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Tag: art

An Ode To My Grandmother

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My grandma remains etched into my heart for these reasons: she is compassionate, her prayers never cease, and she always sees the best in others.

Her hair looks as though it has always been grey; she has eyes that resemble the juxtapose of life, bittersweet.

Happy, inviting, but also somber.

Greener than rural pastures in the Springtime, the safest place for the livestock to return home for a meal.

She smells of a woman who has only known home – Worcestershire sauce, dish soap, damp wrung out dishtowels, and the faint scent of flowers to balance things out. If warmth had a smell, she has it.

 

A voice that is soft yet convincing, the kind of voice where any question she asked no matter what it was, always resounded an “Are you okay?”.

 

We played games like Go Fish and Stealing The Pile (though maybe this was a name easiest for a child to comprehend, as I have never heard it anywhere else).

 

She let me win quite a bit.

When it was time to for her pray, she sat me down with a notebook and scissors and I’d cut paper into shapes I had made up, or draw a house with the triangle roof where smoke was billowing from the rectangle chimney;

She taught me to draw when I was three.
I’d wait for roast and do things toddlers did.

 

Safety was not scarce back then.
Rosary in hand and roast in the pot, she paced as she prayed at three each afternoon.

The pads of her fingers were tinged bright pink atop her light skin, like Saint Nick’s cheeks in Winter.

They donned tiny craters from being pressed firmly against the rosary’s beads.

Meticulously they crept from one bead to the next, not quite pouncing, and not gliding.

 

 

Repetition never looked this much like art, not even the Louvre could captivate me as much as my grandmother praying did.

 

 

Novenas and pleading whispers of love and well-wishes, devout fails to encompass her in her entirety.
In the NICU, she sat by my incubator day and night doing the very same pleading she does today.
The doctors told my family I would be deaf, dumb, blind, – invalid.

On to her knees, she dropped and refused to accept that. She tells me of the day when she bargained with Christ, The Virgin Mary, and His Disciples on my behalf often.

As fate would have it, in the NICU, there was a nurse who dropped an item made of glass within earshot and lo and beholds; it scared me!

This was her sign from above, that yes, I could indeed hear.

 

Though I have no memory of this, perhaps this is why her praying looked holy to me, for it was probably my first image of her.

As I grew older and lost my mother, I lost myself and so I lost others. Where others were quick to suggest foster homes, even as she aged she would say, “No, I can take care of Carla.”
She loved me through every cuss word I hurled in frustration.

She remained calm when I bared defensive fangs and rabid snarls.

She accepted my apologies quickly and then forgot that she had any reason to forgive me in the first place. I was undeserving, yet she never condemned me; She loved me, anyway.

She prayed and she was warm, and slow to blame if she ever did.

To me, she is love. It is with the same compassion that my grandmother extended to me that I shared her with you.

My grandmother is still living, steady as a slow gong, but she is somewhere else inside of herself due to dementia.

If she does not already have a first-class ticket to Heaven, it will look like less of a place to be.

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Categories: love poems

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The Downside To The Upside (And It’s Cause & Effect on Mental Health)

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Why We Need To Talk.
(Yes, About Our Feelings)

Constant positivity leaves no room for the full spectrum of the human experience.

 

The concept has the potential for debilitating an individual and society. Take the idea of The American Dream as an example. Though well-intentioned, true happiness is often lost in the act of striving to attain the dream. People love their families. Therefore, they attempt to work, sweat, and hustle in the search for a better life.

A human needs a purpose,

 

I do not discredit that. I am also not suggesting settling in poverty, nor am I implying that wanting more out of life is some kind of pseudo-sin.

 

A human is taught by society that if he is not happy, he is flawed.

 

 

Think, for instance, if there was ever a time that you told someone you were unhappy. How did they respond?

 

Did they ask you to be grateful for what you had?
Did they tell you others had it worse?

If you were told these things or something along those lines, how did you feel?

Did you feel selfish? 

Did you feel bad for feeling bad? 

 

The good news is that with understanding and acceptance of all emotions, mental health issues in society are likely to decline if we teach each other that our value will not change if we are mad, sad, in despair or indifferent. There are three key points worth mentioning: acceptance, dialogue, and surrender (not necessarily in that order).

The first adverse effect that can occur from repressing negative feelings may not seem like a negative consequence at first, but it can be, especially as the person enters into adolescence and adulthood. When a person feels as though they have no one they can share their emotions with, they become self-reliant to a greater extreme. How can this be a bad thing?
While it may not be a considered a hindrance in the person’s developmental stages, as this is the age they are required to learn how to perform tasks independent of their caregiver, such as tying their own shoelaces or counting to one-hundred,

 

this need for autonomy is not meant to remain static.

 

 

For example, this very same child may be well-behaved and self-sufficient but may struggle with emotional regulation as they grow older.

 

As they enter primary school, children may be faced with more emotional issues than what they can handle on their own, and may not even possess the language or emotional intelligence to let their caregivers know that they are being teased or if there’s a particular child he cannot resolve an issue with.

 

Therefore, the child becomes withdrawn and aloof.

Since no proper dialogue has been opened about the child’s concerns, the cycle becomes reinforced, and self-esteem is lowered.
Secondly, this is why,

 

dialogue surrounding feelings and emotions no matter how intense they may be, absolutely need a space to exist in each person’s life experience.

 

The effects of not communicating are much more detrimental to individuals and their families compared to feeling temporary discomfort that will open doors to solutions while simultaneously giving everyone involved the opportunity to be on the same page with one another.

 

Dysfunction only begets dysfunction unless we are willing to roar even when we are in pain. We must remember that we are not our suffering. Suffering is a part of human life; it is natural.

In contrast, repression asks us to go against our very core selves. This is more unnatural, in my opinion than becoming overwhelmed by our emotions.

 

Feelings such as doubt, anxiety, fear, and all of the emotions we see as negative are often the catalyst for creating a new, enhanced version of the self.

 

After working through the initial discomfort, we are then free to explore our needs that have been unmet and create our own opportunities to meet them. If staying oppressed becomes more comfortable than the gift of freedom (that only we can give ourselves) we essentially accept defeat until we are empowered to make different choices.

This is why I encourage anyone, as soon as they can, to advocate for themselves.

 

This can come in the form of seeking therapy.

We are not a victim to our circumstances for longer than we need to be. There are, of course, obstacles to be overcome.

Things rarely get solved overnight. What we do have, is the ability to decide. Often when we suffer from mental illness, it is hard to think clearly: we can still choose.

We are always free to choose. Even if we ask for help, we are still responsible for our own liberation through our own personal hells.

Yes, it is easier said than done but not impossible.
When our minds work against us, our compass is our soul.

Though many have argued that mind and soul are the same entity, (or that they are not, or that the soul does not exist) we have the power to switch the seat of the soul.

We do have the ability to put ourselves in the driver’s seat and go from unproductive rumination and transition ourselves into the higher position of the soul, thereby moving from victimhood to empowerment.

This is soul work!

We do need help during transitions, lest we move forward in an incomplete state. We will think we have moved on from the trials in our past, that is until we discover that we have not. The phrase ‘rearing it’s ugly head’ seems to encompass this phenomenon. Notice the terminology here: ‘ugly head’ could mean the dilemma came to pass through an unhealed, neglected part of the mind. We can prevent these effects by nurturing the unhealed parts of ourselves, by befriending that which hurts us.

Resistance requires energy. Often when we get caught in cycles of shame, depression, addiction, or any other loop, we are resisting that which needs to be nourished, watered and examined before we can break any cycle.

Surrender breaks all chains, all circles, all hurdles.

 

Rather than fighting off shame, sadness, and pressuring ourselves to feel happier or cheer up, would it not be a better idea to become good friends with negativity?

 

After all, we would not know one without the presence of the other.

Adversity Is A Gift

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In the words of Viktor Frankl, “What is to give light must endure burning.”

Over the years, I have come to learn that the adversity I have experienced is a gift to me. Without it, I would be able to help no one. Without it, I would not know what it means to be thirsty due to adversity. I would not know my own strength. To pass through life without an opponent is the real tragedy.

On February 2, 1993, my teenage mother was being notified that I had had three strokes and would be deaf dumb, and blind. I spent three months in the NICU before she could even take me home. I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy shortly after I was born. Yet, even as an infant, I was blessed with a fighting spirit. Today, I can hear, speak and see. Although I cannot walk, a wheelchair is not enough to defeat me. It is easier to bring giants to their knees when you are sitting down. I consider my beginning quite fitting for the life that I would eventually lead. In a sense, I was born with boxing gloves.

My mother was a beautiful woman who taught me altruism, compassion, and is the reason I have never met a stranger. She passed away when I was 10 years old. I still remember the day my relatives sat me down to tell me the news. My grandmother put my hair up in a ponytail, while my dad seemed to be searching for a way to say the unthinkable. I remember looking at the lamp that was near me as my dad said, “Your mom went to sleep on her birthday, and she never woke up.” I said, “You’re kidding, right?” My grandmother told me that they would never joke about something like that. The last thing I remember was hearing myself wail for about two seconds before I wiped my tears and watched cartoons.

I was given a day to decide if I wanted to go to her funeral, as I was still very young and my family was unsure if I could handle it. At the tender age of 10, I remember thinking that I would instead remember my mother the way she was; I knew she was not the body in that casket. Fearing that I would regret it later in life if I did not go, I went. The funeral is a blur; I remember not wanting to sit near the casket. I remember being afraid to say goodbye. I remember being afraid of her lifeless body. It was odd to feel afraid of your mother.

People have always said that when someone dies, it looks as if they are sleeping. It did not look as if she was sleeping. She looked more like a painting that evoked a surge of emotion, too much emotion. Still, I could not look away. Oddly enough, I think the thing that bothered me the most was that I could not see her feet. The top of the casket was open while the bottom was closed. So, I just kept asking, “Where are her feet?” I suppose, in order to make sense of the reality, I had to correct the picture. I did not cry that day. I have spent many years questioning whether or not I was a good person because I did not shed a tear in my mother’s funeral. Some have thought ill of me for it, while others have said, “You did not cry because she didn’t want you to cry.”
It rained that night. My family told me of how in some traditions, that when it rains at a funeral. The person is there with you. Today, I am still comforted by the sound of rain.
After my mom’s death, I spent a lot of time in foster homes. I also spent a lot of time thinking I deserved to be there. I realize that I can go into more detail. I could tell you all the horrible stories of what happens to children in foster care, but I do not wish to allow anyone or anything to steal any more of my life from me. They no longer have the power to do that.
The bright side of being in foster care was that it taught me to see people as human, always. One girl had cut up and down her arms but helped me to get dressed in the morning for school. She was an artist. I met a little boy who had fetal alcohol syndrome. He had been left on the steps of the building after his adoptive parents found out they were pregnant. He would often ask me, “Carla, do you love me so much?”
I met another little boy who was mute and had not spoken a word in the three years he’d been alive. I would often ride in the backseat of the car with him. To this day, I still remember him blowing me a kiss. This was the first time he’d ever done that.

When I recall these people and these memories, I often wonder where they are today. They are part of the reason I would like to be a therapist that specializes in trauma. With the right tools, I plan to do that. I know that those children are thirsty for love in the same way that I was once. I wish to be water for them, though I would never fully extinguish their fire. I know that it would also help them give light to others.
As of right now, I work as a volunteer Crisis Counselor. It is because of the past pain that I was able to calmly talk with multiple people who are on the brink of ending their life. A few have even thanked me for helping them live through the night. I wish to use my education to give back. With the help of others, we can all live to see another day.

Toothless Grace

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Losing everything is devastating.

teeth

Losing everything when your resources are already quite limited can feel as if life’s just shoving you in a locker for fun. The times that we feel as though we’ve had our teeth kicked in seem to go on and on with no end in sight. No matter how pretty the lights are or how slow the carousel spins, we’re bound to get dizzy.

We’re stripped bare, with our egos exposed, ashamed of what we find; forgetting that our insides are beautiful. We forget that we were born naked, vulnerable, and helpless. This did not make us any less valuable. In fact, our innocence was embraced. 

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Maybe you’re experiencing this season of toothlessness at this moment. If you are, I’d like to gently remind you that dentures exist for a reason, and I’m more than happy to pop those bad boys right in there for you until your adult teeth feel safe enough to push their way through your cotton candy gums.  Let us not forget that toothless grins are innocent and beautiful.

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If life is kicking your ass and leaving your smile bloody, grin as wide as the Cheshire cat. A little blood won’t scare love off. Love after loss is the building block to rebirth. Love cultivates that which has been untended and overlooked. Love is stronger than the vines that grew over the soul. 

Love is the foundation that makes starting over worth it. If the pain of life and the loss that will inevitably reach all of us is the price we pay for strengthening the love that surrounds us, then with all sincerity I say to you: grow, my friend. Grow and pay no mind to the dirt. 

growth

You may have been buried alive for a long time. You may have eaten dirt and mistaken it for fudge, simply because you desired it.

truth

You may have packed your truth so deep down inside because you loved them. You loved them so much that you’d devour the soil that was meant for your growth just so they could heal. You tried to heal them. That is why you are worthy. That is why I know you’ll grow just as you were meant to, and now you’ll have more love left for you.

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