Posts Tagged With: family

THE MINE FIELD


I’ve had a chance to process more of what’s taking place AROUND me, but more importantly, what’s happening INSIDE of me. See, there’s been a shift of focus. Here’s what I mean…

In the past, I’ve been content to navigate life by trying my best to avoid instances of prejudice, discrimination and flat out bigotry. I call them racial land mines. Whether obvious or hidden, these land mines are a very real threat to me and others like me, in several aspects of daily life. It could be targeted discrimination on the job, excessive derision or bullying at school, false accusations by my neighbors, or undue scrutiny at the store.

LAND MINES.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to circumvent many of these situations by treading cautiously through life. A sad truth. I’ve done my best to teach these avoidance strategies to my two adult sons, and even my 13 year old. It absolutely kills me that this is even something that I have to do. But my hope was that having these tools might LESSEN the chance of them being injured, abused, or let’s be real… murdered. I say lessen because while prevention would be the obvious goal, there simply is no guarantee. I’m aware of the fact that when it comes to these land mines, prevention is not always possible, even under the best conditions.  One false step and it detonates. I NEED people to understand that I carry around with me the reality that there is no protected space. Anywhere. There is no guarantee of safety, even inside my own home.

I’ll be honest. In the past, when people asked about my experience in order to “understand what it’s like”, it was… frustrating. Not because they asked. But because I didn’t think they understood how much of an impossible request this might be. Why? Because there is no equivalent to systemic racism. It’s a different kind of beast. Nothing I described to them would come close to fully expressing the residual strife of a hostile environment built over hundreds of years. Even now, I can’t always articulate how I manage the haunting navigation of black life in America. The closest I’ve come recently is to say that my daily black experience can be summed up in one tormenting question…

AM I NEXT?

Imagine starting every day with this thought overshadowing every thing you do… every conversation, every activity, every interaction. Maybe that will give people insight into what it feels like to be black in America.

LAND MINES.

Because of their pervasiveness, I now know that it’s not enough to just AVOID them, we have to do the hard work and DISMANTLE them. I say WE because I’m convinced that we are far more likely to accomplish this united together than we ever could working alone. We start by having honest, uncomfortable, and sometimes difficult conversations with one another, so that we might understand the reality of the life we live, and how we affect each other. This is how we gain valuable perspective and hopefully, grace and empathy.

This also allows us to identify land mines that may not be obvious to everyone around us. Pointing them out is the first step toward disarming and hopefully destroying them. That’s not to say that I have all of the answers. But I do believe they can be found through our combined efforts.

So my focus has shifted.

I’m now at the point where I see the need and sincerely desire to have these conversations. As a matter of fact, I welcome anyone who wants to have genuine dialogue about our current conditions, the implications of this movement, the way all of this affects me and my family, how it might be affecting you and yours, and what can be done to move things forward.

Categories: commentary, current events, opinion, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Priceless Population


As a society it seems as if we value just about everything as it ages. Things like…

Wine(Paul Masson “We will sell no wine before its time“) There seems to be a general belief that when it comes to wine, older is definitely better. People have paid out extraordinary amounts of money to own rare and highly sought after spirits.

And houses: Although most houses fall into the “decrepit” category after 100 years (or less in some cases), there are still many houses (even older) that are considered “vintage” and sell for a premium, especially American Craftsman Style homes if they have all or most of their original “built ins” or have been designated historical landmarks.

And of course, baseball cards: One of the most expensive baseball card in the world is one from 1909 that was sold for a staggering $2.8 million!

Now, while I certainly think all of these aged-collectables are nice, the most notable and surprising exception to inclusion in this time-established ranking of seniority… is people.

It’s really sad to me that as people get older, instead of treating them with respect and dignity, many of them are treated like a nuisance. An inconvenience at best. We cast our elderly aside like yesterday’s newspaper. Maybe good for recycling, but more likely to be used as lining in bird cages. Where is the honor many of the aged among us so rightfully deserve? When did we become so careless with our ancestry?

I’ve purposed to simply record conversation with my older relatives, especially my parents. I sit and ask questions about a bygone era that shaped the people they eventually became. People who fell in love, got married and gave me life. I realized a long time ago that there is so much to be learned from their lifetime of experiences. I learn about our country’s history from a first-hand accounting of events. I learn about the transformation of what constituted entertainment. And I learn about our community both large and small, as well as its victories and its defeats.

So just remember, by the grace of God, we’ll all get old eventually. Make the time to give your elders the time and attention they deserve. Because the hearts of this extraordinary population, and the wisdom-laden information they provide are in a word… priceless.

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Hero Origins


Every hero has an origin story. Likewise, every person has a back story. You know, the details of their life that predates when you met them. The back story is an intricate weaving of life experiences, social environments, family dynamics and emotional woundings that initiate a predetermined response to certain situations. What I find interesting is that sometimes we tend to enter situations unconsciously assuming none of those things exist in others.

  • We may not realize a friend was bullied in middle school before telling a joke about kids teasing other kids.
  • We may not understand why someone is sensitive to large crowds after being lost at an amusement park for 6 hours when they were 7 years old.
  • We may even think it’s okay to drag a friend out into the ocean, laughing while ignoring their pleads and animated protesting, never asking if perhaps they nearly drowned a few years ago during a similar incident.

What makes things worse is when the ignorant and uninformed take umbrage at a person’s reaction without bothering to investigate their hypersensitivity. Sometimes we just need to exercise some restraint and compassion and perhaps get to the bottom of a matter. Perhaps then we might discover interactions that promote healing instead of hurt. Words that encourage instead of instigate. Perhaps we won’t find ourselves being unintentionally offensive.

Personally, I love hearing the back story. It gives me greater insight into a person and helps me appreciate them all the more. Who knows? It could be YOUR superhero origin. What’s your back story?

Categories: relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Personal Thunderstorms


Have you ever had one of those seemingly endless seasons when you’ve gone through an incredibly rough time? You know, it’s not just a bad day, but it’s like you’re standing under your own personal storm cloud. We become completely engrossed in and preoccupied by the trial we’re facing. So much so, that we can’t see or enjoy the people around us.

As an empath, I sometime fight to resist taking on the struggles and pain of others. My heart genuinely breaks for those being mistreated, suffering abuse, or battling addictions. Thing is, people are rarely going through the same thing at the same time. For each of us, there is usually no storm “harder” or “worse” than the one we’re currently facing. And I get that.

In truth, we vary so much from circumstance to circumstance and from history to history (how we grew up or the particular experiences we’ve had), that one person’s thunder storm could easily be another person’s slight drizzle.

One thing I’m sure of is that every person’s struggle is different. And we never really know what someone is actually going through. Even if on the outside things look fine. We can’t always see the turmoil within.

So I would just encourage us to show a little more compassion to our family, friends, and colleagues. Be kind…

…on purpose.

Because we never know how hard it may be just to get through the next minute for the person standing right in front of us.

Categories: relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Loved or Wanted?


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I thought I’d take it a little further and explore the underlying motivations of some of the relationships I myself have experienced and/or observed.

I was never the guy who went on lots of dates. If I approached girls at all (you know, shy introvert and all), they would be girls I found attractive and those I could see the potential for something long term.

I know there are many of us who sometimes get into a relationship, not because we are looking for love, but are instead longing for affirmation. We convince ourselves that we are satisfied with being wanted, although not necessarily loved. The fact that some person wants us becomes enough upon which to base a semblance of a relationship. Even if, in many cases, it is destined to fail because of the shaky foundation.

Of course there is a huge difference between being LOVED and simply being WANTED.

To have someone LOVE us typically means that they’ve committed to accept us; an imperfect person with all of our relationship baggage, emotional filters, and strange family dynamics. They’ve identified something within us that makes us someone they’d rather not live without.

To have someone WANT us often means that we are more akin to a possession. It’s not so much about who we are, but rather what we represent. We’re an award, proof that the person is capable of being with someone (anyone?), or perhaps we provide the person with bragging rights or some increased level of prestige. Depending on our previous experiences, either with family or prior relationships, we somehow find this acceptable.

If we settle for just being wanted, it can leave us feeling empty, unsatisfied and undervalued. And that’s an unhealthy dynamic for any relationship. Some people see being wanted as a means to an end. Some of the women to whom I’ve spoken are in their early 20s and are afraid that if they don’t settle for someone now, they’ll have no one later. They have convinced themselves that a relationship built on being WANTED can become one revolved around being LOVED. Unfortunately, shallow relationships rarely, if ever, achieve any depth beyond their initial superficial existence.

However, I can tell you unequivocally that LOVE is worth waiting for.

My amazing wife, whom I absolutely adore and thank God for every day, was 34 years old when she married me. That would seem late to some people, but we’re going more than 15 years strong and have six (6) beautiful children. As the Rascal Flatts song says so well, it was well worth the broken road that led us to each other.

So please don’t sell yourself short because of a false perception that you’re running out of time. Because when you have a fulfilling love, it can make the rest of your life feel like an eternity.

…entirely different.

Categories: intimacy, marriage, personal, relationships, stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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