Which Not Who…

“Who AM I?”

What an odd question. I suppose that at least grammatically, the question is a sound one. But wouldn’t asking “Which are You?” be more appropriate for a simple little blog post? Asking the “which” question is more likely to net a response we can work into the confines of a couple of pages, but the “who” question will leave us with not enough paper and not enough time.

The “Which” question can provide a myriad of responses, all predicated on whatever task happens to be on hand. Like many, I have always based my identity and value on what I do and the results I produce. Now don’t judge me and don’t send me any “Oprah” transcripts as study material. I’ve heard all the reasons why my “which” will only grant me a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams and untapped potential. I’ve been there, I’ve done all of that, and my insurance has covered the psychotherapy. I can only say it again, my “who” is too big of a question for these few lines. The “which” question can however give you a glimpse of my “who”. It can allow you to make inferences and ask questions that can begin a conversation about my experiences, my history, my point of view, my defining moments, my motives and my “why”.

So go ahead, ask me again, “which” am I?

Today, I am a grandmother (mistaken for a young mother) of a grandson who is older than his aunt. Today, I am the story writer who once traded metaphor and allegory for technical advisories and reports. Today, I am a 48-year-old college senior with a 19-year-old freshman study partner. Today, I am a newlywed and a divorcee. Today, I am proudly Caribbean but yesterday, I was definitely, from “down south”. Today, I am a person of color, but many of my people have pointed out how my not being “black enough” was reflected in how “white” I talk. Today I remain a black woman while the whole world tells me time and time again that white maleness is better. Today I am a daughter without a mother and a mother of 4 daughters. Today I am a teacher being taught. Today I am a woman who has prayed, chanted and now prays again. Today I am a sister with no siblings and an aunt without a niece or nephew. Today I have memories I cannot remember and faces I cannot place. Today I am the proud owner of a pit-bull that won’t bark. Today I am a writer who is oftentimes at a loss for words. Today, I am a typist who cannot type and a chef who won’t cook.

Today I am an author who hasn’t published and a counselor in therapy. Today I am a second wife with a second husband and a grandmother who is a new mother again. Today I am a wife, a mother of a 1st grader, a new business owner and a fulltime undergraduate returning to school after a 20 year “break”.

Today I am fearlessly terrified, eagerly immobilized and serenely hysterical. To be truthful, in this very moment, I don’t who I am or which me I’ll be an hour from now. But I do know this; the fullness of my description cannot be contained within this written exercise. It cannot be an answer to a question as incomplete as “Who am I?” However, if we engaged in a dialog that asked Which? When? How? Or Why, we might begin to satisfy a curiosity. For the moment. For today.

Grin…

Some Things I Would Have Changed Before I Realized I Didn’t Need to Change a Damn Thing…

I’ve been in therapy since I was 12 years old. These days my current therapist and I chuckle over the very real idea that if therapy was an academic pursuit, I’d be sitting nice and comfortable with my PhD by now. It’s been a long road and sometime the work I had to do and the lessons I had to repeat were painful. But these days I feel good. I mean really, really good. So good in fact that my GOD and my universe saw fit to reintroduce me to a blog entry I wrote some five or six years ago about my introduction to and the evolution of my therapeutic experience.

So I’ve retitled this first one “Some Things I Might Have Changed before I Realized I Didn’t Need to Change a Damn Thing.

Read On…

I suppose if I thought about it (and I do, all the time), I might submit the argument that my mother ingested the elements of psychotherapy and passed them to me in my birthing fluids. Perhaps it was her own psychiatric partnerships or maybe it was all that damn Valium. But I swear I was born asking who am I? Where am I? And how the Hell did I end up here with you people?

Having spent most of my adolescence attending a Park Slope prep school, I had quite a bit of exposure to white people and their peculiarities. In fact from the age of 12 through 19 my very best friend was a white girl named Kate (I’ve changed her name so she doesn’t strangle me). We were kindred spirits, equally bewildered as she also wondered “where the hell am I?” In fact, it was at Kate’s family dinner table (my house didn’t have one of those) that I had my first discussion about “therapy”. Kate’s parents (she lived with 2 nuts, I just had 1 at home) were suggesting that Kate (another peculiarity, my Father never suggested I do anything – he just told me to damn well do it) attend therapy as a way to cure what they were sure was her latest bout of adolescent influenza. As I eavesdropped on their discussion, fascinated by the parent-child dynamic that could entertain these dialogs, I became spellbound by all their talk of conversation, dialog and “getting to the heart of the matter”. In my father’s house, no one talked and in my mother’s house, everyone medicated. Yet here was my white family talking to each other about talking to other people! Beyond that, they were honestly considering paying to have another adult (a stranger at that) talk to their child.

I remember thinking how strange my beloved white people were and wishing that I could have some, just some, of the possibility that came so easily to them.

Kate’s mind was already made up. There was no way she was telling her “innermost” to any adult paid by her parents. The possibility for betrayal was too big. I, on the other hand, had no secrets, only fears, questions and concerns. So, with a boldness fueled by many nights at a caucasian dinner table, I spoke up in staunch opposition to my friend’s idiocy, “I think I might like therapy!”

And so it began, within weeks, my white family had introduced me to the neighborhood social service agency and I began what has become a near 30 year experience of therapy and “guided introspection”.  That introspection has shepherded me through myriads and mazes and allowed me an outlet that was a lifeline for the little girl that I was and an essential for the woman I have become.

There is just one thing, just one that I would change. And I only bring this up because you asked me.

My own introspection, not the guided one but the one I often do unguided, has at times, left me crippled with indecision and immobilized by murkiness behind my own motivations. Now, after all these years of psychotherapy, I sometimes wish I didn’t know so much about myself. I wish I could allow myself the indulgence of being a “!@#-upped individual”. I wish I didn’t question the “whys” of every damn thing I do.  I’m tired of thinking about it! My therapist (of course I still have one) tells me that I have more than earned the right not to think about everything so damn much. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m much better that I was say, 20 years ago, but I still struggle. Now at 43 years old, my introspection asks less about my impact on the world and more about its impact on me. As a child my introspection was driven by my desire to be better so the world would love me. Now my introspection is driven by my desire to be better to myself so that I can love more of the world.  As I continue to grow up, I want to learn more about trusting what all these years of introspection has shown me about myself. I want to trust that GOD has put good stuff in me on purpose for a purpose. That if I decided today that I wanted to be a f#$%&*-ed up individual” for the rest of the evening, that GOD is still going celebrate me and love me forever.

So while I might wish my introspection came with its own On/Off switch what is true is that now I have earned the right to equip it with a dimmer switch.

Grin…

“Did You Eat?” – A Lesson From the Reconstructed Life of Cynthia Beatrice Mapp

It’s been almost 10 years since my mother died.

I could say that we had a difficult relationship but that would not do justice to the complexity of our story. I loved her and never told her. I needed her and pushed her away. I heard her but couldn’t listen. She was my mother but she just couldn’t take care of me.

During my early childhood and pre-teen years my mother was a manic-depressive with some paranoid schizophrenia tossed in just to keep things interesting. And yet, through all of the hallucinations, medications, psychotic breaks and mania, she loved me with a fierceness that defied all conditions and circumstance.

(Remind me someday to tell you about the time my mother slapped the taste out of the mouth of some woman she thought had insulted little 5 year-old me in the elevator or the time she showed up at my elementary school to break out a can of whup-ass on a class bully that was harassing me).

By the time I was in my late teens, my mother had managed to reshape her illness and live a life relatively free of voices, visions and valium. But by then, so much damage had been done… And I was so, so angry at her for leaving me, for letting my father take me away… So angry at her for not being strong enough, whole enough, well enough to fight for me, take care of me and keep me with her.

When she died, I, as her only child was charged with writing her eulogy. What would I write about the woman who birthed me? I only knew her as sick, ill, depressed and medicated. I had never made peace with the woman my mother had become or the life she had so carefully reconstructed.

To write the classic early life, middle life, “this is your life” homage wasn’t going to work.  My mother’s wasn’t  a classic “this is your life” kind of story and to try stuff the substance of her into that kind of template seemed disingenuous and disrespectful. Despite my ambivalence, despite my regrets, despite my grief, despite all of the unanswered questions and things never said, I wanted to honor my mother.

So I wrote about the one prevailing lesson that she tried to show me time and time and time again and that I could not/would not hear/understand/accept until she was gone from me. Until it was too late.

Here it is…

The Eulogy

of

CYNTHIA BEATRICE MAPP

December 23, 1945 – December 29, 2003

Did you eat?

Each time my Mom began a conversation with anyone she loved, me, one of her granddaughters, my husband, anyone who held a place in her heart, she would begin her conversation with one all important question.

Did you eat?

I would get so irritated at what I thought was such a silly, little, question.

Of course we ate. Or would eat… Really Mom, everything doesn’t have to revolve around food. Don’t you know there are more important things going on in the world?

Once I became a mother myself and had to stand aside as my daughters stretched, grew and inched farther and farther beyond the reach of my hand, I would have many of what my daughters called “Grandma Moments”. Times when I would sound just like my mother, the words, tone of voice and inflection would be all Cynthia as I asked my beloveds, “Did you eat?”

Yes Mom I hear you, I understand.

Did you eat? Couched in that little question was her concern for our health wellbeing and welfare. Did you eat? Did you stop for a moment? Cook for yourself? Nourish yourself? Show yourself care? Did you make the decision to pursue what was necessary for the maintenance of your own life?

Mt 26:26 “…Take this and eat; this is my body.”

Did you eat? Did you give thanks? Did you commune with the sustainer of your life? Did you pursue your own peace? Did you stand? Did you refuse to compromise, explain or negotiate the personal peace that would be beyond anyone else’s understanding? Did you eat? Did you say no to anxiety, disturbance and depression? Did you eat? Did you take hold of your joy regardless? Wherever, whenever, alone or in a crowd, pockets full or pockets empty? Was your joy full and your peace precious? Did you eat? Did you refuse to be crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed? Did you reclaim your heart and choose to be renewed day by day? Did you eat? Did you refuse the bondage of what the voices said you should be and rest in the freedom that God’s grace says you are? Did you eat? Did you consider how the lilies grow? Did you love? Have joy? Did you eat?

My Mom was not a bible scholar. She would not have been one to quote you scripture. My mom just lived. And chose . And pursued. And loved.

*****

Thanks for reading my blog! *LBD

Click here to read my short stories…

Connect with me on Facebook to keep up with story updates and the latest blog entries!

All content © 2013 Lisa B. DuBois

More Money is Coming – A Fiscal Fitness Evolution

My mother and father separated before I was four. As a child of their disunion, I became the bewildered repository for a mix of oddly opposed yet curiously cohesive messages. One pervasive theme spoke to the dynamics and rules of money. While their lifestyles were miles apart in terms of material possession, my parents shared a yin and yang conviction about cash flow that became the immutable bedrock of my own fiscal belief system.

More Money is Coming…

My mother was disabled and lived for most on my life on a fixed income of less than 12k per year. She received food stamps and Medicaid and on the 3rd of every month, she, along with many of her neighbors, trekked to the nearest check cashing vendor to receive an allotment of cash benefits from Social Security. My mother and I lived together until I was 9 years old when I left our Brownsville Brooklyn neighborhood and went to live with my father in another universe six subway stops away in Park Slope.

My father was a contractor and real estate investor. He worked for himself, owning properties in Park Slope and the up and coming neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant. He observed no calendar for income and at any given time could be found with thousands of dollars in the bank and hundreds of dollars in his wallet.

In my mother’s world, more money was coming because the 3rd of the month was always on its way. Its arrival was guaranteed by the very laws of God and nature. In my father’s world, more money was coming because no other option was acceptable and the fruit of fortune and hustle was simply waiting for its rightful home in his hands.  Oh yes… More Money is Coming

It was at that point of certainty that my mother and father’s fiscal operating systems diverged.

My father believed that any entity claiming right to his money, regardless of any previous  delivery of goods and services, could only be owned and operated by a bunch of “goddamn crooks” from whom he was obligated at all costs to shield his funds. While he could often be found with enough cash on hand to rival my mother’s yearly income, he was always engaged in battle and crisis with his creditors. During my adolescent years with him, I made countless trips to utility company offices to pay a long past due bill and the accompanying deposit required to restore our interrupted service. I have distinct memories of the bewilderment I felt when ordered not to answer our incessantly ringing phone so as to avoid the accountability required by my father’s creditors. While he never ceased his resentful diatribes against those crooked corporate criminals that so often forced him to pay what he owed, my father seemed to recover from our stints without light, gas or phone service pretty quickly.  After all, he knew, More Money is Coming…

My mother, with her fixed income, was a careful observer of fiscal due dates and bill pay obligations. She employed a fiscal system that supported her fiscal discipline and for that was rewarded with a credit score that could rival that of persons with 20 times her income.   In short, my mother could walk into any store, sign any dotted line and get whatever she wanted. Her chosen option however was to live within the boundaries of her fixed and, in my then immature opinion, meager means. My mother never entertained a past due notice or threat of service shut off. Her fear of going hungry made her pay herself first, not by setting aside savings but by vigilantly guarding her grocery bill. Her fear of homelessness made her contribution to her Section 8 rent assistance sacrosanct. My mother’s fixed income could not absorb the late fees, penalties or required deposits my father paid so constantly and carelessly. Her fiscal decisions were a matter of life and survival.  But despite her stringent circumstances, my mother held a certainty supported by the passage of days… More Money Is Coming…

As their daughter, I absorbed this lesson as part of my DNA. I have always been certain, absolutely certain that more money was coming. Unfortunately during my early years, before my fiscal fitness work, More Money is Coming translated to a lack of fiscal integrity that rivaled my father’s and a sense of impending fiscal catastrophe that mirrored my mother’s. The difference however, was that I didn’t have my father’s financial resources or my mother’s systems and credit score.  But while I was adept at getting myself into financial holes, I was also remarkably skilled at getting myself out of them.  What did this create? What model did I create for my own young children? Fiscal Drama. In my world, Fiscal Drama gave stage and audience to a self-drawn caricature of strength, ingenuity, and cleverness. It showed my ability to “hustle and flow”.

When my lack of financial integrity had cost me yet another relationship, my deep sorrow uncovered the ugly underbelly of my false fiscal image. I was a liar, thief of services, stealer of products, a cheat and a manipulator. I was devastated by this ugly truth. For a while I allowed my sense of shame to carry me deeper into my fiscal denial and narcissism. So what if I was a liar? I needed what I needed. I wanted what I wanted. I had to get where I was going. Wasn’t it all, after all, about me? What was the big deal? More Money Is Coming

Eventually though, I reached my saturation point and could no longer float unencumbered by the muck and mire of my fiscal behaviors. It was a painful time. Introspection and self-responsibility carry a heavy but necessary price.

These days my choice is to operate in only the most affirming elements of my parent’s fiscal legacy. Faithfully with no semblance of fear, I believe that all that I need is already mine and waits patiently for me to just open my hand. Faithfully, giving no credence to crisis, I employ fiscal structures and systems that support my fiscal integrity as well as my fiscal goals. And finally, at my very core, I accept and affirm what my Momma and Daddy always said was true…  More Money is Coming…

Thanks for reading my blog! *LBD

Click here to read my short stories…

Connect with me on Facebook to keep up with story updates and the latest blog entries!

All content © 2013 Lisa B. DuBois

The Dead Zone

Bare Knuckle Writer

I’ve hit a dead zone.

Everything I can* submit has been submitted somewhere. I’m waiting to hear yay or nay on…*checks files*…four short stories and a novel query. I have no big projects I’m working on except the editing, and that’s proceeding at its usual snail’s pace with no option on rushing. There are no short stories in progress; all the ideas from my last bout are finished.

So: what now?

This happens from time to time. These lulls between the word storms seem to crop up about twice a year. If I remember correctly, the last one I had was in January, right after I finished the zero draft of my last novel. There was nothing on deck to replace it, so I went into a holding pattern of read-research-think-plan. Which kicked off this latest phase of short stories.

At one time, I would have found…

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Product round up – May

Eat Green Cake

Decided to start a monthly roundup to share about new raw and vegan products I buy monthly. Didn’t take photos of everything I bought in May, so here’s just a few!

MASON JARS IMG_20130524_155715

Bought them for my juice fast and I I use them for everything – nut milk, salads, overnight puddings, parfait jars ….=) And I love the ultra tight sealed lid!

Where to find : The Living Cafe
Price : Ranges from $11.50  – $14.50 (3 different sizes)

APPLES

IMG_20130530_073958-horzAfter my juice fast, I was CRAVING apples….and I want an apple binge fest. These are the top 3 best tasting apples I found in the supermarkets. And they are all from New Zealand! coincidence?  Best tasting from left to right

Where to find: DIVA apples ( Cold Storage, Jasons) / ENVY apples ( Jasons, certain NTUC fair price outlets like NEX)/ ENZA apples (most major supermarket chains)

Price: DIVA ($1.30 – $1.50)…

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Novel Writing…Choosing a Point of View!

JuliusJEThompson

Gold Award PhotoHow am I going to tell my story? Which Point of View?
Choices? Choices? Choices? When I sit in front of my computer and start to pound the letters on the keyboard, I must decide on the point of view to tell the story! I swallow hard and try to figure out a “voice” in which to write my novel…so many choices!
What is the definition of point of view?
Point of view is the way the author allows you to “see” and “hear” what’s going on in the novel. Skillful authors can fix their readers’ attention on exactly the detail, opinion or emotion the author wants to emphasize by manipulating the point of view of the story. Literature provides a lens through which readers look at the world.
***Point of view pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. Point of View comes in three varieties:…

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They sat next to each other on the train, still pretending to be strangers.

Alice Writes

They sat next to each other on the train, still pretending to be strangers. He must remember her, she hadn’t changed that much in two years. Why was this so awkward, why hadn’t he acknowledged her?

Gemma recalled Sarah telling her about the break up with Lindsay years ago. She’d going round for an overdue catch up and bottle of wine, to be left with the TV for almost an hour while Sarah consoled her sister.  She couldn’t claim to be surprised about it, she wondered more that the relationship had lasted four years. Lindsay was a sweet girl; pretty, clever and fun. Gemma didn’t know her well, they only met a handful of times, but recognised her as the type that likes to be in a relationship and yearns to settle down. Her younger sister already had a husband and a house, there was definitely some competition. David on the other hand was…

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It falls lifeless to the muddy ground and lands on its back with its half blown-away head facing up to what is now a starry sky.

Bwana Kifaru

(“All right!” Miles declares as he takes two steps back towards the lion carcass. “Let’s throw this garbage out.”) 

Miles, Jacob, and Benjamin each grab a leg and start dragging the beast toward the camper door. I stand near the open door and help maneuver the 500 lb. killer around the huge acacia limb. Jacob gives the monster a final shove. It falls lifeless to the muddy ground and lands on its back with its half blown-away head facing up to what is now a starry sky.

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How To Give Up: 6 Options For Quitting Writing

Bare Knuckle Writer

1) Hold yourself to an impossible standard. Man, nothing sucks the fun out of something like expecting to be perfect at it. And once the fun is gone, you’re just slogging away at yet another thing that eats your time. You might as well be breaking rocks into smaller rocks with a third, slightly larger, rock.
So if you want to give up, I suggest trying really hard to do the impossible. Set a goal to write a novel in a weekend and not have it suck! Make it non-negotiable that every word you write will be as pristine as the unused toilet paper of the gods! Write a multi-part epic with thousands of characters by randomly smashing your face down on the keyboard once a day! I guarantee you’ll be giving up in no time.

2) Expect that you’ll find the time somewhere. Don’t bother making time for writing…

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