Why We Marched


22march18-superjumboPhoto Credit : Nicole Cainer (NYT)

Two weeks ago yesterday, I was on my way to Manhattan to do some sightseeing. As I boarded the train, I remembered there was a Women’s March in DC, and cities all over the country. I hadn’t taken part in any marches for almost five years. I am ridiculously spontaneous, and thought to myself, “Is the activity I’m about to take part in, more important than what was happening all over the world today”? No! I wasn’t wearing a proper jacket, which would keep me warm outside for hours. The shoes I wore were another story. I would also be flying solo. As is my nature, I threw caution to the wind, and forged ahead anyway!

As the train headed deeper and deeper into Manhattan, it got VERY crowded. Pretty soon, everyone was rubbing elbows. My eyes met and held those of other women, obviously all heading to one central location or another. One of them smile widely at me, I smiled back. No words were needed. It was then I knew I was doing the right thing. I needed to catch another train to the destination I chose, Grand Central Station. The subway was literally crawling at a snail’s pace. To give you an idea, hundreds would move forward and board. Once the train took off, then another throng would do the same thing.  There wasn’t any pushing or shoving.Wash and repeat.

I cannot begin to describe the atmosphere of the city. As I exited Grand Central Station, I was greeted by the sight above. I joined the swarm of men, women, children, the elderly, all together for a common cause. Every few minutes, we would all chant the same things, after which a loud roar would start from the back of the crowd, and make its way to the front. There was literally no place to walk. The march was a crawl; we could only move every few minutes. I won’t forget January 21st, 2017.

The next day, social media was saturated with stories, and videos, of millions sharing their experiences. The march was held on every continent. Imagine that!! I found this rather beautiful and phenomenally written piece below.  The writer encapsulates all my thoughts and feelings on why I marched. I knew some of my more conservative friends were taken aback by my participation.  It’s too bad really. I’ve learned to live my truth. A few have posted about it being a waste of time etc. To them I say, please read the piece below, over and over, until it is fully understood:)

The battle goes on. There is a reason why I feel so content and happy working in Social Services. It’s where I belong. I absolutely LOVE this quote: “Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. The grave will supply plenty of time for silence” Christopher Hitchens.

“Say thank you. Say thank you to the women who gave you a voice. Say thank you to the women who were arrested and imprisoned and beaten and gassed for you to have a voice. Say thank you to the women who refused to back down, to the women who fought tirelessly to give you a voice. Say thank you to the women who put their lives on hold, who –lucky for you — did not have “better things to do” than to march and protest and rally for your voice. So you don’t feel like a “second class citizen.” So you get to feel “equal.”

Thank Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul for your right to vote.

Thank Elizabeth Stanton for your right to work.

Thank Maud Wood Park for your prenatal care and your identity outside of your husband.

Thank Rose Schneiderman for your humane working conditions.

Thank Eleanor Roosevelt and Molly Dewson for your ability to work in politics and affect policy.

Thank Margaret Sanger for your legal birth control.

Thank Carol Downer for your reproductive healthcare rights.

Thank Sarah Muller for your equal education.

Thank Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Shannon Turner, Gloria Steinem, Zelda Kingoff Nordlinger, Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Malika Saada Saar, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Ida B. Wells, Malala Yousafzai. Thank your mother, your grandmother, your great-grandmother who did not have half of the rights you have now.

You can make your own choices, speak and be heard, vote, work, control your body, defend yourself, defend your family, because of the women who marched. You did nothing to earn those rights. You were born into those rights. You did nothing, but you reap the benefits of women, strong women, women who fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy and fought for you. And you sit on your pedestal, a pedestal you are fortunate enough to have, and type. A keyboard warrior. A fighter for complacency. An acceptor of what you were given. A denier of facts. Wrapped up in your delusion of equality.

You are not equal. Even if you feel like you are. You still make less than a man for doing the same work. You make less as a CEO, as an athlete, as an actress, as a doctor. You make less in government, in the tech industry, in healthcare.

You still don’t have full rights over your own body. Men are still debating over your uterus. Over your prenatal care. Over your choices.

You still have to pay taxes for your basic sanitary needs.

You still have to carry mace when walking alone at night. You still have to prove to the court why you were drunk on the night you were raped. You still have to justify your behavior when a man forces himself on you.

You still don’t have paid (or even unpaid) maternity leave. You still have to go back to work while your body is broken. While you silently suffer from postpartum depression.

You still have to fight to breastfeed in public. You still have to prove to other women it’s your right to do so. You still offend others with your breasts.

You are still objectified. You are still catcalled. You are still sexualized. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You’re still told you’re too old or too young. You’re applauded when you “age gracefully.” You’re still told men age “better.” You’re still told to dress like a lady. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. What brand bag you have still matters more than your college degree.

You are still being abused by your husband, by your boyfriend. You’re still being murdered by your partners. Being beaten by your soulmate.

You are still worse off if you are a woman of colour, a gay woman, a transgender woman. You are still harassed, belittled, dehumanised.

Your daughters are still told they are beautiful before they are told they are smart. Your daughters are still told to behave even though “boys will be boys.” Your daughters are still told boys pull hair or pinch them because they like them.

You are not equal. Your daughters are not equal. You are still systemically oppressed.

Estonia allows parents to take up to three years of leave, fully paid for the first 435 days. United States has no policy requiring maternity leave.

Singapore’s women feel safe walking alone at night. American women do not.

New Zealand’s women have the smallest gender gap in wages, at 5.6%. United States’ pay gap is 20%.

Iceland has the highest number of women CEOs, at 44%. United States is at 4.0%.

The United States ranks at 45 for women’s equality. Behind Rwanda, Cuba, Philippines, Jamaica.

But I get it. You don’t want to admit it. You don’t want to be a victim. You think feminism is a dirty word. You think it’s not classy to fight for equality. You hate the word pussy. Unless of course you use it to call a man who isn’t up to your standard of manhood. You know the type of man that “allows” “his” woman to do whatever she damn well pleases. I get it. You believe feminists are emotional, irrational, unreasonable. Why aren’t women just satisfied with their lives, right? You get what you get and you don’t get upset, right?

I get it. You want to feel empowered. You don’t want to believe you’re oppressed. Because that would mean you are indeed a “second-class citizen.” You don’t want to feel like one. I get it. But don’t worry. I will walk for you. I will walk for your daughter. And your daughter’s daughter. And maybe you will still believe the world did not change. You will believe you’ve always had the rights you have today. And that’s okay. Because women who actually care and support other women don’t care what you think about them. They care about their future and the future of the women who come after them.

Open your eyes. Open them wide. Because I’m here to tell you, along with millions of other women that you are not equal. Our equality is an illusion. A feel-good sleight of hand. A trick of the mind. I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not equal. And neither are your daughters.

But don’t worry. We will walk for you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you. And one day you will actually be equal, instead of just feeling like you are.” ~ Dina Leygerman, 2017

 Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

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Sit Down!


gabbydouglascover-696x392Photo Credit: NBC Olympics

Despite Gabby Douglas’s phenomenal history making performance at the London 2012 Olympic Games, her accomplishments since then, and now with the Final Five US Women Gymnastics’ team  in Rio, trolls still managed to find ways to bully her. First they attacked her hair (in this case, her edges), then vilified her, for not placing hand over heart, during the medal ceremony.

I find it incredibly troubling to note, the vicious and demeaning “nappy hair” comments started within the black community. One that Gabby and I belong to. As a side note, the majority of black women, are known for being overly concerned, intensely preoccupied, and incredibly vain, when it comes to their hair. Upkeep is expensive, but sometimes other responsibilities take a back seat to the beauty shop. Hair must always slay! By any means necessary. It is not uncommon for some women to sacrifice health (cut exercise), to keep up a certain look.

I also think it’s incredibly distressing, that the same people who have been marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against, would take it upon themselves to initiate the attacks. I expected only the loudest cheers of support and praise. Nothing  less. The Olympics is a sporting event, NOT a hair show.  I was, however, encouraged by celebrities who used their star power, to publicly offer encouragement and support, at a time when she desperately needed it.

Next, other groups started attacking Gabby for her supposed lack of patriotism. The ignorance was loud and deafening. Not every athlete at Rio (or any other Olympics) placed hand over heart during the American anthem. Some did, others laughed, cried, smiled, stared into the unknown. It’s common for hands to be either in front, or at the sides. As a litmus test example, one American soldier, Sam Kendricks, stopped in the middle of his Pole Vault performance, and stood at attention, when the anthem started playing. No hand was placed over heart. He didn’t have to.

I’m inclined to think medaling in any event as big as the Olympics, often elicits a paramount of emotions. No one should be judged, by how they respond while the anthem is being played. Now, total disrespect, is a horse of a different color. There is NO law or practice to dictate what to do during this time. My heart went out to her, as she fought back tears during an interview, where she was asked to address the trolling.

I’m also at a loss as to why everyone cannot simply enjoy THIS moment in history. The Final Five is now the most successful, and decorated female gymnastics team ever. A truly amazing feat. One that deserves the highest levels of respect, appreciation, and admiration. Sadly, there is always the “special attention seeking few” who choose to cloud an accomplishment.

To the ones who participated in this inexcusable behavior, I hope you’re all proud of yourselves! No one will remember you, BUT, they will remember the achievements of these fabulous young women, Gabby included! I am sure Gabby doesn’t need me to defend her. No. I think she is quite capable of standing up for herself. One doesn’t get to where she is, and not have a few life affirming experiences, with which to battle the storms.

For all the haters, detractors, trolls, negative Nancy’s; have a seat! As a matter of fact, have several. Stay in your own lane. The fact that you would publicly attack someone you’ve never met,  who worked so hard to help her country win, became a role model to millions of girls in the process, and focus on something so trivial like her hair style, says more about you, than it could ever do about her. You are a troll. Plain and simple. So, how many medals have you won for your country? My guess is NONE.

Let’s say for argument’s sake, Gabby, or anyone else, decides to wear their hair curly, straight, kinky, braided etc. What exactly did she do wrong? Her hair didn’t get in the way of winning. Consider for a moment, if that was your daughter on the world’s biggest sporting stage. The pressure to do well is not for the fainthearted. She won. However, people who don’t know her personally, have begun attacking her for no reason. Doesn’t feel good with the shoe on the other foot, now does it? Society is constantly telling us, we’re not good enough. On the contrary, we are. Always have been. Always will.

Furthermore, the next time you decide to write negative and offensive statements, whether it’s about Gabby or someone else, PLEASE, have a long look in the mirror, and figure out how you got to this point. The rest of us, don’t want any part of what you’re selling. You might get attention for fifteen minutes, but very soon, you’ll be seen for what you are.  Remember, you’ll catch a lot more flies with honey, than vinegar.

Gabby has accomplished MORE than half of you put together, in your lifetimes. Besides being a three-time gold medal Olympic champion, she has released a memoir.  Landed a reality show. Created her own leotard clothing line. This year, Barbie launched The Gabby Douglas doll.  On a side note, when this post was published, news broke that Gabby has been tapped as a judge, on the Miss America 2017 pageant. I’m willing to bet the accolades and accomplishments doesn’t end there.

Gabby is a role model for every young girl, sat at home, watched the Olympics, and dreamt of representing her country (not necessarily in gymnastics). Millions of us are immensely proud of her efforts. In 2012, she was th BEST in the world! This time around she still managed to help Team USA win gold, again. Little girls who most likely turned to their mothers, with sparkling, wide-eyed innocence, and asked “Mom, can I do that?”, to which came the response “Of course you can baby. And one day you will!”

Gabby, I hope you’re too busy writing the next phase of your life, to bother giving a spearing thought to any of these detractors. Continue to show the world just how great you are.  And long after you’ve retired from gymnastics, you’ll still be blazing trails. I know being in the public eye, and having your every move scrutinized, can’t be easy. Sadly, people think its open season to hide behind their keyboards, and become instant experts on every and anything.

You’re a BADASS. Entrepreneur. Author. Role Model. Olympic Champion. You will ALWAYS have these things to look back on. No one can take them away from you. Happily, it’s not the only label that defines you. We think you’re strong, capable, gracious, and resilient.

So carry on. Get up and own it. We are all cheering for you. Because..”Still You Rise”

Until the next post,

Best,

 

Juan

No Man Is Free….


A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Yesterday, in a city I called home for more than a decade, news outlets showed footage of a black man, lying on his back in the street, hands in the air. He was trying to explain to police, the situation unfolding around him. Police showed up, to investigate reports of a suicidal person with a “gun”, and saw a black Behavioral Therapist with his white autistic patient, who was holding a toy truck. He was out walking with his client. Despite the volatile situation, the therapist can be heard trying to calm his patient, to prevent the situation from becoming even more dangerous.

The autistic man is sitting on the ground, a few inches away from the black man. One cop discharged his firearm, and shot the black man in his leg, multiple times. Coincidentally, the one who “posed” a threat by holding the toy truck / which looked like a “gun” wasn’t harmed. The therapist was then handcuffed, and left bleeding on the sidewalk for more than 20 minutes, before being taken to the hospital. When the victim asked why he was shot, the cop allegedly responded “I don’t know”. Current mantra states; do as you’re told, keep your hands up, obey police orders, and you won’t get shot. The cop and his superior’s excuse? He was aiming for the “armed” autistic man, but missed. Mind you, the cop is a SWAT member. Laughable!

I cannot begin to write about the number of incidents of racial profiling in America. I’ve also watched reports of a few brave cops in NY, who have spoken out about the pressure to make arrests. All in the name of quotas.  It’s not uncommon for them to go into the vulnerable communities, and literally hunt for people to arrest. Cops know they can easily pull over a minority for a license plate infarction etc. It wouldn’t be right for me to write this post, without mentioning that Hispanics are also facing this issue, although, to much lesser extent.

Here are the FACTS: African Americans are 30% more likely to be pulled over than whites. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three time more likely to be searched. In 2015, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rates of whites. They are also arrested at more than twice the rates of whites. They are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses, and sentences are 10% longer when arrested for the same crime. The list goes on.

In stark contrast, people have shared their experiences, and videos of what is considered white privilege. I’m equally astounded by the restraint showed by law enforcement when arresting a white person, in comparison to people of color. In one incident, a police pulled over a white motorist, and saw he had a shot-gun in his car. Nothing came of it. The police and the motorist, ended up having a long chat. He was sent on his way. No ticket, no arrest, no checking to see if he had a permit to carry his gun.

In the past few weeks, the televised brutal and horrific murder of Alton Sterling and Philande Castile, brought about huge demonstrations, and clashes with police. There have also been instances of multiple police officers getting shot and killed, by men who reportedly got tired of police killing black men. Using violence to fight violence never solves any problems. I also know not every police officer is crooked. There are good men with integrity risking their lives each day, for our safety.

I’m beyond horrified at the state the country is in. Men, women, children have fallen at the hands of police. I started sharing my feelings on Facebook, showing my support to end racism in the police force. I tend to stay away from political posts on social media.  I don’t waste time arguing about religion and politics. There is no need. I’m not sure if it was the culture shock of being absent from the country for more than six years, or being exposed to the graphic images of men dying, but I made my feelings known.

For the most part, some folks have been supportive. Others have stayed silent. Very silent. The same silent types have voiced their opinions on the killings of the police officers. Is one life more important or precious than the other? I can’t tell you how much this worries me. Maybe it shouldn’t. I mentally filed this observation away. If I dwell on it too much, it can develop into unwanted feelings. One uninformed and uneducated person, in another country, with no links or experience to the situation in America, decided she was offended by my status, and took to airing her views. A few have also stated that it isn’t happening in their country, so why protest. I need to take a closer look at my friends list! Obviously, they’re suffering from the #notinmybackyardsyndrome#

Race relations in America is a very emotive issue. Tensions have never been higher. Police have always killed black men. The only difference now, is that cameras are rolling. Anyone who denies that racism exists in America, and especially in the police force, is part of the problem, not the solution. Closet racists perhaps. It’s easy to recognize them, and their thinly disguised racist remarks, “Well, he should comply with orders”, “He had lengthy criminal record”. “Let’s wait for all the facts to come out”..

I’m in NY at this time. I’m not keen on driving (besides public transport isn’t too bad). I simply don’t want to give the police any opportunity to meet their quotas, or become another “driving while black” statistic. Multiple black women have died in police custody. I’m not saying this will happen to me, but the people who died didn’t think it would happen to them either. I’ve never really felt at home/settled in America, if I am honest. The current situation just adds to my growing unease. However, I find myself here now, and I will make the best of it.

I simply want to state here, as I’ve done on social media, that the world is watching. Racism has no place in the police force. It’s time for law enforcement to be held to a higher standard, and stop killing black and other minorities. We need a more thorough vetting and training process for policemen, including rigorous psychological assessments. The most powerful nation in the world, and this is the example we set.

I’ve been encouraged by people peacefully exercising their right to demonstrate against the obvious injustices facing minorities in America. Back in my beloved city of Bristol, crowds marched to show their support. I say thank you. For taking a stand and showing the rest of the world that you won’t stay silent. For doing more than lip service, as minorities are being slaughtered on America’s streets. I too, will find a march in my local area, and take part. If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.

I’m not saying everyone should be out marching, or doing what they can to end racism in any form. I would never ask that of anyone. I often wonder though, if black cops were out systematically killing Caucasians, how would society handle this? Would we just stand by shake our heads, and helplessly mutter:” This isn’t right…Something needs to be done..Blah blah..”. I don’t think so.

MLK’s words ring through now, more than ever: “No man is free, until all men are free everywhere”.

Until the next post,

 

Best,

 

Juan.

A Happier You!


LettingGoAfter one stage comes another. The incredibly good thing changes, is the fact, that we are able to look at things from a different, fresher perspective.  One thing I learned this year is the power of positive thinking. Times are hard as it is. Anything which takes the pressures off, even for a short time, I try my best to hold onto it, and revisit often.

I have the Learnist app. Subscribers get daily updates of everything from helpful hints, news stories, reading material, and how to’s. Carmen Sakurai offers some rather simple, yet powerful advice on how to be happier. I hope you find it helpful. Take what you want, and leave the rest.

Over the next several months, I will use a few of the ideas below for future posts.

Let Go of Worrying about What Others Think of You. You see your world through eyes of your own personal life experiences and interpretation… and so does everyone else. It’s important to understand that when someone has an opinion of you or your life, it doesn’t make it a fact. You don’t need anyone’s permission to set your worth.

Let Go of Making Superficial Judgements. Just as you shouldn’t worry about what others think of you, it’s important that you avoid judging others and their life choices. The only life you get to live and are responsible for is your own, so leave others to live their own lives full-out.

Let Go of Anger or Resentment. Don’t punish yourself for poor choices made by something outside yourself. Process any negative thoughts and feelings quickly, then free yourself from the damaging energy by forgiving and letting go.

 Let Go of Making Excuses. If you have a goal, you must do whatever it takes to achieve it. Otherwise, you’re doing nothing but throwing empty wishes up in the air. Remember, while outside forces may temporarily block your path, you have the power to take responsibility for the attitude you choose in situations which you have no control over.

Let Go of Setting Perfection as a Goal. By obsessing over perfection, you become so consumed in finding imperfections to fix that in the end you will have nothing to show for except unfinished, imperfect work. Practice progress over perfection instead, by making constant improvements to live a life of accomplishments.

Let Go of Waiting for the Perfect Time.“Stop waiting for the perfect day or moment….take THIS day, THIS moment and lead it to perfection.” – Dr. Steve Maraboli. Time won’t stop and wait for you to take action, so it’s up to you to either move forward and create a positive momentum… or sit and wait. So why would you want to sit in a puddle of stagnation when you can invest your energy into your happiness and success!

Let Go of the Need to Always Feel Comfortable. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” ~ Neale Donald Walsch. Avoid setting limits to what you can achieve in your life by remaining in your personal comfort zone, because when you break out of it is when you grow the most. Look at it this way, if a single seed that’s fallen under a side walk can find a way to break through to bloom under the sun, so can you!

Let Go of Your Past Mistakes. The past has already happened and that moment no longer exist. Your past does not define you or limit what is possible for you to achieve from this moment on. If you suffered in the past, recognize that you are here today, and you are OK.

Let Go of Insecurity. You were born perfect as YOU can be with everything you need to live a successful and fulfilling life. That means you can relax and stop comparing yourself to others or setting your standards based on someone else’s expectations.

Let Go of Excessive Worrying. “Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn’t happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.” Worrying about something that may or may not happen won’t change anything – and you miss out on the opportunity to make the present great.

Let Go of Negative Influences. No matter how positive you are, if you constantly surround yourself with people who always complain, procrastinate, and make excuses, there’s a strong chance you will begin to absorb their toxic energy. Make it a point to surround yourself with positive and proactive people who will lift your spirit and inspire you.

Let Go of Trying to Change Others. Just as you were born as uniquely perfect as you could be, the same goes for everyone else. No one is obligated to change their attitude, thoughts, or actions just to make you feel more comfortable or secure. Appreciate the differences… they’re what makes this world so interesting!

Let go of One-Sided Relationships. This is when one person is fully committed while the other is not. We want to believe that if we give someone all of our love and invest enough attention and effort for both people involved, we will be able to “convince” them to love us back. Listen, you are an incredible individual deserving all the love, security, respect, and happiness that a healthy relationship can offer.

Let Go of the Attachment to Money. Being financially secure certainly can help open opportunities, relieve stress, and offer some piece of mind. But all the money in the world cannot make you happy if you are unable to feel happiness from within. Instead of measuring your success by how much money you have, define it with happiness, inner peace, and the positive contributions you can make in this world!

Let Go of Wishing Life Was Fair. Sure, there are people who have advantages in certain areas of their lives, but know that you also have advantages over other people in different areas of your life as well. Just because something that’s worked for someone else didn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re less than or incompetent.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

 

Goodbye & Goodluck!


Christopher Columbus once said “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. The “shore” we often need to cross is saying “goodbye and good luck” to the person we once loved. Dearly. I love J. Krishnamurti’s definition of a relationship. To date, he has provided the most concise description I’ve come across. He said “a relationship is an interconnected challenge and response between two people, one which creates a society, it is also the awareness of the interconnection between the two people, communion without fear, freedom to understand each other, to communicate directly”. Try breaking that down!

Chances are you saw it coming. Instead of talking to one another. You talked at each other. The undoubtedly strong connection you once felt? Evaporated. The incredibly rare level of understanding? Well, we all make mistakes. I cannot, in all good conscience, pen this piece without reflecting on my relationship shortcomings. The times I held on. For too long. Loved the wrong person. For all the wrong reasons. Gave too much. Until there was nothing left. Well, here I am. I survived. And you will too.

You’ve done the same too . Sacrificed. Stuck by them. Loved them. Forgave ills. You know.The stuff Lifetime movies are made of. Now, it’s time to say thank you for the lessons.Good times. The beautiful intimacies. Experiences. And tell them goodbye. But wish them good luck. Beware.The temptation to hold on a little longer. Rationalize. And find reasons to stay. Can be incredibly strong. But, in your heart. You know, there is nothing left. To fight for.

There are signs you should move on. For instance, if you find yourself waiting for the person to change. Or doing the unthinkable. And try to change them. If the relationship brings more pain than joy. You address the same issues over and over. You’ve mistakenly convinced yourself, you can “save” the person. You’re justifying actions. Existing on past memories. Instead of making new, happy ones. Or you just know. Click here for a few more. I’m no relationship expert. By any stretch of the imagination. These signs are experiences from my life. And the lives of friends and family.

Krishnamurti also said: “Relationship is self-revelation; it is because we do not want to be revealed to ourselves that we hide in comfort, and then the relationship loses its extraordinary depth, significance and beauty. Relationship is really a process of self-revelation, which is a process of self-knowledge, in that revelation there are many unpleasant things, disquieting uncomfortable thoughts and activities.”  The end of any relationship presents the opportunity to look at ourselves. Admit we’ve played a part in it’s demise. A time to become more intimate, and familiar, with our needs and desires. To promise ourselves better. And keep that promise.

Parting ways, especially after a LTR can be distressing. Challenging. Painful. Unfortunately, this is the risk we all take. When we invite another imperfect mortal into our lives. Sometimes, it’s helpful to consider the alternative. Of remaining in the relationship. That’s been spinning in mud. The alternative of wasting time. And resources. On something that’s no longer working. Of holding onto a closed-door so tightly, we cannot see the one opening before us. Beckoning. It takes courage. Heart. And backbone.To finally look at the person you once loved. So much. And say with conviction and meaning: “Goodbye and Good luck”.

While you’re working up the nerve. Keep this in mind: “One day, you will look back on it and smile. Because it was life. And you decided to”. If any part of this post relates to you.I wish you luck in the decisions you have to make.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

When Death Collects It’s Dues…..


The past month and a half has been tremendously difficult. False starts. Stops. Losses. And second thoughts. All of which has left me questioning my ability to find lasting happiness. Once upon a long while ago, I just tossed things aside. Compartmentalized them. And move on. However, it’s becoming more difficult to do so. Perhaps I am getting old. And soft. This post will deal with one issue. Death. In one week, I received word my 25 yr old cousin had finally succumbed to the effects of cancer. Next, an accomplished and well-respected friend, who I absolutely adored, passed away in Utah. Then, my younger sister also lost her father to cancer.

Everyone has been, or will be touched by the death of a loved one. Or friend. Many times over. When someone we love dies, inevitably we look at our own mortality. It’s hard to avoid knee jerk reactions. To make promises to ourselves. And to others. Some we keep. Others are forgotten. And after time passes, the rest is no longer important. For some unexplained reason, these recent deaths have affected me, more than most. In light of recent weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on life. Regrets. And the need for personal housekeeping.

My cousin, and my sisters’ dad knew the approximate rest of their days. They had time to prepare. To accomplish last-minute goals. Say  final goodbyes. Get stuff in order. Many of us wont. On a personal note,  if I knew when my number would be up, I would go out with guns blazing! But alas, I don’t. I wondered how many couldas, shouldas, and wouldas I am likely to have. It’s impossible not to have regrets. However, I can try to minimize them.

I pondered what I would do, if I knew how much time I had remaining. How would I handle relationships which do not make me happy. Make amends. Or finally get something “off my chest”. How I would live out the rest of it. Below is a list of things which immediately flooded my thoughts. The ones beneath my subconscious. I hope to slowly, and methodically, check them off my list in the coming months.

Here is a sample of things I plan on changing:

  • Finally getting on that terrifying roller coaster ride which catapults more than 5 feet in the air.
  • Make amends for things I knew I did wrong.
  • Do not accept scraps of attention and affection from a partner who is either unwilling or unable to give more.
  • Diligently seeking a partner who “gets me”. Patient with my faults. Willing to try hard to make things work.
  • Get over the fear of sky diving. And just do it.
  • Visit the places on my “List of places to visit before I die”.
  • Make it clear what I want in a relationship and in the same vein refusing to settle.
  • Going solo to a club or activities.
  • Doing what everyone expects of me.
  • Being the one to ask a chap out on a date, instead of waiting for them to ask me.

There is a bit more! However,these should keep me busy for a few months. You get the idea. In closing, the dawning of a new day represents  another opportunity to make use of the time allotted to us. Untold numbers did not see the sun rise this morning. There is no time left for them carry out their plans. They won’t get to apologize for a harsh word. Hold their loved ones close. Whisper words of love and encouragement. They won’t get to see their children grow up. Nor will they attend another wedding. Graduation. Etc. But we did. We have today.

We’ve been given one more chance. What will we do with it? If there is someone in your life that you need to reach out to. Do it. Do you need to settle a misunderstanding. Do it. Perhaps the need to express love and appreciation to. Do it. Say goodby to someone in order to make room for someone or something better. Do it. Don’t wait for tomorrow. There are no more tomorrows for my cousin. Respected friend. My sisters’ father. None. Tomorrow is not ours. We live on borrowed time. One day, it will run out. As it always does. This has never been clearer to me than in the past few weeks.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

I Was The One


On my page “Think to Thank”, I find something to be grateful for each day. No matter how small. Or trivial. The going often gets rough. Often, it’s often difficult to see the blessings. Many days reviewing small daily miracles offer consolation. And hope. They serve to remind me I have so much. In this post, I wish to share some experiences which have affected me over the past few months. The times when I was the one.

To Louise, the owner of Passionate about Flowers on Lower Bristol Road in Bath. I thank you. A few weeks ago, I was invited for a job assessment in Bath. If I was successful, it would mean returning the next day for a face to face interview. Upon arrival at the station, I went against my better judgment and decided to walk the 15 minute journey to the destination. Well, after getting hopelessly lost and asking for and receiving wrong directions more than once, I was about to give up. However, I decided to try one last business.  I walked into Passionate About Flowers  and explained what I was about. Louise immediately got online in an attempt to pinpoint the location. Taking it a step further, she asked if I wanted her to give me a lift there! And she did. This one simple act of kindness derailed all the bad luck I had moments before. Louise left her business, to help a stranger she might never, ever see again. I will never forget her act of kindness. Thanks Louise.

In another instance, while waiting for my BRP to be finalized, I was hired on a temp basis for a local health and social services organization. I relied heavily on public transportation. One day, I changed handbags, and to my chagrin discovered I somehow forgot my money purse on the bus. I am person who has never forgotten her keys. Run out of gas. Or locked herself out of her car! To make matters worse I did not discover my purse was missing for more than 8 hours. To my utter amazement, when it was in my possession again, everything was as I left it. Down to the 1.50 pence I had received as change that morning. I called the bank and made the necessary cancellations, but no one had tried to use it or withdraw funds. I was stunned. The chances of this happening in the USA are nil. To the unknown person who turned my purse into the driver, I thank you.

Once last experience. I got the job in Bath. It meant relocating. Bath is a lovely city! I was helped in unimaginable ways. Perhaps the one-act of kindness which has left an indelible impression on my mind, is the moving process itself. Paul, a kind bloke drove 500 miles round trip to do just that. To be ready for the return trip on Saturday, he spent Friday night at a local hotel. All on his own dime. Moving company fees would have cost me approx 250 pounds. I contributed to his petrol cost. He was not done. Yet. Going the extra mile, he took me around to find items for the new place. Cheered me up during challenging times when I could not see perspective. Checked up on me often. Reminded me over and over that even though things were not what I expected, greater things were happening around me. Paul, I wont ever forget this. Thank you.

Amidst all the ills in the world and the people who perpetrate them, it’s gratifying to know good people still walk the earth. I am acquainted with them. I am grateful for people who make the world a better place for the rest of us. If you are one of those people: NEVER cease to do good. NEVER underestimate the power of your actions upon the lives of others. NEVER think that your contribution does not matter. Because it does. I have been on the receiving end. The one whose life was affected. The one who, because of your kindness, my struggles were easier. Thank you.

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

I’m Losing It!


I follow Dr Kelly Flanagan’s blog Untangled. Good stuff. Apart from sharing the same career interests, he speaks with frankness. And honesty. I read Marriage Is For Losers with avid interest. Divorcées will recognize past mistakes. Married? Take mental notes. Single? Ponder habits and behaviors. After reading his post twice, I reflected on how we can lose in other situations. And still end up winning. More on that later.

We live in a viciously competitive world. Hundreds compete for the same job. Neighbors are trying desperately to keep up with the Jones’s. Before they refinance. In neighborhoods across America, people spend thousands trying to outshine each other with holiday decorations. Parents are entering toddlers (under 3) in beauty pageants. In the workplace the best and brightest (in most cases) get promoted. Sports injuries escalate during national championship games. Why? No one remembers second place. Or so we are led to believe. We live in a culture with an insatiable appetite for the best and brightest.  Helpless to satisfy this hunger for success, society literally chews up and spits out the weakest among us.

Marriage is for Losers made sense. Too much, TBH. Personally, I want to lose in a marriage. I also want someone who puts my needs first. And vice versa. Think about it. If two people stop caring about winning. And place their spouse/partner’s happiness above their own, can you imagine the outcome? Can you even begin to fathom the level of happiness, fulfillment, and joy the couple will experience? Let’s expand this to other close relationships. And to a lesser extent, to other people, and situations.

Back to losing it. The media is notorious for sensationalizing acts of kindness. Honesty. Pure human decency. Often with good reason. We care less and less about others, and more and more about ourselves. About winning. Being first. We can change this. We can be winners, while losing. How so? Simple acts of kindness when we have nothing to gain. Swallowing our pride. Admitting fault, no matter how painful. Stop caring so much about how we appear to others. Apologize even when we are right. Forgive quickly. Putting another person first. For once. But wait, these are “loser” scenarios! That’s just my point. Losing to win.

Yes, we will lose. Time. Resources. And energies needed improve our own lives. Pride. Or the last vestiges of it. Selfish tendencies and desires. The temptation to look the other way. The need to win all the time. On the flip side, in losing these things, we will gain a lot more. A greater sense of self. Inner peace and fulfillment. The satisfaction of knowing we put someone else first. Often, it’s in the process of losing ourselves, where we find ourselves.

Pay no attention to snickering wet blankets who tease us for “losing all the time”. Heck, we might even be accused of being a “goody two shoes”!When we sacrifice to enable the growth of another, we don’t lose, we win. When we forgive readily and easily. We win. When we stop caring about looking foolish in the presence of others. We don’t lose, we win. When we compete and lose, yet cheer the winners. We win. When you and I rebel against the notion that winning is everything. We don’t lose. We win. That no one remembers second place. We win. In our selfless efforts to make the world a better place. We don’t lose. We win.

I know this post will not resonate with everyone. We’re all on different levels of spiritual growth and maturity. What’s natural for one,is painful for others. Be patient. Take small steps. Sometimes the destination is more important than the journey. Imagine for a minute, how the small corner of our universe would change if we lost more than we gained. But we ended up winning anyway.

Until the next post, what are we ready to lose today?

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