One of life’s truths for better or for worse; is that as we grow, we find the only person we can ever be truly responsible for is ourselves.
If you’ve read my previous post “Another Brown Girls Story” You know that I’m no stranger to abuse, I have in my past been victimized by others in some pretty extreme ways. Many times people have commented on my strength and ability to defy the norms, Social workers have on one more than one occasion asked how I did it.. and we’ve discussed and debated together how others in similar situations have not.
While I am tempted to write myself off as an optimist a modern Pollyanna, I think there is more to it than that.
I’m a realist in that I try to see the world through a truthful lens. I don’t pretty things up or look through the proverbial rose colored glasses. I recognise that there is both true evil and true beauty surrounding us. I look for the good in others but I also am not blind to the fact that some people some relationships some ideas are truly toxic. I know the horrors of abuse, neglect abandonment. the pain of losing good friends by death or by choices, the heartache of knowing that some dreams will never come to be… I look at life for what it is…and I accept it.
But to me, “accepting” is not sitting down and being complacent. It’s not continuing to let things just “happen” to me. I am not crippled or damaged, by other people’s choices. I know that how they affect me is my only real choice in the matter.
I think what separates those of us who make it at those of us who don’t is what we take ownership of.
I do not own that I have any responsibility for the man who raped me when I was five years old. It doesn’t matter that he said “I looked good in yellow baby doll pajamas or was too cute to resist”
I do not own my mothers rhetoric that as an 8-year-old I sent her to jail because I wanted to be adopted my rich people.
I do not own the defamation of character tales that people in my youth and adulthood have spread about me.
They tried to break me. It didn’t work.
That is not to say however that I see myself as perfect. I do not see myself as “without blame” or “faultless”. I take ownership of what is mine. That I can be selfish, lazy, distracted jealous, that I can put my needs before those of others, that I can cut people with words or only take so much that the kindest I can be, is to think of those who hurt me as “dead”. I take ownership that I am a mamma bear and will defend those I love with my life, that I can be pushy and demanding. That I’m not yet all that I want to be. That sometimes I’m ashamed of who I am.
I look at who I am in honesty. I do not make excuses. (I can be a little scary that way) and then I make a plan.
I recently learned this is called “Growth Mindset” and for me it makes all the difference.
With a growth mindset you never settle. It is the opposite of accepting that “this is just how things are” Every single successful person in life has a GROWTH MINDSET. They see failure as an opportunity.
The opposite of this is a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that how things are is how they will always be. The danger here is that if something shakes this belief people are often lost. Some of us have an idea that because we were not born into opportunity, because the cards were stacked against us from birth our destiny is to fail. We go through life saying “you just don’t understand”, “it’s not my fault”. In someways you are right. The circumstance of your past were in many ways not your fault! However, Your future most definitely is!
Wherever you are, today is your opportunity to move forward! If you want to be more educated, go to the library. Or stop watching pointless mind numbing internet crap. Instead, watch a Biography or a Ted Talk. If you want better relationships, get off Facebook and go do something with family or friends (Board games are still magic) If you want to lose weight….(just kidding I have no advice on that one!). You can do something little every single day to start to improve your life. Even if it just starting to change the way you think!
So lets do this, lets set some goals and shatter some labels! From my perspective, YOU are capable of anything you Set Your Mind To!
I’m trying to regain that positive perspective. I’m trying to get myself back to the place where I am driven and motivated by a purpose. Honestly, I am trying to get back to that placeof just functioning, being productive, without being distracted with the constant negativity. the easiest way I know to do that is to start a gratitude list.
I am TRULY GRATEFUL that my reality is not that of my predecessors.
I’m grateful I don’t have to fear being raped, murdered or lynched for some imaginable offense. That I can own a home, eat where I want, love and marry who I want, get an education even though I had no ability to pay for one.
I’m grateful that if a person of any color, race, religion, or gender works hard and smart they can achieve the American dream. They can reach heights like running for and be elected to the highest office of our country. That they can like Maya Angelou, Ben Carson, The Obamas, and so many others that aren’t in the spotlight use their voices to effect change.
I’m grateful that I can plan a vacation (mostly) where I want without signs like “WHITES ONLY”, that I have never experienced segregation. I’m grateful that a child who shares my black blood can be in honors classes, and not automatically assumed to be special needs.
I’m thankful that those who would do me harm based solely on my skin color are very very few and that they are the ones that are looked at as the FREAKS.
I’m thankful that I can buy and read any books I choose to expand my mind and teach me about the experiences of others, and that am not relegated to a section of hardly useable garbage that was considered appropriate only for “coloreds” back in the day.
I’m thankful for choices and opportunities that ARE available regardless of who is in office. I’m grateful there are programs to acquire student and small business loans, internships, and interest based education.
I’m thankful that I can go to a theater and not have to sit in the balcony (although I love theater balconies). That I can shop where I want and mostly not be followed.
Mostly, I am thankful that it is better! While society is not perfect, There has been SO MUCH PROGRESS MADE and I’m more grateful than I could possibly express to have had an opportunity to have lived so many years that way. I have enjoyed my freedoms because of the choices I made.
That last paragraph is written in past tense because I don’t really feel those freedoms right know. I feel the pressure as many do of being labeled. That’s something I’ve worked so hard to get ahead of, I have had to EARN dignity, and while perhaps thats not fair, it is hard won and something to be proud of. SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME STRONG.
It is quite frankly PAINFUL that something that MARTIN LUTHER KING and his constituents begged for fought and died for is being pushed aside.
MLK advocated for non-violence not because he was weak, but because he understood that being “morally above reproach” made a clear line between the oppressed and oppressor. There was pride in that. That pride is something that many people of color “black folks” carry with them, a sense of overcoming and when you lump together with people who have not overcome but instead made poor and especially criminal choices that most good people of any race (if they are honest) shun, you negate all our hard work!
You negate those who have climbed from the ghettos to become teachers, police officers, ministers, lawyers and CEO’s. You negate those who still struggle but do menial jobs when selling drugs would be more lucrative. You the negate parents who teach their children (girls and boys) to be respectful to authority. Not scream hate in the faces of their teachers, their neighbors, the elderly. The parents who instill in their children principals that prioritize education, who stand with honor their children become the first or fifth generation to go to college. And you turn us all into people to be pitied. When you do this you negate all of our accomplishments.
MLK Famously dreamed that his children (and I believe he would have meant ALL people) would be seen FOR THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER, but we as a society aren’t really doing that right now. In fact arguably we are doing the exact opposite. We seem more divided at this point, , than I can personally remember. This idea that you are standing up for your minority brothers and sisters, is in actuality shining a huge light on how much YOU still in fact see us as different.
Warning Hard Truths Ahead:
I have many (in fact most of my) extremely liberal friends. I truly love and appreciate you for many reasons that don’t include politics. But I’m going to blunt here, and I hope I never have to talk about race again. (because it is really awkward) In the current efforts to prove how racist you aren’t, many of you are proving the opposite. My sincere hope is that you will see this in the spirit is intended to educate rather than offend.
The truth is, You are a bit racist if you have ever said to me or someone else, “im doing this for you” if you’ve ever expressed concern for my or another person of colors well being or mental health for not supporting a black president, or if you were so “excited to vote for the first Black president (Who was actually bi-racial) YOU are the one who was consumed with race. Also if you think a person of poor character, a criminal a thief a drug dealer etc. should be excused for any offense just because they are black…yup you are a bit racist. You have lower expectations for people based on skin color.
This past few weeks have shown us, just how many people are still consumed by skin color. If you feel in your soul that you have work to do than do it, it’s like what various religious texts teach about prayer say: go into a secret place, don’t be a hypocrite. I know…Harsh. But it’s no more harsh than the crazy amount of people confessing their “privledge” when i just want to watch nextflix. Yes white people as a race have had it easier, arguable every race has had it easier than blacks, who are in my cultures considere thave premortally committed some great sin in order to be so cursed. But that is your work to do it. Its gross. and i’d rather not take part.
This current movement is not the same as the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s.
My grandparents, never asked for free rent, or a lifetime supply of welfare. They asked for doors to be open. They aked for opportunities to prove themselves. There was a time when very smart people of color could not reach their full potential. There was a time when honor and dignity got you nowhere if you were a black person. There was a time when opportunities, even to educate themselves were denied to black people. There was a time when men and women didn’t dare speak their truth in fear of very real repercussions.
I use my voice in honor of those people. Though we are in a time when it is dangerous to go against the current narrative when business and people are threatened for having a different view, at least we are in a country and a time where we are allowed to SPEAK. I can’t help but wonder if current events and even people would be squashed were we not to live here?
For all of the cries in the name of “PROGRESS” I feel like identity politics puts us in reverse. You have your rights to believe whatever you want, but in pushing this division these groups seperated by a myriad of criteia, you are widening a gap that my forefathers worked so hard to bridge. There is no way to argue that we have made massive progress, that many people who were given ridiculous challenges in life have been able to overcome, that there are systems in place that go unused, many of them already meeting the demands we are currently insisting be created.
I think that there is a need and a benefit to returning to a place of gratitude. I doubt many of us could have withstood the trials of our fathers.
That is not to say that we can’t improve. Its not to say that lives can’t be made better or even that racism doesn’t exist. If you want to not be racist, I applaud that whole heartedly! If you feel you have some deepseated mistrust or hatred of a particular people based on….well anything.. and want to improve that, than please do! If you feel in your soul that you have work to do than do it. It’s like what various religious texts teach about prayer say: go into a secret place, don’t be a hypocrite! I know…Harsh! But is it any more harsh than the crazy amount of white people confessing their “privledge” when I just want to watch nextflix?! Yes white people as a race have had it easier, arguable every race has had it easier than blacks, who are in my cultures considered thave premortally committed some great sin in order to be so cursed but that is your work to do it. Its gross. And I’d rather not take part!
I have received many messages from people on my facebook page apologizing for things they have never done. Asking me to explain racism I’m not an expert and only speaking from my own experiencen but from my own laymans perspective, if you question if you worry that you are, you probably aren’t! For those of you i know personally, In my experience you are just lovely genuine people who care about others and are doing the best you can, If You have never treated me poorly for looking different, (and no I don’t believe that thoughts count, because it’s actions that have the effect, and if I’m honest, I believe we all have our “isms”.) If you have trusted me to bring some joy to your children in my very chaotic and creative way, and never thought anything except She’s chaotic and creative, you are probably not racist. If you look at situations even ones that are ugly and unpleasant and complicated And care about the details and truth, instead of dividing it up by COLOR. You are probably not racist.
I’m glad and so very very grateful that there are more of you in the world than not!
I think this time maybe we should all be rooting for eachother!
There are people in this world who don’t have it easy. Who wonder when things will ever get better, why they were born…yes most people have these thoughts sometimes, but for the people I am thinking of these thoughts are a constant companion.
Anger is a birthright for those of us constantly reminded that life isn’t fair. That we may never have the opportunities that others so easily take for granted.
Anger is a birthright for those who were abused in unspeakable ways by people who should have cared for them more than life itself.
Anger is a birthright for those who were torn from their families, brothers, sisters, aunts uncles and grandparents, as well as for those who should have been rescued but weren’t.
It’s a birthright for those who were labeled as “troubled”, and “not worth the time”, who were ignored by teachers who failed to report the signs. Who they made to feel stupid for not turning in homework, when our biggest priority was JUST TO STAY ALIVE.
Anger is a personal birthright for me, as I had to beg the police to put me in foster care and away from my mother, anger is my birthright because I had to at age 11, make a choice to abandon my brother and leave him to a life that would be fraught with crime and separate from me. Anger is my birthright as my mother chose sex over her own daughter’s safety.
Anger is my birthright as after so much hell, I still struggle! That I can barely see the silver lining from the crushing weight of trying to be self – sustaining. That the uphill battle that is life, never seems to have a top. That people perceive me as different than I am, and there is nothing I can ever do to change that. Yes, we, “I” have a right to be angry.
But I choose a different path, I choose to be grateful for the moments of joy that ease my troubled mind. I choose to learn from people’s ignorance, I choose to forgive (for my own sake) the people who hurt me. I choose to be better!
When we look at life from a perspective of a gift, we can benefit from anything. I learned at a very, (too) young age, to stand up for myself in a way that people would listen to, but also respect me. And that true respect the kind out of admiration, not fear, is one of the most valuable gifts a person can ever have. Too many people don’t understand that! They think if people are scared of you..they respect you. To be honest, That’s just not the case they see you as a bully and you are probably friendless…
I want to address how I forgive, but because it’s not just blindly, the first thing I do is try to see the situation from the other persons perspective. Was their intention truly to be hurtful? I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. If they are in any possible way not entirely wrong, I work to forgive them. However, if I do determine a person to just be “mean or dangerous “ no mater who they are, they don’t get a place in my life. That may seem cold, but it is survival. I don’t wish them ill will, and if I run into them, I treat them civilly and with grace. But they are no more a part of my story.
Anger “is a poison”. So many people say, “Oh, I didn’t get this job because of this or that, usually siting race, nationality, or gender; but it has been my experience, that it is usually about attitude. If you bring SUNSHINE into the room, people will be drawn to you. If you have a chip on your shoulder, are constantly negative, or are looking to cause a fight. I sure as hell would avoid you!
I implore you to let your anger work for you. Let it motivate you to excellence! Let anger at being treated poorly drive you to NEVER TREAT ANYONE THAT WAY! Let anger at being made fun of for being poor, motivate you to succeed and to help others do the same! Let anger from bad parenting, strengthen your commitment to being the best parent you can possibly be. Let anger at all the injustices, make you fair and kind and passionate! Do not,do not, do not be a SLAVE TO YOUR ANGER, it can crush you and keep you down, or you can let it work for you and make you GREAT!
It’s scary to write about race. Right now everyone wants to hear the perspective of people of color, but they seem to only want to listen to a particular narrative. I don’t share that view point.
My son and “D” were best baby friends. They were together nearly every day. In the bathtub oneday my son looks at D and says,” D you’re brown” D at just three looks at liam a little cowed and says “I know” my son also three says well I’m pink accept when I’m cold then I’m purple” and they continued to play.
We all “See” color even two little mixed boys who happen to be different shades. The fact is: IT SHOULDN’T MATTER! The people who get this I appreciate so much. The people who go out of their way to apologize to me for having more “privilege”than I do, I don’t. It makes me and a large group of others feel small. It makes us feel like we are defined solely by our skin, and it feels like pity.
Facts are facts we are just as capable, smart and talented as anyone else. We are just as capable of doing well & making smart decisions. There are road blocks that seem insurmountable and we climb over them just like any other capable person would do.
When race is brought into the situation constantly and I see signs that say “white people do something” I honestly cry because it’s yet another way of people saying: “we’ve got to help those incapable of helping themselves”
Cops who overestimate their power should be punished for police brutality not because the person was a minority and the news would better serve black people if they told the whole truth about situations. THATS WHAT BEING EQUAL AND JOURNALISM ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT. When the news constantly focuses on the negative black news it sends a message that: we are inferior that we must be “helped”. But if you really want to “help” here are a few practical ideas to move you in that direction.
1. Be TRUE friends with people of color Withoutalways making it be about race. Imagine if you always hung out with an obese friend and always talked about their weight or a poor friend and always talked about their lack of money?
2 Mentor kids so they can learn skills and see that there are different ways to live! Coders, there are opportunities to teach kids your skills that will change their lives and open up real opportunities. Accountants go teach youth …and Adults how to manage their money. Volunteer! Take your skills into the less “privledged” neighborhoods. Work with kids or teens or anyone. Teach them skills that will help them envision a better future. A vision and hope will open doors!
2: Advocate for more diversity in your schools what happened to bussing kids in to better schools?
4. Expose your kids to different people WITHOUT making a big deal about it. I know of a young lady who plays basketball in the city because the kids are great players. And that’s all. But those great players happen to be a different color then her. If you choose to go to a park visit one in a “different neighborhood” It’s a long drive but worth it for diversity. We learn better by immersing ourselves. Let awareness of differences come natuarally.
5. Don’t pretend color doesn’t exist that’s insulting! Acknowledge color like you would someone with green eyes or glasses. It’s just a small piece of who someone is.
6. Don’t try to “save” me. A lot of people of color resent the white savior complex, that sadly is HUGE right now. Treat us as your equals, because we are. Don’t focus on the history of slavery instead see what our ancestors where before, doctors, lawyers, priests kings and queens. We don’t need your pity.
I really fear that if the pendulem swings too far in the other direction people will habor resentment. We need to learn from the past and move forward. We need to bring SOLUTIONS that benefit all to the table not just RAGE.
It honestly sounds like bragging when I hear the word “privilege” I’m not blind I’m aware of my struggles, I’m also aware the current things I enjoy as a determined and focused woman. If you think you are so “privileged” then go DO something about it.
Let me be direct here, I do not believe you owe me something because of my skin color! I do not hold you responsible for the attrocicities of history, I do not hold you responsible today because someone who happens to be your race does something inexcusable. I believe in the power of individualism. My goal is to help people develop individual responsibility and competence. To accomplish this work it means I have to be real. I call things as I see them which means I sometimes choose to go against the popular narrative, the same narrative that says we are doomed or helpless or broken as former fosters is the same narrative that accompanies race.
Just like everyone else, I see race, of course I do! But that’s not where I place value. I don’t care if I a person is black yellow brown white or polka dot, I don’t care if a person can is religious or not. I believe that BLACK LIVES matter BECAUSE I believe that ALL LIVES MATTER but more specifically than that I believe that You as an INDIVIDUAL matter!
So my general stance on all of this in a nutshell, is just: Let’s be good to each other!
“How lovely it is that no-one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”
As a blogger my goal is to use my voice and thoughts to uplift first my small niche, those who have left foster care, then those who have experienced trauma and maybe some of these thoughts will expand to…well, the world.
The other day I was listening to Darren Rowse of The Pro Blogger podcast, One of the points he made really stuck with me. As he spoke about the state of the world he listed things the internet doesn’t need to have added it to it. He said “The world doesn’t need more fear. We don’t need more opinions. We need more kindness and connection”. Even if that kindness is just smiling with your eyes behind a mask, we need to use the skills we have to benefit others.
I have recently heard about family members falling out with each other over different views. I’ve listened to smug opinions on from all sides, people saying things online that they just wouldn’t say face to face. And I’m not going to discuss my own opinions here. but rather I’d like to draw focus into the simple fact that we all need grace.
When I say Grace I’m not necessarily talking about religion, this is not intended to be a faith blog. I’m talking instead about human decency. About giving others better than they deserve and about hoping even expecting to be treated the same way.
I think as former foster youth, some of us have an advantage here as we have learned that to survive well you have to be diplomatic.
-Having or showing the ability to deal with people in a sensitive and effective way’
A “gift” of living in several different environments is that we tend to know people of all types. As a child my goal of staying out of group homes meant I had to learn to get along, to sometimes keep quiet (extremely difficult for me) and to do what I could to keep the peace. It didn’t always work, and sometimes I screwed up royally. but that leads me to my next point:
Be willing to take responsibility for your own actionsor in the case of online, words: We are none of us perfect, when we can admit that to ourselves and others, what we say is often received than better that if we approach matters with the attitude that “I am right and you are wrong”. It’s pretty much a given that the other person is not going to agree completely with that statement so try to find a middle ground.
Don’t say online what you wouldn’t say to a persons face! Now I recognize some of us are bold. (myself included) but a general rule of thumb is if it would gt you punched in the face at the grocery store, it shouldn’t be said online.
If you feel you must critique someone, use the Sandwich Method: Say something positive about them, then put out the hard stuff with the intent of helping then say another positive thing.
You don’t have to agree to be agreeable! Try to see someones perspective as they do. Even if you know it’s not what you personally believe, people deserve to be heard! Often times I find that just being listened to or just listening helps the conversation have a more compassionate bend.
The other day I attended a training for working with youth. The instructor talked a lot about unconditional acceptance, the idea that people deserve decency just because they ARE. There is nothing they can do to lose that right. I loved this because I have some rather strong opinions that don’t always align with all the young people I know, yet my desire to let them know that they actually have purpose and they matter far outways my need to have my opinion adhered to.
It used to be that we welcomed differing opinions. That diversity, not just of skin tone but of thought lifted our country and set us apart. Try as they might, no one can force another to believe differently than what is inhererently ours.
Some of us will turn to God, some to Others, some to Science, some to Self. but it doesn’t make us wrong. In my opinion, the only thing that does make us wrong, is when our desire to be right is so fierce we cease to tolerate others.
We are 7 weeks into our Quarantine and socially it seems to we are heading into war. Much like my last post I see division everwhere, from politics to priorities, Relatioships are literally splitting up over differing opinions and again we are only 7 weeks in!
I appreciate this gift, of starting life so far down that I’m not too distracted to see or listen. Someone in a former foster group commented that our trauma makes us “silent leaders”, and in the old idea that leaders should ultimately be servants. Perhaps that’s true.
I only know that I know pain, I can sense trouble like the smell of rain before a storm. And I personaly believe that if we can’t stop the division of thinking, believing that we always KNOW our ways are better than others, than this tear that we are experiencing is going to be more trouble can we can possibly mend.
We must practice diplomacy. We must give others the benefit of the doubt. We must be committed to lifting others even if they are so very different than us with our actions but also our and at this moment so very importantly our written words.
Why I chose to do a social detox in the time of Crisis.
As weeks in quarantine take its effect I am finding it hard to stay motivated and proactive. I’m finding it takes a toll on all of my intentions and moving forward is a slow and not always steady process. To prevent myself from drowning in a see of boredom and hopelessness, I’m finding I need to be extremely intentional with my my actions the things I chose to do and not to do.
My first action is social detox. I know I wrote about this in my last post but I want to expand on why. (If for no other reason than to remain consistent with writing). The pull to connect and interact with others when we are in isolation is very strong during its that whole “we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone”. Many people are spending their entire day wrapped up in the void, I was among them and then I started observing a trend that is always in the back of my head but easy to ignore when I don’t feel so desperate. That is the trend of how social media tends to promote the judgement of others. Throughout history every single war is brought down to feeling superior to others. This time is no different. The current trend is to tout kindness and tolerance but to really only show it to those who believe and act as we do. Even as we sit in the relative luxury of our homes saying we are doing this for the “greater good”, I am struck by how much division is on social media. From how to teach our kids, to how to grocery shop we have opinions that seem to be growing harsher and more divisive. Some of the behaviors like reporting people still outside to the police are not a lot different than the Blockleiters of World War II and that to me is much more frightening than the quarantine itself.
In just a few weeks many are forgetting how to be decent to each other, how to give others the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to think how bad it will be should our “shut-ins” be prolonged or our situations become more uncomfortable.
A very popular slogan today is LOVE WINS. But I wonder if it really does?! We either love or we don’t. We accept others where they are, or we stand in judgment.
I saw a post from someone is a domestic violence situation, when this young mans (did you think it was a woman) father is home he drinks. (How much more alcohol is being consumed right now) It is simply dangerous for this boy to be home. I’ve seen many post with people contemplating suicide because the loneliness is really getting to them. Some employers demand that their employees work. Some would rather risk getting sick than being jobless. Some people have NO savings and no benefits program to help them through this time. Some don’t trust the government or don’t see how a temporary stipend will get them through this long term. Some need to see other people to know there is a light at the end of this tunnel. We have no idea how long this will last and the long term effects it will have. We who stand in judgment today might be just as desperate tomorrow.
Last year my son and I read Lord of the Flies. As we were discussing it, we were surprised at how short a time it took for the boys to lose their humanity. Its actually pretty formulaic though, a desperate situation occurs, some people think they know best and should thus be in charge, They tell everybody what to do. People rebel. Hate and havoc ensue.
That in a very large nutshell is why I am stepping away from social media and specifically Facebook.
Now, before anyone thinks that I’m out there breaking or condoning breaking the rules, let me assure you. I’m not I am personally a rule follower. I only do my essential shopping, I like so many others canceled my son’s birthday, I but the correct amount of toiletries. And I stay at least 6 feet away from others even if it means waiting to enter an aisle. I have friends who have caught the virus and one who is at this moment fighting for her life in the ICU. But I get how this can be hard, it is for me REALLY REALLY HARD! I don’t like not knowing what is coming next, probably more than most because of my history of extreme trauma. I don’t like having so little under my control. I’m furious that after 15 years of dedicated work our financial future is in question. THESE ARE HARD TIMES. But for me, for now they are doable, for others they are simply not.
We talk about how when this is all over maybe we will be better for it, better neighbors, better stewards of our earth, more compassionate. But will we be? If we are already sitting in our homes smug that we are more capabable of following the rules than others? Are we doing ANY better. What if our being more capable is just having more privilege? We don’t know the trials others are going through, especially right now. We shouldn’t even try to guess. We should do what we can to try and help and if we are going to speak and say that we are doing this “all out of love” then let’s try to give ALL people the benefit of the doubt and love them. ALL. Where they are at.
I feel like one of the best gifts we, as former foster youth we’ve been given is our resilience. The ability to rise to the occasion and if we fail trying we get back up and try again. We know things can and do get bad, but it’s “What’s the worst case scenario? We survive or we don’t” We’ve been through worse, we come from nothing and so we do what we can we ride the wave.
Are you ready to ride?
This is not the next blog post I intended to write next. I have sitting next to me, a list of topics for the next 6 months. I had hoped to expand on my last post and write about mindset. But in a crisis it’s really hard to find the space and work on yourself and today that’s exactly where we find ourselves self quarantined in our homes trying desperately to flatten the curve of the Corona Virus.
The facts are that it is strange to go to a grocery store and for them not to have in stock what I need. It’s weird that 24 hour stores don’t open until 9:00am. It’s an inconvenience. I don’t like it. But I’m not scared either I’m not freaking out or raiding grocery stores or developing conspiracies. I’m actually pretty relaxed. And I think that comes from trauma.
What I want to do today is make sure YOU are in the best position mentally for what is coming. I want to talk about self care.
Selfcare is a pretty popular buzzword, but I’m not talking about day spas. massages, and shopping trips. (they’re all closed now anyway). I’m talking about how to best take care of YOU so you can be in a position to take care of others.
Check Out for a while-
It is more than ok, it is vital. Power naps have been proven to rejuvenate energy __________. But allowing yourself to veg-out and binge watch something can also be a great escape. I recommend setting a time limit. a few hours or a day. (Friday is our lazy day)
Another way of checking out is doing a social media detox- That’s hard right now as we want to get up to the moment information- but trust me its a lot of the same stuff over and over again. If you need the info, follow a trusted web or news site. If you need to stay in touch with certain people, set up a group page or try Marco Polo. Then you are only getting what you need and want, not seeing posts that will anger, annoy or just waste your time.
Take A Shower.
Something as basic as starting your day off with a shower can do wonders for you mentally. The rush of water 1st thing in the morning can set you up to be productive. If you have any additional pampering products use them. especially if they have a citrus scent as that lifts the mood.
Get dressed- Even if it’s just in sweats, make sure you have clean clothes on. You deserve to smell and feel good.
Exercise- As long as we still can get out and get some fresh air. The kid and I went roller skating monday. and we still walk our dog. If you are able, get out and go for a hike. Gyms are closed but that doesn’t mean you can’t be active. I’m going to start doing Yoga at home via youtube.
This one is almost being done for you because a lot of quick foods are wiped out as soon as the stores open. I’m no nutritionist but I know that when we eat nutritious food we have more energy and it can fight depression. (Something I predict there will be a rise of with all of this social distancing) If like me, you really hate to cook here are a few suggestions to make it tolerable.
Cook once for the day- My kitchen is tiny and dated and I already find cooking really boring. So I try to go in once a day and make all my meals at that time.
Cook once a week___________________I do this with breakfast sandwiches, and grains, then I can easily have a Buddha Bowl and call it good.
Make extra- there might be a time when you really just don’t feel motivated at all. so try to stock up on something you love so you can just reheat it and be done.
Treat yourself- If it’s in your budget, then learn to cook something you love at home. Or stock up on your favorite grocery store candy. A little indulgence can help us feel grateful.
Plan out your day! Keeping busy make the time go faster and I love the theory: “Slay your dragons!. That means do the tasks you most hate first.
I do this every night and think of what I want to accomplish for both myself and my family. and make a list on my phone. Then when I wake up in the morning and am tempted to just stay in bed, i’m reminded that not 12 hours ago I was inspired to slay today. I also like to write the list out in the morning, because I love being able to cross tasks off. HOWEVER it’s important to remember that some days just don’t go as planned. Especially now in the thick of it, I can attest that depression can hit quickly. (Even for those of us genuinely well adjusted) We are a social people and we need connection. So be prepared to just take it day by day and give yourself grace.
5.Call your friends-
Don’t spend hours worrying about whether or not family is ok pick up the phone and call them! I’ve found that the one thing many of struggle with is not knowing what is next, Personally, hearing “No” was always better for me than waiting for the answer. We can easily let our minds go to “worse case scenarios” so I encourage you to just pick up the phone and get the answer you need. Then it’s one less thing to worry about.
6. Read or listen to something uplifting or even funny!
I don’t recommend WORLD WAR Z or the like but that’s up to you! My preference right now is books about harder times or books about business. the former reminds me to be grateful that what we are in now could be worse. The latter reminds me to still focus on the future. (Because chances are we still have one). I LOVE podcasts, I love them so much I have one (
Go to iTunes or Anchor or Spotify and look up something you are interested in and binge! Bonus if you do a chore or project while listening.
Face your fears!!!
As survivors of trauma we have been through hard seemingly insurmountable things. The Virus is real and life threatening for some but most of us will be ok. I think the most frightening part is to not have answers. The way I look at it is this. I can survive almost anything if I know what’s coming next. We can’t do that with Corona because we’ve never seen it before, there is no vaccine currently and testing is not readily available. So what can we do? We face it, we gather what knowledge we can and then we take precautions. We need to ignore the irrational clutter that is out there and gather the truth.
For most people this will present as the flu.
Children are carriers but it hasn’t in most cases affected them badly.
The elderly and those with compromised health are most at risk.
Once we have the truth we can start to prepare…. wisely. If you suffer anxiety write down your biggest fears and figure out how you would deal with them. Basically mine is, We either survive or we don’t! Odds are we will, but just in case we don’t I’m not going to stop living now. I’m going to take those people that are most important to me and hold them close. I’m going to for as long as I can keep learning and pursuing my dreams of making a difference in the Aged Out Community. I’m going to celebrate my son’s birthday with Cake and presents and video games. Living in fear is not living so I urge you to make the most out of your day! and if that’s binge watching ghost hunters then live it up! Focus on the best things. and be well!
I realize that these ideas can seem basic to many but from what I’ve seen those of us who have been neglected are the very best at neglecting ourselves.
If you are feeling down please feel free to message me directly at Carob Mars on face book. Or Join our group Age Out Rise Up Community at Facebook.com.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”.-Maya Angelou
I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t love to read, in kindergarten I read and adored Luisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” I clung the story of a devoted resourceful family who made the most out of their circumstances. Perhaps it was that early that I learned books can teach us to hope. Unlike the March family I did not start out life in a loving and devoted my home,
My early existence was wrought with abuse and neglect enough so that it would have been easy to feel hopeless, but that is not my story…
In all great books we find “Overcomers.” Great writers write what they know. They write of pain, of hardship and of joy and laughter, they write of kindness and mistakes, and hatred and forgiveness. They write of life, truth and what they wish were the truth. In books the hero’s don’t have it easy, there is always a conflict sometimes seemingly insurmountable, and they use their wit and often sheer grit, To EARN their happy endings!
That’s probably the most important overall incite I’ve gotten from books: Victims Cant Be HERO’s. by victim I’m referring to those who have a victim mindset, This differs dramatically from the person who has had terrible things happen to them often through no fault of their own. To me the latter are “survivors“, and if they want it badly enoughThrivers! Victims have a need to be saved because they believe they are incapable of saving themselves.They need someone to tell them how to live and what they can or can’t become. To be a victim, is to give up your power!
Our history does not determine our destination! Through my love of reading (and listening) to great books I have found inspiration and tools, to help me create the life I want to live. Through scouring fairy-tales I developed a belief, that we can all have happy endings. Through reading tragic biographies, I learned to vicariously apply resilience and to find hope in some of the darkest places. Books have taught me about redemption. In their pages I’ve condemned and grieved and felt such extreme comfort, I have hated and loved and found pieces of myself.
Through the wisdom of writers, I have cultivated a better life for myself. Not one filled with luxuries, and fame. Not one void of struggle or heartache but one in which I wake up every day with the knowledge that I define me. That my values and passions are my own. That if something doesn’t work, I can find a way to fix it. That its never to late to create something wonderful!
My hope is that in this blog, you will find hope and encouragement, that you will find solace in knowing that others have been where you are. That you will never ever give up on yourself. That you will as I have done, be inspired my those who went before us, and then go inspire those who come next!
Taking steps to improve your life can be difficult even during good times.
We as humans are prone to being complacent. We are often not really ok with where we are at but lack motivation to achieve more.When you are starting at rock bottom moving forward (and upwards) can seem insurmountable!
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to live life better. It’s not that I’m some sort of social climber! I never wanted to be rich or famous. What I wanted was to leave the labels and stereotypes of being a foster kid behind. I was going to live my adult life on my own terms. However, as soon as I Aged Out of foster care, I realized I was alone. I was scared, but thankfully not homeless because my college financial aid package. Despite my anxiety I was also excited. Having moved to a new town to start college,no one knew me. It was a FRESH START and an opportunity to create the life I wanted. Here’s a list of the actions I took. All of these actions are still viable and effective for anyone wanting a fresh start today:
1. Create a vision
As a 19 year old college freshman I saw the world of opportunities and out of all of my options I knew I knew I wanted to be both an actress, and a wife and mother. I knew loved theater down to my bones and through theatre I would live passionately. I also wanted a family that included a good marriage to a man who would love me as I never had never been loved before.
When you create a vision you have to think about everything you want in life. Your Endgame has to be always in sight. I do this literally with a vision board. But list journals and digital options can also be useful.
2. You need a plan
“If you fail to plan, You are planning to fail”
Think of your plan as GOOGLE MAPS. It’s a straight forward (mostly) accurate step by step guide to getting you where you need to be. But sometimes google isn’t up to date and misses things like detours or recently construction and you find yourself needing to take a detour — which may take you longer, or cause you to change plans.
You MUST Develop Grit:
Here is where you need resilience. In her book, Grit, Dr Angela Lee Duckwork talks about how “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” In our journey grit is the ability to keep moving forward no matter what obstacles are placed in your way. Not an easy task but made doable by ….
Developing a Growth Mindset:
That in its most simple terms, is not letting things getting you down. Its adding “yet” to the negative things we tell ourselves. Example “I’m not good at math” becomes “I’m not as good at math as I’d like to be, yet” In Carol Dweck’s book XX, and her subsequence Ted Talk (give date). She explains that the brain is a muscle and that it can grow and expand to increase intelligence. Dweck challenges the stereotype that “some people are smart and some are not.” We can expand our cognitive abilities! It’s kind of surprising to me that we didn’t figure this out sooner, considering some great minds like Albert Einstein and Mozart were once thought to be developmentally delayed.
There are many ways to be educated that don’t include a formal degree. And if you were a foster child after the age of 13 there may even be options for university degrees. I am an “Autodidact ”. That’s a big word to say that I am self- taught. I continually homeschool myself in whatever I want or need to learn. There is a plethora FREE educational resources online (some even offer degrees). Even YouTube (when you can trust the speaker) can be extremely useful. If you do better in a class setting, many charities offer free classes. I’ve taken some computer classes at my local Goodwill.
Possibly the most important trait you must develop is character.
Now it goes without saying that many Important people are lacking this. But as a person RISING, You must develop DIGNITY. And that comes through having strong personal character. We have no parents or family name to vouch for us. When people give us a chance they often see it as taking a RISK, We must turn that risk into a reward. That means we must be honest in our dealings, whether that is with money or HOW we work. But beyond just honesty, we must be gracious, we must be pleasant, and we must be likable. We must take the brick of anger that often often rides on our shoulders, that sense of unfairness–whether perceived or true– and turn that brick into a stepping stone. Use that stepping stone to lift you to where you want to be.
This is a brief overview of the essential skills you NEED to have to start to improve your life today.
Over the next few months we’ll dig deeper into each of these topics in my blogs, podcasts, youtube channel. Subscribe so you won’t miss a thing!
I once attended a class where the speaker was someone in recovery, someone who had a hard life, and as a result treated her children harshly. Perhaps if she had started out with a better statement I would have had more empathy. Her opening words were. “My mother was an alcoholic, so of course I abused my kids, I NEVER HAD A CHANCE!”
Those few words have prompted me to start writing. I don’t believe that children of abuse and neglect “never have a chance”. I don’t believe in using ones upbringing as an excuse for failure. I believe every single person has a chance to have a beautiful life, healthy relationships, success at work and at home. It takes work, in fact, much more work than it does for others but it can be done.
You make think I’m naive, that I “don’t know what people go through” or that I have no compassion. If that’s the case, let me assure you, You are wrong!
I am an adult survivor of the foster system, I experienced unspeakable abuse and neglect at the hands of my mother, and worse at her boyfriends, when I was 8 years old I ran away to the police station and begged them to put me in foster care, They didn’t at first, instead they took me home where my mother put on a show for the caseworker and as soon as she left, pulled out pliers and threatened to pull my tongue out with them if I ever brought “pigs” to her house again. My mother was well versed in the art of cruelty, making me address her as”Your majesty, and she called me “slave-girl”. She pinned dirty underwear to my clothes and made me wear them to school. The best I could hope for in my house was to be forgotten, and I hid under piles of laundry so she couldn’t find me and beat me. So at 8 I ran away and the second time, after the police took an inventory of my welts and bruises, I went to a foster-home. It was the 80’s a time when they didn’t want families to get attached so I moved 18 times in 9 years. I did not have a family. I did not have a lasting role model, some homes were not bad, others…..
In some homes people called me, the “N” word- Their own adult children were like the evil step-sisters, and I lived there to be unpaid help, In others I opened my package of socks, while the bio children opened rooms full of presents on Christmas day. Still in others, they made prophecies about how by the age of 15 I’d have three kid’s and be on welfare. (Even though there was NO basis for the comment) My mother mercifully went to prison for selling drugs and then my brother who was a toddler, joined me for a few years on my journey.
I was never adopted, at age 18 I aged out I was able to finish school, and then I was quite literally on my own. My social worker enrolled me on food stamps, and my friend’s mother paid for my first months share of an apartment. And that was that.
20 years later I just celebrated being married to the best (normal) guy ever for 15 years. We have a lovely life with a charming and brilliant son, a comfortable home and very little evidence of the past I left behind.
Some of us have a long road to travel one so rough and ragged that thankfully others will never experience. This blog keeps in mind those who dare to hope that life can get better, it’s for those who crave a “normal” life. It’s for those who want success at home, and in the wide wide world. My personal belief is that our lives have PURPOSE. I think the reason I experienced the things I did in my childhood, is so that I can really help others. This blog will, I hope, be a little bit of the “mother” you maybe didn’t have. I’ll share with you everything I know about how to succeed at life, I promise to be open, and speak with compassion, I promise to be honest with you even if it hurt’s. You will find on this blog, how to keep a house, how to dress in a way to command respect, land a job, attract the right kind of mate, I’ll share with you (though I’m still learning) how to budget, and the importance of setting goals. I want you to know, you don’t have to be a statistic, you can be happy, and have a great life! Whether you are 80 or 18, I want you to know, YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!