I have a lot of poems that I love but this one poem is my life. I think it’s many people’s lives. Living is not always an easy thing to do, but if you hold on to the truth that you are, indeed, the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, you can weather all things.
BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
In the wake of recent media traction of the two-month old murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I shared a Facebook post by speaker and author, Sharon Jamison from May 7th, 2020, where she asserted:
I don’t want white people to apologize. I want them to use their privilege to help dismantle a system that kills black people.
After posting it, I received a message from a dear friend who’s white. She asked exactly what it is that she’s expected to do? I didn’t consider the motivation behind her question because her feelings for having the question are rightfully her own and an analysis of that wasn’t really required for me to give her my thoughts on the matter. I took on the role of messenger which is something I’m getting really good at as I navigate parenting 20 somethings. When my children come to me with a question or a need for input on a choice they intend to make, I succinctly offer my truth as I see it and move on with my day.
In that regard, I offered my friend this:
- Acknowledge that racism exists.
- Fully understand the impact of it on nonwhite people.
- Challenge your assumptions and motivations when forming an opinion on social issues involving black people.
- Ask questions and be willing to accept the validity of another’s perspective from a lived experience that is not your own.
- Champion causes that are designed to facilitate equity in opportunity. Conscious and unconscious biases are at work that make this very necessary.
- Tell your uncle Bob, your co-worker Karen, your supervisor Tom, your husband Josh, to shut the fuck up when they go on about “them niggers…”
I am resolute in my understanding of how pervasive racism is. Those who made it their business to construct the institution were very thorough in weaving their virus-like ideology in with our natural human instincts, the latter being the same no matter what racial category we are placed in. They are woven so tightly that unwinding them seems impossible.
At this point, I seriously question the possibility of all of us living totally free from the sick mindset that avails itself upon us, generation after generation. Down every street we jog, in every park where our children play , in every coffee shop we enter, on every road we drive, the evil of racism lurks. It’s either a simmering boil or boiling over scalding everyone in its path.
My heart goes out to Ms. Wanda Cooper, Ahmaud’s mother, and the rest of his family. I suspect I will compose other writings motivated by similar events and my heart is heavy. I’m going to text my two sons now, to make sure they are okay.
Image used courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@thirdworldhippy
Everyone is locked inside their homes. Maybe locked is too strong of a word. The shelter-in-order; however, does create a blurred line of distinction between freedom and control. They tell us it is for our own good. They tell us it is for the good of the country. They tell us we are saving lives. I am not so sure. To be one hundred percent sure, I would need to believe in an invisible attacker, a lying President, and a media that has become suspect. Believing in all of that is not the easiest thing to do for a mind that has always struggled with blind faith. However, I am rational and of course there is a virus, so I participate. At the end of the day, for now, it’s best to be overly cautious and remain inside than to not heed the warnings and possibly die.
At times I find myself contorting my mind to see what’s around the corner but I am nearsighted and it is very dark. I scour the internet for signs of light, a tricky thing requiring forensic skill to discern reliability. I only get so close to a feeble assurance that this is mere happenstance and life will return to normal sometime soon. In the meantime, my husband’s vision is 20/20. He plucks soundbites from the 24-hour news cycle, examines them, places them in an order attuned to his suspicious sensibilities, and weaves a narrative that suits his soul. It is a gift to which I say bless his heart. I envy his ability to ground himself in something other than uncertainty.
Uncertainty has always been my home. Developing a definitive from the comfort of a recliner makes me nervous. The unknown variables matter. An unknown variable can turn an assessment in the complete opposite direction. That, coupled with the fact that information openly chatted about is information that is purposefully allowed to be chatted about. I’ve watched Rachel Maddow spill the beans on the Russians in such profound ways and I wonder who’s protecting her. Surely Putin must have people at the ready to slip something into her coffee. But this isn’t the movies, right? I understand that I’m exposing my unduly citizen mind. The one that would lead me to say, who would have thought such a thing could happen in this country. Actually, I’m not quite that bad. There are ugly places that my mind just doesn’t want to go though. My world is made up of the desire to have just enough to provide for my family and to live comfortably without threat, so I evade the worlds that orbit about my person and within my mind.
I caution myself to take the upcoming weeks, or months, one day at a time. I remind myself to be present each time I drift off and become unable to hear anything beyond the sound of my heartbeat pounding in my ears. Some days it’s as if I’ve crossed over into another realm without even knowing it. A realm that keeps me from embracing a beloved friend I happened to see on my once a week run to Costco. All we could do was shake our heads in apology for the absence of an embrace and give an awkward wave from six feet away.
To save myself, breath and patience have become my anchoring forces. They tether me to the world I knew. The world where my mind was free to not only think about going outside the walls of my home but, with a soft psshh through my teeth, making the adventure so. I intend to return, someday.
We are coming to the final week of January. I haven’t made any resolutions, but the idea of change has been a resounding thought in my mind all month. This morning, I wondered why many people embrace making resolutions but seem to have a fear of change. After all, isn’t a resolution all about making a change? I guess the difference resides in the amount of control a person has in the process. A person deciding to make a change is one thing, when change is thrust upon them it is an altogether different thing.
Where I’ve encountered folks who exhibit the greatest fear of change is in the workplace, where many surrender to the status quo of how things have always been. Keeping up with new technology or figuring out more efficient and creative ways to use existing technology is something that some seem to find no time for. The thought, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” prevails, even when things are changing in various ways around them.
This can be fine for a while, but what I’ve learned from the time of MS Word’s crushing destruction of WordPerfect as the word processing software of choice to when I was one of thousands of folks in 2008 who found themselves looking for work due to business closures, is how imperative it is to make forced change work for you. The best ways I have learned to do that is 1) accept that change is inevitable, and 2) always embrace the opportunity to learn something knew.
Back in the days of WordPerfect, I was a Jedi Master of reveal codes. Reveal codes were little boxes of code that held all of the formatting properties. I made that software sing. Then along came MS Word and reveal codes were no more. I couldn’t wrap my brain around how I was supposed to process words without reveal codes! In my mind it wasn’t going to work and I dragged my feet into the training that they tried to loft me into. Fast-forward three months into the change, I remember thinking how much easier MS Word was than WordPerfect. Fast-forward to today, whenever I happen to come across a job posting where WordPerfect is a necessity I wonder why are they stuck in a time warp.
I learned a huge lesson from that experience. In the long run it prepared me for the layoff that I would go through in 2008. I went into that forced change with a great deal of confidence. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would secure employment. I had developed a work ethic that embraced the concept of lifetime learning at the forefront, which essentially gave me that confidence. I learned not to look at new technology or a change in process as a threat, but to see it as something else I can add to my repertoire. While I sent out hundreds of resumes that went into the black hole of the internet, within three months I was gainfully employed. This period of time was without much handwringing and stress because I was thoroughly confident in my skills.
Change is something we are always going through. It comes with the rotation of the earth and there’s not a darn thing anyone can do about it. Accepting that and embracing the idea of lifetime learning helps mitigate the fear of change when we have little to no control over things. You just might find that doors will open up for you when things appear pretty bleak.