NO BROOM IN THE BRIEFCASE

My Dear Friends and Readers,

It was a cold windy wet day in Baltimore City. It was the kind of day that I would have rather stayed in bed and read a good book. It was not to be so. There are days in the life of a lawyer that dictate action within very narrow time lines created by the courts of law. Today was one of those days. But before I could file my document with the Clerk of the Baltimore City Circuit Court basic filing procedures that had been misfiled had to be corrected. These kinds of mistakes usually take an inordinate amount of time although the mistake is seemingly unimportant- they are usually terribly important especially if your client is a Sr. and the court has inadvertently made him a Jr. Or that the client’s middle initial in an already common name is mistakenly entered as an “E” instead of an “F”.  This kind of clerical error can derail a case.  This type of mistake had caused Court documents being sent directly to the client, who anxiously called me from out of state when the documents arrived at her door. This had been happening  with my case for almost a month. These mistakes created by human error are difficult to clear up because nobody wants to fix them much less accept responsibility for creating the mistake in the first place. But before I could charge off to court in person, a dear friend needed my help.

My dear friend and I had breakfast together at my request. Despite weather and rain and pain he gamely showed up and  because he had severely injured his wrist and had failed to renew his insurance by the January 31, 2016 dead line, he had wrapped his wrist in a drugstore wrist brace and a sock. When I asked why not just buy health insurance anyway, he said that he could not renew his insurance because he had failed to file his taxes. (See, even well educated people are unsure what to do under Obama Care) But before we go any further, I must comment on the Health Care Exchange System which the state of Maryland is a member. The process itself is not difficult but choosing an insurance plan is not easy, especially if you have limited financial resources or are without a computer or without Internet or are simply not comfortable reading what can be confusing directions. I am glad I helped him.  When I bravely selected health insurance through the  Health Exchange Process, I was overwhelmed and it took a long time.

As an aside, my friend’s wrist hurt so badly that he asked me to cut up his breakfast. I am ashamed to say that I did not cut up his meal in a nice way. However, I  do not often cut up meals for people, although as I and my friends grow older, perhaps I should add cutting up food nicely to my skill set.  Now back to the law stuff.

I have never been known to back down in a legal fight. In fact when I was a brand new lawyer I added “angry black woman” to my skill set and that scares some lawyers. Today, however it was the administrative staff of two courts that I had to deal with. What I had learned long ago, before I even entered law school was to always be overly courteous to  court staff. The people who work for courts wield enormous power and can allow your document to be filed- although the deadline to file expired 59 seconds before you or your messenger ran breathlessly up to the Clerk’s window. Today the court staff expressed their power.

I will spare you the details, because they are really not important and they are boring, but I had to assert some legal muscle today. A single well-placed phone call can work miracles.  Despite annoyed and angry tones and unfriendly faces, my case was correctly entered into the court’s docket. Why things went so far awry is also too long a tale to tell, but the story and the day, both although gray ended in a happy pleasant day.

I write about this law and insurance tale because it is an example of  how I have changed as a person and a lawyer. My friend was more important than my schedule. The mistakes that plagued my case were corrected without threats or even a raised tone of voice. This is progress for me. This makes me happy to realize this change in me. However, for those of you out there who believe I hide my collapsible broom in my briefcase, worry no more. The broom and briefcase are rare these days.

Signed,

Brianna S.Clark
The Addict Writes

ROMEO AND JULIET REVISED

My Dear Friends and Readers,
One of the rewards of traveling is to expand self awareness by temporarily experiencing  the lives of others whose living environments differ from our own.  As humans we have to go outside of what we know to experience and understand what we don’t know that we don’t know.  This weekend I went to Taylor Falls Minnesota and St. Croix  Falls Wisconsin for a wedding celebration that was transformative.
The  chosen wedding venue was  Taylor Falls Minnesota  whose population is 973 as of the last census in 2013.  The hotel in which all wedding participants spent the weekend was located  St. Croix Falls Wisconsin, population  2,094. While in either of these two communities I only saw Caucasian people, meaning no Asian, African American, Hispanic, Indian, Native American or otherwise except for the friends and the families of the bride and groom. I mention this fact because I had an opportunity to experience how poor unemployed or underemployed Caucasian people might view my seemingly privileged Brownskinned life.  These differences of perception and fact did not keep anyone from being friendly and working together. I was reminded of how fortunate I am.
 The entire  wedding weekend  was an expression of workability and togetherness.  The families and friends of  both the Bride and Groom for the most part had never met before, yet everyone arrived at The Taylor Falls Community Center at Taylor Falls Minnesota  ready to decorate and prepare it for the wedding of two seemingly opposites.
The wedding ceremony was thought provoking, the wedding celebration kept the oldest person- the groom’s grandmother to the youngest person -the bride’s niece dancing and until both had to be taken home and put to bed.
 This writer had the most fun dancing- something I have not done in years, joyfully dancing out of step to the music. It was an organic and fitting  tribute to the musical legend, Prince who had died two days prior and who had hailed from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prince we thank you for broadening our  souls for more that four decades;to the newly married couple who will relocate to India in a couple of weeks we salute and thank you for doing the same for our families.
 Signed with love,
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
P.S. All the details of near wedding  disasters will be left unsung in this blog except for one-  where the groom’s family misplaced a rental car which was ultimately found at the wedding venue where it had sat forgotten for the weekend.

A WOLF WAY OF BEING

 

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Attainment of my highest self would be to emulate the wolf.

There are two wolf ways of being that I admire. One is that wolves mate for life. Therefore when their mate dies they do not find another one and thus the concept of “the lone wolf.”

The other wolf way of being is the the leader of the wolf pack leads from the rear. The weak and the elderly set the pace. I truly admire this wolf way of being and wish and work towards attaining this kind of empathy and compassion toward the human sick and elderly. In my human way of being I would some how try to make the weak and elderly keep up or perish trying. Yes, I just wrote those ugly words that portray my unenlightened way of being.

As for mating for life, let’s just say I have failed to emulate the noble wolf.

So as I am pulled into action with both speed and dexterity, I must not forget the weak and the elderly or leave them to die a desperate death.  I am open for daily opportunities to explore my wolf ideal and my human reality.

I strive every day to share more with more of my travelers alongside this journey on this beautiful spinning planet of green and blue.

Signed with love,

Brianna S Clark
The Addict Writes

Food Cravings the Last Frontier

My Dear Friends and Readers,

I truly understood the level of my addictive behavior towards food when I was told that at least for the next 90 days I could not eat chocolate, caffeine, most aged cheeses, nuts or most beans soy or soy products and did I say chocolate of any kind? After a series of tests it was discovered that I had migraines without the headache. My brain would go through the chemical process of having a migraine but without the headache. As a result I  would become dizzy and nauseous and have to lie quietly for a day or two. I am glad that my physical ailment was diagnosed but I felt lost about what I could not eat.

Included on the list of forbidden foods were bananas, lemons oranges, onions, grapefruit, passion fruit, raisins and all dried fruit, spaghetti sauce, most commercially made salad dressings any kind of flavored potato chip or pop corn. The list is not endless but excludes most of the foods that I ate all the time, which I suppose was the basis for the migraines.

Unlike drugs or alcohol which is not required to stay alive food is required and therein lies the slippery slope for those of us who are either addicted to food or have addictive behaviors related to food- like I do. I had to ask myself, who would I be if I didn’t drink cup after cup of coffee every day?
Soy products- soy burgers, tempeh, tofu were staples along with beans also composed a lot of what I eat each day.  With what would I replace these meat substitutes? A good question, the answer which I will discover in the next ninety days.

When I first received my restricted diet I tried to find some commonality for what I considered an odd list of foods.  I speculated that nitrates which is a preservative and which occurs in many foods from red wine to dried fruit and cured meat- all things I can’t eat was a reason for one group of the long list of banned foods. The other group included fermented foods yogurt, and soy products. I suppose that fermented foods contain bacteria- although many say good bacteria, but perhaps for me not good. The fruits which are not permitted are high in sugar content which includes lemons, oranges and bananas. And of course caffeinated products sodas, teas, coffee and coffee substitutes can alter one’s brain chemistry.

Today, which is officially tax day, I am, after a weekend of fretting and pouting over the loss of some of my favorite foods,  beyond the overwhelm and sadness about giving up the pleasure of eating certain foods. Today  I am cautiously stepping into a brave new world of eating.  I know that the result of giving up  foods which my body reacts to as foreign substances will create a healthier me. Even though I know this intellectually I still long for that aromatic cup of Italian coffee heavily laced with soy milk. I know that these learned cravings will dissipate and in 90 days I will be in a physical and mental place where I have never been. This is a future worth living into and  for which is worth giving up donuts, pizza and bagels- all things without nutritional value for a healthier, pain free body and mind.

So, I toast the morning  and you my dear readers with my decaffeinated chai tea.  Thanks for allowing me to share about what is a required life-style change. I hope that today when you are given an opportunity to react you will choose the future rather than remaining a prisoner of your past.

Namaste.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

The Greatest Lie We Tell Ourselves is that We Will Always Have More Time

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Tomorrow I will undergo a brain MRI- simply to exclude the possibility of a tumor growing on my brain. As usual in my dismissive way of minimizing things I did not bother to find out what an MRI consisted of and what precautions were necessary when undergoing one. Also, the doctor who ordered the MRI did not provide any of this information either. So, imagine my surprise when I went for my MRI and they prepared to shoot dye into my body. I panicked. I immediately called my sister, who is thankfully a doctor and asked her if the dye could be toxic and what should I do to prevent damage from it. Of course she was shocked to be called in this emergency-like fashion, but she provided me the information needed and I was fine until I saw the MRI machine which looked huge and tomb-like. My panic rose another 30 % and I hit my panic level when I found out that I would have to lay still in this giant machine for 40 minutes. I said no-way. I can’t do it and immediately left the office.

As I walked back to my car, which thankfully my dear friend was sitting in and waiting for me, I was hyperventilating. It dawned on me the significance of this test: a tumor on my brain. I spent the rest of Friday and all of the next day pondering what if there was a tumor on my brain and feeling sorry for myself. I ignored calls from friends and colleagues and I ate ice-cream- I am lactose intolerant -and cookies and reviewed my life. This was a terrible time for a brain tumor- as if anytime is good. Then I made a list of unfinished life items- many of which were about to be realized and which included the publication of my novel Cracked.  I had also not reconciled with my adult children who had decided that did not want anything to do with their mother, me, who was a former crack addict.

Somewhere by mid Saturday afternoon, I had reconciled myself to the fact that I would take the MRI, under sedation on Tuesday and in the meantime I should have as good a day as possible. So, I worked out on my elliptical and then spent the rest of the day watching comedies which are truly good for the soul. By Sunday, I told myself, given my symptoms which were hearing loss and dizziness which kept re-occurring that if I did have a tumor- which I don’t believe I do- my symptoms would have gotten worse. Whether true or not, my self diagnosis provided comfort and positivity which I sorely needed.

This brief taste of the possibility of life that could end long before I had planned and the realization that I would die someday was impetus for me to take action on dreams and goals and hopes that I have yet to fulfill. Today as I write this blog, I am grateful to be able to do so and grateful for the ability to do so. A month ago, while speaking at an inner city  drug rehab, I told the group of  recovering women  that even if I died suddenly, I would still be happy because I was in pursuit of my life goal which is bringing compassion and education to the areas of addiction, mental illness and sexual abuse.  I did not know at that time, that life would intervene to force me to look at the truth of that statement and lie that we all participate in which is that we have time. We only have the moment, the day and we should live as if it were our last day on earth. It’s a sobering thought for someone who has always put off until tomorrow what should have been done yesterday… Time. Time.

Let’s make each moment count in making a positive difference in our lives and the lives of those we love and our greater communities because you never know when your time is up. I’ll be back to write this blog on Thursday and I am grateful to be able to do so. A happy life is joyful moments strung together. Have as much joy as possible today.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

Thank you Mother for Trying to Raise My Social Status

Dears Friends and Readers,

Today I am announcing that I am giving up my self-imposed role of beggar.  Beggars are not to be confused with paupers. A beggar is one who lives by asking for gifts from others or is one who feels that he does not have the requisite abilities or resources to succeed. A pauper is only poor.  The genisis of my moral confusion about poverty was self-created, but had long been forgotten until  of  feeling of poor, incapable and not belonging. However a visit to Roland Park one of Baltimore’s communities  designed to legally exclude  non-white, non-Christian people that I reminded me  of my childhood of not belonging.  

 I was visiting my acupunturist  whose office looked as if it were  staged for a photo for an  interior design magazine.  As I walked into the waiting area two blonde pre-teens and their grandmother  stopped talking to stared at  me as if I had invaded their private space.  Besides their stares and silence neither the children nor the grandmother acknowledged my presence. In that moment I was transported to my interview at a private school in Potomac, Maryland.

It was ten years old at the time, which was 12 years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education which was the 1954 decision ordering desegregation of America’s public schools.  Being the scholarship kid is not a pleasant place to be- it’s a tad better than being a beauty queen.   All applicants to this school had to take  a written test, after which the school’s admission committee would interview each applicant.  My anxious mother had tutored me on how to answer questions from the committee who held the power to prohibit or admit me to their elite private school. 

 I don’t recall what I said that day. After my interview I was shown to a vast music room  where  dusty cocoa brown carpet  looked as if someone had groomed the designs in the thick wool.  Matching silk curtains pooled to the floor were restrained  by   woven silk ropes of the same dusky brown. An expanse of floor to ceiling glass over looked the school’s tennis courts, hockey fields and Olympic size pool.

My parents had to work and did not know when the interviews would be over so the admission committee left me to wait in this room which also included a grand piano.  My heart sunk. I was not excited to go to the school. I knew that I did not belong here. I had no idea how to play field hockey and I had never learned to swim. I also believed that I would not pass the written part of the exam. If I was admitted,  I would be like a fish out of water at this school.

My interview was was right after lunch. By six o clock-  my mother who was sales person in the linen section of  the Hecht department store in downtown D.C. took the bus. My father, who was unpredictable at best said that he would try to pick up me at three in the afternoon had not arrived.  I kept pacing along that big expanse of window watching hoping to see my father’s old black ford . The sky was growing dark and I was still sitting in that room waiting for somebody to pick me up. 

By chance, a teacher who lived on the school property found me sitting on one of  rooms three large curved Italianate sofas. I most of looked worn and hungry, because I was phycially experiencing both.  “Oh you must be hungry,where ever are your parents?” It was on that day that I made up my first lie to protect my parents. I told the teacher that both of my parents were doctors who probably had a medical emergency. Wether she believed my story, I’ll never know, but she  walked me over to the “head mistress’s” home to ask a member of the kitchen staff to make me a sandwich. She changed her mind and decided to make the sandwich for me.   My stomach was rumbling from not eating since breakfast.

“Do you put butter or mayonnaise on your roast beef sandwiches?” she had asked. as she looked through the large commercial stainless steel refrigerator.  I told her  I usually preferred butter.  It was my second lie of the day and so it went. This event and the numerous others throughout  my childhood would ingrain upon my brain that it was only by the grace of  these generous white people  that I was allowed where otherwise, I could not afford to be and I did not belong. 

While at that private school,  I learned good social graces; I learned how to pick classic clothes that would last for years and I recieved a great education, but I internally internalized a  stigma of being born to a poor family. It was something, I did not realize I had done. Even when, over ten years ago, one of my colleagues told to me that I needed to stop living from the mentality of  “the scholarship kid” I did not get it.  I dismissed her remark. She was born wealthy and is white and her family’s surname  is  shared with a city in Virginia.  She is known for saying that the very worst thing that ever happened to her was that her grandmother had disinherited her- so my colleague  created a fortune on her own.  In restrospect, she was right.  I needed to shift  my relationship to myself. I was capable and no longer “the smart scholarship girl.”   I no longer t need  a discount or a scholarship. I can afford all that I need and want.  It was time to gently close the door where I  had felt ashamed because I was poor. 

I can now emotionally distinguish the difference of  feeling poor and being poor. As a ten year old child had made a judgment being poor was morally wrong. While it is acceptable to feel gratitude for opportunities of any kind, it is hurtful when we make illogical decisions about being deserving of an opportunity. The reality was in that situation the admission  committee had already looked past my parent’s financial situation and was really gauging who I was as an individual. I only wished that one of them had said “You will be make a great contribution to your class as you bring your unique perspective to the learning process.” Finally, I am saying those words to myself. 

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes