The following article by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes resonated with me. I found it very uplifting and beautiful. With all the unsettling events as of late, I wanted to share it. (For me, it doesn’t mean we won’t call attention to the problems we face or fight the good fight but that we don’t have to feel hopeless or powerless. Of course, too, we may have different perceptions of a higher power or the highest power, but the message is the same.❤️)
We Were Made for These Times by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall.
When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”~Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
During the George Floyd protests, online activists listed book titles that would help increase black history awareness. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley was among those recommended to me.
With this writing, Malcolm X hoped to shed light on how growing up in the black ghettoes shaped his life and character. And he knew it would require a great deal of objectivity on the reader’s part.
Indeed, there are harsh truths—painful and soul-crushing truths that justify every bit of anger black people feel. There arealso misogynistic generalizations along with expressed anger and vindictiveness particularly toward white women, but, as he stated later in the book, “Anger can blind human vision.”
It works both ways.
With the “Black Lives Matter” movement, I saw an inability to comprehend that people of color merely demanded the same due process, dignity, and justice given to white people. Those enraged by the protests could not put themselves in those people’s places or even imagine being in that position themselves. They were above it all, and facts didn’t matter. My impression was that they don’t understand because they generally don’t deal with black people personally, Generally speaking, their knowledge of black people is what they see on the news. Or they base their conclusions on the actions of a few, something they wouldn’t do with people of the same race and ethnicity.
There’s been an obsession with “sameness” that has baffled me since I was a child.
Interesting analogy—when my child was born, I had to get an Rh immune globulin shot because I am Rh-negative and didn’t have the Rh factor marker to mix with Rh-positive blood. If I hadn’t done that, and my son was born Rh positive, my immune system would have made antibodies to reject what it detected as a foreign invasion by attacking his red blood cells. That foreign invasion response. The impulsive instinct to reject what isn’t the same, not close enough, and thereby threatening. It’s part of humanity’s defective design. I don’t recognize you, plain and simple. You don’t belong here. Get out. It’s like a bad science fiction movie where you can’t get through to the people affected and can’t save them.
Malcolm X said that, in writing this book, he hoped to help “save America from a grave, possibly even a fatal catastrophe.”
I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
I remember, years ago, while dating a biracial man, a black woman said to me, “He’s a black man, honey. You can’t possibly understand a black man the way he needs to be understood.” I didn’t know if she was right or wrong. Sure, I realized, from an early age, that discrimination and oppression were completely unacceptable. I was always willing to understand. I’m certainly a lot more aware now than I was then. Yet there is still more to learn.
Responding to speculation as to why he was the way he was, Malcolm X said, “To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.”
He talked a lot about how reading forever changed the course of his life. “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book,” he said. (And although women were hardly a second thought in the time that he lived, this applies to them, too.) 😉
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley has that ability to change lives. Mr. Haley did an excellent job with it. The pacing was slow—at times, a little too slow, but I’m glad I was patient. It is an important book to read. It proves, as far as I’m concerned, that reading is a must. It has been one of my saving graces in life, and it is what pulled Malcolm X up from the dark, deep, underground tunnels that kept him in the oppressor’s grip, a cycle of self-sabotage and self-loathing that his oppressors created for him and so many others like him.
Exploring works like Native Son by Richard Wright and The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley is a great start for people interested in learning why this great divide continues to exist.
However, according to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, “As of 2017, Americans spent an average of almost 17 minutes per day reading for personal interest (as compared to almost three hours watching television and 28 minutes playing games and using computers for leisure). Younger Americans (ages 15 to 44) spent, on average, less than 10 minutes per day reading for personal interest.”
I firmly believe a lack of reading and exploring is one of the many problems we have in this country.
The truth is, you don’t have to like a person to learn from them, but I ended up liking the person who told this story. The tragic end to his extraordinary life saddens me. Malcolm X was open-minded and remained teachable. He came to understand we are not all alike, all of us white people, and it’s the same thing everyone needs to realize about every other race and ethnicity.
His conclusion was, it isn’t necessarily “the American white man who is a racist, but the American political, economic, and social atmosphere that automatically nourishes a racist psychology in the white man.” And that “it takes all of the religious, political, economic, psychological, and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the human family and the human society complete.” He felt certain if this weren’t the case, we’d have a humane, empathetic society where all of us, rich and poor, could be treated with dignity and respect. He liked the idea of not seeing an inherently evil “enemy” but rather a society that “influences him to act evilly.”
Even Christianity—a religion black people clung to for comfort and hope—became part of that racist psychology. He noted that “The Christian church returned to Africa under the banner of the Cross—conquering, killing, exploiting, pillaging, raping, bullying, beating—and teaching white supremacy. This is how the white man thrust himself into the position of leadership of the world—through the use of naked physical power.”
I so admire the spiritual courage this man had in his search for the truth.
And the truth is, essentially, what makes sense to you after all your exploration and your quest for authenticity. I say it all the time, no group, no matter who, what, or where is perfect. We always have a mix of good and evil. Or, to be kinder, some have seen the light, and others have yet to see it. Let’s hope they keep looking.
“The most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. All too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” -Martin Luther King, Jr..
MORE BOOKS RECOMMENDED TO ME
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn along with Malcolm X
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois by W.E.B. Du Bois
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Negro History by Carter G. Woodson’s by Carter G. Woodson
We’ve seen it with the COVID situation. Mocking, taunting, and terrorizing people who adhere to the restrictions is a thing now. The perpetrators don’t value your life. To them, it’s all a big joke. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of selected compassion reserved for people who are like them and agree with them, or an issue of not having empathy at all.
Of course, it stands to reason then, they would rather not hear that black lives matter or that we need racial justice and equality. It makes them angry or uncomfortable, and maybe they will despise me for talking about it. But this problem is so much bigger than them or me or even George Floyd specifically. It’s not something that just happened or something unusual. It’s not a situation where there are two sides.
Believe me, the people who were not outraged by what happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and countless other black victims of police brutality were indeed outraged about the riots. When they mention George Floyd, they refer to his death as a tragedy and not a cold-blooded murder or lynching, which is what it was.
Some are quick to say, well, he had a violent past. Yes, that’s true. It’s also true that he served his time and was trying to turn his life around. But that’s beside the point. There was nothing—absolutely nothing— that justified excessive use of force in his arrest, let alone murder.
The truth hurts. But we have to deal with it. We have to talk about it because we must change the system.
Let’s talk about the riots.
Most of us don’t want to see others get robbed or shot or suffer a devastating loss. Speaking for myself alone, I’m a humanist. I can’t stand to see anyone suffer or live in fear. We hurt people enough unintentionally because we are human. Still, when you harm others willfully and maliciously or wish it or condone it or ignore it, I don’t see your humanity at all.
And if you are willing to break the law during a COVID pandemic— defiantly putting others at risk so that you can buy a donut in person or get your stupid ass nails done, you don’t get to complain to me about any of this. You are willing to harm others because of your rage, yet you cannot grasp why some protesters may cross the line and seek to harm because of what anger they feel over something that actually matters.
In other words, it’s okay to be an angry white person, but it’s not okay to be an angry black person. We can deal with those angry white people armed to the teeth. But we can’t deal with a scared and unarmed black person who doesn’t want to get arrested. Violence isn’t the answer. Neither is breaking the law. It shouldn’t matter who you are.
Similarly, freedom of speech should extend to all. However, when we start speaking up about racial injustice, people want to shut it down.
And, as we know, many of those incensed over the riots were not okay with any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise. They are the same people always clamoring about a civil war and threatening to start one. What the hell do they think happens during a civil war? It would be far worse than anything we’ve seen play out during these protests.
They fear tyranny so much that they won’t protect themselves and others in a pandemic. Still, they don’t mind police using excessive force on protesters, and they don’t see a problem with deploying the military against its citizens. Isn’t that the reason they are always harping about the second amendment? Isn’t that why they fear the government is coming for their guns? Or do they think they will never be brutalized or killed standing up for what’s right because they are white? Think again. Power and greed continue to corrupt our government. Oh, wait, you already know that. It’s why you won’t give up your guns.
By the way, do the people who keep blaming Antifa for everything even know what Antifa is? I admit I didn’t know myself until recently. What I now understand is, Antifa stands for antifascism and is not an entity. It’s a movement, a stance you take. Anyone can claim to be Antifa. Didn’t Twitter recently close down an account of white nationalists pretending to represent Antifa and calling for violence? Why, yes, they did! There are also links to information about white supremacist groups showing up at protests and wreaking havoc attributed to Antifa and the protestors. The FBI supposedly investigated “Antifa” and came up with nothing. My guess is, most of the protesters are legitimate. Others have another agenda. I don’t know anything for sure. Neither do you. But I will say, it does make sense to me that white supremacists would sabotage a protest for racial justice. They know how to get their base outraged, and it’s not by murdering a black man in cold blood.
Let’s talk about the police.
Police have a difficult job to do. I know that. We need them, and, to enforce the law, they have to be tough. I get it. You’re talking to a huge fan of detective shows here. In the book I’m currently writing, my main character is a detective, and though he’s flawed like every other human, he’s been one of my favorite characters to write.
I always say it takes all kinds. I’ve met very kind police officers, and I’ve met some nasty ones. Believe it or not, I want to understand them, too.
According to the National Center for Women and Policing, “Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent, indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.”
Women in these situations are often terrified of taking action because their partners have the backing of their fellow officers.
Hazelden Betty Ford.org notes, “In 2010, a study of police officers working in urban areas found that 11% of male officers and 16% of female officers reported alcohol use levels deemed “at-risk” by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Also noted is a “high prevalence of psychological and pathological stress disorders such as PTSD when already stressed officers are exposed to traumatic events.”
Police Psychology.com has information on its website about the problems and difficulties that unexpressed anger can create. They cite “pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile.”
My question is, are we doing enough to help police officers, or is the system failing them, too?
We have outreach programs and resources, but, as explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Law enforcement officers are often reluctant to seek professional support for a variety of reasons. Officers, who have been trained to act independently and maintain constant emotional control, may view the need for support services as a sign of personal weakness. Even if they recognize that they would benefit from it.”
Police officers must get the help they need.
We all want to believe most cops are good, many of them as brokenhearted as we are when they see what is happening. If that’s true that most are good, then they outnumber the bad guys whose actions harm them as well. I get why they may be afraid to stand up to the others, but enabling them can’t be the answer. It makes them part of a toxic environment that could not exist without their cooperation or their silence.
One thing I’ve learned is, with all the fake videos and misinformation floating around, we need to fact check. A lot of people don’t bother. They pretty much parrot what everyone else is drilling into their brain. If you don’t have a mind of your own, you can easily get lost in all the bullshit. That’s why we are where we are today.
Lucky for me, I stubbornly decided, many, many years ago, to follow my heart. To determine what I believed based on my experience — not what others told me. I’ve wanted no part of the hateful, self-righteous, self-entitled anger that crushed my spirit almost every damn day, growing up. It was like a poison doled out to everyone in the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t drink it.
As someone in quarantine who thrives on isolation, I had to reflect on that recently, and I was inspired to divulge what I concluded, partly to see if anyone could relate.
For the longest time in my life, I believed writing was my destiny or my calling, and that there was never any choice about it. It made sense because I started doing it when I was eight years old and kept on no matter who or what happened in life. It was automatic and the equivalent of breathing (almost ). Romantic relationships were usually complicated since I gave so much to writing and didn’t want to make that same type of investment in potential partners.
My marriage was different because I had a child to raise, and my maternal instinct took over, allowing me to devote myself to my husband and my son. That became a permanent bond. With others, it was most likely I’d eventually back away. Real friends were the only exception to that, and even with my nearest and dearest, I can shut down in the moments I need to and remain in my little bubble until one or the other calls upon me. (This COVID lockdown has me in shutdown mode more than usual.)
So, what I realized is, there is a high probability that I started writing for one simple reason. It allowed me to escape to a world far removed from reality. And that was where I wanted to be. It was never that I didn’t care—more like I cared too much, and I knew it, and it hurt.
As a child, like so many children, I was blown away by The Wizard of Oz. I grew to love role-playing and parallel universe fiction. When role-playing games became on online obsession, combining these two elements, I was among the obsessed. What more could I ask for than the opportunity to vanish into a fake world of my own choosing and explore it fearlessly without ever having to face any consequences?
It’s a weird thing to explain because, from the moment I could fully experience it, the real world has thoroughly fascinated me. I immensely enjoy being out there whenever I am. But, yes, in the general sense, I prefer fantasy to reality. I always have, and I know I’m not alone in that. It’s not a sad thing, not to me. You can be happy and sad, laughing or crying, talking up a storm or perfectly still, and it’s all good. I love and embrace it all, but when I can’t deal at that particular moment, I don’t. I thought it was the poet in me who felt that way, but maybe it’s just me.
I’m not sure if any of it is normal, but becoming aware of it did make me feel selfish. At the very least, it made me realize I have been selfish at times. (Ironically, I had to get in touch with reality enough to understand how deeply flawed I am, and to begin working on it.) That work began years ago and continues to this day.
Still, I had to ask myself this question. If what I had wanted all along was to escape reality, why did I base some of my work on things I’d witnessed or experienced?
Well, for one thing, I compartmentalized my feelings and traumas. The people on the page were not real because I’d turned reality into fiction. I was playing God, and, most importantly, I was in control. I needed to be in control. (The focus of my work, by the way, has now shifted to 90% fiction.)
The good news here is, everything is all about learning and growing. It never stops, and because of that, I’ve become increasingly grateful and so incredibly appreciative of the people in my life.
It’s much easier to be “present in the moment” when you know to cherish it! I find that these days, I genuinely care without needing anything in return. So, I’m not all bad.
I suppose the need for self-protection will override progress when necessary, mostly out of habit, but in this life, if you’re committed to improvement, you will achieve it!
If you are defending the rights of others who
are denied whatever privilege you enjoy, does that mean you have a savior
It’s one of many questions I ask myself, given the fact that I’ve been doing this since I was twelve. It was instinctive then, and it’s instinctive now because I don’t want to live in a world where bigotry seems to be the norm. Whether people were happy or unhappy about this stance I’d taken has never made a difference to me.
I have also questioned my own motives at
It’s not about being politically correct. As far as I’m concerned, it is simply right, and I’m so confident of that that I’ll stick to it no matter who or what I stand to lose in the process.
Is it about tolerance? Nope. I would not even list that trait among my qualities, since there is much I can’t and won’t tolerate, including things that may seem unreasonable to the culprits, and yep, one of those things is the cruelty generated by prejudice. So, in choosing friends and partners, there are plenty of deal breakers, sure, but their origins will have nothing to do with it.
Who am I to merely tolerate people anyway because they weren’t born with my skin color, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic status, or happened to be taught some other religious philosophy? There is simply no part of me that believes whatever I was born as makes me superior to another. Nor is there any part of me that wants to deny people justice or the rights and equality they deserve.
That’s my two cents’ worth, and I’m not claiming to be the bigger or better person than anyone who opposes because I’m simply hardwired this way. Besides that, I have plenty of faults. Barbarity just isn’t one of them.
I’ve accepted, too, that impartiality doesn’t help you win popularity contests. Gaining acceptance and fitting in are often about forming alliances based on race, gender, religion, orientation, ethnicity, political beliefs, and so on. There are those who consider me naïve for stubbornly hanging on to this neutrality like a Pitbull with a pork chop. Others may chalk it up to me having this willful, rebellious, antagonistic nature. Either way, some individuals feel I am wrong and are perplexed by my fierce defense of the “other side.”
I can honestly live without such flimsy alliances. Most of those alliance-forming factors are not a basis for forming an opinion. And when people come back at me with, “Stereotypes exist for a reason,” I say, “That is still what they are, stereotypes. You don’t know someone until you do.”
Anyway, here’s my story.
My father was born in Campochiaro, Italy. He came to the U.S. with his family when he was fifteen years old. They lived in Woodside, Queens, which was a predominantly Irish neighborhood. Italians were not welcome. They were called everything from dagos to greasy meatballs. Italians had initially been greeted in some places by “No Italians Allowed” signs and had to change their surnames before anybody would hire them. My dad always worked, rarely taking sick and vacation days. He married a woman of Spanish descent, born in Havana, Cuba. She also came to the U.S. as a teenager, and they met in a class where they were both learning to speak English. Like him, she made sure she remained employed and dependable. While they were still newlyweds, he fought for our country, on the front line, making the rank of Sergeant, and he received a Purple Heart.
By the time I came along, there were plenty of Italian families in Woodside. Italians had made the acceptance cut. Spanish people were the new threat, committing the crime of paving the way for other Hispanics. Because of my mother, my siblings and I were told to “go back to Cuba,” a place I’d only visited once when I was three. They called us spics. And the main culprits of this bullying were, surprisingly, Italian.
My mother lied about being Spanish to strangers, saying she was Italian. She thought she’d be perceived as another one of those wetbacks coming over to the U.S. for a handout when she, in fact, came here legally. She also refused to speak Spanish at work to avoid being judged.
Some people will tell you it’s all about paying your dues, earning your place. Irish people experienced oppression and persecution before the Italians did, and once everyone got over the Spanish neighbors, they were directing their venom at the Indians, Pakistanis, and so on.
Regarding black people, I’ve often heard the argument, “Well, we did what we had to do to earn respect.” My answer to that was, “But you weren’t brought here in chains and forced into slavery. You’re not being discriminated against anymore. They are.”
Understandably, people of cultures that have been oppressed feel a kinship with their own, especially when the oppression continues. Who could blame them for supporting and defending one another?
If you go through life as a member of any oppressed group, which includes women, you see the global and systematic imbalance, the unfairness, and the cruelty. One example is women believing other women when they share experiences about rape and abuse. Some men hate these women for making their gender sound like monsters and feel they’re being blamed because they are also a man. The thing is, we should all want the truth and due process, but some must adamantly defend their “group.”
What I’ll never understand is people being okay with anyone facing the type of scorn, ridicule, and discrimination that tore their own hearts out. I don’t understand anyone being okay with it period.
My extended family on both sides had their own prejudices, to say the least. Meanwhile, my curiosity in wanting to get to know all these non-white people was insatiable. I kept seeing that I had beautiful experiences and encounters with them. When I was twelve, my favorite bands were The Temptations—five black soul music vocalists and dancers— and Santana, featuring a hot Mexican-American guitarist. (Santana’s music is defined as Latin-infused rock with salsa, blues, and African rhythms.) On The Temptations’ Puzzle People album, there was a song called “Message from a Black Man,” and God knows what my parents were thinking when I amped it up and sang along with the lyrics. But I really wanted to hear that message. I felt compelled to.
During my high school days and later on in other community-like settings—even recovery circles—it was apparent to me that some people showed a preference for making friends with people who shared their background. I certainly got the impression that they felt superior to anyone who was not “one of them.” And to this day, when I go to the doctor, and I’m sitting in the waiting room, white people look delighted when I sit beside them. Maybe if they knew all the details of my ancestry, they’d scoot away. Who knows? 🤷
It’s all part of the world’s obsession with
sameness—feeling safe, secure, and comfortable primarily with people they
believe are exactly like them. The common assumption seems to be that whatever
a person was born as, whatever belief system he or she inherited, that is the
right one and the best, and the only one that matters.
It’s right up there with other concepts I
don’t understand—like the enjoyment of shaming people or delighting in
someone’s suffering because revenge is supposed to be sweet.
And the idea that we’re supposed to feel more
outraged or upset when something happens to someone who was born in the same
country we were born in or who shares our ethnicity, race, etc. As if bad
things happening to people in Syria or some other place has nothing to do with
Suffering is unbearable, no matter who
suffers. I hate to see it.
Hey, I’m all for the celebration of culture, but people who share my origins don’t have an immediate edge with me. Heritage is fascinating, including my own. I enjoy listening to people talk about it. Accents are intriguing. I love seeing all these fantastic places and trying out different cuisines. But I identify with being a global citizen and human being more than being an American or anything else. That’s crazy and even awful to some people, I know, but I can’t help that, and I’m not sorry about it. I’m glad.
People go to war over bias and entitlement.
They discriminate and violently target others based on the very same.
I will admit that as a white female, or a female perceived to be white anyway, I’ve had experiences where black teen girls started fights with me for no apparent reason. But so have white women! I’ve also met some nasty-ass gay people, but I’ve met even nastier straight people. And while I was raised as an Italian/Spanish Catholic white girl, the worst incidents of sexual trauma, harassment and assault throughout my life were at the hands of white, Italian Catholic males. It’s never meant that every white, Catholic Italian guy was going to be like that. As far as I’m concerned—no matter what group you’re talking about—it takes all kinds. There are good and bad people on the right and the left, good and bad men and women. What I see with a lot of people though is, when someone not like them hurts, appalls, or devastates them, it is a reflection on that group culture. They won’t stop to think of the people of their own kind who have done the same thing or worse.
People caught up in the opposing mindset don’t like to hear that there are good and bad eggs in every bunch. They have this blind loyalty to their kind. When it comes to others, they often know only the stereotypes or what they’ve read in the news or saw on TV. Without having any real relationships with the people from whatever culture they shun, their impression is based on limited experience.
Not having shunned people who weren’t like me gave me an advantage in life. I always had that frame of reference. Even the people I agree with politically are not necessarily people I like. People I don’t agree with aren’t always people I can’t love.
To be honest, though, whenever there is a reunion, high school or whatever, I know by now not to go because nothing changes with most people. For me, there is no joy in seeing people hold on to this ignorance, these old ideas, and this hate for certain cultures. The end result is, people you love with all your heart say the most appalling things without batting an eye and think there’s not a thing in the world wrong with it. It’s their normal, and it’s heartbreaking.
Bigots, for one thing, are people with inferiority complexes who flipped the coin and developed superiority complexes instead. It’s an unconscious or subconscious survival strategy. At every turn, they have to prove their superiority and so refuse to be perceived in a less than flattering light. If you represent them or are a part of their group, you have to measure up to their standards which means looking, acting, and thinking like them because they need to believe that everything about them is right—better than anyone else, even perfect. If you are their child, sibling, niece, nephew, whatever, your job is to fulfill expectations or be mocked, rejected, and shamed. They resent you for causing them shame.
So they’ll make fun of the kid with the lazy eye. They’ll tell someone he or she is retarded because they don’t understand the kid’s behavior. They’ll shun someone for not being pretty or call somebody fat because they think it’s the worst thing anyone can be. Since they are so into their own standards of beauty and perfection, they quickly find what they perceive as imperfection in others. Yet, they don’t notice their own shortcomings.
I once heard a child ask this about one of my
adult relatives. “Why is (so and so) always making fun of people?”
Some will defend the behavior, saying we’ve become weak as a society. Those individuals believe being mocked toughens you up. It doesn’t. It makes kindhearted people forever sensitive, insecure, and self-loathing. The ones who did get “toughened up,” so to speak, are merely bullies of the present day, bullying their own kids and the other adults in their lives.
Their values were handed off to them by their parents, and there’s an ingrained belief that their parents could never be wrong. They’ll say, “Well, they raised me, and I didn’t turn out so bad.” (In many cases, they didn’t turn out so good either.) But the evil they know is less frightening than uncertainty. It’s the perfect justification for passing this crap onto their own kids. It’s worse, too, when the parents are deceased because then they feel they can’t say anything unflattering about the dead. (Maybe the fear is the ghosts might hear you, but don’t quote me on that.) Whatever the deal is, you have to pretend these people were not only good—they were perfect. And the stuff they did wrong, which had been previously acknowledged, will now be denied.
In these families, you either get on board, or you take your broken heart someplace else.
I’ve talked about all of this with my own child, who attributed the lockstep mentality to a fear of not belonging, not fitting in—most importantly, not having that total acceptance from their loved ones. I can’t answer for why my own convictions became more critical than that acceptance, but they did. I can say I chose my soul over their acceptance, rejecting their mentality no matter the cost.
Getting back to those people who say they
turned out just fine, well I did, too—after clawing my way back, inch by inch,
step by step. After fighting to learn and grow and heal for many, many years.
That doesn’t mean that my parents or someone else’s parents wholly screwed up. No one is perfect, but if each generation learns from the one before, we can not only do better, we should.
Here’s the thing. We can all be wrong. At a
certain point in my life. I had to question whether everything I knew was
wrong—everything I was taught. Because
ultimately, only the truth serves me. Denial has cost me, and many others, I’m
sure, way too much already. It’s self-destructive to allow it to continue.
We can never take things at face value or
count on what other people teach. Children must be allowed to think for
themselves and form their own opinions. They need to know they will be
unconditionally loved and accepted without buying into your total mindset,
without having to live the life you have envisioned for them.
So, to wrap this up, I believe that every culture should be celebrated. Certain people get tired of hearing it, I know, but we are one, big, beautiful, and colorful family, and, no matter whose heritage we are celebrating, I’m in.
Some photos of Woodside Queens, New York
“We all have a divine mission on earth. Let that mission be to inspire love and embrace the light within. Let that mission be to have peace in our hearts as we create heaven on earth. Let that mission be to seek empowerment through transformation and to breathe joy into everything we do. If we allow these things to be our mission the golden light of the sun will shine on our souls and change our world forever.”~ Michael Teal
People run from life in many ways. We can want a hug so desperately and yet recoil from it. We can crave love more than anything and build fortresses to keep it away. There’s this idea that the more bridges we burn, the harder it will be to go back to the things that caused us pain. Sometimes, that is true, but, at the same time, we keep looking for that place where we belong, and, in some situations, trying almost too hard to fit in, until we accept, with a great deal of shame, that we need to move on. Reaching out to people is overwhelming and terrifying, but we try it, and when we feel unheard, we vanish again. So many goodbyes––until we don’t want to do the relationship thing anymore or the intimacy thing or ask anyone for help or love or whatever the hell we need. Intimacy doesn’t seem worth any of that, and we lose interest. We shut down, close our doors for business, and thrive in our safe, predictable worlds.
We wonder if we are crazy, but people tell us only sane people question their sanity. Sometimes we think we’re monsters, but we come to learn that monsters feel no guilt, no shame, and no love. We do love, from a distance and we absorb the world’s pain.
In my twenties and beyond, I kept changing my name, my hair color, my address, my phone number, my job–you name it. It was as if I couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t hide in a safe enough place. Without realizing it, I was running away from the trauma of childhood and teen years.
At some point in the healing process, something tells you that you don’t need to hide anymore. You don’t need to run, so you try not to. What’s unsettling is how far you can come in your healing and still get thrown back there in a heartbeat.
Progress can seem slow, but it keeps happening. I’m not a patient person, but I’ve learned to be patient about healing. I’ve had to, and I love healing because I’ve reaped its rewards. Often, I look back and ask myself, “How did I survive, being such an idiot for most of my life?” That may seem harsh, but in light of how far I’ve come, it makes sense. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t benefit from learning the truth about ourselves until we feel safe in rejecting the lies.
As survivors, we want this healing for everyone while needing to learn, too, that people are only ready when they’re ready. And it’s painful when we love people who need desperately to heal but remain trapped in their fear. Sometimes we wish we could absorb every bit of their agony; even it means holding on to all of it ourselves because we know we can handle it. We have.
We can’t get stuck in that inability to forgive either. It’s understandable because we witness so much unnecessary cruelty toward ourselves and others, and we don’t know what to do with that. For instance, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone willfully tried to destroy another person, or that person’s reputation, or his or her life, that they did everything in their power to annihilate another human being?
What I realized, quite a long time ago, is that revenge and punishment are not up to me. Divine retribution happens without the least bit of my help—no matter how we interpret divinity and even if we are divinity in the sense that we represent it in the universe. It works that way because we can’t destroy people without destroying ourselves. If it’s destruction we want, it’s destruction we’ll get, and it’s never one-sided.
A better solution is to keep following our path and goals and let go of the burdens people give us to hold. The weight comes from feelings of not belonging or being worthy and accepted as we are. It comes from others mischaracterizing us or our actions to suit their agendas and punishing us for not being who they need us to be, not wanting what they require us to want.
We have to find our own happily ever after. It’s undoubtedly not the same for everyone, and that’s another place we can get stuck—wanting what we don’t have and realizing it’s not even what we want but what we think we’re supposed to want and have. Most people want to find that special someone, get that dream house and job. From the time I was eight years old, what I wanted was different—maybe, in some ways, the opposite of what everyone else wanted. It took me a while to realize that I have everything I’d ever wanted or needed in my life and, while I may have moments of feeling sad for another or sad for the world, I am happy.
One thing I’ve always known is to never give up. It does get better, a little at a time, but it gets so much better. Our survival not only gives hope to others but sharing our experiences allows us to help in their healing. We help each other, yes, and we give each other the love that’s been so hard for us to ask for or accept.
I’m not a religious type, but the prayer below has always been my favorite. It can certainly get you through it. ❤️
Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.
For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.
For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.
Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!
We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.
In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:
A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.
The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.
Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.
For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.
We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.
Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.
We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.
We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.
For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.
Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!
I know there is an established difference between empaths and highly empathetic people, but I prefer to discuss this topic without suggesting where I or anyone else might be on that spectrum.
To be honest, I remain skeptical about the paranormal. I question the metaphysical aspect of having the high level of empathy that makes you difficult to be around at times. Please bear in mind, when you have been that way since childhood, it feels like the most natural response one could have, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s instinctive and, in my estimation, shouldn’t be at all peculiar, except that we live in such an apathetic world.
Some people have even linked a high level of empathy with codependence.
As far as I’m concerned, codependency is not about empathy. It’s about obsession. In the relationship between a drug addict or alcoholic and a generally sober enabler, both people are suffering from addictions. Both have their agenda, and what contributes to the endless cycle of repeat behavior is due partly to the codependent’s lack of empathy, however justifiable in many instances. The pressing needs of a codependent will consistently override any desire or need he or she may have to be authentic. They may believe what they do is simply out of love or out of concern, but it’s always about their dysfunction. Dysfunction gets in the way of any healthy response.
Very empathetic people can become codependent, but anyone can. Does being very empathetic put you at greater risk? I’d say so. And I think people who have suffered trauma and abuse are more likely to be very empathetic or codependent. But codependence is at odds with empathy, in my opinion, and can ultimately destroy it. I say this as a recovering codependent, and I will say, too, that as people learn to manage and overcome codependency, empathy returns like a long-lost son and in glorious triumph.
As for the whole empath/empathy deal, I can’t speak for all, but I can relay my experience and that of two other people I know.
We get angry at people who display a horrific lack of empathy, because we’ve experienced this on some level, whether it was a lack of empathy for us or others, and we continue to experience it happening to us and others. Every incident, regardless of who suffers has an unshakable impact that stays with us for a lifetime. So, yeah, don’t look for a sweet little halo-sporting cherub. Think dragon.
We never feel we can do enough, and yes sometimes the overwhelming realization may shut us down for a moment or a lifetime. I have seen people completely shut down, and it’s very hard to reach them, to break through the wall.
Waves of energy we feel in crowds and group settings make us want to bolt. We notice everything with people—every nuance, every change of tone, the body language. Certain situations can be excruciatingly painful. We can’t shake the feeling of distress after the person is gone or after we’ve gone, and can become physically or emotionally ill for hours, days, sometimes weeks.
We learn that we may need to avoid some people and we often feel sorry for those people, and we feel guilty, even if it’s a situation they created and continued to perpetuate. Setting the boundaries we need to set hurts them—the last thing we want to do. So, quite often, we feel like horrible people. We feel selfish.
By the way, codependents would remain in those situations, thinking they are doing the right thing. They’ll be the martyrs but for all the wrong reasons, and they’ll fully expect their rewards.
Anyway, back to the empaths or the empathetic, our acquaintances (and sometimes our loved ones) get sick of us feeling genuinely sorry for everyone. They get frustrated with our childlike wish that everyone can be happy and healed. They might find it laughable that we could never take pleasure in ‘karma’ even if we know someone deserves punishment. They can’t believe that we shudder to think of what might happen to these people, that we couldn’t witness it if someone offered us a front row seat.
Is it more human to be this way or less human? I don’t know, but I realize some people have had their humanity stripped from them, thanks to the abuse of others. While they may make me angry and in certain circumstances, hate them, there’s no real desire for revenge. I just hope the problem gets resolved so that they can’t hurt anyone again.
As for me, I feel fortunate to have been able to hang on to this empathy thing throughout all the madness of life, I wouldn’t trade it. And I don’t know if it’s admirable or absurd, but we are the lucky ones. Our empathy won in the end—the empathy that makes us believe we need to keep getting better as people. We continuously seek to heal and to evolve. We forever try to learn about others, and ourselves, and we share our discoveries. What’s wrong with that? It has saved many others and me.