I Smell you Loud and Clear!!

When my kid was 10 months old, her father got diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and they told him he had 6 months to live. When suddenly faced with your own mortality while you stare at the future in the eyes of your infant child, it does funny things to your mind. Those six months were chaotic, lived in anger, in pity, in fear, in sorrow, in resignation…and then indignation sets in at the sound of the infantile giggle of a delighted child that has no idea that your doting gaze at her was literally in synch with your counting every minute, till you are no longer there.

I was a full time housewife and suddenly I was going to be a single mother with no job. Those six months were lived in the sort of electric fear that sets your heart racing non-stop. I started job hunting immediately, but it turned out to be harder than I had expected because suddenly fitting back into the job market after a 5 years’ hiatus meant I was not as relevant as a fresh college graduate was. I was desperate and ready to take any job at all, even manual jobs, but nothing was forth coming!

I had a young child to take care of and a husband in a terribly foul mood, battling aggressive chemotherapy and radioactive treatments. Attending interviews proved to be a challenge…but those 6 months came and went and I still was unable to find suitable employment…and he was still alive.

Phew!!

The cancer wasn’t spreading, but it wasn’t shrinking either and it was lodged somewhere that would have paralyzed him if they had operated to take it out, so the prayer was that it would shrink, or at least remain dormant, long enough until he put his affairs in order…

We lived in the west coast of Italy at the time, in the Genovese town of Rapallo. Fast forward to the week before he died, I had by then found employment in Tuscany and had moved with the kid while he remained home to continue with the treatments that by then had ravished every ounce of what he used to be. She was now in 1st grade. He had just received the results of the latest tests and called to let me know the cancer was spreading very rapidly and it was by then in his bones, his brain and most of his vital organs. I think he knew it was time. He wanted me to come that weekend. It was a Tuesday. He has asked me to bring her along this time.

He hadn’t seen her in almost two months by then (his request), even though he called several times a day to talk on the phone with her. He was so physically spent he didn’t want her to see him that way because he wanted what memory she had left of his image to be the healthier version she was used to. She was too young to understand the gravity of the situation, although she had always known he was unwell and knew that she no longer visited with him because he was not well enough to have visitors, which wasn’t a lie, they won’t let children a certain age in the ward.

Thursday evening he called and said “Come now.” I picked the kid who was supposed to be at a sleep over and we hit the road. The Drive from Tuscany to Genoa normally took about 3 hours. He’d call every 30 minutes to find out if we were any closer and I’ll tell him where we were. Roads repairs along the way delayed our trip immensely. On a normal journey we should have arrived sometime around 9 pm but we didn’t get to Genoa till a little past midnight. He called just when we had made the turn off the highway into the city, and when he found out she was sleeping, he said to put her to bed first but I had to come tonight because there was something important he needed to tell me face to face, and also because he needed me to look him in the eyes and promise him I will keep her safe.

I dropped her off at a friend’s house and couldn’t make it to where he was, roads were blocked due to repairs, entries and exists into the street where he was were denied, no exceptions. So we agreed that I would come by, first thing in the morning. I went back to my friend’s house; it was by then, 2am. At about 5am I was awoken by the smell of the perfume he wore which I thought was odd, there was no one in the room besides me and the kid. I looked at the clock and decided that it was a decent hour to wake up and head out, with the hope that I would find a way to get through the road blocks. I left her still sleeping.

I had to park about a mile and half away and walked the rest of the way because vehicles were still denied entry and exit. The smell of that perfume remained with me till I walked into the building at 7:55 am. They told me he had died just 10 minutes ago but had been up since 5am asking if I was there yet. I never found out what important thing it was he wanted to tell me face to face, and I never got the chance to reassure him that I will keep her safe.

Like clockwork for the next two months at a certain hour of the day, the smell of that perfume will come and linger for about 30 minutes and I’ll be covered in goose bumps. I didn’t know what to make of it. One day, as soon as the smell manifested, I simply said out loud to no one in particular. “She will be safe for as long as I live.” The smell ebbed away and didn’t come back for the longest time.

Over the years, every once in a while I get a whiff of it, but never for long and no goose bumps.

Last week, the kid asked me if her father wore a particular perfume, she asked to know the name and I told her. Then I asked her why she was asking. She then told me that she thought she might have had smelled it earlier.
“You were barely in 1st grade when he died, you certainly can’t remember what he smelled like?”
“I can’t explain it, but I know it was how he smelled, I do recall that smell.” She insisted. And over the course of the week she would stop mid motion and ask if I could smell it too, then when I sniff, she’d say it’s gone. Yesterday, we went to River Road and just on our way out on the stairs in front of the office, we smelled it, turned and made eye contact. I was immediately covered in goose bumps
“It’s him, isn’t it?” she asked. I shrugged.
“Anything is possible,” I responded. We drove in silence. After a while, she said
“I think we’ll be OK, I think he is watching over us and this is his way of letting us know we’ll be OK. It’s like your Dad and the Cardinal bird.” She said it with a conviction and she seemed calm and quite accepting of the notion. All I could think of was ‘he wants me to remember I promised to keep her safe’. So under my breath I muttered
‘I smell you loud and clear, she will be safe, and that’s still a promise.’ I have not smelled him since. I don’t make promises easily but I don’t break them once I make them and I am not about to start now.

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

That Familiar Thing

I have pondered a lot lately about domestic abuse. The complexity of it is that it has many faces and sometimes it is hard to see beneath the surface to recognize it for what it is, both to the abuser and the victim. I have had a personal experience of it but I cannot tell you that I know how to recognize it right away.

There is a familiar pain that follows it though, and if one is sensitive enough that familiar pain is the only trigger you need to know that something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately not everyone has had the ‘good fortune’ of the experience to know that feeling I am talking about. Some people don’t even make it past that first abuse. Others simply chose selective amnesia and therefore go through the cycle several times because they have forgotten the feel of that warning sign. A few selected lucky others are able to feel the trigger and get themselves to safety…..or not.

One thing I can assure you is that I have never known any abuser that think they are being abusive or even vaguely consider that they might have the tendencies to be so. As a matter of fact, abusive people are quick to point out abuse in others and they pride themselves in NOT being abusive. There is always a logical explanation to bad behaviour and sometimes it is really hard to see the dividing line, not only to the abuser but also to the victim.

The slowest lot, to see, or recognize abuse aimed at them, are strong people. They are aware of their strength and simply assume they will spot a bully right away and certainly will not put up with it, so when they fall into the company of an abuser, they simply dismiss it as dealing with a difficult person and they handle each blow as it come. It is worse if this ‘strong’ person is a woman or a marginalized person, and this is because society makes it almost acceptable for them to be dominated.  

You see, the woman (or the marginalized) handles adversity better than the man. Life throws its blows – hard. The woman bends under the impact, absorbing and thus mitigating it, and then straightens up and carries on. ‘That’s life’, she tells herself and accepts it.  What this does is, it prolongs her period of being in denial. The blows will gradually wear her out till at last she breaks and crumbles, that is when the light bulb will come on and she’d recognize the abuse for what it has always been.

From the outside, we see a situation, or hear a story of abuse and see clearly that something is wrong and therefore it becomes VERY EASY to say we won’t put up with certain behaviours from anyone. The problem with that line of reasoning is the assumption that the bad behaviour is a daily occurrence. You see, the truth about abusers is that they are NOT mean people in their daily life. They go about their lives trying to be as decent as the next person, but there is something deep in there eating at their core that they have carried about with them. It’s been there for so long that it feels like an acceptable part of them, of life. It feels normal, like the nose on every face. They actually do think everyone of us has it deep in them to feel or react in like manner given the ‘right’ triggers. And there are triggers, which means there are periods of good behaviour as well.

Most abusers have an acceptable name for their behaviour and a logical legit explanation why the name of their action fits it. They are model citizens, if anything they have some really good qualities that put them above the average person in terms of generosity in sensitivity and kindness in areas where the majority take for granted. And they probably don’t set out deciding to be abusers and are therefore most likely unaware that they are.

Now, saying this doesn’t mean that anyone should remain in the presence of abuse simply because chances are you are dealing with someone that is unaware of the extent of their actions or the harm it does to those around them. We owe ourselves the self-love to want to be in healthy relationships, what this simply means is that we owe it to ourselves to be open to finding ways to be and remain agreeable with those around us. Change is hard but change is part of life and part of growth and sometimes that change means breaking away even when it seems like the easier option is to remain.

Handling adversities in live is really a personal journey. There is a saying that a fool never learns, a smart one learns from one’s mistakes and the wise one learns from the mistakes of others. The pattern in one’s path to growth can be an indicator of where one stands; if one is still foolish, smart, or has wised up. I am learning by the day, how to navigate what challenges I uncover with people, with relationships, and with myself or how I am perceived. The one thing I have learned, the hard way, is that people will treat you the way you teach them to, by what you allow then to get away with. A proposal was presented to me this week that requires making an important decision regarding detachment and psychological healing, and I am struggling to decide on what the right next step should be.

This is not a novel situation, it just happens to require a redirection and procession that I have delayed but I realize that my reluctance has been my way of choosing the path of least resistance which, as noble as it may sound, was really a reprobate method of covering a gun wound with band aid. But growth is not always smooth, growth sometimes is painful but inevitable and I need to let growth happen.

Grief has turned out to be a wave that has no definite patterns; there is no telling what day will bring sadness with it, or when the anger will resurface. What day will be assigned for disappointment and when resignation and acceptance will follow. If there is anything I have learned in therapy thus far, it is that I need to find a healthy balance and a clear dividing line between my emotions and logic. The crazy thing is you’d come to resignation and acceptance and the very next day find yourself right back at anger and indignation, thus the need for the dividing line.

There is so much I am learning, and what is fresh for me is coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer a reprobate. I am no longer anathematised. I forgive myself generously, and I need to because the path going forward leaves no room for taking the path of least resistance and pain will be before healing happens.

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

Se agapo!

You know how when you go to a foreign country and you try to learn a word or two of the local language, there is always a dim wit that wants to teach you the curse words and sleazy phrases? Yes, I found a few of those over the years, some milder than others. In France, I learned ‘merde’. In Seville, I was taught coña, Barcelona gave me fill de puta. Lisbon generously gave me Vai tomar no cu!

By now, I was certain that when I ask for a new word or phrase it would be something colourful and I kind of braced myself. Then Doha (Qatar), gave me ‘shukraan’. There is hope…Gutenberg gave me jag älskar dig, which was lovely, but a mouthful for me.

Thessaloniki made up for it all. Thessaloniki gave me S’agapo… or Se agapo.

Something about the way it flowed gave me goose bumps when I heard it the first time, and when it was translated, I found it even more beautiful (it means I love you). What took it a notch higher though was when my teacher went on to explain the many different words the Greeks have for love and how each word means a different kind of love.

I remember thinking to myself how wonderful it would be to be loved by a Greek if only to hear ‘I love you’ in all the colorful ways they say it. knowing it’s one of the many different ways one can be loved.

Yes, I am that girl that loves to love. And for me, love is not skimmed, and measured, not if you feel it in another language like I felt it in Greek, or even in my native Hausa. In fact I was able to relate because in Hausa, ‘Ina son ki’, which means I love you, has an erotic connotation to it whereas ‘Ina kaunan ki’ (also means I love you) has an agape kind of meaning to it. When you grow up in, or experience deeply, a culture and a language that has a Rubik’s cube kind of facade to certain emotions, you tend to feel fully, deeply and often times painfully.

The English language having just the one word (love) to describe the many faces of this complex feeling does it very little justice. That is not to say there is a shallowness to your emotions if you love in English. Not at all. However, there is an element of intensity, or a ‘madness’ to ethnic love (or a love with many names) that only another mad person understands. When you talk about amor caliente, to describe a Latin love for instance, it conjures an image of exaggerated passion, a certain level of irrationality and possessiveness and even a dash of danger. which in a sense I guess can come across as scary and unnecessary. But it doesn’t have to be scary.

Anyway, lately, I have had to come to terms with the fact that ‘I love you’ (the way it is portrayed in English) doesn’t necessarily translate the way you feel it in a dialect or another language. The depth of an emotion felt, dictates the intensity of surrender, which in turn opens one up to vulnerability. Love can be intense, and demanding and needy, and gentle, and wholesome and kind…and painful, and frightening ….many faceted and utterly BEAUTIFUL.

I was in a conversation lately with someone about my plans for the future. I’ve talked about things I’d like to do and places I’d like to visit… And how at the end of it I’ll find a nice commune somewhere to settle down and grow old until I croak. She then asked, “You mean you want to settled down to a poly amorous life style?” It took me a slow minute to realize she though my settling down in a commune meant loving many people.

“No, that train has left the station”, I responded. She thought it was sad, because what she thought she heard me say was that I was done with being loved or with loving. I tried to explain it to her and the best I could come with is “I am just in another void right now”, and we left it at that. Yes, the thought of love had become burdensome that it felt safer to simply want to close that chapter of my life,

What I mean in essence is, in my void — in my alone-ness — I had reached out for another soul and failed to make contact, and so I began to diminish and to turn inwards. And subsequent reaches became shorter and shorter, and less frequent, as I got starved of communion. I have rationalized each subsequent disappointment and learned to accept it. My gaze steadily turned upon me as I gradually suck myself inwards, until I no longer reach out for connection. I have been contained within myself, and have weirdly found contentment of sorts within. It feels like I am feeding upon my own spirit, cannibalizing my very essential self. This was why I talked of settling down in a commune; something about that felt like it may be the one place I’d find kindred cannibals, each in their little void pods and maybe, an understanding or hopefully some sort of connection.

Then I stumbled on Jason Silva’s video about Romantic love and the very first line “A reflection about romantic love and its role in colonizing the wallpaper of our minds….” that one sentence unraveled my well rehearsed explanation to where I am today or how I have loved and allowed love in my life. Listening to his monologue gave me goose bumps, the way Se agapo did when I heard it the first time in Greece. What he shared in essence is that when we fall in love we impose an impossible expectation of how that love will play out…but at the same time, we also should be mindful of running the risk of having an equal amount of expectations placed on our performance too.

The way I see it, if you are dancing to the same music, you both will be guided by the beat and soon enough, you’ll find each other’s rhythm and thus the dance becomes effortless. If there is struggle then you’re either dancing with the wrong partner, or not dancing to the same tune, in which case you need to step away.

It then hit me for the first time, that I have played in the wrong sandbox all along, wrong dance, wrong music…obviously wrong dance partner, and what that did was challenge the smooth flow of energy in motion (e-motion). There was desperation to connect and to be desperate in love is to stumble about in search of a crutch. There should be no desperation in love. I am intoxicated right now by the revelation of this truth and I need to find a way to apply it to my plans going forward. Obviously Truth in application is relative, but truth in essence is absolute. And Ultimate Truth is Absolute

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020.

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There is no dignity in fighting

When I was growing up, the one thing I recall hearing from my father very often is “There is no dignity in fighting”. As far as he was concerned, every conflict can be resolved with dialogue. Some dialogues can be handled between the conflicting parties and others will require a mediator, but no matter how toxic the conflict was, neither side remains dignified when they attempt solving it with fighting.

And so I have gone through life having that philosophy as a guide to my relationships. I treasure communication above all else, but I walk away even from that, if there is no listening applied, but witty responses that lead to no resolve and more conflict.

The past 8 months have been one of the most trying periods of my life for a variety of reasons. I have been fortunate enough that the timing of it all corresponded with when I started attending therapy. There was an underlying situation in my life that had been brewing for years and I watched, almost detached, as things spiraled out of control and my every attempt to resolve it only worsened it, and I was slowly turning into the sort of person I didn’t care to become; a deeply wounded person that was perpetually angry and permitting room for grudges and unforgiveness.

It became apparent at some point that I was poisoning myself, more than I was the person I felt was causing this, so in my attempt to fix it, I started therapy alone, after inviting all involved, to no avail. I figured if I fix what I have become, it would be easier from a healed space to try a different approach to this brewing situation, but as luck would have it, a rug was pulled from underneath me when I least expected it.

What that did briefly, was give me more reason to validate why I felt what I have been feeling for the past few years; that my voice and concerns never counted or mattered. However, because I was also on the path to mending, I had to discard that thought immediately and focus on healing. See, the new plan that was presented to me was to throw the brew away altogether; no interest at all in remedy. That was totally unexpected, but I came to terms with it; that regardless of the fact that I may not need to address the brewing pot after all, I still needed to heal me, so that I will be in a positive place to carry on.

What I learned through all of this is that ego was at the base of it all. And in order to speed up healing, I will have to let go of ego. Now THAT is very tricky because ego is that part of us that defines our dignity for us, and reminds us to defend it when it is being threatened. However, ego is also that part of us that can become so very quickly and easily infected, until it morphes into something ugly and unrecognizable and utterly useless for what we might find it useful for.

So the tricky part of it all for me has been to let go of ego altogether and focus on mending. Every now and then though, a facade of this path reveals to me what comes across as a wounding of my dignity, what that does is make me want to lash out and claim back my dignity, but then I’d remember what my father would say and I’d retreat. It’s exhausting when the mind and the heart don’t see eye to eye on the same matter. Still I forged ahead and focused on healing and mending me and learning to daily let go of the ego.

The past 8 months have been the longest and hardest period of my life thus far. Life has been a daily decision to stay on top of the feeling, to make logic of it in order not to be overcome by pain and sadness, and thus not revert to fighting. For the longest time, the daily mantra has been “Be with someone that makes you happy”. It was my way of talking myself into accepting that this is not the place for me so there is nothing to fight for. Logic agrees with me here, but investing close to a decade to something and have it all pulled from underneath me when I didn’t see it coming makes it hard to understand how I could have been hoodwinked, and that puts me back in a fight mode.

“Surely, you must have suspected something?” someone asked me. Questions flood me constantly, explanations pop up, reasoning and logic try to find shelves for it all and I kept reverting to the mantra “Be with someone that makes you happy” (as my reminder to let go, because I was not happy here). The other morning, I woke up and there was a slight change in that mantra that created a major shift.

BE SOMEONE THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

Heck! That freaking rug was MEANT to be pulled from underneath me in order for me to tap unto my essence. The light at the end of this tunnel is blinding and I am right in the midst of it all

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020.

P.S. Jay Shetty shared a quote that captures it all so well.

From Abstract to Reality

The thing about humans is we have an innate ability to cry one minute, wipe away the tears the next minute, stand up straight and step out into the sunshine and carry on, with the rest of the world. We all do that. So it is not absolutely surprising to find yourself in the constant company of someone struggling and be totally clueless to what they are dealing with.

Sometimes a word here and there will slip through and you may have an inkling of what may be going on, but as long as you keep ‘minding your business’ and not asking if you are not told, chances are, you won’t be told. Society has taught us that toughing it up and carrying on is a show of dignity, and showing any sign of wear and tear is weakness.

Then there is that added expectation to not air your dirty laundry; to keep up appearances, or to not bother others with your woes because everyone has their own worries. I think this has been one of the harder things for me. I was brought up to be and appreciate the value of relationships and to put in my best in nurturing the ones I have, and that entails openness and honesty on my part as well, with people I call family or friends. And by honesty, I don’t mean rudeness or insensitivity. I mean being open and honest and forthcoming about feelings (mine and theirs) ALL THE TIME.

Anyone that knows me knows how terrible I am at pretending things are honky dory when they are not. I can’t abide people that keep the upper stiff lip with me if they consider me a friend or family. It creates for mistrust, because honestly, if you can’t trust me to be vulnerable with me, why should I feel safe to be so with you?

And then there is that added need to bury one’s head in the sand, rather than confront difficult situations. But isn’t it the truth though the relationships are built through the difficult and uncomfortable conversations? Great relationships don’t just fall into our laps; they require us to forge through our fears insecurities and vulnerabilities and do the hard work to move pain and heal wounds.

The truth is, I strongly believe that any hurdle in a relationship can be fixed as soon as it appears, and everyone involved has the mindfulness to let go of ego and face it. The trick though is that when you approach a slight with ego, you invite the ego of the other person, and thus ensure a battle of egos, and the primary cause of the conflict then gets relegated to the sidelines, until it becomes unrecognizable and you find yourself at a point wondering what the hell you are doing and how you got to that place of strife and alienation, while the original reason for the strife is shelved and still raw and brewing, waiting to be visited.

Heck! even the shelved and brewing strife can be revisited, albeit more painfully and harder, and worked through until you come to a place where healing begins. The process, however, is communal; all parties have to participate otherwise, we’ll only be putting band aid on a bullet wound. The question here is, how often (or ever) are we reaching out to find out about each other’s pains and struggles? How are we being accountable of our part in it? How are we availing ourselves to be part of the healing?

There is so much pain, hatred, bitterness, judgement and a need for vindication and reparation going about lately, on our streets and in our homes. It is exhausting. Everyone seems to feel a right to their pain, to justifying the need to let feelings flow freely. Yes, feelings should be felt, but we also get to chose which feeling are worth our energy.

I for one have had to make a daily conscious effort to chose what feelings I allow to surface. I have as much reason as the lot of us to be angry, and bitter, and hateful, and wanting retribution and vindication and all it takes is my eyes to open each morning for the floods of reasons overtake me.

Funny that my therapist called me zen the other day. Our conversation went something like this:

Therapist: When was the last time —— checked on you and the kid since all this happened?

Me: Never

Therapist: NEVER??

Me: Never (wondering why ‘never’ seemed surprising…)

Therapist: (Deep breath, sigh) Wow! You must be pretty upset, no wonder you feel alone.

Me: I’ve always felt alone, but I am not upset, not really.

Therapist: It is upsetting, and you mustn’t hold it all in, let yourself feel.

Me: I am sad about it, that is a feeling, right? I am just not upset. I guess I have learned that some relationships happen when you get brought into people’s lives by association with someone else. Sometimes, you find out right away that there is no room for you. Other times, it’ll take the ‘introducer’ to be out of the equation for you to know the quality of the relationship that was had, because suddenly you’ll become that familiar stranger they don’t know how to relate to you, because they have never allowed themselves to know you on your own merit and you have to be OK with that…I guess I am OK with that…

Therapist: That is so zen of you.

And yes, I spent the last few days actually wondering if I was indeed zen. That was not zen; that was just being pragmatic. But on the flip side, this is just one side of that coin. Who is to say the silence is not a result of me waiting to be reached out to rather than reaching out and saying “I need you”?

We have been moving in abstract spaces regarding our pains and each other’s. Almost as though not acknowledging ours makes it go away, or denying other’s makes us innocent of inflicting it. It’ll be nice to be there for each other as we find ways to heal our pains. It’s time to move from the abstract to reality, to reach out and be available.

We can dare to be vulnerable around each other, knowing space will be held for us until we grow our wings and break out of the cocoon of pain we are brewing in. However, we also must remember that growth doesn’t wait for us to happen; it happens regardless of our cooperation or lack, thereof. We must therefore chose our nourishment wisely, by ways we engage daily, let us chose to be a balm and not a bruise to each other, so that we can grow strong and healthy, and not weak and deformed, because growth will happen, regardless.

I have availed myself to mending fences and remain open to creating (or being) a safe place for anyone that needs a listening ear, needs a shoulder or needs to heal, but I also am reading rooms and removing myself from venomous situations/people that chose to keep hurting when there is an available alternative. I am tired of hurting. I really am and this is my reality.

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

P.S. Brene Brown has something useful to share about connection.

Great Rot with Deep Roots

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent it (like I normally do) contemplating how I had spent the past year, what I’d like to improve on, and what I’d like to do differently or drop off altogether.
For some reason, none of that lingered long enough. My mind kept going to the image of Amy Cooper threatening Christopher Cooper over being asked to put a leash on her dog.

It was surreal. I mean I am not totally clueless that there are White people that are aware of their privilege and use it, it just never occurred to me that any civilized person will (even in their weakest moment) think being that vile and throwing that callous a threat in one’s face was OK. It made me see in a very different light, how very fragile the life of a POC is, and how very insignificant it is to a privileged white person, especially one holding unto that privilege and waiting for a chance to milk it. And somehow George Floyd happened and it brought back memories of the countless others, too often, too many…

I was not born in the USA and a lot of the things I learned about racism was in Europe, but even there, for the most part, my initial experience of it was my late (white) husband getting overly protective because he felt a certain way about people’s gestures, words or acts towards me (none of it violent or even that blatant to be quite honest). I come from Africa, and that meant being a majority and therefore having an inherent sense of dignity. It took me some time to realize that indeed that shallow mindedness I was occasionally stumble upon in Europe was racist and intended to trivialize my person, but even so, I don’t know that I can point to any one incident that I was made to feel as though I had no worth or dignity. I’ve lived in Europe most of my adult life and although there are racists even there, I have never (NEVER) been made to feel insecure or fear for my life because of the colour of my skin.

The situation there may not have been as bad as I find it here, or I may have been in a privileged setting and therefore never had to encounter any of it to the extent I find it here, and it’s one of the first things I noticed about being black in the USA; that I was insignificant and my life not as worthy as I thought it to be. And it was disturbing too, to have to deal with that in close quarters…

I have always had a strong sense of self, and actually love being black. It’s all I know how to be, and for the most part, it’s been a pleasant experience to be black. But being black in the USA…yes, my melanin overload bothers some people and therefore that makes me, and my kind insignificant. That is so disturbing on so many levels. I have learned that the lives of people of colour counted less, and worse so the boys and men, I am not talking about beeing striped of one’s dignity alone, I am talking about the ease at which lives are lost and nothing is done about it. When I hear my fellow POC talk about having ‘the talk’ with their sons about how to stay safe out there, I find that my talk is with my daughter who is a Tom boy and has until very recently been mistaken for a boy.

And so I have feared for her getting in trouble by simply being. She has never felt safe here and I don’t blame her because I am all the protection she knows, and I am a person of colour and equally endangered. Heck! I have never felt safe here!! We have been followed around in stores, have had our cash payments checked with fraud makers, requested to provide ID for paying with credit card when a non-POC paying before us didn’t go through the same security check. Been stopped and asked to show ID because I drove a car that had an out of state plate number (my MIL’s car).

Been stopped for ‘routine’ check and no other reason besides. We have been followed from store to store in the same mall by cops, asked for receipts of purchases made, followed till we arrived at destination, and my only explanation to those encounters was that my tomboy had a hoody on, and she would not take it off, and had shuffled about, reading labels on cans and packages and putting them back on the shelves (did we look like we were trying to steal or simply trying to buy the right products for us by reading the ingredients to decide?)

We have been dismissed for requesting extra precaution taken regarding our safety at home too, because we know of the imminent danger we are in just by being POC and female…and foreigners, dismissed by the privileged…Sometimes, you let that slide and remind yourself that you just need to stop expecting or depending on someone else to care for your safety; you do it yourself. Still…

I think what I am trying to understand is what are we doing wrong as a society? Educating each other about what is, is not taking care of the injustice. Voicing our disdain and disagreement to it all is not taking care of it. Protesting is not taking care of it. Peaceful demonstrations are not taking care of it. Sadly even in instances where POC and non-POC share living spaces, there is still that disturbing disconnect and lack of acknowledgement to the difference in treatments based on skin colour…

WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG??

There has to be something we can do TOGETHER (both POC and non-POC) to fix this. The rot is great and its roots are very deep but it can be uprooted, we just need to know how…

My heart hurts deeply right now, so I’m going to bed; tomorrow is another day. And while we are at it, let’s consider that we may need to revisit how we are handling all of this because clearly, how we have handled it thus far is not working. More importantly, let’s aim at remaining dignified in our treatment of each other while we find a solution. This needs to stop.

If you are a non-POC and care, I’ll highly recommend the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo It is a difficult book to read but it will open the door for conversation and we need to start those conversations in order to arrive at a solution.

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

PIF – Pay It Forward

There are a lot of things I learned from my father that (sadly) I never paid heed to till after his passing. He used to say “if you are feeling sad (negative energy), go and make something with your hands (creating being positive energy) and if that doesn’t work, do something nice for someone else”. His reasoning is that creativity puts the mind/thoughts in a positive place thus changing the negative energy one is vibrating on, to a positive one. Or the effort it’ll take for you to think of and therefore do something nice for someone else, shifts the energy from negative to positive. I have found that to be very true, which is why I am perpetually creating.

Years ago, I created a section in my Etsy Store that I called PIF which stood for Pay It Forward, I wanted to find a way to continually do something nice for someone else without having to consciously plan it first, hoping that having something on a rolling basis in place, will ensure a continuation  of positive energy production (if that makes sense). I listed items that buyers can get for free, with a catch; that they in turn give something away to someone else. That section in my shop didn’t last, as the one person that decided to take advantage of the offer broke the first rule – Don’t take more than one free item at a time; leave something for the next person. She asked for two items. I figured since she was the first, I’d let that slide. I packed the items for her (a pair of earrings and a silver charm bracelet), nicely wrapped it as a gift, with a Thank You note and a reminder that she in turn does something nice for someone else.

I was living in Italy at the time and the postal service then was unreliable, so I knew that delivery to her would take longer than she was used to, she lived in the USA. I sent her an email and explained that, and asked her to allow at least 2 to 3 weeks. She replied, thanked me and told me how excited she was. 5 days after the package was sent (after the communication to make room for delay) she wrote me a 1 star negative review saying she didn’t receive the items, was highly disappointed with my service blah, blah, blah. To say I was shocked was an understatement – A negative review for giving away something for free???

There was nothing I could do to reverse the bad review as reviews on Etsy at the time were final and those were my very first bad reviews for giving things FREE!! It kind of gave new meaning to ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. That was the last PIF I ever offered.

Lately I have been looking into ways to incorporate my father’s advice about combating sadness (because I have had an influx of sadness plaguing me a lot lately, and sometimes, unbearably so too).  I have been creating, which has been fun for the most part, but it occurred to me that everything I have been creating thus far, is only piling up in my studio with my inventory, so I am opening up shop for PIF again, I mean, I can’t let one ill mannered ingrate (yes, I call her that!) spoil it for someone out there needing a shift in energy. So if you need a cheer-me-up or know anyone that might, follow or share this LINK with them. Let’s keep the positive energy rolling.

P.S. Giving is not always material. A phone call, a letter, a card, a prayer, a kind gesture of any kind extended from you to someone else IS GIVING. Here is some food for though.

Lemons produce ONLY lemon juice.

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We’re in the second month of social isolation.

When it all began, we expected it to last only a few days, at worse a week or two. But then the days began to reveal the depth of the situation and the gravity of it all towards our health and safety, and soon a week became two, became three, became four. And while we counted the weeks, we worked on lists of stuff we should hoard and the TP’s and sanitizers vanished overnight.

Then frozen foods followed, then canned foods…then fruits and veggies almost doubled in cost. Dairy products became rationed, then meats diminished, then….then…then we keep re-writing that list and keep hoarding, but worse still is that the hoarding has crossed over from possessions to professions.

The profession of our humanity that is. We find that our freedom to chose who we isolate with is suddenly dictated by how we are related by law, based specifically by who makes the count in our yearly tax filing. Suddenly we are sharing spaces with people we can’t stand or who can’t stand us. We cannot isolate with our children, our parents or adult siblings because…well because we don’t share the same address even if we live down the road from each other.

Suddenly, even those charming spouses and children we look forward to coming home to at the end of the day seem to smile wrong ALL THE TIME, or get in our space ALL THE TIME, or, heck, we are realizing we never really enjoy spending time with them, well, maybe not in the sense we thought we did. Suddenly, we don’t want to be charitable with our understanding and patience, and accommodation for their annoyances. Suddenly we ‘see’ how much they are taking advantage of us.

Suddenly we miss our friends, and the lunches out, and the weekend theatres and outdoor concerts…and just the usual gossip, and in our frenzy to grab onto the old and recreate it, we forget to pause and look around us, or even look within. Be quiet and listen and maybe even attempt to answer the one nagging question ‘What exactly are we running away from?” Do we dislike ourselves and our own company so much that we feel the need to fill up that void with all the external stimulations we have become used to?

And what is it about the people we are sharing space with that suddenly rubs us the wrong way, or what about us rubs them wrongly? And is it really as hopeless, or is this a chance to sit down and figure out what little changes we need in place to make it bearable, or even, god forbid it, enjoyable?

We are all in a hurry to get out and ‘return to normal’. Can we sincerely say that if ‘normal’ as we knew it returns, that life will be lived, going forward, without complaining? Well, this is not life as we know it, right? This irritability is as a result of this ‘forced’ isolation, right? The unplanned changes are forcing us to change the norm and that can be hard on the psyche, right?

Or is it?

Is it possible that this situation is the juice maker? Lemon can only produce lemon juice. If the worse in us is surfacing now, is it also possible that it had been lying dormant deep down all along and just needed this ‘pressure’ to squeeze out the juice in us?

Just a thought…

©Naan Pocen 2020

P.S. Just like the rest of you, I am always on the lookout for positive challenges that I can use to make the best of this situation, and a video by Elizabeth Gilbert is it for me, this time. You may find it helpful too. I did.

Ho’oponopono – Making it right.

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DISCLAIMER: This posting is about an aspect of spirituality that resonates with me personally. I am not promoting any belief per se, not encouraging subscription to what is shared. This is not representing any organized religion either, so if you are looking for something that speaks to your religion, I don’t know that this will resonate with you. If however, you are spirit and are aware that you are, then maybe you’ll find resonance with this. I did and this is simply an account of my own experience.

I stumbled on Ho’oponopono at a time that my heart was so broken I thought I’d die, literally. The ache I carried with me daily was so intense, I have no recollection of ever feeling this broken before, and nothing I did eased it. There were days where tears would freely rolled down my face and it’ll take me a moment to realize what was happening, I couldn’t stop it, it was embarrassing.

I intensified the variety of therapeutic practices I have been observing – meditation, vibrational energy therapy, positive thoughts, and forgiveness as I understood it, prayer, you name it, I did it. NOTHING WORKED and the frustration mounted, worse still, I couldn’t remove myself from the daily trigger.

Countless nights, I would cry myself to sleep and pray that if there was source energy out there, that they send me the right tools to work through this or allow me out of this realm because nothing I have tried was working and I was getting tired by the day. Waking up every morning was a disappointment because it meant living through it all, again. I was not going to harm myself in anyway but I was not opposed to the thought of going to sleep and simply transitioning, because it felt like ANYTHING was better than that level of brokenness, disappointment and pain. I felt lost.

I was also in the middle a career re-evaluation/redirection. I was considering taking a few courses that would enrich my work experience and help with the redirection. Then an offer came into my inbox one morning; hugely discounted certification training for Ho’oponopono. One of the career paths I was looking into pursuing was as a motivational story telling. So somehow, the idea of certification in Ho’oponopono sounded like it might be useful, so I signed up. Plus I figured, having one extra thing to keep me busy would occupy my mind and reduce time spent on my misery.

Now, the interesting thing about it was that I had actually read about Ho’oponopono before, while researching for something totally unrelated. And the account of Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len’s work with the mental hospital in Hawaii was something that intrigued me at the time even though I must admit I thought it did sound a wee bit weird and unreal; I did acknowledge that it probably did because I didn’t know the details of that story. I left it at that.

The course was advertised as possible to complete in 3 months minimum or 6 months maximum so I signed up. In a Covid 19 lock in and with time on my hands, I worked at it every free waking hour, and because I suffer from insomnia, I worked right through the night as well, and I was done in just three weeks. It was too soon, so I was not sure I would be allowed to sign for and take the test but I tried anyway and I was let in. I took the test. AND PASSED.

It wasn’t until I was looking at my certificate while cleaning (cleaning is a resolution technique I learn from the course) that it occurred to me that the foreboding pain and brokenness I had been carrying with me for the past 5 months was totally gone. I didn’t notice at what point it left but it was gone. The situation that created that feeling of hopelessness has not been resolved; in fact it is still very much on top of my resolution list today. It was IMPOSSIBLE to fix it in that short a time anyway. So, nothing else had changed except the pain and brokenness was no longer there. Better still, I found myself working with better clarity and a sense of direction towards the finding a resolution without having to carry that feeling of brokenness and loss, and my only explanation to why, is Ho’oponopono.

So what is Ho’oponopono? As I understand it, Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, but unlike what we understand forgiveness to be (involving the forgiver and the forgiven), the focus is on the self alone. The practice takes focus completely away from anyone but the one practicing the Ho’oponopono; the one initiating the act of forgiveness. What that simply means is that you step in the gab and take ALL responsibility of the situation requiring forgiveness and reconciliation even if YOU ARE NOT the offender in said situation. It requires a cleaning technique that is aimed at healing the pyche, bringing about restoration for all involved.

None of it made sense to me initially; every case of offense should involve a defence and a verdict, which is how it works. Whoever heard of a hearing and a resolution without a case? It just didn’t add up…but it does…in my core, I get it now, I have not yet found the right words to explain it the way it registers in my spirit, but I’m working on it and maybe someday, I will have the words to explain it in a very basic way that won’t come across as woo woo, because it really isn’t, once you get it.

That said, the only thing that came close to explaining it for me, is in my own understanding of the human story as I have experienced it; that there really is no such thing as opposites attract. There is always a self-reflection of ourselves that we find in others that brings us together, but that is not opposite.

We, humans, are a complex mass of individuality. However, we possess the insatiable need to connect with each other. For the most part, we look at a reflection of ourselves in others and when we find one that is a strong enough mirror of us, we connect.  We normally look for the positive aspects of ourselves in others, initially. We are however complex enough, that only with time will we expose the complexity of traits we hold, as we see them revealed in who we interact with.

When we find a trait in others that we find particularly offensive, we need to look within and chances are it is mirrored from our subconscious, which is the reason why we have an emotional reaction to it, because it is familiar to our psyche. That was how I was able to explain Ho’oponopono to myself. Taking responsibility of someone else’s offense towards you is done by recognizing that you see in him, that which you hate in yourself and you look within and heal that part of you so that his offense ceases to bother you any longer.

And so as Ho’oponopono requires, that you fix stuff – hurt, pain, brokenness, disappointment, forgiveness, grudge, revenge, retribution, payback – all of it, FROM WITHIN, by cleaning and returning to zero. And that fixing it; the cleaning and returning to zero that I practiced while taking the course is the only explanation to how I rid myself of the brokenness that was becoming me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

If you are curious about Ho’oponopono, I’ll recommend the book, Zero Limit co-written by Dr. Joe Vitale and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. I have a copy of it and it explains Ho’oponopono with better clarity than anything else I have found thus far.

(Neither Dr. Joe Vitale nor Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len are endorsing this writing, nor are they even aware that I am recommending their book).

P.S. I found a book that does a great job of explaining Ho’oponopono in a way I think most people will understand. I only found it two days ago and have read it. It is a book by Paul Jackson and it is called HO’OPONOPONO SECRETS: Four Phrases to Change the World One Love to Bind Them

Please note that this is not an endorsement. The author has no knowledge of this blog.

 

 

Connection

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Hello folks,

I’m talking about connection today. I think the dictionary will probably describe it as the act of linking one thing or a person to another….or something along that line. If you see it that way, then our situation as is with Covid 19 isolation, is not totally bad and we are not totally isolated.

It’s very lonely though.

This is the first time in my life that I am in a prolonged situation with no adult to talk to face to face. I am not talking about pleasantries and polite salutations. We live in shared spaces and so there is always the mailman, the grocer, the neighbours passing by, and the occasional face here and there. These are faces you see once a week (or as often as you venture out for your necessities).

I am talking about that ear wanting to hear a joke, that mouth cackling in mirth or bellowing with (not at) you as the mood dictates it, those eyes gazing into yours and knowing or simply saying silently “We’re in this together and we’ll tough it out and come out of it in one piece”.

The kid has been having a hard time of it but unlike holding it all in as she is so wont to do, she is letting it out and so I let her cry often and whine, and I listen to her on repeat like a broken record, knowing that the record is on repeat but the player feels better afterwards and that makes me better.
It’s hard.

My Italian family has called on a daily basis, face-timing for the most part. We have shared meals from our tables across the globe in real-time. There is 6 hours’ time difference so waking hours are limited but we manage to make the most of it.

My local friends live far away enough, that it is simply not safe to visit but we check up on each other and I work with an amazing team that do check in often as well, so yes, we are isolated physically and getting used to connecting with barriers in the form of gadgets, but it is still hard.

Every day is a surreal experience, it is a constant reminder of what being human really means to me. I doubt that the divine designer put all my senses in place for me to use it at this level of isolation. I find myself listening to a lot of recorded music that I otherwise enjoy but wanting to hear that in real-time, with the energy transferred directly from mouth to eat without the filter of technology. I want to see every member of my tribe in 3 dimensions, I want to reach out and register the warmth of living flesh. I want to smell their scents, even the putrid ones if only to register the realness of all that they are.

At the start of all this, my therapist asked me what I was most afraid of. I thought about it. The nagging thought for me at first was that I’d die and my kid would be an orphan, but the reality is, that is part of life. At some point, I’d be gone and she will indeed be an orphan, just like my folks are gone and I am one. Life and death, to a certain extend, is not in our control, so regrets about when it happens is a waste of time.

So with that thought in place, my focus was on what WAS in my control. And the only thing that came to mind was that it’ll be regretful to come out of this pandemic, or exiting from this realm (whichever comes first) with the knowledge that I didn’t attempt mending broken bridges.

‘And how do you do that?’ I was asked.

‘By taking responsibility for my part in it and reaching out? That would be a first step I think’, I said. It felt like the right answer at the time.

‘Do that then,’ I was told.

When I gave it much thought, later on, I found it most unpleasant. In my experience, broken bridges are never a solo act, just like building bridges aren’t. And on top of that, I didn’t like being wrong, I don’t take easily to being on the wrong side of broken bridges, being a spectator while the bridge got broken was more welcoming, but as Ihaleakala Hew Len points out often “Have you noticed that when something is wrong, you are there?” So yes, I did that which I hated the most (being responsible for my part in the damage) has been entrusted to me to fix.

For the most part, I have lived with integrity. I have come through life releasing offences and moving forward. That is not to say that no one is holding a grudge with me still; it simply means I have offered resolution and restitution as best as I can and let it go never to revisit. I couldn’t think of any situation but one that had an inkling of grudges on my part involved…one.

My gut reaction to that was to look away, quickly. It was still very raw and my ego said it was not deserving of resolution or restitution just yet.
But at what point and at what cost do I hold onto this unhealthy choice though? How does one extra discomfort make living through this pandemic easier? My therapist’s homework for me was to do something about it, and THAT was the whole point of therapy for me in the first place; to learn tools to aid me in healing and letting go and moving forward. There was never a promise that it’ll be agreeable or enjoyable.

So I self-talked myself into letting go of the ego because that was the one thing that stood in the way with the REAL reason why I wanted to hold on. Letting go of the ego was not easy, but with ego out of the way, clarity became a healing balm and it simply made no sense at all not to forge on this way. So I mustered up the courage, was as honest as I could be, and I reached out.

It was very awkward and embarrassingly clumsy, and most likely not elegantly presented but the apology was sincere and it was real. This one attempt at resolution and restitution has been a very unique experience for me. I have NEVER attempted resolution and restitution from a vulnerable place before, so doing it this time when I felt the rawest and at a disadvantage was weird, but weirder still was the swiftness at the release I felt in my soul.

No, the sentiment was not returned and no further discussion was held on the matter so there is still no process of rebuilding bridges, nor is there any attempt at removing the debris from that broken bridge. But I am surprisingly OK. Life is not always tidy and that is OK.

Brene Brown said (not verbatim) that relationships thrive when we seek to create balance. And balance is not necessarily about giving 50/50, but about being able to pony up the 80 when your other has only 20 to offer, knowing that when 10 is all you have, they’d pony up the 90 to meet yours. Communication though is key here. Because if all I have is 30 and I don’t tell you but assume you should know, and all you have is a 40 and you don’t tell me but assume I should know, then on that given time we will only be working with 70.

When there is better communication, not only do we know to pony up and meet the lesser on those less ideal days, in order to achieve the balance, but we’ll also most like have a plan in place knowing there will be days when we both are low, and have that plan ready to help us navigate those days in order to still find that balance.

Today, albeit the surreal feeling the day brings, I can sincerely say I am at peace. All willing and reciprocal connections are on clear paths and communication is thriving. Bridges that are broken and not wanting to repair or clean debris are left alone because that is how life happens sometimes and untidiness is not always a bad thing.

I continue to do my part in what needs doing to fight this pandemic. I keep away from people in shared spaces that find my presence an imposition (familiar and strangers alike). I live in hope that this will end and we’ll come out of it either in this realm or another. And yes, there is a morbid part of me that knows there is that very unwelcomed chance that we may not all come out of it in this realm. Heck, maybe I will be one of those exiting.

Whichever end I come out of this, I am at peace.

Peace begins with me.

©Naan Pocen 2020

P.S. If you are interested in listening to the interview with Brene Brown, follow this LINK

Being in the NOW

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Hello folks,

I have not blogged in years, and it is just as well. I am in a very different place today, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and it is only befitting that I’d be resuming writing from my new perspective on life, spirit and art. I have had a few blogs over the years that still have postings on them but I’ll leave them be and take this one as my new direction on blogging and forge forward.

I also received my Ho’oponopono practitioner certification today and I am so happy about that. I feel encouraged on so many levels just knowing that I am heading towards my future with the right sort of armour for me to tackle and handle life, spirit and art as I rediscover it.

A week ago, I heard something from a broadcast by Eckhart Tolle about experiences, and the narratives we attach to them, and he challenged us to take note of the experience as well as the narrative we apply to them, notice where one ends and where the other begins, and then he further challenged that we should attempt focusing only on the experience without the narrative. In a nutshell to learn to be in the now. And that is what I have been practising since, and hope to carry on doing that.

Peace begins with me

©Naan Pocen 2020

Follow this LINK if you’d want a listen on that broadcast