Posted in Social Commentary

Transcript of Episode 2 – Method for Gaining Empathy


Podcast Recording

Welcome to another edition of Gathering Wool.

I am your host Shonda Rene

The Mission of this podcast is to get people to:

think in more positive ways;

Interact with others in positive ways;

Look at unexamined beliefs and feelings in new ways as they relate to life and recent events; and
to encourage engaged reflections starting with the source of the issue at hand

It’s sort of like you all are on my personal journey of growth. I do this through random musings that I ruminate on throughout the week. It could be about absolutely anything that springs up through my day that stays on my mind and gets me on that road of self-examination that I mentioned a moment ago. 

For this episode we’re going to explore a thought that sprung up as I was watched Bobby Brown’s new reality show, Bobby Brown Every Little Step.  The show is a look into Bobby’s personal struggles and his family life. This was Season 1 Episode 5

The segment involved Alicia, Bobby’s wife of 10 years, she was preparing herself for Bobby’s tour with New Edition and how that could impact his sobriety. The last time he was on tour with them he did an excessive amount of drugs and alcohol and ended up having a heart attack that he walked away from with a stint as a souvenir.

In this segment, Alicia went to a Reiki Master who said something that got the wheels of thought turning. He listed a number of challenges she has faced and told her she’d beat the challenges and emotions of fear and anxiety brought on by anything headed her way. 

I wondered how she’d continue to rise to the challenge of overcoming the pain and suffering she’s experienced should the unfortunate happen. 

One word instantly came to mind. And that was acceptance. I had drawn the conclusion that acceptance was the only way to move beyond devastating events of life. Events that are beyond our control, or events that absolutely can’t be changed. 

As I thought about it I challenged myself to try to get into a mental space that would allow me to get close to how it would feel to get to that place of acceptance. To see how my body would respond and if I could actually just accept a devastating event like the loss of a child. I have friends and family members who have lost children so I have been close to that anguish. But being close to it isn’t living in it. 

Many years back I went through a very difficult divorce. One where I was actually reeling from behavior and actions that many men have gone through in terms of parental alienation syndrome. Ever since I got through that situation with the love and respect of my children intact, I’ve had the resounding thought that only the loss of one of my children could move me back into that place of utter despair. The reason I felt so strongly about that is that simply thinking about such a loss made my heart beat faster, my stomach became ill, and I had to rush the thought from my mind. 

Thankfully it was just a thought that I could push away and replace with a reflection of how I felt the moment I had acknowledged that I had overcome the extreme domestic mental abuse and on rare occasions the physical abuse I suffered for years. I felt unstoppable. The anxiety and fear that I’d lived with all of my life that made me ripe for such a relationship was no more. I felt light. I felt new. But at the same time, I realized that losing either one of my children was the absolute single thing that would break me. Right now at this moment, I am praying that these contemplations do not manifest such an event. Life can be tragically ironic that way. 

But I wanted to share this because it’s the way I try to process things. I try to mentally step into whatever situation I am struggling to understand in an honest way that would provoke true feelings and reactions and I question them and try to answer as honestly as I possibly can. 

Why do I feel this way? 

Why do I think this or that? 

Is that thought even true? And 

are these feelings or these thoughts rooted in love or fear?  

This is my method for developing empathy or simply viewing things from another perspective that could be just as true as my own. 

This has helped me to embrace or to give grace to more people, I did not say everyone of course. And that is not because it’s without effort. It’s because there are doors that simply don’t open. Or at least they do not open to me and I accept that. 

I want to also say that it’s a slow process that our fast-moving world doesn’t always allow for. 

It’s a pause that has to be deliberately taken and the necessary time spent to feel that the best effort was made while leaving room for the possibility that one can do more. 

It’s also not to say I always express a cum-ba-ya kinda personality. I have my moments, and I cuss like a sailor and always have since elementary school. It’s a very bad habit that I’ve always chastised myself for but dammit, sometimes those words are all ya got. 

While I’m thinking about this another thought sprung to mind. How much I appreciate access to celebrity shows like Bobby Brown Every Little Step and while the Red Table Talk has suffered some challenges as of late, the similarity of both shows inviting viewers into some level of transparency into celebrity lives with the hope of helping their audience improve their own lives in some way is why I am pulling in the Red Table Talk. 

As a side note, I have a sincere disdain for celebrity worship and am working on fine-tuning my language when someone asks if I like this or that celebrity to be specific and speak to the work they produce rather than the individual. The work is true and is what stays constant, while the person can be a chameleon and is prone for change in any direction. 

I feel that shows like those, that show black celebrities, in particular, extending themselves in ways that allow us to explore experiences and unexamined beliefs from as open a space as might be possible is admirable. 

While they are reality shows and go only so far into reality, what they do bring up are real struggles and situations that we all can take in and use as yardsticks against the value of love that should be the foundation of everyone’s existence. Self-examination from that foundation is key to changing the world for the better. Seeing vulnerability in action is important. Vulnerability is naked truth and a sacred gift from one person to another. 

Keep in mind that not all reality shows are created equal. Some are foolishness for the sake of foolishness. But I think these two shows strive to do some good for people

So I am going to just leave it right there. 

If you enjoyed this episode please be sure you subscribe and follow or whatever the method is for the platform you use to stay in touch with what’s going on with Gather Wool.

Until next time, always choose love. 

Posted in Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt for September 25, 2021

Prompt: Suddenly the mysterious light disappeared around the bend.

It was a warm evening in the summer of 1978. We had moved into a second floor apartment in Oakland, California six months earlier. I was 9, my sister was 8, and my brother was 7. We made fast friends with the other children in the complex.

Two siblings who lived two doors down came over that evening to play on our patio. The patio was off of the kitchen and faced the parking lot of a church. The sun was going down so we were keeping an eye out for the Goodyear Blimp that would often cruise the sunset sky. The blimp thrilled us because as it floated by, it would sometimes have a cartoon flickering on the side. We could never get enough of cartoons no matter the quality or form.

While we kept a look out for the blimp, we spent time teasing the Doberman Pinchers that lived in the backyard directly below us. We teased those lean brutes so much that they’d leap up the wall in an attempt to get us.

I envisioned the terror I’d feel if I ever fell down below, and the mess the pair would make of me if I was unfortunate enough to meet the fate of a fall. I decided to put a stop to the teasing, when we saw a round disk-like object in the sky with multi-colored lights flashing and rotating around the sphere.

The object didn’t move very fast but it kept getting closer. We realized that it wasn’t a blimp but didn’t quite know what it was. It began to pick up speed as it got closer to the church. Suddenly, it was moving so fast that we didn’t think it was going to stop. I tore open the patio door and we ran back into the kitchen. We hid behind the curtains and braced for impact but things were very quiet. I waited a moment before I pulled the curtain back enough to survey things and suddenly the mysterious lights disappeared around the bend.

It is now the summer of 2021 and 60 Minutes has just validated the claim of UFOs.

Photo by willbot studios from Pexels

Posted in Poetry, Social Commentary

Be Kind

The contentious tango between older generations and the young has been going on since the birth of Cain and Abel (parable characters used purely for symbolic reference). The only difference is the technology that is used to facilitate the discourse.

I’m posting this poem, Be Kind, by Charles Bukowski, for my beautiful millennial children because it is an exact replica of many of our conversations about the way millennials engage older people and their view of the world. It begins with my refrain and transitions to their honest, brave and resolute responses. This generation does not go along just to get along, which is what previous generations did and I truly admire that. I’m actually cheering them on even though the end goal is not completely clear. I just hope that their englightened rebelliousness leads to a kinder world where values are shifted to people rather than things so that we can correct the course we’re on which, for all intents and purposes, is continuing old and creating new unnecessary suffering and loss.

This poem exemplifies why I–love–poetry! The genre is a fully focused magnifier of absolutely everything.

Be Kind

By Charles Bukowski

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious.
one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
with
kindliness,
especially if they are
aged.
but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
badly
because they have
lived
out of focus,
they have refused to
see.
not their fault?
whose fault?
mine?
I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
fear.
age is no crime
but the shame
of a deliberately
wasted
life
among so many
deliberately
wasted
lives
is.

Bukowksi Image by Ulf Andersen / Getty

Millennials, Save Us All Please!

Posted in Career, Work Related

Reclaiming My Time

I’ve been away from my blog for several months now in dedication to succeeding in a job role that has been very challenging since the very start. It has taken a significant portion of my time and I must now take a queue from Maxine Waters and reclaim my time!

The role is a leadership position on a larger scale than I’ve been in before. I took it on knowing that I was a bit scared since it involved areas of management that I’d never been involved in, middle management decisions which required the right combination of higher management approval to move forward, and supervising people with a hierarchal perspective and some with no genuine appreciation for a manager embarking on a job with a learning curve.

The thing is, I am not one to turn away from an opportunity simply out of fear. When I self reflect and realize that I’m just scared, my spirit says “Sheeeeiiiiit! Go on and do this girl!” and I do. Then, soon enough it starts to feel like I’m flailing in the middle of a turbulent ocean. Anxiety unpacks and settles in for a good stay, inner voices, egged on by imposter syndrome, scream at every perceived mistake.

In reality it took a few years of being in this role for the experience to culminate to a point where my physical well-being along with my mental well-being was noticeably impacted which led to taking two weeks off to just let go of it all. It took two weeks of stilling myself in order to come to terms with why I needed a change and how I intended to manage where I was until another opportunity presented itself.

I was brought into this position because of a merger. Mergers are wrought with emotional people who are no longer sure of their future. So being an empathetic soul with the patience of ten Jobs, I was a good person for the job. I’m able to listen, restate what I’ve heard, and provide sound guidance, all because I’ve been there. So for the first year, that’s what I did. Some felt confident enough to stay on while others decided to understandably move on. Also, during the first year, both teams were in different buildings. Which helped to further the divide. Those who remained needed to build relationships with their colleagues so we engaged in team building activities which helped us to get to know each other and set the course for developing a good team.

Three months into being under one roof, COVID hit, which created a situation for remote work which the rural office had to adjust to. They value face-to-face interaction. Now that offices are reopening and the team is stronger, I can transition someone else into the role who has risen to the occasion of being the in-office go-to person and transition myself into a position that’s suitable to my passion. It just so happens that the need for developing technological solutions and guiding my other team, one that I built, is a truly organic need at this time.

With all of that said, this transition also allows me to reclaim a bit of my time. This is what I’ve been holding myself to task for since coming back from my two-week time off. So far, the reclamation has been very good. I’ve successfully produced two poems that I’m most proud of. In addition to my free-verse I’ve decided to focus on developing my ability to write Shakespearean Sonnets. I published two new poems yesterday. That’s a record for me!

I’m hopeful that this new outlook and new commitment to reclaiming my time will stick. It kind of has to because I feel a bigger change coming my way that has to do with really honing my writing skills and pursuing publication on a larger scale at some point. If you’ve taken the time to get to the end of this reflection, send kind thoughts my way. 🙂

Posted in Poetry

Sonnet 1


Thankful

Some days we refuse to be thankful cause
it won’t hold up its end of the bargain.
The granted objects shrink themselves too small
The hunger for what’s not grows and demands
to be pursued. A Goliath of need.
If only seemingly, it strikes the same.
We set off into a reality
filled with bitter dried fruit and sugar cane.
The occasional dandelion begs
to be wished upon. Pray, a miracle
brings us back from the unforgiving edge.
Into the ignored and humble, ten-fold,
where there is plenty of plain and simple,
but only in veil. We return thankful.

©Shonda Taliaferro 2021

Posted in Poetry

Free Verse

Sister

be guarded with your mind, a precious thing.
Jumpstarted by connections constructed of nature and nurture.
Ill-fitting garb for most. We make the best of it by looking away,
by thrashing about, by cutting, dismembering, and reshaping,
just for the honor of saying–this is me.

©Shonda Taliaferro 2021

Posted in Political, Social Commentary, Work Related

Juneteenth – Independence Day for All

When people think of independence in America, they usually think of the 4th of July, the day the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Hardly a thought is given to the fact that many of those who signed the document were, in fact, slaveholders. On June 19, 1865, 89 years after the Declaration of Independence, and two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved people in the rebellious territories, the remaining legally enslaved people of Texas were given their freedom.

On that day, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news of their freedom from Major General Gordon Granger who arrived with 2,000 Federal soldiers to establish a union presence to inform the enslaved people  that they were legally freed people—the Civil War had ended.  Thus, Juneteenth was born.

Juneteenth has been celebrated over the years with parades, picnics, and large family gatherings. These celebrations include lots of entertainment and great food with red velvet cake being a staple to represent the bloodshed and resilience of the enslaved people.

In 1980, Texas officially recognized the day as a state holiday with “partial staffing.” In 2020, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey officially recognized the holiday with paid leave for state employees. Last month, Washington also has officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. Many companies such as Nike, Citigroup, and Twitter have made Juneteenth a paid holiday for employees.

As with much that has to do with the relationship of Black Americans and the country we helped build without compensation, Juneteenth is bittersweet. It’s indicative of how difficult the forces we battle have been and continue to be just for us to simply claim our humanity. It is also indicative of our passion for life and our resiliency. In many ways, the fight for freedom continues.

Until it is fully achieved, we will remember the ancestors who persevered under the harshest of circumstances and celebrate Juneteenth as Independence Day for all Americans.

Posted in Parenting, Social Commentary

Coming Out of Myself

“You ain’t gonna make me come outta myself!” is one of Chadwick Boseman’s lines as James Brown in the film Get On Up. I recently revisited the film and remain in awe of Boseman’s performance of course, but this time, it was that line I carried away into my week. The line, unbeknownst to me, remained perched somewhere in the back of my mind, and became a central reflection point for me when a personal matter arose regarding one of my children.

Now, there isn’t a whole lot that can make me “come outta myself.” The hair-trigger reactions of youth subsides with age and experience, affording one the wisdom to take a brief moment to decide if something or someone is even worth the very precious time it would cost to address. I consider this a real perk of getting older. There is a satisfying feeling that, if you could put a name to it, I suspect the name would be, “oh lord, not today.”

It’s been so many years since I’ve had the out of body experience of coming out of myself that I really didn’t think anything would come up in my life to make that happen; however, I was woefully mistaken. It’s as if I forgot, I am a mom!

As a mother of adult children, all of whom are on very different paths in life and encountering all of the rewards as well as the difficulties of the decisions they’ve made, the latter can sometimes drift into my lane and I’m called on to support and/or advise. This was the case a few days ago, when my son brought his co-parenting difficulties to my front door. He is going through a text book case of mismatched individuals dealing with the aftermath of a failed relationship.

They were having the common challenges that occur during visitation transition. There is really no need to go into it any more than that. I advised my son to be flexible with the mom as that is what’s best for everyone. I reminded him that she had been flexible on occasion. He eventually conceded and the transition went forward. However, at the same time heated words were being exchanged, and like a virus, the words branched out into my direction, which I was not prepared for. Being caught off guard, I failed to go high and came out of myself and was directly cast into hell where the expletives pop off like corn in a sizzling pan. Woo chile!

I hadn’t realized the correlation between the scene in Get On Up until the early morning of the next day. In the scene, James Brown was confronted by his band members for lack of pay among other things. Mr. Brown said that he’d take their concerns under consideration to which the drummer jumped up and said “Fuck you!” That’s when Mr. Brown lost his composure and came up out of himself while warning them not to further provoke him.

Just to ensure clarity, the band’s complaints had merit, while the attack upon my character as well as parenting style did not. To be further clear, during the two-year long relationship, nobody in my family had the opportunity to even get to know the young lady or her family and we still barely know them and are quite content to keep it that way.

Nonetheless, I had reflected on how the situation made me feel when I woke up in the middle of the night to a feeling of anxiety and disappointment in myself for not handling the matter better. I had realized that I had, in fact, come out of myself and that the feeling had continued to simmer long after everyone had left.

I whole-heartedly believe that there is always a way to handle conflicts without things rising to the level of anger and irrational behavior but one has to be prepared. After getting these words down, I feel that I will be better prepared next time. I support all of my children when they are right, and when they are having difficulties doing the right thing, I counsel and provide solid guidance. But, at the end of the day, they are adults shaping their own lives, the same as I did. I have faith that the challenges will be overcome, lessons will be learned, and better days are always ahead, that’s how life goes when your heart is truly in the right place, even when there are times when you have to come up out of yourself.

If you’d like to share an experience you’ve had parenting 20 somethings, I’d love to read it, so please leave it in the comments. Sharing is caring.