Humble Yourself // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #14

I think gratefulness, gratitude, and humbling one’s self is all about self awareness. We can become more self aware by consciously, continuously, actively participating in self reflection. For me, cultivating these traits is a simple thing. All I have to do is look around.

Although there is power and purpose in doing this 365 days a year, there is still magic in doing it now. There is magic in a ripple effect.

I could, at any given moment, have less. I’ve had less before — much less. I’ve had so much less that I didn’t even have a place to live.

Then, there is the terrifying realization that I could have even less than the less I once had before, which, in that moment, I felt I could not survive. So, there is always the possibility of not surviving something worse (such as street homelessness in the dead of winter, coupled with crippling mental illness — or worse, I mean there is always worse.)

Of course, I could have more. So much more that what I have now could feel insignificant, instead of how enormous, how magnificent, it feels right now.

Perspective tells me, life experience tells me, that I can lose it all again.

In that thought, in that merciless reality, in that calmness, I ground myself with the realization that it is only this moment that really matters.

If this is to be true, if nothing is more significant than right now, there is no pain or suffering greater than right now, then we have no choice but to humble ourselves. Because of how fleeting this moment is, no moment is more important.

If there is nothing more important than the words I type right now, than the creaking of these floor boards, than the song that plays in the background, than the tapping of one’s foot against a beat

— then there is no reason not to extend kindness to others.

There is no reason not to serve others.

There is no reason to not exemplify grace and mercy.

There is no reason not to love.

 

 

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Getting into the Christmas spirit and writing letters to loved ones. // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #12 – 13

Dear Scribblers,

Whoops — I missed a day again! Unfortunately, yesterday, I had another busy day at the office. As we wrap-up the semester, there is quite a bit of following up and tightening up any loose ends before we close up shop for Christmas and New Years. I am taking a long vacation starting next week Wednesday, so anything that needs to get done before 2019, well…it more or less needs to get done now.

So, as you can imagine, there hasn’t been a whole lot of writing going on. Usually, the final hour before I leave campus, that I put aside for writing, simply didn’t happen yesterday. Well, forget yesterday, I say! Because now, I have a solid 45 minutes to dedicate to everything Blogmas, and Blogmas I shall do!

Believe it or not, but before I hopped on WordPress, I spent the last 2 hours writing letters. These letters will get slipped inside Christmas cards. Hopefully, at least SOME of these cards will make it’s way to friends and family sometime next week. Just now, I wrote a letter to my grandparents on both sides of the family, as well as my parents. I also printed out a poem to slide in there as well, although I doubt all this paper will fit in the tiny greeting cards I bought. We shall see!

I think writing letters is a fantastic way to not only improve a simple greeting card, but also to reflect upon the year, upon your relationships, and just dedicate a little bit of time and attention to loved ones.

I love writing personal, intimate letters, and I especially love to receive them.  I am always moved by a thoughtful, written letter, that truly endorses the love, support, and kindness that I share in somebody’s life — which I think we all deserve. Not to mention, there is nothing more exciting than receiving a surprise Christmas (or Birthday!) card in the mail. It is a wonderful treat to receive, once arriving home, after a long day.

So, even if you can’t afford gifts, write a letter. Send a card. It means a lot.

And, believe me, I’ll no doubt put you in the Christmas spirit.

 

 

 

Attending the annual Christmas party (and other poor decisions I’ve made tonight.) // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #11

Is that 2009 calling? Because they want Sean Kingston back.

Yes, friends. It’s 5 pm, and “the fire’s burning on the dance floor”.

I’m in line, dreaming of chocolate cake and the man standing with tongs in front of the prime rib station. I fill my plate, walk around, shoveling mash and drippings in my face.

Every time the DJ insists we put our hands up, I put my fork up — you know, in solidarity.

At this point, I’d say about a solid 1/3 of the room is on the dance floor. Not drunk, mind you. Rumor has it we “got in trouble for that” last year. This is completely sober happiness, which says a lot for the quality of this party. No really, it was a real banger.

Professors can get down. So can the cleaning crew. Glasses clinking. Plastic cups up.

Eventually, a solid 80% of the room was either dancing in their chair, on the dance floor, or on the outskirts with a fork in their mouth.

All it took was one song. Before I knew it, I had my favorite workmates dragging me out into the crowd.

Me? Salsa dancing? Um, I eat salsa, from a jar…?

Do I look silly? Do I care enough to care about looking silly?

Apparently all you need to get a bunch of New Yorkers, a bunch of community college educators on the floor, is to put on some Marc Anthony.

Before I knew it, my ride and I were sneaking out. A few hugs later, I was on back on the belt (Belt Parkway), riding towards a lit-up Brooklyn Bridge, on my way home.

I rolled in the door 10 minutes after my husband. Tossed a bag of Dollar Tree brand way-too-spicy not-even-supposed-to-be-spicy tatter tots in the oven. Six of those babies in, it genuinely started to taste funny. Not everything is a deal from Dollar Tree. Still smiling from the after effects of a real banger, my stomach starts to turn. Uh oh.

 

Santa Claus is comin’ to townnn! (…and my brother-in-law, Wesley.) // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #10

The most exciting news I have to share is that my brother in law, Wesley, is coming to town this year! Honestly, I haven’t been able to contain my excitement about it — AT ALL! I haven’t seen Wesley in AT LEAST eight years. Just to put into perspective on how close we really were — I spent majority of my teenage life hanging out and causing literal mischief with Wesley, and his brother, my now husband, Thomas.

Wesley is just one year younger than myself, so not only was I literally at his house every. single. day for several years, but we also saw each other at school. Heck, we went to the same community college right after that!

Truly, this kid (not a kid anymore, y’all!) has had such a huge presence in my life for a very long time. And, truly, I miss him dearly. I feel blessed that we have so many fond and precious memories together — all of us — of much simpler days.

I can’t wait to catch up.

I can’t wait to make up for almost a decade of lost time.

It’s been a long time coming. 

This post is going to be a bit shorter than my usual essay-length tangents I tend to go on. For tonight, short and sweet is the way to go.

I am currently still at work, though trying to leave within the next 15 minutes.  As I look out on the balcony of my office, I notice complete darkness. The sun has already gone to sleep for the day. I think that’s my queue to get heck out of here!

But, before I leave, please, have a poem.

Needle-dark December smells.

She walks with wonder everywhere.

—  Muriel Rukeyser, from The Collected Poems; “Christmas Eve,

 

You’ll Catch Your Death, Baby Jesus! // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #9

Last night, I watched Angela’s Christmas, a brand new, short film on Netflix. This adorable animated film follows the story of Angela, a little girl who steals baby Jesus right out of his crib! Er, manger?

According to IMDb, this, “half hour CG film is based on Frank McCourt’s only children’s book, inspired by a story his mother Angela told him as a child. (…) Set in Ireland in the 1910s, ‘Angela’s Christmas’ is a funny, heart-warming and poignant story about the power of family and the innocent desire of a child to ensure everyone is safe, warm and loved at Christmas time.” — including baby Jesus himself! I mean, the kid is butt naked! I think Angela’s got the right idea, don’t you?

Although Angela’s Christmas is a simple tale, I think we can learn much from Angela and what it means to serve others. At one point in the story, this small child offers a silver piece to a blind pauper. Her natural instinct to care for a child, who, without her help, would catch his death, is a moving and strong sentiment that can remind us of who we are, in our hearts — caring, loving, human beings.

On this Sunday, let’s serve, care, and love each other, just as Angela did.

 

Gift giving and other things. // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #8

Honestly, if you asked me what I got for Christmas as a child, I probably wouldn’t be able to name more than a few things. Not because there weren’t many, but because, really, those fond and precious memories weren’t about the gifts I received. If anything at all, it was a lot more about giving them.

Gift shopping and gift wrapping was largely something I did with my Mom. I remember getting up early on a Saturday morning and going to breakfast with her before hitting up the shops. She had written up a list including each and every one of my cousins. We set a tight budget, and tried our best to stick to it.

Come Christmas morning, we’d drive across the island and meet all of our extended family. Blankets, beach towels, and straw mats were laid down on the grass before we proceeded to dump dozens of presents along side all of our little ones. Envelopes of cash made their way to the older ones.

This afternoon, I sat on the bed and wrapped a handful of presents for my best friend, Nicole, and her daughter Ranelle. I snapped a few pictures to show her. She said it had her feeling nostalgic and reminded her of the presents she received as a child. As I measured, folded, and cut the wrapping paper, I thought about all the evenings we sat on the living room floor, as I helped my Mother wrap gifts. I’d look up at my Dad, on the couch, asking him which print he liked best — which ribbon would best match. I thought about how, in that moment, I really had no clue how fleeting that moment truly would be.

I didn’t realize that, in the future, there would always be a hint of sadness, a hint of loneliness, a hint of longing for a magic that once was.

It wouldn’t be an S&S Blogmas if I didn’t drop a tune. So, here, my dearest Scribblers, have one more.

 

Serving up blessings Pt. 2 // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #6 – 7

As I’ve said time and time again, I’ve experienced an enormous amount of grace and mercy in my life this year. So much so, that it’s really altered my world view. If there is something greater out there, at work, even if it is simply the universe itself, making what must be, must be — and even if not — if there is no purpose at all, I still feel it. It is still there. My own human experience makes it so.

Last year, and the year before that, and perhaps even the year before that, what I call the darkness of the world entered my life. I experienced cruel and unjust realities that shocked me. Now, I will never see the world the same way. My, rather tiny, brush with homelessness introduced me to, God, like another plane of existence. That is how unparalleled it was to the life that I had, and it’s not like I was rich. I was poor. But this was different. I wasn’t a person anymore. I was a parasite. It was different. And now, well, I will never be the same person again. Those cruel and wicked parts of the world just kind of showed up at my door step and knocked me off my very idealistic cloud I’ve floating on.

From that point on, I just stopped believing in universal concepts of justice, fairness, and honor. I stopped believing that there is any kind of power in ethics. In truth, I still believe this. Hence newfound radicalism in my previous post.

I just don’t think we can expect justice, fairness, or power of ethics to come out of systems, governments, or power structures. I don’t think it exists. Even a law is worthless if those who wield them are not good people. I think these concepts can and only live in people. Good people. People change lives. The power is in you. I really do believe that the answer is to turn to our neighbors; to organize, and to love harder.

In all honesty, I did turn to God, because that is what you do, naturally, when you’re out of options. I went after the unknown because what was known, wasn’t enough. I prayed a lot. Every night, alone, in a filthy bathroom. I prayed and prayed and prayed.

But, in reality, in the here and now, it was people who became blessings. This isn’t to discredit God, nor is it to credit God either. I think, regardless of God’s position, we were always meant to be the blessing. We were always meant to orchestrate the grace. We were always supposed to deliver the mercy. As it is true also with justice, fairness, and honor.

Each blessing I received was a person. It was a new friend turned ally. It was a social worker who listened when I really needed to be heard. It was being lifted, carried even, by family members and friends, new and old, when I was at my weakest. It was a spouse who shared the darkness, and looked towards the light with. It was the out-pour of support from strangers, through words, gifts, and even financial help. They delivered mercy to me; they orchestrated the grace. It was a real-estate broker, who took on an impossible case, and then under-charged us 4 months later. It was a kind and generous landlord who housed us after nearly a year of homelessness. It was people. It was you.

And now, I try to be you. I try my best to bless others in ways I’ve been blessed. Some days, that might mean reaching out and making sure my friends are okay. Other days, it might mean actively participating in direct action, in standing in solidarity with homeless people. That could mean sending money to a stranger over PayPal. It may also mean buying socks off a shelter’s Amazon wish list. It usually simply means loving people a little bit harder. I truly believe that doing so, loving harder, that’s what it means to do my part in the world. Sometimes it’s not quite clear, and in those times, I simply honor my blessings. I step up to the plate and be my f*cking best.

And, again, I’ll leave you with a song.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for reading. Thanks for sticking around. Merry Christmas.