Ask a teenager to clean the kitchen and they will tell you that they already cleaned the bathroom. Yeah the two have nothing to do with each other save that they are both rooms in a house. Cleaning the bathroom doesn’t mean that your kitchen isn’t dirty. Likewise, filters do not hide the truth. People get cancer. Racism exists. Injustice is an actual thing. Children are sold for sex. Harsh, ugly truths. The stench of it is filter proof.
I threw away the rose colored glasses a few years ago. My ownership of several pair had spanned decades. In my twenties, it was useful. They matched my ignorance and my naivete. By the time I hit my thirties, one lens was cracked and an arm was missing from EVERY SINGLE PAIR! It did not take long…Wait strike that, like fo’real heffa you were thirty! It took a long time for me to realize looking through the rosy lenses only prolonged my avoidance of many realities and that was not without consequences. I was willfully remaining blind to way too many facts. I lived and I learned.
And then came SnapChat filters!!!! I love my SnapChat and every single filter on it. The problem is that it is the modern day version of rose colored glasses. It is all really kinda sad. Most people cannot stand to look at the world without a filter anymore. Some funny bunny ears. New eye color. Big round glasses. Ta-da!! The reality is blemish free.
I truly like filters as much as the next gal and guy; however, I’m starting to notice image buffers in every aspect of our social communication. Instagram, which I also use, is filled with carefully staged photos. Everything is snatched, contoured, and funneled through easy access lenses. Until, it is perfect. In every way, except the truth. Authenticity is a carefully placed mug with the right inscription presented to the masses at a readable angle. We, as a collective, can’t handle the truth anymore. Under the table is dirty. The mug has Folgers, which I like by the way, and not a fancy Chai, which I also love. You don’t have any eggs for breakfast and no money to go get any. Your job doesn’t pay enough to live, let alone live your best life. Tuh. But whose gonna put that on the ‘gram. No one wants to see it; therefore, it must not be so. We have managed to filter reality through a variety of lenses until it’s polished clean. Dirt free. Illness free. Deviant free. Judgment free.
That is not reality.
I have a dear friend who is about to finish her final round of chemotherapy. She has a wonderfully supportive tribe of women and men around her. In one of our conversations, she shared with me that her fight with cancer had altered some of those friendships as the side effects of chemotherapy became more apparent. She had long-term friends that had become awkward and distant in their communications. Some panicked on her bad days and others over exaggerated her good ones. Some micro-managed ever part of her recovery to keep a healing lens affixed to the situation. Others dropped out of sight, because they just could not find a filter that blurred out the unpleasant edges and still kept her intact. She has had way more good days than bad, but even openly sharing about fatigue or vomiting or hair loss provoked such an anguished response from some of her support group that it has almost been easier not to share. From what she told me this is not rare; but unfortunately, a common experience for those diagnosed with a major illness. Loved ones do not always know how to look at you and not see the illness all the time.
She said, “Fuzz, they just don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to be around it.”
I said, “It’s not that they don’t love you. They do. It’s just that people are no longer use to seeing life without a filter.”
She told me I better write this down. I did.
The filtered life of iGens…
My grandboy loves, loves, loves Snapchat and Facebook messenger filters. He’s only 1 year old. If he gets his hands on a phone, he wants to look into the camera and add a hat or some glasses or bucked teeth. He giggles and giggles. He doesn’t know how it happens, but the filters give him happiness and laughter. When he gets fussy and restless, do you know what I do? I call his great-grandmommy on the phone, so that they can talk and play with filters. I distract him with illusions. And don’t be gasping…isn’t that what all the animations are for? Illusions to distract us??? Right.
Filters alter our perception of the image we are looking at. My grandboy looks very much like a rough and tumble little boy, but Easter egg ears and pink bubble letters make him look a little all soft and frilly. App developers, why aren’t there more filters for boys? Y’all do know that boys like the filters too huh? Well anyway….Will he grow to think his eyes were gray when they have always been brown? Will he wonder where his pink rosy cheeks have gone? Is he able to connect the concept of dressing up with make believe or will these features alter his perception of himself and others? We simply do not know.
Thus is life in these modern times. Enjoy the innovation and wait 10 years to hear about the adverse side-effect. One filter distraction after another. One filtered narrative after another. Nothing is ugly and if it is we go through a handy collection of frames to find the right one to dress it up with. A montage of images to illustrate our befuddled ideas and mystifying connections. Nothing is really what it seems. We detract and distract to the point of complicity. Life, as we perceive it, is good for everyone.
Innovation bends old rules…
Of course not everyone is so easily blinded. Their olfactory sense still tells them that something in rotten over the fence. They know that they have to live by certain rules in their community and they take pride in being honest and not cutting corners. But…then..they step a toe on the neighbor’s lush green grass only to find out is artificial. If they tell the association, they are a snitch. Nosy. But they feel it’s not fair for their neighbor to break a rule that’s meant to keep things uniform. Pleasant. Authentic.
Questions enter the discourse. Why are they putting toes on other people’s grass? What exactly were they doing over the property line and is that technically trespassing? What is the state of their own grass? Doesn’t the neighbor have the right to maintain his appearance of grass anyway he wants? Did they know that someone down the street doesn’t even have grass? Why aren’t they telling about that? And just like that the association rules against artificial turf is not the issue. It becomes who has the right to say who has broken rules and how. Justifications. Historical data. Real life examples. Filters.
Can’t hide reality forever…
Ask a teenager to clean the kitchen and they will likely tell you that they already cleaned the bathroom. Yeah the two have nothing to do with each other save that they are both rooms in a house. Cleaning the bathroom doesn’t mean that your kitchen isn’t dirty. Likewise, filters do not hide the truth. People get cancer. Racism exists. Injustice is an actual thing. Children are sold for sex. Harsh, ugly truths. The stench of it is filter proof.
It is okay not to want to look at that all the time. Completely understandable. All I’m saying is don’t forget that you’re not actually a blue eyed cat with zebra print glasses. Be present in real time, so that you will never forget what’s truly authentic in a world full of fake.
My heart taught me a lesson. Life is worth every fight!
I can tell you what my heart said.
I was stunned by it’s persistence.
Take me back to when I was invincible.
I trusted it to see me through unnumbered years.
It trusted me to care for it unselfishly.
Moment of transparency: On August 31st, I had a minor heart attack. Heart event. I down play it quite a bit, because thank God I didn’t need surgery. It could have been so much worse. Nevertheless, it was bad enough for me.
I was hospitalized for three days and for me that was paramount to an eternity. I have always been in really good health and had no previous indication that my heart was upset with me.
I did not have bone crushing pain. It was pressure in my arm and eventually my chest. It felt like anxiety. It felt sick, nauseated more than anything. All in all, I just didn’t feel good. I could have easily dismissed it. Blamed it on fatigue and laid down. But deep inside, I knew what I was feeling wasn’t normal. I decided to have my sons take me to the emergency room.
Now… If you’ve read some of my previous posts Heal-thy Self and Out sick, you may have deduced that I do not go to doctors for ANYTHING. Not annual exams. Not wellness check ups. Nothing. So for me to ask to go to the hospital was major for my husband and kids. I knew I was in a critical situation and the ER was only a few blocks away. I actually thought they would dismiss me with some diagnosis of anxiety or female hysteria. They didn’t.
I immediately got an EKG and the event was over, but my tests were abnormal. Further tests confirmed that I had a cardiac event. From there I was hospitalized. They took my Troponin levels every few hours. The numbers increased until they plateaued and then begin to taper off.
I do not have coronary disease or injury. It was literally a fluke. They gave me meds (of course) and I am grudgingly taking them until we decide I don’t have to anymore. I’ve gone to every followup appointment. I will go annually now.
I went from being able to walk 3.5 miles in about 40 minutes to waking .5 miles in 20 minutes. I know it will take time to get back to the strength and endurance I had. I’ve never felt so mortal. It’s a good thing I know the power of healing radiates from the inside out. And I am healed in the name of Jesus and through the activation of my will!
My heart taught me a lesson. Life is worth every fight!
This was my summer motto. I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a counselor/instructor for the Teens and Police Service Academy summer program. TAPS Academy is a non-profit organization that provides interactive learning programs to help reduce the social distance between teens and law enforcement. This organization meets at-risk youth right where they are in socially disadvantaged schools and detention facilities. The relevance of their work cannot be overstated. (Please click their link for more background and program information.)
We need practical ways to bridge that gap. We need people to fill that space with hope, love, and skills of empowerment.
I had the absolute pleasure and terror of facilitating empowerment lessons to nine males, ages 14-15 years old. Talking about a hard crowd to please. My jokes were outdated. My swag is rusty. But my candor seemed to be a respectable trait. Just tell the truth as you know it. And don’t forget that kids in jail are children too.
His business is his to keep…
I did not know the circumstances of why each young man was there in that dorm. I did not ask to know their crimes. As a matter of fact, if one tried to tell me about another I quickly shut that down with “That man didn’t ask you to tell nobody his business. His business is his to keep. I suggest you keep to yours.” Of course, some of the young men would tell me of their struggles in their journals or our group discussions and I welcomed that openness. Kids want to talk to people they trust, but it has to take place in an environment of emotional and physical safety. Without showing fear or doling out judgement, my only job was to listen and suggest coping tools.
What I learned was that kids in jail are just children. This was a “not-so-obvious” lesson. When you hear about property crimes, school threats, and teen violence, all you know is that the perpetrator needs to be locked up. They are to be held responsible for their crimes, whether ditching school, fighting, or stealing. They must learn that there are real life consequences for anti-social behavior. But I was not there as a judge or as part of a jury, I was just an instructor trying to give a handful of young men tools that they can use to avoid further troubles. And they taught me an important lesson too.
Boys will be boys…
Everyday my boys argued over games, complained about boredom, and begged for candy as rewards. Some would get mad and brood. Some would get sad and retreat. Under constant surveillance, expressing emotions was tightly controlled. So we talked at length about developing emotional intelligence. Learning the physiological response that your body has and connecting it to the correct emotions. Understanding that being sad and being mad can look the same if you do not know how to express sadness. Frustration and anticipation feel the same, so you must connect the “feeling” to the root to understand what reaction you are actually having.
This was a hard lesson. Here is my opening speech:
“In our society, the feelings of boys and men are dismissed and discarded. Happiness, joy, anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, and fear are all human emotions, yet men and boys are only allowed to be either happy or angry. Do not allow society to strip away your humanity by numbing your range of emotion. Learn to know what you feel and why you feel it. This will make you a strong man, a supportive husband, and a loving father. Without emotions, you are only a paycheck for your family or for the state.” Even the guards nodded in agreement to that!
Everyday my boys had to resolve conflicts in their dorms. If a person was being released, the entire dorm went through a range of emotions. At first, everyone would be happy for the person, even helping them pack up their belongings. After a few hours of waiting, many of the other boys would “crash”. They would become sad, depressed, and/or angry. They wanted to go home too. If they were expecting a family visit that did not come through, this same cycle of emotions took place. It was not uncommon when these things happened that a fight would break out. Tensions were high and they struggled with what to do with all the emotions that they were experiencing.
Side Note: Don’t worry, my safety was never in jeopardy. The juvenile security officers were on their jobs! They always knew what was brewing in advance and who to look out for. They treated every situation with the upmost respect, authority, and compassion. And I’m no fool! I caught on quick!
I witnessed a young man graduate with his GED and no family showed up to the ceremony for support. The pain was unbearable. It was no surprise that later that night he got into a fight. He had nowhere to put his hurt. He responded like an abandoned child. Knowing these things happen, the program focused on teaching them skills to channeled their negative emotions through writing, group discussions, art, reading, and/or playing games. We worked on developing conflict resolution skills that could help move them a little closer to diffusing negative emotions in the moment. The residents did not do all of this willingly. Remember they are teenage boys. Oh they bickered through it all. I heard a lot of “he keeps interrupting me”, “he keeps trying to take over everything”, “he touched my puzzle”, and “he took the picture that I wanted”. Typical tattle-telling. And just like any teacher, I spent a lot of time redirecting us back to the task at hand. “Stop doing that.” “Don’t touch his paper.” “Everyone listen.” I felt like a parent of young children all over again. Sigh.
I used a variety of games for play therapy and team-building. My observation was that their maturity level stopped at the age that they may have experienced trauma or that their behavior turned delinquent. So even though they were 14 or 15, they behaved in many ways like they were 10 or 11. Activities in that age range let that inner-child out to play and let their emotional guards down for a few hours. They loved using the beach ball! They looked forward to Battleship tournaments. They really enjoyed the game of Clue. They hated worksheets, but they would do them anyway. Some liked journal prompts, but most liked to draw. Puzzles were a big hit! We made a lot of poster boards! Games and art opened our conversations up and helped them cope with difficult topics.
Bullies are homegrown…
You cannot talk about domestic violence without child abuse. You cannot talk about bullying without talking about domestic violence and child abuse. You cannot talk about the dangers of human trafficking without talking about victimization, domestic violence, and child abuse. There was not one child in my dorm that did not have personal experience with bullying/victimization, domestic violence and/or child abuse. They shared with me how some of their anti-social behavior was learned in their family, whether they were being groomed to be aggressive or as a bi-product of violence they witnessed.
100% of the time, the boys told me that bullies are homegrown. They are created by their environment. “Miss, if you follow a bully home I bet you’ll find a bigger bully.” One of them told me he was/is a bully. I asked him if he thought he learned it at home and he said “yeah, how else would I know how to get over on weaker people.” I am not going to debate whether their theory is true. They said it. I believe they had reasons and experiences that told them this was true. I was much more interested in what they thought the solution to bullying is.
A 15 year old, who had previously been found guilty of assault for intervening in a bully’s assault of another young man, gave me a very emotional response when we talked about our experiences with bullying. He told me that he got tired of seeing a “tough” guy pick on someone weak, so he jumped in to help the victim. The original victim refused to tell authorities that he had intervened on his behalf, because the victim was afraid of what would happen to him at school if he told the truth. This is the solution that my resident offered:
“Miss, they need to stop focusing on the bully. He’s already been beat into beating people, so he’s not finsta’ change. You gotta focus on the victims, because once you’re a target, you’re the target of the whole school. The bully. The teachers. Everybody cus they know what’s going on and they don’t do anything. They let it happen and then the parents send you right back to school for it to keep happening. So it don’t seem like nobody cares about that kid ’til he’s dead…or becomes the bully.”
From the mouth of babes? Maybe. I know that not in-spite of, but because they are in detention, the environment and interaction forced me daily to remember that these were still children living out very adult consequences. Each one has a story, so you don’t get to have sympathy, but you can have empathy that somewhere along the way someone failed these kids. We can’t go back and fix it, but we can teach them new tools to use going forward. Bridges are the only solution.
Be the sound advisor that you seek. Ask yourself the same insightful questions that you would ask someone else facing the same life choice.
People ask my advice all the time. I don’t really know why, but I assume that my love of perspectives helps them reason out solutions. The problem is who can give advice to the advisor. Hmm. In my younger years, this was a true dilemma. Friends would fold when I asked for honest insight. “Girl, you’ll know what to do when the time comes,” was the classic reply. Or “I don’t know. What do you think you should do?” was the least helpful response. If I knew what to do, I wouldn’t be asking you!!! Golly jeez willikers!!! I learned a valuable lesson from trying to glean direction from others who had tretched through the same fields. I’ve learned that the best advice I can receive is the advice I’d be willing to give others. No doubt, it is easier to look at situations from the outside inward. From that vantage point, you can see many of the moving pieces that will contribute to the outcome. It is much harder turning that critical eye outward through the complex nature of our own circumstances to find solutions. Be the sound advisor that you seek. Ask yourself the same insightful questions that you would ask someone else facing the same life choice. What are all of your options? Have you investigated each option? Which is the most financially feasible? How will your current schedule accommodate or need to be rearranged to act on that option? How does each option fulfill the full purpose of your end game? This quest for the right next step is not without homework. That is often what we are trying to avoid by soliciting guidance from others. Others are there to be sounding boards. They ask us to look deeper into our motives to help us uncover the path we’re looking for. The amazing part is that the truth of where to step next is already in us! I want you to trust and believe that the answers are in you. You don’t have to take my advice… Take your own!
“The mind of evil doesn’t change. It just changes victims when it’s eye catches sight of the helpless or weak” ~Fuzz
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on September 22, 1862. The last slaves deep on the southern coast of Texas got word of their freedoom on June 19, 1865. That means for three years after they were proclaimed free from human chattel laws, Black people in Texas were still held in bondage.
Humans as commodity. People for a price. This is America.
Lesson learned: What we think we know is often outdated by the time it reaches our understanding.
I’m watching the news and of course not so surprised by the heart wrenching images of children in immigration detention centers. This is America.
This is stark symbolism of the US economic agenda against humanity, which we have historically devalued. Tying people to economic policies is our corporate policy. People as pawns; a tradable commodity.
Two sides of this I know, maybe even three sides.
1) Seeking asylum is NOT illegal at ports of entry. Our government officials say running from horrendous gang violence, domestic violence, and rape are not grounds for asylum, because they are not victims of a governmental entity or agenda. I call bullshit! The mere fact that local governments are so corrupt and inept is an indication that they are knowingly and willingly aiding perpetrators of violence. The regimes are through policy and practice are cohorts in creating environments that foster crippling crime and fear. When America says “nope not our problem”, we embolden criminals and spit on the pleas of victims. There is no safe place.
2) The fact that families seeking asylum have had a better chance of being approved can be and is manipulated by human traffickers/coyotes. Some level of vetting and protection must be offered to the minors. It is unfounded racial bias that says ALL MEXICANS/EL SALVADORANS/HONDURANS/NICARAGUANS are criminals first! This is fear mongering at it’s worse. Traumatize those running from trauma is a policy void of decency, compassion, or wisdom.
3) There are humane ways to process families’ paperwork and provide a safe and humane environment. We CAN afford to have the children, where there is reason to suspect that they are under questionable adult supervision, comfortably housed with actual counselors, dormitories, and sleeping cots.
I don’t feel like lying to you or with you about the heart of the American government. “We the people” do not benefit from sleep walking. We can humanely protect our borders and treat people with dignity and respect.
The realest orchestration of imagery and tone that exemplifies the violence, complacency, and symbolic patriotism that juxtaposes the conflict between who we say we are and what we actually are: This Is America-Childish Gambino
Writing is my truest love and I miss when we are apart. But absence does make my heart grow fonder or so I tell my non-committal self.
The sun is up over there
Not here yet
I haven’t heard a bird chirp
Drool in their nests
I slumbered deep for many nights
Curled tightly to myself
Legs moan at wiggling toe’s complaints
Solid ground raised
Back cracks hip snaps pop treats
Fingers sky reach
Rest until your soul can’t sleep
Stand in the morning
Heeeyyyy y’all!! I know it’s been a minute, but I thought I’d peep in and show my face. Believe me, I’ve been working very hard (and quietly) these past few months. Checking tasks of my list and prioritizing my ventures.
Writing is my truest love and I miss when we are apart. But absence does make my heart grow fonder or so I tell my non-committal self. Anywho.. My deadlines will be wrapping up soon and I plan to spend my summer with you!
Out of sight is not out of mind. Not in the case of you and me anyway.
I think about you literally every day. I knew that I should reach out, but I just couldn’t.
I want you to know that I’m ok and my absence has nothing to do with you. It’s all about me.
I’m not being cliche. As much as I love and adore you, I had to give myself quality time.
I’m graduating in May, applying for another program that starts in August, trying to study for the LSAT (not going good), and applying for some faculty jobs.
My first draft was a bit rough, but I learned quite a bit about myself and my motivations to teach. Worthwhile exercise.
Everybody wants an essay these days. They want to know my teaching philosophies or my career objectives. They keep asking why and how. (Shit! I don’t know, but I kinda figured it out)
Sometimes, many times, I think I can juggle it all. It takes me time to grasp the reality that I must put my sanity at the center of my priorities in order to even hear my true intentions for myself.
I stopped smoking (again) and let go of meat. I didn’t like either one very much anyway. Both smell bad and make my head hurt.
I listened to an audiobook on learning to sit in silence. I read two books on healing the body and brain. I joined a support group as an emotional outlet and a crocheting class to develop a fun new coping skills.
Image: I’m making a Cali-King blanket for our bed. I’ve learned that I really dig crocheting❤️
I miss you, but I have to focus on me. I have to be quiet in my spirit. Stay committed in my focus.
I am not good at commitment. I told you that in the beginning. So all my energy is spent staying the course.
Anywho…..I’ve gone on a bit long. But I had to tell you that I’m not gone. I am just off building myself. Learning and living my philosophies.