Fiery Darts

A wee bit after midnight finds me in my usual place. I am nestled safely within the evergreen alcove that surrounds my front porch. My location on my porch cannot be seen by any passersby. Resting there, cloaked in darkness, I am comforted by the huge greenery standing watch over me like fragrant centurions.

Exhaling plumes of cigarette smoke, I take this time to be present with myself. I marvel at the shadow of the smoke dancing against the other elements of the night. The world at night is a place of shadows and I question if any of it is “real”.

“If the stars are still in the sky, then this – no matter what the “this” happens to be in the moment – is all still part of the plan. I am right where I am supposed to be,” I remind myself. “For this time in my life, this season… everything is just as it should be.”

Snapped from the thought, I am brought upright and alert. Small sounds flutter to my ear and I can hear that someone is approaching. I take a drag from my cigarette and exhale in a shallow soundless way. I must be careful not to let the sound of exhaling alter my ability to hear. I must quickly gather information about who is approaching.

My constant companion, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, forces me to analyze the situation to assess the level of danger. They walk at a leisurely pace. It affords me time to map out an escape. There will be no need for a fight. The footsteps are slow and I am able to make out at least three distinct sets of cadence. One is dragging their feet. The rhythmic schlepping sound denotes the movement teenagers. I keep my seat and soothe my emotions until I am moved from “high alert” to “alert and vigilant”.

Bursts of laughter ride on the wind and find my place of refuge. The tip of my cigarette glows like bright amber neon as I take a deep drag. As I let out the second exhalation, words like fiery darts pierce my ears through the night.

“YOU FUCKING NIGGER!” It was a girl’s voice. It was so clear and light and sharp. It was bright like the sound made when metal strikes crystal. Had it said “I LOVE YOU!”, it would have made my heart melt.

I freeze. Did that REALLY just happen? Was THAT real?” I fight the urge to turn and look around for a studio audience. My mind starts firing in rapid fire quick secession.

“Should I say something? Should I stand up and make my presence known? Should I be angry and outraged?” I square my feet on the ground beneath me and wait for my gut to tell me what to do.

I cannot seem to muster anything past the sound of the voice. It was all treble without an ounce of bass. There was no adult weight to it. The tone was as light as the words were heavy. They are an inch off babies and yet they say such grown up and violent things.

Rage had been my lover of choice for many, many years. I had to let it go as of late so I must now constantly check to find which fresh and new and less vengeful emotion has taken its place. I stop all movement, even breathing and search within to find what I am feeling. At first there is nothing where rage would normally rest.

My insides seem endless like I have trapped the night sky within me. Deep down, I feel something begin to rise. This is my answer. This is what will tell me how to react. Eagerly, I watch it begin like the grainy first frames of an old 8mm movie. My mind keeps asking, “What is it? What is it that you feel, Dee?”

Slowly, the feeling sharpens and comes into focus. It is not a new feeling. It is familiar to me. It is sorrow; my old friend has come to join me once again. My eyes feel a biting sting as they begin to fill with tears.

“Why do you feel sorrow, Dee?”

Am I insulted by the words? No, it is not that. Am I sad because we have Obama and Oprah and still have racism? No. I made my peace with the irony of America many years ago. I press myself to become really still so I can hear what my inner most voice is saying to me. I am surprised by what I hear.

“I am sad because she is just a baby. That was the voice of a baby. Had it been said with that intention from an adult, perhaps I could have found myself angry. Hearing the venom of those words in the voice of a child makes my heart so sick with sadness.”

“It is the voice of a baby; it is a child using such heavy, grown up, violent words. And yeah, I know about hip hop and Quentin Tarantino movies, but damn! REALLY?!?!

“Does she know she is speaking darkness into the world? Does she know there are millions of words more powerful she can use to tell the world how she feels? Does she live in a world of violence and chaos where these words and their intent are common place?”

By now, tears pouring from my eyes and splashing onto the concrete near my feet. My head is bowed and shoulders curved and I feel as if I am made of lead. In the darkness of midnight, I can see huge drops darkening the place on the ground where they land. I am weeping for a “would-be offender”, my head shaking from side to side. I flick ashes from my cigarette still wrapped in this sorrow.

“Will my baby grow clumsily into her teenage years heaving darkness into the world because it is cool or tough or the thing to do?”

I wipe my tears understanding I will not be able to let this teenager know how I feel. I am a strange woman to her, cloaked in darkness, crying over her soul and mourning her right to be “just a kid”.  As I brush each tear, I strengthen my resolve. There with only evergreens to bear witness, I make a vow to myself.

“I will raise my child, and those children in my care, to know they are special. They are vastly too intelligent to limit themselves to small and hateful words. They were sent here to Earth on purpose by God to bring light and hope and joy. They should speak and carry themselves as such.”

I find myself beginning to speak a prayer for the voice hurling hurt through the darkness of midnight. “And Father, You know what she – your daughter – needs. Let her find peace. Let her know she is better than her behavior. Let her know love.” And with the utterance of the prayer, I am released to go into my home, rest my head on a pillow and sleep with peace that night.

The Curious Case of Ben Bernanke

On Monday morning, I was suspiciously perusing financial news sites to find out what “they” are doing and not telling us.   No, my endeavors were not fueled by the fact that I am secretly a feminist militant who wants to stick it to “Da Man”.  Since life is most wonderfully ironic, I have need of the information in my line of work.

Businessweek.com got me hooked with a graphic in the slideshow on the home page.  Set against a bright blue background was an ordinary yellow tape measure.  Only three words accompanied the image.  The words read, “GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS.”  It was suspect enough to peak my interest.

The title of the article was an oxymoron in and of itself.  “Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please”?  Philosophy from economists?  Economists crunch numbers.  Economists evaluate statistics.  Economists do not busy themselves with things like the reality behind the numbers and statistics.  Philosophy, or wisdom based on reality, is not what they do.

The story outlines a speech given by the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Shalom Bernanke.  I did not make that up.  The man’s middle name is “peace” and that was enough to open my mind.  While I was not completely sold on him, I did take my clenched right fist out of the air and give listen.  It appears the revolution still will not be televised.

Mr. Bernanke was addressing the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, a group of global economists who have been getting together since the end of WWII.  Their sole purpose as an organization is to measure how money effects each country from a national perspective and ask, “How do we work together to make sure this does not all go in the shitter?”

The ideas suggested by Mr. Bernanke in the article (confirmed by the actual video and transcript of the speech,) were mind blowing to me.  In my words, he says numbers are nice but what about the people?  Why work so hard to keep unemployment down and the dollar in check if people are still so unhappy?  If people are struggling and stressed, why are we telling them to eat cake?

I chuckle to myself.  “Oh sweet, Mr. Bernanke, this is America.  We don’t ask why.  ‘Why’ implies we are willing to hear the truth and do something to fix the problem.  Sir, that’s just not what we do!

“We look the other way when faced with real issues.  After shootings, we talk about guns as if a gun creates hate.  After disasters, we talk about who failed instead of how we can help.

“We still pretend spending over $100,000 on a college degree to secure a job making $30,000 a year is a wise investment.  We value a Coach Handbag even if there is nothing inside but credit card debt.  The “American Dream” is to have a home when an average of 110, 000 homes go into foreclosure in this country every single month.

“We bully countries into submission and call it peace.  Then we numb ourselves with the likes of “The Jersey Shore,” all you can eat buffets, and “half off” sales.  We even have the perverted belief that we are the only people who know God and who He listens to.

“Mr. Bernanke, we are George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ circa 2012.  We expect less peace, accept more stress, and pretend we don’t see the pigs getting fatter in the house.  Denial, Mr. Bernanke, is even more American than apple pie.”

Rather than dismiss the man, I reread the article, the transcript and view the video of the speech once again.  And there it is in the first paragraph of the speech.  I had been so consumed with his rightness or wrongness that I had almost missed what he was really trying to say.

He states, “One great pioneer in this subject area, of course, is Simon Kuznets, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971 for his work on economic measurement, including the national income accounts.”  As it turns out, Mr. Kuznets set the world of economics on its ear with new theories it had never seen that boiled down to reality versus numbers.  In 1934 he is quoted having said, “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.”

Mr. Bernanke, it appears, has taken up the “good fight” of those like Mr. Kuznets.  He is one of the few people in Washington, DC whose agenda is actually for the betterment of the people instead of the advancement of ego.  He understands that the 800 pound gorilla in the room is actually sitting squarely on the backs of the people.

He is speaking clearly for the American people by saying, “What we have been doing no longer works so let us try something new.”  His decision to stand up for what is right has placed him in the category of “pioneer” as well.  By focusing on the solution instead of dwelling in the problem, Mr. Bernanke has shown radically sexy thinking.  Now, somebody get me a “sch-medium” t-shirt with this man’s face on it.  It is time to get radically sexy and do something new!

The Resentment Release Project

Re-sent-ment [n. ri-zent-muhnt]: The experience of a negative emotion felt as a result of a wrong done.

Re-lease [v. ree-lees]: To let go (of); to cease to hold or contain.

Pro-ject [n. proj-ekt]: A planned endeavor, usually with a specific goal and accomplished in several steps or stages.

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. These eight months of my 38th year have given me time for a great deal of sober introspection. Imagine my surprise to discover I was my problem. (Gasp! I know, right!?!) At best my behavior was a tantrum. At worst it was tyranny. The root of the havoc I caused in my life was my unwillingness to let go of resentment. In plain English, if resentment was money, I would be filthy rich! I’m not talking Oprah rich. I’m talking Warren Buffett and Bill Gates rich. I’m talking long money, honey!

“The Resentment Release Project”, or “R.R.P.”, is my endeavor to free my heart of resentment and the rage it spawns. Toni Morrison says, “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” This is my declaration of independence. It is freedom time and I am getting free. After all, I can’t step into my future when I’m still walking around in my past.

Like most people, I have no problem identifying my resentments. I’ve got them on file by date, offender, location and category of offense. I have graphs, pie charts and PowerPoint presentations. I can give them to you in MP3s, 8 – tracks or in 25 leather bound volumes like the Encyclopedia Britannica. I can even beat box and spit them off the top of my dome.

With all the stuff from the past polluting my heart, there is little room for anything else, yet “releasing” the resentments is a struggle. The prize if I do is I am no longer frozen in time with them; reliving them every day of my life. They do not get to filter how I see the world or how I treat those I love. You and how you handled me get gone, lost to a forgotten moment in the past. In the most loving and enlightened way possible, you get to kick rocks!

I am not naïve enough to think the R.R.P. is a weekend project. This will take the rest of my life. After all, resentments have been old friends to me; collecting them has been my greatest past time. They have been allies and advance in battle before you even know we are at war. They don’t kill me because they would have no host, but living with them affords me no measure of peace. They keep me hovering between ACT I and ACT II like a sadistically long intermission, mercilessly interjected just before the “good part.”

But what will become of me if I am not yelling at people in traffic, rolling my eyes, and evaluating your “lack of home training”? Perhaps I will spend more time enjoying the many wonderful things in my life or opening my heart to something new. Maybe I can spend the time writing, playing with my baby, cooking or sketching a new design? Or maybe I can spend the time giving thanks for all the amazing people who have come into my life to teach me how to be me without apologies.

The R.R.P. may not change the whole world, but one more soul at peace has to count as a win. So I will take the day off today. And the lady who cut me off to get to Pier One doesn’t have to be a “lousy tramp who almost killed me.” For today, she can just be a lady with a burning desire and uncontrollable need for three wick candles.

The R.R.P. continues.