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 Political, Social Commentary

The Fight Against Domestic Violence – We’re Winning!

Happy Apple (2)
Better Days!


As I was searching for a way to add my voice to the current discussion on domestic violence or intimate partner violence, as some call it, I stumbled across a very exciting fact. Since the implementation of the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) in 1994, there has been a steep decline of 67% in cases involving intimate partner violence. Prior to the VAWA we saw 1.7 million cases of intimate partner abuse and as of 2011 the number has decreased to less than 700,000. One would never know this by watching media reports!

The VAWA currently administers 24 grant programs and is described as being “designed to develop the nation’s capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable.”

I do not know about anyone else, but the fact that this Act has had such a tremendously positive impact on the lives of women shows me the great power of our tax dollars when they are put to good use.

Now obviously, this is not to say that more can’t be done to further eradicate the problem of intimate partner violence. A large part of what continues to need attention is the inequality of power between men and women.

It is believed that at the very root of intimate partner violence is the subservient role to which women have been traditionally subjected. This role allows for the devaluing of women, as is evident by the disparity in salaries between men and women which the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports a wage gap of 22%. There is an even larger gap for African American and Latino women. The pervasive practice of unequal compensation could arguably be part of the financial abuse that helps to impede women from leaving abusive situations.

While our society continues to tolerate the devaluing of women, we will continue to see incidences like the Ray Rice abuse scandal, and corporations like the NFL attempt to turn a blind eye to the seriousness of the matter.

As a former victim of 12 years of intimate partner abuse where the traditional woman’s role was the focal point of my ex-husband’s very existence, I feel it is imperative that more outreach be done in churches, mosques, synagogues, as well as places of employment to further the effort of bringing violence against women to a zero state.

There is no doubt that we, as a country, with the implementation of the VAWA, are moving in the right direction. We need to continue to make strides and put pressure on our religious institutions, as well as corporations, to change the way they handle intimate partner violence and how they perpetuate the problem. Lastly, we also need to watch out for legislative posturing that could derail VAWA altogether. The pesky GOP has a knack for being on the wrong side of things these days.