On Women..and Giving Credit Where It’s Due.


Start of the London Event

On Thursday 8th, I attended my first Women for Women International Meet Me on the Bridge event in London. Marchers met on the south side of the Millennium Bridge. Faces got painted. Banners and sashes made. Balloons inflated. Flyers and chant sheets handed out. Messages of peace collected. The atmosphere?Electrifying. An emergency prevented me from arriving on time.However, I was happy I got to help. I support WFWI because their work centers around helping women in war-torn countries rebuild their lives.The women are survivors of genocides. Civil war. Rape. Torture. And other injustices. Snapshots of the event can be viewed on my fb page here London March.  I was asked to write a blog or poem in support of the London event.You can find it here: Meet Us on the Bridge. The experience left me energized.Exhilarated.Firm in my commitment to do what I can to help. I am humbled to be a part of this cause. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of need. However, if we stay focus on helping the one, we will inevitably change the lives of generations. For centuries to come.

In a reflective mood after a long day, my thoughts lingered on the women, past and present, who I have admired along life’s pathway. All heroines. And trailblazers. In their own right. They defied opposition. And conventionalism. They fought. And won. Women such as my mother. Oprah Winfrey. Zanaib Salbi. Dr Maya Angelou. Helen Keller. Hillary Clinton. Amelia Earhart. Eleanor Roosevelt. Anne Frank. Ellen Johnson Sir leaf. Fay Clayton. Harriet Tubman. Madam CJ Walker. My late high school principal, Sister Patricia Ann Douglas. And Nujood Ali. The list is not exhaustive. A post I made almost a year ago, The Women in My Life highlights the quiet, unassuming women in our midst. The graceful, patient heroines. The women who show us how it’s done. With such a refined elegance, you cannot help but be awed by their achievements.

You are fortunate if you have a remarkable woman in your life. One who has profoundly influenced you. In countless ways.In the way only she can. Who continually place the needs of others before her own. A woman whose quiet, genteel spirit has sustained you in your darkest hours. One whose absence will leave a gaping hole in your life. She is one of the kindest people you have ever met. You are blessed. It’s my hope this woman (or women) in your life know that she is loved. And appreciated. That her selfless efforts have not gone unnoticed. That she is not invisible. No extra resources are necessary. No outlandish or impressive gestures. Just simple acts of gratitude. And appreciation. We all have at least one such woman in our lives. Many are blessed with more than one. If you don’t know a woman who meets this description, your life is empty. Get out there. Or better yet, be that kind of woman or person for someone else.

The world-wide celebrations continue to celebrate women, and their remarkable achievements. We are very privileged. We just don’t realize the full extent. Let us keep hope alive in our hearts for the women in Afghanistan. Iraq. The Congo. Sudan. Nigeria. Libya. And all the other regions of the world where women continue suffer to unimaginable injustices.

Until the next post, here is a quote by one of my favorite poets, Dr.Maya Angelou : “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women”.

Best,

Juan

IF This Was My Last Blog Post..


We never forget defining moments. Where we were. And what we were doing. The Oklahoma City bombing. Sept 11th 2001. The capture of Hussein. And Bin Laden. The minute Obama became president. The death of Michael Jackson. And now Whitney Houston. When a famous personality departs this life, shock, and sadness are expected. The entire world mourns. Understandably so. However, the devil’s advocate in me must ask, are we sad and mournful when countless children die every day from lack of food, and clean water? No. Do their stories make headline news? No. Is there a world while outpouring of grief? No.

Let me hasten to add, I loved Whitney Houston. Loved her music. The woman was a superstar. She blessed us all with a voice that beckons the soul. And stirred hearts. I danced to her songs. Following the loss of my first love, I cried waterfalls every time I heard “I Will Always Love You”. When The Bodyguard was released, I sat like a sardine, in a cinema with temps rivaling the Sahara desert. Because it was the movie everyone had to see. The point is, let us spare a thought for the children dying every day. Can we? Let us remember them in our prayers. In acts of service. Mourn for the loss of young lives. Hopes. And dreams. That will never be. They were snuffed out by starvation. Hunger. Malnutrition. Yes. I know we cannot save them all. But we can save some. Anyway, my soap box has now been placed under my bed. For now.

When the world loses a well-loved figure, naturally, it engenders feelings of your own mortality. I mulled over what I would write about if this was my last blog post. What I would want people to remember? Here are a few the things I would want my readers to be aware of.

(1) I would want you to become aware of the work of Zainab Salbi. One of my heroes. And founder of WFWI . I have pledge my full support behind this organization. WFWI helps women in war torn countries. They have been used as weapons of war. They were raped. Tortured. Abused. Suffered loss of limbs. They have survived genocide. Civil wars. Loss of spouse. And many other atrocities.  Along these lines, I would encourage my readers to choose a passion. A cause. And fight for it. Leave it better than you found it. Make your contribution. In your own way. Don’t stand by. And do nothing. So many people can use your help. The great Muhammad Ali once said: “You lose nothing when fighting for a cause … In my mind the losers are those who don’t have a cause they care about.”

(2) I did what I could with the time and resources given to me. Yes, there were many false starts. Roadblocks. Harsh learning experiences. However, using the knowledge. Experiences. And skills I had, I did what I could to stay standing. I made the majority of my decisions on my own. I took forever + 1 day to figure out everything happens for a reason. People will disappoint you. Cause you grief. Hurt you over and over (if you let them). Break your heart. Let you down. Stab you in the back. But I kept going. TBH, I had no other choice in most cases. Many watched.  Some judged. Others accepted. The rest turned away. I am who I am today, because of where I came from. What I endured. And the choices I made.  One of my favorite songs is “I did it my way” by the man. The legend. Frank Sinatra. Who remembers this quote by Judy Garland? “Always is a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

(3) Despite tremendously painful experiences in my love life. I chose not to give up on it. And the beautiful experience it could be. I still hope (d) to find someone who shares my passions. Drives. Hopes. Dreams. Love of laughter. The husband whose eyes I meet across a very crowded room, and the contact makes me breathless. My palms get sweaty. Heart rate increases. A man who still gives me butterflies 50 years later. He lets me make mistakes. Because he loves me enough to let me find my way. He is in it for the long haul. He makes all my ex’s look like backyard experiments. Because the search is over. It will not take an act of congress for me to love again. I was/am ready. You catch my drift. I love this quote: “When you ex says: you will never find anyone like me, reply with: that’s the point” Anonymous.

(4) Do not lose sight of your dreams. EVER. I recently published my first anthology of poems Have a Read On Me, two decades after being stung by the writing bug. As a teenager, I sat in a fifth form English class, and listened with pride as the teacher read my short story (along with a few others) to the entire class. This is how monsters are created! Is there is something you want? Go for it. No. Scrap that. Chase it. Pursue it. Relentlessly. Leave the naysayers in the dust. And proverbial wet blankets? Let the door hit them on their way out of your life. Do it. Do what makes you happy. Live your dreams. I love, love, yes love this quote: “Listen– are you breathing just a little, and calling it life?” -Mary Oliver

(5) It’s okay to apologize even though you did no wrong. Yes, you read right! “Apologizing doesn’t always mean that you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego”. Before I learnt this valuable lesson, I was there. Holding  the apology until I absolutely had to give it. That was until I saw what it was doing to my spirit. Hear me out. I am not saying to walk around apologizing to everyone. For everything. You will know when it’s needed.  It might be to settle an argument. Soothe hurt feelings. Or just be the bigger person. Try it soon. Sincerely apologize for something you did not do. Use it as a way of opening a dialogue. You will be surprised. I think it was Harriet Beecher Stowe (1865) who said “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone”

(6) You have the right to forgive yourself anytime you want. Seriously.We are too hard on ourselves. Somehow, we’ve become experts at self-fulfilling prophecies. And social aggrandization. Comparing ourselves to others. Dissecting our failures. Playing host to doubts. Being our own worst enemy. Holding onto things we have done wrong. On and on. And on. Let it go. Forgive yourself. Tomorrow is another day. To start fresh. To move on from this latest failure. The very public fall from grace. It’s the day to look in the mirror. Smile. And say to yourself: “Don’t worry, I got this”. Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.Anonymous

(7) If money was not an option: I would work only 6 months out of the year. Volunteer for three. And spend the other three travelling. Life is a rat race. I believe it should also be well-balanced. We work very hard. With very little time to enjoy the benefits. I would volunteer in Africa for a month. Spend another at a shelter for abused women, and the last at a local humane society. As for travelling, I would spend a month in my favorite place. Another in the places I have only seen in my dreams. The last would be determined by closing my eyes and blindly picking a spot on the world map. Dr Kathleen Hall said: “We have overstretched our personal boundaries and forgotten that true happiness comes from living an authentic life fueled with a sense of purpose and balance.”

In closing, the list above is far from exhaustive. However, these are the things I felt impressed to share. Live. Love. Laugh. Forgive. And while you are at it remember this saying: “Life is the ticket to the greatest show on earth!”

So, if you were writing a final epistle, what are some of the things you would include?

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan