Archive for February, 2011

things I’ve learned

February 27, 2011

I’m thinking of writing something about “things I’ve learned” by age 57. It would go something like this:

1. Nothing in life really surprises me anymore. Just about anything can happen, at any time. The lesson in this is to never take life for granted, to appreciate each day, and to take life as it comes. What matters is your response to those inevitable things that happen to you and those you love.

2. Bad things happen to good people. All the time, every day. I do believe in karma, but it may not be resolved in this world, and it only goes so far. You could do nice things for people all your life long, & still be treated unfairly. Even so, you should do nice things for people. It makes a difference in their lives. And God knows all.

3. Live your life in honesty and always do your best. Some people will always think you are not as honest as you are, because they are dishonest themselves and will treat you with suspicion. Others will think you are trying to prove you are better than they are. It doesn’t matter what they think. Do your best and move forward.

4. When you live honestly and sincerely, the truth often comes out eventually. People who treated you badly in the past show up years later, and apologize. This has happened to my husband and I many times. We have been through some pretty hard times and have been severely wronged, many times. The truth often comes out. See no.1.

5. Personal integrity matters. Over many years’ time, your integrity is the thing that people remember. It has to be consistent, and you do become known for it.

6. Health matters. The older you get, the more you have to be willing to fight for it. Nature is not kind, and once you go past a certain age, it’s a battle that is impossible to WIN. All you can do is fight it off for as long as possible. Focus on health, because of no.7.

7. Beauty fades. It just does. There isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. See no.6.

8. Your life partner and lover is your one and only true friend. As you get older, the friend part becomes more and more important than the lover part.

9. Never, ever take any relationship for granted. Every love relationship, be it friend, partner, or parent/child, needs CONSTANT work. Work at communicating, and listening. Never take their caring for granted. Be willing to give them the time they need. Do things together, reconnect. Be open and honest about how you feel. Let the little things go.

10. Spend time with your kids when they are little. As they get older, they will then want to spend time with you. Nothing else matters more in life, not one thing. Time is your greatest gift. Trying to explain why you had to be somewhere else is NEVER a substitute for just BEING THERE when they needed you.

11. Age 14-15 does pass. By the time they hit 21-22, you are once again their friend.

12. Grandkids are the best thing in the world. Visit them often.

13. Some people will hate you, despise you or just plain not like you. There is nothing you can do about this either. Know yourself and develop your best intuitive talents. Your personality will clash with some other types and it has nothing to do with anything you did wrong. Try to see what you can learn from them. Don’t expect them to like you.

14. You will fail at some things. You will mess up. We’re all human.

directing your life

February 21, 2011

My oldest son recently wrote in his FB “status” that he often feels as if he is watching his own life and not acting in it. Many responded, “I know exactly what you mean, I totally get it.”  I wrote, “I don’t really get it.”

It is my belief that we each have one life. Length doesn’t matter. What we learn while here matters. For those whose life is cut so short it seems senseless, if there is a merciful God, then they will be recompensed. They will be shown all the beautiful things they needed to learn while here.

In any case, my point is this. I think we have to take responsibility for each day of our life. You’ve heard the cliche, Live each day as if it were your last. That’s basically it. Because it could be. It doesn’t mean you don’t plan, set goals, or wait to get something. It means, you live responsibly, and you enjoy the blessings you have, each & every day. You treat others w/ respect, if they deserve it, and if they don’t deserve it, leave them to themselves & pray for them. It is not for you to judge. Don’t live your life as if you are “watching it” because you are IN it. And you are the star. You are for the most part, the director. It is not that you control everything. There is much that you do not control. But only you, control your response. Your response to whatever happens to you makes all the difference. I think you should FULLY understand exactly where you are, even understand the little impact that you really have on most people. But still give. And live each day to the best of your ability. Don’t make plans for tomorrow, and expect them to come. They may not. You never know. Make plans, but realize they may never come, and that’s okay. Because you are doing the best you can, today.

In other words, make the effort, strive, appreciate, and know that’s what counts. Have few regrets. If you get the chance to do something you’ve wanted to do, DO IT, as it may not come again. Dance when the music is on, if you feel like it, because it is fun, and you love it. Tomorrow you may be unable to dance. If you want to do something you know is not good for you, or others around you, DON’T DO IT, and give up the desire. It’s not worth it.

Strive to reach your goals. But appreciate this day, today.


February 7, 2011

Let me say first that there are many very important things going on in the news that are not on this blog. I watch the news all the time, however, this blog is not dedicated to commenting on the most important things going on in the news, actually. It is simply a no-stress release valve for me, on which I sometimes say things connected to what’s on the news.

For example:

shooting of Congresswoman Gifford & murder of 6 other people,

how we treat the mentally disturbed such as Jared Loughner and the impossibility of committing people such as him today,

the complete breakdown in Egypt and yet the ability of Mubarak to retain his power,

the surging of populations against their various Middle Eastern governments & the ability of MOST of those govts. to retain their power,

there is a lot going on.

However, tonight I want to write something about culture. What is culture? It has been described as all those things you feel are important enough to pass on to the next generation. So we have things like traditions, rituals, family history, customs, language, holidays, religious beliefs, and beliefs about humanity & morality –those things we base our laws upon, such as principles like freedom, equality and democracy. All those things are cultural.

So this weekend, my husband was on a committee that hosted a Black film festival. Along with African films and documentaries, there was an interview w/ Bob Marley, and some films for children. There was also an African fashion show, and a wonderful teacher of African dance, in which I participated.

This will be brief, but I am taking this moment to try to express a few thoughts on culture.

We all have a cultural background. For whites in America, we have lost touch w/ it, for example Dutch traditions, or German traditions, the language, the foods, the holidays. If we go back far enough, there would be a native “dance”, there would be a style of music, and some type of drums or instruments. For example, the Irish drum, the Scottish bagpipes, etc.

I believe there somehow has to be a BLEND, a mixing of paint into some new color, to move toward the future. In other words, no we cannot return to African traditional religion, Indian traditional religion. It really doesn’t help us to try to go back to whatever religion our ancestors had, the way they worshipped, in some cases, such as smoking peyote. The soul food tradition came out of slavery, when slaves were fed the scraps. It’s a lot of fat & the parts of the meat that the heads of households were willing to throw away (chicken necks, chitlins, etc.).

Partly the reason people want to “go back to” is because it was “taken away from” by force. People were stopped from naturally evolving into something else. When something is forcibly taken from you, then you want to go back & get it. So part of what I’m saying about culture is, we all want to know our roots, and for some, those roots are a RETURNING TO what was, & we want to bring that back out and understand it, embrace it and celebrate it. But some of those things are best left in the past. For example, polygamy in African culture. There is NO WAY you can have polygamy, and say women are equal. They’re not. It is set up for the man’s enjoyment, and the man’s power over women, and the man’s convenience. How nice for him. Some things are best understood, respected, but then left behind. We have evolved since then!

Secondly, we truly ARE one people. We are ONE people. We are one PEOPLE. We are the human family, the human race. So IF we TRULY believe that, then it is possible for any person today, to appreciate, and relate to, the best of any cultural tradition of the past. For example, white people, some white people, can truly feel the drums, feel the music, and learn African or any other type of dance. It is possible. Some white people or black people can truly appreciate the reverence for the earth that is part of many Indian traditions, and they can cleanse their souls in a sweat lodge. IOW, you don’t have to be “1/2, 1/4, or 1/10th Indian” in order to FEEL the truth & the cleansing of those traditions.

So partly I think we all want to know where we come from and who our ancestors were. I really, really want to know when MY family came to America. And I don’t know if I will ever unravel that mystery– but probably somebody will, because more & more paper historical documents will be posted online as time goes on. It will actually be easier & easier to trace your roots in the future. The task now is to find any living relatives who may have personal pictures, knowledge or stories.

But on the other hand, we have to somehow open the WINDOW or DOOR to allow people of any cultural background to come in and smell the flowers and the good food from our own cultural backgrounds. And there is still a lot of resistance to doing that today. The Black film festival was meticulously organized, and poorly advertised. Especially to people not of African heritage. How are you going to encourage appreciation of your culture among people of various backgrounds if you only publicize it to black folk, and only share it w/ the few who happen to be within your own social circle? Al & I were “the white folk” for the most part, which is fine, been there, done that before. But there just weren’t many people there in general. And I don’t think the Columbia community was even aware of it. Which is a shame, to me. I went to a sociology conference last year. Turns out, it was a historically Black sociology group. I was the only white person there. In my older age, I’ve done this so many times now that I’m just tired of it. My longing is to be within a mixed crowd. The flower garden is prettier when there are many colors represented. I don’t relish being somewhere, where people look at me wondering what I’m trying to prove, what I want out of being there. I did not really feel this at the film festival, but have felt it so many ways at other all-black gatherings, I’m just not interested anymore. I think that any group today that focuses totally inward & blocks other people out, is out of touch w/ the needs of the world. It is good to know one’s heritage, to respect it, embrace it, teach it to future generations. But we also need something more. Groups totally focused on their own are destined to not progress, and to die out. Are we really one human race, or not.  

In any case, these are my brief thoughts on culture tonight.