Umoja

I read, this morning, about a village in the Sambura region of Kenya that is inhabited only by women and children. Umoja women escape to the village to avoid the injustices of a strictly patriarchal society.  Female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and polygamy are pervasive in the Sambura culture.   Girls are married off as second and third wives.  Children as young as 9 and 10 are pregnant.

Umoja women place a strong emphasis on education. Within the Sambura culture, illiteracy runs at 76%, mostly among females. Girls with education are viewed as role models.

The women finance the village both through making beaded necklaces and tourism, providing shelter to people going on nearby safaris. The monies are brought to the village matriarch, who disperses income to villagers based on the number of children in each family.

Villagers run in age from 98 to six months. When a male child reaches age eighteen, he has to move out. Sambura critics say the women are radical and anti- men even as they say men visit women at night.

I’ve often thought that living in a community of women would be a wonderful experience. There is a freedom not to be found in a patriarchy.  Certain  mores don’t exist. There is a tactic understanding that defies interpretation. My friends and I used to talk about living next to each other in a supportive, interactive, loving setting. I would love the experience of spending appreciable time in such a community.

Broken Body

Father, I cry, use this broken body

weighed down by the encumbrances

of living- its use remains vital

though careworn and shabby

no thought was given

to the making of these battle scars

my impudence in years of abuse

harvested my ill-gotten gains

still and always I worship you

and keeping you close to my heart

yearn to make meaningful

the years I have left

to do your will and rejoice,

make meaningful the way

clear the path to fruitful gains

according to your desires

and my humble interpretation

take this broken body

and make it your instrument

for the greater good

 

Surviving the Holiday when you are Bipolar

Being Bipolar brings heightened anxiety when the holidays come around.  The issues regular people have, bring a twist that can be difficult to negotiate.  Here are a few suggestions that might ease your way through the quagmire of human emotions, both yours and those of your loved ones.

Remember that “This too shall pass”.  As hard as the holidays can be for some people, especially those with this disease, it helps to realize that a moment is just that, one that passes quickly to be replaced by another.

  1. God don’t make junk.  When your ego is flagging, or criticism comes to bear, it is important to remember this short phrase.
  2. Pause – don’t forget to take some time out, even on the day when you are getting together with family or friends. When feeling overwhelmed, take a walk or go to a quiet room.  If possible, and you really need to, leave and go home.  Put yourself in your place of safety.
  3. Pray and meditate. It doesn’t matter what your religion is or isn’t.   Say the Serenity Prayer.
  4. Bring a support person. A friend who “gets” you can make the difference between a difficult event and an enjoyable one.
  5. Put yourself in places or events where your soul feel’s nourished. Do special things you have been hankering to do…go to a Winter event that evokes good feelings. Even driving around to see the lights on other people’s homes is fun.  Go with a group and it’s even better.  Go Caroling.  Take a long walk in a nature preserve. Build a snowman. Go to a play.  Watch Christmas stories, especially the children’s ones.
  6. Explain your feelings if being criticized or put-down.
  7. Help others out. Nothing does more to bring the Spirit to life than extending a hand to someone in need.
  8. Eat healthy so you don’t have to shed those extra pounds for the next six months.
  9. Realize you are not alone. Many People have difficulty with the Holidays.  It’s small comfort but it helps.
  10. Don’t imbibe too much alcohol or do drugs. It just aggravates the problem.
  11. Opt out. If you just can’t make yourself go, if family is just too difficult, do something else.  Some churches and soup kitchens have holiday dinners. Make your own special meal.  Invite friends over to your home.

The point is to bring the focus back on the meaning of the Holidays and make yourself comfortable as you go through them.  You don’t have to do it “Their” way.      Make it matter to you.

 

Ileostomy

The bag bites. It hangs flaccid,

a visceral reminder

of what I no longer have.

 

I hunger all the time,

a response to a lack of storage

to drink, drink, drink

so dehydration isn’t one more problem

to be contended with.

 

But that means a massive outlay

of excrement… effluence … shit

 

They say to name it,

to bond with the stoma.

to make it my own, my pal.

Yeah, I’ll bond with that hole

that erupts when I’m out

and covers my clothes

with rank leavings.

 

Well my PAL is named ASS

because that is what it now is.

An opening surgically made

like a sausage, it’s casing oozing.

 

Sitting on my belly so pretty

a little rosette,

7/8 of an inch wide, 1/2 of an inch high

proudly proclaiming center stage.

 

All attention, all honor,

an entire body held hostage

by something perverse.

 

But …at least  . .  .  I’m alive . . .

Mission Work

Since I was 13, I have wanted to be a missionary.  I’ve felt a calling to work in third world countries, or wherever I was needed, for the betterment of others.  There’s also the growth I would experience,  something I wouldn’t want to pass up.

I’m being given the opportunity to help on an upcoming mission to Puerto Rico.  I still have yet to jump through the hoops but it looks favorable.  And if my skills don’t match up with this mission’s needs, there are other upcoming ones.  Being a mission volunteer is not the same as being a missionary.  Being a missionary means living in a particular location for months or years.  A mission volunteer provides service using particular skills for a week or two.

Also, there are missions that are two or more months long where you can work as a volunteer. This means I would be paying to be part of the experience.  Some of these missions definitely meet my skill set.  Working with children in orphanages, particularly children with special needs, is a natural fit.  I’ve worked with special needs kids in the past.  As a CNA, my skills might be useful in a medical arena. Working with the elderly, or teaching, are other avenues.

As someone who is a jack of all trades but master of none, I have learned many things which would be of help. There are many places where love is the main commodity, where compassion and a willingness to lend a hand with activities of daily living, homework, and hugs are more important than anything else.  This I can do.  As someone who chides herself on the lack of a specific career, this is something where my diversity of experiences actually helps.

The United Methodist New York Annual Conference has many opportunities available. My excitement about being able to finally give back is driving me forward.  If I do the legwork, this can surely happen.  My heart will be answered.

Total Eclipse

This poem was published a couple of years ago but I’m putting it up for those who haven’t seen it before.  Check out my archives.

Electra on the rise
No longer computing
Nordic Amazon on a motorcycle
holding onto a dark rider,
midnight invader
total eclipse . . .
“Never look into the eye
of an eclipse –
you will go blind.”
Is that like “Never eat from
the fruit of knowledge,
of right and wrong?
this blaze huge as
a dripping red pomegranate
blooding the sky,
and the two fearless riders
raiding the early dawn
as the sun rises
with the moon riding
on their backs –
light borrower!
Good that I am, she says,
you’d scorch the earth to death,
without the cool mercury of me.”
and her eyes flashing
green poetry . . .
challenging, “If I go blind, Eclipse,
then maybe I’ll see,” .
They mount the hill,
closer and closer,
she holding on to him,
blond hair whipping them both,
to challenge and charge the night,
morning of the coming day and
and this total eclipse in the sky,
flirting with the elements
of life and death, as always,
this pulsing red ball –
“fuck your logic”
“fuck your irrationality”,
what a time for a
total eclipse of our own.
Dissolving, phosphorescent particles
into the blinding red blaze
backdrop of Summer’s Solstice.
total eclipse of our own.

Cliff Climbing

The cliff is calling

climb, climb

until your heart flies free

climb, climb

until you believe

again, this trusted path

still works if you dare take it

climb, climb

until you can begin again

nothing stopping you

but you

climb, climb

until you can breathe

moments of crystal clarity

until your day passes

in sweet acceptance

and fevered anticipation

you can do it

the cliff awaits

Only Reality

Awoken, dreams are brushed aside

long living emerges

values and beliefs gain ground

casting aside aspersions

ultimate reality prevails

no hiding, no subterfuge,

just the realism of being

the awakening of perception

the refusal to hide

from beliefs and values

honoring them

with wide eyes open

breaking time worn imaginings

to rise with pride

and self-containment

in the realization

you are justified

in the validity

of your beliefs

and each day’s dawning

is acceptance of your place

in this world

and your worth

as a being of humanity

Rebecca Masika Katsuva

 “There are times,” she says, “when I feel truly devastated. But then, when I find a baby without a mother in the middle of a pile of corpses, I can save that child. Who knows what the future will bring? I am devoted to these babies.” She sighs. “I must help them survive,” she adds. “They stabilise me.” A life of hope lived in defiance of violence: Rebecca Masika Katsuva

FIONA LLOYD-DAVIES 30 September 2016

I came across a truly inspiring woman, one who had undergone incalculable traumas that I don’t think I could have recovered from.  Her name is Mama Masika, and lived in the East Congo.  She married Bosco Katsuva and had two children.  When they were nine and 13, their home was attacked and looted.  They killed Bosco and forcably raped Masika and her daughters, both of whom were impregnated by the attack.  Disowned by her husband’s family, she and her daughters made their way to South Kiva with only a plastic bag holding their possessions.

She was in the hospital for six months recovering but when she came out, she opened her home to other victims of rape and their children.  The Congo has been called the “Rape Capital of the World” with 14 rapes occurring every hour. Women, children, men and babies are fodder to militia groups.  It is a means of control to the point where rape has become systematized and rape camps exist with roll calls. Masika herself had been raped a total of five times, the last four as a means to try to still her activism and the noise she made regarding the consequences of rape in her land.

Masika traveled to villages to rescue women and their children who had been raped.  Babies found whose mothers had been killed were also rescued.  She would carry wounded women on her back to her center or hospital.  She provided constant love and care in an violent, insecure environment. At less than five feat tall, she had an immense personality and spirit.  She was an attractive, vibrant woman who wouldn’t give up against great odds.

Starting with a rented field until she could own one, she and the other women grew crops to eat and sell at market.  She developed 50 homes where women could give birth, raise children and tell their stories.  Additionally she obtained sewing machines for another means to a livelihood for these women.  She would travel for days on foot to reach a village she heard had been attacked to rescue survivors.

She personally adopted 18 children and helped 6,000 women find a new life after trauma, tragedy and loss.  The organization she developed, APDUD, is a haven for many.  She won the Ginetta Sagan Award and $10,000 for her work.  Her center is called “the listening house” for the many stories told there.

Masika died on February 2, 1966 from malaria and high blood pressure.  She fell sick suddenly, was brought to the hospital and died shortly after from a heart attack.  She was 49.

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.