More Than Meets The Eye.


Photo: Google Images.

I know who I am. My likes, dislikes, wants, needs, limitations, triumphs, goals, values…the whole kit and caboodle. Right now, I find myself in an exceptionally great place in my life. However, I’ve often wondered where my ancestors originated from. We all know the slave trade started in West Africa, but which of the eighteen countries can I lay claim to? Back in the late 90’s when I first landed in America, people often asked if I was from Jamaica; they claimed I sounded like the characters in the movie Cool Runnings. The conversations always brought a smile to my face, but even though I was able to explain the differences between the Caribbean countries, to this day, I still remember the longing to say more, about the origins of my people. I just couldn’t.

About two months ago, with my birthday approaching, I decided it was a good time as any to find out. So, I purchased a DNA kit from a highly respected company, returned the sample, and waited anxiously for word. There are more than 200 populations in the world, and finding out which ones I was genetically similar too, was both intriguing and fascinating. I mean which percentage of my heritage was African? Did I also have European blood running through my veins? What is the history behind the route my ancestors took to end up in the Caribbean? What year did they come over?

Long after I’ve left this earth, I want my children and grandchildren to be able to come to this space, and have some type of record of their ancestry (since I’m no good at keeping a diary). The company I used did a great job of keeping me updated with the process, so, when the email finally came advising me the results were ready, I was beside myself with excitement. When I get excited, I’ve been compared to a child in a candy store!

So, apparently I am:

Cameroon/Congo: 35%
Benin/Togo: 24%
Ivory Coast/Ghana: 21%
SE & SC Africa: 2% each
North Africa: >1%
Nigeria & Senegal: 2% each
Western Europe: 8%
Ireland & GB : 1% each
European Jewish: > 1%

I was floored. I now have at least 50+, 4th cousins or closer, that I’m related to! I’ll be busy establishing new relationships and digging into the history even more. This revelation has opened a whole new world for me, in terms of travel, activities, and groups I can align myself with. I mean which tribe did my ancestors originate from? It’s very difficult to find out, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. I’ve got a feeling, this is only the beginning of another grand adventure.

I’m off on a well deserved 10 day vacation. In other exciting news, I’ve also been accepted as a Contributing Writer for a magazine! It might be at least a month before I post again. In the interim, take care of yourselves and your families!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

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#selflove#


MAIN-Lil-Kim-Then-and-Now(Lil Kim, then and now. Photo: google images)

Sadly, we live in a society where, as women, we’re constantly being barraged with suggestions on how we should look, dress, and act. New moms are often fielding questions about losing baby weight. The internet has become a hot bed for cyber bullying and fat shaming. Health problems are sometimes the root cause, but it makes very little difference.

Husbands often emotionally manipulate their wives, by comparing them to friends, strangers, exes, and everyone in between. Others are sexually harassed, stalked, threatened, and worse. The world as we know it, has changed. The restructuring started ages ago. Tragically, we’re just now beginning to pay attention.

I’m not a fan of Lil Kim’s music, but this radical change highlights the fact, that as women, we need to love ourselves. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is real. No amount of male companionship, closet full of shoes and clothes, nice home/car, money in the bank, etc, can replace self-love. All these things are “white noise”, and will eventually come through the back door.

Spend time with people who build you up, and appreciate you. We teach people how to treat us, by what we allow. No one will ever love you, more than you could love yourself. No one. Sad it’s come to this, for a person who was so beautiful to begin with! My heart aches for her. Despite  money, fame, and status in life, she is obviously not content with who she is.

Lil Kim has admitted to having low self-esteem. Her father, a person who should have been her champion and supporter, failed at his calling. The opportunity to develop self-love, sense of self, and nurture her spirit never stood a chance. It’s a well-known fact, women date men who remind them of their father.

Lil Kim’s romantic relationships suffered. The men didn’t appreciate her, or what she brought to the table. She stated partners eventually left for women who were “lighter” and prettier. She felt she couldn’t compete with them. The picture above has created a firestorm of ridicule and scorn, from fans and trolls alike. It’s sad and sickening.

Half of these keyboard warriors do not see a woman in pain. They do not see a woman who looks in the mirror and (probably) says to herself: “I’m not good enough. Never will be. Maybe if I change this, it might make a difference….” For someone to go to this length, the amount of emotional and mental anguish must be overwhelming.

I can’t imagine the battles she fights every day. Struggles which continually rage in her every waking moment. Instead of subjecting her to such derisive language, we can offer support, and prayers. She is a fellow human being struggling on her journey through life. We can and should do better.

The importance of loving ourselves cannot be stressed enough. Although the bullying is mainly directed at women, I know a small majority of men have faced similar issues. Nothing and no one will replace self-love. I recognize for some, learning to love themselves, is a lifetime struggle.

Keep going. Surround yourself with people who nourish your soul and spirit. If there is anyone in your life who treats you with the least bit of disrespect, move on. The damage is sometimes irreparable. The longer you wait, the harder it is to heal. You deserve to be loved, adored, cherished, and looked after, in a kind, caring, and tender manner.

You’ve got one life, body, soul, spirit. Start appreciating your talent, abilities, individuality, the goodness that is you. Dont ever let anyone, make you feel as if you’re not good enough. The world is filled with people who, no matter what you do, will not like you. But it is also filled with those who will love you fiercely. They are your people. Your are not for everyone, and that’s okay. More than okay.

Looking outside ourselves for things, people, or situations to validate who we are, is one of the biggest tragedies of life.

Until the next post,

Love and Light,

 

Juan

This Hope I Have.


HopeI will admit to it. I am in therapy. And probably will be for a long time. Neglecting to deal with deep-rooted childhood issues, has come through the back door. As they always do. What brought me to this point? Is it the life rerouting choices, and inevitable consequences? Perhaps, it’s because I know, more than ever, I cannot keep going the way I have. I am not too concerned with the judgements which might come as a result of this personal admission. I do know, that I feel no shame, in publicly admitting to something so private.

There is so much work to be done. Last week, I mentioned to my therapist, that I always feel as if I am a waiting room of sorts. Waiting for my number to come up. Waiting for something amazing to happen. Waiting for a miraculous, positive event to change my life. He thought it was a huge admission. One which showed my vulnerability. He said I should own it, and appreciate the level of courage it took, to admit something of this nature.

I share this intensely personal struggle for two main reasons. Things are beginning to look different. I have learned history and old patterns, doesn’t have to keep repeating themselves. To carry on as I was, will in no doubt, lead me to more of the same. The other is to encourage anyone, within the reach of this blog, to take stock of their lives. You might not necessarily need therapy, but, there might be situations, and or people, in your circle, preventing you from moving forward.

It’s been a grueling few months. Progress is slow. Confronting behaviors, thought patterns, and actions that no longer serve any life affirming purpose, is not comfortable. I hope the time will come, when I am finally “out” of the waiting room. When tears of hurt, anger, and pain, will be replaced with those of joy and laughter. I hope to come out on the other side, and still be me, but infinitely better.

I do ask that you keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

The Train


train_17_edited1

A friend, very dear to my heart, forwarded me this sweet, beautiful caveat of inspiration recently. I had to post it on my blog. Thank you Anne. Love you dearly!

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone. As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of your life. Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.

Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize they vacated their seats. This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So, we must live in the best way, love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life. Reap success and give lots of love. More importantly, thank God for the journey.

Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

 

RFL. Done and Dusted.


rflpThe day dawned bright, clear, sunny, and promising. Saturday July 5th, 2014. A month ago today. I competed in my first event. I decided to take part in the Race for Life Pretty Muddy Bristol 5K. A yearly national fundraising event. Organised by Cancer Research UK, to fund research, and hopefully, one day, find a cure for more than 200 types of cancer. Find more information here.

I looked forward to this event for months. My intention was to honour the memory of my beloved cousins, Frederick Williams and Elroy Morris. Young men, both in their 20’s, who died within 2 years of each other. Frederick, died from the ravages of lymphatic cancer, and Elroy, who succumbed to liver cancer in March this year.

I didn’t train as much as I wanted. Or should. Undeterred, I decided to run, jog, walk, or crawl. Whatever it took. To cross the finished line. I hoped. Wherever they were. They were smiling. Cheering me on. Proud of my efforts. As I write this, I’m struggling to keep tears at bay. Freddy and Elroy, hope you’re both resting in peace.

I arrived at the event with time to kill. An hour or so later, the entire group of 250+ women strong, started chanting. The atmosphere was electrifying. Next, it was time for the pre race drills. In no time, we were off. The first obstacle slowed me down; we waded through a rubber through, filled with muddy water. The obstacle course got more difficult. However, I somehow made it through every one; including the climbing frame, tyre hop, cargo net, and of course the mud pit.

Organisers left the muddiest, wettest, and slickest obstacle for the end. Using ropes I climbed to the top of a massive plastic mud splattered hut. I sat for a minute or two, closed my eyes, and slid down into 5ft of pure mud, water, and filth. Waiting at the bottom, and on either side, were two men. Massive shovels in hand, heaping filthy water onto competitors. As we struggled to crawl out of the pit. Good Ole fun!

One of the sweetest memory of the event, were the sounds of people cheering me on, as I headed towards the finish line. Complete strangers shouting: “Well done number 8!” Keep going number 8!” What a feeling. Indescribable. Amazing. Thrilling. I completed the event in 35 mins.

The only thing I would change, is working harder to reach my fundraising goal. I managed to raise £65. I am not good at asking people to give. Come next year, and the year after. I will do better. I plan on competing in this event, for as long as I can.

I am so very grateful I was blessed with the opportunity to do this. Humbled, I was able to honour the memory, and life of my two cousins. Race for Life Cancer Research UK. See you next year.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

The Now.


how-to-live-in-the-moment-plitvice-waterfallWe live in a fascinating age. Have access to unprecedented methods of technology. So, its incomprehensible to watch reports indicating Boeing 777- 200 ER, carrying 200+ passengers and crew, has vanished. Literally. On March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 departed from Malaysia bound for China. However, shortly after take-off, air traffic controllers lost contact with the jet. It’s been more than 48hrs and counting. The barrage of conspiracy theories is in full swing.

For history purposes, read the story here. I won’t dwell on this too much. Too disturbing. I’m not a good flyer. Between take off, and cruising, I am a bundle of nerves. So, I can’t begin to imagine the pain of family members and loved ones. Not knowing. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. But as time goes on. You begin to lose hope.

Once again, I’m reminded, not to procrastinate. It’s incredibly easy, but counterproductive to look back on mistakes. Spend time berating yourself, with the what if’s. Recently, I have made my fair share. However, I am painfully aware the past has nothing new to say. Does it? In the face of incredible difficulties, it’s even harder to press on. Oh, you can get lost in the judgements being meted out. But, we have to move on. Enjoy life. Even with the knowledge we might have to learn the same lessons. Time and again. Until we get it.

Today, I intend to live. Grab the moments. As Gandhi once said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever”. I reaffirm my commitment to do just that. Because tomorrow. Is not promised to anyone.  I tend to worry. A lot . Perhaps a bit too much. My younger sister recently told me: “You’re worried about something that is so far away. Live in the NOW”. Thank you Hannah.

Today, right now. In light of everything that’s happening around us. I hope we realise what a blessing it is to be alive. To be here at this time. Live. Love. Laugh. Forgive. Move on. Be happy.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#growingupwithoutafatherfinalpost


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In April and May, I shared some experiences of what it was like. To grow up without a father. This is the last post focusing solely on the subject. In late 2009, we spoke for the first time. And finally met in April 2011. I don’t remember all the details of  the first conversation. But. I do remember the tumultuous emotions. The total. And utter. Loss for words. Disbelief. I thought for a moment, I was being pranked.

So. Why did it take so long? Simple. I was scared. Of the unknown. My own reaction. Or lack of it. What to expect. Finding out if we’d get along. Yes. A part of me was elated. Because my wish was finally being fulfilled. On the other hand. The fear. And trepidation I felt, far outweighed anything else. A few months before I left for the UK to pursue graduate studies. I decided the time was right. It was premature. Because I wasn’t. So. I backed off. Couldn’t do it. Didn’t have it in me. Whenever I thought about meeting him, fear unlike anything I’d never known, would seize me. It was asking too much.

When school let out for Easter break, I decided to do it. The flight was longest of my life. As I made it through security, and finally through the doors that would bring me face to face with him. I knew there was no turning back. I willed myself into being strong and brave. I reminded myself, one of my life’s wish was about to come true. That many people never get the opportunity. And I was one of the lucky ones. I walked over to him. We embraced. Officially introduced ourselves, and started chatting away.

As it turned out. The first meeting went better than I expected. I’m sure we both had expectations. The time flew by. In a blur. We got along great. I guess like any relationship. We floated around in the honeymoon stage. I finally learned the origins of certain physical and emotional characteristics. The highlight of the visit. Will stay with me forever: for the first time in my life. I got to spend a birthday with my father. I can’t describe the feelings. Even now. Words fail me.

Right now. There are huge learning curves. For both of us. Behaviours and mannerisms to get accustomed to. No relationship is easy. More so the one in which I find myself. How do you catch up on more than 30 years? I won’t get into the reasons why he wasn’t there. Never once inquired about my well-being. Or sought me out. I’ve listened to his explanations. And my mother’s. And I don’t accept either. IMO. Unless the parent is dead. There is NO excuse. None. For not being there for your children. But. It’s the way my life turned out. No more crying. I’ve done enough of it.

If you’re reading this. And you’ve had a similar experience. Or. You don’t know who your father is. I know your pain. I’ve lived it. I know what you’re going through. Have lived through. It doesn’t get any easier. As the days and years come and go. There is always a huge abyss. The hurt can be unbearable. I know. Like me. You have struggled with issues of abandonment. Feeling unwanted. Of not being good enough. Yet. It doesn’t have to control your life. You might never overcome it. But you can learn to live with it.

Men. If you’re a father. And there is a child somewhere. Wondering where you are. A child whose only wish for Christmas is to meet you. A child who prays every night for you to come. GET IT TOGETHER. If you grew up without a father. You could be the father you’ve never had. On a more personal note, if you’re a woman. I also know how it feels to choose the wrong men. Over and over. As if you’re searching for a “father” to replace the one you never had. To learn painful lessons in love. Partly because the critical father-daughter relationship foundation. Was never established. I also know. What it feels like to walk down the street. Make eye contact with someone. Look for some sign of recognition. And wonder : could that be him? My father?

But you carry on. Keep trying. Do whatever you can to heal. And forgive. In parting. I can finally say. I am free of this tremendous burden. Of putting a face to a name.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#growingupwithoutafatherthewayitwas


I long for the days, when the only decision I had to make, was which dress to clothe the one doll I owned. Life was different then. Carefree. I am a 70’s baby.  Busy doing what kids do. I did not “notice” my father’s absence. You can’t miss something you’ve never had. But children grow up. don’t they? Become aware of things. Ask questions. I did. Like why mom was always working. Who was my father. Why he didn’t live with us.

At the age of 10, the awareness began to take shape. I began to feel a sense of loss. By then my responsibilities had increased tenfold. My sister came along. I took care of her. A lot. Life changed. Dramatically. I remember seeing fathers walking hand in hand with their young uns. Teaching them how to ride a bike. Giving “piggy back” rides. Little girls my age, showing off christmas gifts given to them by their dads. My sister’s dad coming to visit. The cousins with dads at home. Back then, my under developed thought pattern, could not formulate a logical explanation for my father’s absence. My mother never offered one. And I was afraid to ask. At the time.

The high school years were the roughest. We were dirt poor. But then again, who wasn’t?  On multiple occasions I went to school with only a hope. That one of my friends would share their lunch with me. Bus fare was all my mother could afford. In the third form, I wore the same pair of shoes until they had holes in the soles. And then some. Students made fun and snickered. Of course. They had no idea.  A roof over our heads was priority. All these experiences and a lot more contributed to the stifling resentment which began to stew. Towards a man I never met. One that would slowly simmer beneath the surface. For decades.

More than a decade ago, I immigrated to the USA. One day while channel surfing, the Maury show caught my attention.  I stared at the screen. Captivated. On this particular episode, a young woman obviously in pain, bravely shared her story. Desperate to find a father she had never known. After searching for decades, she contacted the show. I saw in this stranger a replica of myself. Someone who wanted closure. A beginning to an end. A face to the name. To have what so many take for granted. Their father’s identity.

A storm was brewing in me.  My heart was heavy. The heaviness got worse. After several minutes I gave up trying to focus on the screen. I decided to listen instead.  The tears which were threatening to fall, did. Unchecked down my cheeks. I didn’t think it was possible to cry harder at that moment. The DNA test revealed the man was her father. The search was over. She said her life could begin. The first meeting between father and daughter was nothing short of phenomenal. Days later, I cultivated the idea of taking similar actions. The thought passed. Let sleeping dogs lie. I reminded myself. You don’t know if the man is dead or alive. He could be anywhere. Really.

I always dreaded Fathers Day! In my church, its tradition to recognize the contribution and role of fathers. There are talks. Special dedications. Even small gifts in some places.  No other day in the year ever reminded me of my situation than this day. Unable to sit still and listen, I left the room on many occasions. How could I explain to my friends why I was crying? One year I decided to boycott the meeting altogether. It was too painful.  I didn’t have a father in the congregation to walk over to. Give a hug. Or kiss. And wish him happy Father’s Day. Dark times.

Today, I look back and wonder about many things. I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I think I am better off not knowing everything.  Would it change anything at this stage of my life? I remember getting the same answers from my mother when I asked where he was:” We did fine without him. You are better off without him now”. Was I really though? I was not. I know this now. But too little. Too late.

Childhood impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Visit a psychologist with any problem, and they will enquire about the circumstances surrounding your childhood. The remaining scars. Which affect your decisions to marry. Have children. Your relationship with friends. Even family. Fortunately, these scars don’t have to rule our lives. Change is painful to come by. But it’s not impossible. No one’s childhood was perfect. We don’t have to become a victim of our circumstances. It’s been a long journey. It’s not over.

I am grateful for a mother who worked tirelessly to support us. Made unbelievable sacrifices. Taught me the value of hard work. To never give up. My life could have turned out differently. In so many ways. I no longer wonder about it. It’s not healthy. Things are the way they are. As the Brits love to say : “Sometimes, you just have to get on with it” 

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#growingupwithoutafatherwhynow.


I grew up without a father.Yes.There I said it.What a monumental relief.Question is:why now? Why after more than three decades I would choose to reveal something so private. And utterly personal about myself.Why the intense need to keep it a secret to begin with. Millions have shared the same fate. Some incredibly famous.Barack Obama. Halle Berry. Alicia Keys .Mary J Blige. Pierce Brosnan.What makes my story different? Nothing. Actually. It is unique. In my experiences. And the personal struggles I had to overcome. The resulting attitudes and behaviors. No situation affects two people the same.

This information will come as a surprise to many. Especially to those who have known me for an eternity + 1 day. I’ve never talked about my father’s absence in my life.When conversations did center on fathers, I made one of three choices. Changed the subject. Remained quiet. Or removed myself from the group or person. For a long, long time, I was ashamed. To talk about it. I believed I was not good enough. For him to want me. Watch me grow up. Be a part of my life. Ashamed I did not have a father to brag about. While others raved. Ashamed I did not know who he was.

Details surrounding why I never knew him will not be shared in this forum. I have other people’s privacy to consider. People get hurt. My only wish is to finally lay this matter to rest. I don’t want to carry this secret anymore. Let alone guard it like a watchdog. More than anything, I want to discard this inexplicably heavy emotional baggage, I have carried my entire life. I have fought with myself about sharing this. There is rarely a good time to discuss uncomfortable issues. In the end, I realized putting it off any longer would stifle the growth I desperately need.

Opening up become a battle of wills.On one shoulder, the little red guy seductively whispered: “Think of how you will be perceived now. Do you really want to spill these beans? Let sleeping dogs lie. Now everyone will know. Some things should stay private. You are opening yourself to scrutiny. And hushed whispers. Don’t give people weapons to use against you. This changes everything. You know that, don’t you?”. On the other shoulder, stood an angel, jumping up and down vigorously. Arms flapping.He practically shouts: “You will be liberated. You have carried this baggage for decades. It has enslaved you. From place to place. Country to country. Relationship to relationship. Aren’t you tired of dragging it around? The time is now. Deal with this. Get it out. Heal. Move on. You have to do this. For yourself”. Well, the red fella has moved onto greener pastures. Or so he thinks!

Recently, Paul, a friend of mine, shared his personal struggle with depression. It was open. Honest. And raw. Not an easy thing to do. By any means. Yet he found his voice.Undoubtedly, readers were encouraged to look inside. Shortly after reading his post, the wheels started turning. Seeds were sown. They flourished. Took root. And bore fruit. And here I am. So thank you Paul, for setting the example.

The older I get, the more freedom I crave. I want to be unfettered. Unrestrained. To live my best life. Words fail to express the level of relief I feel, by letting this go. To let everyone know what holding onto this burden has done to me. I no longer feel like a fraud.  This blog provided the best medium for me. It’s not as if I could call up my friends and say “Guess what? For as long as you have known me, you don’t know I grew up without a father. I met him for the first time about a year ago”. Writing offers me a better, richer perspective. It’s cathartic. I also can’t shake the feeling something extraordinary is about to happen in my life. Time will tell.

I know by doing this, I am subjecting myself to judgment. Scrutiny. Tongue wagging. Second looks. Hushed whispers. Back tracking. A collection of held breaths releasing “Oohs”. TBH, I am not worried. If you have worn my shoes. You will understand. If only you could taste the salty tears of freedom, which flowed the moment I made the decision to unburden. To finally begin to make peace with the regrets. Over bad decisions. Harsh words. And hurtful actions. To face the world as a newer version of myself.

Future posts will revisit some of my childhood and adolescent experiences. How I dealt with the fact I might never be able to put a face to the name. Our first meeting. The way things are today. And my hope for the future. Some readers will relate to this and later posts. Others will not. Others will follow out of mere curiosity. Hopefully, my reflections on this issue will help someone. We all have dragons to slay. Battles to fight. May each of us dig deeper. Search our souls. And find ways to be happier. To be free of the invisible chains holding us captive. Once. And. For. All.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan