A Ban on Identity, A Ban on Diversity



I must admit that I started to research for this post with mixed feelings. I reasoned to myself that if a religion like Islam, with so many millions of followers, had a large number of female followers who wore some type of head and /or body covering, that it could not be just a coincidence. There is also the fact that many Muslims live in very hot climates, in which being covered up would be uncomfortable. Furthermore, when they live in other countries, they still follow their tradition and wear one of the multiple coverings , anything from a hijab to a burqa. In Western countries, the attitude of the native population towards these types of traditional garments ranges from indifference to outright opposition.
Lately there’s been quite a lot of public debate over a French law that bans the use of the burkini, an adaptation of the burqa which can be used for swimming and as beachwear. It was first designed in Australia by Aheda Zanetti. This law has now been overturned as illegal by the Conseil d’État, the highest administrative court in France.
What is the issue at stake here? Is the burkini, like the burqua or the hijab, etc., a political statement or on the contrary is it part of a cultural and /or religious system? Do the women who wear it voluntarily really do so out of free choice or are they so indoctrinated by their society that they believe it to be an integral part of their identity? Do ‘native’ Westerners understand what it implies to criticise and ban something which they do not have a clear understanding of? Furthermore, is it correct from an ethical point of view to ban an individual’s choice of attire because of what we perceive it to symbolise, regardless of that individual’s opinion and / or intention when choosing it?
Let’s start with a little history.
“It is commonly believed that Islamic dress code for women, and most especially garments like the burka and the niqab (from Afghanistan and Arabia respectively), are about female modesty and the avoidance, on the part of male observers, of lustful passions.
Certainly such garments are an extremely effective means of hiding the attractions of the female form. However, it has – rightly – been pointed out that nowhere in Islamic law is the complete hiding of the face and body required. Beyond a few admonitions to ‘modesty’, there are in fact very few specific recommendations either in the Qu’ran or any other Islamic scriptures about how a woman should dress.
But if such dress is not necessarily sanctioned by Islamic law, where did it come from?” (…) Throughout Muslim history, the Caliphs and the Sultans ruthlessly plundered the wealth of their citizens wherever and whenever they required it – irrespective of religion. This was a fact noted by Bernard Lewis. In his 2001 book, What went Wrong?, Lewis asked the question: What went wrong with a civilization which – he believes – showed such promise at the start, only to be mired in poverty and backwardness from the 12th-13th century onwards?(…) Yet at one point he makes a telling observation: Wheeled vehicles were virtually unknown, up until modern times, throughout the Muslim lands. This was all the more strange given the fact that the wheel was invented in the Middle East(…) and had been commonly used in earlier ages. The conclusion he comes to is startling: “A cart is large and, for a peasant, relatively costly. It is difficult to conceal and easy for requisition. At a time and place where neither law nor custom restricted the powers of even local authorities, visible and mobile assets were a poor investment. The same fear of predatory authority – or neighbors – may be seen in the structure of traditional houses and quarters: the high, windowless walls, the almost hidden entrances in narrow alleyways, the careful avoidance of any visible sign of wealth.” (Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?, 2001, p. 158).(…)
But the Caliphs and Sultans did not stop at plundering their subjects’ material wealth:(…) from the beginning (…), the Caliphs, (…) regularly took wives from their subjects. Even if these women were already married, it made little or no difference. (…)Given such a culture of predatory authority, it is little wonder that men in Islamic lands began to conceal their wives under shrouds. This new style could of course be excused as a pious exercise in modesty; but the real reason, in most cases, was identical to that which produced the drab, windowless exteriors of Muslim homes: Hiding your assets. “(www.islamwatch.org. ‘Hiding your Assets: The Surprising Origin of the Burka & Niqab’)
There are many virtues that a person can possess or cultivate. Patience, kindness, empathy, just to name three. They all enhance the character of the individual that has them.
Namus is an ethical category, a virtue, in Middle Eastern Muslim patriarchal character. It is a strongly gender-specific category of relations within a family described in terms of honor, attention, respect/respectability, and modesty. The term is often translated as “honor”. (Wikipedia, ‘Burqa’).
The gender it refers to and is applied to is the feminine. The honor of the family is upheld by its women’s moral righteousness. The path is a narrow one as it is not only what they do or don’t do, but what others (usually men) believe.
In the West, women have long since acquired rights and social freedoms that are as yet unheard of -or worse, have disappeared- in the majority of Muslim countries.
The logic that lies behind ‘ Two wrongs don’t make a right.’ means that if these women are already under pressure from family or society to appear in a certain way, making it illegal for them to comply with this requirement would not result in any improvement for them. Neither would it signify any benefit for the greater society in which they live. Being truly concerned about oppression means acknowledging that no one should be told what to wear simply because someone else interprets their garments as something other than a particular style of dress. If there is no valid reason (hazard to health, danger of accident, mistaken identity…) , what other people wear- or don’t- is not a state affair and needs not be legislated in the name of security.
That there is clearly a double standard in the societies that coerces people into identifying more modesty with more cloth, but only in half of the population, is obvious. This double standard cannot be solved by imposing even more coercion on the people that already suffer it. It is adding insult to injury while taking it to unheard of heights of paranoia and misogyny. Some have even stated that it incites the radicalisation of youth.
So here we are, blaming the victims. Women who already have to deal with discrimination and misogyny in their daily lives are being targeted as promoters of terror. Just a thought: radical Islamists do not have women in their ranks. Not many mothers, Muslim or otherwise, will actively encourage their sons to join an army of any sort, much less the barbaric sect that is ISIS. It boggles the mind how the connection between burqas or burkinis and Islamic terror is made.
I have reached the conclusion that it is a diversion tactic employed by those who actively promote the carnage in the Middle East and elsewhere because of their vested interests. There’s no international outrage at a country like Saudi Arabia, which actively discriminates half its citizens and presides the United Nations Human Rights commission ( no, it is not a joke). The problem is what Muslim women wear on their outings to the beach or the pool. That is the root of Evil.
As I always say, follow the line of events to see who benefits from creating the stir against a piece of clothing and the people that wear it.
Does the general population derive anything positive from it? Do Muslim women enjoy more liberty? Does it create more awareness of discrimination/ injustice/ oppression faced by Muslim women?

Nobody benefits from divisive and biased hype. Nobody benefits from denying cultural differences. Nobody benefits from discrediting entire nations or ethnicities.
Nobody? Actually, yes, someone does benefit.
The governing oligarchy, aided and abetted by world political leaders.
The 1% who wish to amass even greater fortunes at the expense of Humanity.
The ones who pull all the right strings attached to the right puppets.
The ones who seek to enslave the rest of us in one way or another, causing a wave of migration unknown since the Second World War, in their need to mix and blend ethnicities to the point of no return, in haste. They want more consumers. They need to create docile, debt enslaved citizens with no clue as to their past and little hope for their future. They are shaming the native European populations for the crimes of their own creation while luring desperate refugees and migrants into the rat trap of poverty in a foreign land. They promise riches and deliver next to nothing, not even dignity or respect. The elders will be shamed into silence and their traditions will disappear as the new generations grow, while these new generations will have no clue as to their origins, nor will they care.
If you want to subjugate a people, shame the elders and uproot the young, and you will effectively have left them at the mercy of whatever cultural wind blows hardest. A culture with dry roots and no new leaves will wither and die, as the living being that it is.*
Once stripped of its uniqueness and cheated of its diversity, the bleak howl of a human species that knows nothing of its greatness because it will have lost its essence and its purpose will be all that is left. Amid the turmoil and strife of the majority, the Masters will dictate everything from what we eat to the way we talk or, of course, the clothes we wear.

*(This is a quote from another of my posts, ‘In Praise of Identity, In Praise of Diversity’)

The Torture of Tradition

REU-SPAIN_-100-760x484 bullfight

‘There is no torture involved in bullfighting.’
The person who said this is Oscar Higares, bullfighter. He said it in an interview on national TV. He said it convinced of the truth he was speaking, outraged at the notion that anyone could contradict him. Who better than he, a matador (killer/slaughterer in Spanish) would know what the profession entails? A veterinarian? A farmer? A zoologist? A half decent human being?
It is hard to fathom how a person can lose contact with reality in such a way. Does he actually believe what he says or is it just a way of numbing his conscience?
There are many more examples of such a mindset, which borders on pathological delusion.
Slave traders and owners believed there was no torture involved in slavery, it was just a financial setup.
There was no torture in the Romans sending the Christians to fight against beasts in the Colliseum.
Female genital mutilation is not torture, it’s a religious precept, a form of social cohesion that upholds the decency of women. Ask many Muslim clerics in Yemen or in many African countries.
Domestic violence is not torture, just a private discussion. That’s what abusers think.
Dog fights and rooster fights aren’t torture. They’re a form of entertainment.
Nazi concentration camps weren’t places of torture, only of keeping certain people retained against their will for experiments, forced labour and deprivation. Adolf Hitler thought it was perfectly correct.
There is a difference with these situations, bar FGM and domestic abuse, which is that these things happened in other eras .Humanity has since then seen them in a different light. Also, FGM and domestic abuse are not condoned by a vast majority of people and steps are being taken to eliminate them.
The arguments given by bullfighters is that bullfights are an art and that the poor bulls would disappear if it was made illegal because it is a breed only apt for bullfighting. Therefore, it means that these animals have been created for the sole purpose of torturing them to death. Now, please, will someone explain how a 500+ kg bull cannot be reared for meat just like any other bovine? In any case, it would be more ethical to let the breed die out than to have animals raised to be slaughtered in such a painful way.
How to understand the so-called ‘national feast’? What is festive about harpooning an animal to death? Or like in the Toro de la Vega, setting it ‘loose’ and following it on horseback only to kill it in the woods? Or like the’ bous embolats’, or bulls on fire, where the bull’s horns are covered in lighter fluid-drenched rags, it’s head covered in mud (to protect it from the flames) and sent to run, blinded and enraged through the streets of the town with its horns on fire to the delight of the spectators?
Another of the horrors of bullfights is what they do to the horses that are used to carry the person that lances the bull. Their vocal cords are removed so that they cannot neigh in terror at the charge of the bull and cause it to back off from the impending stab.
The testimony of a sound technician who helped air bullfights for several years is hair raising.
‘In my case, I’ve done the sound mixing for some live TV airing of bullfights. I’ve always said that if instead of mixing the sound of the (music) band, applause, bravos, olés and all the rest, the sound was what is captured by the Sennheiser 816 microphone ( a microphone that captures sounds at a distance and very clearly) that is at ring level (where all the action is taking place), what people would hear would be the sound of the banderillas (skewers) piercing the bull’s skin, the bull’s bellows of pain at every stab. I’d accompany it with close up shots of the wounds, of blood clots like the palm of your hand, of the blood gushing anew at every heartbeat, or the look on the animal’s face just before the matador kills it with the final stockade. I think 90% (of people) would turn off their television at the sight of this slaughter, executed to the rhythm of a pasodoble.’

Most people in Spain do not support bullfighting. However, a small minority of rich and powerful, including the monarchy, keep it safe from being banned. It begs the question of why this is so. In a country that actively seeks to modernise itself and adopts humane laws to protect animals, how can a minuscule group keep a barbaric tradition going on the base of it being a tradition? If a tradition is cruel and does nothing to promote true cultural values, it should be abolished.
There remains the issue of people like Oscar Higares, bull killer, and others who will not see that their lifestyle is criminal and offensive and will do all they can to deceive people into accepting the survival of this ancestral rite.
We should beware of those who use tradition as an excuse for torture, force as an excuse for crime and art as a mask for death.
We should learn that all that tradition implies is not necessarily for the greater good.


First World Athletes, Third Class Behaviour

olympic swimming

Ryan Lochte. James Feigen. Gunnar Bentz. Jack Conger.
Not being American or an avid swimming fan, I did not know these names. They rang no bells in my mind nor conjured any images whatsoever.
Then, on the 15th. August they appeared in the media claiming to have been robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station. People believed them because they are athletes and a supposed ‘example’. Their behaviour was found to be anything but exemplary. It seems that Lochte sold the story to his mother. He didn’t want to tell her the truth: he and his friends had got drunk, stopped at a gas station, one got stuck in one of the booths and they found no other way of getting him out than breaking down a door. Another had a bladder so full he didn’t make it to the toilets. He peed against the walls. They also broke a few other things on the premises and tried to ‘pay’ with fifty dollars. There are images of these events.

It would have stayed there, as a false story told by Lochte to his mother if they hadn’t told the press. When the story broke, it caused indignation. These athletes had suffered an assault at gun point by some men claiming to be police officers. Afterwards they tried to turn it around by saying that they were forced to pay by the guards at the station who menaced them with guns and made them sit on the floor til they paid. The official version is now that Ryan Lochte was inebriated and confused, which had led him to mix events and details. Also, the others gave different versions.
This attitude in and of itself is immature, which they themselves have acknowledged. What I find even more inexcusable is the message that the United States Olympic Committee released to the media.
‘On Behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence.’ Apparently a spokesperson said it was ‘kids misbehaving’ and it was passed off as a youthful indiscretion. Lochte is 32. The youngest is 20. Young, yes. Old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, absolutely. Capable of facing the consequences for their actions, of course.

I doubt these four privileged men realized at the time how badly their actions could have affected the image of the country they were competing in. I doubt that they can fathom the magnitude of the disdain their actions proved. They behaved like entitled brats, on holiday in a country that deserves no respect. Again, two worlds clashing. One, the rich, unthinking arrogance that believes the world is nothing but an oyster for them to eat up and spit out if it suits them. Another, a complex chaotic country that struggles to move forward and eliminate barriers and simply live.
It all comes down to responsibility and thinking before acting. What type of moral values does modern society have that these men are sorry insofar as their actions have a repercussion on their public life, but no further it seems.




Half A Lifetime Ago


‘Half a lifetime ago, today, everything changed. And as could be expected, no one said a word about what you need to do to assimilate it.
I spent the day waiting for the day to go by, wishing you would finally appear. Near eight o’clock, you decided to show up, screaming your head off. Your first dinner was a good one. Mine, a ham sandwich from a nearby bar and a bottle of water. The following day, I got cold shivers. I looked at you, scared to death, thinking how in the world was I going to be able to raise you considering the complexity and demands of motherhood. As for you, in between feeding and sleeping, you fixed me with The Look: you know, that look you give everyone when you get tired of trivialities. The Look that says, ‘Come on, man…it’s not so tough, don’t flip out…’
From then til now, half my life has gone by learning from you and with you. Your whole life, which is being a fascinating process to behold.’
Today is my oldest son’s 24th. birthday. I wish to celebrate this awesome, life changing fact the way it deserves to be. With pride and wonder at the human I have helped to raise. With pride and amazement at myself for having been able to do so without jeopardizing my aim of making him as free as the world and his capacities allow.
On that first long night together when I became a mother almost a quarter of a century ago, I promised my son that my fears and limitations would only be mine, that I would not pass them on to him, that I would encourage him to lead his own existence beyond my limited horizons.
I have kept my word.

To All The Men In My Life… (an article by Robyn Kenny)


If you care about me you will take the time to watch this video. I am and continue to be horrified by how people who I consider to be friends DON’T GET VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN…

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rape culture

RAPE CULTURE AJ with Dena Takruri. June 9

I was molested by an old man in the front seat of a car when I was young. I don’t remember who it was or when it happened but I do remember him talking in a gentle and kind voice as he asked me if it felt good when he stuck his hands down my pants and raped me…yes rape doesn’t have to involved a penis…if it did women would be unable to rape, which is obviously not true!

But that experience was only one of many…I was made to do sexual acts to someone I did not want to…I was nearly raped at 17…a man grabbed me, dragged me into a washroom, turned off the lights and proceeded to remove my skirt…I was saved by a male friend who saw him grab me…and yes I was drunk but that doesn’t justify anything…





Oh ya! And I never told anyone about the first two experiences until I finally lost my mind in the fall of 2012…20 years after the second incident…so ya! Women don’t usually tell anyone about their experiences…

Watch the HBO movie Confirmation about the appointment of Judge Clarence Thomas in the USA to find out how a sexual predator who is mentally deranged is appointed to a position of great power and how all the other men who supported Thomas raped the victim again in front of the whole country throughout the investigation…

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CONFIRMATION- HBO Film regarding Clarence Thomas

what would who have done!? What will you do in the future!? Are you a part of the problem or are you a part of the solution!? Be honest with yourself…and in the future if listen when a woman calls out an instance of rape culture because you have NO IDEA what it’s like to be a woman and never will…And to all boys and men who have experienced sexual assault and rape, this fight is in your names as well. Together we are stronger than any predator will ever be.

With Love,


(Originally posted on Niume on the 18th. August, 2016,on the Culture sphere, by Robyn Kenny)

A Letter In Blue Minor

blue 1

Hello. It’s me.
The You that is within sight of the half century mark.
I hope I can convey to you just how marvelous you are. Forget all those times you were told the opposite. You are tough as nails, smart as the north wind that whips the coast. You’re a beam of sunlight dispersing the mist of ignorance. People tend to recoil when you speak your mind. You’re too different to feel close to and too similar to discard as a rarity. You are an owl in a chicken coop.
Don’t despair! All those sleepless nights will pass. It’ll only serve to strengthen you and make you shine. Some will not like it, but those who count will. You will discover your depths, the hidden and the remote, and begin to see the way clearer. It’ll be like swimming in muddy waters for a time. However, you will move forward every day.
But that is to come…
First you will live the life others choose. You will give and grow. You will support endeavours, clear up messes, organise, plan, rehash, restore, promote others. You will convince yourself that you’re fine with it all, in spite of knowing it isn’t so. You will have flashes of wisdom, when your guts connect to your brain and it becomes obvious that you are out of your element. Some days the struggle is uphill. It’s all giving and little getting. Still, you trudge on. After all, that’s what you signed up for, isn’t it? You feel oddly detached from your surroundings. What ‘everyone’ seems to enjoy will not entertain you, though you will try to fit in and participate. You would much rather be reading a book and sipping tea than having blaring music deafening you. You are at once expected to lead and considered a nag for doing so. You get to a point that you realise you are living for others 90% of the time, and you are not respected for it. In fact, it is a given that you will continue to do so, in spite of the effort and lack of acknowledgement. When you express your exhaustion and ask for everyone to collaborate, you will be looked upon as ‘difficult, demanding and bossy’.
Just remember, it will get better. Maybe not the way you expected it to be. Maybe not the way you dreamed it would be.
And don’t let anyone tell you that 80% of humanity is worse off than you. You know that, probably better than they do. Don’t let them use your empathy as an excuse for not letting you speak your mind or say that you’re tired or that you’ve had a bad day. You are not a complainer. They are too weak to hear you and bear with you because they know they could be doing more but won’t. It is, it seems, human nature to try to get more form those that are willing and able to give more. You, my dear, are first and foremost a giver. Your task will be to set up boundaries and then learn to receive from others and give to yourself. It is a complicated task. A challenge. But never fear…you will succeed.
I say this to you when I still can’t see the far edge of the sea of doubt, but at least I have the conviction that it does exist. Someday, we will meet there, on the shore of life and let the tide wash away the last of the fears.
Then the only thing left to do will be to rejoice in ourselves. Then we will be One. The One that was here inside all along. The One that was always intended to Be. The Wise One. The True One. The One that is Infinite and Endless like the blue waves on the deep blue sea.


Crazy and Proud of It

All the best people are a little crazy, wyrd…

Strange Salmagundi

If one more person tells me I’m not crazy, I might just scream.

No, despite my tendency to leave out words and commit typographic sins on a regular basis, there is nothing wrong with that sentence.  I doubled checked it and it says exactly what I want it to.  I am crazy.  I’ve spend the last 11 years laboring under a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.  At one point, one of my medications was over $600.  Until recently, my insurance ate up half my tiny paycheck and, prior to doing that, it didn’t cover anything until I met a $2500 deductible – which I never did.  Goddammit, I’ve earned the right to call myself crazy.  By this point, I’ve paid money for the right.

But people absolutely flip when I say, “I’m crazy.”  There’s a stigma attached to it that I think is ridiculous – particularly since I can’t figure…

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Pride, Praise, Prejudice. The Río Hunger Games

Santa Marta is one of the many slums that dot the hillsides of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio, host of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, is now trying to remake these slums, or favelas, long wracked by poverty and violence.

Santa Marta is one of the many slums that dot the hillsides of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio, host of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, is now trying to remake these slums, or favelas, long wracked by poverty and violence.

In our modern society, some sports have been turned into a multi-million dollar business with little to no scruples. Obscene amounts of money change hands. Athletes are seen as role models and praise id bestowed on them generously, for they represent the human virtue of effort. Nevertheless, one would think that the spirit of sportsmanship `would prevail and sportspeople would serve to create and facilitate bridges between different countries and social classes, united in the common goal of improvement. ‘Altius, citius, fortius’ is the motto of the Olympics. Higher, faster, stronger.
Today is the day after the inauguration of the Río Olympic Games. We are flooded with the shining images of the 11.000 + sportspeople who represent 206 nations. However, there is a stark contrast between this show of athletic excellence and the daily life in the ‘favelas’, the shanty towns of Río. It would seem that the world’s most important sporting event, with all it entails in terms of building and refurbishing infrastructures, would have a bigger impact on the well-being and comfort of the inhabitants. The truth is it has not changed much. In any case, more constraints and little else. The police and firefighters are not being paid. They receive travelers at Río de Janeiro International Airport /Galeão with signs warning them that they cannot ensure anyone’s safety.
You could say there’s two worlds in Río at this time, sharing a space but without touching. It is unsettling at best and terrifying for anyone who dares to think of the causes. Brazil, like many other American countries, relied on slave labour to sustain their immense plantations of tobacco and coffee. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, almost 5 million slaves arrived in Brazil. Although slavery was abolished in 1850, it continued several decades more. After slavery ended, a physical divide endured in the city, with blacks living on the port side of a thoroughfare, an area blighted by poverty and homelessness. An area that was duly forgotten by the government. This was due to racial issues. In the 20th century, the lack of attention and repair of colonial residences and narrow streets gave way to decay. Although a $2 billion project to regenerate this area was devised, it has proven to be of little use. The plan was to update transport links and foster a new business district. But Morro da Providência, further up on the hills, was neglected. They got a $23 million cable car but the project is still incomplete and basic services are lacking. The’ favela’ was ‘pacified’ in 2010. The pacification included unlawful searches, arrests and the murder of a seventeen year old boy at the hands of the police, who put the gun in his hand after shooting him to make it appear like self defence. His name was Eduardo Santos.
In the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa there are once-lavish colonial homes overlooking the port. One of these mansions is a famous boutique hotel favoured by several famous people. In 2014, its then-owner was accused of subjecting half a dozen workers to ‘conditions analogous to slavery’. They had gone 18 hours with no food and then put up in a rat-infested house, insalubrious and crumbling, while they worked on a renovation of the $350-a-night-hotel ballroom. The owner denied everything. The case is still pending.
This is how, over a century and a half after the abolition of slavery, Brazil still hasn’t changed the conditions that ensnare people into slave-like working conditions. The only thing that has changed is that it used to be black people and now it is people of any and all colours.
It appears that Río de Janeiro is a city with two faces. One is a paradise created by and for the greater glory of the select few, a false showcase for social integration. The other reeks of its colonial past, of injustice and racial and financial strife.
While we stare at our screens, mesmerised by the feats and accomplishments of the best athletes in the world, on the hills of Río life goes on as usual. Slowly, uphill but never silently. Its ‘favelas’ are full of life,boisterous and life always finds a way to reinstate balance, sometimes painfully.


The Profundity of Your Self


We need to find within ourselves the space where we truly reside, where our essence is located, that which is immutable and unforsakeable.
Why do I start with this esoteric, philosophical statement?
I think that too often we let ourselves be dragged by our lives through the days and weeks, barely perceiving the truths that are so obvious.
We don’t dare think too much lest we awaken to the reality that we know so very little and what’s more, that we have little interest in testing our capacity to learn.
We don’t dare feel too much because it hurts. Just the possibility of being hurt scares us.
We don’t dare take the first step forward because we might fall flat on our faces and fail. It doesn’t matter that our most cherished dreams are within reach. It doesn’t matter that we know we’ll never respect ourselves if we don’t try. We’d much rather be safe than sorry.
We don’t dare step away from what hurts us, diminishes us, demolishes our spirit. We think that perhaps we’re not entitled to it. We should just bear it. Everything seems to conspire to make us believe that we are selfish for wanting to go beyond our limits, but in truth if we don’t strive for our goals, we are depriving ourselves and humanity of our unique inspiration.
I know too well what it means to live for others. I am no example of perfection, just someone who had a chance that few have.
I learned the most important lesson of my life, so far, from a woman who I consider my second mother.
She was the most selfless person I have ever met, caring and compassionate, wise and hardworking. Her only flaw was that she never thought herself important enough to put on her list of people to care for. Everyone was on that list. Husband, son, grandchildren… but not her.
From a very early age, she had to work hard. She was born in a rural village in northern Spain in 1940, in a humble family. Her older brother became ill in his teens and from then on the little respite she had being the younger child disappeared.
She had to work on the farm like an adult to help her family pay the cost of the medicines that kept her brother relatively well. At that time there was no public health service in Spain.
She made all her most important decisions bearing everyone’s well being in mind. She decided not to marry the love of her life because she was worried that they might not manage to earn enough money to help her family and his. This was also a time when old people had tiny pensions, so it was reasonable to ponder these circumstances.
She married her husband because he was a good man and offered her the possibility of living close to her family so she could help them work. She accepted all the inconveniences of a hard life on a farm with a smile. She sacrificed her interests for the greater good. Just to illustrate my affirmation, I’ll give you an example: Her husband needed to go on a diet, so she put herself on a diet (though she didn’t need it) to make him feel he was not alone. It was useless. He died relatively young because he did not do anything to help himself. After that, she changed. She became more detached, more withdrawn. Still, the smile never left her face. I have come to believe she was angry with life because she had thought that she’d get the chance to live ‘later’ and when ‘later’ came, she was alone. Her son and her family loved her and respected her, but she was indeed alone in the profundity of her heart. She hadn’t enjoyed any of the things other people had. Not the joy of marrying her first love. Not the joy of motherhood, because she had to obey the rules of the house, imposed by her in laws, whereby her only son’s name was chosen by the grandparents, as was the way he was brought up. Not the joy of respect and admiration for her qualities in and of themselves, but the burden of endless responsibilities.
In the end, she cracked. Not her head, for she had an exceptional clarity of thought. Her spirit and her body decided she’d had enough, or more precisely that she hadn’t. As generous as she’d always been to everyone around her, in every way, she hadn’t been generous to herself. She’d deprived herself of care, of time, of importance. She had lived for everyone but for herself. The seemingly bottomless well of patience and care and love had dried up because she hadn’t nurtured it.
I will never forget the last days of her life. About a week before she died, just after she’d had lunch, she let herself fall back against the cushions on her bed and let out a deep sigh. Her face reflected the pain she was in. I gave her a dose of painkillers. After swallowing them, she closed her eyes for a moment and I decided to let her rest. As I was reaching the door, she called me and said something that is burned into my mind.
‘Never do what I did. I took care of everyone but myself and now I am paying for it. Take care of others, but take care of yourself first.’
Her pale, bony face, with sunken eyes glazed over by pain , had a fierce look, the look of desperation, lost hope and regrets. It shook me to the core.
Five days later, I had to increase the dose of painkillers. She was delirious. Two days after that, she died at dawn, holding my hand.
That was what triggered me to rethink my life. I was going down the same road. I was living only for others.
My conclusion is simple. Put yourself on the list. On your list of people to care for. If you don’t, you may live -or not- to regret it.
You cannot renounce your self. Search for the way back to who you were before they taught you who they thought you should be. Plunge into the deep end of life.
Go on, try. You may even live to prove that you could be you and be profoundly loved.

Prompt: profound


What if… your truth matters?

Dare boldly

Walking on the edge of infinity she saw her life unravel like a river flowing endlessly into the sea. Walking on the edge
of infinity
she saw her life
like a river
flowing endlessly
into the sea.

Mixed media on water colour paper
©2016 Louise Gallagher

A friend is telling me of a conversation they are afraid to initiate with a loved one. They are in pain. Feeling sad. Broken. Confused.

What is the worst that could happen if you have the conversation? I ask.

And they tell me of their fear that their loved one will get angry. Storm out. Deny. Refuse. Reject.

What is the worst that could happen if you don’t have the conversation? I ask next.

And their shoulders slump, their eyes close momentarily and they breathe a deep, sadness-tinged sigh and whisper, “Nothing will change.”

So often, we see a situation through the eyes of our fear of what the other will do, how they will respond or react when we speak up, challenge the…

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