Comforting Words: My Life, My Story, My Gifts

Monday, August 15, 2005

My Life, My Story, My Gifts

This week, I open with an invitation. After reading this article, you are invited to join the Comforting Words community, if it helped or inspired you. You are also invited to share the fact that this community exists with a friend.

The obligations for being a member of this community are few. In fact, there is only one – a desire to live authentically.

As the host of this Blog and the Comforting Words Community, I willingly open myself to you. I am here to support you as I am able to, whenever and however needed. You may contact me via email or you can join the continuing conversation at the InComfort Discussion Forum.

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Comforting Words is more than a Blog of inspirational articles – it is an online community, it is a place where stories are told and support is given.

Be a part of it by simply clicking on the “Join Our Mailing List” feature at the right of your screen and follow the prompts.

Join Comforting Words – read the weekly articles, listen to mid-week voices post and your ‘membership’ gives you a chance to receive one of the monthly surprises!

As for this week’s article, there will be no extended introduction other than to say that I knew the time had come to write it. In fact, this might very well be the first in a series – of how many I do not know – which will end, when it ends.

My Words of Comfort today, “My Life, My Story, My Gifts,” have been years in coming. Along with Sacred Words and the Words from the Heart, I ask that you read this posting with compassion, not sympathy, with love, not judgement and with a sense of the hope and strength that it was written with.

Sacred Words

(I decided to change the name of this section, as I felt the previous title did not adequately cover the veneration I hold for all words that serve as a link, a connector between my experience and the Divine.

By using Sacred Words to describe the quotations that I chose to use in this section, my intention is to share with you words from a variety of sources that are dedicated to Truth and to what is holy in our experiences as human beings.)
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”
Isak Dinesen (1885 – 1962)

If it had not been for storytelling, the black family would not have survived. It was the responsibility of the Uncle Remus types to transfer philosophies, attitudes, values, and advice, by way of storytelling using creatures in the woods as symbols.
(Jackie Torrence b. 1944)

Only when women rebel against patriarchal standards does female muscle become more accepted.
Gloria Steinem (b. 1934)

“I think it worse to be poor in mind than in purse, to be stunted and belittled in soul, made a coward, made a liar, made mean and slavish, accustomed to fawn and prevaricate, and “manage” by base arts a husband or a father, - I think this is worse than to be kicked with hobnailed shoes.”
Frances Power Cobbé (1822 – 1904)

Quotes taken from Mary Bigg’s Women’s Words: The Columbia Book of Quotations by Women, 384 - 389

Words of Comfort

It was clear to me that the time for this series of articles had come when a regular reader of Comforting Words posed the question.

She identifies herself as my biggest fan – whatever that means. I would rather identify her as my newest woman-friend.

André, the tarot card reader who I had met on the beaches of Ocho Rios in Jamaica, had told me that there is a long line of women standing behind me – supporting and giving me their strength.

C is the latest in this line.

Living in Ontario as she does, we communicate by email and through Yahoo Messenger. Since this conversation started some months ago, I knew she was here to teach me something – to pull me up to a higher level of authenticity. One would never imagine that at first, that is if you were looking only at the surface.

To the casual onlooker, it was C, not I, who needed to be pulled up. Her life was a “mess” – her personal relationship not simply on the rocks but dead at the bottom of the ocean, bills piling up and little work coming in.

However, things are never as they seem.

Soon after listening to my audio post, Cloud of Loneliness, C sent me an email. This was to be the precipitator for an extended exchange of emails between us for a couple hours and then an online chat. Here is some of what she wrote:
Can it be that all this time I have been talking to you online I was so wrapped up in my own pain that I didn't recognize your own?

Having just now listened to your audio-blog I have an intense feeling of selfishness and I need to address this. The word selfish is not one I use often or use lightly... I believe it to be one of the most misused words in the English when the word comes to my tongue (or fingertips, as the case may be) I mean it wholeheartedly.

I am very aware of the value of being able to offer support and comfort to someone in need, I know that what you have done for me has brought you some measure of validation and healing... having said that, I hope you will afford me the very same opportunity to not only help you understand your struggle, but also to navigate my way through my own quagmire.

Although we have very different paths to finding comfort and keeping the faith, we most definitely meet where it counts, and that is the undeniable need to be authentic.

I am amazed that someone who seems so strong, who is so quick to offer "comforting words" is in such a lonely place. And yet, it should come as no surprise at all... I am in the same place... always able to offer support and comfort to my friends... and damn good advice too...I might add. Maybe we just need to hear the same things from someone we love and trust in order for it to ring true for us?

I think of you often and yearn to understand your situation... you say you are an open book... here's one bibliophile that would love nothing more than to turn the page... tell me something, maybe I can help ameliorate your loneliness and your pain. I have much insight where your beliefs are concerned but I know little about your life...

I did not ask C’s permission to re-print the email and I do hope she will forgive me but she is such a wonderful writer, at least in my opinion, that it would have been very difficult for me to paraphrase what she wrote.

Understand that I have never met this woman, at least face to face. This apparently did not matter – she received me, she heard and responded to what Marc Gafni calls my Soul Print.

God knew I needed someone to do just that on that dark day last week and C was it. As an aside, is it synchronicity or an accident that we share the same initials?

What this email and the subsequent “conversation” between C and I resulted in, was a turning on of another light for me.

She commented that she knew very little about my life – a comment I initially discounted, telling her that she must not have read all my articles here at Comforting Words. C contradicted me by saying that she did but no where in those articles she heard my full story, the one that I shared with her through six or seven very long emails.

In that moment it dawned on me that I have not lived up to my own commitment to be an open book, to provide a sanctuary, a safe place for women, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people and young adults who are existing in difficult circumstances.

You see, this blog is just one portion of a wider commitment I have made to myself before God. I committed myself to tell my stories to this community of people, to humanity and the world, with the intention to comfort and transform through the core message of love.

Some people, thankfully very few, in my personal space would rather that I “shut up,” and just live my life. “Why,” they ask, “do you have to write and talk about these things, especially to strangers?”

Read the quotes again that I have selected for Sacred Words and you will begin to understand why:

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”

“If it had not been for storytelling, the black family would not have survived.”

“Only when women rebel against patriarchal standards does female muscle become more accepted.”

The last quote is for me the most powerful:
“I think it worse to be poor in mind than in purse, to be stunted and belittled in soul, made a coward, made a liar, made mean and slavish, accustomed to fawn and prevaricate, and “manage” by base arts a husband or a father, - I think this is worse than to be kicked with hobnailed shoes.”

There are other reasons, other motivations for telling my story in such a public fashion.

I firmly believe and have witnessed that secrets kill the spirit and to be spirit-less is to merely exist, not living to the fullest of one’s capacity and potentials. Worst yet, mere existence renders one incapable of loving wastefully as you are caught in a quagmire of despair, confusion and hate of self and the world.

I tell my story in order to live fully the life that God has asked and designated me to live and grow through. I tell my story to pass on a philosophy of personal healing, transformation, freedom and love to the child that God has blessed me with, so that she might live fully and be all that she was meant to be.

What C helped me to understand – she probably does not know this yet although we have spoken on the telephone, I told her to read this first – is that I must continue to tell my story and with even greater intensity and passion.

“Why?” you may ask along with those people in my life that are afraid of my brand of storytelling.

My story honours the woman that I love and the journey we have and continue to share. Also, being 'courageous' and telling my story helps her to recognise her story, and one day maybe she will tell it - in her own voice.

When I tell my story it serves as a testament to the healing potential of Love - in whatever form, shape, colour or size it comes – to the power of Love to take those who have been broken, battered and bruised at the hands of humanity and make something new.

There is a Negro Spiritual that I learnt at the Conference I attended earlier this year in Toronto. The refrain has stuck in my soul: “Something good in my life, do something good in my life I pray.”

Unconsciously, that has been my prayer for many years. Fervent were my prayers for something good as a child growing up with an abusive mother, as a survivor of childhood sexual and physical abuse, as a survivor of domestic violence and rape.

I continually hope for something good in my life as I unrepentantly speak up for racial and economic equality, as I walk the difficult path of being a lesbian, especially one of African-descent and who one dares to call herself a Christian.

My prayers for something good became even more sincere as I watch my child grow into her womanhood and sense of self.

I knew something good happened in my life the day Juds, my partner of 15 years and one of the most beautiful women the Divine has created, entered it. “Teach me how to love her, to keep this ‘good thing’ you have blessed me with, despite what everyone say,” has been my cry since that day.

The journey continues and many a good things have happened – in my life and in the life of others. However, not all is well, in my life and in the lives of countless others.

How can it be when we see the evidence in the media, we witness poverty and desperation by walking on the other side of the tracks and we hear it through the walls that separate us from our neighbours.

Too many children are being sexually assaulted, too many women are being raped, too many are going to bed hungry, too many LGTBQ are in hiding and too many men are aimless and homeless for us to think it is okay to be quiet and stop telling our stories.

Therefore, I will continue take the risk and tell stories.

Over the next one, two or three postings, I know that the journey with some of you will end. I, however, must tell my story, which is the story of the millions of children, women, LGTBQ people and, indeed, men who are voiceless.

So, I say farewell to those of you for whom truth and storytelling is too much and to those of you who prefer to remain in the darkness, hiding from the realties that many live with.

On the other hand, welcome – to the fireside, to the dance, to the story of my life and to the story of yours – those of you who thought you were alone, who thought no one understood, who thought no one would listen, who thought Love had left the building.

Words from the Heart

Still I Rise
Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words
You may cut me with your eyes.
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a [woman, homosexual, battered wife, survivor of sexual abuse, homeless, poor] black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise.
I rise.
I rise.



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