you

C’mon baby, take a chance with us
C’mon baby, take a chance with us
C’mon baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock
On a blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock
C’mon, yeah

Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

Mend your fences with your families
Keep up with your friends
Don’t burn your bridges
Forgive your mean mom
Because
If God is your only friend,
Well then, my dear
You are
Pretty much
screwed

Mommy… Why Does Everybody Have A Blog?

In Books, Life, Reading, Twitter on January 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

“To the making of many books there is no end, and much devotion [to them] is wearisome to the flesh.” Eccl 12:12

Mommy, why does everybody have a b—?
Mommy, why does everybody have a b—?

©1982 Controversy Music|ASCAP | Prince | 1999

You can “publish your own sound bite” on Twitter, or you can do it the old fashioned way and blog. The results will be the same– page after page after page after page after page of “many books”–” People making sense of their lives, their work, their world– or propagating their world view.

The Tweeps and the Bloggers, a lot of them women, “making” sense of men, (mostly why they don’t have, can’t get, or can’t keep a man), babies, mommyhood, work; or deconstructing religion, politics, society, God.

People who are funny or who only just think they are, mounting e-glossy magazines full of color and graphics and photos; pithy, philosophical, practical and witty, or whimsical, angst riddled and hopeful; often poignant, repulsive, rhapsodic, ironic and sarcastic, perhaps, even with a side of pathos.  So much color and content– so little time to plow through them all.  So many words, so little opportunity to transform them into a living. When the visitor counter displays hundreds, thousands, and to the mighty among them, millions, does it really mean their “makings” have been read? Is it really proof  that anyone is listening?  Is anyone  paying attention?  Does anybody really care?

Countless numbers of people turn to the Internet, self publishing with blogs or on Twitter. Why scribble “I was here” on a cliff or carve initials into tree trunks anymore when you can leave your mark on MySpace or Facebook, or form your own social network on Ning, or Ellen? I wonder if there has been a noticeable drop in graffiti?

Never in the history of man’s six thousand year existence on earth has there been so many people with the time and the access to say so much to so many.  Many “makings” go uncommented on. Why do readers stop and speak to some and merely stop to leak on others?  What makes one blog great fish and all the others plain fish wrapping?

Big enough for everyonePeople, young and old, smart and not so smart, poor and not so poor…  every kind of people busting out all over with thoughts and feelings, baring their souls to the world (or so they think).  All those very busy, very invisible, unreciprocated, unlistened to, unresponded to “Makers” of many blogs and tweets.

Much devotion to them is impossible to keep up with and wearisome to the flesh.

The Bee Gees | WordsIt’s only words, and words are all I have…

Decide! It’s Your Decision

In Despair, Life, Living, Music, Reading, Society, Unemployment on January 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm

No temptation has taken you except what is common to men.  But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear..,”   I Corinthians 10:13

I guess this basically means, then, that if you’re like me and have a high threshold for emotional and psychological pain, He can let it go on ad infinitum. But can you?

They say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Is this really true?  Only if you’re Job.  Death is not the worse thing that can happen to you, you know.  God let Satan do anything he wanted to Job short of taking his life.  In the end, Satan had to leave Job just as he found him– alive and only wishing he were dead.

Job’s ordeal only lasted a whopping three years.  Come to think of it, so did Jesus’. So how do you cope when your ordeals are recurring, last much, much, much, much longer and there is not a locust, wild fig tree or even a false friend in sight?  What do you do?

Here’s a few things I didn’t do:  I never turned to drugs (prescribed or otherwise) or alcohol or sexual promiscuity to anesthetize my pain. I have never sought revenge against any other person or been involved in any deliberate acts of unkindness toward anyone. I have never committed an act of violence upon any person, or skulked about in parking lots or back offices plotting to have someone fired. I never willfully set out to hurt anyone or kill anyone’s spirit.  That’s murder as far as I’m concerned.

These are the usual ways the majority of people, (at least almost every single person I have ever met in my life) seems to deal with insecurity, unresolved adolescent issues, undiagnosed borderline personality disorder or “temptation…beyond” what they could bear.

I did take up smoking cigarettes for a time.  The rituals of smoking– the lighting of the cigarette and with what, the having of the cigarette with coffee and after meals, standing outside alone inhaling, then exhaling, watching streams of cigarette smoke disappear into the still, night air…  I did find comfort in that.

It was something to do, a way for me to regain control and a sense of routine during those stark times when I needed to occupy my hands and my thoughts.  But I hated the ash, and the smell of the ash, and the discarding of the ash.  The expense became prohibitive.  It was ridicules, so after a time, I just stopped. I didn’t need a buddy or a patch, or a scary PSA.  I just needed to decide.

Just how much can one person “bear?” What does “beyond” mean? Those filthy, dirty, discolored people you see pushing shopping carts filled with all their stuff and sleeping in subway tunnels–  do they know?  Those people who snap and kill their wives, or boyfriends, or parents, or child, or classmates–  do they know?  Schizophrenics, or people living with mental illness or who have suffered severe mental breakdowns–  do they know?

“…He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…”

What about the millions of people who each year commit suicide?  Is the “what you can bear” threshold beyond life worth living? At that eleventh hour and fifty ninth second, did they cry out to God in their pain, agony and solitude and saw nothing beyond “beyond” at all to be afraid of?  Did they become like God, “KNOWING good and bad?” (Gen. 3:5) Is that why they did it? Could it be death is highly underrated?

” No temptation has taken you except what is common to men.”

Poverty, homelessness, disease, mental illness, abandonment, betrayal, isolation, hurt…  All human conditions “common to men.”  You’re not special, or unique, or being singled out for punishment or future increase.  You don’t get to stop bearing all things life burdens you with.  You don’t get to surrender your torment and become numb. Miracles ceased upon the death of the last apostle, so don’t overstay your welcome during the sackcloth and ashes phase of grief. Is there a limit to endurance?  Yes there is and guess what?  You determine it!

“…but along with the temptation He will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”

Popularity is people liking you.  Happiness is You liking you.

“Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Cor. 13:4, 7

Some people have families who help assuage the pain.  The rest of us do not.  Some people have a circle of friends who help assuage the pain.  The rest of us do not.  Some people have a so-called church home, or a job, or a community or a passion or even a dog to help help assuage the pain. The rest of us..?  Well, we just have to like ourselves more.

“No temptation has taken you except what is common to men.  But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation He will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” I Cor. 10:13

We just have to endure.

I hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that’s real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
try to kill it all away
but I remember everything

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
upon my liar’s chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stains of time
the feelings disappear
you are someone else
I am still right here

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

if I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Hurt | performed by Johnny Cash

How Does It Feel?

In Books, Civility, Death, Life, Racism, Unemployment on January 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm

For all the talk about honesty and integrity and authenticity, the most life altering circumstance where these attributes are glaringly absent is during the job search process.  You may be driving on fumes, so hungry your stomach muscles are stuck in a painful concave or twisted up in a knot with fear about the phone and ISP bill that’s past due and you know full well there’s no income coming in this week… but when you show up at that interview you better look like you haven’t got a care in the world. You better act like you don’t need this job.

“People call me rude.  I wish we all were nude…  I wish there was no Black or White, I wish there were no rules…” Prince/Controversy

The hiring process as it stands today makes thieves and liars out 0f all of us. Worse, it transforms otherwise law abiding, tax-paying wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, Protestants and Catholics, Christians and Jews into cold-hearted murderers of the spirit before lunch at Subway.  Given the choice between having my spirit killed and being shot 42 times, in this economy, I choose the latter.

The 21st century workplace is the new Roman Coliseum.  All it takes is the downturned thumbs of the masses for you, even you, to be thrown to the lions.  You don’t like somebody you work with?  Conspire to make the office environment so unbearably uncomfortable, the disliked person feels compelled to quit.  You don’t like somebody you work with?Don’t like the way they look, or the way they type or breathe? Subscribe to the belief that “most Christians” believe that religion is a cult?   Start a bad rumor about them.  Have them fired!

Never mind that person may have a child or two to support, or a mortgage, or car note, or college loans to repay, same as you.  Never mind that person you don’t like may want to look toward tomorrow with a modicum of hope and confidence, the same as you.

Never mind that every thread that constitutes the fabric of life is completely unattainable when one does not have a job.  You can’t make friends.  You isolate yourself from family.  You can’t own anything or even make plans.  You can’t provide for your children.  You can never let anyone in to know your shame and deprivation.  You are forced to keep terrible secrets.  You’re afraid all the time. You can never tell the truth.

And that’s probably a good thing because the truth is not what prospective employers want to hear from job-hopping, gaps-in-your-resume-having, slow-bill paying, deadbeats like you.  That’s just the way it is.., Right?

Standing in line marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun, he says, “Get a job”

That’s just the way it is

Some things will never change

That’s just the way it is
But don’t you believe them

They say, “Hey little boy you can’t go where the others go

‘Cause you don’t look like they do”

Said,”Hey old man, how can you stand to think that way?
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules?”
He said, “Son”

That’s just the way it is

Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
But don’t you believe them”

That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is

Well, they passed a law in ‘64

To give those who ain’t got a little more

But it only goes so far
Because the law don’ change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

Performed/Lyrics Bruce Hornsby, 2004

Let’s just say for the sake of argument all that’s true?  What could anyone in this country or anywhere in the world for that matter possibly do that could be so terrible they may not be allowed to earn a living?  Or eat?  Or have a place to lay their head and store their stuff? To be?

W.E.B DuBois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk “…How does it feel to be a problem?” (page 5, paragraph 1)

It’s How It Feels Not To Have a Job.

From Blastocyst and Beyond!

In Civility, Film, Life, Parenting on January 12, 2010 at 6:00 am

Oh, now don’t be hatin’, but children should be seen and not heard.  This is especially true in restaurants, movie theaters, supermarkets, libraries–  any and all public places where people are paying for the privilege to eat, watch a movie, enjoy a leisurely read or are studying in public libraries (yes we do pay for this privilege with our tax dollars).

For you parents who blithely move about the country under the mistaken belief that your child’s protracted shrieks, screams, outcries, growls, grunts, yips, squeals, yells and all manner of vocalizations are just too adorable, I’m here to lovingly tell you–  they’re not.

What they are is inconsiderate, startling, unpleasant, unwelcomed, alarming, distracting and annoying.  They are way, way, way on the negative side of the spectrum of cute and adorable; nowhere near within range.  The longer you allow the outburst to go on, the more my blood begins to boil.  One of us needs to be put out of our misery.

I vote for me.

Now this is the part where you ever so slightly shrug your shoulders and then sheepishly direct one of those “Oh well, nothing we can do about it” glances towards me that’s supposed to make everything wholly tolerable then.

Oh, oh, of course.  That’s your child.  Everybody and their mother knows they’re not responsible for their behavior, silly me.  Let me just digest my food. After all, what can these hapless parent(s), grown adults with jobs, maybe even piloting our airplanes, possibly do to control their own kids?  How stupid of me.  You’re right.  Let me just pay for my meal and leave. Heaven forbid I should be the nasty old curmudgeon who ruins your dining experience this evening.

Not!

Oh, and I especially  love when your kids are running amuck about the place, hiding under tables, teetering and tottering about with grown folk tripping over themselves  trying  not to  trip over them, or having to stand and wait while walking behind them, or narrowly  avoiding nearly  braining them when  a door opens and oops–  why there’s little Austin or Emily obliviously running by with you cooing and  smiling and coaching ten feet away.

My most favorite thing is when you allow your kid to approach our table, mid-fork to mouth, and just stand and stare while you sit ten feet away.  After all, your child is just too adorable and I’m the adult so let me just bear this uninvited, unwelcomed, insufferable alien landing.  If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it*,” right?

Wrong!

I was eighteen years a single mom.  My only child is now 24 years old.  I received a whoppin’ $25.00 a week in child support.  He said he couldn’t “be involved in this.”  I said ‘I ain’t mad at’cha.’  I didn’t win the love lottery.  What’s the use in crying?  But I chose to continue with the pregnancy.  I could not wrap my brain or my gut around my “choices”  so when that airplane landed on the runway of my life I knew I just needed to decide.  I began to pilot that plane and lift it off the ground.  I experienced turbulence during that eighteen year journey.  I had no encouragement, no help, no support from family.  There was not even proximity.  I found it difficult to start and sustain friendships.  I had no circle.

I did have a few really nice, but sadly transient experiences with some really great people who wandered in and out of my life during my 18 year journey.  One was a lovely young man named David.  At one time, I worked three jobs to support myself and my then nine month old son.  I worked full time for a group insurance company, weekends during the day at  Fotomat, and then four week nights and every weekend at night at a basic cable network operations facility on Long Island.  That’s where I met David, a tall, gangly, 28 year old with a thick, wavy helmet of light brown hair.  He was thin with a long swan-like neck and a giant  Adam’s apple protruding from within it.  He had a deep, breathy, velvety smooth voice and a low, rapid-fire, staccato giggle that makes me smile as I think of it.

The year was 1984 and David was in the closet.  He was gay, and I was his fag-hag.  I was his confidant, his friend, his cover.  Whenever there was a company function, we went together.  We spent a lot of time together outside of work.  He was a delight with my son.  He was one of the dearest, most warm-hearted people I have  ever known in my adult life.

The guys at the facility suspected he was gay, but I could never figure out how.  I had no idea he was gay until he told me, and while I never witnessed David being mistreated, or shamed or belittled or anything, when he told me what he was experiencing there, I believed him.  David decided he needed to move to San Francisco.  Within six months, he was gone.  I received one phone call, but then I myself moved and we lost touch.  I never saw nor heard from him again.

Being a single parent, even under the best circumstances is 100% wretched and 100% joy; 100% giving and 100% receiving; 100% blessing, 100% malediction.  It’s all-in, baby, and women who characterize the SP life  as 50-50 are already standing 100% behind the eight ball. SP is more than just a part of your life–  It’s your entire life but only for a finite and relatively brief period of time.

In my case, the “parenting” phase was complete by the time my son was 16.  By then, not only did he  know what the expectations were, he was mastering them. He had his baseball league.  He worked part time for the Seattle Mariners.  He was making responsible choices.  He was never in trouble at school or with the law. I was only providing for him materially and guiding him.  I was just his mother– not a parent.

Now I realize some of you appear not to have it as I did.  From conception (yes, we knew right then and there we were pregnant) to birth (I was in labor only two hours, natural birth, no drugs) I won the labor and childbirth lottery.  From blastocyst to this very day, my boy is my joy.  How did this happen?  I was not afraid to discipline him.  I didn’t fear damaging his self-esteem or hurting his fragile  feelings, and you know what..? It didn’t rock my world when he hurt mine. The expectations I had for him were high and so were my standards and these were never compromised.

My son was not my “little man” or the “man of the house” or my “Boo.”  He was never my friend, my peer or my confidant.  I didn’t stop being an adult so I could be on his level.  He had enough on his plate just being my son and I had all I could handle just being the best mom I knew how to be.  To this day, I think my son would rather drive steel pins through his eyes than disappoint me and he knows I feel exactly the same towards him.

I did not tolerate my son behaving badly in public or being disrespectful, rude or discourteous to grown folk.  I did this by letting him see my disappointment on those occasions he indulged those behaviors, and by showing him my approval when he didn’t.  Unwanted behaviors prompted expressions of disappointment and were frowned upon.  Desired behaviors were approved and smiled upon.  Literally.  And you have to stand your ground and stay the course, even when it’s especially hard and you are especially exhausted.

I suspect this is the hardest part of parenting for many.  It’s the part that’s often replete with unpleasantness.  My experience has shown me that parents who fear disciplining their children most are the ones most likely to verbally, physically and emotionally abandon self-control, and they know this about themselves.  The rest of us may have steelier nerves or use what Lee and Marlene Canter called “the broken record” technique, or we tend to be more alert, conscientious and considerate when we are in public with our children.  I know I certainly was.

More than anything in the whole, wide world, your child wants to please you, but you have to teach them how. They’re depending on you to do that. Your child does not want to alienate your affections.  They want your approval, acceptance and attention.  Acting out behaviors are born out of a mistaken belief that this is how to succeed in getting your  approval, acceptance and attention.  Disciplining your child guarantees they’ll always be able to do just that. Maybe then I can enjoy my dinner and maybe truly see your Austin or Emily is just too cute.

*Ennis Del Mar,  Brokeback Mountain |  2005 |

Mother’s Little Helper

In Civility, Death, Despair, Feelings, Life, Music, Musicians, Society, The Bible, Twitter, Unemployment on January 10, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I think I’ll just let these lyrics speak for me here and now.  It’s my story, only without the “little helper.”  But I think on it. We’re not designed to be perpetually alone.  Even Adam had Eve.  I think I’m being conversant. In my mind I want to be helpful or funny. Only year after year, decade after decade, I find I am characterized as a “know-it-all.”   The penalty for this harsh, unsparing indictment is death, first by insult, then some public humiliation, then banishment.  You may not work, earn money or live.  It’s a death sentence. Life without the possibility for parole.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards penned and produced this tune in 1966. Unlike the paradoxes of the bible, the language here is straightforward and impossible for even the lowest level of understanding to miss.  It’s a great song. Mostly because She is Me.  I hope I will find my “little helper.”

♫What a drag it is getting old

“Kids are different today,”
I hear every mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

“Things are different today,”
I hear every mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

“Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear every mother say
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired
They’re so hard to satisfy, you can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

“Life’s just much too hard today,”
I hear every mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day  [clearspring_widget title=”Grooveshark Widget: Single Song” wid=”48f3f305ad1283e4″ pid=”4b4a7000e2ee16a2″ width=”400″ height=”300″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

In R&B, Rap Music, Sesame Street, Television on January 9, 2010 at 3:04 am

Seems there’s another Rap versus R&B debate raging.  Does rap music affect the community more than R&B? Hmmm…

I recall listening to the stories my grandmother told.  A woman born in 1908, she annually, deliberately and melodically relived the pain of the “disappearance” of not one but two sons, both of whom (in separate instances, six years apart) rose early in the morning to go to work at the steel mill.  They  never made it back home and were neither seen nor heard from again.

I recall  the sneering, disdainful voices of men, (who knew if they were really police officers or not) as they reduced my proud, educated  but physically small father to a puddle of mutter of “Yes sir” and “no sir” as we made our way by car from the Bronx to Charleston, SC every summer to spend with the grandparents there.

Grandma owned and operated a funeral home.  Her venerated pastor, the Reverend Preleau, owned his church and  the corner grocery store.  Her youngest son owned and operated the neighborhood juke joint.  There was a church and a candy store on every corner.  There was a launderer, several beauty parlors, the numbers runners.  Only time whites came into our little slice was to collect on the penny insurance policies everyone in the neighborhood seemed to have.

The teachers in our school were surrogate parents.  As were any and all neighbors sitting out on their front porches, listening to our speech, observing our behaviors.  No one paid for child care. Everyone, it seemed, was our “cousin.” Our neighborhood was pretty self-sustaining.  Integration was not what was discussed much around grandma’s dinner table.

There was much more conversation whenever a “colored” appeared on TV.  People literally shouted from their windows to announce “colored on TV!” People stopped what they were doing and gathered to watch. Mother and Grandma especially liked Moms Mabley, Nipsey Russell, Louis Armstrong, Judy Pace, Brock Peters, Flip Wilson, Nat King Cole, Bill Cosby, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ivan Dixon, Georg Sanford Brown, Cicely Tyson, Harry Belafonte, Joe Tex, Jackie Wilson, Scatman Crothers— Mahalia Jackson.

We listened intently to Tony Brown, Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson, Dr.King, Malcolm X, John Lewis, Thurgood Marshall.

But the music–  the music was ubiquitous.  It was always, always, always on.  I can’t remember ever awakening to a day without music.  And the music galvanized the community.  It was restorative and painful; inciting and exciting.  It was fun and upbeat.  It was sober and melancholy.  It was silly and serious but most of all it was wholly and completely and uniquely ours.

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther Jr. delivered the opening address to the Berlin Jazz Festival:

“Jazz speaks for life,” King said. “The blues tell the story of life’s difficulties — and, if you think for a moment, you realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.”

No one but a Black woman could sound like Aretha Franklin or Tammi Terrell or Gladys Knight or Chaka Khan.  No one other than a Black man could sound like David Ruffin, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson or Donny Hathaway.  R&B integrated and synthesized the best of jazz, blues, swing and gospel.  Anybody who wasn’t Black at the time could only try to imitate it and failing that, try to squelch it.

R&B will always be associated with the Civil Rights Revolution.  Indeed, R&B is its soundtrack. This is triumphant music, from “Patches” by Clarence Carter, to “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye and all the myriad voices before, during, after and in between. To this day I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud),” “Thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Myself,” “Hot Fun In The Summertime” “Respect,” “Ball Of Confusion,” “Respect Yourself,” “A Change Is Gonna Come,” “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” “Living For The City,” “Summertime” (Billy Stewart version)…  So, so, so many songs.

The power, the TRUTH, the authenticity of real instruments and virgin voices influenced the consciousness of the whole country and brought together an entire community, collectively informed and encouraged by a uniquely shared experience– Like one big “Sunday go to meetin’.”

Rap music has its place.  It speaks for a generation and an experience that is truth and authentic to many.  But it’s not spiritually or politically transformative.  Its focus is individual and narcissistic rather than universal and transcendent.

It invites others to merely listen to their sorrow not know it. There is no narrative growth and change. Cadence, technique and technology without the heart.  Rap is the People Magazine of “music” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Rap says ‘If you buy this, I get money,’ while R&B says ‘If you feel like I do, we can all be free.”

R&B is voice.  It is a soul.  It is a living soul– with voice.  It is connected to a history that traversed continents and centuries, took lives and liberties,  and required legislation and the law (gradually, in fits and starts), to change.

One thing is not necessarily better than the other, but to use a line from Sesame Street “one of these things is not like the other.”  Oil is not like water however both may successfully fulfill a specific purpose.  Which now is  more affecting than the other?   The one that performs best when the need is most great.

%d bloggers like this: