Vulnerability

Becoming truly vulnerable, even with just a few choice people, is both humbling and awe inspiring. I doubt many of us can do it for sustained periods. It grazes the soul. Even if contained to a handful of minutes, it is a beautiful thing to behold. It makes the moments in a day real, immediate. Being who you are, without containment, blemishes and all, can bring you to your knees, and open doors to understanding both for yourself and those who are witness to it.

Take a minute and grasp the you beneath the layers. Hold on to the fragile, ephemeral essence of who you are. It won’t break you. Then choose a person to expose it to. Scary, huh? But if you do it and hold it there, an unfolding begins and often opens the doors in other people as well. It is well worth the ride.

I have always had trouble being vulnerable to my cat much less other people. During past trip to be with my kids I had the opportunity to expose myself and be vulnerable. I finally have reached a point where I am comfortable with who I am so didn’t feel the need to hide. My kids saw a me they had not encountered before. They, in turn, were able to relax and be themselves. We had moments of clarity. I left for home feeling a deep sense of well-being and joy. They told me they felt they had their mother back. All for not dwelling in subterfuge.

I heartily recommend taking off the mask to everyone. It can be terrifying or wondrous, but everyone should experience the feeling.

Coming to Believe

I wasn’t expecting this. It came on unabashed, in wonderment, the spoils of a struggle long fought. I’ve been in the trenches for so long. Dealt with chronic illnesses, traumatic brain injury, Depression… Poverty, addiction.

But I went to visit my children and grandchild and was granted a precious, infinitely tender time with all of them. Now, for perhaps the first time, they see me as someone they are proud of.

It is hard won. In so many ways I failed them, squandered time with my own concerns. Not on purpose, there has never been a time when I deliberately betrayed their needs. I just couldn’t get out of my head and body to just be.

My son and daughter commented on my quietness. I must have filled past moments with nervous chatter but there was no need now. I am wholly inside myself, comfortable with who I am.

But more than anything else I feel gratitude. I have been blessed with remarkable people in my life and my children are chief among them. How they emerged so whole and intact I don’t know. They certainly didn’t have good models to learn from. We went through our wars and they didn’t let them warp their lives.

This change has been coming for years but rose in assurity with my finally believing Jesus Christ is my savior and the Son of God. It changed me in fundamental ways I have only begun to understand.

I know this may seem giddy to some but I’m happy and that is sustaining me. There are roots in my life that go beyond superficial trappings. And I know life comes in waves but I now have a life raft to save me. God has a plan and I am in it.


Forced Sterilization in the US

The US has a subversively checkered past regarding the issue of forced sterilization. Throughout the twentieth century and even particular cases in the 21st, women were forced to give up their reproductive rights, most of the time without their knowledge.

The 20th century brought a rash of sterilizations of those deemed detrimental to society. What this translated into was Mexican Americans, Native, Persons of Color, Prison inmates, the Disabled, those deemed promiscuous and those considered Mentally Defective.

From 1970-1976, 25-50% of Native American women in a range of Tribes in their child bearing years were sterilized, often directly after giving birth. Some as young as age 10 were impacted. In Mississippi it was known as a “Mississippi appendectomy “. Two girls undergoing tonsillectomies came away with tubal ligations. Generally speaking, doctors enforced the cutting of Fallopian tubes or hysterectomies, often under threat of putting existing children into foster care and taking away welfare benefits and food stamps.

Puerto Rican women also experienced eugenics. Thirty percent of women were unable to have children by 1965. The governor at the time said there were too many unskilled laborers and not enough jobs on the island. Sterilization ended up becoming the preferred choice of birth control. This was a major upheaval of the country’s largely Catholic society.

Mexican American women were victims of this edict as well. They were considered inferior with their children being “drains of the system”. Mexican immigrants were considered as being of low moral character sexually and criminally. Plus their children were considered “anchors”.

Women of Color were similarly held to a different standard than white society, particularly those of low income status. In the first half of the twentieth century, 60,000 people were sterilized. There were 32 states that empowered officials in medical, social work and state institutions to sterilize those considered “unfit”.

From 1897-1909, several states enforced sterilizations on those with mental handicaps. In Buck vs. Bell, Carrie Buck was sterilized because she was labeled promiscuous after being raped and becoming pregnant. With an IQ of 75, she was considered “feeble minded”. Her child was taken away from her and judged an imbecile when but a few months old. When she grew up she was sterilized. Carrie’s mother had her out of wedlock and Chief Justice Wendell Holmes decried that three generations of imbeciles in the same family was enough.

Certain states are considering reimbursements to these women but no amount of money can make up for a lifetime of missed opportunities and joy. And forced sterilizations are still happening in some cases in prison populations. The U.S. needs to make restitution and unequivocally end this practice.


Belief

You caught me unaware

I’d given up 

On ever receiving

The understanding 

of your grace.

And now its come

what was there all along

but only now I know it

Acceptance . . . the fight as gone out

it has no reason for being

All I had to do was see

to feel your grace

to know you are

all that has been said of you.

Thank you in leading

me down the road 

to know you are God

and Man both

Jesus Christ

my savior

Newness and strength of belief

Christmas is an infinitely precious time for me. In the past it made me so want to believe in Jesus Christ.  This year I have the quiet glow that comes from finally believing. It was a long held prayer that seemed eternally elusive.  In one weekend and ongoing reading of Luke, I came to understand the historical reality of both Son of Man and Son of God. 

I know that for many belief is a fervently ecstatic state, joyous, free, and uncontained. They want to shout out their vision from the rooftops. But it doesn’t surprise me this is a more subtle faith. I’ve spent so much time jaundiced, I need time to recover, to accept and feel it flowing through me. 

But the power of the Bible is undeniable. I am seeing the words as if for the first time.  I still don’t  believe the Creation story replaces Evolution.  To much archeological evidence flies in the face of the story.  But a little part of me also understands that throughout the world cultures and tribal societies have their own creation myths and there is a striking similarity between them. 

Still, I’ve come a long way in a short time.  It is still rather tremulous, no, it’s not. It is a real belief and understanding.  It’s just new and while a young belief it is not fragile. Yet going to spend the holidays with born again, steadfast Christians is threatening. I have a tendency when faced with strong preaching about anything to run the other way. So as much as I am thrilled to be staying with my family, I don’t want to contend with the Rhetoric. 

If only rhetoric could be separated from belief. I’ll find more solidity in the Bible.  I just need to give it time 

Boxes

Boxed in – no fancy ribbons

just cheap imitations

sold at the local dollar store

Boxes tighter

claustrophobic, choking,                                                                  

“for your own good” and yes

we are worried about liabilities

a danger to any who may pass you

and, of course, you yourself.

Meanwhile boxes are continuing

to slip one inside another – seamlessly

gasping for air, understanding

resolution . . .

Yes, yes, there are reasons

whether simple or profound

this brain is rattled, aching, worn . . .

but what of those wild women

who lived on the edge

defying societal norms –

smoked their cigars, wore pantaloons

conducted torrid affairs, never

afraid to break away, defying expectations

Could I be one of these?

ride a horse, a motorcycle, a jet

daring authorities to stop me

Yet, I’m a good little soldier

compliant, scared

angry at them, at me,

for maintaining the status code

gasping to breathe –

suffocating – these boxes

will surely kill me

which, I suppose, is

the tightest one of all.

Savior’s embrace

Still I look for the Savior

flashes of illumination flicker past

quicksilver blurs

rapidly becoming dim memories

elusive  awakenings

drifting into somnambulant musings

I can not sustain the light

the lure of darkness holds sway

Theoretical justifications for distance

rear up at choice moments

leading me away from acknowledgement

I sigh discouraged

for just once to uphold the truth

and let the light

wash over me

rising me up

from despair’s temptation

I long

for the Savior’s embrace

Sunitha Krishnan

“My biggest strength has been realizing that in this whole effort, I am not a savior, but just a facilitator.” – Sunitha Krishnan

That said, this woman has been facilitating since she was eight as a teacher to mentally challenged children.  At twelve she worked with the underprivileged children in schools.  Again at fifteen she made her mark working in low caste communities.  As retaliation for her efforts, she was gang-raped by a group of eight men.  Anger fueled her decision to obtain  a degree in social work and work bringing child and women victims of sex trafficking to freedom.  In the past 26 years she has brought more than 12,000 victims to a better life and a chance for a future.   

The largest anti-trafficking organization in the world, her prevention program, Prajwala, consists of three shelters.  The organization has five objectives:  prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy.  Prajwala provides moral, financial, legal and social support for women and children entering the program.   For the children of prostituted women, 17 transition centers work to prevent thousands of these children from entering prostitution themselves.  Vocational programs give necessary skills to lead economically feasible lives outside prostitution.

Krishnan also drafts policy recommendations and works with the government in the fields of prevention and advocacy.  She is well aware that meaningful change can not take place without the support of government and NGOs. To date, seven states are following her policy recommendations.  Her influence has even spread to the United States where she has met with auditoriums full of students to discuss prevention and activism.

She has made well received films on the subject of prostitution and prevention.  Krishnan has had to sell her personal belongings to further her work.  Programs are not cheap and although she  takes no income from Prajwala, there are over 200 employees to pay as well as services and expenses.  Her livelihood is supported by her films and books.

Sunitha has been arrested and imprisoned for her activism.  She has been physically assaulted 14 times.  Death Threats are an ongoing concern. Her rickshaw was hit by a van yet she escaped serious injury.  She survived a poison attempt.  Acid was once flung at her.  These attempts have only strengthened her resolve.

Sunitha has received many awards including the Outstanding Woman Award in 2013 by the National Commission for Women, Padma Shri in the field of Social Work in 2016, Inagral Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence in 2016, Mother Theresa Award for Social Justice in 2014, and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice International Leadership Award given in New York in 2011.  Every year has brought a host of awards. 

Sunitha was born with the heart of an activist and the drive to do good in this world.  Her indomitable spirit has brought forth formidable results.  Out of spirit and trauma, the focus of her attention was honed in on the women and children of sexual exploitation.  She is indeed a vision of inspiration.

Independence

Being a Caregiver means slipping in and out of people’s lives. You have moments of impact in long days where you are sometimes seen as an intruder. A person in declining abilities often has a strong, independent spirit. I applaud. Even though it is often harder to take care of them, they are still embracing life. They don’t want to give up the reins. 

I’m caring for a 92 year old woman who gets up before I arrive to wash and dress beforehand. She wants to do things herself. She doesn’t always like it when I clean because it bothers her that she can’t do it herself. I have to respect her feelings even when I know there is much to be done that her family requests.  

Contrast that with a woman who is a love but is dependent. When I wash her, she doesn’t lift a finger to help. Her family further supports her dependence by insisting she not act on her own and video monitors her every move.  She had a stroke but needs to push herself more because she is loosing her physical abilities.  

Independence is a vital key to a rewarding life. It can sometimes get in the way of reasonable care but you have to respect a person that is fighting to retain a self of self.  

Tree of Life

When does it end?

The seemingly endless 

Wall of discontent with myself

Harboring paths of remorse

Distilling lines of hate

Into a bath of despair

At the end of my time

There are nothing but 

Memories cascading 

Muddled heaps strewn across

The floor of my mind

The tree of life stamped

Across my brow

Infinite accusations 

Of past lives

Concerning those who

Matter most to me

When will personal 

Forgiveness assuage me?

No one demands penance 

Except me

I look in the mirror

And the Tree of Life

Rustles back

Stamping me

With eternal damnation

The place where I dump the stuff that's inside my head.

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