As I do each morning upon waking I check my messages and do what ever correspondence needs to be done. Today had a twist. As I was meandering through my Facebook Messenger I noticed I had a couple of messages in a folder designated for people I am not "friends" with on Facebook. I opened it to see a name I hadn't seen or given much thought to for the past ten years.
She said in these exact words:
"Mother Teresa Painting Make me a cash offer I won't refuse. Otherwise bonfire."
Whoa. Wow. What the...
I promptly offered her $1500. This is what I remembered she paid for the painting ten years ago.
Her tone seemed a little hateful.
"It's been stored for the past ten years. Don't want anything to do with any you. Double that amount. I paid more back when. Not much more but more."
At this point I felt like I was dealing with an art terrorist. The thought of my painting going up in flames unless I hand over the cash is new to me. My emotions have been a little high over this ordeal and so I have reached out to my spiritual advisors for advice.
"Tell her to go fuck herself" was one bit of solid advice I received and then... "What matters most to you?" was a question asked of me a few times. Finally, the words "What is going to hurt the least?" was spoken and at that moment I thought I had to save the Saint. Besides, it is Saint Mother Teresa and what would she do? I think she would get out of the way enough to get the job done. Would she sacrifice her own ego and feelings to do the greater good? She may also tell someone to go bugger off but not at the cost of the mission, right?. At least this is my idea about what she might do.
So, I told this terrorist that I could only muster up $2,000 and also thanked her for the opportunity to save my painting from her fiery death threat. She countered at $2,100. Ouch. I asked for photos to verify its condition after 10 years and she once again took offense. At this point I decided to save myself and regardless of what Mother Teresa may or may not have done, I decided to not negotiate with a terrorist. I kindly said, "I've had a change of heart...don't get burned."
At this point you may be wondering why this woman hates me so much that she would burn Mother Teresa at the stake. I'm wondering this too. I know that ten years ago my wife and I asked a mutual friend to dinner because it was her birthday. The terrorist wasn't invited and became highly offended. This was it. Friendship ended before dessert was served.
Big sigh here.
This post is not about ratting out this person. I dare say it may not even be about saving the saint. I believe the greater lesson here may be about life and how we harbor the insults we have experienced. I will leave you with this. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It takes the burden off of us and places it with the rhythm and grace of life. It gives the other person a chance to grow. It leaves room for compassion and kindness and keeps us in the light so that we may see our way along this sometimes rocky and treacherous road. It washes threats and acts of violence from our hearts and cools the fires that can take from us what can not be restored. Forgiveness releases our heartaches and makes clear the path to joy. If Mother Teresa burns, I forgive her.
When I have written in the past it felt like I was trying to prove myself by rehashing my life’s traumas. My life has been filled with extremes and as much as I would like to rewind and rewrite it there is no changing it. I’m not interested in woundology, and by that, I mean sharing my wounds so much that I am perpetuating victimhood in myself or in anyone else. This space doesn’t feed me. I am interested in overcoming challenges and encouraging my fellow humans to walk in their own harmony regardless of what life has handed them. Because of the extreme nature of my past I have had to take a life or death approach to mental, physical and spiritual wellness.
Before I talk about my daily practice and what I have found that works for me I would like to share something I have recently become aware of. No one needs to know what I’ve been through. This recently hit me like a strong cleansing wave. Let me explain. I realize now that part of my process has been to try and make sense of my trauma by sharing it with others in an attempt to show I was a legitimate survivor with a powerful story to tell. In fact, I believed that I couldn’t effectively help another person unless I first revealed what I had overcome. I no longer believe I need to do this. What qualifies me to share and encourage others is where I am now, how effective my daily life choices are and what I do to stay mentally, physically and spiritually fit. Further still, I believe by telling others the details my personal trauma I may actually be minimizing their experience. We do this as humans…we compare ourselves and try to reason away what may be a legitimate health concern because the guy next to us is so much worse-off than we are. Having said this I understand there are appropriate exceptions when sharing our life experience is necessary and helpful.
So, let’s say we all have challenges in our daily lives we contend with in order to live happy and balanced lives. We all have stress, fears, doubts and regrets. These can and will eat away at the harmony and well being we could otherwise be enjoying. What happens to us is life and how we cope is living. Here is how I do it.
Each morning I wake up to see the beauty around me. My dreams are still floating in my head. A sense of well being surrounds me some days and other days not so much. Always, I am grateful for another day. My bedroom is something of a sanctuary for me. Everything in this room is a reflection of wellness. My Beloved has left coffee on my nightstand. I smile. I make my bed. The clothes I decide to wear each morning are an expression of how I feel or what I’m doing that day. I listen to myself and try not to make decisions based on what anyone else thinks. My body is my vessel, so I give it the best start I can to each day.
The foods I eat are intended to nurture me and act as fuel for my body. My breakfast usually includes fresh organic vegetables and fruits and to the best of my ability I keep this theme going throughout the day, drinking lots of water. I use Dr. Mercola as a health source on-line. I find his information and supplements dependable for the most part.
I love listening to bio-hackers and motivational speakers, so this is where I plug in while I am engaging my workday. I have the good fortune to listen as I work so this is a boost for me. MindValley on YouTube is a fabulous source for keeping one’s thoughts uplifted and I use it often. I also use a meditation app called Omvana. There are several meditations on this app and the download is free. My physical routine is to get outside as often as I can, walk and engage with our pets. I also see a body worker twice a month and I keep up with all of my blood work and physicals annually. I have taken Ben Greenfield’s advice about weight training and I would encourage you to check it out. It takes eight minutes to do this once a week workout and I am enjoying it.
As we all know our close relationships should feed us. My family and my furry children are the loves of my life. All of these are integral to balancing life and yet without any of them I still need to stand. This is why a spiritual practice is vital to me. My spiritual practice is key to my well-being. Prayer is the breath and water that sustains me.
On the notepad for mental wellness I have written down everything I want to be true for myself. I love reading it because even if it isn’t true today it may be true tomorrow. My mind thinks I am telling the truth, so I keep telling myself what I want to be true. There is a strange phenomenon that we all experience and this is we see what we focus upon. One step further…we get what we focus on. This is the difference between living well and scrambling to be okay.
We all live in our own way. We all seek balance. We have our own levels of resilience and elasticity when it comes to our inner lives that we must nurture, feed and protect. More and more I am learning just how important and sacred is the arena of my mind. It is the control center for my life, and from it all experiences are born. This spectrum of mental wellness is unique to each one of us. Think on things that are lovely and life giving. Be kind to your mind. I am. Your mind is the lens through which you perceive the world. It is perhaps the most valuable treasure you possess. Your mind is who you are. It is who I am.
I hold no other standard for myself other than to do my best. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz comes to mind.
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
Each day I smile at the reality of being the one who lived. The one who was touched by the hand of destruction and yet was raised up from the proverbial ashes to live again. I believe this is true for you as well, no matter what your life circumstances are. The desire and the willingness to weave our lives into a fabric of something beautiful is how to begin. I urge you to do this. You are unique and beautiful and so worth it!
This week my younger sister reached out to me and said how much she missed and needed our Mother. She was taking a flight from Birmingham back to Indy and the clouds were beyond phenomenal. They were the kind of clouds that make you wonder if that is what heaven is like. We all know Mom was a good woman and if anyone deserved heaven she did.
I miss Mother's goodness and her loving and tender heart. I miss her optimism and her trust in God. I miss her tireless prayers. I miss her intuition and her forgiving nature. I miss her smile and her soft hands.
I miss her...
"Mom, can we talk?"
"Yes, honey, I'm here."
"Is it hard to die?"
"No. I was scared at first but then it was easy. You just let go and trust everything will be okay. I knew God would catch me. I was so glad most of you kids were there. It made me rest easier to hear you singing."
"I'm sorry I couldn't get to you fast enough before you left."
"That's alright, I heard you on the phone. Everything was just right."
"What is it like for you now?"
"Oh, it is so lovely where I am. I get to see my Mother and Dad anytime. Lily and I get our hair and nails done together...and it is so beautiful here too. My brother Jesse is still as handsome as ever and Ernie and I sing together. I'm finally getting to learn all about business and well, I am having a good time."
"So you still have a physical body?"
"No, it isn't like what you have to go through but I have a body. It is like having a body made of light. It is hard to explain but I will tell you it is better here than on earth. I like it better. My hair is black with no gray at all and I am able to walk and run. It feels so good to run again."
"Do you miss us kids?"
"Oh I miss you so much. You are still my sweethearts...all of you. I see you in my thoughts and in the love I have for you. I hear you when you call out to me and I send you all the comfort that I can. I'm so very proud of each of you and I know you will all be fine."
"I love you so much Mom."
"I know honey, I love you. I'm putting my hand on your cheek just like I used to."
"I guess I'll go now. Thank you for talking just loud enough for me to hear you."
"You be good now and don't you be afraid. You are still my sunshine."
"I won't Mom and you are my sunshine too."
"You come talk to me anytime you want. I'll be able to hear you."
"I will Mom."
"Please stay close to me."
"I am honey. I'm as close as your heart."
The transport rolled to a stop in front of Gilaw and Wisa’s home. Daval came running to the window and pressed his face close. “mama, mama, let me hold her please.”
Wisa smiled without feeling and opened the door. Daval stroked the baby Anetti on the head while humming a little song that could only come from a contented child. “I wuv baby Anetti, mama.” Then he ran quickly to the house and told the others of their arrival.
Excited children came to the door of the house. There were six of the seven children there and waiting to see number eight come in. Leeden, the first child and eldest son, had already left the home and was in training to become a speaker in the house of El Olam. Wisa and Gilaw were very proud of Leeden and treasured his resolve to carry on their convictions.
“Come mother, let us help you with the baby,” said Bekay. “You should rest and we will take watch over little Anetti.” Bekay swooped Anetti from Wisa’s arms while Gilaw grappled with the bags and latched the doors of the transport. Judan helped Wisa carefully walk through the open door of her home while all the children disappeared into the small domicile. The doors closed behind Anetti for the first time in this life.
Judan peered wearily upon the child as though some part of her could see her fate to come. One of her alternate lives was beckoning her to come into a realm she barely knew existed. Judan was to become the surrogate mother of Anetti and one of the many victims of Gilaw. She saw it coming and could do nothing but walk toward it.
“Judan, what do you think of Anetti?” whispered Gilaw. “Isn’t she sweet?”
“Yes, Pader, she is very sweet.”
“Not so unlike you, I think.” Gilaw spoke in a tone that insisted you agree with him… “No, not so unlike me.”
Bekay was close in age to Judan and was her best friend. She knew Judan’s heart at times more than Judan did. She also saw Gilaw too near. Bekay spoke with her innocent playfulness that easily escaped Gilaw’s indecency.
“Judan, please come help with baby Anetti. We must prepare a bath to baptize the new gift. Judan saw this as a relief from Gilaw and came hurriedly to assist Bekay. Judan and Bekay began humming the chant as they prepared the bath. Baby Anetti lay still as Daval counted her toes. Jogil was in the shadow of the room, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He stayed silently there and watched as the ritual began.
They sang in quiet time and rhythmic lulls.
“All Children of the Earth,
Sing the healing song, rising.
Will the healing fire, changing,
Swim the healing deep, feeling.
Walk the healing Earth, being.”
Judan and Bekay held Anetti’s body in the warm water as Wisa came to press her oiled finger onto her forehead. Her finger dragged lightly from temple to temple. Wisa was tired but held fast to the old ways of Bulaq in honor of her mother. Bulaq had done this very same ritual with Wisa when she was born, there on the eating table of their shack house some thirty-eight years before. And Wisa had watched as many more children Bulaq would knowingly pass this curse to. The words Wisa spoke then were illegible to the rest. It was the passing of the curse in ritual. It was the spoken word of what breathed in their blood. It was a confirmation ceremony so simple and quick and so deadly. It was one this baby would finally break. “Doon ka-tek nye pun Quing.”
Oft Made to Wonder
I was in bed, ready to fall into a deep sleep because I knew the next morning held wondrous treasures of chocolate chunks, oranges in socks, ribbon candy and gifts wrapped with care...and maybe, just maybe, a gift that was left by someone who knew me and loved me. My mind was active and not tired at all. I heard the distant sound of the train's whistle blowing. It would soon be passing our house along with the engine's headlight that would race around my room. I counted to see how many seconds it would take for the train to arrive. 1,2,3,4 ... 28 seconds and then, the loudest sound always right in front of our house because that is where the marker was for the horn to blow for the cars crossing on Oaklandon Road. Always it would sound in front of our house, and it would cause me to shudder and it would cause anyone on the phone to say, “Hold on,” and it would rattle the lampshades and it would beckon us to the tracks after it passed to know we just barely missed our death by standing there. But not tonight. It was Christmas Eve and nothing could rob the blissful moment of the mystery of this evening. Just then, I heard the bells. It was a faint magical sound. I opened the window to the crisp winter air and looked up into the night. There it was, the miracle of all miracles ... Rudolph.
December 24, 1978
It doesn't matter how poor you are when one day a year everyone is happy and there are colored lights on a tree inside the house and all the kids come home to visit and there's food and at least a couple of presents. This one day is happy. I couldn't care less if the baby Jesus was a Capricorn or not. I love that we pick a day and it is the best day of the year. Celebrating him and all that he stood for is a bonus. It almost feels like it is my birthday. I love Christmas better than any other day of the year. I love the baby Jesus story and I love Mary and I love that he was born in a poor little barn with animals and I love that he was a truth teller and not mean to people unless they were truly bad and that most of all, he genuinely loved people with his actions and tried to get them to believe in themselves the same way he believed in himself. It truly is the greatest story on earth. And honestly, I don't care one bit if it is all true or not. The story and the day do it for me. I will always celebrate Christmas and spread the love I feel, for somehow, no matter what else happens every other day of the year, if you can make it to Christmas, it will all be okay.
Sometimes when Mom feels up to it, we get the Christmas tree on her birthday, December 17. My sister Beverly said that she remembers Mom and Dad getting the tree up at Aunt Lillie’s and Uncle Cecil's, who are Mom's sister and Dad's brother. They live up the street right next door to Uncle Ernie, Mom's brother, and Aunt Olga. Behind Aunt Lillie's house there is a bunch of pine trees and so sometimes I guess they would go up there and cut down a tree and drag it home. I like the idea of that.
Aunt Olga is Greek and I love her most of all my aunts. She is so awesome that I think I could live with her. She used to walk to work every day so she would walk right past our house. She is a very fast walker and as soon as I saw her, I would bolt out of the house and jog backwards in front of her as she powered to work at the AFNB and that stands for the American Fletcher National Bank. She was a teller there and she could count paper money faster than anyone I have ever seen. When I was even younger and had to stay with Aunt Lillie while Mom was in the mental hospital, I would wait for Aunt Olga to get home and I’d get myself over to her house as quick as a flash. I could just sit with her and it seemed like a brighter day.
There are a lot of great things about Aunt Olga but what I really love is watching her. She asks if I would like to have a Pepsi and a snack. I always say yes. Then she gets a glass out of the cupboard and puts ice in it—it’s made of real glass—then she gets a glass bottle of Pepsi and wipes it down with a wet cloth. She needs to make sure there are no germs on it. I love that part. Then she pops the top off and pours the drink into the glass. This is important because it tastes better if it’s in real glass. I love it so much and as I drink my Pepsi, she wipes the countertop again and sits down to talk with me.
We have had a lot of talks and I have loved each one. She also plays a big fancy organ that sits in her living room, and I love that about her, too. I can honestly say I love her so much. Oh, she also gives me $10 for my birthday and takes me out for lunch. My aunt is so special that she actually broke one of the solemn rules of what you can’t do in our church. She took me to my first movie in a theater. It was called The Rescuers and it was a huge cartoon on an enormous screen. I loved her more after that and it is still our very own secret. Aunt Olga is like Christmas every time I see her.
It was a magical night when Dad and Mom took us down to the circle in the center of Indianapolis. There is what they call Circle Monument in the center of Indianapolis and you drive all around it. At Christmas they string colored lights to the top of the monument and it looks like the world’s biggest Christmas tree. It truly is magnificent. After we would drive around the circle, Dad would park and we would walk around and look into the storefront windows. This is where I saw my very first animated figurines of Santa and Mrs. Claus. It was as if a brand-new world of magic was introduced to me. Such magic as I had never seen before, unless it was in my dreams. I don’t know if they ever took us there again, but it wouldn’t matter; even if it was just that one time, it was enough for me.
At home, Dad used to have a beautiful blue spruce tree right in the front yard. It was so pretty. It was the magical size and shape of a perfect Christmas tree. It was just before Christmas one year and we were off to go to Wednesday night prayer meeting at church. When we got home, there was only a stump in our front yard. I remember thinking that someone had one great Christmas tree that year. Dad ended up getting $10 a foot for that tree from the insurance company. I'm glad he got his money, but it sure didn't make up for losing that tree.
After all of us kids decorate the tree, it becomes one of the best spots in the house. The colored lights glowing in the dark of the living room cast the best feeling into my heart that I have ever felt. One time when Joyce was home, I remember her lying very close to the tree and gazing up into the branches. I looked at her and could see the reflection of the lights in her eyes. To me, this was love. She could just lie there for the longest time and watch those lights. She was an angel in that moment. The only thing that would have made it better was if it was snowing outside.
The days leading up to Christmas were almost better than the day itself. It was the kind of magic that is in fairy tales—I bet the kind that says the wicked witch can never kill you because you will just come back to life again anyway when your true love kisses you. And then when all the love and joy is yours, the United Brethren Church in the middle of Oaklandon starts ringing its bells and playing the organ sounds of carols from its high tower. It is a beauty that says confidently that everyone in the small town of Oaklandon will want this, and so it plays so the whole town can hear it. This is one of the most beautifully sacred moments I will ever know. Mom has this big fur coat that was used for Halloween once and Joyce put it on and stood out on the porch against the house listening to the music. She looked like a gorilla but it wasn’t funny, it was beautiful. It was beautiful in the same way that I was proud to wear my big old hand-me-downs was beautiful. It was beautiful the way my sister’s eyes were beautiful. It is the kind of beauty that has a pure heart full of hope and love all wrapped up keeping it warm and safe. No matter how cold, we stand out there and listen.
Then comes the wrapping fest. If you are old enough you get to help with the wrapping. Little kids always have to go to bed and dream about the wonder of it all, but the grown kids get to help Santa and Mrs Claus. Ha. I've seen it both ways now and I like helping the best. Being the little kid was kinda hard because you could always hear what was going on, but you never knew how it was happening and so your imagination would take over, and falling asleep was so hard.
Mom and Dad get this big slab of chocolate and break it into big pieces. They pile it up on a plate and then put ribbon candy in bowls all around the living room. There's the smell of oranges and chocolate mingling in the air and it’s mouth watering. There's evidence everywhere that Santa came to our house. I don't know as much about Santa as I do about the baby Jesus, but whoever comes and leaves presents is all right with me. Of course, now that I'm older I know that the spirit of Santa comes and the spirit of the baby Jesus comes, and we all just celebrate by giving gifts. It's fun, though, and I like that Missy and Scotty are still trying to figure it out.
To tell the truth, unless Mike and Joe were working and giving gifts, the gifts were never all that many. But Christmas always came. It always will for me, no matter what life may bring. In the otherwise dismal life which I have faced, I hold this day as a personal timeout. It is the base in the game of Tag: you’re it! It is my birthright day to be happy.
I've been thinking about you a lot lately. In fact I think about you nearly every day and some days it seems like you are the only one I think of. There is so much I want to say to you so I'll begin with what is most important to me.
I want you to know how much I respect your honesty. You were never afraid to tell me the truth...as brutal as it seemed at times. I didn't always handle it very well and often times I thought you were downright bonkers but now I can see you were right about a lot of things. I also understand you were trying to help me. I try not to get stuck wishing I could go back to those times because it's hard to make mistakes and feel like I can't fix them.
We have had some great times haven't we? I love the parts where we laughed and played together. There is so much freedom in playing. Do you remember my giggles and the uncontrollable laughter as we wrestled and took turns being the strongest? I laughed until I cried. You became completely fascinated with the phenomenon how tickling my neck gave me goosebumps on my legs. I'll never forget those times.
You have such a beautiful heart. You can be so kind and generous with such effective precision that I just know your acts have made this world a better place for so many others.
In you I have seen a child-like innocence to defy any skeptic. The way you would ask the simplest questions about the biggest things and then grapple with answers so unique and satisfying. You gazed into the great beyond with your inquiries that took us on wild inner expeditions. I miss those times with you so much. The longing for these moments with you is overpowering at times.
Today I feel a need to live in an honorable way. To live as though you are another beating heart in me. This bloody aching heart drumming a song all it's own.
My dear, sweet Past, here you see that I love and adore you, and these are the most important by far, but there is more. There are things I don't understand about you. Why were you at times so hard on me? There was no intercessory when the bad people came to take my life. Was there no other way for me to learn? Then those times when I was utterly shattered, alone and bleeding...you cared right? Is your love for me truly unconditional? I struggle with these questions the way a kicked dog might. I see you weaving a web of musical notes and this is an opera of joy and tears.
I'm still waiting for you to answer me.
You and I are complex aren't we? It seems we've had the best and worst of times but you know what? I still love you. With all we have been through I still think you are the best friend I've ever had. You have kept hold of my hand and never let go. I don't suppose I will leave you either.
With all that is in me I want to thank you for sticking with me and helping me to get to where I am. I consider you my friend.
When I was a kid I was pretty much forced to smell trouble coming. With the exception of a few family gatherings at big holidays I had to stay sharp to the subtle energies that could go viral at any moment in our home. With my Mother's schizophrenia and my Dad's temper and otherwise bad behavior it got to the point where my senses had a razor sharp edge. Knowing the other shoe would drop or worse yet a large boulder, I was trained for tragedy.
Rehearsing my death or otherwise violent demise and how I would survive was something I would often do. I felt that I needed a steady state of preparedness in order to insure my ultimate victory. In other words, stay alive. Trust in God or any other unseen force was just something that I could not count on. So far this mysterious force had only served to confuse and threaten me. What I had no way of knowing then was that by rehearsing my tragedies I was placing a request to the conscious universe to bring more to me. This constant fear was fueling coming events and what I so diligently prepared for arrived on time.
Come find out there are scientists now reporting evidence that we live in a conscious universe. Just by the very act of observation we find that our world appears before us. We see there is such a thing as quantum entanglement and evidence for how we are all undeniably connected. As science continues to discover more and more about how we create our experiential worlds I see a little more clearly my life and how it has developed. My life has not been all bad by any means but there are things I am afraid of and I know the power this fear has over me and what it systematically creates in my life.
Sensing danger in a world of constant turmoil is not a gift I am happy to have developed. However, I do see that I can rehearse a different story these days. I can embody the life I want and watch the unfolding of this literal universe give me what I am asking for. I can play-act as it were a life of more love and devotion, better health and well being...heck, even justice and peace. Maybe, just maybe the universe will play along and there will be a reversal to the many rehearsals I have played in my life. I believe this to be true for everyone and so as I walk in the light given to me I am pleased to think I am creating a better world for myself and for those with whom I am connected.
Like any other day the sun was bright, and hope was given to those whose ambition was early to rise. This was the day to sleep in. Feeling the pull against gravity as the elevator goes higher and higher and feeling all the while a sense of climbing that ladder of success. A coworker’s blue tie brings thoughts of passing holidays and what would be the right gift for dad this Christmas. As the doors open to a new today the mind is focused, and the work is to begin... for the last day. Coffee is never so right as it is at the start of a new day and today it seemed sweeter somehow. Just after the thought of the first refill, the incredible sound of the unexplained whipped through content, past annoyance and smashed right into anxiety with such a force that gave the legs both immediate strength and weakness. “What was that?” gave birth to tremors of inquiry that lead to reasons to fear or not to panic and then, happening all too quickly now, racing back down that ladder only to find, no way out.... for now. Waiting ten minutes seemed like enough time for rescue, enough time for prayers to be heard, enough time for a way out. Every memory that might store the answer for escape flashes through every mind. Groping again through the synapse of each cell to find an answer. Still waiting. Looking at each other to see if someone had found the answer. Still waiting. Another thundering bash is heard but this time it is also seen. The Companion is hit and now there are screams and smoke and fire and what seemed not too big to escape has become the all-consuming fire. Reaching for the cell and dialing with speed and accuracy, the call is answered and there are only a few words that say it right and still it doesn’t seem like enough. I love you. I love you. When death approaches it is the most terrible intruder. His gaze holds you and there is no eluding the moment of capture. What is it about being held that brings comfort to the one who trusts? Can Death be the comforter as well? Death is not the brute that wields acts of violence and ignites fear in the minds of children. Death is the portal to escape such acts of tyranny. The irony lies in that the tyrant is the victim of his own misguided zeal... accomplishing nothing other than his own demise. Thus, Death becomes a blessing to the helpless and a curse to those who cause it.
Jia Apple copy write 2018
Certainly most of us have heard the beloved Maya Angelou recite her poem Still I Rise. Personally I listen to it often. She speaks to something inside of me. It is the part of me that doesn't want to buckle under life's unforeseen sideswipes...it is the part of me that strives to be the best person I can and to applaud others doing the same. Just sometimes we need a mentor, a success story, a goddess wrapped in a chocolate brown blanket of wisdom glimmering radiance out of honest eyes to remind us of who we truly are. I find this in Ms Angelou.
Today I finished a painting that I have been working on for the past few years. It started in the shed studio of my New Mexico home I lovingly refer to as Rosa. My friend Olin stretched this 7'x3' canvas for me and like me it has undergone several transitional ideas about what would finally live on it's surface. If you were to peel away the layers of paint on it you would see this. During this time I was in the first days of an injury that stopped me in motion and escorted me directly into the holy of holies begging and pleading for my life back. I was a restaurant owner and muralist in the thriving and quirky destination town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. My life came to a sudden halt. It has been almost three years since that lightning strike and I am still walking the healing path in Colorado. This painting as well as my memoir Oft Made to Wonder are my declarations of flight. I've learned when you can no longer do, you can still do some things.
I call this painting Still I Rise.
If you know me a little you might notice that I like ravens. If you know me well you will know why. In the case of this painting it is about reaching inside one's self so far that you are reaching to the place of Divinity. We go there when our earth shakes, splits open and swallows. We go there when the one we love most in this world leaves suddenly. We go there when we are struck by a disease there is no cure for and we go there when the sucker punch of all sucker punches hits us with such a velocity that we are forced to bust out of these skins with pleas to reach that miracle of grace.
In the dry desert of catastrophe we are left with one choice...to reach for the rising sun of hope. If you have been where I have then you know this choice eventually inspires us to live again...and this is what my painting is about.
This painting is for you Sazi Mari, it is for me...it is for you Dennis Apple, you Charlene Tops, for you Kat Wright, for you Tyler, you Wendy, for you Missy Apple Knotts, for you Carly Kubat and all those who have looked an impossible situation in the face and said, "still I rise".
Oh, and thanks Maya. I didn't know you in this life but I sure do love you.
It is hard to explain what it does to me knowing there is a little boy laying in a hospital bed in another state wondering why God won't show up for him. As I ponder my own day-to-day challenges and what it means to walk through this life with integrity and enough backbone to say I did my best on any given day...when I think of Tyler he reminds me that I really shouldn't snivel one bit. He reminds me to focus on what is important to me and to not waste a minute.
Tyler is the grandson of a childhood friend of mine. I see the updates of his distraught mother and his aunties on Facebook and I wonder why this his happening to this young soul. He has cancer and his battle is horrific. He doesn't have a choice. He is going to see this illness through one way or another. There are more children like him...oh I wish it weren't so. It humbles me to the point of being yet again "Oft Made to Wonder."
I've lived long enough to believe in an unseen force that comes to our aide and acts as a companion to us on this journey. I have also lived long enough to not have a clue about what is really going on. In cases like the suffering children of our world I can only hope they were placed on this planet to teach us a humbler and more compassionate walk. These little angels are our teachers and oh how I love them.
Tyler's journey has moved me to consider my own life and what it means to be a mother, wife and someone who wants health, prosperity and a deeper spiritual path for myself and also for my loved ones. I'm sure this is what Tyler's parents want too. But today I would say that a healthy and happy little boy is on the top of that list. If I could put myself in their place for one minute...try as I may...my mind can only consider their grasping at hope and mercy and relief. These pleas must be the very breath they are breathing. The agony of unanswered prayers yet small graces that keep hope alive through the eyes of love seem like the order of each day. Honestly, this journey is so much more than I can imagine.
Thank you Tyler for opening my eyes a little wider and helping me put my own daily challenges and relationships in a light that is true. I for one am daily in awe of you and although you don't know me, you have impacted my life for the better.
Thank you Tyler, for being one of my heroes. May all the angels assist you on your journey.